Peer-to-Peer Blog: Work-Life Lessons From My Dog

Andrew Pryfogle By  Andrew Pryfogle, President & CEO, Terrapin Solutions, LLC

Last night was a long night. Barkley, our Australian Labradoodle woke us up at 12:45 a.m., and again at 1, 1:15 and 1:30. This was not normal, something was wrong. He was clearly in a lot of pain and he is nine years old, so we were very worried. So I rushed him to an animal emergency center, the entire time I was fearing the worst. They checked him out and immediately did an x-ray and found a very critical issue. For some unexplainable reason, Barkleys stomach had twisted, causing the entrance and exit to the stomach to be completely blocked. The medical term is gastric dilatation and volvulus. Gasses were building up inside his stomach and Barkley was suffering. Left untreated, Barkley would have died within hours.

Good news!  Barkley underwent a 90-minute emergency surgery to repair his stomach. He came through it perfectly and is recovering nicely. As for the rest of the family, were incredibly grateful that our boy is on the mend, and horribly shocked by how much emergency pet care costs. Last night will cost us more than $6,000. Ouch! If youve met Barkley then you know that he is a full-fledged member of our family, so paying $6,000 is a lot, but wed gladly do it again.

So after the long night, my wife and I were talking about the experience and something important struck me. My financial readiness to deal with this crisis was at an all-time high not because I had a huge bank balance and was flush with cash, but because two years ago, when we launched Terrapin Solutions, a cloud services master agency, our family embraced the idea of austerity. We asked the simple question, What would we be willing to give up materially over the next 12 to 18 months, if we knew that at the end of that time, wed never have to work for another company again? To make Terrapin a success, we knew wed have to give up a lot, but we knew the payoff would be big. And this morning, Barkley reminded us of the wisdom of that decision.

Two years ago I was a senior executive at a growing telecom company. It had been another senior role in a successful, 20-year telecom career. We had the fat salary and the rich bonus program and the lifestyle that went with it. We had grown comfortable with the big checks and being able to buy what we wanted when we wanted it. Ironically, although we made more money than we do now, we had less at the end of every month, and we were saving next to nothing. Had this crisis happened then, we likely would have thrown it on a credit card without a moments thought, and the hole would have been dug deeper.

Starting our own business proved to be a catalyst in breaking this cycle. We quickly learned that for Terrapin to be successful, we had to cut wasteful spending, we had to stop sinking further into debt, and we had to put money away for emergencies and surprises just like this one. Having made those tough decisions and sacrifices two years ago, were now in a position that is sustainable. The power of recurring revenue has given us a predictable base to operate from, and as weve continued to follow sound financial disciplines, our financial preparedness has increased dramatically.

For those reading this who already own their own businesses, you already understand these truths. For those who havent yet made that leap, or are perhaps considering that possibility, I hope this can be encouragement to you. I, for one, will never work for another company again. And, although Im not in control of my future, Im far more prepared for what surprises may come.

Barkley will be home later today, back with his family where he belongs. And our familys adventure will continue, and Barkley will continue to remind me of lifes important lessons hopefully less costly ones.

Andrew Pryfogle is the founder, president and CEO of Terrapin Solutions, a master agency headquartered in San Franciscos East Bay. Pryfogle started Terrapin to address the growing demand for cloud services such as hosted VoIP, cloud computing and cloud infrastructure. He has been in the telecommunications industry for 22 years and has held senior sales leadership positions with carriers such as AT&T, MCI and WorldCom. In 2001 Pryfogle helped start GoBeam Communications, a pioneer in hosted IP telephony that was sold in 2004 to Covad Communications where Pryfogle spent three years running the channel.  He also is a member of the 2010-11 Channel Partners Conference & Expo Advisory Board.

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