Survival – Adapt fast to stay in business

Ben Nunez – Survival – How to adapt fast to stay in business

Back in 2001, I was running a company at the time. We had 60 or 70 people. I was 26, 27 years old at the time. I did not have much business experience, obviously. And the dot com bubble burst, bubble 1.0 popped, and I had to lay off 60 of our 70 people in two days. And then a few more in the course of that summer, and we were down to a few people in a few months. So we went from this multimillion dollar company with lots and lots of people, all the way down to a few people in just a few days, a few months. That was devastating. It was super hard. I had to lay off people who were living paycheck to paycheck, and there was a lot of pride involved in building a company and seeing it collapse, and not having the experience prior to that to draw from in order to determine what to do and how do I cope with this, it was probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever had in my career to try to withstand something like that and get through it.

We did, and we ended up looking at the core pieces of our company that were worth something, that would succeed and live on. This was a web hosting company at the time, so while a lot of the dot com websites were shutting down, we also had substantial email business, and email wasn’t going anywhere. A lot of the companies we had using the email services weren’t dot com companies, they were established businesses who, while they might be hurting a little bit, they weren’t going anywhere. So we were able to cut off all the noise of our business and just laser on our email hosting, and that saved us. It also draws back to my dad’s annuity income and all the kind of stuff, these were monthly recurring services. They were very stable to the extent where we can nurture that and not deal with—hahaha! You good on time, can I have another 5 minutes? This is David.

So let’s see, where was I. So we ended up focusing on our email business and it made us look at our company, top to bottom, to determine what was the most efficient and profitable line of business, what had the stickiest service, and what could live on through the dot com bubble.

But laying off sixty people in two days was definitely the hardest thing I ever had to do.