ShopTalk

It’s Your Business: Reflections on a peer’s tough decision

David Boraks is shutting down two digital newspapers he has run for nine years.
David Boraks is shutting down two digital newspapers he has run for nine years. DAVIDSON COLLEGE

It’s a bit scary to see your name etched on a gravestone while you’re still alive.

That’s the sensation I felt last month when David Boraks, a friend and fellow small business pioneer, reached the end of his rope and decided that he was simply too exhausted and abruptly shut down his online news sites, DavidsonNews.net and CorneliusNews.net. I can certainly relate to the issues that forced his hand.

Trying to grow an underfunded startup is tough enough, but trying to grow one that is also plowing new ground is a recipe for insanity. I have said before in this column that the biggest threat to my business is not the economy or even a lack of operating capital. It’s my own mental fatigue.

Over the years, David and I talked often about the obstacles we faced while trying to provide for our families as independent, online publishers. But we also relished in the heady excitement that only a true pioneer can feel when he has embarked on a happy yet uncertain journey.

I will miss our talks.

David was like a North Star to me. He had been in the game two years longer, so I often naturally sought him out for ideas and counsel. I frankly considered him the better businessman.

If he could not make a go in this business, I thought to myself, what chance had I to succeed?

Deciding to close a business is never easy. We start with a dream, then pour in our souls. Time and devotion that might otherwise go to hobbies or loved ones are siphoned away as if through some intravenous feed. For better or worse, our ventures become our consent companions. We are never in the moment, constantly dreaming and planning ahead.

Despite all that, I somehow can’t imagine myself doing anything else. On most days, I’m simply having too much fun.

Sure, I could probably find a job. But would it give me the same degree of satisfaction I receive from building something that is truly my own? And besides, jobs come with their own set of stresses and headaches.

About a week after David decided to close down shop, I called to see how he was doing. He sounded happier than I had heard him sound in months. He said he was at peace with his decision. And somehow, though I will miss him on the business trail, a small part of me could not help but delight in his freedom.

As for me, my journey will continue. I will wake up tomorrow just as determined as ever, and I’ll try once more to get right all the things I’ve flubbed in the first six-plus years of owning a business. So don’t chisel my name in that gravestone just yet.

Glenn Burkins is editor and publisher of Qcitymetro.com, an online news site targeting Charlotte’s African-American community. He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Charlotte Observer business editor.

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