It was a little over 9 years ago when James Shore and I decided we would take a crack at running our own web shop. That is, to partner up and go into business on our own. I had met James in 7th Grade and we had been close friends ever since.
I am not sure how (or don’t remember) but James started talking about this shop in Mayville, WI (a small town “up north”) that was for sale (by the name of SunAnt Web). We bought that book of business and took a lease out in a truly depressing office in the basement of a similarly depressed office building in a not-so-great neighborhood.
We were of course excited and nervous. Our timing was terrible of course. The economy was not nearly as vibrant as it is today, for instance. Nevertheless, we were viable. Primarily because of our “White Label” business model.
Within a month, we had lured Damon to work with us. Anthony was hired on with our newly-formed company, SunAnt Interactive. And we were beginning to wrap our arms around our new set of clients, as well as ramping up sales.
When James left mid-week for a retreat in Arizona, we had no idea as we walked up to the parking lot what the immediate future had in store. When we got to the parking lot, James realized he had forgotten something in the office. Damon and I thought it would be funny if he returned only to discover we had ditched him. So, we high-tailed it out of there. I think I actually chuckled as I drove off. I can say with 100% certainty he must’ve come back up, realized we had left, shook his head, and under his breath muttered, “assholes”. All with that shit eating grin of his.
We never saw James alive again. Several days later, moments after I had awakened, my cell phone was ringing. I saw on caller id the call was being made from James’ mother’s phone. I knew. I just knew. I picked up the phone and heard James’ step dad, Tom, on the other end. He said, “Matt. James is dead”. Now, when people talk about having to sit down at such news… when they talk of the ringing in their ears and the overwhelming dizziness at such shocking news, I am here to tell you this is no lie.
I remember looking over at my wife, Jen, and shaking my head as Tom started to tell of the tragic accident in Sedona. None of it registered. I just kept saying, “this is not possible”. Over and over again.
But it was possible. And it was so.
James. My nearly-lifelong best friend… my brother… was dead.
The days and weeks that followed were really, really awful. James had left behind a wife and 3 kids, a mother and 2 siblings, a step father, and nephews and nieces. And he left behind the rest of us who cared and loved him as well.
Friends from far and wide and all points throughout the country came to his memorial service. Hundreds were in attendance as we remembered James in a lovely send-off.
But what to do about the business? Losing James was devastating. Personally, first and foremost. But crippling for the business. No one would fault me for just closing the business and walking away.
I prayed on it.
Damon and Anthony agreed to become partners in the business. And they have become as close to me in friendship as a man could be blessed with. They are also spectacular business partners.
It’s a week away from 9 years on as I write this.
I like to think James would be proud. I miss him.