The Closing of 2008

2008 has been a hard year for me. Not hard in the sense of bad, but hard in the sense of long, with comings and goings, hardships and uncertainties, a number of disappointments and many changes. And through all the year’s developments, my wife and kids have been there for me. I am one lucky guy.

The year started well enough with the new job. Zumbox is live so I can discuss it openly. Zumbox is an alternative to the traditional postal service. The best way to explain it is in the following manner: “95%+ of the mail you receive in your mailbox starts life electronically; why print it”. There are a number of efficiencies that are gained by using Zumbox; one of them is the environmental impact. Now, I do not mean to sound too eco-friendly, so I will present the environmental impact from a cost savings point of view: No printing saves not only trees, but money. And postage is a fraction of what the postal service is. To make matters even more attractive, there is no need to have a bunch of warehouses for mail sorting and staging, etc.

We spent the whole year building the product; starting with product definitions, graphic design, technology strategy, software architecture, modules design, systems architecture and design, implementation, so on and so forth. It was not always easy, especially during design changes, but we pulled through and we have an incredible product. The first version of the product was launched on 08/08/2008. It was a private beta from which we learned a great deal. The second and current version was launched on December 10th. And … you ain’t seen nothing yet!!! We have a bunch of product enhancements and features in the pipeline.. We are now on our beta period. Being part of Zumbox is very exciting. We are changing the world. Or a least a part of it. We also have an incredible team.

On July 15th we moved from Torrance to Thousand Oaks. We had been living in the South Bay for the last 12 years. I liked it a lot. I had built a good set of friends and my wife’s family, all of it, lives there as well. Family gatherings were easy. Not only friends  and family where close by, but business associates as well. I was finally rebuilding my consulting practice. Taking the job in Westlake Village meant at least a one and a half hour commute each way. It killed not only my emerging consulting business but time with my kids and wife. Not to say that part of getting the job was predicated on moving. So we moved.

Finding a suitable house was not easy. I must have seen over one hundred different properties. Some of them too crappy. Some of them too expensive, etc. And from the subset I selected, my wife had to choose one. We finally set on a nice property in Wildwood. A nice double cul-de-sac with an awesome back yard and good neighbors. We decided to rent and the renting process was too painful. I am not going to go into details, but let’s just say, it was not a pleasant experience. The actual moving was not so bad. We took a few weeks to pack and then, all in one day, we moved.

Now … the house in Torrance needed to be rented. My wife wanted to sell, but with the financial markets the way they were, selling was not a good idea. Not only that, I wanted to have an income property anyway.  The house needed to be fixed before it was rented; and a job that was supposed to take a week and a few thousand dollars ended up taking over a month and several thousands of dollars. In the process I lost two prospective renters that would have paid well. I guess it was not meant to be. It took us a while to rent the house but we finally did to a very nice couple. All the while until it was rented, we were paying rent and the mortgage. So … the house was finally rented.

There were a series of similar experiences through the rest of the year. I really do not want to go into them. They all, so far, ended well and we are the better for it; but each experience took a little bit out of me. And each taken little bit, I have not gotten back yet. I guess what does not kill you makes you stronger.

On the people side of things, I was disappointed by a few people that I held in high esteem and regard. People that shared most of my values or so I thought. It makes me truly sad. I think about how I felt about these people and the energy I invested in building a friendship and how that was wasted. It is not that I was expecting something in return. My expectations are more about longevity and familiarity. I am sure they are as disappointed in me as I am in them. Still, it does not change how I feel… life goes on.

Not all was doom and gloom … There are a few experiences that transpired this year that are very good …

I had stayed in touch with an ex-boss of mine. We fished together, got drunk together, and went to Mexico together and always had a good time. We always discussed that we needed to work together again. Finally the opportunity arose and I was able to hire him. Pat is not the easiest guy in the world, but he is an awesome person and I am glad he is my right hand. He had a hard time this year as well and I did the best I could to support him and stand by him. Hopefully it helped.

I reconnected with Ron. When Pat and I worked together, Ron reported to Pat and I reported to Ron. Ron and I had also a grand time back then. When I moved to Thousand Oaks, I moved only couple of miles from Ron and of course, we resume our friendship. Ron and Georgia are great; and both my wife and I feel very lucky to count them as our friends. Now … I did not know Ron is a musician. When I was a kid I spent 3 years at a music conservatory. And throughout my life I have been on-again-off-again involved in music. From very involved to not whatsoever. When Ron and I reconnected, he reintroduced me to music and ever since I have spent a great deal of time playing and studying guitar. I focused for a while on blues; now, I have also added classical. Music has always filled my heart with joy. This time is no exception. I am even somewhat teaching my children. I have to thank Ron and Georgia for it. Now … the draw back of my music obsession is that I have spent no time with photography or writing. But … it is still a creative outlet for me and that works.

Kort and Debbie … well … I really enjoy them. We became friends through our daughters.  Our connection is also music. They are great people so I feel that the connection through music is an excuse to hang out and a common point. If that connection did not exist, I still would feel the same way.

The move to Thousand Oaks has not been bad; as a matter of fact, it has been very good. It has changed a great deal of our behavior and daily activities. My wife loves it. We have cultivated great friendships. My workmates are good and intelligent. My boss – Bob – is also very intelligent and we enjoy some good discussions. My kids are flourishing and both are in the school’s honor roll. Not only that, they are really much happier than they were before.

But for as good as the move was, we now do not spend as much time with Dan and Sheryl. I miss them. Both have helped us in ways that I can not begin to thank them or replay them. And not just this last year … ever since we met them. I wish we could see them more often and spend time with them.

On a completely different note .. I do not want to forget to mention Guido. Last, but not least. I am not a faithful person. I do not blindly believe in anybody or anything, except for my wife and Guido. Beyond him being my business partner, he is my FRIEND.

So, in closing … during this year I have experienced a good share of hardship and uncertainties. Financially, it was also a hard year but I began to recover towards the end of the year. And needless to say, the economic downturn did not help. But it was also a year filled with good experiences as well. A year of reconnecting with all friends and fulfilling certain wills. A year of meeting new folks that enrich us daily. A year of hard work with some big wins.

Happy New Year to you all. May 2009 bring only good things.

Fabian E. Schonholz

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