It wasn't all that long ago that this catchphrase was a big part of pop culture, so we thought ourselves quite clever for recognizing our own "Who's going to pay for this wall?" moment.
There are a ton of panic moments during a start-up. With so many things to keep track of, and as someone who's never started an orthodontic practice (or any other business) before, I was sure I would miss something eventually. A seasoned business person might say to herself, "Well, if I screw up, I'll figure it out and move on." However, I routinely take a more catastrophic approach. While I didn't articulate this exact thought to myself, I essentially believed that anything that went wrong would ruin the project from top to bottom, destroy my career, bankrupt me, and shatter my reputation in the process.
On top of that, despite working with lots of highly recommended professionals, I was excessively worried about giving up control and trusting our professionals. The reality is that there are so many documents - real estate documents, loan documents, insurance contracts, etc. - I wish I could say that I read them all in detail, but starting an office while working a full time job (and insisting on my regular 8 hours of sleep) made that literally impossible. And that's what our team is for.
So about that wall...
We offered our now-landlord a letter of intent for a space in his building that was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 sf. He counter-offered - a different space. He suggested we split a larger space with a second tenant, giving us more like 1700 sf. Ok, sounds good. But someone's going to have to build a wall there. Obviously it would be on the landlord to provide the wall, but who would actually be building it? The most logical step would be for our contractor to build the wall since they would be there working on the space anyways, and they would quote a price for the wall, and the landlord would cover the cost.
Or something like that. This was all decided in a series of hurried emails, often squeezed in between seeing patients or later at night than I like to use my brain. I trusted that this made sense and that the realtor, attorney, contractor, and landlord would make sure it was "all good."
When the issue came up weeks later as we were about to begin demolition on the space, I suddenly was unclear on how exactly this was going to work. Would the landlord pay the contractor directly? Because I noticed that the construction of this "demising" wall was listed as a line item on our quote for the buildout. Hold up. I felt like Mexico - was the landlord trying to build himself a wall on our dime?? I cursed myself up and down for being careless, for not spending the time to look into it in the beginning. Did they expect this money to come from our build-out allowance?
After witnessing our panic attack, our kind contractor took it upon himself to read through the lease. (Something I could have done myself if I weren't too preoccupied with my anxiety.) And it turns out, everything was fine. Our landlord was not an evil maniac, and we were not Mexico. The lease was written slightly differently than I had remembered, but the landlord was, sure enough, going to take responsibility for the wall.
Emergency averted. What did I learn? Bunch of stuff.
- 1. Check out the people you're hiring. Call references. Then trust them. Our realtor negotiated the terms of this lease for us, and it turns out we were in good hands.
- 2. But take responsibility for yourself. Before texting your contractor with panicky messages, maybe read the lease yourself. Ultimately it's your responsibility. Extreme ownership, folks. Believe it.
- 3. Mistakes won't actually ruin you. You know how everyone says that they've "made every mistake in the book." It's because they have. Because no one's perfect. People lose money on bad decisions all the time. Just don't make the same ones over and over. Learn things as you go, and when things go wrong, figure out how to fix them.