By September of 2002 Andy’s pyramid scheme of companies was nearing financial collapse and bankruptcy because his debts were finally catching up with him and he didn’t have any money left to pay them.
I continued working ten hour days, splitting up my time between website sales, website design, customer service, computer repair and errand boy for all of Andy’s needs. One night as I was locking up the building Andy was in his office later than usual and I went to see what he was up to. When I walked into his office I saw 2 suitcases next to his desk.
“Going on a trip?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m tired Jeremy, I got to get away from this place,” Andy said.
“Where are you going to?” I asked.
“I going to go up to the Burning Man Festival next week for some fun in the sun,” Andy said.
The Burning Man Festival was a week long celebration for artists, musicians, hippies and everyone from the counter culture movement to get together, get naked and enjoy plenty of illegal behavior.
“Well have a good time,” I said, grinning.
“Don’t you worry I have the next payroll covered so everything is cool. I just need to get away to clear my head for a while and I guarantee that when I get back I’ll have more energy to run the company,” Andy said.
I said goodbye to Andy and went home to watch Wrestling with Brian, eat leftover pizza, drink Coke and forget about work.
In the back of my head a little voice kept telling me to find another job because working for Andy was burning me out and I needed a well deserved break but with a regular paycheck coming in every two weeks I didn’t listen to myself and kept up the crazy routine.
Over the next week Andy seemingly dropped off the face of the earth and we didn’t hear a word from him, I was happy to be free of his hectic energy so that I could actually finish one project that he gave me to do without him coming back ten minutes later to make me do something else.
Andy returned from his vacation at the Burning Man festival with a new tan, another new girlfriend and once again, a new business idea.
He asked Mike, Steve and I to met him in the conference room where he once again had the whiteboard out with indecipherable notes, diagrams and drawings written all over it and assisting him was his new girlfriend, Jenny, a “well built”, petite woman with long blond hair that he met through a swingers party at the Burning Man Festival.
Mike and I exchanged scowls because we knew what the meeting was about while all Steve did was stare at Jenny and tried to get her phone number.
“You guys won’t believe what happened to me last week!” Andy said.
“You became a Christian?” Mike asked, sarcastically.
“I had an epiphany at the Burning Man Festival!” Andy declared.
Mike sighed, “Alright, what was your epiphany?” He asked.
“When I was at the Burning Man Festival one thing that struck me was that nobody was making any money! Everywhere I walked I saw people entering different tents for things like food, restrooms, recreational drugs and sex and I thought what if we put our own event together and sell tickets! We could be rich!” Andy exclaimed.
“I’m out of here!” Mike said and got up to leave but Andy stopped him.
“Come on Mike, hear me out ok?” Andy said.
“It sounds like another bull shit money making scheme,” Mike said.
“Think about it Mike, if we had our own festival like Burning Man and we sold tickets for the week or weekend we could be rich in a very short time!” Andy said.
“Where would the event take place?” I asked.
“Good question, why not at the same spot as the Burning Man Festival?” Andy asked.
“Andy it will take at least one year to build this event before we can actually start selling tickets,” Mike said.
“That’s crazy talk Mike, we can have this event running and have tickets sold in six months. Come on guys, think about it. In less than one year this company will be flush with cash again but this time you guys will be able to kick back and plan the event every year instead of constantly chasing your tales to bring in a few bucks every month,” Andy said.
“Yeah that’s right!” Steve said, suddenly sounding like he’d been doing his job for the last six months.
I looked at Andy and was prepared to quit my job right there but the look in his eyes told me that he was desperate and needed to have us involved with his plans to support him as much as I needed the paycheck that he paid me every two weeks.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“That’s awesome Jeremy! Your job will be to design a website for the event and start promoting the site with the search engines,” Andy said.
Andy spent the rest of the day motivating us on how great Pink Town was going to be and how it was going to change our lives and when the day was over we once again had visions of hundred dollar bills dancing in our heads and we dreamed about what it would be like to have one of Andy’s plans actually work.
I went home that night unsure of how far I was willing to go with Andy on this because I couldn’t see myself violating my own morals and values just to make a buck. Andy on the other hand was at a stage in his life where he would do anything to make money so that he could keep his pyramid scheme of businesses alive for another month.
Mike didn’t care what business opportunity Andy became involved in, as long as the new business opportunity brought in money, because at that point Andy owed Mike a lot of back pay and money that he borrowed to keep the company a float and Mike wasn’t going to go anywhere until Andy was able to pay him back in full.
And Steve still continued to hang around the office every day pretending like he was working and contributing to the company when in reality all he was doing was talking to his girl friends, arrange dates and somehow con Andy into paying him the occasional paycheck.
We worked hard to help Andy launch his Pink Town event while we also dealt with the day to day responsibilities of Andy’s other business ventures that he neglected since he became consumed with his dream of launching the Pink Town event.
I think Andy loved the actual process of starting a new business and getting it off the ground but once he saw the day to day work and sacrifice required to keep his new business running he quickly lost interest in it because it didn’t produce financial rewards for him fast enough and didn’t conform to his get rich quick dreams.
After a few weeks of meetings, teleconferences and business trips to potential event locations Andy came back to the office one day with the crazy look on his face that he got when he had a new idea and he called us into the conference room for another meeting.
“Guys, I’ve been working my ass off over the last few weeks trying to launch our event but I keep getting hit by financial road blocks and legal ramifications to getting our event off the ground,” Andy said.
“So it’s not going to work? I knew it was a stupid idea! Andy you keep spreading yourself too thin! When are any of your business ventures going to make any actual money?” Mike asked.
“Why don’t you lighten up Mike? Can’t you see that he’s trying hard?” Steve asked.
“Shut up Steve,” Mike said.
“Guys, I know now that the Pink Town event won’t work in it’s current form but, I have an even better idea on how we can make it work!” Andy said.
“Oh, God, not again,” Mike said, in frustration.
“We’re going to turn out Pink Town event into a charitable event for cancer!” Andy exclaimed.
“I’m out of here! I’ve had enough of this crap!” Mike yelled.
“Sit down Mike and hear me out! Come on just sit down and give me five minutes of your time ok?” Andy asked.
Mike sat back down at the table and pulled out a pack of cigarettes that he anxiously awaited to smoke.
“You have five minutes and then I’m gone!” Mike grunted.
“Alright, here’s my new plan, we’re going to turn Pink Town into a three day charity walk for cancer! We will hold it at the Del Mar Race Track and people will have to purchase tickets for the event!” Andy said.
“Why would anyone want to purchase tickets for a cancer walk?” I asked.
“Think about it, there’s event’s like what I have in mind, every year where people pay to sponsor someone to walk or jog for some disease like Cancer, and these charities are making millions from these events!” Andy said.
“I don’t know, Andy, this idea sounds like it will fall flat like all of your other business ideas,” Mike said.
“You guys need to have more faith in me! I’ve already got the paperwork filed and have turned Pink Town into the Pink Town Foundation! Our charity is going to be for breast cancer and cancer research,” Andy said.
“You’re not serious? You actually turned Pink Town into a charitable foundation?” Mike asked.
Andy pulled out a big binder filled with legal paperwork and slid it across the table to Mike.
“I got all of the required paperwork filed last week by my lawyer, I still have to pay the lawyer for his services but hopefully we can soon start selling tickets and luring sponsors for our event,” Andy said.
As Andy talked I suddenly remembered that Andy’s lease on the building was going to be up in one month and we would have to move out of the building soon.
“Andy, I thought our lease on the building was set to expire? Don’t we have to move out next month? Where is the new office going to be?” I asked.
“That’s a great question. I’ve been thinking on this for a while and have decided that I want all of us to work remotely from out homes. Why do we need an actual physical office when we can work out of our homes? Think about it, we won’t have to commute to this office anymore and can communicate with each other by phone or e-mail if we need to,” Andy said.
“But that means that we will have to set up or own home offices and have expenses associated with that,’ I said.
“Don’t worry. I’ll compensate you guys for your office expenses. I can’t keep paying rent on a building we’re barely using and if I’m going to be able to get the event off the ground I need to save money any way I can,” Andy said.
“You still owe me a lot of money Andy,” Mike said.
“Me too, you haven’t paid me a salary in month,” Steve said.
“Don’t worry guys, I’ll cover any money that I owe you after we start selling sponsorships and tickets for our event,” Andy said.
“You sound like you already have a date set and everything,” I said.
“I do, the date is April 18-20 2003 at the Del Mar Race Track,” Andy said.
“How did you reserve the date so fast?” Don’t you have to pay money to reserve that date and also get the required permits with the city?” I asked.
“Don’t worry guys, we don’t have to pay to reserve the track right now, we can worry about that once we start selling sponsorships and tickets for the event,” Andy said.
This sounded like a typical Andy business plan. He was always looking ahead to the money that the new business venture was going to bring in before the business was actually set up and running.
Mike and I gave Andy a thin commitment that we would continue working for him and help him launch his charitable event and Steve promised to continue working for Andy even though Andy wasn’t paying him and had no idea what work Steve actually did for him. After the meeting was over I went out to lunch at Black Angus with Mike and we discussed the future over a big lunch.
“Andy’s lost it and I’ve had enough, I can’t continue working for him when I could be making real money, working in a management position elsewhere,” Mike said.
“I agree, I think that working from our homes will only give Andy more of an excuse not to pay us every month,” I said.
“You’re right, you need to earn a paycheck more than I do so you better start looking for a new job soon,” Mike said.
I sighed, and knew that Mike was right, I had been working for Andy and his pyramid scheme of companies for over one year and had gained a lot of one the job business experience and had seen my work responsibilities increase without getting a raise in pay.
Finding another job would be a tough decision but I knew that I had to start thinking about it unless I was going to continue getting sucked along in the whirlwind that was Andy’s life….