She made her way with tired steps through the hall and out onto the cold floor of the kitchen where she began to make some coffee for breakfast. The dream that had seemed so real to her was now gone. She picked the last coffee filter out of the packet. Today there would be no time for shopping. Her work and daily routines would now intrude. She drew her hand through her long dark hair and distractedly picked up the phone that was on the kitchen table. She stiffened sharply and dropped an empty cup on the floor.
Running a business requires a lot of heart. It takes up a big part of your life, it saps your energy. Work comes home with you, stays in your thoughts, and becomes your passion. I am sure this is true for many people, especially in family businesses. Everything is concentrated in the minds of a few individuals, who become critical for the company’s survival.
Running a business becomes a lifestyle and you must be capable of taking the stresses and strains that inevitably arise. So you need to be able to switch off at times and recuperate. Most of
us are not very good at this. We like to keep going. The situation had been described as “serious, but stable” for some time. Father had been unconscious for a month. In his room at Sahlgrenska hospital the atmosphere was calm. “Stroke his arms, like this,” the nurse showed me.
Yes, we keep going. My father did too. He had had pains in the chest for some time, but they would disappear. It will get better. He kept going, working for our family business, there was so much other stuff that was more important. But then came the night when my father had a heart attack.
When I came running down the hospital corridor the doors slammed gently behind me. A forest of green-clothed staff stood around the operating table, which was lit with a bright light. Time was now of the essence, but we did have time to talk. “This will be all right,” he said, trying to calm me down. The tubes of intravenous drip hung around his hospital bed and he looked very pale. Then he was taken inside the operating room and I was left alone in the corridor.
I called my sister, again and again. When she woke the next morning she would have over 30 calls from the same number. The coffee cup that she dropped on her kitchen floor broke into pieces and she sat on the floor with her head in her hands. “We have found something,” reported the doctor after weeks of uncertainty. “Metal Bulletin.” It sounded like he was eating an apple while reading from a newspaper in the background.
“We found it behind his pillow when we were doing the morning check-up,” explained the doctor. “What does that mean?” I asked hopefully. “It means that your father is lying here and reading Metal Bulletin in order to keep up with the metals market, I suppose,” he said, unable to cover up how pleased he felt with himself. “These are the best calls I get to make as a doctor,” he added. Life had won.
Today, ten years later, I am so happy to hear him cutting the bushes down by the lake. Then he will weed the flowerbeds and spread some fresh gravel on the path. Today, so far away from the busy, stressful, constant decision-making of running a business. Life is so much bigger than the working day and managing a company. Thank you for going to the hospital that night. It wasn’t just your life that changed. Running a business is not just about responsibility. It’s an affair of the heart.
Mattias Malmer CEO