2022 was the toughest year of my life.
I had to borrow CHF 50 000 ($54 208) from friends and family to make ends meet financially with Friendly. I asked my team for a pay cut. The revenue of Wortspiel dropped by -22%. I contracted Covid-19 and was depressed for a few weeks afterwards. I am in the middle of a divorce.
Nevertheless, most of the time I was fine.
I am healthy. I have two beautiful daughters. I am living my dream professionally. And I’ve been able to meet some wonderful people and experience some remarkable travels.
This all happened with me in 2022:
Financial challenges at Friendly
For the first time in my now seven-year career as an entrepreneur, I got into serious economic trouble.
My software company Friendly is still not profitable almost three years after its foundation. On the one hand, this is normal: most companies in this field take years to get into the black. That’s why market competitors of ours have raised many millions from investors. On the other hand, I had hoped that it could somehow be different for us.
At Friendly, we don’t want investors for good reasons. However, this also means that I have to cover the losses completely from my own current income. And that became increasingly difficult in 2022.
This development is no secret: Friendly is the first Open Startup in Switzerland. This means that we publish all key figures unless there is a good reason not to.
In 2022, Friendly generated a revenue of CHF 174 712 ($189 414), offset by costs of CHF 205 736 ($234 049), resulting in a loss of CHF -31 024 ($-33 635).
Since Friendly’s founding in February 2020, the loss has amounted to as much as CHF 72 520 ($78 623) from revenues of CHF 318 926 ($345 764) vs. costs of CHF 391 446 ($424 386).
[The real loss would actually be greater, because to date I have not paid myself any income for my work at Friendly. According to the statistical salary calculator of the Swiss Confederation, I would be entitled to a salary of CHF 111 876 ($121 290) per year as managing director with an assumed workload of 80%. If we were to add this salary to the costs, the total loss would even be CHF -394 164 ($-427 333)].
Finances became so tight that I had to borrow over CHF 50 000 ($54 208) from friends and family in the fall and winter of 2022 to bridge the shortage (thank you, D., S. and J./C.). In addition, with a heavy heart, I asked my team to take a pay cut.
Nevertheless, we are on a good track. We have over 80 customers, a great team (hello, Joey, Kathrin and Luke), and I am confident that we will be profitable in 2023.
And we think long-term. We have an exist strategy, not an exit strategy. Most businesses fail because their founders give up too early. If you follow through with a reasonable business for 10 years, the chances of it becoming successful are high.
Besides the financial difficulties, there were also many good moments and reasons to celebrate. One highlight for us as a team was our retreat at Lake Lucerne:
Wortspiel on track
Fortunately, my agency Wortspiel stayed on track in 2022. Although net fee income fell by -22% from CHF 584 821 ($634 034) in 2021 to CHF 496 573 ($538 360) in 2022, this was enough to save me from existential economic troubles.
Since March 2021, Jennifer Walter has been supporting me operationally as COO and Chief Happiness Officer (CHO) and she is doing a great job. And so are the other members of the team.
At Wortspiel, we have been working location-independently since our founding in 2015, making us probably the first Swiss marketing agency to rely completely on remote work. We compensate for the lack of face-to-face interaction with a weekly video call with the whole team and annual retreats in cities such as Valencia, Lisbon, Budapest and Cologne.
After two years of not being able to meet together due to the Corona pandemic, we even met twice in 2022.
We spent our first retreat in May on the sunny island of Mallorca:
And in the fall we spent some busy days in Frankfurt.
Special thanks go to our customers for the longstanding and cooperative partnership, including MOVU, Jungfrau Railways, IVF Hartmann and wemakeit.
Divorce, fatherhood and family
In addition to the economic challenges, I am currently in the process of divorce from my wife. That also takes a lot of energy. And I’m trying to be a good father to our two daughters:
I was especially happy about a longer visit from my parents, who live almost 1 000 km away in northern Germany:
Also nice was that I could meet all my three siblings Kathrin, Michael and Mirjam at least once.
Health, discipline and helpful routines
Despite all these loads and pressures, I’m doing surprisingly well, as I mentioned at the beginning.
I manage to work in a disciplined manner. I force myself to finish work on time and take at least one day off a week to recover – which is not always easy, especially as an entrepreneur, but it’s important.
And I try to incorporate things that do me good every day: In addition to fitness and cold showers, these include yoga, meditation (app tip: Calm), conversations with family and friends, documentary series on Netflix, and books (tip: Book of Joy).
In April, I contracted Covid-19. I had flu-like symptoms and felt really sick for almost two weeks – despite booster vaccinations. During this time, sports and most of my routines fell flat. This then hit psychologically: I was depressed during this time and for several weeks afterwards. A good antidote was long walks (at least 2 x 45 min daily). This gradually made things better.
Friendships and travels
I like to think back to the meetings at home in Thurgau as well as in the Constance region with my good friends Katja & Robert, Stefan and Aletea & Christian.
And I love traveling. Due to tight budgets, I stayed mainly with friends or in cheap accommodation. This did not make it any less beautiful.
My employee Joey Keller has become a friend. In June, I visited him and his family in Budapest, Hungary:
In September I visited my friend Néstor in Granada, Spain. We had met in 2005 during my exchange year there through the Erasmus program and have remained friends ever since:
And I was in Thailand several times in 2022. I appreciated the meetings with my friend Dieter, who lives with his family in Chiang Mai. His son Luke is my godchild.
In general, I feel very much at ease in Thailand. The weather, the food, the traditional massage and the friendly people do me good. Admittedly, the flight is expensive. However, life itself is much cheaper than in Switzerland and the quality of life for me is much higher.
For 2023, I’d wish for things to get a little easier and to finally break even with Friendly. Otherwise, I’m already pretty happy.
It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!Rocky Balboa
P.S. This is the fourth year for which I have written a review. Here you can see the issues for 2021, 2020 and 2019.