Getting back on your feet: Second chances for solopreneurs

By Mark G. Auerbach

My May  and June columns for Succeeding in Small Business chronicled my journey from a horrific accident that sidelined me as a solopreneur personally and professionally. Two friends and colleagues had suffered similar fates, and I reached out to them for practical advice and support. As I prepare to leave rehab almost three months after my fall, their stories inspired me.

Suzanne M. Boniface  is a public relations practitioner and consultant and an adjunct professor of public relations at Westfield State University. She works a few doors down from the studio of 89.5fm/WSKB, where I produce and host ArtsBeat Radio. Over the years, she has invited me to present workshops for her students, and we’ve met regularly with other area public relations pros to network and share “war stories.”

Earlier this year, she experienced a tibial plateau fracture that called for surgery. After surgery, she was told “no weight bearing for three months.” She could teach her online classes remotely, and other professionals, myself included, covered her classes, until she could return to the classroom. She put her consultancy on hold.

Evan Pappas is the musical theatre actor-turned director who had appeared on Broadway in A Chorus Line, My Favorite Year, and Parade, and in the London company of Sondheim’s Follies. Currently, he’s the artistic director of the up-and-coming Argyle Theatre on Long Island, and an in-demand director who staged the Off-Broadway production of A Letter to Harvey Milk. I profiled him for the now-defunct Show Music magazine, when he was starring in Promises, Promises at Goodspeed, and we became good friends when he appeared in several plays at Hartford Stage.

As Evan was acquiring directorial credits, he went out on a national tour of On Golden Pond. When the show played Phoenix, he was hit by a Hummer, suffered 12 broken ribs, a broken collar bone, damaged heart, lung collapse, partial splenectomy, broken jaw, and more. He was out of work for almost a year. He spent three weeks in an ICU, three weeks in a hospital rehab, seven weeks living at his mother’s, and 6 months in physical therapy. Pappas said “It pretty much took me out of commission.”

During Suzanne’s recovery, she did what she could from home. “ I needed to accept the fact that I needed help,” she recalls. “Being very independent, that was difficult to do. I had to depend on family and friends, who were wonderful in stepping up to help.  Also, my co-workers at Westfield State in the Communication department, really were supportive and helpful.  They were there any minute I needed them. The positive about continuing to work during the hospital stay, rehab and the home, was that it kept my mind active. ”

Evan’s recovery strategy was “Laughing as much as I could (with 12 broken ribs, ha). Rest. Talking about it. Trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together as I couldn’t (and still don’t) remember the accident at all.” Asked if the accident changed him, he says, “Somewhat. I try not to take things as seriously any more. I’ve learned that we worry too much about the stupidest things.”

Suzanne offered some practical advice, for example where to get physical therapy, who to use to clean the condo, and something I’d not thought of: “I might have purchased disability insurance if they sell it for solopreneurs,” she says now.

Evan Pappas

Evan offered thoughts more geared to the soul: “My accident happened for a reason I believe. As artists, we pull from all parts of our lives. What shapes us into the artists we are our life experiences. This accident heightened everything about my artistic and everyday life. Some days I’m frustrated that this happened, but most days I’m actually thankful for it.”

Suzanne and I shared the same surgeon, and our follow-up appointments, coincidentally, were scheduled for the same time. She helped me find a road map towards finding my course after rehab. Evan and I had an intense phone chat. He centered my soul. I’m so grateful to them, and other colleagues, clients, and friends who have been accompanying me on this journey. Knowing where I’ve been and where I’m headed has helped me run my company and my life through this long recovery.

Kander and Ebb, composer and lyricist of Cabaret, Chicago, and New York, New York, wrote a musical, Steel Pier, which featured a song called “Second Chance.” The lyric goes “Second chance /  Whoever gets to get a second chance? /   Whoever gets another turn at bat?”

We do. And, that’s succeeding in small business.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. Mark is also the ArtsBeat reporter for The Westfield News Group and producer of ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm-WKSB. You can find more information about Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations on Facebook, and Mark G. Auerbach on LinkedIn or @mgauerbach on Twitter.

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