As a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana, I was fascinated to read my October issue of Fortune Small Business. Each month, in the “Owner’s Manual” section of the magazine, entrepreneurs share lessons they have learned. This month, the feature story was about Jeffrey Yarbrough of Dallas, Texas.
After almost twenty five years of practicing law in Indiana, leading tens of thousands of people through the bankruptcy process, I sometimes think I’ve seen it all. It was interesting to read the story of a person who is not my client and who resides in another state, and to see how all the things I tell people about bankruptcy in Indiana played out in this man’s experience in Texas.
First of all, Yarbrough, just like everyone who ever visits with me, initially expressed his disbelief that financial difficulties were even happening to him: “I had never imagined this moment,” were his exact words. Like many of my clients, Yarbrough was not only a hardworking guy, but had a history of excellence in business. At its peak, his company employed 200 people and generated $6 million a year in revenue!
Then, as with just about all stories leading to bankruptcy, the unexpected hit. It was only after he’d signed the lease on his new restaurant, Liberty Noodle, that he learned the city was going to start construction on a light-rail track – right in front of his building! Locked into the deal, Jeff Yarbrough tried to make a go of the restaurant. Then, just on opening day, Yarbrough’s wife went into labor with triplets two months early. The three babies were in the hospital more than a month. As the medical and business bills mounted,, Jeff was forced to close the restaurant, and to sell his nightclubs, his stocks, his motorcycles, and his boat just to keep the bills paid. The couple put up a valiant fight, but It just wasn’t enough.
“I thought bankruptcy was a coward’s way out. …I finally realized I had put concern about my reputation above being a responsible husband and father.”
Jeff Yarbrough now says filing was the smartest thing he ever did. The judge dismissed some bills and let him consolidate the rest into a single monthly payment. Most important, Jeff is back in business, providing jobs for a dozen employees and paying off the remaining debt, back taxes and attorney fees out of the profits from his growing firm.
Jeff Yarbrough fittingly calls his story “Life After Banktuptcy.”