A Year In Review (2015)

2015 has been a unique year of my life that has come with much change. It has become a milestone representing that I am no longer a student, no longer financially dependent on others, and the year where I was finally starting thinking of myself as a man in our society. While I love to talk and think about all the positive things that happened I could also recognize that some situations were far from ideal and one, in particular, my girlfriend being diagnosed with cancer, caused me to be depressed for about three months of the year.

Starting My Career

January marked my first month out of college, and it was time to find ways to further my career. My passion has always been to own and manage my business, but some job offers from random recruiters on LinkedIn did look interesting. My first venture this year was to work with a tech business that needed an off-site developer for one of their larger clients. For the next few months, I worked with them, and we made a lot of awesome progress on the application. During this time, I decided to step up my business game and get my first Limited Liability Company, Brotsky, LLC. My hope was that larger companies would take my business more seriously, and I would also gain some legal protection that comes with the sue-happy world of business.

Buying a Condo

My girlfriend, Erica, and I decided that we should start looking for new place to rent that was closer business opportunities so I could help grow my business. The original thought was that the extra cost of rent to live in a better area was relatively low compared to opportunities that may come across just by being around more business people. We began our search on the west side of Los Angeles, and everything that we liked was over $3000/month. Admittedly, we do have some high standards like washer and dryer in unit, two bedrooms, air conditioning, etc, but we both agreed that $3000/month was pointless when that is what a mortgage on a house is. And our search for a house began.

My first lesson on real estate was that just because I think I could afford something doesn't mean the banks agrees. Owning a business with a relatively short history of income made qualifying much more difficult. The bank looks at your monthly income, takes roughly 45% of that, and uses that to determine the maximum payment that you will be able to make for your loan after taxes, HOA, and insurance. For example, let's say you make $48,000/year, your monthly income would be $4000 meaning you could qualify for a monthly payment of $1750 to $1800. The issue I had with this is that since I am a business owner, I have a significantly more write-offs that my equal employee counterpart would have. I get to write-off a portion of my rent, meals that I have with clients, or my phone just to name a few. This means that my taxable income is much less which is normally a good thing... until you want to buy a home. This realization meant that my dream of purchasing a fixer-upper would have to be delayed and buying a condo would be a much more realistic stepping stone. This also meant that buying this completely on my own wouldn't be possible yet and I would need some assistance from Mom and Dad.

The next lesson was learning just how hard and at times, frustrating; the housing market could be. Finding a home in a decent area proved to be incredibly hard. It seemed like everything worth buying was either too expensive, already in escrow, or there is just something seriously wrong with the place. Luckily I was able to find a place that had only been on the market for seven days, it already had three offers, and I was ready for a bidding war. Since the 3rd offer was an all cash at listing price offer I had to go a bit higher and I thankfully got it accepted.

Although I had a pre-qualification on the money from the bank, the next step was actual to do all the paperwork and get the loan approved. The strategy to get the money for the place was to take out two loans, about 40% from my parents and about 60% as a traditional mortgage. The 40% was a line of equity from their house which meant a lower interest rate and counted as a 40% down payment on my primary mortgage. This helped me to put virtually nothing down, pay for appliances and cost of moving, and pay off my remaining auto loan, and to remove PMI (mortgage insurance) from the loan. The downside of this was that instead of having the variable of being approved on a single loan I now had a second variable of my parents being approved on theirs. Luckily everything worked out, and Erica and I were able to move into our new Encino condo in July.

Here are a couple of pictures of the complex:

Cancer

Right in the middle of buying the condo, paying taxes, and finding new ways to expand my business Erica felt a lump in one of her lymph nodes. She had already beat cancer once before, and we were confident that the lymph node was just swollen because of some virus she might have picked up, but since she is prone to getting cancer again, she went to the doctor to have it tested. The test came back as positive for Melanoma (a type of skin cancer), and it had come back in her lymph nodes and spread to her lungs. It seemed like every time she went to the doctors she would come back with more bad news about her health. I'm not usually one to get emotional, but this hit me hard. I've had family and friends be diagnosed with cancer, but I couldn't believe that it was happening to someone that I love and live with. Even though we went through it before during our first year of dating, this time felt more real. Over the next few months, I became depressed. I found it difficult to focus on work and hard to be as optimistic about life as I usually am. Although I believe it was understandable, it's not a state of mind that I am used to.

The first step of the process was to remove eggs just in case the cancer treatment made her infertile. This process made her body think she was pregnant and boy that was fun... not! This month was hard on both of us, but it ended up being worth it because she was able to save healthy eggs for whenever she is ready to have children after the treatment.

Since July, she has been in treatment, and it has not been easy. There are nights where she can't get warm and is shivering uncontrollably or days when her stomach is turning. The worst thing for me is that no matter what I do, there is something nothing that I could do to make her feel more comfortable.

On a more positive note, the treatment does seem to be working. The last scan's results showed that the cancer is no longer in her lungs and has shrunk a lot in her lymph nodes. While I don't know all the details, I do know that the treatment seems to be worth the trouble and all in all, we are very thankful that she has amazing doctors.

My Choice of Happiness and Success

In August, I woke up one day and reflected on my life. I felt like I was letting things that I can't control decide how I feel and how successful I am. I can't control if my girlfriend has cancer or not but I could decide to be happy and strong for both of us. I also decided that this was an obstacle in my life that would not get in the way of me achieving my goals. My next step was to finish up the moving process and find bigger and better clients for my business.

Brotsky, LLC Growth

The business started the year off as me being more of a freelancer with some extra help to full on agency. We have done dozens of projects for existing and new clients and have been able to expand our team with the addition of 7 new developers and designers. We have worked on projects for American Express, Chase, AT&T, DirecTV, Symantec, Verisign, Group Health, Marriott, and many others. I now work up to 18 hours in a day and love every minute.

Our growth comes with new problems. One of my issues that have come with growth is keeping track of what everyone is doing. I've had lots of experience working with one or two others on a project but never have I had to delegate to 5 to 7 developers all working on different projects while I work on the projects that I assign to myself. Luckily, I have an amazing team that has been very helpful to help me. My partner, Farhoud, and I have had many mind storming sessions where we come up with new strategies to help us become more efficient and take on more and get things done faster. I'm very excited to continue this growth, and I can't wait to take on new problems, after all, the problems that come with scaling are awesome problems to have.

My New Porsche

I know, I know, not the most practical or responsible decision that I made this year but man, it has been fun! I loved Porsches since I was a kid and earlier this year I drove one on a test track and fell in love all over again and I had my eye on one for a while. The last couple years have been great for business and the last few months have been even better, so I decided I wanted to reward myself with a new toy, a brand new 2015 Porsche Cayman. I figured if I am going to drive a two-seater, impractical Porsche that not a family man's automobile then age 26 is the time to do it. While the decision might not be the most economical, it has been an awesome way to end 2015.

In Conclusion

When I was in high school and college people told me that my best years would be while I am school. I don't understand what they were talking about because this last year has been the most fun I've ever had and I am confident that 2016 will be even better. I'm looking forward to the next year to grow, become closer to friends and family, and to continue the betterment of myself.

Happy New Year and thank you for reading,
Brandon