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Crash Test

If you think your problems are insurmountable, imagine maintaining your customer base from a hospital bed--broken leg, crushed voice box and all.

The engine was dead. This was a concern, because Randy Carver wasn't driving his car; he was flying an airplane. A rental. Some 6,000 feet over a mountainous region in Pennsylvania. Mindy, his wife and childhood sweetheart, was sitting beside him. Their 15-month-old daughter, Cidney, was in the back.

Randy attempted to re-start the engine, and it worked. It hummed along just fine--for a moment. And then it stalled again. The plane was going down.

Maybe Randy, who was then just shy of 25 years old, managed to remain calm because he'd survived a turbulent childhood. Perhaps it was thanks to his sky-diving experiences or his job training--working as a financial planner takes a cool head. Whatever kept his nerve box nailed shut, the engine's last gasp didn't ruffle him at first. Randy says now, a little more than 10 years later, "Truthfully, I thought we'd land it."

They didn't.

"When the air-traffic controller said, `You're on your own,' I figured we were in trouble," says Randy. "But it wasn't until we started hitting trees that I really realized we were going to crash."

The airplane hit the ground. For Randy, everything went black, but Mindy was alert, despite a broken collarbone. Leaving her unconscious husband for the time being, she removed her daughter from the wreckage--Cidney, strapped in a car seat, was unscathed--and set out on a strained hike across a field to an empty farm house. She called 911, and when an ambulance arrived on the scene, Randy was whisked to a nearby hospital. His right leg was shattered, as was his career, it seemed. Not even the best of fortune-tellers could have predicted that less than two years later, Randy would open Carver Financial, his own Mentor, Ohio, financial services firm, which today has 2,000 clients, manages a fortune of $400 million and brings in annual revenues of as much as $30 million.

Some fortune-tellers might have even hedged their bets. Some might have predicted the New York City native wouldn't live to see the next day.

The unconscious Randy lay in his hospital bed. "His nose was smashed. His leg was smashed. There were chest tubes and blood everywhere," shudders Mindy, who recalls that her husband had, at the time of their descent, been wearing a green T-shirt with a skiing-related slogan on it that went something like, "It screamed like an eagle...that fell like a rock."

Except that after they fall, rocks don't have cuts and bruises everywhere, and crimson-colored eyes.

"He looked awful," says Mindy. Worse still, when Randy came to, he couldn't speak. His throat had been crushed.

Geoff Williams is a features reporter at The Cincinnati Post. He frequently contributes to Entrepreneur and has written articles for many other publications, including LIFE and Entertainment Weekly.

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Crash Test.

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