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Business ownership isn’t always the answer to the corporate job blues

Sometimes it is better to seek other employment”

“Working for myself has been great and I can’t imagine working for anyone else. BUT … that’s me! It may not be you”.  And that is how I start my seminars.

Frustrated businessman sitting on a benchI started FranNet Carolina over 20 years ago and since then, my focus has been on helping our clients find the perfect business to buy, one that matches their ideal business model and their professional and personal goals

The advice and guidance I provide comes from my experience in the corporate world plus the experience of business ownership (including several franchises) and from having interviewed over 1000 potential business buyers that come to us for advice. I feel that I can look my clients in the eye and let them know that I have been there and done that. And while my goal is to help them find a great business to buy, I also consider it my responsibility to let them know if I don’t feel they are a good fit for business ownership. And I do see people that are not a good fit for business ownership.

“Man, if I could just work for myself and make money for me instead of XYZ Corporation, I would be one happy person”. Heard that before? I have, many times. If I had 100 folks in one of my seminars and I asked them if they would work for themselves with a guaranteed good salary, most would answer with an emphatic YES! But, that guaranteed salary doesn’t exist and the truth is that I have friends, and I see clients for whom corporate employment is a great fit, and something they enjoy and are good at. Heck, there are folks out there that don’t like their job but are still better off than they would be in their own business. I often tell people that “having a job you don’t like that pays the bills is better than owning a business you wouldn’t be good at and don’t like….. and that doesn’t pay the bills”.

So, who makes the choice to buy a business? In my experience, buyers are mostly mid to senior level corporate folks that are in a job transition.   For the most part, the ones that buy businesses are the ones that:

  • Knew their transition was coming or felt that is was likely and began planning to leave the corporate world and buy their own business well before the layoff came. Now that they have the time to do the research, they are focused on buying a business to jump into and run full time.
  • Anticipate continuing their corporate career in a new job and are in an active job search, but want to begin investing in businesses that can be run semi-absentee so they can begin building equity in something and add to their net worth. If they experience another layoff in the future, they may jump into their existing business entity full time.

Other buyers may include current business owners that are selling their current business and looking to purchase another one, but we are focusing on corporate careers in this article.

What separates the buyers from the non- buyers is their desire and their ability to accept the initial risk that comes with any business start-up (investing cash, time without income, anticipated missteps, etc. ) while seeing what the business can become and how it can fit into and benefit their family and their life.  Buying a franchise or buying an ongoing business entity can help to mitigate the risk, but it will not eliminate it entirely. A common trait of most business buyers is that they become engaged in the research process and work at it steadily, almost to the exclusion of everything else, until they reach a conclusion.

Now, referencing the title of this post; who doesn’t or perhaps shouldn’t buy a business? Again looking at our transitioning clients, the ones that don’t or probably shouldn’t buy:

  • Are focused on their job search and know that it is the right thing for them, but decide they want to look at businesses anyway on the off chance they might just see something they like. The fact is, they are focused on a job search for a reason (s) and odds are almost 100% that they won’t see something that takes them off the job track.   A business very seldom becomes so obvious a choice to someone that they have to buy it.
  • May be having difficulty finding a job and think that they might as well own a business as a job replacement. The questions I always ask here is…”Why are you diverting your resources to look for a business when you didn’t want one in the first place? We advise these clients to continue looking for the right job and recognize that it may be necessary to compromise on the next position until the best one comes along.

If someone really wants, or needs a job, there is probably a good reason why and they should focus all their resources on finding that job and not dilute their efforts with a half-hearted attempt to find a business to buy. Over the past 20 years, I have had many clients like this and I generally send them away and tell them to come back if they find themselves in transition again and are really ready to research business ownership. As for the clients that are having difficulty finding a job and think that buying a business is like buying a job, well that is just not correct. Buying a business is a big deal and it takes time and money and commitment.

Going back and rereading this, I feel obligated to tell you that I am, have been and always will be an enthusiastic advocate for business ownership. I think if someone with the desire and financial means can find the right business and can be successful at it, the benefits far outweigh those of employment. That said, business ownership just isn’t right for all of our candidates. It may be a timing issue, a financial issue, a skill set issue or a spousal issue.   Whatever it is, I feel it is my responsibility to my clients to let them know what I think and advise accordingly.

Mike Hall

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