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Will buying a business improve my quality of life or should I keep the day job?

Call it a midlife crisis, but at 50 I'm thinking seriously about leaving the big city, corporate rat race and buying a business in my rural home state. I would like to be closer to my family, be in charge of my own destiny and have a better work life balance in a rural setting. On the flip side, I earn a very good salary, have a stable job and could continue earning like this for another 5-10 years. It would mean rededicating myself to it and putting up with the long hours and lots of travel and staying in the city. So, for those who have made the switch from corporate to small business owner, was it worth it? What advice would you give? FYI, I am a CPA, MBA with significant business experience, although not small business. Any advice or comments welcomed!

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Answers (13)
Jessica Hadler Baines
American Business Group, LLC
President
Orange County, FL

Hello Susan --

Have you made any decisions over the last few months? I agree with Shane and Samuel. You want to find an established business that has some management in place and a strong cash flow. Sounds like something you could run semi-absentee.

As Samuel said, the investment level would be higher, but the returns can be quite lucrative.

Nov 11, 2009
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Go Small Biz (Pre-Paid Legal, Inc.)
Independent Associate/Director
AZ

Hi Susan, I left corporate America to start my own business and in the end found that although it was fun it was just as much, if not, longer hours of work. When it came time to sell you don't really get what it's worth.

Many business owners attempt to sell their business and couldn't so they shut down and are left with a pile of debt and no retirement savings to fall on. Starting your own business is even tougher now in this economy.

I recommend staying at your job, but have a Plan B, just in case that job ever goes away,
One of the companies that you might look into that has recruited many people from corporate America that are running their own businesses has created over 100 millionaires over it's
37 yrs of existence. It is a NYSE company that has a product/service that every American needs, hands down. See, www.prepaidlegal.com/hub/su10. NYSE: PPD.

I believe being closer to your family should be a #1 priority over anything else.

Best of luck to you.

Nov 10, 2009
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Go Small Biz (Pre-Paid Legal, Inc.)
Independent Associate/Director
AZ

Hi Susan, I left corporate America to start my own business and in the end found that although it was fun it was just as much, if not, longer hours of work. When it came time to sell you don't really get what it's worth.

Many business owners attempt to sell their business and couldn't so they shut down and are left with a pile of debt and no retirement savings to fall on. Starting your own business is even tougher now in this economy.

I recommend staying at your job, but have a Plan B, just in case that job ever goes away,
One of the companies that you might look into that has recruited many people from corporate America that are running their own businesses has created over 100 millionaires over it's
37 yrs of existence. It is a NYSE company that has a product/service that every American needs, hands down. See, www.prepaidlegal.com/hub/su10. NYSE: PPD.

I believe being closer to your family should be a #1 priority over anything else.

Best of luck to you.

Nov 10, 2009
Eric Little
Right at Home, Inc.
SVP
Douglas County, NE

Hi Susan, I'll add my two cents worth. I've found that hard-working people tend to work hard regardless of what their current job or business happens to be. I'm sure you've heard the old saying that people rarely change very much. I guess my question to you is, "Are you really prepared to leave the city, completely change your way of life by moving to a rural setting, and deal with the inconveniences that come with that decision along the perceived good aspects of it? As you imagine yourself in that setting why is it appealing? Imagine yourself in that setting for six months. Is it still appealing? Do you need a complete lifestyle makeover or a simple sabbatical to recharge your batteries?

I've known hundreds of business owners over the years. All of them worked hard . The difference in the ones that did well is that they usually will tell you it doesn't really feel like work, as some on here have said.

So as you contemplate business ownership, continue to ask yourself the tough questions. I might also suggest that you read a book called "Halftime" by Bob Buford. I believe it speaks to what you're going through and may provide you with clearer direction of where you want to go.

Good luck!

Eric

Aug 26, 2009
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The BAF Group LLC
MD

Susan, be careful, please. I really worry about people that seem to regard your potential move in a cavalier manner. At 50 - which is young!!! - with a flourishing career in place, it is more difficult to make these decisions, and it should be! This is no little question. Take your time and weigh ALL of the issues, please.

Aug 26, 2009
Rich DeLuca
TransWorld Business Brokers
Williamson County, TN

If you have risen to the top in the corporate world, you will do just as well in your own business. Stop wondering and start creating something of your own. Your job creates no equity; I can always sell your business, but not your job. Come to Tennessee, the market here is solid. Corporations from California and the Northeast continue to move here. I came here from NJ. Love it here. Rich 615-771-5305

Aug 25, 2009
Julie A. Barnes, CPA
Small Business Exchange, Inc.
Travis County, TX

Hi Susan,

Your question is akin to: "Will marriage improve my quality of life of should I remain single?" It all depends on the candidate for marriage or business. If you love and enjoy either, it's certainly worth it to try but you might need to go through a few before you find the right one. Or perhaps you feel it's worth it to invest a lot of time and effort to improve your first choice..

I know that this is hackneyed advice but you should invest in a business that you'll love and the money will follow. Rarely does it work in the reverse.

I've owned many businesses - some have failed and some have succeeded. However, I enjoy the independence and find that I make better decisions if I don't need to constantly defend them to an employer or worry that I'll make the wrong recommendation. To tell you the truth - I'm the nicest and most rational employer I've ever had!

Buying an existing business is also an advantage - in most cases, the problems you might encounter as a startup have already been resolved.

Please feel free to visit my blog: www.AustinBusinessesForSaleBlog.com for advice on buying a business - I hope it answers some of your questions.

Good Luck!
Julie A. Barnes, CPA
www.SmallBusinessExchange.net

Aug 24, 2009
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It depends. Before we bought our restaurant I worked 65 hours plus per week for my family's restaurant. In a six month stretch at one point I put in 90hrs a week while a relative was in the the hospital. I can honestly say it was easier than owning my own business. The stress of owning your own business is terrible. The difference between being THE decision maker and being an employee is night and day. No matter how hard you think you are working and how long of hours you are working it is still less than 24/7 you have owning a business. Your whole life is consumed by it. Not because you are obsessive but because you have to be to compete against everybody else.
That being said I would still rather own my own business than work for someone else. To be honest I sort of thrive on it. It is like being a head football coach in the NFL. You either want it and can handle it or you can't. The only way to find out for sure is try it.

Aug 24, 2009
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I think much hinges on how much business you can afford. If you can buy in at the $300k - $500k and higher range, and you buy a stable, highly profitable and established business with some level of management in place, AND you have excellent personnel management skills, AND the cost structure of the business allows you to compensate your employees well, giving you choices and flexibility, then you should be able to focus on managing the business and your managers. Done properly you could probably work part time after the first year.

If, on the other hand, you are not really talented at managing people (mere corporate management experience means very little) or cannot not afford to buy anything but a job, you are probably going to hate it unless you love the job you buy.

Aug 21, 2009
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the hair shed
owner/stylist
Wake County, NC

hey Susan R: Well, I've read everybody else's comments to you and, have decided to add my own. I've been a hairdresser for 40 years- & working for and with others. And, running the business for others as well. As well as, teaching others the trade. And, let me tell you that I've been the happiest--owning my own business. Oh sure, I've had to "be there" for my clients---but, so what? With them being solely my clients---I wasn't having to split the take with the owner--cuz, I was the owner. And, since service business--is usually by appointment only---I made my own hours too. You've mentioned that you are a cpa?---so, do you have a clientelle base? Well, then why not just start doing business with them on your own? Believe me---if you build it---they will come. Good luck!!! Maira ---hairstylist

Aug 13, 2009
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Thanks for your insights, guys. It is very much appreciated and I can't say I'm surprised by any of it. Hard work and long hours have never been a problem for me. I should clarify that I am not currently working a 9 to 5 job - that would be a piece of cake! I work in a highly stressful, big 4 management consulting firm, regularly doing long hours and weekends and away from home most weeks as well. On top of that there is the competition with coworkers to be seen as the one bringing in the most revenue - an aspect of the business I really dislike. So the lifestyle change I'm thinking about is more about being home once in a while and having a less competitive business culture. Having said that, I agree that the level of stress of being completely in charge is something else entirely! I also wonder if it's worth it financially - risking all for a small business vs. sticking with corporate life and making some sound investments. My choices at the moment are: stick with what I've got; get back into a corporate job (has it's own problems); become my own boss. I am looking into all three to see what fits best for me at this stage. We'll see where it all ends up! Thanks again for your input. If I end up on the buying end, I'll be back for more info! Kind regards,Susan

Aug 8, 2009
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Small Business Underwriters
Founder

Hi Susan - I did exactly what you are describing. I was working for Bank of America in NYC and quit to open my own retail business, thinking the hours and stress would decrease. It was exactly the opposite. I worked longer hours (including nights and weekend), and was more stressed than ever because I didn't have a regular paycheck.

My conclusion: Working a corporate 9 to 5 job is much easier and less stressful than running your own business. If you want to escape the "rat race", why not find a low key corporate job outside the city? That will require no investment (unlike a business) and you will achieve the work-life balance you are searching for.

Aug 8, 2009
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The BAF Group LLC
MD

Susan, as a Broker, I have found that one of the biggest reasons a fairly large number of people sell their businesses after only a year or so, is that they have the expectation that owning their own businesses will somehow be very easy, or at least easier than being an employee. Obviously, it depends on your current job and the business you would start or buy, but many people find that the stress and hours of having your own business is no different - and sometimes worse, than working for someone else!

And the stress factor is frequently the biggest issue. When you work for someone else, you are constantly at the boss' whim, working on his/her schedules and demands. But when you work for yourself, you have no one else to rely on; all the pressures of decision making have one focal point: You! The buck stops there! Regardless of how many employees you have, it is you and you alone that have the final responsibility. That is ia BIG difference between being an employee and being the business owner, particularly in small businesses.

I am dealing with one woman right now who has owned her business for a number of years, and who now wants to sell. I asked why, as I always do, and she replied: It is a great business, but the stress cost me a husband, I did not see my children grow up, I could not travel the way I wanted...I want to live now, for a change. With the burden of ownership, the hours can be an even greater demand on you, than in being an employee.

So, don't do this because it will change your quality of life, unless and until you really examine these issues. I got away from Corporate America because some of your same concerns; but there are real trade offs. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. I like being the one to balance my life decisions, rather than some guy that did not know the very business he was charged with supervising, and who made decisions based on next week's revenue, rather than the ability to survive through next year. I like being my own master, rather than having several companies sold out from under me, and being cut loose by the new ownership because I had a high income level - in spite of the fact that I was the top producer in each company.

There are some great aspects of having your own business. But be careful and please, be realistic about your needs and your life style expectations, in general.

Aug 8, 2009

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