Executive to Small Business Owner:
How Leaving Corporate America Changed my Life
Thinking of taking the leap from Corporate life to Entrepreneurship?
Every year, millions of people make the decision to leave their job in Corporate America to try their hand at entrepreneurship. For the first time, we are seeing professionals of all ages, from millennials to baby boomers, make the jump from aspiring CEO to start up business owner. While people site all different reasons for exiting the corporate world, the main desire they all have in common is increased freedom and financial stability. I understand what it is like to transition from moving up the corporate ladder to entrepreneurship because I have been there too. I have been right where you are, trying to look into the future and decide which route to pursue and let me tell you, I wish I would have chosen entrepreneurship a lot sooner.
Thirty years ago, I had the same dream that many professionals share; work hard, advance my way to the top and eventually become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. After years of countless hours and loyalty to my company, the unthinkable happened – the business had been sold. I went from an aspiring professional to fearing for my job and knew I needed to make a change and fast. I felt betrayed and looking for a new job was foreign and unappealing to me. I decided to become an entrepreneur and start a business.
Four businesses and 30 years later, I’ve realized that becoming an entrepreneur was the best decision I ever made. Making the decision to leave your corporate job is a huge step; it’s exciting, mysterious, nerve-wracking, and liberating all rolled into one. You may be thinking about starting a business, but purchasing an existing business is also something you will need to consider. Buying an existing business over starting one has several wonderful benefits. As you make this transition into entrepreneurship, here are some tips for finding the perfect business and what to expect down the road as the owner of your own business.
Be open-minded. Do not just focus on finding a business in a field you familiar with. Try something new! The professional and managerial skills you gained in Corporate America will transfer to just about any type of business.
Make a Financial Plan. Determine how much money you are willing to invest into your new business and what you will need to maintain your current lifestyle and pay back any debt you accrue during the purchase. Remember, most 401k accounts can be used to purchase a business without tax or penalty.
Evaluate risk. Do not purchase a failing business with the intention of “fixing it up”. Find an existing business with good cash flow, tenured employees and a steady customer base to invest in and you’re guaranteed a return.
Begin Researching. There are plenty of good resources on the web to assist in your search for a business. BizBuySell and BizQuest are two of the most well-known websites, and individual broker sites generally have their listings featured on them as well. I do not recommend working directly with a seller. If a seller has not listed with a professional broker, they may not be serious about selling. If they tell you that “everything is for sale at the right price”, run for cover.
Take a tour. Physically go and look at businesses. As a first time buyer, you need to see the business for yourself and imagine yourself in the owner’s shoes. One of the biggest mistakes buyers make is making decisions based off an internet ad.
Collaborate with a Broker. Contact Brokers in your area and introduce yourself to them. Most of them will have something to show you immediately, and if they don’t, they will contact you when they believe they have found a good fit. We spend at least an hour with every buyer to ensure they understand the full M&A process and that we understand what they are looking for.
Self-Reflect. Use this time for self-reflection and evaluation. After you have looked at a few businesses, you will have a better idea of what you are looking for and the fear of the unknown should be dissipating at this point.
Make a Decision. If the financials look good and you can envision yourself running this business, it’s time to make a decision. If you believe that you can grow the business and, after debt service, you are left with a living wage and a return on your down payment – BUY IT!
Testing your entrepreneurial drive by owning your own business is a unique, yet fulfilling experience. Millions of Americans dream of becoming their own boss and the way the financial climate is shaping up, there has never been a better time to try it. If you are still unsure, take your time or consider contacting a professional to devise a strategy. If you are interested in purchasing a business in the Southeast, check out our latest business listings.