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The good news about entrepreneurship is that your fate is in your hands. The bad news is that your fate is in your hands!

– Guy Kawasaki

Entrepreneurship: Lesson Learned #1

10 years ago, I almost bought a franchise. I still wonder what life would have been if I had. It was a commercial painting operation that used multiple subcontractors, claiming they could complete any residential painting job, indoors, outdoors or both, in just one day. That concept was their brand and they are called “Wow! One Day Painting.”

Early in my career, I painted houses to make ends meet. So, I was fascinated by their business model. I traveled to Vancouver to meet with their team and they were terrific. I loved everything about the concept and the folks I would work with were top notch. I was sold.

The next day I dipped into my 401(k) and put down a deposit on multiple highly affluent territories in Northern Virginia. I couldn’t have been more excited to officially close the deal and get started. Then things fell apart.

I was very concerned about one term in the agreement that I believed could seriously and negatively impact my profitability. My attorney advised me to run, not walk, away from the agreement. She hated franchises. When I confronted them with this concern, their answer was “trust us.”

One thing that should seriously scare you to death is when someone says “trust me.” Think about it. If two parties are entering into a relationship of complete trust, then what would be the need for an agreement? Well, there is a very good reason for agreements I won’t dive into, but this agreement gave the franchisor more power than I was willing to relinquish. I got my deposit back and walked away.

Lesson learned number one…franchise agreements are never written in the franchisee’s best interests. The parent company’s attorneys write them. Their only responsibility is to the franchisor.  Some agreements may be fairer than others, but they are designed to make the parent company very profitable.

Entrepreneurship: Lesson learned #2

In my opinion, going it solo, although more difficult at the outset than a franchise, has better long-term profitability prospects.  Heck, if you are very successful, you can franchise it. 🙂 However, it has been my experience that it is very difficult to create and grow your own business while you have a full-time job.

How does one transition from a full-time job to a profitable startup?

The biggest challenge I encountered throughout my 20+ years of trying to launch a startup was time. I don’t mean finding the time. I made the time. What I mean is not being available to support potential customers and clients during normal working hours.

At one point I thought if I could figure this out, finding a way to effectively transition from a full-time job to a new business while fully supporting customers, that this solution in-of-itself would be the basis for a business.

I did consider using virtual assistants and sophisticated answering services to make it appear that I was available 24/7. Just so you know, this was before Tim Ferris’s best-selling book, “The 4-hour week,” which does a fair job of addressing this issue. However, hiring others doesn’t work, especially if you are attempting a “bootstrap” startup, because you don’t have any incoming revenue to pay them.

Although I think Tim has some very interesting ideas, I am of the opinion that to do this successfully, you have to quit your day job, or at least go part-time to appear more “legitimate.”

Pro’s and con’s of entrepreneurship

The lure of entrepreneurship includes flexibility, freedom, complete control, and a sense of accomplishment that comes from building something of your own.

On the other hand, don’t underestimate the amount of self-discipline you will need. You will also be challenged by the reality that you bear all the risk. You will stress over your ability to pay the bills, and your biggest enemy will be loneliness. I make no bones about it, you will be lonely.

Yes, there may be no one to challenge or ridicule your tactics, but there will also be no one to brainstorm with, share your successes, or confirm you are making the right decisions.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer

That’s right, I am not trying to replace this character on Saturday Night Live, but I have made more attempts than I can count at entrepreneurship while fully employed. Thankfully, if it were not for my day job and the financial security it provided, and a touch of well-placed cautiousness, I could have easily put my family on the streets. But, I know it also prevented me from entrepreneurial success.

If you are like me, entrepreneurship is in your blood and you are going to find a way to make it happen.  So, here is my final advice.  First, use extreme caution if considering a franchise by being extremely conservative when evaluating the margins and having your attorney read everything you sign. And secondly, if you find a way to create more hours in the day, please let me know how you did it.

Take care till next week,

Bob

www.fixmycareernow.com
bob@robertbaird.us

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