If your desire includes owning a business of your own, make sure it is not a brick and mortar one with inventories, personnel and property taxes. In this economy it may very well prove to be fatal.
Own your own business. The ads sound so convincing; be your own boss, play and make money while others do the work for you, be in control of your own destiny.¬† The phrase I love the most¬†is “successful people don‚Äôt work for other people.” I have had the entrepreneur desire since I was a kid and have always known that this is where I would ultimately end up.¬† My family has been in business for themselves since my grandfather came to this country in 1946,¬†so I guess this gene was passed through to me.
Growing up in my family here on Amelia Island my father had started, built and sold many businesses over the years and I learned quickly the value of a dollar and the sacrifices that were made to have success.¬† One personal goal pertaining to business was to have my name on the front of a building by the time I was 30, which actually took place just days before my 30th birthday.
I never had any issues with working and working hard, day in and day out and sacrificing was very familiar to me but in business sometimes this is simply not enough.
My father and I opened a marine dealership in late 99‚Äô.¬† Much research was done, countless hours of reading and understanding new terminology associated with vendors in this market place was performed, weeks of traveling, courting bankers and manufacturers we hoped to do business with and much more.¬† Our inventory was right, financials were strongly in place, the entire family was hands on and gave presence everyday, doing all the things to ensure success.
Six months after opening my wife underwent open heart surgery that demanded all of my time and thought processes for months on end.¬† Again, fortunately having family still present, the business stayed the course.¬† An additional six months later we learned that the major highway we were located on was being closed for bridge repair for the next 18 months.¬† This equated to zero drive-by traffic for a year and a half and obviously caused difficulty to our already established customers to get to us. But what can you do? You deal with it.
At 2 ¬Ω years open 9/11 happened and business dried up completely in all divisions, including repair and parts.¬† This continued for the next several months affecting all facets of small businesses, but especially leisure type businesses like the marine industry.¬† Our business floundered for over a year with all hands keeping things together (barely).¬† More traditional selling and servicing began to slowly seep back in after that period, getting us slowly back on track.
Being true entrepreneurs we added a new division to our business model to sell motorcycles and scooters that were in high demand.¬† Within the first year of this new division we grew to the largest seller of pre-owned Harley Davidson’s in the Southeast.¬† We continued this course for the next 24 months ending it when fuel prices became manageable again, but what a huge mark we made in a very short period of time.¬† Through 2006 we had seen good months and bad, but overall we stayed alive and a fixture in our trade.¬† Late in 2007 we noticed cracks in our economy and rumblings that things could get pretty bad pretty fast, and boy did they.
The next event that took us all by surprise, the fuel crunch in the summer of 2008.¬† Gas and diesel continued to climb in pricing for on and off-road use topping almost $5.00 per gallon at its highest.¬†¬† I don‚Äôt need to re-hash the past 20 months and what state our country is currently in, but when billion dollar corporations close up shop what do you think happens to the small business person?
To say times have been difficult for a while now is an understatement, and the troubling part of it all is what tomorrow will bring for all who are weathering the storm.
Lets go back to the beginning of the story; the new business opens with all the right people and actions in place.¬† The right place at the right time, business model in an area that desperately needed this type of service.¬† Cold days, wet weeks, blazing sun, playing therapist to employees daily, we were always there.¬† Late nights, early mornings, 12-18 hour day minimum, we never took a break and continue to do so even today.
We operated a business that grew to the number 1 dealership for two boat brands, Carolina Skiff and Pioneer. For multiple years in a row we stayed in the top 100 of outboard dealers in the country.¬† We don‚Äôt drive expensive, brand new cars, live in 10K Sq. Ft. homes, have a yacht or a captain and have never owned an aircraft.¬† Our vacations for the past 12 years have been organized around dealer meeting and expos we were required to attend and we have made sacrifices that would make even the most hard nosed person flinch and all for what?
Due to forces way outside anyone’s control, we, like many other small businesses have been forced into a corner, stripped of all cash and most assets, praying that something will clear and we can all get back on track.¬† I never dreamt in a million years that these would be the types of conversations taking place in my office. I guess I too believed that if you did the right things and worked hard you would always be ok. Isn’t that what the American Dream dictated?
I am still an entrepreneur and will continue the fight, but there are many days that I think what a relief it would be to be working for someone else, allowing them the headaches and stress of day to day operations.
So the next time you’re ready to strangle your boss or ready to walk out the door, just remember one important piece of advice; your check arrives every Friday regardless of how well or how poorly the business did.¬† Take the money, have a drink and be thankful.