I have had a few businesses over the years. Some have been successful, and either sold, or continue today. Others have changed or closed. The one thing every one of them has in common, whether I made or lost money, was the learning that happened with each. I see new potential business owners every day, with big hopes and dreams of what they can do with their passion. It is my hope that I can help these dreamers to learn from some of the mistakes I have made over the years, and to build strong, stable and viable businesses.
My very first business was a family childcare center in my home, born out of necessity. I wanted to stay home with my kids but needed an income. This was a perfect opportunity at the time, that served its purpose. I made many great friends through this venture, many who are still in my life today.
Next, I started my first accounting and bookkeeping business. I borrowed $1,000, bought a computer and a calculator and set out to get clients. At first, I turned down no one, got in way over my head, and lost control of the situation a few times. I hired employees, wasn’t charging enough, and giving away far too many services for free. I ultimately sold this first manifestation of my accounting business to go back to the regular work world. If you know me, you can already surmise this wasn’t long lived. I like to be my own boss, so back to the world of entrepreneurship I went.
Next was another business venture, accounting and financial planning, with a partner. This was a huge learning experience that left me many dollars poorer, and in a pile of debt. Equipment and furniture had been purchased, and a long-term lease signed on an office, when I realized my partner had taken all the corporate funds and left me with payments and leases to be paid. It took a great deal of time to dig out of this business hole, and there were many lessons learned. A bout of extreme anxiety caused health issues that lingered for years, and relationships that I thought would be for a lifetime were disintegrated. The lesson I learned, was to be extremely cautious of who you go into business with, and make sure you have everything in writing.
This business stayed intact for a while, with just me, until I sold it a few years later. It had grown into a lucrative tax and bookkeeping practice, but I was just exhausted, and needed a break. The funds from this sale gave me a year to regroup and think. What did I want to do next?
While going through the terrible business break up a few years earlier, I had taken up running and yoga. I decided I wanted to share my love of yoga with others, so I completed a teacher training and opened my first studio. I LOVE practicing and teaching yoga, BUT I did not love the studio needing to be my source of income. What I realized from this experience is that yoga needs to be my place of refuge and joy, not my sole source of income. I did keep the studio for quite a few years, but not with the requirement that it make money, just with the joy of sharing yoga with others.
Next, came the restaurant. Now, this business was started on an absolute whim. I ADORE cooking, and love to create recipes and make people happy with my food. My husband found a great deal on a restaurant building in a small touristy town. The building was in foreclosure, and we picked it up cheap! Within a few months, we had purchased it, remodeled it and were open for business. What I found out quickly, was as much as I LOVE cooking, I DISLIKE managing staff. I loved our customers, the hustle of the business and challenge of creating new menus each week. Unfortunately, as an owner with bills to pay, payroll and staff to manage, I didn’t get to cook anymore, and the joy was lost. That business morphed a few times, into a season of just my husband and I running it a couple of evenings a week, into a meal delivery and catering business. Ultimately, my spark for it was gone, and I let it go.
Over the course of all these ventures, there were common threads. It took me some time to clearly see them, as apparently, I can be a bit bull-headed at times! Here is what I learned about myself over 30 years of business ownership:
- I like to work alone. Having employees and getting bigger took the joy out of the businesses for me. I felt too responsible for someone else, overwhelmed and unable to enjoy the “craft” of cooking or yoga. I am a maker not a manager, and I needed to realize that.
- I need downtime and flexibility. I need to be able to go out for a run in the middle of a hectic day. I need the ability to travel to a distant race if I want or to practice yoga or meditate.
- I need to be able to not incur debt to run my businesses. Needing to sell something to cover a mortgage, loan payment or payroll was stressful. I enjoy being able to say “no” to a job, client or task and knowing that I can still pay my bills that month. It allows me to work with the perfect matches and meet their needs.
- It isn’t necessary to GROW BIG. Grow to where you want it to be, keep debt to a minimum and enjoy the ride. This may surprise you, but I actually make a great deal more net income NOW than I did when I had much higher revenue, employees and brick and mortar businesses!
What do I do now? If you know me personally, you know I have many “irons in the fire” most of the time. I love variety and I still work a LOT of hours, but all doing the things I love to do. I designed my life and business over many years of trial and error to fit me perfectly!
I teach accounting and business, write curriculum, teach a little yoga, run many miles a week and I COACH BUSINESS OWNERS to FIND THEIR PATH to THE PERFECT BUSINESS! I work primarily with what I call “solopreneurs” or those who love to work independently, allowing them to create the exact life they want. Personal time, the ability to travel and enjoy this one life we have are the goals. I call it the SimplicityQuest. Finding fulfillment in right work that allows for the rest of life to fit in as well.
If you are ready to start your SimplicityQuest, email me at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at www.simplicityquest.com for more information about me. Check out the blog with lots of fun stuff about how I got to where I am now.
Have a great day!