How I Transitioned from Executive to Entrepreneur

I am often asked how I transitioned from a corporate executive to an entrepreneur – well, to be honest it was not easy. I had always dreamed of owning my own business but I also had been extremely successful in the corporate world. It was very difficult to leave the security of my executive job and take the leap to do it on my own.

My husband is a serial entrepreneur and was the one who encouraged me to go for it.  The company I had been working for sold and it was a natural time for me to move on and find something else. I had some money in the bank and decided to take the leap.

You should know that I didn’t just rush out and buy or start a business. I spent months looking at businesses for sale. And when I found the one I ended up buying, I spent over 6 months doing due diligence.

It was a bit of shock to me to find out that I could replace my corporate salary as a COO overseeing a $50M business with a small $1.2M business. I had my accountant go through the numbers and he assured me that the numbers were real and in fact I could buy and run a small business and make the same money I made running a much larger company, so I went for it.

The first year was rough. Every time a headhunter reached out to me with a big corporate opportunity I was tempted to go back. But I didn’t. And I am very thankful I stuck it out. It is not all roses being a business owner but for me it was a great fit. I could still have my career but I could do it on my terms.

Ready to make the leap from executive to business owner? You have two options: buy an existing business or start a business from scratch. I have done both. Here are some quick tips to get you started – whatever path you take.

Tips for Buying a Business

I’ve bought and sold several businesses in my career, so I often get questions about where to start when you are interested in buying a business. Here are a few tips:

  1. Visit Bizbuysell.com – create an account, fill out your search criteria and review it daily.
  2. Meet with local business brokers – do a search in your city and set up meetings so they can start looking for you. Many will do this for free, but some may want a fee to search specifically for what you want.
  3. Meet with local private equity firms (or those that do business in your target market).
  4. If you have a specific industry you are interested in, get involved with their business associations – they often have leads on people wanting to sell.
  5. Approach business owners – you never know when they might be willing to sell.

Start-up Funding Options

Looking for funding for your start-up? Here’s how you can raise the capital necessary to fund your new venture.

  • Ask friends and family
  • Use 401K funds
  • Take out a second mortgage
  • Apply for an SBA loan
  • Apply for local/national grants
  • Consider seller financing
  • Start a crowdfunding campaign
  • Sell your possessions (I know one entrepreneur who sold her entire shoe collection for start-up money!)
  • Pitch a private equity firm

Each of the above options come with a whole slew of risks and benefits, so whatever route(s) you take, make sure you fully understand their impact on your ownership rights, financial stability and personal relationships. And if you’re setting up an agreement with another party, always get a lawyer involved so both parties are protected.

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