Entrepreneurship: Confessions from the other side

I will never regret leaving corporate America. A few years ago I found myself at a crossroad where I needed to contemplate what my next move would be. I was recruited to stay under the umbrella or a “sure thing”, otherwise known as the wire houses and broker/dealer world of the financial services industry, I was offered the opportunity to change course and work in the not-for-profit sector, but I ultimately landed on the platform of being the maker of my own destiny by becoming an entrepreneur and starting my own firm. Now, having gone through this experience for almost four years I can look back with both smiles and tears on the good times and the challenging ones. When you are growing it is exciting and the expansion of your business can be extremely rewarding, but starting on this journey six months before a major pandemic that caused the world to shut down was terrifying at times. The keys for success is something I have been learning along the way and here are a few tips that I believe are prudent for anyone considering this journey:


  1. Discover your what and why before you dive in two feet first! No, I am not trying to be all up in my feelings and yes, I am dead serious. It is statistically proven that if you have a clear vision on what you want to do and why you want to spend your time, effort and energy doing it, the more likely you are going to be successful. Make sure whatever product or service you choose to do makes you feel good about going to work everyday. Money does make the world go around, but if you love what you do you will not feel like you are working.
  2.  Assemble a top-notch team to help you! Owning a business is a lot of work and it can even be more intense because of the multiple hats you wear while running your company, especially at the onset. The investment of time you commit upon establishing a company is substantial. Building a solid team both internally and externally is essential for success. Identify the software, marketing, operational supports, and other internal components you need to build a solid platform and never forget to include your attorney, accountant, and financial advisor. Your outside counsel will be critically important to you along the way.
  3.  Document your business and marketing plans. Create guidelines of how your business will operate and what you expect from the employees you hire. This has dual purpose. As an entrepreneur you will find many grant oppor­tunities available to help you as you get started, but most require a myriad of paperwork to show that you have a structured and well thought out process of how you plan to operate. Additionally, having structure in place helps you in the recruitment process as you grow. Even if you are starting as a party of one, when you look to add to your team there is a powerful message when you can clearly define your mission, values, and your goals looking forward.

As you go through the start-up you will find excitement within all of the creativity that will encompass you. Owning a business can be the most rewarding experience you may have, but also need to consider what exit strategies may look whether they are voluntary or involuntary. What would happen to your company if you are gone or can no longer work? How have you protected this incredible asset you have built? When you are ready to retire what is your exit strategy? It doesn’t matter if you are a sole proprietor or an entity with multiple owners or partners, the importance of proper business succession planning is critical and often an area that entrepreneurs pass over when they are in the creative stages of building and launching their company. You want to make sure that you have business continuity if you cannot work for any reason. Life happens and all of the bad things that come along with it such as accidents, illness, or even death. Your business interests are important assets that provide a return to you and your family, and if something were to happen to you those interests you need to have continuity of operations or be able to monetized. Critical planning items to have in place include: 


  1. Have an adequate and updated buy/sell agreement in place for your company. If you have a multiple ownership structure this is essential in the event of a death or a disability. You will need the services of an attorney who specializes in business law to construct these agreements. If you are a sole proprietor, you may consider researching options on how to broker a sale of your company and discuss it with your attorney to incorporate it as part of your plan.
  2. Fund your agreements once they completed. New businesses often don’t have the cash flow to provide large payouts in the event of a death or replacement income in the event of a disability. Buy/sell agreements are often funded through insurance to cover these obligations. Work with your financial advisor and accountant to determine the most appropriate type and level of coverage that should be maintained overtime.
  3. Use key-person life insurance where appropriate if you are a sole owner or you have key employees who are essential to the continual operations of your business. Term insurance is often a good fit here as you can secure a large amount of coverage for very little cost.
  4. Make sure to have your business formally valuated on a routine basis. This is often one area that is overlooked because although you have financial state­ments prepared annually, that is not the same as what the fair market value of your company would be if it were to be sold. Many industries that have a niche product or service have to look for specialized providers to have this work completed. The valuations become a key part of your estate planning as well.
  5. Identify potential succession candidates as you grow. Nobody wants to work forever and we definitely do not live forever. If you want to see your company survive beyond you, building a solid team that can step in to run your company overtime is the first step to accomplishing that goal.

There are many rewards that come with being a business owner. The development of your roduct or service and the relationships you build along the way will besome o fthe most meaningful you will experience in your lifetime. For me, it was
equally important to build a life that fit my goals for not only my work, but for my family and the quality of life I wanted to have. Being your own boss has its perks! It’s all about balance and corporate America did not offer that to me while I was there. Striking an optimal work-life balance is the best part of being an entrepreneur, but being smart about how you implement and operate your vision is critical to long-term success. If you can put your head on the pillow at night knowing you are well organized, surrounded by the best team you can assemble, and you genuinely enjoy what you do every day, you can safely say you have made a great decision and are transitioning nicely to “the other side.” 

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