I want to ask you a question.
Have you ever had a dream to start your own business?
True entrepreneurship comes with a price, and yes, sacrifices have to be made to bring your "dream" into reality. Are you willing to face the demoralizing of your friends, family, spouse and children so you can step out and grab a hold of the horns of your dream and either start or grow your business?
Let me tell you a little story about my path to starting my own business…
When I was a young boy, oh, probably around 11 or 12 years old – when I would visit my dad on visitation weekends at the apartments where he lived, I would go down by the lake and start collecting all the returnable cans and bottles (in Michigan they are ten cents). I would place them in paper bags and then bring them back to my dad's place so he could take me to the corner store to return them for cash!
My biggest take was $50. If you're not aware, that is a lot of cans and bottles!
Those times were exciting! Ever since that time I have always wanted to own my own business – I just didn't know exactly what kind of business I wanted to start.
It's 1986 – the year I graduated high school. Now, I wasn't the brightest bulb in the box but as many of us are taught I decided to go out and find a good job and then retire in 30 years. So, I joined the U.S. Navy (without a career path) due to some good persuasion from my neighbor who also served in the Navy.
What was I thinking, right? Well, once I graduated boot camp and finished my basic training, I was sent off to my first tour of duty. The name of the ship was the U.S.S. Saipan LHA-2. It's what you call an amphibious assault ship. No need to go into all the details about ship life here, but six months into my tour, I decided to go into…computers.
If I think back, this was around the time just before personal computers took off. I thought to myself (well, actually I believe God directed my path) that computers were going to be the wave of the future – and boy was that an understatement! Look at our world today and how computers have transformed it.
Anyway, I did everything I could to learn as much as I could about computers and anything involved with them. In those almost seven years in the Navy, I learned how to repair, manage and program computers, build networks & help desks and train others on how to do the same.
In 1994 I was honorably discharged from the Navy and I immediately started contracting through technical staffing companies and did this for the next few years.
In the late 90's myself and a couple of co-workers of mine started a technology staffing company. This was my very first venture at starting my own business. My two friends were of indian descent and could not "legally" be on the papers until they had their green cards – so I became the face of the company.
Once we had all the paperwork in place and some form of marketing materials – we started contacting those we knew in the technical field who were looking to move into a position they preferred over where they were at, or where they could earn a little bit more money.
Within a few months, we had eleven contractors working at client sites such as Ford, Oracle, Detroit Edison and a couple of smaller companies. Our gross billings were in the five figures per month – and the dream I always had was coming to fruition, until…
One of our bigger clients was audited by the INS (Immigration Naturalization Service) and they closed the door to any sub-contracting companies (we were one of them) and stopped paying us for our contractors billable hours. Because this client of ours would not pay us, we had to dip into our Line of Credit to pay our contractors, bills and other expenses just to keep afloat – not at all what I expected.
Without going into deep detail, we attempted a merge with a mid-sized engineering company who had contacts within the big three automakers. We would come on and handle their technical side. Ended up the owner was a drunk, one of our partners left for a dollar more per hour (because we asked him to reduce his rate to help out the company during the merge as our billable hours were down since the audit) and things were sliding down hill – fast.
Ultimately, the company we started out with high hopes (my dream), crashed and burned. I ended up going to work for J. Walter Thompson as a database administrator and web designer (it was a great place to work) and later dissolved the company.
Now, I'm working at JWT and things are going better now since the business failed. Making near $100,000 a year, I was able to pay down a lot of debt, pay off one of our cars and put some money away in savings. At this time, we lived in a mobile home park and we wanted out!
We couldn't afford any houses in the area as they were too expensive – the land too. My wife and I talked about it and we decided to find some land in the country so we could move our double-wide onto it and make that our home. We did exactly that. We got our construction loan and began the process of moving onto ten acres of land in the country.
There was a lot of work to be done, so I figured I would be the general contractor and coordinate everything to be sure it went the way we wanted it to go.
At this point, my good friend of mine that I worked with at JWT and I were hearing rumors of our department being eliminated. We were one of the larger departments that was mainly contractors (hourly workers). A few short months later, I was let go. It wouldn't of been so bad if it wasn't for that construction loan and ten acres I just bought, plus beings it was shortly after 9/11.
Another blow to the jaw and my dream!
Well, I decided that we should go ahead moving the house onto the ten acres we purchased. I would look for work, or go independent while we were having the construction done. Other than a few short-term contracts, I didn't have a whole lot of work for almost 2.5 years!
We eventually moved into the house a year later (2003). During those years I did what I could to pay the bills, but it just wasn't enough. Bill collectors were calling in droves and ultimately we had to go bankrupt.
I know, this isn't your typical golden pot at the end of the rainbow story. One thing though – I never gave up on my dream of owning my own business!
So don't give up on yours. Never, never, never give up!
In the next article, I will continue… see you there.
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