A Quiet Fortune: Banker, businessman, teacher — the businessman
Save and invest: It’s a financial mantra that works. For most people, investments take place as they save part of their paycheck.
But some investments can often bring significantly more income than a regular wage or salary ever could. Owning a business is one. Business owners often pour every extra dollar into their companies for years. Such ventures usually involve hard work, long hours and some genuine risk, but the potential payoff can be great.
I’m eager to interview my second person in this three-part series. He’s a businessman, and a highly successful one. He’s willing to share a few ideas that could be worthy of note for all of us. I’ve read that we should all try to establish multiple streams of income. Even a small business can provide one of those streams.
“First,” my friend tells me, “If you want to own a successful company, make sure that your goal is to make a profit. This may seem self-evident, but people who think of their endeavor primarily as a hobby rather than as their livelihood are less likely to pay attention to the bottom line.”
If business is definitely an option for you, an initial step should be to learn and evaluate everything you possibly can. Check the history of an established business if you want to buy into it. Put together a proforma, a detailed analysis of financial figures based on previous business operations. Look at expected income and examine the company’s various departments carefully. Evaluate all possible expenses, checking for red flags that might indicate your profit may not be as robust as you’ll need. You don’t want to be caught unaware of potentially serious problems once you’re deep into your venture.
If you are reasonably sure your idea can be successful, it’s time to establish a business plan, both for yourself and for financing. It can become a solid blueprint for growth.
Once you’re a business owner you’ll frequently face decisions that could move you toward success or distress. Here are a few guidelines that our businessman puts high on his list:
• He hires good people. “Good people do good things,” he says. “But keep in mind that everybody needs to be supervised at some level. Get to know your employees well. Treat them with a heart and with respect. Motivation is important, whether it be with the possibility of a raise or a promotion, or simply showing them that you value and appreciate what they do.”
• Staying involved in the community can be a key to the success of many businesses, as well as a way to balance work and leisure time.
• My friend likes people and takes good care of his customers, saying, “They will become one of your most valuable assets.”
• Even when making plans for expansion or some other change, he always kept in mind the importance of paying off debt. “Keep your retirement needs in mind,” he says. “The sooner you can invest in something more, the better.”
• If you want a business partner, he recommends that you search for someone who has the character, temperament and abilities needed for a strong partnership. Take your time; finding the right person is essential for success.
• Finally, our businessman suggests a rule of thumb his wife uses: “Listen to your gut. If your gut says an idea is going to be a bad deal, it probably is. I can look back on some of the dumb decisions I’ve made, and had I listened I’d have been a lot better off today and would have gone through a lot less mental anguish.”
This business owner suggests one more thing: Before you become entrenched in a particular career path, whatever it may be, be sure to look carefully at your own personality and interests. Starting a business might be perfect for you. On the other hand, there may be other jobs out there that you can’t even begin to imagine, ones that are more closely suited to your areas of strength.
How can you find them? Seek guidance from people who are in the field that appeals to you. Take aptitude tests. Look exhaustively at what’s possible. Often the perfect job is not in owning your own business, but is one that you find, develop, or can work toward; one that inspires you year after year.
To all you future business owners out there, here’s a thought: Find successful people like this expert and ask, ask, ask. I bet they’ll happily help you with all kinds of questions, just like he was. I want to thank him for his insight.
Terrie Drake is the author of the book “A Quiet Fortune,” and a retired teacher and librarian. She and her husband have lived in Glenwood Springs since 1974. She is not a financial adviser; consult a competent professional for your personal financial solutions. She can be reached at email@example.com.