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Calling all current or former entrepreneurs
Old 05-01-2015, 03:35 PM   #1
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Calling all current or former entrepreneurs

What was your line of business? Were you successful? Did you enjoy being an entrepreneur more or "working for the man"?

I'm open to and interested in hearing any stories, opinions, or comments on your experiences as an entrepreneur and how it (may have) compared to corporate life.

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Old 05-01-2015, 04:23 PM   #2
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I was, but 2 unfortunate endeavors derailed my ambitions . I invented the Pet rock , but someone stole my idea , then I was working on a prototype of home hair cutting device like the 'Flo-Bee" , and the flobee guys beat me to the patent office, they were first, beat me fair and square . I got discouraged, and got a job.

Seriously, the term " Entrepreneur " generates a negative connotation , for me.

Those I have come across describing themselves as such , often were thieves, BS artists or both. Doesn't apply to everyone, just those I have been acquainted with.

Someone I don't know, but comes to mind : Donald Trump.

My 2 cents worth

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Old 05-01-2015, 06:54 PM   #3
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I spent 20 years in the Air Force flying fighters. There were good times and bad times, but overall I would do it again. After that I was an independent real estate appraiser. Then went to work for a bank running their appraisal department. I liked working for someone better than being an independent contractor. I was also the MIS (computer) director for an organization with over 550 computers. I liked that also.

Over all I retired with three pensions, one of which started at the ripe old age of 43! and is a COLA'd pension. I would not change any of those jobs, learned something in each, and for the most part worked for some pretty good bosses.
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Old 05-01-2015, 07:25 PM   #4
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Currently I own a business brokerage that specializes in swimming pool companies. I love the freedom of being an entrepreneur and couldn't imagine working for someone else. That being said I think in order to be successful as an entrepreneur you have to want it with ever fiber of yourself. Sounds corny but it's true. You're always thinking about the business so you must love what you do. In the beginning it's all just an idea and if you're bootstrapping it you're going to be the CEO and janitor all in the same day. An idea is just the start, the real fuel is how hard/smart you're willing to work and for how long. I got burned out on my last venture after a few years and decided to go a different route. Now I'm happy with the current business and after 5 years I still get excited about the prospects for growth.
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Old 05-01-2015, 08:28 PM   #5
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I own a few small businesses that are in a related industry. One is a service industry business where I have 3 staff who do 90% of the service to clients so I can just run the business. I have been doing that for 10 years. I also have a blog based business where I teach classes online and sell products for people starting out in the field I work in.

For me, the ultimate success is freedom - I set my own schedule, decide how and when I work, and I am in control of how much money I make. Plus I do work that I love and that is creative. If I get bored, I can make changes and adjustments to my business that make me excited again about my work. The freedom to work from home doing something I love without having to answer to anyone equals success for me.

At this point, I work between 20-25 hours a week and make way more than I ever would have in megacorp.

I worked in a cube for 10 years prior to starting my own business and I hated it. I can't stand to have other people tell me what to do and I hated the BS of corporate America.

I fully support being an entrepreneur if you find something you love to do and you have the drive and determination to make it a success (whatever your definition of success may be).
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Old 05-01-2015, 09:27 PM   #6
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Two very different businesses. At age 16 I starting helping my DB logging. As we harvested and sold logs we were also moving a 60" circle mill ( built in the1930s) our goal was to take timber from stump to the buyer's. We didn't have enough financial backing, and too much integrity, loggers are a cut throat bunch. I really loved working in the woods and the puzzles of how to keep 50 year old equipment running. When we started, sawing 1k board feet a day was good. Eventually we got production up to 15k BF a day.
Ultimately shut things down 5 years later. We made enough to not starve to death.

In the late 80's DW started a nail salon in with a couple that had a tanning salon. They had some family issues and DW bought them out and ended up with both businesses. At that time nails were a much higher price than today(double in this area). She ran both the first year, by the second year help was needed. She got some sharp young women to help. During tanning season I helped at night. That was a very profitable business until the bottom fell out of nails prices. We sold out at a decent profit.

Neither would be profitable today.
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Old 05-01-2015, 09:41 PM   #7
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I started my first company at 19. Started several more over the years. The most successful was a software company with 50 employees that I sold when I was 41 to a large, well-known tech firm. Now I'm enjoying ER in my 40's! :-)

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Calling all current or former entrepreneurs
Old 05-01-2015, 10:24 PM   #8
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Calling all current or former entrepreneurs

I worked for 4 different manufacturing companies over 22 years, and at the age of 40 figured out I could do the same thing myself. Now, 19 years later at the age of 59 I am ready to tackle another venture, this time with one of my sons so he can experience the fulfillment of being successful. My business is still in operation, now with several key people doing most of the things I used to do. It has gotten stale after 19 years, however it has given a great deal of unexpected wealth to our family, for which we are grateful. I went to school working for "the man" and really did give my best to those I worked for. However, having a wonderfully supportive wife that allowed me to pull the trigger and stick my neck out and go into business for myself was a key reason for the success. I really believe that I would have had an unfulfilled part of my life if I had not gone into business for myself. My work does not define me, but to have the opportunity to choose what I wanted to do and work as hard as I needed to be successful gives me incredible contentment. I would definitely do it again the same way. Work and learn from the "man" so to speak, develop a good work ethic and go for it. A turtle never gets anywhere unless he "sticks his neck out".
My best to all who have a passion to give it a try.

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Old 05-02-2015, 07:51 AM   #9
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When I was young I worked a few jobs in the corporate world but never found one where I liked the culture or really felt interested and challenged. In 1989 my father and two older brothers asked me to come work with them. My father had his own imported wood brokerage he started in 1958. My two older brothers had been working with him for several years. A long time employee who did all the books was retiring. I came in and took that over since my education was in Business Admin and Accounting. I spent about one year doing the books while listening to all of their phone calls and learning the business. Second year I started making sales calls and building my own clientele. Basically, I sold imported plywood and veneers by the truckload to kitchen cabinet and furniture manufacturers plus wholesale distributors. They paid me a minimal salary the first two years and then I was on my own. My father retired after year one so my brothers and I split the overhead and then you got to keep whatever was left over from your own sales and income. So I wasn't an entrepreneur in the true sense of starting from nothing on my own but in many ways similar.

Enjoyed a very nice career of almost 25 years in the business and was able to retire early two years ago at 55. I'll always be extremely grateful to my father and brothers for giving me that opportunity. Can't imagine what life would have been like in a lengthy corporate career but I know it would not have been good since I'm just not the corporate type.
Wherever you go, there you are.
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Old 05-03-2015, 10:00 AM   #10
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What was your line of business?

I've started, owned, and operated 5 businesses (some related), starting with a laundry service for university students when I was 19 and ending with a wildly successful business in securities compliance that allowed me to FIRE at 35 (started when I was 28). Since you probably don't care as much about the 'failures' (I use the term loosely), let's go with the successful one. I started a company that did securities compliance for about 1500 investment advisors around the country. When I started it, I was the only employee and was hoping to make $40k a year. When I sold it seven years later, we had expanded twice, moved HQ from the middle of the desert in Texas to midtown Manhattan and I was making $900k my last year. We went from an unheard of last place company to the largest in the teeny tiny sector. It was an awesome story and one I'll always take a lot of pride in.

Were you successful?

I'd say so. We got to live like kings on Central Park West for a few year and retired young enough that my wife and I get to spend our days together and my daughter (now 12) will never remember the first nine years of her life where daddy was tethered to a Blackberry and a laptop.

Did you enjoy being an entrepreneur more or "working for the man"?

I don't know how to answer this without sounding like an ass. I can't imagine working for someone else. I vividly remember when I was 16 and thought I wanted to be an orthodontist because my father's best friend was one and he seemed to be happy and well-off. One day he invited me to come in to his office and see what being an orthodontist really meant. After a morning of following him around, he took me in to his office and asked me how much of the total work I saw done that morning was done personally by him. I was sure it was a trap question so I just shrugged and said "I dunno."

"About 3%. Mostly I make sure my staff has done everything correctly and move on to the next chair. And what percentage of the money I collected today will I get to keep?"

"I dunno."

"About 97% (he was exaggerating of course, but I took his point)."

I don't take instruction well from others and I know a lot of rich people -- none of whom got there working for someone else.
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Old 05-03-2015, 11:32 AM   #11
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I've observed one in-law who has been a serial entrepreneur... He's highly educated (MBA and PhD) and worked as a business consultant for years making a very nice income. But he's lost so much money through the years when he tries to start his own businesses. Fortunately, his wife works and will get a pension, and he can pick up adjunct university gigs to supplement (stem the loss) of whatever business venture he's involved in. Super smart guy (seriously smart!!!)... super hard worker (bordering on workaholic)... but his various ventures have yet to "hit".

I also didn't like working for small startups (working for the entrepreneur) because the riches never seemed to trickle down even when employers had done months and years of all nighters, 100 hour weeks, etc. One employer specifically comes to mind - sold off a product line for a huge profit - and the developers that did the bulk of the work for the years previous got laid off as a reward while he pocketed multi-millions. Not even any bonuses or severance. To say they felt screwed over is an understatement... especially since he'd promised to share the wealth in the years they were building the product.
Retired June 2014. No longer an enginerd - now I'm just a nerd.
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Old 05-03-2015, 12:55 PM   #12
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My FIL comes to mind. With a high school diploma he was very successful. Lived in a beautiful part of PA. but there were few jobs. He and his DF started a sporting goods store in the early 60s. Nothing except hunting and fishing gear. He made wages not much more till he bought his father out.

In the next 7 years he became a multimillionaire. Some of what he did was so simple and smart. He'd work all day, do the books come home at 10pm kiss his kids and have some dinner. Then go walk the golf course picking up night crawlers. Sold them probably 2-5 cents apiece. Pure profit. All his kids tied flys. My DW was excellent and fast. He'd pay for the supplies for pennies give the kids a nickel or a dime, selling for a buck to a buck fifty. He sold out and retired at 42. At the time it was the second largest sporting goods store in the state. Within 5 years the new owners went bankrupt. Some of that tied in with department stores selling equipment at better prices.

Moved to FL. '81. Marco Island was not very developed then. He was buying lots designing homes(a natural talent he had) to sell. He just loved it when someone couldn't get financing, he'd provide a nice 5-10 year balloon at a better rate than he could get in CDs. He never had a issue with payments. He made a couple bad deals(he was bipolar and sometimes the downs made him make bad decesions).

One was a home he built for his wife. He had 350 in it and depression hit, oh I can't afford that and sold quick for 400. Four years later that home sold for 7 million. There were a couple other bad decesions because of his illness.

We never knew how much he had at the peak. I do recall him asking for financial advice in his early 70s as he hinted he only had a million to live on. Unfortunately both he and DW passed at 75, 3 months to the day apart. I was glad to see he had apparently taken my advice as all his assets were with Schwab.
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Old 05-04-2015, 11:52 AM   #13
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I am living both, 1+ more years to ER in a 30+ year career in Corp America, and have run a "basement business" since 2003. I have a hobby in vintage German cars and started a business making some restoration parts for them. Parts for the very oldest of cars, a product/market so small that none of the big parts suppliers want any part of. I built all my own tooling, wrote installation instructions, built a website, etc. I source materials from US and non-US companies and outsource parts of the fabrication. I also restore some very expensive and hard to find electrical parts. Virtually all of my business is word of mouth within the car hobby now.

It has been loads of fun and taught me so much about business in general even if on a micro level. Materials sourcing, stocking, advertising, customer satisfaction, etc. Some of my parts are in cars that have sold for nearly $200k within the hobby market. The motivation? (besides I like doing it) It is all gravy money. It doesn't figure into our household budget at all. I have taken many trips, bought many things, more old cars, and given my wife many things from that fund. I will definitely keep doing it after ER, but it will never be something that I HAVE to do.

Corp life is not what it used to be, but I am hanging in there. I don't hate my job, and work with some wonderful people, but I will have no problem walking when that day comes (pension eligibility and a boosted "lump sum" offering). I have been very fortunate to this point, paid well, and survived many layoffs, re-structures and 2 company spinoffs/buyouts.

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