In part 1 of this article series we met 3 individuals with unique backgrounds that left corporate and forged their own way. Here we illustrate 2 addition stories along with important strategies and tactics you need s you go forward in your own business. This journey of starting your own business is not for the faint of heart, but the success you will find will be life-changing.
Here is what you will learn:
1. Franchising is a good option for a business.
2. Doing your own business is very rewarding.
3. How coaching is vital to making your business a success.
Our first entrepreneur, was a successful high-level executive first at Ford and then at Terex, a firm focused on lifting and material processing products (e.g. cranes), with all the associated perks and incentives. Meet Pete Gilfillan. He had the good life and no reason to change until one day…
Alan: I saw that your main business is helping people evaluate franchises (FranChoice). How did you get started in your own business? What triggered that decision?
Pete: I was a corporate executive, first with Ford and later with Terex and they literally owned my life. I was traveling all the time. I just decided one day I had had enough and I would be an entrepreneur.
Alan: Tell me more about what happened when you decided to leave corporate life.
Pete: In my last position, I was with Terex. I live in Chicago, but the Terex is headquartered in Connecticut and I was on the road 6 days a week and much of the travel was international. With all the travel I didn’t eat right, didn’t exercise and frankly I was miserable. I was in another country and I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t remember what country I was in. I realized then I had had enough. When I got back to Chicago, I told my wife about the decision. At first my wife wasn’t keen on the idea of my leaving corporate. She saw the practical side of staying in corporate (financial security), but I knew I needed to make a change. I quit my job and I started working with a franchise consultant in order to find a franchise. After a few months we found Junk King and saw that it was be a good fit. I liked that it was a service based business and could be scaled up; such as adding trucks as the business grew and it had little overhead. Later, I started to work with FranChoice, where today I’m one of the top franchise consultants. I really like the way their business model works. There is no cost to individuals (companies pay FranChoice) and it gives me the opportunity to do what I love most, which is to help people find the business that meets their needs.
Alan: That’s great. You are able to do what you love. Let’s change gears for a minute. I saw that you wrote a best-selling book. Writing a book is a big step. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Writing is a key way to demonstrate your expertise and build your business
Pete: Darren Hardy, who is pretty well known in the entrepreneur circles, is my mentor. I went to his High Performance Summit and Darren said one of the best ways to give back is through writing a book. Since I have a lot of knowledge about the franchise business, doing a book on it was a good fit.
Alan: How did you find the time to write?
Pete: There is many ways to write a book. I found a company that would write the actual words while I talked. I would put together an outline for each chapter and talk for a couple of hours with the writers. We would meet for 2 hours a week, either early morning or late at night. After a draft of the book was created, I had someone edit the book. Even then it took a year and a half to complete the book.
Alan: How did you go about publishing it?
Pete: I was able to find a publishing company through my business coach.
Alan: It had to be daunting to start your own business after being in corporate. What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your own business?
Pete: If I could have been able to keep my corporate job and invested in franchise and then make the leap instead of going in cold to my own business, it would have saved me a lot of angst. I may have done something different than Junk King. I could have started a franchise on a part-time basis, say 15 hours week. With Junk King there was no way to do it on a part-time basis.
Alan: What’s next for you?
Pete: Speaking engagements, so I can reach more people and continue to work with ExecuNet, which is a private community made up of over 750,000 CEOs, VPs and various leaders and influencers.
Alan: Any final words?
Pete: I would say that for franchising, people need to have an open mind. When people ask me about franchising, they have already made up their mind that it would be food (McDonalds, etc.) They have that in mind because they see a lot of people eating at those restaurants so they assume it is a good business to get into. I help them understand that the food business is very competitive; has high capital investment and a high cost of goods sold (the food). There are over 3000 franchises in every conceivable business that may fit their needs. It doesn’t have to be food.
But regardless of what business you go in, whether it is a franchise or not, you need to work hard. There is no substitute for hard work.
Alan: Good words to live by. Thanks for your time.
Our second entrepreneur was a successful telecom executive before going into his own business. He shares key ideas on making your business grow. Meet Rick Lochner.
Alan: How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
Rick: I’ve known for some time that I wanted to be in my own business and that it would be in the leadership area. I worked with entrepreneurial company and it was sold 2 years after I started. I went to another company and 2 years later it was sold. The turmoil of being at companies that are going through turnarounds is very difficult for everyone involved. It is very long hours, great stress and often the rewards of that hard work just aren’t there. I’ve been laid off 4 times in my career so I knew corporate has no security. I even negotiated my severance package before I went to work a healthcare company.
Alan: How exactly did going into your own business occur?
Rick: My wife and I were having brunch with a couple and we talked about how it would be great to start business and details on what that business would look like when it started in a few years. At the end of the meal, I said, “Why are we waiting; let’s do it!” It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Alan: What do you like best about being an entrepreneur?
Rick: The best thing is I get to do what I love. In corporate, there were many things I had to do that I really didn’t enjoy. Being an entrepreneur, being in my own business, enables me to live with purpose and that is very meaningful to me.
Alan: Is there anything you would do differently now if you were just starting your business?
Rick: I would have pursued the non-profit market right away. I didn’t because people told me there is no money in that business, but that is not true. That market needs to be approached differently than for-profit but they need my services just as much. Now non-profit is 25% of my business. But you asked if I would have done anything differently and the answer is no. The business strategy worked and I would have approached starting the business the same way.
Alan: What challenges did you have starting out?
Rick: I started the business in July 2008. The US was already in a recession and financial markets were in turmoil and little did I know things in the business world were about to get a lot worse. I had worked in telecom for many years as an executive and I had been quite successful. I had a load of contacts at my previous company, Sprint; there were many people that knew me well and respected me but I was not able to get business from them. They still saw me as a telecom executive and not as knowledgeable in leadership development, even though I had been developing leaders at Sprint. I had traveled a lot during me years in corporate and my connections in Chicago were no better than in Atlanta or any other U.S. city. I knew I needed to develop roots in the local community. I joined Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and started to created circles of influence. In time the contacts I made developed into connections for the business. It wasn’t easy, but I went all in; 100% to make the business work.
Why having a part-time business is so important
Alan: What advice would you give to someone that is climbing the corporate ladder?
Rick: Every corporate employee should have a part time gig to provide a bridge to go into business for themselves or just to have a secondary income source. I started teaching leadership at Keller School of Business in 2004. Teaching helped in the 8 months transition to my business full-time. It provided income after getting laid-off; making it easier to focus on the growth of the business and not where the next paycheck was coming from.
Alan: What has been the biggest challenge in your learning curve as an entrepreneur?
Rick: Marketing was new to me; I had not worked in that area. So I put together my business plan and my marketing plan and discussed it in detail with my two mastermind groups. They both said the business plan was great and was going to work but the marketing plan was not good. So I was tutored in marketing from people that were 20 years younger than me and their advice was spot on. This taught me a couple of valuable things. 1) You have to know what you are good at and what you are not good at and find experts in the areas that you are not good. 2) Spend a lot of time with people 20s to early 40s in order to gain insights on trends.
Alan: What additional advice would you give to someone that was looking to start their own business?
Rick: Know what problem you are trying to solve and position yourself so that is clear that you are the only one that can solve it. Too many people get hung up on their product or service and less focused on the problem to be solved. If you are going to go for it, then you really have to go for it. At the core, you have to know how to solve the problem in a unique way.
Alan: How did your writing a book come about?
Rick: The business model I developed has been a work in progress since 1999. I used that model to align the business at every organization I led as an executive. Often we try to fix a problem in an isolated way which doesn’t work. The process may not be broken; it may be the people, so you need a holistic approach. I wrote the first book in 2012 to complete my initial business strategy and a book does that. I was advised by a couple of authors and self-published it. I needed to promote the business alignment method and the book helps clarify the model as well as promote the business. I asked clients what is perfect length for a book and they said a Chicago to Los Angeles flight, which is about 4 ½ hours.
Alan: You’ve actually published multiple books. How did you come with your ideas?
Rick: The second book was to help the individual leader and the third book was for the entrepreneurs. I write books that apply to the business areas I work in.
Alan: How do you find the time to write?
Rick: The secret to success is having a coach. I’ve had 3 accountability coaches so far and each one helped me in a different way. When I first started the business, I needed an accountability coach; someone that would keep me accountable and keep me encouraged. She was the type of person I needed at that time. Keep in mind, I was starting this business during the depths of the Great Recession and needed that support. The second coach helped me write the books, not from the standpoint that he had ideas for the book, but he was able to get me moving along on the development of the book. I actually wrote the first book while my wife was driving during vacation because I was on a self-imposed deadline and needed to get it done. The third coach has helped me grow the business and take it took another level. If I would have had her in the beginning, it would not have worked well. Now that the business is growing and I am at a different place in my thinking and my business, she is exactly what I need.
Alan: Any final thoughts?
Rick: I talked with 20 different coaches before starting out in leadership coaching and based on my research, billions of dollars is wasted on leadership that doesn’t work. I am on a crusade to change that one leader at a time. It will take time to undo the wrong things that leaders are doing today; takes time to unlearn. But I will continue to work with them, one leader at a time. It is my passion.