A relatively new small business phenomenon is taking place in America: More couples, especially those in the boomer generation, are starting businesses together. Sometimes they do it because they’ve lost or left their jobs. Sometimes they want to pursue encore careers. But one thing is clear: For a couple, starting a business together presents the special challenge of combining their personal and business lives.
'Let’s Make Money, Honey: The Couple’s Guide to Starting a Service Business' is about a baby boomer couple who start a small service business as a second career. As much as it is a good story, 'Let’s Make Money, Honey' is also a how-to guide that covers planning, financing, outfitting, and launching a service business, as well as operations, marketing, sales, customer service, and managing growth. Included are useful tools to help couples assess their business interests and compatibility.
Inspiring and instructional, 'Let’s Make Money, Honey' will help couples consider whether to start a service business together – or provide those ready to move forward with a blueprint for success. Packed with detailed how-to advice based on real-world experience, 'Let’s Make Money, Honey' is a must-read for self-starter couples of all ages and especially those exploring encore careers.
"… a concise and well-written guide to starting a business with a romantic partner—or really any partner. …The advice to be mindful of both the money and the honey is important, and it should help people looking to start a business together to read this thoughtful and encouraging book."
- ForeWord Reviews
“The authors…provide a detailed overview of what any couple should consider before and when starting a service business of their own. From writing a business plan, considering funding options or franchising, business structure and operations, to managing growth, narrowing your client base and creating an exit strategy. It's all told through their highly interesting story of exactly what it took to start-up and grow, then sell their own business.
“This mix of information and specific personal detail involved in getting a business off the ground as a couple makes 'Let's Make Money, Honey' a compelling and useful read. And the authors are frank about the fact that not everyone will have it so easy, not all couples will be able to work together. At the end of the book, the authors provide a business compatibility test, skills inventory checklist and service business start-up checklist to help readers decide if they are as ready to follow a similar path.”
- Melissa Phipps, Retirement Planning Expert, About.com
" 'Let's Make Money, Honey' deals with an ever growing segment of the Baby Boomer Population, that being starting a business as a Second Career, or what is sometimes called 'Encore.' What makes the book unique is that it is is a step by step guide for Baby Boomer couples to find happiness, and income in a business life, while supporting their life goals. As a thought leader for the Baby Boomer Generation, I am pleased to endorse and recommend the book."
- Rick Bava, Author of the book "In Search of the Baby Boomer Generation"
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About the Author
I am a professional freelance writer who writes books, articles, blogs, and promotional copy for leading publications, websites, and select clients. I have a background in advertising and marketing. I founded a direct and Internet marketing agency and ran it for twenty years, and I have over thirty years of business experience. I have authored the following non-fiction books: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business - co-author (GuideWords Publishing); The Breakaway Brand - co-author (McGraw-Hill); Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press); Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press); and three books for small business managers in the Collins Best Practices series (HarperCollins). I have also written the following eGuides, all published by 123 eGuides: Branding 123 (Second Edition), B2B Marketing, Product Launch 123, Sales Leads 123, and On Your Own 123. I have written two novels: The Doomsday Virus and Water's Edge. I'm also active in the Asheville, NC animal welfare community and publish Carolina Mountain Dog, a blog for dog lovers (www.cmdog.com).
I am the co-author of the book, "Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business." The book is about a baby boomer couple who start a small service business as a second career. As much as it is a good story, "Let's Make Money, Honey" is also a how-to guide that covers planning, financing, outfitting, and launching a service business, as well as operations, marketing, sales, customer service, and managing growth. Included are useful tools to help couples assess their business interests and compatibility.
Read an Excerpt
Owning a Service Business Together
Owning a service business together is exciting, exhilarating and challenging. It creates a whole new dynamic in your relationship.
- We had the advantage of working together at two different companies before we started a business as a couple. In fact, we were business colleagues before we got married. This gave us the opportunity to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and learn how to blend our styles to work together.
- Compatibility as a couple is not the same thing as compatibility as business owners. Some couples love each other but could never work together. Be honest with yourselves about whether you are "business compatible." Understand the additional pressure working together can put on your relationship.
- Keep your working relationship professional, especially when you are dealing with employees or clients. Exposing others to your personal lives could make them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. Never let an employee get caught in the middle of a couple's disagreement.
- If you share a common passion and build your service business around it, you will find it much easier to work together. Working with a common vision and purpose helps you overcome potential conflict in the way you run the business.
Owning a service business together was a natural progression for us rather than a pre-meditated plan. We had already worked together at two different companies. But then two events occurred that laid the foundation for starting a business of our own.
First, Sharon decided she wanted to make a career change. She was tired of her professional career in marketing and sales. She took some time off to consider her next move and realized that what she really wanted to do was work with dogs. She had loved dogs all her life. We both had dogs as kids and we owned dogs throughout our marriage. Sharon explored a number of possible career paths and felt most comfortable with dog grooming. She was drawn to the idea of making dogs feel and look good. Sharon apprenticed at a retail dog grooming salon and enjoyed it so much that she enrolled in dog grooming school.
Barry was going through some changes of his own. Directech, the direct marketing agency he founded, had grown into a well-respected $5 million profitable business, and it was now approaching its twentieth anniversary. Barry and his partner had started to discuss an exit strategy, but they didn't have to think about it for very long. In 2003, with little warning, one of the agency's two biggest clients filed for bankruptcy, leaving Directech with receivables it was unable to collect. Rather than put all of the employees out of work, Barry and his partner were able to strike an agreement with a large Boston ad agency to hire half of the agency's employees, including Barry, and add Directech's other large client to its roster.
RELOCATE AND REWIRE
We didn't realize at the time that these two events – Sharon beginning a new career and Barry leaving the agency he founded – would intersect and be the catalyst for starting a new life as well as starting a new business together. Our daughter would soon be going off to college and we both felt a yearning to make a bold change. We wanted to live somewhere different and do something different. While we loved the Boston area, we were getting tired of the cold, snowy winters and the high cost of living. Barry was now commuting into the city from a suburb west of Boston and it was a real drag. Sharon was working as a groomer for a kennel but wanted more flexibility in her schedule. We were boomers in our fifties looking for the opportunity to rewire our careers and our lives. We worked out a plan with our financial adviser so that making such a major move would be feasible.
The "somewhere different" turned out to be Asheville, North Carolina. We had visited this small city in Western North Carolina several times and thought it would be a great place to live, so that's where we decided to relocate. The "something different" was less obvious. Sharon enjoyed dog grooming, but she wanted to regain her independence instead of working for someone else. Barry wanted to leave the ad agency business and work as a freelance writer part-time, but he also had the entrepreneurial bug. That's when we said to each other, "Let's make money, honey ... in a business together."
Since we had worked together for years in a service business, we knew we had complementary skills, and we both felt comfortable building a business around service. With our combined marketing and sales experience, we knew we could do a great job promoting the business. But what would the business be? We thought about various possibilities, but nothing seemed to click. Then we realized there was a potential business idea staring us in the face: Why not build a service business around Sharon's dog grooming abilities?
By this time, Sharon had graduated from grooming school and had been grooming dogs for about five years. She had developed a real talent for it. It was her creative outlet, much the same way Barry's creative outlet was writing.
We wondered if there was a market for dog grooming in Asheville. While we were having a house built there, we began to explore Asheville from a dog owner's perspective (we had two of our own) and quickly realized that it was a very dog-friendly city. In fact, dogs seemed to be everywhere. We saw dogs being walked on city streets, lying beside their owners in restaurant outdoor seating areas, frolicking in dog parks, running with mountain bikers, and hiking with their owners in Bent Creek National Forest and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were plenty of businesses servicing dogs and their owners: pet stores, kennels, dog sitters, dog walkers, dog bakeries, dog boutiques, veterinarians, and groomers.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE
We were convinced there were enough dogs to warrant another dog groomer, but instead of starting from scratch, we thought it might be smarter to acquire an on-going operation so we could get up to speed quickly and at minimum risk. Even before relocating, we came up with a "business acquisition process" that included the following steps:
1. Research dog groomers in the Asheville area and map their locations to determine their service areas
2. Conduct drive-bys to assess the appearance of select businesses based on their location
3. Compose and send a personal letter to those grooming businesses we might have an interest in acquiring
4. Create a Confidentiality Agreement to be signed by prospective sellers
5. Based on response to the letter, meet with prospective sellers
6. Evaluate the business on the following criteria:
a. Service area and competition
b. Income for 3 years
c. Number of customers and customer turnover
d. Types of grooms and prices charged
f. Business growth potential
g. Assets, equipment and location
j. Exit plan of owner
7. Negotiate with appropriate seller
8. Obtain financing
9. Purchase business and "re-open" it under our ownership
The letter we sent over Sharon's signature read, in part:
I would like to take over an existing grooming business with an established clientele. I have no idea if you have ever thought about selling your business, but if there is a chance you might consider it, I would like to speak with you. If you have a potential interest, I can be flexible. For example, I would be happy to have you continue to work in the business, if you so desire.
We didn't know if anyone would have an interest in selling their grooming business. We were delighted to get responses from two business owners. We sketched out the questions we wanted to ask them, drafted a confidentiality agreement for them to sign, and made arrangements to meet them.
The two businesses were very different. One groomer was located in a town south of Asheville and had been open for only a short time. The owners, also a wife and husband, were interested in selling because they planned to relocate elsewhere. The other business was right in Asheville, had been operating for quite a while, and had an established reputation. The owner/groomer was interested in retiring from the business. We did our due diligence and evaluated both of them using the criteria we had established.
When we returned home, we pored over the information we had obtained and reviewed the photos we had taken of each operation. As we discussed the pros and cons, we realized something about both dog grooming businesses: It dawned on us that they were retail operations. These groomers had to keep their shops open all day, every day, just like a retail store. While their businesses primarily consisted of customers who made appointments to have their dogs groomed, anyone could walk in during the day to buy merchandise or make an appointment. If the groomers weren't busy, they would even agree to groom walk-ins, not unlike a beauty salon that accepts walk-in customers for hair styling.
We wrestled with the idea of running a full-time retail business. While Sharon loved the idea of grooming dogs and being her own boss, she didn't like the idea of working retail hours or paying monthly rent. In fact, neither of us could justify the time commitment we felt would be needed to operate a retail store. We really didn't want to be held prisoner by a business that needed to be opened five or even six days a week, eight or nine hours a day. It would likely mean that Sharon would have to work full-time, which wasn't her interest, and it very well could mean hiring other employees. We didn't want that either – we knew from past experience that personnel management was a challenge we'd rather avoid.
We were in a quandary. We believed both of the grooming businesses had potential. We thought the owners would be willing to sell if we offered a fair price. The problem was now we were anything but sure that we wanted to run a retail dog grooming business. We weren't afraid of working hard to open and build a business, but we just couldn't get used to the idea of being full-time retailers. So where would we go from here?
THE "AHA!" MOMENT
Discouraged but not deterred, we thought about alternatives to running a traditional retail store. For example, we considered operating a grooming parlor with hours by appointment only and no merchandise component, which would limit the time we would have to be open. We dismissed that idea, because we figured it would be an inefficient use of rented space and our operating costs would be too high.
Then one day, Sharon was looking through a grooming magazine and she read an article about mobile dog grooming. Apparently, there was an entire segment of the grooming industry that was literally on wheels. Mobile groomers in specially equipped vans went to customers' homes to groom their dogs. It appeared that this service was especially popular in Florida and California.
We talked about the mobile dog grooming concept and found it immediately appealing. With a mobile grooming van, Sharon could be her own boss and we could run our own business without the constraints of a retail store. Sharon could set her own schedule and work as little or as much as she wanted, so she would have maximum flexibility. With Barry handling the business and marketing, Sharon could concentrate on grooming and not have to worry about the business details.
The more we thought about it, the more we thought mobile dog grooming would be perfectly suited to Asheville. Here's why: When we were exploring Asheville's housing market, we noticed that the nicest homes were located in residential communities. Unlike where we lived in Massachusetts, the Asheville area had no zoning to protect residential neighborhoods. If you didn't live in a residential community, you had the potential of having an industrial plant as your neighbor. That's right, just about anything could be built right next door to your home. This was the reason we bought a home in a South Asheville residential community, and why communities were so popular in the Asheville area.
Because residential communities were common, they made easy targets for mobile dog grooming. We reasoned that if we could target our business and saturate certain communities close to one other, we could keep travel to a minimum. That would limit our gas usage, which we assumed was going to be a big expense of mobile grooming. As we researched the business further, it became clear that mobile dog groomers were charging higher prices than retail grooming operations. As a result customers would self- select; a customer had to be able to want and afford the convenience of mobile grooming. Clearly, it was a service designed for upscale dog owners who were not going to object to paying a premium price.
Mobile dog grooming was our "Aha!" moment. We politely told the owners of the two grooming businesses we had been considering that we were no longer able to pursue a possible acquisition. Instead, we began to conceptualize plans for a mobile dog grooming business. We found out there were a few other mobile dog groomers operating in the Asheville area, but we felt there would be plenty of business for us.
Sharon already had a name in mind: Bandanas. I liked it right away – Asheville was located in Western North Carolina, which had its own rugged, individual connotation. No, it wasn't "cowboy country," but we did see lots of dogs in Asheville wearing bandanas. We also knew it was common for dog groomers to give out bandanas with each groom. The name was relevant and had a friendly sound. I suggested calling the service "Bandanas Mobile Grooming Salon." And so a business idea was born.
WHAT'S YOUR "AHA!" MOMENT?
Let's face it – dog grooming isn't for everyone. But it seemed like a great fit for us, given Sharon's skill and passion, Barry's desire to try his hand at something new and different, and what we both perceived was a business opportunity with real potential. It was a service business that would involve dealing directly with clients, and given our background, we were comfortable with that.
Luckily for us, it turned out that pet services was a booming segment of the service industry, and it still is. If you both love pets, there are other opportunities in this area that may be of interest to you, including dog walking, pet sitting, and even removing dog poop; in fact, we know a local entrepreneur who is cleaning up ...!
Obviously, one of the biggest decisions you'll have to make early on is what type of service business you both want to start and run. We believe strongly that a couple needs to have a common passion that turns into a common vision for a business. This doesn't mean you both have to be passionate about the same thing, but it does mean you have to share the same goal. In our case, Sharon was passionate about dog grooming, and Barry was passionate about running a service business. She had the specific skill set for the particular service; he had the ability to apply his broad business management and marketing experience to starting and running the business. Barry just as easily could have started another type of service business, but he recognized he could be a good partner and contribute to a business that centered around Sharon's skills. We both had a passion for animals and also for providing excellent service to clients.
As you think about the type of service business you might want to operate, take a critical look at your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your interests. What are you both passionate about? Is there something that each of you love to do that has the potential to cross over? Can you leverage your past business experience to create a new business opportunity for both of you? The key thing is to find common ground and a common sense of purpose. Sound familiar? It should – the process of deciding on what business to pursue isn't too different from understanding how to make life decisions together as a couple.
It makes sense before you decide on a particular business to research service business ideas that have the greatest potential. Countless service businesses exist in a wide variety of areas. These businesses are generally divided into two categories: services to consumers and services to businesses. These categories are further sub-divided based on the type of services provided. You'll be able to make some obvious initial cuts; for example, if neither you nor your partner are particularly interested in financial management, you certainly wouldn't want to start a business that offers bookkeeping or accounting services. If either of you has experience in past positions working with businesses, you might be comfortable starting a business that focuses on servicing businesses rather than consumers.
There are many lists of top service business ideas. Sources worth exploring include the magazines Entrepreneur,Fast Company, and Inc., the newspaper The Wall Street Journal, and government sources such as the Small Business Administration (http://www.sba.gov) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov). Additional sources are listed in the Resources section of this book.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Let's Make Money, Honey"
Copyright © 2015 Barry Silverstein and Sharon Wood.
Excerpted by permission of GuideWords Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
About this Book,
Introduction: Love and Money,
Chapter 1: Owning a Service Business Together,
Chapter 2: Planning the Business,
Chapter 3: Outfitting the Business,
Chapter 4. Business Operations,
Chapter 5: Launching the Business,
Chapter 6: The Business of Service,
Chapter 7: Managing Growth,
Chapter 8: When It's Time to Exit the Business,
Chapter 9: Can We Really Work Together?,
Chapter 10: Lessons Learned,
About the Authors,
About GuideWords Publishing,