I have no regrets. Ok, maybe one regret. The student loans?
Sometimes you just have to go off plan, and take a risk in life. I am not good at that generally, but my husband and I did do that once, and that risk has reaped the benefits of business ownership and pride of knowing that we made it. I ignored all the rules I learned when I earned my expensive colle degree in the process. There are risks in starting a business, but the benefits have far outweighed those risks, and here we are! Learn with us.
We have made it work on a wing and a prayer and maybe another wing or two. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything though.
A little about my approach to life decisions, generally.
I am such a rule follower. If the sign says don’t park there, I won’t. If you tell me to do something, I will. I am good at following the outward rules in society. This is also highly likely the reason I
am used to be a train wreck in other areas of my life because I am an outward complier. Is that a word? It is now. Read my other posts for the train wreck stuff on another day. For now, let’s talk business.
When people teach me things, I’m eager to learn from those who have gone before. I’m a good student, I listen, and I apply myself diligently. I did great in college and that BS in Business Administration was well-earned. The quality of being a good student has helped me be successful in my career and in life. I am a do-er of things, and I learn it all.
Many years ago, I said I wanted to start running, so I did, and a few years later, I was regularly running marathons. Done, check. I followed the plans, the schedules, and the best nutrition advice I could find. I became a student of running and I became a pretty okay runner.
So that gives you a flavor of me: I am a highly efficient, rule following, student of all things.
About the ridiculous job that started it all. I guess we should now thank that job for causing a change.
Around 18 years ago, my husband was miserable in his job, it was high paying, but also ridiculous hours, and it was hugely stressful and frankly, just stupid.
He’s always been good with entrepreneurial skills, and he has loved classic cars since he was a teen. Throughout our relationship he bought and sold cars off and on. He’d get bored of his daily driver, decide to sell it on impulse, and buy something else. He always turned a profit on every deal, and it was fun. It provided us some extra grocery money at times and he basically drove all his cars for free. It worked well for us, and I always saw he was extremely talented at the art of the deal. That is definitely not a skill set that I have and I’ve always admired it in him.
At the time he was in the stupid job, we had a couple of friends that were in a related line of work and had their own businesses, and it looked so appealing. They had freedom and they were living their dreams.
We never had a good plan.
We didn’t have the money to start anything, according to the business rules I had learned, and we certainly didn’t have a business plan. It was a faint idea in the back of both our minds, but it really didn’t seem possible.
I was a stay at home mom at the time with 3 small children. I missed having a partner to raise our kids with because of his schedule, so other than that small problem, things were fine….The financial comfort was there though, so I figured a business of our own would just never happen. I learned in business school to have a plan, and you don’t just jump off and start a business.
One afternoon around that time, Jason called me from work. He had just gotten a big promotion the week before, and it was an exciting time for us. We thought he’d make even more money and we’d just have to deal with the horrendous schedule and its negative impacts on our family life.
When he called, he said that his boss had just screamed at him. He was completely stressed, and so irritated. He had just been good enough to be granted a promotion, and the welcome to his new role was a thorough dressing down. I had seen how the stress had negatively affected Jason through the years, and I had had it that day after hearing about this latest incident.
“Just quit,” I said. “Pack up your stuff, and come home.
It was silent on the other end of the phone.
“We can do our own thing, I’m tired of you being treated badly.”
He said, “Seriously?”
I said, “Yes. Pack up your stuff and come home today.”
He walked off the job that day.
That’s exactly what he did. He came home, took off his suit, and hung his slacks in the closet on a nail. We had two Ford Fairlanes at the time that he was planning to sell, and he started to work on that immediately. It was 2003, so the internet for car sales was a brand new thing, and pretty unpredictable. Ebay was seen as a good site, but also buying a car online was still a little risky. Selling one? Even riskier.
We had to try though, since he walked off his job and we had a family to feed.
We made a pact.
Our pact was that we would not continue the business if it meant we weren’t paying our mortgage or our bills. Neither one of us would stand for late bills, or our kids struggling due to a dream, no matter how good the dream. We were willing to work hard, but not suffer. Sacrifice is one thing, suffering is another. We had to decide where that line was.
The quitting, the lack of planning, and the pact worked.
He’s been a car dealer in his own right ever since then and so much has changed. No more dial up internet, or sketchy eBay deals. He sells the cars he wants to, and he is fortunate to have so much business that he turns some away, so that he can live a more balanced life.
I’ve been a part of much of the back end processes along the way. Figuring out the bookkeeping, taxes, employees, etc. I have just quit that role after many years. I guess I could say I retired. That too, is a story of its own. I need to tell it in it’s own way. It was an empowering decision for me and it was good for our business too.
We’ve also faced our fair share of criticism over the years. Let’s also be honest, owning a business with your spouse is….interesting….for your marriage relationship.
We broke every single one of the business school rules with this decision, and neither one of us would trade that.
We’ve learned a lot through the years, and many of those lessons have been hard trials; 2008 recession, I’m talking to you. I drove a 1998 Gold Lincoln town car that year, could we call that suffering? I think that was the only time we broke our pact, we did sacrifice, or suffer, some that year.
We’ve never missed a mortgage payment and our family hasn’t done without though, even in 2008.
We are in a far different place now and looking back is fun to see how we risked it all and it worked out. We enjoy the business and living the life we dreamed with the freedom of spirit that creativity and ownership of a dream brings. I am an optimist and I believe things do generally work out in the end, so maybe that’s always kept us going too.
Yes, but what happened to the pants? I’m sure you’re wondering. You know, the suit pants Jason hung up in our closet? They were there for about 2 years, until we sold our home because we needed to expand our business operations and buy a better property. When we got ready to move, he grabbed the pants, and his pockets were still full of business cards and pens and notes from the stupid job. Clearly he didn’t miss any of it.
Oh, and also a side note. His previous employer forgave him for walking off the job. They have a professional relationship now and sometimes do business together, so that worked out too. Jason would never go back to work there, but it’s been great to see how they’ve grown to respect him for his decision. They thought he was crazy at first.
I’ve learned that breaking the rules is fun.
Why not? You’re the underdog anyway. I’m trying to break the rules more often in life in all areas – positively – these days. So, with that said, we broke all the rules and we made it. Try it out! Take that risk. Maybe it’s business, or telling someone exactly what you think.
I love a good underdog story, so let me know if you ever risked it all and it worked out. Whether it was in business or in life, sometimes jumping off is the absolute best. Maybe you also told everyone to f*ck off and you didn’t listen to criticism like we did? Tell me about it, I’ll champion your success, especially if you disregarded a highly expensive education to follow a dream.