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2010
SBC Team

Mom and Pop Shop

Posted by SBC Team Jun 14, 2010
Balancing Work and Family
A resource guide for entrepreneurs who are running a small business and raising a family

by Reed Richardson

For many small business owners, fulfilling their entrepreneurial dreams can quickly become an all-consuming labor of love, gobbling up all of their time, energy, and resources. But if a particular start-up or burgeoning business is also, literally, a mom-and-pop store, this singular devotion to work just isn't realistic, as parental duties will often require just as much, if not more, attention than one's entrepreneurial responsibilities. Some try to overcome this challenge by intertwining the two commitments and getting everyone-from kids to grandparents, siblings to in-laws-deeply involved in the family business. Other small business owners take the opposite tack and strive to maintain a distinct physical, mental, and emotional separation between their work and family lives. Whatever approach one takes, striking the right balance between keeping your family happy and making your business successful rarely happens without a little help along the way. So, here's a resource guide for all the CEO moms and dad-preneurs out there.

Organizations
To get some real "been there, done that" advice on work-life balance from experienced small business owners, mom-and-dad entrepreneurs would be wise to turn to the experts at SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives, http://www.score.org ), perhaps the nation's best-known small business coaching and mentoring organization. For a more academic take on dealing with family issues as a business owner, look for assistance at one of the several Family Business Centers (FBCs) housed within business schools spread across the Midwest and Northeast. Located at the University of Wisconsin (http://www.fbc.wisc.edu), Loyola University of Chicago (http://www.luc.edu/fbc), University of New Hampshire (http://www.familybusiness.unh.edu), Northeastern University (http://www.cba.neu.edu/cfb), and the University of Massachusetts (http://www.umass.edu/fambiz), these centers offer practical help as well as theoretical information to entrepreneurs struggling with family dynamics issues. However, it's important to point out that much of the research done by these FBCs focuses on the challenges facing well established, multi-generational family-oriented businesses rather than those confronting early-stage startups run by parents of young children. (For a good example of the FBC's academic emphasis, check out this article on managing complex family relationships within a business: http://www.umass.edu/fambiz/articles/successful_succession/managing_complex.html.)

 

Online
For more contemporary, day-to-day ideas about how to raise a family while running a small business-or if you just want to commiserate with the trials and tribulations of another entrepreneurial parent-try sampling a few of the following blogs. In a space dominated by "mommy" blogs, Brian Reid takes a somewhat in-your-face approach to child-rearing while living and working at home in one the very few father-oriented blogs, Rebel Dad (http://www.rebeldad.com). Consider the Work-at-Home Mom blog (http://www.blog.wahm.com) an opposite-gender counterpart to Rebel Dad, although this blog features several different women discussing a wide range of work-life topics, from telecommuting to childhood disease, from career switching to school homework projects. Hybrid Mom (http://www.hybridmom.com/blog), is another group blog with well-written, near-daily posts, which run the gamut from long, philosophical explorations of the rites of motherhood to hard-nosed advice about the importance of business contracts.

As a business and motherhood blog that strives to be both functional and fabulous, Mogul Mom (http://www.themogulmom.com) offers helpful entrepreneurial tips in a style reminiscent of a women's service magazine. (Sample post: "Eight Ways to Work Smarter and Be Happier.") The Mom Entrepreneur blog (http://www.themomentrepreneurblog.com), on the other hand, sticks to a more straightforward approach when covering more nuts-and-business topics and profiling successful mothers who own businesses. The Working Moms message board at iVillage.com (http://www.messageboards.ivillage.com/iv-psworkingmom?ice=iv|hy|pp) lets site members (registration is free) post questions and trade advice on any number of work-life topics, with special sections devoted to "Bringing Home the Bacon" and "Home & Family." But for a comprehensive, one-stop-shop approach, you'd be hard pressed to do better than Working Mother magazine's Mom Blog (http://www.workingmother.com/?service=vpage/1271), which hosts dozens of writers-site members are encouraged to sign up and join in as well-and features several posts per day about balancing career and family.

 


Books
If you're looking for more in-depth thinking about work and family issues there are a wealth of books on the topic. One of this year's most recent entries, Millionaire Moms: The Art of Raising a Business and a Family at the Same Time (Morgan James, 2010), by Joyce Bone, takes the reader on a whirlwind journey from business idea to start-up launch and then adds in several dashes of experience through short vignettes about other successful millionaire moms. (Bone also maintains an online website and blog at http://www.millionairemom.com.) Mining this same vein of successful mothers who overcame financial anxiety by pursuing their own entrepreneurial dreams is the more dated but still relevant Secrets of Millionaire Moms: Learn How They Turned Great Ideas Into Booming Businesses (McGraw-Hill, 2007), by Tamara Monosoff. Spurred on by her own struggles in managing both a small business and a family, Mary E. Davis wrote The Entrepreneurial Mom: Managing for Success in Your Home and Your Business (Turner, 2007), a compact guide to juggling the roles of caregiver and boss.

In The ParentPreneur Edge: What Parenting Teaches About Building a Successful Business (Wiley, 2007), author and serial entrepreneur Julie Lenzer Kirk draws parallels between raising a child and the different stages encountered when launching and growing a small business. (She also maintains a blog about these issues at www.blog.julielenzerkirk.com.) Author Jennifer Kalita covers some of the same ground in her 136-page book, The Home Office Parent: Raising Kids and Profits Under One Roof (Wyatt-MacKenzie, 2007), but with a special emphasis on the challenges of both raising children and running a business in one's home. Written by a group of male and female educators, Women in Family Business: What Keeps You up at Night? (BookSurge, 2009), by Patricia Annino, et al., follows a unique structure, with each of the book's eight chapters devoted to a different relationship role-wife, mother, sister, daughter, etc.-that a woman plays in society and how it can impact upon a family business. Finally, for a look at work-life balance issues that arise when children of entrepreneurs grow up and prepare to take over what has become a more mature and successful small business, the father-daughter team of Larry and Laura Colin wrote Family, Inc.: How to Manage Parents, Siblings, Spouses, Children, and In-Laws in the Family Business (Career Press, 2008).
by Christopher Freeburn

Many people want to own their own business. There is an undeniable allure to the idea of working for yourself and not someone else, of calling the shots and having people answer to you and not the other way around. But not everyone who wants to be an entrepreneur has a great idea with which to launch a business. Fortunately, having the next big idea isn't necessary to start your own business, or to become a success. In fact, many highly successful entrepreneurs simply rent someone else's idea on their way to financial and professional independence.

Buying a franchise operation takes much of the guesswork out of running your own business. Franchises allow the fledgling entrepreneur to purchase an already established brand name complete with a track record and some level of support and advice from the corporate parent. Many franchisors--though not all--provide training for their franchisees. A franchise also eliminates some of the guesswork involved in operating a business since the franchisor usual sets chain-wide policies governing pricing, vendors, location decoration, advertising and employment policies.

There are literally hundreds of franchises available in almost every major consumer industry. Fast food retailers like McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, Carvel, Dairy Queen, Dunkin' Donuts, may be the most familiar, but franchise opportunities exist in industries as diverse as tax preparation, computer repair, medical billing, home renovation, interior design, commercial cleaning, home care and nursing, and health and fitness. According to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study, by 2010, there will be more than 900,000 individual franchise establishments (representing more than 2,000 different franchise companies) in operation in the U.S. In fact, there are so many franchise opportunities available that the choice often can be bewildering.

Test drive your franchise
According to Mike Duessler a Boston-based business consultant, the choice of franchise begins with you. "You need to find something that you are comfortable doing," he says. "And that may be different from what you think you'd like to do. Duessler suggests taking a job in a similar-type of establishment, or even at an outlet of the franchise you are considering before you invest in your own store. "You may think that running a coffee shop is a lot more interesting than that nine-to-five office job you currently have," he warns, "but if you've never run a coffee shop--or any type of shop before--you may find your expectation really far off the mark."

The more familiar you are with the type of operation you are considering the better off you will be when choosing between franchise opportunities. Working at an outlet of the franchise you are interested in also gives you an inside perspective on how the franchisor operates. "Do they provide support to their franchisees? Do they provide quality products? How strictly do they regulate their franchisees? The best way to get a firm answer to these questions is to work inside a franchise and see what goes on every day," he adds.

Go with what you know
Once you've narrowed down the type of franchise in which you'd like to invest, how do you choose between the various franchise offerings in that field? There are a number of considerations, according to Michael Klein, a franchise attorney. "Look for recognizable names, since they will draw the most customers," he says. "Chances are, if you've never heard of the franchise, most of your potential customers won't have either." The more recognizable the franchise name, of course, the higher the initial investment will likely be. "Still, a well-known name usually means a track record of success," Klein says. "Or, at worst, it will make researching the franchise's problems easier since bigger names get more media attention." (To find legal help for your franchise search, check out http://www.franchisingattorney.com/ or http://www.findlaw.com )

When researching any prospective franchise, look for any past litigation, especially from former franchisees. The presence of litigation against a franchisor isn't necessarily a sign that the franchise isn't worth pursuing," Klein says, noting lawsuits are commonplace for large businesses. However, watch for large numbers of similar-type lawsuits, which could reveal a widespread problem with the franchisor's behavior.

Read the fine print
The most important item in determining whether a franchise opportunity is a good deal for you is the Uniform Franchise Offering Circular (UFOC). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that a franchisor provide any prospective franchisee a copy of its UFOC within ten days prior to the signing of any contract, or at the first face-to-face meeting between franchisor and franchisee. The UFOC is a standardized disclosure form that describes the franchise in considerable detail, including all policies and requirements applicable to franchisees. The UFOC also must provide audited financial statements from the franchisor and copies of the franchise contract. "Take you time reviewing the UFOC" advises franchise attorney Mario L. Herman. "Compare the claims made in any promotional materials the franchisor has provided against the financial statements in the UFOC and ask about any discrepancies." (To see what's in a typical UFOC and to order a UFOC online for a fee of $220, go to http://www.frandata.com/ or http://www.usocs.com/.)

Herman also suggests contacting current franchisees listed in the UFOC and inquiring if they would invest in the franchise again. "Of course, if they are current franchisees, they may not be inclined to speak negatively of the franchisor, but they may still offer useful information," he adds. Additionally, Herman advises trying to locate former franchisees to ask why they left the franchise. Herman suggests contacting the FTC to see if there have been any complaints filed against the franchisor.

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