Losing a job isn't a catastrophe if you use it as a bridge to do what you've always wanted to do.
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We talked to Jeff Teeter, who used a company layoff as an opportunity to start his life as an entrepreneur. He lives in
Jeff, what type of firm were you working at when you were let go? Was it part of a downsizing? How long had you been there?
I was previously working in sales and project management for an OEM producer of injection molding machines, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
I was laid off as a part of downsizing that was leading to the eventual closure of the production facility. I had been employed there for 7 years, since graduating from University of Guelph with a BASc Hon. degree. The layoff took place in Sept. of 2007.
Well, it sounds like you landed on your feet. You've got your own company now, right? What is it and what do you do there?
I now own my own company in franchise consulting and am the sole employee at this point in time. It is a franchise in the MatchPoint Consulting Network.
I act as a true consultant for my clients across Canada, to help them find the best possible match in a franchised business for their personal skills, background, likes and dislikes and the role they desire as the owner of their own business.
The service is free of charge for my clients, so a great analogy to help people understand my role is that I am a real estate agent for franchises. My daily business activities consist mainly of working on the phone and internet to guide my clients through the process of learning about and researching the best opportunities available to them.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job?
I have always been a believer that true success and security over my future lies in business ownership.
The reality is that in order to start up your business you need the finances to do so. I was presented that opportunity with the layoff package I received as well as the savings I had accumulated while working the traditional corporate job.
I have always known financial success can best be achieved through hard work, and that it easiest to motivate yourself towards this when you know it all benefits you – not corporate bosses or owners.
My other huge motivator was security in my future. At no other time is it more apparent in North America that corporate America is one of the most insecure places to be. As a worker, an executive or a shareholder, sentiments show that there is huge worry and the current streak of downsizing and layoffs validates those fears.
Why not take control of your destiny and invest in yourself? I truly believe small business ownership is the future of security for those of us willing to take that leap of faith in themselves.
I'm wondering if you can talk about why you bought a franchise, rather than starting a business from scratchi? It's a choice many other folks who are contemplating entrepreneurship right now are thinking about, so your insights would be greatly appreciated.
My business is a franchise, started from scratch. I am a huge believer in making informed decisions and limiting my risk. Going the route of franchise ownership gave me the information and gave me the security I wanted.
Due to current legislation in the US and Canada, a large legal document called a Franchise Disclosure Document or Provincial Disclosure Document must be given to potential franchisees two weeks prior to any decision making or monetary exchanges. This document must by law include very specific information. This protection gave me the majority of the information I needed to make an informed decision.
I also think that I limited the risk I took by buying a "business in box". Not only do I get trained and supported by the franchisor to run my business successfully, but I have bought all the mistakes and improvements that made by others before me.
My logic is that by paying the franchise fee I have limited the costs of making mistakes to only the franchise fee, whereas, to open a business on my own, my mistakes could cost me much, much more than the franchise fee over an extended period of time.
How did you decide what kind of business to go into?
I decided to go into this business because of my past experience with franchising.
Many years ago I went into negotiations with a fast food company to open a new location. Like many people I thought franchising was limited to coffee shops and fast food restaurants, which is just not the case, as there are now over 3500 companies covering over 70 industries in franchising.
At the time, it was an overwhelming situation for me because of my lack of experience and knowledge about franchising. Being overwhelmed, I abandoned my attempt and went the traditional route of entering the corporate work world.
When I learned about the MatchPoint opportunity, I harkened back to my fist experience and thought about how my life might have been different if I had the guidance of a franchise consultant during that phase.
I think my life could have been totally different. Who wouldn't want an industry insider working for them – for free – to help make an important investment and life altering decision? I knew that this business would provide me the opportunity to work with people to help them improve their lives.
A business that allows me the freedom to work from home, set my own hours and gives me the opportunity to help people to improve the lives of their families was very easy for me to decide to invest in. Well, as easy as a huge decision like business ownership can be, that is!
Owning a business is very different from working as an employee. What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed?
The biggest difference I noticed is the motivation. I have found it much easier to work hard because I know it is all for my benefit. This type of work feels invigorating and gives me a true feeling of freedom.
The business model that I have chosen, which allows me to work from home on my own schedule is less stressful than working in that environment of deadlines set by others, assignments designated by others and the fulfillment of promises often made by others.
I have control over my future which has given me a feeling of freedom that I had never experienced working for someone else.
What advice would you give to somebody who is leaving the life of working for a company to go out on their own?
I would make two key points.
First, I often have this discussion with clients looking to make that same change. I ask them to think about their past work life and life in general. At this point I usually know about their past successes, so I just make a point of reminding them that everything they have done in the past, they have been successful at. Why should that change? Be confident in yourself and your past successes.
Second, make sure you do your due diligence. Personally, I would categorize myself as a risk taker, but everyone has their own threshold. It is important to be as well educated as possible before making such a life changing decision and monetary investment. Make sure you have a plan, know your market, make sure you are not undercapitalized and never be afraid to ask for help and advice during this phase – there are a lot of people and organizations out there to help people who are looking to start their own business.
Anything else you'd care to share with us regarding the transition from being laid off to starting a business?
Take some time to recharge your batteries if you can afford it. Whether you are researching business ideas or getting ready to start interviewing for new jobs, you must have cleared up the issues that may have come up from the job loss. Make sure you have a clear head and focus on a bright outlook. Positive thinking can go a long way and is extremely contagious!