Starting a New Business? Don’t Trust Your Gut!


Don’t get caught in the dangerous trap of thinking that you know what new business you should start just because it’s something you think you’ve wanted to do for years. You may make a mistake that will cost you for the rest of your career.

Before you dismiss this advice out of hand, think about your situation. Whether you’re contemplating making the big leap into your own business, or you’ve been let go or downsized and corporate life has (finally) lost its appeal, you’re determined to never get stuck in another job where you don’t have enough control over your life, or decided that now is the time to start a specific new business that you’ve wanted to do for years.

But be careful. Don’t be so reactive that you fall head over heels in love with your idea without doing the necessary due-diligence. You never want to take a new job or start a new business “on the rebound.”

Judy Contreras did the due diligence and she’s glad she did. A Chicago-based franchise business broker who is featured in my book, Judy left a 20+ year career as a HR executive because she was tired of moving from company to company in the wake of the instabilities brought on by the 2008 recession. While she was initially determined to start her own new business, and to buy into a franchise operation, it was only after carefully considering her options, and working closely with a business coach that she realized she was headed in the wrong direction.

Working through the Small Business Administration, which has a well-established and extensive set of resources for ongoing and new business owners, Judy decided that it would be wise to seek out the advice and guidance of a coach who helped people make the best decisions about their new ventures. As a result, Judy began to realize that she was not really interested in being a franchise business owner. While she is a hard worker and enjoys putting in the hours, she wanted to be more in charge of her schedule and not have the responsibilities of a brick-and-mortar business. So one day, she called up the franchise broker who had been working with her to find the right franchise to buy and asked him: “Why don’t you tell me more about your job?” She had woken up to the idea that helping other people find their own careers was something that interested her much more than owning her own new business in retail or the service sector. While being a business broker was nothing like HR in substance, it was still, in essence, about helping people to find their potential. In this case, she realized, it was about helping them be the best they could be through finding the right business for them to buy. When she realized that being a franchise broker aligned with her lifestyle as well as her values and her aspirations, she knew she was on track.

Once she made that decision, she worked with her SBA coach to actually do the financial projections to make her savings last as long as possible, and give her the runway she needed to launch her new business.

The two big takeaways for Judy align with the “Listening” step in the five career reinvention steps that I outline in my book. Listening can take many forms. Judy did a great job of tempering her ambition to start her own business with her realization that she needed to get objective outside opinions before pulling the trigger. If she hadn’t listened to the business coach, and avoided truly examining the lifestyle of the brick-and-mortar business owner, she might have sunk her savings into a new business that wasn’t right for her, and which would have been difficult to get out of. Similarly, she listened to the franchise broker’s guidance to make sure that what he did day-to-day was actually something that felt right, and that she could commit to.

Many people looking to start a second-act career jump in thinking that this is finally the opportunity to fulfill a dream that they may have deferred earlier in life: completing a degree, opening up a business, or getting a job in a particular field. But we have to remember that we’ve changed in the intervening decades, and who we were back in our twenties may no longer be who we are today.

So before making a decision, do your research, take a long and hard look at yourself and where you’ve been and what you’ve learned. Get input from trusted friends, family and advisors. Sit and take the time to fully consider all of this feedback before pulling the trigger. If you’re going to trust your gut, trust your sense of the person you have become, not the person you used to be. Make sure you are fully present before taking that leap into the future.

For more about Judy Contreras’ decision to become a franchise business broker, see her video on my Boomer Reinvention YouTube channel.

If you have an experience about jumping into a new business, what kind of research you did, and any advice you have for others on this path, please share your thoughts!

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John Tarnoff is a career transition coach, speaker and best-selling author who helps late-career professionals transition to meaningful second-act careers beyond traditional retirement.

Following a successful career as a Hollywood film executive and tech entrepreneur, he reinvented his own career at 50, earning a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology to focus on professional development and training.

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