Entrepreneurship Uncensored – The Good, Terrible, and… Bankruptcy?!?

Actually owning a business - The Good, Terrible, and... Bankruptcy???

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Two years ago we pulled the trigger on something crazy… Something that would change the course of our family’s financial future in a significant way – good or bad. My wife and I bought a dental practice on June 30, 2017, and in the time since that purchase we’ve learned, grown, sobbed, soared to new heights, and everything in between. Owning a business isn’t a walk in the park…

 

This is the story of that journey, probably in it’s best iteration – told nearly entirely through GIFs. 

 

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, these GIFs are made up of a few pictures each, and there are about 30 of them so – I’ve got about 100,000 words down here. Enjoy the ride!

 

(Photo courtesy of Justin Montemarano)

 


 

Actually owning a business – The Good, Terrible, and… Bankruptcy???

 

My wife never wanted to own a business… Didn’t want the risks that came with it.

 

Me – I’d consider opening a popsicle stand if it had a decent chance to earn a profit. But although I had seriously considered opening my own gym, I hadn’t settled on any one business quite yet.

 

 

That is, until one day about 3 years ago when my wife came home and said something along the lines of, “I want to buy my own practice [who’s with me!?!?]!”

 

She didn’t actually ask the question, but I inferred it from the look on her face… And like a small flame hitting a large cache of gunpowder – my entrepreneurial excitement exploded to new levels!

 

 

Then… Carefully, cautiously, and with great care, I clarified to make sure my cochlear faculties were correctly operating as I verified, “Wait. You just said you want to open our own business, right???”

 

She confirmed in the affirmative and we were off!

 

 

Owning a Business Stage 1 – Not Yet Owning said Business, but Preparing to

 

So… we were technically broke and in debt. My wife had been working for a year, my entry-level salary hadn’t quite matured yet, and we had a mountain of debt hanging over our heads in the form of student loans, a mortgage, and a car loan.

 

We weren’t exactly the most attractive borrowers.

 

 

But we had great potential still, so we set out in search of a practice to call our own.

 

We put together a team of knowledgeable professionals, made some great and lasting business relationships, and nearly crossed the goal line on the first practice we had our sights set on.

 

But as fate would have it – life just isn’t that easy – the seller backed out at the last minute citing family financial reasons…

 

No big deal, we had only shelled out about $20,000 in legal and other relevant fees…

 

 

But we did have great respect for the seller, so we parted amicably and pressed on in search of our booty (that’s treasure in pirate speak – my oldest has been watching a pirate show on TV…).

 

We Didn’t Rebuild – We Reloaded

 

And eventually, we found the business home of our dreams. It wasn’t the move-in ready dream home you may be thinking of… More the ‘fixer-upper’, but it was ours and we were stoked!

 

 

Working out the details to own said business

 

First, we had difficulty in agreeing to an actual sale price with the former owner. That was an adventure.

 

 

But we found a way and worked that out… No big deal.

 

There was this other nagging issue though, that I couldn’t seem to get past. Our landlord never responded to my attempts at an introduction. And seeing as how our seller had worked out a handshake deal with this landlord, our bank wanted something a little more “formal” in terms of a lease.

 

 

Our bank needed to know that we’d have a place to work out of (read: so that we could pay them back), so eventually (1 month prior to closing on the sale) I put the full-court press on this landlord. I searched every gas station, residence, warehouse, outhouse, in-house, and dog house in our area!

 

 

My search turned up an interaction with the landlord. He gave me a hard pass on signing a new lease.

 

 

They were trying to sell the building and didn’t want to complicate their sale with an ongoing negotiation. WTF!?!?!?

 

 

To say I was pissed would be an understatement…

 

So we set out in search of a new home for our business

 

Only catch is that we had 3 weeks to find a new place, determine if it could work for our new dental office, meet a new landlord, agree to a rent rate, negotiate the terms of a 10-year lease (per our bank), and sign a contract that would dramatically affect the success of our business. No big deal…

 

 

So we performed another hard target search and came up with our new home! Because of our tight timeline, I had to agree to a few unfavorable terms, but hey! We had a new space and the bank was happy!

 

They gave us a loan.

 

 

 

Entrepreneurship stage 2 – Owning the business but not yet having the ability to exactly afford to keep it open

 

So… We had double payments for rent and all utilities (2 offices), we were learning to navigate paying payroll, our suppliers, labs, and absorbing all the additional costs that would come with building our new office and then finally moving into it.

 

Did I mention we were broke???

 

 

There was one month I’ll never forget when I had an honest conversation with Monica talking about what we’d do if we couldn’t pay all our bills.

 

 

It was one of the most nervewracking periods in our life, but somehow our Team found a way to pull through by dramatically increasing our profitability in a short timeframe!

 

 

From there, and once we made it through the move, we put into motion a brand new marketing plan. We knew it would take 6-12 months until we started seeing huge positive momentum, but for those of us with little to no patients – waiting can be tough…

 

 

So our business chugged along, growing steadily for the next year. And it was right about the time when I gave my 2-weeks notice at my former employer and dove into working with my wife full time that things really started to take off.

 

 

Our marketing plan’s wheels had finally grabbed some traction and were moving forward in a big way and it was so great to see!

 

 

Sure, we had our setbacks and hurdles from time to time, but we kept finding ways to overcome them.

 

 

And the other great thing about growing our business was that our Team also increased in size! We went from 5 to 8 employees in about 6 months.

 

 

That means more celebrations for birthdays, weddings, babies, …, and more hands on deck during the workday. All of which I’m down for.

 

 

Entrepreneurship stage 3 – Finally starting to see some reward for all the hard work

 

It’s been many a sleepless night, stressful days, and difficult conversations over the past 3 years of planning and building our business. But we’re finally at the stage where all of that hard work is translating into a little profit.

 

 

I honestly felt like this stage would never come but to look back now, 3 years doesn’t seem too ridiculous of a timeframe.

 

My body tells me it felt much more like a decade though.

 

 

But hey – who’s counting… Am I right?!?!

 

 

At this point were challenged with building on our current successes, continuing to develop and build our Team, and following through on our goal of leaving a positive mark on our community.

 

Yes – we’ve got quite a long way to go, but I’m proud of all we’ve done to this point.

 

Here’s to progress in the next 3 years!

 

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4 Comments

  1. That is a great summary of the challenges of starting a new business, it is definitely not for the faint of heart. But with great risk there can be great rewards and it looks like you are on the cusp of reaping all that you have put into this.

    Man, I can’t imagine shelling $20k in legal fees etc and have the seller back out at the last minute. You had no legal recourse? (like be compensated for your expenses?).

    1. We’re inching closer but with new growth and positive improvements come new challenges. All-in-all it’s been an amazing journey and I’m thrilled to be traveling it with my wife. And the other thing, there’s no one to blame if I don’t enjoy going to work in the morning.

      We didn’t love spending that amount and having the deal fall through. However, if it would’ve gone through, our lives would be much different today. Personally, I’m not salty about the honest situation that came up for the seller. It really did work out in the end.

  2. Good article Mike, great read! Very exciting to hear the excitement of what you guys have made it through – great thoughts – good luck.

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