The dream was simple, to buy a business that served the community, provided some social good, freed me from my day job, and provided a (mostly) stable income. Simple, right?
My husband and I did our research, picked the industry we wanted to be in, made inroads with several brokers (it’s harder to get them to respond to your calls than you would think), and finally found one that would work. It wasn’t convenient, but we figured we could make it work. It was (so they said) absentee run, and I was ready to quit my day job, so the plan was for me to check in on it once or twice a week.
The first few days of being a business owner were amazingly exciting. I suddenly had employees and customers and people handing me money. I was surprised by the volume of cash, and then a little terrified of walking around with so much money. I threw the cash in my purse and was terrified of stopping at the grocery store on the way home because what if people knew that I had thousands of dollars in my purse (we very quickly invested in a safe at the business).
I needed to upgrade some of the furniture so I met with a local, small business owner who made the furniture I needed and haggled my way into a better deal.
I, having been an accountant in my former life, was suddenly tracking my own business’ income and expenses.
It was everything I thought it would be.
Then Friday came and the weekly payroll needed to be processed, and I realized that I had not collected enough money to cover the payroll. No problem, I thought, we had funds available to get us through the startup phase.
But based on everything we had seen during the inspection of books and records, there should have been enough money.
Turns out, we had been told a lot of lies, and we had not known enough to catch the red flags in the information we were given.
I wish I could say that things unraveled quickly thereafter and the whole experience was a minor footnote in my life. But for two and a half years, we struggled through it. We invested more money in the business, we dealt with regulatory issues that had been swept under the rug, I took over daily management of the business, I drove a lot to make it work…