The two things the last few years has taught me is perspective and resiliency.
I’ve had an interesting business career thus far. Some elements blessed and other elements, well not so much. To say I’m wiser for it would be an understatement. I’ve been lucky and unlucky.
I’ve been fortunate to have some great successes and some pretty spectacular failures.
I was fortunate to be allowed to become a business owner in an office furniture dealership before the age of 30. My partner and I were able to grow our business to more than $30 million in annual revenue, have more than 60 employees and 3 separate businesses. We grew our businesses, year over year and kept the lion’s share of the profits in the company. We built up a significant amount of retained earnings which afforded us the ability to grow. Unfortunately, the growth of the business came at the sacrifice of paying off personal debt and building personal wealth. As long as the business continued to be profitable, my wealth was held in the value of our company. We were worth quite a bit…. on paper. I’m sure that’s what the people who owned Nortel and RIM stock used to say as well.
Everything looked great until 2008 hit! More money started going out than coming in. We kept optimistic that the business would turn around and probably didn’t address our costs as quickly as we should have done. In February 2010, my partner and I had gone through most of our working capital, trying to keep it going and decided to close the business. We walked away with nothing.
Being a business owner is a risky proposition at the best of times but owning a profitable business for 15+ years and walking away with nothing is not what my family or I had envisioned. I’m not bitter but wish I knew back then what I know today. I would have safeguarded that wealth, protected my assets and held other protected assets whilst leveraging my retained earnings.
At the age of 44, I was starting over financially and professionally, trying to determine what I was going to do for the next 20+ years of working. To say that I haven’t had several sleepless nights since then would be a lie. I said that in my next business venture, I would do it completely differently, and I am.
Knowledge is important but only trumped by experience. I get the opportunity to do it all again yet differently and smarter. I’m very grateful for this opportunity, and the vision and the mentorship that I’ve had over the years. Now I get to educate my business mentors. I get to show business owners the opportunity to build wealth with their businesses in ways that most were clueless about. I get to help them safeguard their future, protect their assets and allow them to focus on their businesses.
By showing them essential tax strategies, asset building techniques, creditor protecting themselves, not only helps build their nest-egg but gives them peace of mind. I am building my business in the same way that I’m teaching others to build their business. I guess this time around, I am walking the walk. If I had gone through what I went through with my first business, it wouldn’t have nearly the impact on my clients or my approach in my latest venture.
We don’t always see the pitfalls on our business journey. The road of life, as is in business, is one of unpredictability, change and challenge. Planning for unpredictability, as much as this sounds like an oxymoron is a key to managing business volatility. To find where your finish line ends, you need to discover where the finish line starts.
Chris Coulter is the Founder and President of The Finish Line Group. He works with business owners to leverage their businesses to increase their wealth, reduce corporate and personal taxes, create viable succession strategies, enable employee retention strategies and allow them to exit their businesses on their terms.
Chris’ passion for what he does evolve from the mistakes he made in his first business; by not diversifying his risk and not utilizing a lot of the opportunities within his business to create significant wealth. Chris found out the difficult way and now educates business owners on how to avoid many of his former oversights and ultimately control where their finish line ends.