Why retail businesses suck …

My blogging friend, JD Roth posted a great reader question recently on his super-popular Get Rich Slowly blog:

I’ve been at the same job since I graduated from college nearly ten years ago. Lately I’ve lost the passion for what I do and am aching for something completely different. I want to start a retail shop.

Two problems:

  1. I’m paid well here, so I’m going to have to figure out how to make this transition in a way that won’t hurt the family’s finances.
  2. I don’t have any real business training, and the thought of keeping books for the business gives me stomach pains.  But there are resources out there to help with the logistical side of running a (retail) business, and I know where I need help and will pay for it (accounting, interior decorator, etc.).

Well, this reader is exactly where I was not that long ago … nearly 10 years into a high-flying corporate career – with all the perks that go along with it (cars, travel, expense accounts) – and, I got bitten with the entrepreneurial bug …

… just like getting bitten by a mosquito and catching West Nile (the non-fatal form!), once you get it, it’s almost impossible to shake off.

So, I have a question for this reader … in fact, it’s probably the most important question that he needs to answer before going INTO this (or any) business:

Who are you going to sell it to when you finally decide to get out?

If his answer is: “whoever wants to buy my retail store” …

… then I suggest that he doesn’t even start, because he will effectively be trading his high-paying corporate job (with perks) for a low paying, slave-labor ‘job’ in retail.

Retail sucks because: there are way too many overheads; your balls are tied up in leases and inventory; and, you’ll be working 60 – 80 hr workweeks for the rest of your life.

BUT, if the reader can honestly & passionately answer with something like:

“Well, I have a unique niche/vision, so I’ll be opening my first store in 2008; 3 more in 2010 and 50 across the Eastern seaboard by 2015, then I’ll IPO or sell to Sears”

… he just MAY have an opportunity worth pursuing!

The reader then went on to ask:

The bigger issues, I think, are how to get from where I am now — sitting behind a desk doing the job I’ve been doing for 10 years — and getting the momentum going to really make this happen (and to not fail at it, leaving me jobless and penniless).

No, Little Grasshopper … if you have the passion, and can feel it in your bones … and, if it is REALLY an opportunity worth pursuing … then you are either all wet or all dry …

… you need to have a financial buffer (well, I started even without that … but, then again, I’m one crazy dude!), then get out and Just Do It!

You will NEVER start a retail business like this whilst still working full-time … there are just too many roadblocks in your way: scouting for locations; negotiating leases; sussing out the competition; negotiating with suppliers; hiring your first employees; sucking up to the bank manager; and, so on.

Would I start a retail business … unlikely.

How would I start a business today … exactly the same way that I am now starting two:

Come up with an Internet-based business concept; look for partners who can build the business for equity; put up a little seed money; and, stay in my day job as long as possible (well, this last step doesn’t apply to me … but, you get my point?).

Then I’d cross my fingers, close my eyes, and jump right in 🙂

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