05 Jun How this business went from dark days to being almost debt-free
After spending the entirety of their professional lives working with kids, Barbra and Gordon Bryan were ready to try something new. They knew they wanted to continue their work with children, but they also wanted to build something meaningful that they could retire on.
When Barbra read an article about The Goddard School, a national network of early childhood schools, she thought this would be the perfect opportunity to really make a difference by influencing a generation.
For several years, Barbra and Gordon toyed with the idea of joining — and when a franchise became available in their North Carolina town of Mooresville, they jumped on the chance. They sank their retirement savings into the purchase and set out full of hope.
After underestimating some costs, Barbra and Gordon found themselves quickly underwater in the early days of their entrepreneurship — coming scarily close to losing their life savings.
Here’s how they turned things around and are now on the road to profitability.
A new hope
Although franchising doesn’t come with as many risks as building a business from the ground up – given that it’s about replicating and selling a proven business model – that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Barbra and Gordon purchased the franchise when it was six months old and came across many challenges early-on. Barbra describes the transition “like drinking out of a firehouse.”
“There were already employees and policies in place,” Barbra says.
“I had to get the right directors and teachers in place. Going through turnover while trying to get the right people in the right positions was a huge challenge.”
Barbra says, although the business’s numbers looked great in the beginning, “they weren’t realistic.” Unexpected costs of running a business like wholesales and marketing put them into financial decline. She says a lot of new entrepreneurs, herself included, don’t realize the magnitude of running a business.
In her 40 years working for corporate America, Barbra was accustomed to having specialized in-house Payroll, HR and IT departments, she now did all of those functions herself. She says being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart.
“Being a business owner is not for wimps,” Barbra advises.
“This is why most small businesses fail — people aren’t prepared to take on all the roles necessary, or they don’t have the skill set to do so. It’s a real transition for people.”
The unexpected costs started adding up as time went by. Without a contingency plan, Barbra and Gordon had to borrow finance to cover the shortfalls. Before long, the business was being crippled by repayments — reaching the point where they were unable to pay themselves from month to month.
In the middle of it all, their accountant retired and they had to look for a replacement.