I’ve heard similar sentiments from many business owners, but it was probably Regina Leggiere who put it most plainly, speaking from recent experience. From 1995 to 2005, she had built up her SIGN A RAMA franchise in New Jersey. Then, she sold her business to join her boyfriend, another SIGN A RAMA franchisee, in Florida. For two years, she helped him build his business before taking a position as Director of National Accounts for SIGN A RAMA. She lasted almost a year.
“It’s nothing against the company,” Regina told me. “My next move was to buy another SIGN A RAMA franchise because there is no finer sign organization. I love the company, but I also love working for myself. Also, I enjoy the process of building a business and building equity in it.”
She said the second business hasn’t been easier, though: “I bought this franchise basically right as economy collapsed. With the first business, financing was much easier to find. This time, I had to self-finance the purchase. And, sales have been more of a challenge. I’ve had to do a lot more marketing this time.”
To market her business, she has:
· Convinced other local franchisees to go in on local advertising
· Hired a full-time sales person and developed a list of local businesses to cold-call
· Registered her company with the county school board as a woman-owned business; and
· Joined three Chambers of Commerce plus three networking groups, like apartment and real estate management associations: “Those are my repeat customers. They always need signs for open houses, sales, and development projects. So I’ve also advertised in the local trade publications for them.”
Regina said other challenges the recession has presented include collections and employee morale. “I often buy lunch to get the team together and keep the environment fun. I also try to keep the workload lighter on Friday afternoons, and I give extra time off whenever I can.” On collections, she said she encourages credit card payments now because she feels more secure getting payment from the credit card company than from a client’s checks. “So I know instantly whether or not the client can pay.”
On whether it was worth it to buy another business, she immediately said yes. “It’s funny that everyone thinks you’re rich when you have your own business, but you’re working harder for less money than you ever did before. Short-term returns are never what you expected, even if you’ve done it before. You have to look at it as an investment in yourself. Stick it out, the rewards will come. I know that even the toughest of days working for myself are better than the best days working for someone else.”
In recognition of March as Women’s History Month and as part of our ongoing commitment to support women business owners, American Express OPEN is producing an online resource center with information to help women business owners grow and manage their businesses. Visit OPENForum.com/women for our “New Rules for Business” Guides and additional insights from our 2010 Women’s Business Summit.
To contact Regina Leggiere (Cardmember since 1995) and SIGN A RAMA, visit www.daviesignarama.com.