Saturday, December 21, 2013

Want to Buy a Business, Ask Your Wife

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a friend who is transitioning out of the Coast Guard after a 4-year career as a senior cook. He has been in charge of the Galley at Portsmouth, New Hampshire Station for the last three years and has done a remarkable job there.

The Coasties actually like the food he makes, and according to the Sr. Chief, anyone who can eliminate complaints around the station is a big help. My friend's reason for sending me the email is that he is evaluating his future, and has found a bed and breakfast for sale on the oceanfront in Maine. He is considering the purchase of the place as the next chapter in his life—which amounts to about 27 years so far. He has a wife and three small children, and presently lives off base, so he is used to paying rent and having the family around him when he’s not at the station.

At the station he has an assistant chef (FS-3), and some enlisted folks who help out in the scullery and maintenance of the Mess Deck. He is responsible for developing menus, buying the produce and ordering the food stocks. He also schedules the work week so that either he or the assistant will be there for all 21 meals a week. Generally their hours are from 6AM to 6PM, and they divide the work with some overlaps.

As a Realtor and a friend, he asked my opinion as to whether buying the bed and breakfast was a good idea—and of course I was happy to throw in my 2 cents. What follows is a part of my reply: …you have obviously done your homework on how the business plan would work. My suspicion is you would be the "breakfast" guy, and the family would all pitch in regarding the "bed" portion of the equation. If you decide to move forward with this project, your next few years will be the stuff of a novel, so take notes. But even if you have ruled it out, no doubt your entrepreneurial spirit will rise to the top like cream in skim milk and another opportunity will find you.

Oddly, when the time is right, and you are listening to hear opportunity knock, OMG, there it is! I wanted as a friend to give you the best kind of advice I got from a very high priced lawyer who I engaged to keep me out of trouble. I approached him with a business plan and asked him to look it over for any weaknesses that I might have missed. He asked me, "are you going to do this?" and I said, "I want your opinion, is this something that seems like a good idea to you?" He said his opinion was his opinion and it was based on his life, his age, his resources and his willingness to take risks.

And he said that he couldn't help me one way or the other until I had decided what I was going to do. His role was not to decide what I would be good at, but rather to limit my risk once I had made my decision. I was not happy with the answer, but over time I have come to see he was right.

So I wrote to my friend, that if you're going forward, go with 100% of your energy and brainpower. Be careful not to have one foot in the boat and one foot on the dock. If you are half-hearted about this, you will fail. I know family is important to you, as it always was to me, which means your wife needs to be equally committed. A commitment of this sort is going to mean you will have time for the family around the building and you might get out to some of the kids T-ball games or scouts but you'll have little time for vacations and travel.

If you're good with that, just know that's what to expect. And finally, I told him my wife and I may need a place to stay when we are "up north”, so let me know what happens, if he moves forward, I’ll post his address. Dane Hahn is a real estate professional with Sarasota Realty Associates in Venice, FL. You can reach him at 941-681-0312 or by email at See him on the web at

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