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Life After Entrepreneurship

12 Jul, 2012

In Chapter 6 of his Accidental Entrepreneur series, Carlos Garcia shares the after effects—both positive and negative—of his start-up company’s purchase by a larger firm

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No te preocupes, there is life after entrepreneurship. I was at the helm of my little company for 21 years. As a Hispanic entrepreneur I had gotten very used to it, perhaps too used to it. In many ways I had become complacent, and a lot of that feverish ambition had mellowed out. Early on, my big failing was not delegating enough, and eventually my big failing became delegating too much. Surely there is a happy mid-point, but when you are knee-deep in the day-to-day stuff of your business life, it’s hard to have any perspective on it.

There are probably as many ways to end your entrepreneurial life as there are ways to begin it. You can give it to your kids, you can sell it to your employees, you might have to reorganize (chapter 11) or just have to shut it down (chapter 7). You might sell it for a billion dollars, or you might sell it to a larger firm and earn out your proceeds. I stumbled into the latter.

If I could do it all over again, I would have done many things differently, including people I shouldn’t have hired, people I should have sought to join us, deal points I should have insisted on and others I should never have agreed to. But, I suppose, life is like that.

It’s probably a lot like a talented carpenter who decides to build a house. The carpentry comes easily enough, but then there’s the plumbing (HR/employee management/IT), the electrical (accounting), permitting (legal), roofing (insurance), painting (graphic services), landscaping (Web presence), securing supplies (marketing), etc., that the carpenter might not have been all that familiar with. By the time the house is finished, with all of the room additions, misshapen bay windows, towers sticking up here and there and angular decks overlooking the overgrown garden, it might have a rather odd shape to it. The point being that by the time it was done the carpenter would finally know how to go about building a house. Ideal for serial entrepreneurs, I suppose.
Struggling through the Great Recession was not fun. Having to lay off cherished employees was difficult. Negotiating the sale of the company was even more difficult. But giving my remaining employees a good shot at a big career was very satisfying in and of itself. What I could not have anticipated was how much I would enjoy being a part of a bigger organization and interacting with my new colleagues.

Reactions

The reaction by the marketplace to the purchase of my little company by the “big boutique” firm was spectacular. It turns out a lot of people did know about us and had a good impression of us. Those factors coupled with the capabilities, resources and depth on the bench of the bigger firm, resulted in a match made in heaven. It definitely helped that we really did personally like the people in our acquiring firm and that we had a similar professional ethic–do excellent work and exceed client expectations. The cultures of our firms were a perfect match, and even though we had a huge amount to learn about how larger companies run their affairs (and nine months later, I still do), we are slowly figuring it all out and having a great time doing great work for a lot of companies.

And then the firm that acquired us was acquired by a global giant–the fifth largest survey research firm in the world. So here we go again–lots of new procedures, rules and processes, but happily, a similar professional ethic. I can work with that. What I didn’t want was a company run by the bean counters. I love frijoles as much as the next Mexican, but do they have to rule the roost? No, as important as financial issues most certainly are, you don’t achieve your financial goals by only thinking about your financial goals–you get there by doing great work, making your clients thrilled and thus willing to pay for your services, by loving what you do and letting that show.

In part two of this chapter, I’ll share lessons learned from the afterlife. Hispanic Entrepreneur Lessons Afterlife

About the author

Carlos E. Garcia
Carlos E. Garcia

Carlos E. Garcia, born to Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in East Los Angeles and attended Pomona College, UC Berkeley and National University (BA, MA and MBA respectively). He has over thirty years of experience in the field of US Hispanic consumer research, twenty one years at the helm of his own company, Garcia Research. He is now SVP at GfK: Knowledge Networks, where he heads up their Hispanic research efforts.

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