Hard times float entrepreneurial dreams

By ED MERRIMAN, Baker City Herald October 17, 2008 03:12 pm

Baker City Herald/John Collins
Baker City Herald/John Collins
These rocky economic times, when companies are tightening budgets and cutting staff, might be the perfect time for people to reach for their entrepreneurial dreams.

Kari Waldhaus, a business coach with The Entrepreneur’s Source in Baker City, said there’s always opportunities for people with the right combination of skills and ambition to take control of their future through business ownership.

“The unemployment rate has soared within the past several months. Yet there are opportunities that can be pursued in business ownership, particularly in the franchise sector,” Waldhaus said.

“I provide a no-cost coaching service to help people find the right business,” Waldhaus said. “We have over 400 franchise businesses in all shapes and sizes across 80 different industries — everything from fast food and restaurants to service businesses.”

“There is a franchise out there for anyone that will fit their objectives and goals,” Waldhaus said.

 

Rather than charging the clients who come to her for business coaching services, Waldhaus gets paid a fee by the franchise firms when one of her clients is awarded a franchise.

She also offers a business coaching service.

“I coach individuals who are considering self-employment as a career alternative and want to explore the possibilities,” Waldhaus said.

Her clients range from people who are interested in new challenges, frustrated with their current job or career path, are wanting to develop an alternative source of income or who are unemployed due to downsizing, rightsizing or capsizing, to people who are interested in doing something they love.

 Those are some of the situations Waldhaus has seen motivate people to pursue their dreams of self-employment in good or bad economic times.

All too often, Waldhaus said fear of the unknown, fear of where their next paycheck will come from or fear of failure keeps people from taking the step from being an employee to owning a business.

“Seventy-five percent of the working population would like to be their own boss, but as little as 4 percent will move ahead to do that,” Waldhaus said.

Waldhaus reminds those folks held back by fear that 50 percent of all millionaires in the United States started out as small business owners.

She attributes her interest in becoming a career coach in part to a segment on Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show, which prompted business owners to seek out business coaches.

“There’s two kinds of people who go into business. There’s the true entrepreneurs who really know how to run a business, and there’s people who have an entrepreneurial seizure while working for someone else, baking pies or repairing cars, and one day they say ‘Hey, I can repair cars. I’m going to open a repair shop.’ ”

“The latter think they have gone into business for themselves, but they find out they just bought themselves a job,” Waldhaus said. “What happens is the business winds up owning them, rather than them having a business vehicle for the lifestyle they want.”

Part of her role as a business coach involves coaching people to help them learn what it takes to start and run a business successfully, whether it winds up being a franchise business or something they start from scratch.

“If you have an entrepreneurial seizure, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a success running a business, but you have to learn how to run a business,” Waldhaus said.

Unlike a business adviser who visits a business, looks around, talks to the owners and submits a report of recommendations on how to improve things, Waldhaus likens her role as a business coach to the coach of a football team.

“We’re there on the sidelines giving them instructions. We don’t walk away in the middle of the game,” Waldhaus said. “We don’t just hand you a report. We are there to help you implement things to help make your business more efficient and successful,” she said.

Since moving to Baker City and opening her Entrepreneur’s Source business in March 2007, Waldhaus said she has coached numerous business owners and would-be business owners, and in the process helped about a dozen people find franchises across the country.

Most of her work with clients outside the area is done over the phone or on the Internet. In her most recent success, Waldhaus helped a client in North Carolina find a franchise business that launched an entrepreneurial dream. 

“I’m still looking for my first one (person to be awarded a franchise) in Baker City,” Waldhaus said.

In addition to running a business, Kari is president of the Baker City Rotary Club, treasurer of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce, a board member of the Baker County Economic Development Commission, a member of the Women in Search of Excellence, advocacy chairwoman for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Baker City, and a board member for the Baker Economic Growth Initiative (BEGIN).

She said the current economic crisis has opened people’s eyes to just how uncertain jobs and careers can be, especially with large corporations.

Gone are the days when individuals worked for one or two employers and then retired with a gold watch, a comfortable lifetime pension and full benefits. In the future, Waldhaus said, long-term financial security will be gained through individuals managing their own careers, including self-employment and other alternative career options.

Before she moved to Baker City and launched her Entrepreneur’s Source business, Waldhaus said she lived the high life as a financial adviser for AIG, the global insurance and investment firm notorious for taking an $85 billion government bailout earlier this month and then lavishing $400,000 on a Florida spa retreat for corporate executives.

Waldhaus said she’s glad she left her lucrative position with AIG in March of 2007 before the subprime lending crisis brought down AIG, Lehman Bros., Washington Mutual and other national and international banks and investment firms down.

Waldhaus said she knows about the excesses enjoyed during the financial markets heyday.

“I attended one of those retreats,” she said.

Prior to working for AIG, Waldhaus had a successful career as a financial adviser in Hawaii responsible for investing $150 million in assets, 401(k) investments and other funds for the two largest banks in Hawaii.

Now, her focus has shifted from investing money to helping people.

“I have two types of clients, people looking to start a business and people already in business who want to bring their business to the next level,” Waldhaus said.

Despite jobless rates topping  6 percent in September, Waldhaus said small business ownership in franchising has proven to be a thriving outlet for downsized professionals or career changers to pursue.

As a business coach with The Entrepreneur’s Source, Waldhaus said she is eager to help people discover the right business for their goals, needs and expectations.

At The Entrepreneur’s Source office Waldhaus also provides executive coaching about regulations and other issues involved in opening a new business, communications and leadership, market and business planning, exiting a business, increasing profitability, expanding operations and exploring various types of business where franchise agreements are available.

“With our new strategic partner, E-Myth Worldwide, using the business success systems we can help small business owners develop the strategic knowledge to start a business or take an existing business to the next level of success,” Waldhaus said.

Waldhaus uses what she calls a “discovery process” to help people explore business options and uncover possibilities that match their personal objectives and income goals.  According to Waldhaus, about a third of the people who are helped by The Entrepreneur’s Source become an owner of a business they would have never considered.

She said the other two-thirds decide after five to 10 weeks of discussions and coaching sessions that going into a franchise business is not their cup of tea and decide to continue to work as an employee or take another path to business ownership.

Nationwide, The Entrepreneur’s Source has been a reliable source for all things entrepreneurial for 24 years, especially for business executives seeking a career change. Waldhaus said the company has been the premier source for self-employment options, franchise information, education and training.

Whether she is helping a client find a franchise business or coaching existing business owners to help them take their business to a higher level, Waldhaus said her new line of work is rewarding.

“I like being my own boss, having flexible work hours and the ability to live in such a great community,” Waldhaus said. “It’s rewarding, especially when you help people do something that changes their life.”

For more information on The Entrepreneur’s Source in Baker City, contact Waldhaus toll-free at 877-523-4672.