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Through the Eyes of a Business Owner

When I was in high school, my father and step-mother moved to Pompano Beach, Florida and bought a boat rental business on Atlantic Boulevard. Thousands of people flood into southern Florida every year on vacation and renting a boat to drive up and down the inter-coastal waterway is a big attraction, so it was a pretty good business. I even had the opportunity to move down there and work for them when I was 29 years old and I loved every minute of it.

At the time, I was working for a printing company that was struggling and had to lay off several employees, me being one of them. With it being the middle of December and freezing cold in Missouri, my father didn’t have to twist my arm too hard to come down there to sunny Florida where it was 80 degrees every day. I was still single and taking a break from working a nine to five job sounded pretty appealing.

When I got down there, I spent several weeks in training, learning how to talk to potential clients, and sell them on why renting a boat would be a memorable family experience. I also learned how to run credit cards, drive the boats, clean the boats, and keep everything on the dock running smoothly at the Fort Lauderdale location where they had me working. It was hard work and long hours in the hot sun, but to me, it never felt like work. I truly enjoyed working there and was excited to get to work every day in shorts and a t-shirt.

Occasionally there would be some slow times that my father would talk to me about the business. It was obvious he enjoyed running his own business, but there were times I could see him stressing about it too. Whenever a boat would break down, parts and labor could easily eat the profits of an entire day’s work. Rainy days were typically very slow too, but the employees still had to be paid. I’m sure there were many other expenses like rent, taxes, office supplies, gasoline for the boats, and general maintenance costs. When you’re in business for yourself, every day brings a new surprise and there are certainly no steady paychecks either. On top of that, business owners rarely get a vacation, or certainly one where they can completely relax and not worry about what’s going on with the business back home.

Now that I’m running my own business in real estate, I can sympathize with my father’s elevated stress levels: employee costs, heavy taxes, office rent, advertising costs, and hundreds of other expenses that are involved in keeping the business going. Then just as you think you’re getting your head above water and feeling some success, COVID hits the world and shuts everything down. Luckily, real estate was deemed an essential business but it did affect us. Our typical booming home sales in spring were off by 30% this year and I certainly wasn’t planning for that.

Full confession though, there is not one single day in my life that I wish for that nine to five job with a regular paycheck. With home and business expenses of around $30,000 per month, I have to keep driving forward and not allow myself to sit and fret over things I can’t control. You have to really love being a business owner or it will stress you to levels you can’t imagine.

Several years ago, one of my close friends was asking me how I got paid in real estate. I guess he assumed the brokerage pays me a base salary of some sort. I looked at him and chuckled, “No, they don’t pay me anything. I spend a ton of money upfront and only get paid when a home closes. If the home sale falls through, or I don’t make enough sales this month, I don’t get a paycheck.” His eyes widened and he said, “I couldn’t live like that!” I think my response surprised him. I said, “Mark, I can’t imagine having it any other way. Yes, it’s stressful and there are lots of risks, but I love every minute of it.”

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