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"The Small Business Professor is a site that should be bookmarked by every entrepreneur. In today's business environment, it is difficult to gather information and obtain answers to the myriad of questions that face business owners. Bruce Freeman's 'Ask the Small Business Professor' column is an excellent resource that provides guidance, up-to-the-minute information, mentoring, and more."
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The College Inn: School of Life
Many entrepreneurs start out working for others and then find they are so burned-out that even the risks of entrepreneurship pale in comparison to the sacrifices they are making for others. Many dream of opening a little bed and breakfast, reducing their stress levels and becoming masters of their own destinies. Becky Rohrer of Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, never had that dream, but she ended up making it come true in the small family-oriented town where she went to college.
After graduating from Otterbein College with a Bachelor’s in Business in 1981, Rohrer landed a job in retail jewelry sales before becoming a regional property manager managing over $200 million in properties. By the time she was 32, she was married with three step children, managing 75 people, working 65 hours a week, stressed out, overworked, and underappreciated.
When she had a baby at 35, even superwoman realized she had had enough. One day, Rohrer walked in to her boss’ office and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” Although her husband worked for the same company, no one could convince her to come back. She crawled inside herself, took care of her child, didn’t answer the phone for 3 weeks and tried to come to grips with her life. It took about six months for her to de-stress, relax and realize that she still wanted to do something outside her home.
Late in 1995, Rohrer stumbled onto a house built in 1870. At that moment, it was if a lock clicked and a door swung open in her mind – here was a home, a new life. A historic home on the main street leading to the college, it had been gutted, with no roof or windows, and left standing in preparation for remodeling by someone else who had run out of money. Walking through it, ducking bats and raccoons, she saw it in her mind, completely restored and decorated. The broken-down state of the home seemed a mirror of the way she felt on the inside; if she could restore the house, she could restore herself too. Although the home was in a restricted area which couldn’t be used for student housing, a real estate agent told her it could be used as a B&B. Rohrer wasn’t even familiar with the term and had to go to the library to figure out how to do it.
Although Rohrer’s marriage was crumbling, she asked her husband for help in getting a loan. All of her real estate training told her the location was the key, but the bank required a five year plan, so she sat down and figured it out. It was going to be a lot tougher than she had thought, but if she did absolutely everything herself, cooking, cleaning, landscaping, and management, she would make it, and for nine years, she did just that.
What kept her going was the positive feedback she received from her guests. Many of the guests return year after year and have become life-long friends. She credits some of them with helping to change her life by sharing their perspectives. When her first five year plan was complete, she made another, and fulfilled all of its goals by the ninth year. Today, Rohrer’s The College Inn can sustain both a housekeeper and a landscaper. She is writing a book about the lessons she’s learned from her guests.
The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom
Sometimes, we become our own worst enemy without even realizing it. We stumble around professionally and personally, exhausted and unhappy, hearing a litany in our heads that there is nothing that can be done to change things. Often it takes a traumatic event to wake us up to the clues all around us that we are on the wrong path. Once that happens, some find the courage to make a different way.
Many entrepreneurs have the same experience as Becky Rohrer. Suddenly, they realize they have to get out, and soon after decide that they never want to work for anyone else again. No matter what sacrifices are required, the horror of going back to that old way of life gives them strength to carry on. Rohrer exemplifies the best in entrepreneurs – she has the faith and tenacity to stick it out, doing whatever is necessary to make it, and she’s still reaching for more. Recently, she developed a new 10 year plan, one that includes travel and writing. Judging by what she’s accomplished so far, there seems little doubt that she will triumph.
- Case History: www.thecollegeinnonline.com
- Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Write a five year plan, which includes lower than expected revenue and a complete expense list.
- Could This Work For Me? No matter where you are in the entrepreneurial process, writing a five year plan can help you set and meet goals.
All of her real estate training told her the location was the key, but the bank required a five year plan...