Change is Scary, But Worth It
Along with my advisory practice, I also co-own a wine store with my wife. She operates it with the help of a manager. It might seem like a strange combination, but a few factors weighed in our decision to make the purchase. Twenty plus years ago, we had agreed to split our areas of responsibility. I would focus on building my career in the investment industry. Phoebe would concentrate on running the household.
With our son attending college out of state and our daughter soon to obtain her driver’s license, we knew that Phoebe needed something to fill her time. Going back into a corporate setting was out of the question. She had left her communications job with a utility company at the beginning of the launch of some of the greatest technology advances in history. It would have been too much to ask her to drop back into that environment.
So, the question to answer was what are her strengths? The answer came quickly. She is the quintessential people person. She loves engaging with people. Now, how do you get paid for that skill? We had to find a situation that aligned with her strengths. After some thought, I realized I could leverage my college experience of managing a liquor store to provide her with that platform.
The next step was to find a situation that made the most sense. We were not desperate, so we could be quite choosy. Location was key. Little to no commute time was a top priority. It had to be in a moderately affluent area with upside potential. It had to be a situation where Phoebe could work about 30 hours a week.
The internet, of course, made the search amazingly easy. Bizbuysell.com was the source of most of my leads. In a little over a month, I found a business for sale just 10 minutes away. Six months later we owned a store.
Of course, there was quite a bit of back and forth over those six months. Closing the sale during the pandemic only added to the complexity. We lucked out that the seller was forthright throughout the process and provided every statement and reporting we requested.
Amazingly, the operation of a liquor store has changed little since my managing one in college. Margins have changed little since that time, so it only takes some attention to detail to ensure profitable cash flow. If you enjoy customer service, retail hours and have a personal interest in the product anyone can run a successful operation.
Technology has made some things much swifter and simpler to do, but it is still about treating customers with respect and attention. This is where Phoebe excels. Along with her easy demeanor and welcoming smile, she is a craft beer afficionado. Her wine knowledge is rapidly expanding. Although, she was opposed to the idea of her running a store she finally acquiesced. Her initial trepidation has flipped into being an avid owner/operator. She is one of the lucky few to really enjoy their jobs.
The only major challenge has been finding good help. The employee we inherited is amazing and we pay him accordingly. In trying to add an additional employee, we have had no luck. Many prospects have showed interest, but often do not show up for an interview. We have since been told that in order for unemployed people to continue to get the additional pandemic benefits, they must demonstrate they are looking for work. By applying, they meet that hurdle. It seems like government officials should re-take an economics class on the impact of incentives.
During a time of great upheaval, we have been fortunate to be able to transition to a new phase. There was risk involved, but all change is risky. It can also provide opportunity. With some experience and capital expenditure, we can say we found a perfect spot for Phoebe. Come visit her at Grapes & Grains Beverage Store, 2320 York Road, Lutherville-Timonium, MD.
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