When you hit a certain age, the thought of what to do in retirement can’t help but be foremost in your mind. In 2004, Charles and Diane Beeching thought their careers in newspaper circulation would soon be coming to a close due to declines in the industry. But they weren’t quite ready for retirement--and definitely not ready to hit the pavement looking for another high-stress career. “We were burned out,” explains Diane, age 55. “The newspaper industry is not what it [used to be]. It was a difficult job without any rewards.”
So, the discussion turned to the possibility of starting a business in their city. But what kind of business did the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, Georgia, need? “We had been talking and looking at some things. We even considered a mini golf course,” remembers Diane. “Then one day we were sitting in a restaurant and the waitress said to somebody there, ‘I wish there was a HoneyBaked Ham here in Peachtree City.”
A light bulb went off (“Everyone likes HoneyBaked!” says Diane), and the Beechings decided to contact HoneyBaked about opening a franchise in Peachtree City. Although that location wasn’t available, the Beechings decided to investigate the HoneyBaked franchise opportunity further and see where they could locate. “We were looking for a proven concept,” says Diane. “We had no food experience, and starting [an independent] restaurant had no appeal to us at all.” Plus, the work schedule was ideal. “We were looking to simplify [our lives] and have more freedom,” explains Diane, “[so] one of the things that drew us to HoneyBaked was that they aren’t open on Sundays.”
The couple finally settled on opening two different locations: Rome and Cartersville. “We were trying to replace both our incomes, and one store wouldn’t have done that,” says Diane. Both cities were familiar to Charles from his circulation days, and both were fairly close to another home they owned on Jekyll Island on the Georgia Coast. In 2005, after they had bought both stores, they quit their jobs. By the next year, they had purchased another location; the year after that, they took over another for a total of four stores. And it’s (almost) all in the family: A son manages one, a daughter another and Diane’s brother the third (a non-family member manages the fourth).
Not that the transition from high-powered executives with desk jobs to hands-on business owners has been easy. “It has taken us longer [to adjust] than we anticipated,” admits Diane. “We’ve seen it all.” Surviving the first year in business was a feat: “We opened the stores in November, and right away we were hit with Thanksgiving. It was a big learning curve, and we’re still learning.” There are many regulations and inspections involved with a food business, Diane says, “but we have good support. We have a field person we can always go to if we have questions.”
Being in their 50s was never an issue with their franchisor. And as far as financing goes, the couple got an SBA backed loan and never had to pull money from their 401(k) plans. “We were looking for something to fill the gap between our old jobs and retirement,” says Diane. “We preferred to have our own business as opposed to working for someone else again. And we wanted to come and go as we please—not be tied down to a certain number of days vacation. Now, we can travel as we want.”
Buying a franchise turned out to be the right decision for the Beechings. “Keeping active and staying involved is nice,” says Diane. “Our whole lives we worked hard. Being retired and not doing anything would have been difficult for both of us. We weren’t ready for that.”
6 Reasons to Buy (or Not Buy) a Franchise After Retirement
If you’re nearing retirement age but not ready to stop working, buying a franchise opportunity could be a great investment to add to your nest egg. It could even be something to pass on to your children. Before investing in any opportunity, you should always do intensive research on the franchise system. Buying a franchise when you’re nearing retirement age brings up other considerations as well. Here are some things to think about:
1. Time commitment: How much time do you want to devote to getting a business off the ground? A franchise with proven systems set up cuts down on the unknown factor, but if it’s an industry you’re not familiar with, there’s still a learning curve. If you’re nearing retirement and don’t want to go full speed ahead, you may want to look for a less time-intensive opportunity.
2. Let’s get physical: Are you physically up to the challenge of starting your own business? Will the business require a certain amount of labor you may not be fit enough for? Aging takes a toll on how much lifting, walking, bending and standing you can do, so choose an opportunity that matches your fitness level.
3. Experience counts: What experience do you bring to franchise ownership? With many years in the work force, choose a franchise that makes the most of the skills you’ve earned.
4. My way: The flip side of No. 3 above — after so many years in the work force, are you too “set in your ways” to take direction from the franchisor and follow the company’s systems? If you want to do everything your way, a franchise may not be the right choice for you.
5. Cracking the nest egg: Borrowing from your retirement fund to start your franchise can be risky. A smarter move: Look for franchise opportunities that offer financing assistance or have relationships with banks that can help finance your startup.
6. Fitting in: How does the franchisor feel about selling to someone your age? You most likely won’t face age discrimination — in fact, many franchise companies actively seek out older franchisees. Still, you need to trust your gut when it comes to the “vibe” you get from the company. If most of the other franchisees are in their 20s and 30s, this might not be the right opportunity for you.
Maria Valdez Haubrich is Chief Liaison Officer at GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Read more of her small-business articles on SmallBizDaily.com.