Business Ownership Isn’t For Everybody…Unless Your Parents Are Buying You One

Aug 4, 2010

For those of you who own your recruiting business, do you remember the first day you either figuratively or literally opened your doors? What a special moment – becoming your own boss. You call the shots. You are fully responsible for your own success (or failure!). You put your hard-earned money, probably almost all you had at the time, into opening your business with aspirations of seeing it grow and prosper. Your business is something you can be proud of, because it’s all yours.

However, there seems to be a new (and somewhat disturbing to me!) trend on the rise with new college graduates. The Pew Research Center recently released a report showing that unemployment is the highest it’s been in more than three decades amongst 18-29 year-olds. According to an article I read yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, some parents are now purchasing businesses for their new graduates, since the job prospects for most new college graduates these days are pretty grim.

While the WSJ certainly puts a happy spin on this new trend, I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea of buying a [child] [college graduate] grown adult an entire business as a gift. When I graduated college, I got a $50 savings bond that has yet to mature so I can cash it in. There certainly is something to be said about working for what you have in life and taking pride in the journey. But perhaps I am just bitter or jealous because my parents didn’t buy me a franchise when I graduated. (with honors… just saying) I guess I missed the part where business ownership is a privilege, because apparently for some it is an entitlement.

“…some parents I interviewed described it as a way of recapturing for their children a stake in “the American dream”—the opportunity to control their destiny and have a chance at gaining wealth.”

Last time I checked, the American Dream was something you actually had to work for, not something you were gifted.

Sure, some of the scenarios discussed in the article say that the parents have structured their ‘benevolence’ as a loan and deferred repayment. Others “took stock in the business, with an agreement that their child would use future earnings to buy it back.” No matter how I see this, it looks to me like a continuation of the Helicopter Parent problem.

Even though I have never owned a recruiting company, I have been a business owner in the past. I used to sell corporate gifts – you know, things you give to your employees to honor their tenure, or stuff that you can present to your clients for holidays and such. This business was incredibly successful for about 4 years. But to achieve that success I had to work hard to service my clients and keep them happy. And I bought into my business with my own money, so I had a sense of pride in ownership. Unless the graduating child has expressed a desire to be an entrepreneur, I cannot see how buying a business for your kid is in anyone’s best interest. Barbara Taylor, blogger for the New York Times and co-owner of a business brokerage called Synergy Business Services, says,

“Rather than setting them up for successful careers as small business owners, these parents could be setting their children up for a lifetime of expecting handouts from mom and dad in the form of a business that guarantees them a job.”

I’ve spoken with several of you who own your recruiting businesses. Whether they are franchise offices or stand-alone operations, you face many of the same issues: hiring staff, office space, paying taxes, marketing and selling your services, producing quality products (i.e. placing excellent candidates) – the list goes on and on. Most of you had some experience in one or more of these areas before venturing out on your own, so you knew some of the pitfalls of what you were getting yourselves into. I haven’t spoken to a single one of you who was just handed the keys to your kingdom. Perhaps your parents started the business and you’ve inherited it after spending years working alongside them and learning how to properly run it – but I have yet to talk to a recruiting business owner whose business was bought for them by their parents. I have to believe there is a reason for this…

So what I’d like to hear from each of you is your story on how you started your business! Tell us about the good and the bad, because you have to go through rough times in order to fully appreciate the good. Anyone worth their salt in this line of work understands this. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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