If you are thinking that maybe you want to start a business to solve your professional dilemma these stories might help you get the inspiration to go ahead.



It was about five years ago when the trend toward my clients choosing to go into business really accelerated. I learned early on that it didn't pay to assume a business wasn't feasible just because it was unusual.

Almost always, when people approached an insuror and requested assistance in getting a business off the ground or buying into one, they had valid reasons for believing in the business. And they often had special talents or knowledge that gave them an edge.

But even in those few cases where they didn't, they had determination, and that's the single factor that impressed me the most. One way or another, all of these people were determined to get into a business.

Some built that determination only after they realized they couldn't get a job they would like. Others had it from the start. Regardless, they persevered, often despite obstacles, until they were in a business.

And that business just seemed to fit them, even if it was one they hadn't thought about until after they had first considered other businesses. In retrospect, we'd wonder why it wasn't the first business they looked at, it would seem such a natural.

I suppose going through the search was a method of forcing themselves to focus on what they really wanted. Score one for the Close Encounters approach.

Here are some stories about people who started or purchased businesses. Unfortunately, the nature of my relationships with clients is such that I'm there to assist them at a certain critical time, but normally we don't maintain contact after that.

At least I know they started off on the right foot, with a sound plan, enough capital to last them until projected breakeven, and an analysis that indicated they had a reasonable chance to succeed.

The Ultimate Test of The Close Encounter Approach?

As I've mentioned earlier, my basic approach with clients is to help them find something to get excited about, then provide them whatever they need to "get close" to it, so they can find out firsthand whether they still want it when they're "up close" to it.

If the chosen option loses its appeal, that's considered progress, because we've eliminated a "phantom option" and can proceed to get close to the next one, and so on, until we find the one that's right. I call this approach Close Encounter With Stated Goals.

In most instances, after two or three "close encounters," we're able to find a suitable option. But not so with Dan V in the Pacific Northwest. His is an interesting case in many ways, not just because it required so many "close encounters," but because of the range of emotional reactions and belief systems he went through.

In the beginning I had to do much more pushing than I'm accustomed to, but by the end, he was pulling me along with his enthusiasm.

Dan was a self-employed tree cutter in his late 30s who developed back and leg pain after an operation for herniated discs. He could no longer cut trees, but in theory at least there were other types of jobs he could perform.

We concentrated initially on finding a job, but jobs are not plentiful in the part of the country where he lives. Almost all timber related jobs have disappeared, and the region is not densely populated. It would require an intense effort. Yet it was difficult to get him to cooperate.

He put very little information on my forms, other than to say that all he'd ever done was cut trees. Relying on my own knowledge of what it takes to run a business of that nature, I put together a resume for him that showed he had experience in sales, customer relations, bidding, operations, administration, project management, supervision, and quality standards.

The resume positioned him as someone who could manage all or part of the operations of many different types of small businesses, since that appeared to be the option which held the most promise.

As I often do, I also created letters to show him how he could take the first step in communicating with people, using the four basic action avenues we had discussed. When I got no response, I figured something was wrong, so I called. I remember the conversation well, because I was traveling on business in Florida at the time.

It was one of those knock-down, drag-out conversations with a lot of long pauses, a type I don't especially enjoy. He just wouldn't believe he had those skills I'd highlighted, or that he could really manage some aspect of another person's business.

I kept going back to the facts, asking him if he hadn't done this or that, and he had to admit that he had. But in his mind, that didn't mean he could do it for someone else in a different business.

The conversation was a standoff at best. My bottom line on it was that if he truly couldn't function outside tree cutting, and there were no jobs in tree cutting, we'd be foolish to take any actions at all. But I let him know I didn't share his beliefs and didn't agree with the limits he had placed on himself.

I received this referral in March, and it took me until May to convince him he could in good faith present himself as someone capable of managing a business, or even part of it.

And the only reason I could achieve that was because the insuror was good enough to make a special provision to reimburse him for travel and childcare expenses while he worked free-of-charge if necessary for two months while he learned someone's business. We had to offer that in order to take away his many objections - shamed him into it, in a sense.

Taking action has a way of putting things in proper perspective. As he began to make direct personal contacts with business owners and managers, he gradually developed greater appreciation for his array of talents and the variety of business settings in which they could be profitably applied.

He could actually see himself contributing in auto parts, highway construction, retail clothing, a deli / food store, an electronics distributor, sporting goods store, and others he got close to.

Problem was, even with his wife working, money was tight. Most jobs would leave him financially worse off than staying on benefit, the classic financial disincentive. Relocation was out of the question for a number of reasons. His small town offered few opportunities, the nearest sizable town was over 40 miles away, and a major city was twice that distance.

Despite these obstacles, we had now developed some momentum. The distance you cover when you go from believing you have nothing to offer, to believing you have something to offer but no place to sell it, is infinite.

We discussed the practical realities of job search and concluded he might be better off if he could offer to purchase all or part of a business, instead of just trying for a job. I got back to the insuror and they agreed that, if we could find a suitable business I evaluated as feasible, they'd be positively disposed to consider a settlement.

Which was good news, except that his circumstances and policy terms indicated only a relatively small settlement, not enough to acquire most businesses. I wasn't able to provide him anything but a broad range as guidance, but suggested he proceed nevertheless, and he did.

The businesses he looked at included a fish farm, trailer park, espresso bars, delis, and a variety of retail and wholesale businesses. His frustration grew as businesses either didn't fit him emotionally, in the sense that he couldn't relate to them, or more often the case, he simply couldn't afford them. In that part of the country, successful businesses sold at higher multiples than the norm.

He'd now had well over a dozen "close encounters," and was beginning to doubt whether he'd ever find anything he could enjoy that would also meet his financial goals.

So far we'd struck out on jobs, and on buying into existing businesses, so I suggested he look into starting a business another client in that part of the country had operated, the mobile mill business, where you truck a sawmill to a site and turn logs into lumber for customers, or sell the wood to someone else.

I provided written details of how the business worked, the cost structure, markets, and cost of entry, which was relatively low. We also discussed how he could operate it differently from the other fellow, because they were in quite different circumstances.

Enthusiasm took hold, and this once sullen client turned into an upbeat, optimistic, confident person, who thoroughly researched the business and lined up customers who would definitely buy in quantities and at prices that would virtually guarantee the desired profit levels.

He had to nail down only one thing - a dependable source of supply of fallen trees - and he knew from past experience that the Forest Service sold more than enough on a regular basis, at exceptionally low prices.

Or at least he thought he knew. Anything can be taken to an extreme. The environmental laws are basically necessary, and there for a good reason, but in this case they'd been taken to an extreme.

The amount of paperwork the Forest Service is required to fill out for environmental purposes is now so great that they refuse to sell access to fallen trees unless a large contract is involved. Otherwise, it just doesn't pay, and they'd prefer to let the wood rot on the ground. Scratch the mobile mill business. Who could have guessed - plenty of willing customers, but no source of supply!

At this point I had frankly run out of ideas. But my client had transformed from the reluctant job seeker to the indefatigable pursuer of business opportunities.

Once again, my theory comes into play, that when people expend a great deal of energy and emotion pursuing something, and almost make it happen but it doesn't work out, then inevitably something else will pop up very quickly that is just as appealing.

Theory or no, in this case it happened. Three women, friends of the client's wife, had built a part-time business over the past three years, silk screening T-shirts, children's items, and corporate gifts and clothing, to the point where it made a profit of about ,000.

But it was taking over their lives, requiring all their spare time, and they wanted to sell it - for about the amount of money it made in a year, which was just a little more than the equipment cost!

My client was very active in Little League and other children's sports, and had been an athlete in school as well as in a semi-pro league. In years past a relative with a sporting goods store had been successful in selling uniforms to athletic teams, traveling throughout the region selling to schools and municipalities.

The current owner of the sporting goods store didn't go after that business, and didn't want to. My client figured he could travel the region, take advantage of his many sports-related contacts, and supplement the existing silk screen business with uniform sales.

The more he researched it, the better it looked. Coaches he knew gave him virtual commitments. The sporting goods store was happy to purchase the uniforms for him from the best supplier, for a small percentage of the profits. (That supplier sold only to sporting goods stores.)

Taverns and softball teams said they'd buy. Golf courses were interested. And businesses liked the idea of the personal attention and speed of delivery he offered. The three women would make sure he kept all existing accounts.

Based on his input and some information I asked him to gather, I put together a simple plan and analysis with income projections and startup costs. It showed he had a reasonable chance to reach his financial goals in this business he was so excited about, if a settlement could provide enough for startup costs and a supplement to his first six months' earnings.

The analysis indicated an absolute minimum amount required for feasibility, another amount that I considered more adequate, and another larger amount that the client said he would like.

The insuror came back with an offer for the amount I considered adequate, the client was obviously pleased and outspokenly appreciative for the assistance he'd gotten, and as for me - I thanked my Guardian Angel !!! Maybe that's giving the angel too much credit, but we had help from somewhere on this one.

The Rehab Coordinator showed extreme patience, and the insuror was willing to go the extra mile when it meant go or no-go. It was a happy ending all around, but I'll be honest, I wouldn't wish that one on myself again. It's hard to believe the whole thing lasted less than six months. It seemed like years. And more close encounters than even a space alien would welcome.

Would You Believe A Family Reunion Yearbook Publishing Company?

Many times during the past few years, after listening to one of my rehab customers describe the business being planned by an insured, I was convinced the business had little or no chance of success, and figured I'd do the person a good turn by persuading them to look at other options. I've learned not to jump to quick conclusions anymore.

Why? Well, would you believe a family reunion yearbook publishing company, proposed by a fellow who had been a Ranch Manager? I figured it was some guy putting together a few pages for friends, who mistakenly thought he could make a business out of it. Rick B had other ideas.

How was I to know that just 30 miles from his home in rural Arkansas there was a now-famous entertainment city, and a nearby center that hosted hundreds of family reunions every year, each with hundreds of participants and 150 decision makers who were happy to spend each for a book?

And who would suspect that it only costs a fraction of that amount per book before printing, and this you collect up front? And that the "Ancestral Fair," a kind of convention for these reunion people, had over 800 people register?

And that you can get to these people with no expensive advertising? And that Rick was skilled enough in computer operation to turn out a truly superior competitive book?

As it turns out, financial projections for the first 24 months were so impressive, Rick would be earning more in this business than he did on his job, if he did just 30% of what we expected he could do.

Sure, he had some pain and some limited mobility, but not so much that he couldn't operate this business. I believe he would have found a way to operate it regardless of any physical limitations in his way. It was too good a business not to.

And Then There Was Bill H, Who Wanted to Build and Repair Bamboo Fishing Rods.

Nice dream, I thought, Bill's idea of semi-retirement. Really didn't look forward to bursting his bubble. Turns out I needn't have worried.

How was I to know there was a catalog that sold out in 16 weeks its entire stock of bamboo fishing poles, and that they would cut a deal with Bill where they would do all the marketing and advertising and give him a percentage of the profit that would nearly equal his previous income if he made just half the poles he was capable of making?

And how was I to know Bill was smart enough to check out potential competition, all three of them in the U.S., and learn that they were all doing very nicely, thank you, and that they were increasing their prices as they got better known? And that people would spend more on those poles than I would on a bicycle? And that the raw materials might be purchased for ?

I managed to raise a number of good questions, but he went and got the answers. I understand he settled, and went into this unusual but viable business.

Here's One of My Favorites ..... Horse Art.

Betty S in California is a charming woman with lupus. Formerly a graphic arts supervisor, she also did beautiful artwork, but only about horses, and wondered if she could make a business of it. Initial discussions indicated she might have a chance marketing clothing and other items to the horse show market, so I called in a woman to work with me who knows horses and clothing.

That was two years ago. From a standing start, and working only as long and hard as her lupus would allow, Betty built a network of suppliers, became knowledgeable about pricing, gained some publicity, enjoyed a lot of referral work, and stands a good chance of earning a significant profit within the next two years.

That's a long time by some standards, but when you compare it to the alternative, sitting around doing nothing, it's not so bad. My involvement here was minimal ... a simple plan of action, a lot of encouragement, identifying the right sub-consultant, coordinating her input, and providing a few good ideas here and there.

Like most successful clients, she needed only a few months of concentrated effort, and then she was off on her own, with just an occasional call. She's one of dozens of people around the country who consider me a good friend, whom I never get to meet face-to-face. Thankfully, the phone does a good job of conveying the spirit, and that counts for more than faces.

Coffee and Sandwiches, Anyone?

Does history repeat itself? In the case of Mike Z, after about 5 years, it did. When Mike became a client, it had been about that long since I helped another client sort through his options and decide on investing in a luncheonette in Massachusetts.

The Rehabilitation Coordinator who referred Mike to me was concerned about him. He was in his early 30s, also lived in Massachusetts, and wanted to settle his claim in order to get the cash he'd need to invest in a franchise in the child safety business. She asked me to determine whether the business was a viable one for him.

Mike was a hard working and highly motivated fellow, with a pleasant personality. His previous job had been that of route salesperson for a bakery company, and the disability was disc herniation, which prevented him from lifting the loads his job required.

He had already made a small investment in a vacuum cleaner franchise, but it had failed, principally because he wasn't effective in that type of sales. We were able to define his many strengths, and compare them to the opportunities he was seeking. The child safety franchise, for example, required intense conceptual selling over a long period, and he simply wasn't cut out for that type of sales.

Further analysis showed that, even if he were, he'd have to travel so far to make his sales presentations, it wouldn't be a viable business.

Over the next two months we analyzed a variety of franchises and businesses for sale, and he gradually became knowledgeable about the relative price/earnings multiples being paid for businesses in his area, the essential questions he had to have answers for before evaluating a business properly, and the kinds of future events that might affect a business's viability.

Concentrating on businesses that did not require a "hard sell," we eventually settled on sandwich shops and vending routes as possibilities.

While investigating a franchise that looked promising, he learned of a sandwich/coffee shop in his hometown that was located in a prime office building. When a business of that nature is available, it can be a good solution for someone who wants to "buy a job" by buying a business.

It should have a history of stable earnings, or if not, a positive recent trend, and the purchaser needs to make sure there are no future developments such as construction or the closing of a nearby factory, that might significantly reduce revenues.

Initial figures provided by the current owner left a lot of questions unanswered, so I directed my client to get those answers, check for possible rent increases or major tenants leaving the building, then review the entire deal with a local accountant and lawyer.

If he did decide to move ahead, I suggested a certain method of purchase, with which his accountant agreed. What at first appeared to be an asking price of 2.5x earnings, on closer examination was less than 1.5x earnings, with terms, which his accountant and lawyer agreed was a good deal for him.

The business is well-suited for him in many ways. His settlement plus some money a relative put in, covers the cost of the business. The current owner, who has a stake in his success because of future payments, helped him get established.

Thanks to one very caring Rehab Coordinator who took the initiative to make sure he'd be investing in a business with a good chance of succeeding, Mike bought a stable business with a reasonably bright future, instead of losing money by investing in a business that he had little chance of making successful.

Getting An Architectural Consulting Business Off the Ground

Joe U is an architect in the Los Angeles Area, a talented man in his 30s who had played a key role on major projects for a leading international firm. The disability involved extreme vertigo, dizzy spells, ringing in the ears, facial twitches and, most significant from a vocational perspective, very low levels of energy and stamina.

He thought he could plan for a slow, gradual, long-term return to work as a consultant to other architects, while perhaps doing some local work as an architect, working out of his home, contracting out the portions he couldn't handle physically.

Problem was, Joe needed training on some things he used to have others do for him, plus computer hardware, software, and money to operate a vehicle. That came to a total somewhat less than ,000. He had done his homework on calculating expenses, but he hadn't really thought through how he would win business.

His "plan" that he submitted to the insuror was a plan for how he would spend that money to acquire new talents, but said nothing about how, when, and with whom he expected to win assignments.

Probably due in large measure to his disability, he had little patience for discussing the subject, and seemed both annoyed and disheartened that he couldn't just be given the money without a plan.

A number of discussions ensued, and there were many delays. In one discussion with the Coordinator, I voiced my opinion that chances for making real progress here were remote. He understood the problem, urged me to continue my dialogue with the client, and made direct contacts himself to lend encouragement and provide motivation.

Somewhere in that process, we broke through. We don't know who said what, or if anything that was said really mattered, but after a couple of months, Joe's attitude changed.

In our discussions we began to make real headway on identifying his markets, his special advantages, his "selling proposition," the special benefits he would bring to clients, and the methods he would use to win new business. Not only did he put together a simple, complete plan, he also willingly revised it three times to incorporate new ideas or to correct assumptions not supported by the facts.

And a funny thing happened. He began to feel a lot more energy, became less argumentative, less annoyed, more positive, and then extremely appreciative for the input of the Coordinator and me. His final plan was for five years, very realistic, and very well thought out. The Coordinator went to bat for him, got him the money he requested, and he moved quickly to implement.

But not before he volunteered that he knew he'd been tough to deal with, until he recognized that two people who really didn't know him that well were going out of their way to do what they could to help him become successful.

That thought turned him around, he said, and gave him real confidence that he could not only reach his goals, but enjoy the energies that come with giving and receiving while getting there. The Coordinator's unflagging support for Joe made that happen.

As so often happens in these cases, the unexpected occurred. While starting his training and arranging other things to get his business started, Joe won a contract on a substantial project, something he hadn't expected for about two years.

The result? He builds momentum, and the insuror enjoys a sizable offset far sooner than anticipated. Not bad for a situation I once thought was going nowhere.

A Little Goes A Long Way!

The point was made earlier that just a little input from someone else can often make a big difference in someone else's life. It seems that feeling good about yourself, having a resume that gets your best strengths across, getting a few new ideas, and just knowing there's someone out there who cares about you, can have a dramatic effect on people's effectiveness, whether they are top executives or just a step beyond entry level.

Makes you realize the truth of Leo Buscaglia's words in Born for Love, which I referred to earlier, and how much they apply to our daily work, whatever it is ..... "The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our encouragement, who will need our unique talents ... someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt."

There have been any number of times when people gave me credit for doing a lot more than I really did. One striking example was Lillian C, a woman in Florida with severe allergies, who had accomplished a lot in Loss Control and Safety Training. When I first spoke with her, she was attempting to build a medical transcription business she had started from home.

We had two good conversations, surfacing lots of ideas that were well suited to her situation, and over the phone I gave her some words to use in flyers and letters. Our third conversation started with her opening comment, "Well, you don't know what a torrent of creativity you've unleashed. Your ideas have stimulated my imagination, and I'm going great guns."

Indeed she was. She was expanding her operation to another city. She had called dozens of doctors, found effective new ways to get business, started operating in a more productive mode, recruited new word processors, established another business that wouldn't take much of her time, and created some flyers. She's one of the relatively few clients who stay in touch, and her business continues to prosper two years later.

And To Your List of Businesses You Never Knew About, Add.....

The high-priced dress business. Very high-priced!!! Tom R in Mississippi, in his 50s, would definitely not impress you as a retail sales hotshot. He had a manufacturing background. When I learned he wanted to go into business in Atlanta with his sister, selling dresses in a retail shop, I was skeptical to put it mildly.

I was asked to check it out, to determine if it was realistic for him, or whether he'd be better off in another line of work, which I was sure he would be. As mentioned earlier, I'm convinced. There is always a good reason why, when people want to go into an unusual business.

Seems his sister had started out selling dresses to country-western singing stars and beauty contestants, where they spend BIG money for dresses. She had moved to a major city in the South many years ago, and opened a shop where she now has a loyal clientele to whom she sells dresses ..... starting at 00!!! (They stop at about ,000.)

Well, seems the sister knew there is a strong pent-up demand in that city for European designer dresses in a more "modest" price range ... 0 to 00! The plan was for her to finance the new shop, sending a lot of browsers from her shop to his, referring daughters of the wealthy women she serves, and providing all the initial inventory.

It's wonderful, the things you can find out with a few good questions. People never cease to amaze me with these unusual businesses, and they continue to educate me!! In this case, Tom knew the risks, and if ever a startup retail business had all the key leverage factors going for it, and a strong financial backing as well, this was it.

Of course it can fail. Any business can. But any prudent business person would love to have a startup with the realistic chance for success this one had. Eventually he chose another, more conventional option, but working on this one built momentum for him. It was "something to get excited about," and was a catalyst for his getting back into action.

As Time Goes By

Most of us have had at least one instance in their lives where we work very hard on something, think we're making tremendous progress, and look forward to successfully reaching our goal ..... but it doesn't happen. About two years ago a referral came my way that would have to be considered unusual by almost any measure.

Bob F from Cleveland was in his early forties, had been in the music promotion business, and had more physical problems in the previous four years than you'd want to handle in a lifetime.

These included, but were not limited to, malignant lymphoma, pneumonia, upper and lower respiratory infections, kidney stones, hernias, bone cysts in one leg, a popped knee joint, chronic back pain and sciatica, and peritonitis Apparently at one point he was even considered dead for some minutes after an operation, but he made one of those miracle recoveries.

In fact, Bob had come back to the point where, if you met him, you wouldn't know there was anything wrong with him. Not only that, but he also had a dynamic personality and a husky build, so you'd think he was the picture of good health, strong and energetic.

But he still had some operations ahead of him when he was referred to me, so the Rehab Coordinator expected only some "advance planning" to help him focus on new options, with no real progress expected until the following fall at the earliest. After reading the file, I agreed. But we hadn't counted on the unusual degree of enthusiasm this fellow possessed.

After just one phone call, he got excited and wanted me to come out to Cleveland and visit with him, which I was happy to do. In that meeting, it turned out that the one thing he wanted to do more than anything else in the world was to join his long-time friend in the purchase of a radio station. His friend knew the business well, and their combined talents would make them an ideal management team.

So over the next few months we put together a sound plan (no pun intended), the excitement and energy continued to build, and it appeared that by the middle of the summer we'd have one very happy client reaching a settlement so that he could go into the business he loved, months ahead of the time when we were expecting to get started. Problem was, when he got right up to it, he decided not to go ahead.

Part of it was the risk, but there were other factors as well. So we dropped it, wished him well, and the insuror reassured him we knew he had been acting in good faith all along, and that this was a life decision which was his alone to make. For another month I stayed in touch to provide some guidance as he explored other alternatives.

I can't really say I was surprised when, six months later, he called to tell me he had three unusual opportunities offered to him, and felt strongly that he would want to take one of them.

The first was a restaurant that came as close to being a "sure thing" as a restaurant can. After 40 years a woman had shut it down because she couldn't find anyone she felt would love the business the way she did, and operate it accordingly. Until she met Bob and his proposed partner.

They researched it and found that businesspeople in the area would almost immediately start begging them to reopen it. The second deal? A radio station, of course ... the ideal station. The third? A chance to buy into a well managed beauty salon.

A few weeks later he settled under terms essentially the same as those offered months earlier, but with a sense of calm and confidence replacing the earlier anxieties. There's a time for everything, he told me, and now was the time for him to settle and get on with his life, not last year and not next year. People seem to know when the time is right, and it isn't always according to our schedule.

Oh yes. He eventually invested in the beauty salon business, and the last I heard, he and his partner had expanded to two cities, employees were happier and more productive than ever because Bob is such a good person to work for, profits were up, and they had plans for expansion to several more cities over the next five years.

"A Man's Gotta Do What He's Gotta Do" ...... Even When It Appears To Have Very Limited Potential.

Harold B in Pennsylvania, who had suffered head trauma four years earlier while working in supermarket operations, was determined to get into the business of trading and selling used paperback mystery novels and a few other selected categories, from the Fifties and Sixties.

He had reported about 0 profit from his first three months of operations, and the question put to me by the Rehabilitation Coordinator was, "Does this business have any potential?"

This was a "2-phone-call assignment," a type that I like because we can often accomplish a lot in a very brief time. In my first call I learned that the business does have potential, but very little.

I also learned that Harold was determined to do this business and none other. He had no interest in even discussing other options, and was quite satisfied with limited profits in the future.

When I got back to the Rehab Coordinator, we agreed that there are many positives to such a situation. Here we have a motivated claimant, pleased with his progress, and reaping a lot of psychological benefits from the activity. The obvious route is to offer support, to help him build the business as large as he can.

Advances in sound, electrical and other technologies may or may not in the future enable him to advance beyond his current level of recovery. In the meantime, being active this way can only help, and he may raise his sights as time goes by.

I got back to Harold to provide advice on half a dozen ways he might build his list of customers. (In that business, revenues are directly related to the size of the customer list.) Over time those steps may help him build to a level where profit would be 0 to 0 per month.

That's good enough for a first step. The offset helps the insuror a little. And momentum builds. You never know where it might lead. After doing what he's "gotta do," he may even want to try something else.

Some More Interesting Businesses People Have Gone Into

Children's Fitness

Ron R in Florida, previously a commodities broker, decided to settle his claim so that he and his wife could start a business that had three separate parts to it. The biggest is children's fitness and gymnastics, a new business for them, though they researched it thoroughly.

The second part is planning and directing parties for children, either at their homes or at the fitness center. Ron's wife has been in that business for two years, conducting the parties at the children's homes.

The third part of the business was manufacturing bounce houses, those air-filled houses the kids jump around in. As part of her party business, Ron's wife rented out a bounce house that she had purchased, and had little trouble keeping it fully rented out on weekends.

Ron researched what would be required to make them, in order to sell them to others around the country who could rent them out as his wife did, and analysis showed it to be a viable proposition.

Espresso Carts

A client in the Seattle area, Jim N, previously worked in airline ramp operations. He originally wanted some help in setting up an interpreter business. But he soon realized he really didn't want to be in that business, and came back to the insuror instead with a plan to go into the espresso cart business.

It seems that espresso cart owners are on every street corner in Seattle, sometimes three or four thick, yet according to the input Jim got directly from them, they were all making a lot of money, as much as ,000 per month, some claimed, and the required investment for a cart and coffee inventory is only about ,000, substantially less than many businesses which don't earn a third of that reported income.

I checked with one of my insurance company customers in Seattle, and she verified that they were not only on the corners, but at gas stations, various stretches of highway, and in front of stores, with all of them seemingly doing a brisk business.

She did not know why they were so popular in Seattle and hadn't caught on like that elsewhere. The client didn't know either, but intended to relocate to a Colorado resort town where they hadn't caught on yet.

I advised that he check first to see if town authorities would let him operate there, and whether he'd run into opposition from established businesses, then wished him luck. He knew it was a risk and wanted to take it.

Experience tells us that no business that simple will remain as profitable as reported for any extended period of time (the woman who runs one here in my town told me she doesn't make anywhere near the kind of money they do in Seattle).

But it's also true that if you're one of the first people in a good market with a service or product that catches on, you can make a lot of money quickly and get out of the business after a few years. Here's hoping that happens for Jim.

A Feed Store in the 1990s ?

A feed store in rural West Virginia? A growth business in the 1890s maybe, but in the 1990s? Most people would probably conclude that today it's sure to be a slow-growth or no-growth proposition. Not necessarily so, at least for Frank T, formerly a mining construction foreman, whose disability was a back problem, and who provides fresh custom feeds.

Frank wanted to settle to expand what had been his wife's business, which had tripled in two years. Seems the custom nature of the feeds and the fact that they are fresh, are very important factors for his customers. The fact that they'll deliver when competitors won't, is also a valuable plus.

The core of customers they built provided the basis for a well-timed expansion in lawn and garden items. At last contact, their growth rate was proceeding smoothly.

Aptitude Testing and College Selection

Another promising business, for a client in Maryland who didn't need a settlement, was a combination of aptitude testing, college selection, and financial aid services for kids in high school and their parents.

Stan C, a former guidance counselor, was highly respected by parents and kids alike because his service is so highly personalized, and he maintained that this was the key difference between him and others in the field. He implemented what appeared to be a productive sales and marketing effort, for a large market that needs what he has to offer. Seems there's a business to fit every background.

Are We Limited Only By our Imagination?

It seems there is no end to the types of businesses people first think of, and then make a reality, based on their personal interests and talents. Yes, the disability will often limit the type of business they can run, or affect the way they have to operate, but just as often the disability itself will be the catalyst that leads them to the business in the first place.

At any rate, it seems not to limit their creativity or determination, and the businesses my clients enter in the future will likely be just as varied as those started in the past .....

catering ... convenience stores ... lobster hauling ... printing brokerage ... arranging meetings and conventions ... building custom furniture ... massage therapy ... selling automobile brakes ... sharpening saw blades ... training insurance salespeople ... investing in rental properties ... tree pruning and cutting ... residential cleaning ... raising birds ... running a restaurant/bar ... a heating/ventilating/air conditioning contractor ... short-hauling stones with a tri-axle dump truck ... restaurant interior refurbishing ... liquor stores ... gas stations ... computer consulting ... manufacturing false teeth ... a wireless subscription TV station ... making fudge and cookies ... operating a cabaret in a resort town ... shipping and transportation claims consulting ... boarding homes for senior citizens ... repairing and making golf clubs ... management consulting ... child care centers ... filing medical claims ...

The possibilities appear to be as varied as people's natural talents and interests.

I keep having to remind myself that these businesses were all started by people who ..... experienced a disability significant enough so that they could no longer work in their chosen field ... got past the discouragement and often the pain ... turned a seemingly unfortunate event into a catalyst for something positive ... rebuilt their confidence and self-esteem ... mustered enough energy to visualize and plan a business they hadn't been in before ... then found the courage to move ahead and take actions that turned their ideas into reality.

Can you blame me for sometimes thinking I'm dealing with an exceptional group of human beings? Maybe they're just like everyone else, but the special difficulties they faced managed to bring out the best in them, and maybe that would happen with most of us. I'd like to think so. Regardless, it sure is inspirational to be around them, and I'm grateful for the chance to work with them.