Can I successfully immigrate to America and start a business?

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Dear Norm,
I am a Korean-born female. I majored in sociology as undergraduate and worked as magazine reporter. After that, I spent two years in U.S.A., got my M.B.A. at Wharton, and came back to Korea. I did business planning at Citibank Korea for five years. I left due to boredom and joined an established Internet company in Korea. Here is my problem. My husband got a job offer from a Korean-run start-up in Los Angeles. I want to go with him and start my own business in U.S.A., but I’m not sure I can be successful, since I have very little connections, knowledge, and some language limitation. What do you think?
Jeongwon

Dear Jeongwon,
I think you should follow your dreams. To me, success isn’t about achieving a specific goal but rather about having the courage to try. Of course, you want to build a successful business, and you probably will. The factors you consider handicaps are easily overcome in this day and age. Given your background, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble with language or connections, and your experience is fabulous. More important than the company you build, however, is the life you lead. If you have a dream and don’t follow it, you’ll regret it forever.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success, Family, Startups

How do I deal with loneliness and confusion?

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Dear Norm,
I have a $3-million business and several paid advisers—accountants, lawyers, and so on—but I feel alone and, frankly, confused. Where do I find someone I can talk to who doesn’t have his or her own agenda?
Henry

Dear Henry,
First, understand that there’s nothing unusual about feeling alone and confused. Entrepreneurs are always alone, and we all do a lot of groping in the dark. In fact, loneliness is the biggest challenge we all face. Fortunately, there are many places you can go to get unbiased advice, including industry conferences, business seminars, and networking groups, not to mention organizations like SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), the counseling arm of the Small Business Administration. If you want one-on-one advice from an entrepreneur still active in business, look around your town and pick out a business you really admire. Then I’d write or call the person behind it.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Emotions

What do I do when my company outgrows my managerial abilities?

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Dear Norm,
I’ve been in executive recruiting for fifteen years. Two years ago, I formed an alliance with one of my clients, and it’s working out great. I’ve had to hire two new recruiters to keep up with the demand. My annual revenues have already gone from $150,000 to $800,000, and we’re barely scraping the surface. I see only one thing that can stop us from building a substantial organization: me. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have the ability, the patience, or the know-how to manage and grow this franchise. What should I do?
Bruce

Dear Bruce,
First, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re lucky you came to this realization before getting your company in trouble. It took some tough experiences to teach me that I didn’t have the qualities required to manage a business, patience being perhaps the most important one. I eventually learned that I can take a company only so far and don’t enjoy running it beyond that point. I need to bring in real managers—patient, detail-oriented people. They aren’t good at starting businesses, and I’m not good at managing them. We get along just fine. Just remember that you’ll need to have a good working relationship with the person you bring in. That means both of you have to be open to learning from each other.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success, Growth, Management

How do I satisfy my entrepreneurial itch?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Dear Norm,
I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug since I was in college fifteen years ago. Now I’m happily married with two sons. Those relationships bring joy and meaning to my life, as well as a lot of responsibility. For that reason, I plan to keep my day job as an executive of a Fortune 500 company, but I feel I must also honor my entrepreneurial itch. I have a great deal of experience and knowledge that I feel would be useful to someone launching a new venture. I’m thinking about volunteering in a startup, donating up to twenty hours of my time per week. In return, I’d ask that I be treated like a partner, but with no salary or equity. What do you think?
Gregory

Dear Gregory,
I think you should be applauded for making a tough life decision, putting your family obligations first. A lot of people couldn’t do that. And yes, I think your idea has a lot of merit. I also love starting businesses, and I’ve found that I can satisfy my itch by helping other people start theirs. But twenty hours a week sounds way too ambitious. Instead, I’d offer to meet once or twice a week with an entrepreneur to offer advice and serve as a sounding board. You’ll be doing a great service and learning lessons you can put to use when you start your own business—after the kids leave home.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Family, Startups