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?

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 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?

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

Should spouses run a company together?

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Dear Norm,
My wife and I have been married eight years, and I love her to death. A couple of years ago, we started a consulting company, which is doing well, but the challenge of living, working, eating, playing, raising children, and sleeping together is taking a toll on both of us. It’s hard to keep business and personal considerations separate. How can spouses run a company and still maintain a great relationship?

Dear Rich,
I also work with my wife, Elaine, who is our vice-president of human resources. We tried working together shortly after we were married. She quit after one day. Twenty years later, she decided to give it another shot, and things have gone extremely well. “You have to establish guidelines,” she says. “There has to be a clear division between work life and married life. You have to figure out what you can talk about and when; how you’re going to function in each role; what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. But that type of arrangement won’t work for everyone. I’m not sure you’ve been married long enough to pull it off. Eight years into our marriage, we would never have been able to do it. If you can’t set down clear guidelines both at work and at home and stick with them, maybe you should think about having separate businesses.”
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Family

What do I offer my father for his company?

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Dear Norm,
Five years ago, my father brought me into his company so that he could spend more time doing outside sales. Lately, he seems to be working less and taking more cash out. Once I was told I’d be given the company; now it turns out I’ll have to buy it. I’m thirty years old. I want to grow the business, but I can’t unless we start reinvesting our profits. So it’s time to make an offer. I don’t want to pay too much, but I also don’t want to insult my father with a low offer. Any advice?

Dear Robert,
Before you offer anything, you need to do some soul-searching and life-planning. Where do you want to be in ten years? What kind of life do you want? Then design an offer that will allow you to attain your life goals. Do some research into the value of comparable businesses, and figure out what you can afford. Your proposal should specify how much you’d pay, when you’d start paying, over what period of time, how much salary your father could continue to draw, and so on. You can’t fault your father for wanting to sell you the company. He built it. He has a right to get something for it. But you don’t necessarily have to buy it. In fact, you may eventually decide it’s better to leave. Just make sure you can leave on good terms. Tell your father, “Here’s my plan. I think I can do it if I buy the company from you under these conditions. I love you. I love the company. I’d like to stay. But I need a plan that’s going to let me achieve my goals.”
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Ethics, Family, Growth