Blog | Entrepreneurship

Looking Back on Our First Business

What I Would Tell Myself If I Could Go Back in Time

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Josh and I started our social entrepreneurship expedition when we opened our Journey Healing Centers, more than 15 years ago. To say our experience has been an adventure would be an understatement. We went from not knowing anything about business, going through a startup, raising capital to get the business funded, building 6 facilities (in 2 different states, over a 12-year period), to selling the business.

In late 2013, we were approached by a large private-equity-backed healthcare company who had multiple facilities across the U.S. They were interested in what we were doing and had offered to buy us. We hadn’t planned to sell but we had what they were looking for, we did our due diligence, and found that they were aligned with us as well, so we sold.

But our business model is something that we’ll keep with us and continue to use to build successful companies for years to come.

When Josh and I started Journey Healing Centers, we setup the company in two parts. The operations side of the company was one entity, and the real estate was another. I formed a property management company to handle the real estate and had each property lease to the operations side of the business. So, Josh kind of became the business owner, and I became the property owner. We still did everything together, I was still involved in the operations and he was still involved in the real estate, but we had an agreement between us on the rents.

So, when we were going through the process to sell Journey Healing Centers, we told the equity company that the real estate wasn’t for sale. We legally couldn’t sell because we had a long-term lease agreement in place. As it turned out, they didn’t want the property and assumed that we’d keep it, and it all worked out for the best. We sold the operations side of the company, but kept the real estate.

That’s how we made our money, through rental income. We never took a paycheck through the company, in all 13 years of operations. If we needed more income, we knew we had to expand the business in a way that would provide us that income.

I have many people ask me if I would change anything.

I wouldn’t. But if I could go back and give myself some advice, I would say this:

  1. Learn from Mistakes: It’s important to learn from your mistakes. But don’t be afraid to make them too. Sometimes mistakes offer the greatest chance for success.
  2. Focus on Yourself: Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster ride. The more you can increase your emotional intelligence and develop yourself, the easier it is to handle business, relationships and life. We can’t control others, but we can control who we are and how we lead.
  3. Make a Strong Team: You want a team that is aligned with your mission and values. Team members include your CPA, attorneys, consultants, and others. Sometimes when we think of team, we think of immediate staff, but this expands to anyone who you assists you.
  4. Know Your Strengths:  Self-awareness of your strengths will assist you in becoming a better entrepreneur and leader. When Josh and I started out, we were both all in, doing everything. It took awhile for us to figure out what we were naturally good at doing, and then we played on each other’s strengths. Like I said above, he led the operations, and I led the real estate. It worked for us.
  5. Know Your Weaknesses: When you know your weaknesses, you can find team members to fill the voids. For example, my follow-through is not strong. So, I have staff that are strong in follow-through. They are the ones to make sure certain things get done or implement something that we want to establish.
  6. Know Your Numbers: Knowing your financials is key. The better you have your financial books in order, the easier it is to make decisions. Business plans and projections are great, but they are also fluid, always moving. Having a knowledgeable bookkeeper is a big part of having a successful business. Meet with them at least once a week and have your numbers as “real time” as possible.

Starting a business can be scary. Even though Josh and I didn’t know much about business at the time, we knew we had a purpose, so we found the right people to help us achieve it. Never believe that you’re limited just because you don’t know everything there is to know about business. You can always learn, you can always grow, you can always find people willing to carry out your purpose with you. If you want to learn more about social entrepreneurship, be sure to read my book The Social Capitalist: Passion and Profits—An Entrepreneurial Journey.

Original publish date: September 24, 2018

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