Featured: Four boomers on why they chose second careers as entrepreneurs

CruiseShip01

Sandra McLeod, 58, and Ian McLeod, 66
Owners and managers of Expedia CruiseShipCenters
Etobicoke, Ont.
Opened new franchise location in 2007; 15 independent consultants; $2-million annual revenue

Life before:

Ian and Sandra McLeod both worked as accountants for 30 years. Ms. McLeod worked for several firms, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and, finally, Grant Thornton, where she found herself out of a job at the age of 52 when her focus of practice area was eliminated.

Mr. McLeod worked for different companies during his career, too, including Continental Bank and Investors Group. After serving as CEO at a credit union that merged with another credit union, he took early retirement at age 60.

What she did:

When her position was eliminated at Grant Thornton, Ms. McLeod looked at a number of different options. Eventually she started looking into different franchise opportunities.

“We developed a list of certain characteristics of must-have, nice-to-have and good-to-have,” Ms. McLeod says. Through that process, CruiseShipCenters came up as the franchise that would be the best fit for Ms. McLeod. The couple did their due diligence, spoke with franchisees and attended corporate meetings, and concluded the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise had a good corporate structure and strong support system.

“It boiled down to does this feel right and is the financial stability of the company there and do we think we can make money,” says Ms. McLeod. “We decided to jump in with both feet and here we are.”

They carefully chose a high-traffic location in Etobicoke and Ms. McLeod immersed herself in learning about the business. “It was a huge learning curve,” she says. “We had travelled but we had never sold travel or been in the travel business.”

Why she took the leap:

After working in the corporate world for 30 years and “having the rug pulled underneath” her when her practice area was eliminated at her last job, Ms. McLeod says she didn’t want to be in that position again.

“I was at a point where I wanted to be controlling my own future,” she says. “I wanted to have more control over what I was doing.”

She says the flexibility of running her own business also appealed to her, even though she was concerned about the risk involved.

“You sign the cheque and then you go ‘holy cow, what did I do? What have I just gotten myself into?’”

On her success:

Ms. McLeod says she had a clear plan on where she wanted to be in their first year of business.

“We far exceeded that plan and we’ve continued to exceed it. We’ve been growing every year by 20 to 30 per cent,” she says.

Biggest challenge:

Making sure they have a life beyond the office is a continuing challenge, according to Ms. McLeod.

“Keeping a lifestyle balance is challenging, because we’re here six days a week and so it’s challenging to run your business and also have a life outside of work,” she says.

While they started off working seven days a week, arriving early in the morning and working until late at night, Ms. McLeod says she and her husband have scaled back their hours.

“You don’t want to be there 24 hours a day – you could be, but we don’t want to be.”

Greatest reward:

Ms. McLeod says her greatest sense of satisfaction comes from clients who go on vacation and have a fabulous time, returning home full of excitement.

She recalls the first time one of her clients gave her a big hug and brought her a bottle of wine after coming home from a great vacation she had arranged. “I didn’t get that when I was doing tax planning,” she says with a laugh.

Words of wisdom for aspiring boomerpreneurs:

Ms. McLeod puts it succinctly: “Never lose sight of your dreams, because if you can dream it you can do it.” She also advises fellow aspiring boomerpreneurs to “find something you love to do because it won’t be work.”


This is an except from the original article found here.