Finding the Right Business

The AnswerNet Network turns 10 years old this week (on July 26th) and we’re having a party. It boggles my mind that it’s been ten years since the Robertshaws and I decided to become partners with the sale of Tel-A-Talk, TAS (aka AnswerNet Allentown) to AnswerNet, Inc. Over the years, our company has grown and changed so much and here is another chance for us to say…

Thank you to everyone!

This also provides a great opportunity to talk about how AnswerNet was started…

I’ve been asked a number of times how I got into the telephone answering service and call center business. Most people are surprised to learn that I had very little significant call center experience when I bought my first telephone answering service in July 1998. In fact, other than going through Sprint Spectrum’s agent training with the start-up wireless company I worked for, I had never worked in a call center.

In 1997 and 1998, I decided that I wanted to run my own business. Over the first ten years of my career I had worked for other people and knew that I was ready to forge a path of my own. My first thought was that I would have to start something from scratch; come up with some great idea that was new or better than businesses that were out there. Every week, I would meet with my friend Leslie at a coffee shop in Manyunk (a part of Philadelphia) and we would brainstorm on ideas that we thought could be BIG.

At one of those meetings, I confessed to Leslie that I was worried about starting my own business because I had a family to feed and I wasn’t sure I had enough money to support my family while I built my business big enough to create a salary for myself. As a result of those discussions, I realized that I would either have to start a business that could get early investment (venture capital) or that I would have to purchase an existing business with strong cash flows that would be strong enough to turn my savings into current income.

With this realization, I went on the internet to find an existing business to buy. I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer number of opportunities. Restaurants, retail, cleaning, franchises…the list and types of opportunities were staggering. Plus, there were hundreds of web sites dedicated to business opportunities and businesses for sale.

This is when I had my brainstorm. I sat down at my computer and wrote a list of everything I might like in a business. I liked businesses with recurring revenue….heavy in communications technology (particularly telecom)…where I could manage people…and where the company focused on selling its services to other businesses.

I also wrote down the kinds of businesses I didn’t like. I didn’t want to own a restaurant because it is a very hard business to do well. Owning a retail shop wasn’t in the cards because of the risk involved in picking the right inventory. In addition, my father-in-law at the time was a retailer and continually told me how tough it was to be successful. There were other things on the list but I think you get the point.

With these lists in hand, I went back to the web and matched the businesses for sale with my list and came to the conclusion that the answering service and call center business was for me. So today, because of my small pre-planning time, I now own and operate a business that I really enjoy and which continues to interest me every day.

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