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Having It Nailed

A zest for woodworking helped this entrepreneur get out of a rut.

More than 20 years as an accountant and CFO left Jim Ford feeling dissatisfied and at a crossroad in his life. "[Accounting] was fun for a while; then it wasn't as much fun, and then it wasn't fun at all," he says. "I was looking for something else."

The answer arrived in the mail, printed on the back of a postcard. Woodcraft Supply Corp., a Parkersburg, West Virginia, company specializing in woodworking tools, supplies, books and classes, was seeking franchisees. Ford was a longtime shopper at Woodcraft and wasn't discouraged by the hefty price tag to become a franchisee. Investing $500,000 to $600,000, he opened a Woodcraft franchise in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in November 1998.

With this decision, Ford got out of a discouraging career and surrounded himself with his favorite type of people: woodworkers. Ford thrives on the enthusiasm his customers bring to the store. "When people come to one of our stores, they're happy to be here," he says. "They look forward to the trip. It's a destination-type store."

Ford, 53, didn't stop at one franchise. In 2001, he teamed with former Woodcraft regional manager George Snyder, 37, to open a store in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Since then, the two have opened another branch in Jacksonville, Florida. Recently, even Ford's wife, Julie, was encouraged to quit her job as a senior programmer and jump on board. While more stores mean more sales-2004 sales are projected to reach $5 million to $6 million-it also means more paperwork. "I have less time on the floor selling and more time slipping into that accounting role," Ford says.

Applying his accounting skills once more, Ford's life has come full circle. But this time, he is much happier with the direction it's going. "There's never a day when I don't drive in and look forward to it," he says. "I can't say that of my other jobs. That's the bottom line. I enjoy it."

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This article was originally published in the March 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Having It Nailed.

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