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Cents and Sensitivity

Selling a business is an emotional event--this franchisee helps ease the pain.

As the founder of a multimillion-dollar travel agency, Steve Thomson had his head in the clouds--literally. Living out of an airplane and jetting from state to state, he was anything but settled during the 20 years he owned his business. However, his life changed when he received an irresistible offer on his company. Selling his travel agency left him financially secure but came with its own price tag. "All of a sudden, there I was--44 years old, and my wife didn't want me hanging around the house," he recalls. "I didn't know what I wanted to do."

Thomson didn't find new direction until he started working for Sunbelt Business Brokers in 1999, where his firsthand experience of selling his own business enabled him to relate to clients. Helping others buy and sell businesses made him aware that, as important as it may be to understand the job of a broker, it takes something more--a dose of heart and empathy--to truly be successful. "Because most people only sell their business once, my brokers and I often deal with people who are going through this for the first time," says Thomson, 49. "And it's very emotional."

Thomson transitioned from employee to owner when he purchased the Irvine, California, location in 2002. He works side by side with his 12 agents and expects to generate sales in the millions this year. Last June, Thomson took on the role of chairman of the President's Council for the franchise, making him the voice for all franchisees' suggestions and concerns. He no longer misses the jet-set lifestyle and extensive traveling his old business required. Says Thomson, "I'm happy just sitting in my office, watching the sunset."

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This article was originally published in the June 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Cents and Sensitivity.

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