Pete Dilworth, 47, was a CPA for several large corporations (most recently, Toyota) for 15 years before starting a SignsNow franchise outside Baltimore in 1990. Although the transition was quite drastic, Dilworth proved a paradigm for those wishing to break the corporate mold. And freedom wasn't his only reward: His annual sales have since soared to more than $1 million. Here, we ask Dilworth how he managed it.
Franchise Zone: What helped you make the transition from the corporate lifestyle to entrepreneurship?
Pete Dilworth: Considering the biggest [change] was not having a paycheck coming in every two weeks, I had to financially prepare myself. We were lucky because we had cash available for the investment plus personal and living expenses. We didn't need a loan and that made it a lot easier.
FZ: What did you have to do to mentally prepare yourself for the transition?
Dilworth: I don't think there's any preparation for that. You just have to jump in and do it. I came out of the car business, where I had a new car every 90 days, and into my own business, where I was just driving whatever I could. It's amazing how different the lifestyle is when you're first starting up. It may not be anything people really consider when they make that jump-and that's probably a good thing, or else they might not do it.
FZ: Is there anything you did when first starting out that you wish you hadn't?
Dilworth: Trying to do everything myself. I'm an accountant by training, so I can't say I'd ever sold anything before. There are going to be areas of the business where you won't have any real experience, [but overall, the franchise] has to be something you already know a lot about or have a huge interest in.
FZ: What advice do you have for others coming to franchising from the corporate life?
Dilworth: Make sure you're doing this because you want to go into your own business, not because you think you're going to make a whole lot more money. The easiest road is to continue doing what you're doing and concentrate on building your existing career. If you really want to get out and take on the challenge of building something yourself and seeing that grow, then by all means, take the leap. But it's a huge leap.
Pete Dilworth, (410) 789-5030