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Buying a Business Often Starts With Getting a Job

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/Krisnan

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/Krisnan

As promised, I’ll be sharing a bit more about owning and selling a small business. Today, I’ll tell you how I ended up as a business owner. I’ll try to be objective and share the pros and cons, but please be aware this is all based on my experience, and I am no expert.

 When I graduated from optometry school in 1999, all I really wanted to do was see patients, the more difficult the better. After finishing a residency with the Indian Health Service, I had certainly seen my share of the more difficult ones, and I felt I was ready for whatever job awaited me. A common misconception that I think many college graduates share is that if you do well enough in school, a good job will be waiting for you when you finish. Most times you have to be a bit more proactive when looking for gainful employment.

Value of a Mentor

My residency adviser was a very practical man, and he made me sit down and figure out what I wanted to do. Being an optometrist didn’t cut it. He made me figure out where I wanted to live and what sort of practice I wanted to be involved with. He encouraged me to moonlight at a commercial establishment (WalMart) to see how that side of the game was played as well.

 About six months into my 12 month residency, I had decided I wanted to stay in the Southwest, preferable on the West slope of Colorado. He suggested that I send a letter to every private practice in the area telling them about myself and that I would be looking for a position soon. I also started talks with the ophthalmology group that held clinic at our hospital once a month. The resident generally ran the clinic, and it was a good opportunity for the surgeons to see you in action. At that point, I wasn’t ruling out staying with Indian Health as a career either. Probably without having my adviser and mentor, I would have procrastinated until the end of my training before seriously looking for a job. I can’t stress enough how important finding some sort of mentor is with helping you get started in a career. As a result, I had three viable options for employment well before I was out on the street.

Job Search

I interviewed for a position with Indian Health way out in the middle of the Hopi reservation, which sits smack dab in the middle of Navajo area. Basically it was not close to anything except desert, goats, and tumbleweeds. Pros would have been great benefits, medically challenging patients, and absolutely nothing to spend my money on. You can only buy so much fry bread. Cons were lower pay, it was a government job with lots of red tape, and I would have to leave behind my budding romance with my now husband.

 I also was offered a position with an ophthalmology group in Santa Fe. The pay and benefits were really good, but the opportunity for advancement was low. Optometrists working for surgeons will always be bottom feeders. You want a surgeon to be very sure of themselves when they’re cutting you open, but that sometimes translates to arrogance when he or she is your employer. I liked the area. Grocery stores were abundant, unlike on the reservation, but again, the whole long distance relationship was not appealing.

Do You Believe in Fate?

I actually found my job by working at Wal Mart. One Saturday, I was slaving away when a middle aged gentleman strolled in and asked to speak with the doctor. I told him I was only filling in for the weekend. He introduced himself as a local private practice optometrist, and I realized I’d just sent him my “I’m the best job candidate ever, please hire me” letter. He happened to be in the store, and out of curiosity, wanted to meet the doctor. He asked if I liked working there. I said absolutely not, but I was getting paid peanuts as a resident, and this was a good income supplement. We hit it off and kept in touch. While he didn’t hire me that day, it did lead to an offer. He wasn’t actively looking for an employee. He’d been burned with his last attempt at partnership, but he was hoping to step back and find an eventual buyer for his practice. I think I was in the right place at the right time.  My original job contract stated that I would work for two years as an employee and then buy into the practice. Otherwise, I’d move on.

While I never set out to own a business, I was now headed in that direction. I do believe you can make your own luck by having a good attitude and being proactive. Often, a non-optimum situation can lead to an opportunity.  At that point, I had been fairly aggressive about my job search, but who knows what path I might have taken if I hadn’t been working that Saturday? I took it as a sign that it was meant to be, and all I had to do was learn how to run a business, should be a piece of cake, right?

Have you ever had a great experience from being in the right place at the right time? How did you get your current job? 

 

 

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

47 comments

  1. I thought that doing well in school would equate to a great job as soon as I graduated too. Didn’t work out that way. I had to spend more time than I would have liked in a post-doc, until I lucked out and just happened to be at the right place at the right time when my current position opened up. I spent a lot of time wondering if I’d ever be able to move on to a real job.

    • I would echo some of the comments that I bet you did the right thing while being in the right place at the right time.

  2. Nice. We’ve definitely had jobs that came about by being at the right place/time. But I think it’s also being prepared to step up and take an opportunity when it presents itself too. =)

    • Yes, I think Mr. PoP is a perfect example of that. Being in the right place doesn’t help if you are not paying attention.

  3. I agree that a good attitude can get your foot in almost any door! I have felt many times that I was in the right place at the right time.

  4. That’ an awesome story Kim! We’ve had a few similar instances in the past with our business and it’s always neat to see how something works out because you were in the right place at the right time. I could not imagine working at a Wal-Mart eye clinic, I have only been to one once when we had no money and I’ll never go back. I am looking forward to your series on this, it’s always nice to read about other business owners and what they have done.

    • I can’t complain too much about the Wal Mart gig. I hated that corporate had so much control, even though they call you an “independent doctor of optometry” but it earned some extra cash and showed me what I didn’t want to do. There are actually some really good docs at various Walmarts, but a huge problem is how little your patients expect of you. In my office, I have to be at the top of my game or patients get really upset. If you are paying peanuts, you get what you get. I think it causes doctors not to expect much of themselves. It’s a sad thing to see.

  5. I find that smart people tend to put themselves in the right place at the right time. Many of these people getting the opportunities will tell you that it is who you know that makes the difference. Making sure you are hanging out in the right circles and mingling with the right people.

    • I agree. If you are looking for a professional job but hanging out at the biker bar, you might need to adjust your circle of acquaintances.

  6. I don’t think it was just the right place at the right time. I think you were at the right place and took advantage of it. There’s a huge difference.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story, Kim. I find it incredibly interesting to hear “how you got there” when it comes to careers. I interned into where I work now, but there’s more to it than that. I got to the third and final round of interviews, but just missed the cut (I blame it on my finance degree…there were MANY more accounting internships than finance), but surprise surprise someone I met through volunteering at church worked at this company! He personally knew the head college recruiter and made a call on my behalf. I also made a call to the head recruiter and mentioned I was still interested. One intern dropped out or took another offer at a different company and sure enough I was at the top of the list and got the internship. The rest as they say, is history.

    • You never know when an opportunity will arise. I say treat everyone like a potential employer or someone is a position of respect. You could find yourself right next to someone in a position to advance your career.

  8. Nice post, Kim. I have worked hard my entire life and made sure I have had several irons in the fire at once. I have put myself in the position to be lucky several times!

    • I do agree we can position ourselves to have good fortune or we can complain and miss opportunities because of a negative attitude.

  9. I was a manager in a small boutique hotel and most customers were high flyers, one of them owned the biggest law firm of the country, he asked me a few casual questions about my curriculum and if I wanted another job, two months later I was starting in his office! I was procrastinating about leaving that first job too and he gave me the push to resign before he hired me and have a few more interviews, even though I eventually ended up working for him.

    • People notice motivated individuals in service jobs. Our most valued employee who is now a licensed optician and the best insurance biller I’ve ever seen was hired by the former owner when he was impressed with her attitude as a waitress.

  10. I started out as a substitute teacher because I was not sure I wanted to teach. It was an opportunity to test the waters without committing. Someone I interviewed with in the district office tipped me off about a permanent position. You never know where your opportunities come from.

    • That’s funny. I taught summer school one year and is showed me I NEVER wanted to teach, but it’s great that you found another career to enjoy.

  11. Thanks for sharing your story! It’s always interesting to look back and think, “hmm, if he hadn’t walked in that walmart, how different would my life be right now? I had good fortune with my last full time job. It’s a long story how that happened, so I’ll leave it at that. My current role as a freelancer was unfortunately pretty much thrown on me due to a layoff. I’ve looked for full time here an there, but never landed anything.

  12. I love these posts when people share their stories! Thanks for sharing Kim 🙂

  13. I think a lot of things happen because of being in the right place at the right time. I got my current job because I was introduced to the spouse of an employee I worked with at my previous job. He told me what he did and I liked it, so I applied the next day. I was hired the day after my interview.

    • People have to actually like you when you are in the right place at the right time. Being yourself but also being respectful and professional should always be first and foremost in any social situation.

  14. I often think that most of what goes into the success of others is who they know and being at the right place at the right time. This is why I rarely ever turn down anything. I always know that it could lead to something bigger and better for me.

    • Absolutely. I certainly never thought working weekends at WalMart would get me anywhere, but it was a way to keep up with my contact lens skills, since we didn’t do that with Indian Health. The big bonus was opening the door to a job I really wanted.

  15. I definitely believe in right place, right time, but also grabbing the opportunity and not letting it pass you by. Looking forward to learning more about your journey.

  16. You make a good point. A lot of people believe that just because they have certain credentials a job should just land in their lap. But it takes luck and initiative to get a great job.

    • I think you have to make yourself available and really take every opportunity to show people what a great asset you might be. Luckily I had some smart people who helped along the way.

  17. That’s awesome! Walmart huh?

    My current job came about because I applied for an internship, ended up with a part time/freelance gig, rocked it, and eventually was top of mind when they expanded.

    • In my experience, being in some sort of internship is a great way to get a job, if you do it well that is. I knew some optometry students who really phoned it home during internships. Even if you don’t particularly like your supervisors, it makes sense to do your best because you never know who they know or what they might say about you.

  18. This story reminded me of the lady employee who bought his boss’s business despite its losses because she was afraid of losing her job and other employees will be losing source of income, too. Likewise, I can relate to the story as well. I was a technical support engineer who loves reading blogs during my free time before I finally wrote my own blog and earned from them.

    • Thankfully it turned out to be a good business, but I figured I could bail in 2 years if I didn’t like it. Thirteen years later, I’m still here.

  19. Thanks for sharing that story Kim. My current job came about because we started attending a church that happened to sponsor a private school on site. I didn’t know that when we started attending but one connection led to another…and then a job offer to teach…and 16 years later, I’m still there (at the church and school).

  20. Well done, I always say you never know who you will meet or who your next boss is so be nice to everyone you meet. My situation is similar where I was also at the right place at the right time. I was working at the school and was scouted by my cyrrent employer. He came to me and I had no idea who he was. He was asking me trick questions, presenting me with a case and solution and I said, no, wait a minute that is not the way to solve that problem.I proceeded to explain my argument and why I would have taken care of it another way. Then he introduced himself and invited me to the organization for an interview. It was a wow moment when I found out.

  21. I agree with you. Not all who do well in school are successful afterwards. It takes more than that. It’s takes a lot to courage and hard work. Yes, I believe in a fate too. You were meant to be there at Walmart.

  22. My current job was actually a Craigslist ad. I actually thought it might be a scam at first because I emailed my resume and half an hour later I got a response basically saying “orientation is on Wednesday.” It turns out that in July, they are just that desperate for workers that they will hire everyone that applies. Hiring 10 people and have 7 quit after a week is cheaper than hiring temps from another company or sending the office personnel out in the field (both of which still happen anyway).

    I’ll echo your sentiment about doctors. The dentist I saw yesterday had great bed-side (chair-side?) manner with me, but he was really short with his assistant. To his credit, he did apologize to her at one point when he discovered he was in the wrong on one issue.

    • Wow, do 7 out of 10 really quit?

      I’ve been talked down to and been to feel stupid by a number of superiors during school, so I never want to do that. Most employees or trainees, I think, want to do a good job. It doesn’t help to be rude or sarcastic in my opinion.

  23. Wow, you are so lucky to have a mentor that encouraged you to do all of those things! My brother is one of hte only people in his class who secured employment before finishing school. Most people planned to leave it until the summer. My bro did close to what you said, reaching out to lots of vet clinics in areas that he wanted to live. It landed him several interviews, including at places that weren’t necessarily hiring or looking!

    • I am incredibly lucky to have had some really good mentors throughout my career. I only hope someone thinks of me that way someday.

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