I am all in favour of dreams. I have them myself. The trouble is that as a tax and business adviser, I have come across a lot of shattered dreams.
Life by the sea
I was reminded of this again the other day when watching a re-run of a Relocation, Relocation programme. If you haven’t seen it or don’t live in the UK, it’s all about people moving from one part of the country to another, as the title suggests.
A couple were looking not only for a new home in the South-West of England, but also for a cafe-bistro to run. It sounded a lovely idea.
As regards the cafe they were looking at, the owners wanted about £70,000 for the business, which might be roughly what their profit was, plus about £200K for the premises. £70K sounds great doesn’t it? However, the couple would have to borrow the money. It struck me that they could well end up paying about £20K in interest. Had they thought about their children’s childcare? Running a cafe is pretty full-time. If they weren’t going to be on the premises all the time wouldn’t they need more employees to cover the childcare times?
The thing is, the idea of running a cafe in a seaside location does sound idyllic, doesn’t it? It just needs planning and adjusting not only lifestyle in terms of time, but in terms of costs of living. Do they want their luxuries or do they want a comfortable life without pressure to spend on extras? These are questions that have to be asked.
Some years ago, I saw another couple who had started a cafe in a seaside town, because it had been their dream. They really hadn’t thought it through. Yes, there was plenty of trade passing, but not so much coming in, because there was a cafe in every other shop along the main drag. The rent was extortionate, and they were trying to supply full short-order hot food. That meant more electricity and gas, but the few times they were full up, they had simply not enough covers. In small premises a cafe-type business is better supplying cold food, sandwiches, rolls and cakes with a choice of eat-in or takeaway (or carry-out). The turnover and therefore profit would be much higher. This couple went out of business and lost their savings because they had not done their homework.
Planning the dream
I am all for following the dream. It’s just that the dream needs a plan which involves adding up the costs including the rent, the utilities, the business rates to the local authority and also employee costs. Then think about how much you need or expect to draw out of the business to have a good life. Then look at the expected takings. See if you find out how other similar businesses in the area do.
Ask the previous owner about takings and profits if it was a similar business and check that the accounts they show you make sense. Get a second opinion from a professional. I have been asked to check the accounts produced by a vendor and could see that they were complete fiction. Don’t take it all on trust.
Do follow your dream. Just plan it first. Take advice. Write down the plan. You might have to write one for the bank when you need a loan, but write a proper plan for yourself. One that makes sense. Not one to try to convince yourself it will work if you know in your heart it won’t.
If after you have thought it all through properly and taken the advice you need you know your dream is there for the taking, grab it and hang on to it.