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AZRIELA JAFFE

6.2.99  
Severance Pay: Should It Be the Ticket to Your Entrepreneurial Dream?
Getting laid off is like a breakup. Don't lunge at something on the rebound

You walk away from a job you've held for many years with your ex-manager's words ringing in your ears. "This isn't anything personal. But we needed to cut overhead. We hope that this severance pay will make the transition easier for you." You leave with mixed feelings. The mood there has been so dark lately, it's a relief to get away. You haven't had this much money as a lump sum in a long time. Maybe it's time for a life change. Maybe you should go into business.

This is a dangerous time for laid-off employees. It's not a whole lot different than that period after a romance or marriage ends, when people run off and have a fling with someone new to fill the loss. Throw yourself into business because it's right for you, not because you're on the rebound. Here are six signs that plunking your severance pay into a business opportunity may be a bad idea. If even one or two of these resonate strongly, beware:

  • You prefer a regular work rhythm, and you can't afford ups and downs in the flow of money. You don't have any backup for family health insurance and other benefits that come with steady jobs.

  • Your spouse is unsupportive. Every time you bring up the subject of starting your own business, he or she turns green. If you took all of your severance pay and invested it in a business, you'd be living with one very angry spouse.

  • No business idea particularly grabs you. You've been scanning business-opportunity ads and going to business expos looking for something that might work.

  • You're looking for what's "hot" instead of figuring out what you do well and love doing. You and your family are so in debt and your expenses so high that the business would have to provide immediate and sizable cash flow for you to stay out of trouble.

  • The whole downsizing experience hurt your self-confidence. Even though they said it wasn't personal, you feel like it was. The idea of making a sales call gives you a stomach ache.

  • Your skills were marketable in a company, but they don't transfer well to running your own business. You lack the skills and knowledge to run a company.

I don't mean to throw a wet blanket on your dreams -- or maybe I do. If none of the above resonates, and you are itching to try it on your own, go for it! If the caution flags are flying, heed them. Starting a business is stressful -- more so if you aren't well suited for the experience. Let your severance pay support a job search or live cheaply and retire early.

Have a question on how to handle the pressures of running a business and the impact on your personal life, marriage, and family? Contact Azriela Jaffe at AZ@azriela.com. Please put "BW Online question" in the subject field. Your real name will be kept confidential if you request, but please give an E-mail address, phone number, and your hometown so she can contact you for more information. Because of heavy volume, Azriela cannot guarantee that she will answer every query.

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