From time to time folks ask me why I love the stock market. After owning and operating about a dozen businesses the past three decades, I have an easy answer. Compared to all the alternatives, the stock market is the easiest, cleanest, safest, and most lucrative investment platform there is, and it's not even close.
Along with my father, who has been a great partner over the past thirty some years, we launched our final business investment in 2003. We spent over a year looking for a location, and after a six month negotiation with three partners who were well into their nineties (and sharp as tacks), we purchased a property in the northwest part of our city out in the middle of nowhere, populated only by a large herd of prairie dogs and the most awesome red ant bed I've ever seen. The term for such a property was "on the come", meaning we had an excuse if it didn't make it. We closed on the property in August of 2004.
Over the next four months I met with an architect and his assistants over a dozen times, along with his civil, electrical, mechanical, and structural engineers, or the "You Can't" brothers. These guys seemed to thrive on using technical jargon I think they were making up as they went along, just to see if I would admit I didn't know what I was doing.
In the meantime I developed a 48 page business plan (still in my file) that took me three weeks to write, that conclusively showed that our business would change the world and make us crazy wealthy. By 2004 I had learned to use Excel and so my charts and graphs were sharp and colorful, and the numbers I put in Cambria Bold so the bankers wouldn't miss them. Just before Thanksgiving I pedaled the project to five banks, and by Christmas I had received four definite no's and a maybe, as long as my dad and I would put up everything we owned, had ever owned, or would ever consider owning as long as we both shall live. We were in business, though I'm pretty sure the bank now owns my children.
In January I presented a set of more realistic, down to earth building plans to the city for approval and permitting. They told me that it would take approximately two weeks for everyone to sign off. Over the next two months I made seven trips downtown to meet with one person after another, answering the same questions over and over. Then silence. No one called. So I trudged back downtown only to be told that the planner I had originally met with was no longer with the city, and I would need to meet with their new person, but he was backed up because the city was behind. And they needed a new set of drawings, as they couldn't seem to locate the originals.
April came and went. Then May. In June, after getting the city manager's office involved, we received our permit.
Construction took just under a year. Thirty two contractors came and went. Excavation, concrete, steel, roof, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, framing, drywall, insulation, paint, flooring, signage, networking. You get the picture. Then there were our new set of friends from the city who seemed to make it their mission to require each contractor do their work twice.
Twenty days before we opened, we tried to hire twenty five people to begin their pre-opening training. We could only locate fifteen, but that problem was quickly overshadowed by the fact we had cost overruns and would need more money. Back to the bank with an even lovelier, more colorful spreadsheet in Helvetica Bold this time.
The last few days before opening was crazy hectic with fourteen hour days, last minute tweaks and walk throughs, and unorganized contractors who were way past deadline finally rushing to complete their work. We counted fourteen different trades in the center the morning we were to open. The inspectors were finally called and at 4:30 on August 5th, 2006 we opened for business. Two years and eleven months. I was angry and tired.
Within one month we had turned over half of our crew. Business was extremely slow. People didn't understand what we did or how to use us. Pretty soon we were putting more money in the business. Then some more, and some more.
Fast forward almost ten years later. The business is doing well. We have great people running it, excellent employees, and fantastic customers. The challenges of starting the business is a feint memory, but enough of a memory to know I'm done with three year projects.
Today when I want to own a company, from the quiet confines of my comfortable office and with the simple click of a mouse, I can own it in less than a minute. No real estate agents, no architects, no engineers, no bankers. No city, or contractors, or inspectors, or vendors, or government agencies, or employees, or customers. No business plans, or policies and procedures, or meetings, or power outages, or great recessions.
And when I no longer want to own that company, it can be done with another click of the mouse on my laptop or my IPhone, quickly and easily and pretty fairly in an open market system, operated five days a week from 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Central Time. After spending the 20,000 hours (I'm a slow learner) to learn how to not lose my entire shirt, my returns in the stock market have beaten those of my businesses, with 98% less time and energy.
Now you can understand why I love the stock market.