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I started my career as a research astrophysicist and ended up owning a
backpacker resort. Between these extremes, I worked in public
administration, public relations, journalism and the diving industry. It was a
slow evolution from one job to the next and I learnt a lot on the way.
I offer the following advice for those who are planning a major change in
lifestyle. It comes free of charge and you won't be pestered by adverts. I'll
start with a list of Dos and Don'ts and follow up with some examples.
1. Don't invest any significant amount of money in a new venture until you
are fully aware of what you are letting yourself in for.
2. Don't place undue reliance on the advice of others, including accountants,
solicitors, architects, loan managers, advertising consultants and travel
3. Location ... location ... location.
4. Carefully research market size and market share.
5. Don't borrow a cent more than necessary.
6. Don't pay anyone to do anything you can do yourself.
7. Don't get involved in Tourism Awards.
8. The customer matters more.
9. The bottom line matters most.
1. Look before you leap
I'll give two examples. Both are from the scuba industry. Similar
considerations apply to most other businesses.
A) My friend John was an electrical engineer and a keen sailor . In his late
thirties, he was taken off operational projects and transferred to
administrative work. He hated being stuck behind a desk and resolved to
leave his safe job with an electrical supply authority. In his spare time he
built a large boat and set sail from his home in New South Wales on his
fortieth birthday. He put down anchor in Townsville in North Queensland and
earned a living taking divers out to the Great Barrier Reef. That's how I got
to know him.
John's switch from being a paid employee to a self-employed dive operator
was far from smooth but he made it. He skippered the boat, did all
necessary maintenance work himself and kept costs to a minimum . His
family was staunchly behind him and prepared to live in rented
accommodation that was grossly inferior to their former home. In time he
traded his motor/sailing boat for a larger vessel and his business prospered.
When I last heard of him, he was a highly respected master mariner running
courses in marine safety.
B) The person who bought John's second dive boat was a former farmer . He
was in his early fifties and fed up with raising cattle. He sold the farm and
used the proceeds to establish his family in a nice house on the coast. The