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Grow business, get new job, or ask family to help?

Q. I've owned and operated a small garden center for the last 31 years. I was recently laid off from my last job in sales due to the slowing economy. I'm almost 60 years old and have very limited computer and technical skills. The garden center alone is not enough to support my family and me. I don't have the enthusiasm I once had for the garden center, and the retail environment is extremely competitive with the mass merchants that have moved into my area. Should I continue to search for a job in this market and have my employees run my store as I've been doing for the past 18 months, or should I concentrate on my business myself?

A: Here are your options as I see them:

1. Growing your business;
2. Look for a sales job;
3. Look for another type of job;
4. Improving your computer and technical skills;
5. Seek additional income from others in your family.

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Although you say that you have less enthusiasm for the garden center and that you face competition from mass merchants, your business does provide you with some income as well as employment to others. These are definite pluses.

With greater attention to your business, the garden center might even become profitable enough for you to forgo a second job. Your first step might be to contact The Small Business Administration (SBA) might be able to help. Or contact them at or 1-800-827-5722 The SBA offers online courses, such as “How to Win Customers n a Slowing Economy” as well as a Small Business Planner. SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a resource partner of the SBA. SCORE matches current or prospective business owners with an online or an in-person mentor for business counseling.

If you refine your niche market and provide personalized service and specialty products, you would not be competing directly with the mass merchants. As your business become more profitable, perhaps you will regain your enthusiasm for the garden center.

If you decide to look for another type of job, you don’t want your choices to be limited by your lack of computer and technical skills. I strongly recommend that you take some courses to improve your computer and technical skills. Check out the courses offered at the adult education center or public library in your community or Operation Able, whose programs are exclusively for older workers. Improving your computer and technical skills will enhance your job prospects. .

Another source of income that is sometimes overlooked is the earning potential of a spouse or a young adult. If your spouse is not currently working, perhaps you can discuss the feasibility of re-entering the workforce. You may not have to shoulder your family’s financial needs by yourself. Your spouse may have skills or training, that enable him or her to be marketable, even in this economic climate. Or, alternately, your spouse and/or kids, if they are old enough, can help lower your payroll expenses by working in the garden center.

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