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More choose to buy into jobs

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Annette Walter was chief operating officer of a fast-growing Baltimore real estate company. Her husband, Shawn, a former construction project manager, had carved a successful career in sales.

But in March, the Hunt Valley, Md., couple walked away from the corporate world of fixed schedules and long commutes and went into business for themselves. They bought a 75-year-old company in Baltimore that distributes wooden and plastic pallets. The Walters will run the business from their home.

“This decision was to benefit our lifestyle,” Annette Walter said. “Shawn and I had realized the opportunity was to create your workplace, not have your work create you. I wanted something that had a little bit more autonomy. And we wanted something that was focused on Shawn and I and was something we could build and grow for our family.”

At a time when workers want greater balance between work and personal lives, some professionals find their perfect job by buying into it. Even in a rocky economy, the timing can be right to buy a business, invest in a franchise or start a company from scratch, experts say, especially for those who have built experience and financial resources working for others and can make the jump.

Some professionals turn to entrepreneurship after becoming frustrated with the job market and what they consider a lack of quality jobs, said Bill Clark, a senior managing partner of the business coaching firm Clark Leadership Group in Baltimore.

“One way to beat that is to do something on your own,” Clark said. “This trend is going to grow. It will continue as more and more people in the job market are unable to find employment, particularly those who are willing to take risks and those comfortable in being creative and finding different ways that they can earn a living. The job market five years ago was pretty plentiful, and there wasn't much reason to risk. Today, it's a whole different ballgame.”

It's still not the best time to start a new business. Demand for goods and services remains tepid in the current economy, said Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

“That doesn't bode well for somebody who wants to start their own business,” she said.

Business startups, which tend to rise and fall with the cycle of the overall economy, have fallen steadily since peaking in mid-2006, when more than 650,000 establishments were less than a year old, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Since the recession started in December 2007, business startups have experienced the steepest decline since the early 1990s.

Regardless of whether the economy is strong or weak, entrepreneurship is not for everyone, Clark said.

“It requires being comfortable with taking risk” and approaching business creatively, he said. “If I said to you, ‘I know a great business to get into, and it will cost you $50,000,' and you look at your home and say, ‘I have $50,000 of equity,' a lot of people would say, ‘No, I won't touch that.' Others would say, ‘It looks like a good opportunity; I'll take the risk.' Everyone approaches this differently.”

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