Fuad Hassan spent 11 years working as an electrical engineer for an international tech and data storage company. But in 2008, he became the casualty of a downsizing that left him unemployed.
Hassan, who had been living in Dallas with his wife and two boys, questioned what to do next. "I decided that maybe I needed to change my career. There was so much competition for a new job and no guarantee that a downsizing wouldn't happen again," he recalled.
After some grueling soul searching and research, Hassan found his answer 741 miles northeast of Dallas. He uprooted his family and in September 2010 opened Express Oil Change & Service Center, the first of its kind in Cookeville, Tenn.
While relocating to start a business can seem daunting, more Americans are looking beyond their backyards for business opportunities. With careful planning, entrepreneurs can lessen the challenges of launching a new business and life in a new location.
"Get the lay of the land before you start loading up the U-Haul," recommended Debra Condren, author of Ambition is Not a Dirty Word."Pick up the phone, send e-mails and make introductions. Talk with people one on one. When you are speaking with a person, always ask: 'could you recommend two or three colleagues I should contact?' If you end up moving, you can fall back on these people as your professional network and that will break some of the isolation in advance."
Before making the commitment to move, consultant Denise Beeson advised entrepreneurs to conduct market research. "Analyze what the market looks like in your area and what professional associations you will be selling to," he said. "One of the best resources is the local business journal." Beeson also advised that entrepreneurs reach out to local economic development boards that generate regional statistics on how businesses in the area are doing.
However, the decision to relocate should not be made solely on economic factors. Family and quality of life should also play a major role in deciding to move.
Mike Lane, owner of CertaPro Painters of Colorado Springs, relocated his family from Southern California to Colorado to open a franchise. Lane was drawn to the state's less rigid business climate, but, more importantly he said, "We felt that it was a better place to raise kids and have a family."
Condren advised entrepreneurs to speak with their partners and come to a consensus about "places where you both can have great opportunities because one person should not take a back seat."
Once entrepreneurs have made the commitment to move and have settled into the new location, business networking should become a top priority. "When you get into a new town walk through the neighborhood and get lost in the areas where you will be doing the most business," said Juliet Okafor, founder of Jules Management & Consulting.
Lane, of CertaPro Painters, got involved in his local networking groups. "I went to the Chamber of Commerce right away and started attending meetings to make myself known," he said, "I joined BNI [Business Networking International] and got to know about 30 other business owners. They have been supportive in helping me meet other people and giving me referrals."
In addition to professional organizations, Beeson recommended business owners get involved in a "do-gooder" service organization. "Because you share the same mission and interests, [the other volunteers] will want to do business with you," she said.
Entrepreneurs need to keep in mind that it will take time and effort to feel at home. "People underestimate how isolated they are going to feel and they don't understand how to be proactive," said Condren, "The small business welcome wagon is not going to be waiting at your door. Small efforts can make a huge difference in slowly building the infrastructure of a new support system and personal network."