As more baby boomers realize that their dreams of retirement are being altered by the floundering economy, they are beginning to consider either working longer at their current job – or finding something new altogether.
If they decide to enter into a whole new career, it often means hitting the ground running because the tough job market allows little room for error.
That’s why Bob Seibert, a high school teacher for three decades, knew that he had to do his homework before launching a business pursuing his second passion in life – cooking.
“I just couldn’t see staying at home and going fishing – I couldn’t even conceive of that,” says the man who often worked weekends and holidays as a high school band director for Madison High School in Morris County, N.J.
For the last six years, Seibert, 53, says he had been considering a restaurant – specializing in soup – with his son. When he retired in June, he took a job cooking soup for a local restaurant, and loved the good reviews he received from customers. But with the economy beginning to falter, he believed opening his own restaurant might not be the best idea.
Instead, he launched Supperman Personal Chef Service (www.suppermanchef.com), which is aimed at the harried professionals who are often struggling to cope with increased work demands and busy private lives. Seibert says he believes he may have hit on the right career at the right time.
“I definitely feel like I’ve stepped in the right direction,” Seibert says. “People are talking about what I’m doing, and they like what I can do for them.”
Still, it hasn’t been easy. While he certainly has a passion for cooking and people have raved about his skills, that was just one part of the equation in launching his second career. In doing his homework, he realized that he needed help, and lots of it. He joined a professional private chef association, and got help from small-business groups. He knows that his strengths – cooking and relating well to people – will only carry him so far. He still must do some savvy marketing and promotion, and learn to be a small-business owner.
Seibert says he’s learned some valuable lessons along the way that he believes are important for any baby boomer hoping to move into a second career:
- Do your homework. Seibert spent time online researching how to launch a small business and visited his local government offices to get more tips and understand all the “nuts and bolts” such as insurance and legal needs. He also joined the American Personal & Private Chef Association (www.personalchef.com), which has provided support and information on a variety of issues, including how to market his business.
- Try a test run. The time Seibert spent cooking for others over the summer in a professional setting and then hearing the positive feedback further reinforced that he was headed in the right direction.
- Keep your eye on the ball. “You can’t get discouraged by the peaks and valleys,” he says. “For my entire career, I was up at the crack of dawn, went home for dinner then went back to school for concerts or practice or whatever. I worked holidays and weekends. There was something reassuring about that structure, so it’s been a challenge for me to make my own structure. On some days, I’m keenly motivated. On others, not so much.”
- Network. “You’ve got to really let people know that you’re in a new career and what you’re doing,” he says. “I’ve given unadvertised specials – even cooking for free if they’ll buy the supplies. You’ve got to find ways to get the word out about what you’re doing.”
- Get feedback. Seibert has asked everyone he knows to review his Web site and his brochures, seeking ideas on how to make his materials more clearly understood. “I’m not kidding myself about what it takes to get this up and running. I’m looking for all the input I can get.”
For now, Seibert is pleased with the progress he is making in his fledgling career, and is confident he’s taken the right path.
“I find that cooking and music are a lot alike. Single instruments sound good on their own, but they sound even better when mixed together. It’s the same with cooking – individual ingredients taste good – but even better when put together,” he says.
Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy … and How to Avoid Them,” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, Va. 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.