Being like Joe

October 22, 2008
By: Vicki Bell

It isn't every day that guys like Joe "the plumber" Wurzelbacher make the news, but it does seem that in any presidential election year, a regular guy or soccer mom is dragged into the national spotlight as the quintessential make-or-break voter. How a candidate's proposed policy affects Joe's life becomes a much-examined factor. Supposedly, as Joe votes, so goes the country.

Joe may or may not represent the average man. If he buys his plumbing business and earns $250,000 a year, he certainly will not be "average" when it comes to personal income. But how many people, including Joe, aspire to be average? One thing is clear; many others have aspirations similar to Joe's.

An entrepreneur Web site that connects buyers and sellers of businesses reportedly is experiencing a surge of interest following the Joe Wurzelbacher story.

"Perhaps people see buying a business as a way out of the current downturn," said Marcus Markou, founder and CEO. "Certainly, many of the plumbing businesses for sale on the site are getting more responses," he added.

Launched in 1996, the site has more than 67,000 businesses for sale advertised at any time and attracts more than 5 million unique visitors each year. Supposedly there currently are 300 plumbing, heating, and air conditioning opportunities for sale, ranging from a plumbing contractor in Des Moines for $50,000 to a heating and air conditioning business in Charlotte, Ind., for $12 million&$8212;with revenues exceeding $16 million.

"There's a business for sale to suit all entrepreneurs," said Markou. "And if you have cash, where are you going to put it? The stock market? Property? The bank? It's a good time to buy a business."

Add me to the 5 million unique visitors to the site for 2008. I checked out BusinessesForSale today to see what's out there besides plumbing and HVAC.

Among the offerings are 2,891 franchise resales, led by 1,333 food establishments, 1,198 retail franchises, 296 miscellaneous, and 165 leisure franchises. In my area, there's an ice cream shop for sale for $50,000. The accompanying information says that the shop had revenue of $155,000 and a net profit of $250,000. (I'm not an accountant, but I have a friend who's one. I'll have to ask her how that works.)

This business is the least expensive among the food franchises for sale in my area. The most expensive is a fried chicken franchise. The description of this business, which can be yours for $1,250,000, states: This fried chicken franchise was established in 1969, and has been under current ownership since 1972. They have built a strong reputation for quality food and great customer service. After thirty-five years of success, the owner is ready to retire.

Revenue and profit information for this business aren't posted online. You'll have to request them from the seller.

Manufacturing operations, including 380 machinery and metal companies, also are listed on the site. If you can come up with $309,000, you can buy an Iowa company that has been in business since 1982, makes aerial lifts, and employs six full-time workers.

If you have really, really deep pockets, or have associates whose deep pockets you can pick, you can assume ownership of a factory in the South that makes poultry and meat processing equipment for a mere $40 million—equipment used to process chicken used in fried chicken franchises!

All kidding aside, if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur and can find a business you believe will remain viable—one you like well enough to put in the money, time, and sweat equity it takes to make it work— this downturn may be your ticket to becoming more than an average Joe.

With all the fuss about Joe the plumber, you may have missed Al the shoe salesman, featured in the Obama campaign's humorous ad. Watch it, see if you recognize Al, laugh, and be thankful that the election soon will be history, and Joes and Als everywhere can go back to obscurity.

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209