It’s a familiar story: The economy enters a recession, some small businesses collapse, and the affected owners are forced to start anew.
For Steve Goodman, that meant giving up Harper Furniture, formerly on Main Street in Royal Oak. The business had been in the family for 72 years, but Goodman was forced to close the doors in 2005 due to declining sales brought on by the housing crisis. He had been running the store for 18 years.
Trying to make the best out of a stressful situation – Goodman and his wife were expecting their third child at the time – he stayed within the furniture industry as a manufacturer’s representative. But he wasn’t satisfied with his career path. In 2007, he entered the small package business, reselling DHL services.
“After my experience with DHL, I decided to look into freight so that I wasn’t limited to only one vendor, and I could instead work with many different ones,” he says.
In 2009, Goodman started a partner program with Blue Grace, a national shipping company. At the beginning of 2011, Blue Grace introduced a franchise program, and Goodman signed on, establishing the company’s only Michigan branch.
“This allowed me to become part of a bigger opportunity to grow my business as part of a national company, and to have multiple office networks thought out the U.S.,” says Goodman, owner of Blue Grace Logistics — Detroit.
For his new career, Goodman approached shipping with the mindset of a salesman – a job he had held at Harper Furniture.
“I wore every hat there from opening up the story to loading the trucks to customer service and sales,” he says. Recognizing that good customer service is essential for any business, Goodman encourages those looking to reinvent themselves to keep an open mind, especially when it comes to franchising. He says that even though it can seem daunting to people, it’s an excellent way to start anew because it’s just a matter of following the company’s guidelines.
With Blue Grace, Goodman has access to training for new employees, marketing materials, and up-to-date information. For example, the company sends out weekly communication literature to franchisees. If Goodman has a question, he can call headquarters where they have “200 or 300 years of experience.”
Along with providing support, being a franchisee gives Goodman networking opportunities. With an office in Birmingham, he can serve metro Detroit. As part of a nationwide company, he can provide local businesses with services across the country.
Goodman’s advice to others seeking to reinvent themselves: maintain a positive attitude, build on existing skills, and strengthen professional and personal networks.
Goodman admits that he was lucky thanks to a warm lead and acknowledges that reinventing oneself in Michigan’s new economy is difficult. Still, he believes it’s possible. “There are tremendous opportunities in Detroit for existing and new businesses,” he says. “If I can do it, trust me – you can, too.”