Many working parents hesitate to create their dream business because the timing never seems right to leave their corporate job.
Mechanical engineer Jon Haver, 33, was once among them. He wasn’t ready to say goodbye to his position as team leader at an oil refinery until last year, when he left his career at a subsidiary of a giant corporation.
Today Haver runs a full-time business, AuthorityWebsiteIncome.com, that is on pace for revenue of $1 million annually. He helps other people earn money on the internet by sharing the systems he has developed to build a porfolio of successful ecommerce businesses.
He is one of a growing number of people around the world who are creating million-dollar, ultra-lean businesses. In just-released data on the U.S., for instance, the Census Bureau just found that the number of nonemployer establishments with annual revenue over $1 million grew by 5.7 percent to 38,029 in 2015. That is up from 33,624 in 2014. “Nonemployer” firms is what the government calls businesses whose owners are the only employees. Most are run by one self-employed individual.
And there are many more six-figure businesses getting close to the mark.
1,861,656 businesses had receipts of $100,000 to $249,000 in 2015, up from 1,812,554, a 2.7% increase in one year. 584,586 businesses had receipts of $250,000 to $499,000 in 2015. That is up from 570,491, a 2.5% increase from 2014. 258,148 businesses had receipts of $500,000 to $999,000 in 2015, up nearly 4% from 248,636 in 2014.
Some of these owners have created their high-revenue businesses in less than a year. But doing that can be hard when you are starting a family. Sometimes, it can require a lot of time. Haver took the slow and steady route instead—and it paid off in a big way for him.
Haver’s entrepreneurial journey goes back to 2007, when he decided to reclaim the time he was spending on computer strategy games and work on an internet business after dinner in the evenings. Although he liked his job, he was growing frustrated with some realities of corporate life, like having to participate in training programs in which he did not see the value.
His first products were Excel spreadsheets he developed and sold on a basic website he created to help people do mathematical calculations. He created several other sites as well and started learning about what worked and what didn’t. “The first few years, I was not doing it very seriously,” says Haver. For one thing, his job was demanding, and he often put in a 12-hour day.
By 2012, Haver had created a blog where he wrote about his journey creating internet sites. In response to requests from his followers, he developed a search engine optimization and content marketing service for businesses. His efforts resulted in three sites: AuthorityWebsiteIncome.com, which became a holding company for his other businesses, and LightningRank.com and ContentRefined.com. “I got really serious about it when my wife got pregnant with our first kid,” he says.
Using some of the websites in his portfolio, he began selling physical products on Amazon in 2015. Working with partners, he is now involved in five brands. One example is NeuroToy.com, a toy company that focuses on creating “teachable moments” for kids. It sells products such as educational placemats.
Haver hit $1 million in annual revenue in his portfolio of businesses by September 2016, just two months after he hired his first employee. Today he has two employees and relies on a team of 30 contractors and freelancers for work such as content writing and customer support. While he works full-time in his business, he has the freedom to spend more time with his family and enjoy personal passions, such as skiing in the middle of the day in the winter.
Along the way, Haver has put systems in place so his team can function smoothly even if he is not on top of every detail. “Whether it was doing marketing content for the site or customer follow up, I made sure it got assigned very cleanly so they could do it repeatedly, without my having to get involved and monitor the process,” he says. That has given him the flexibility he wants.
Haver has no regrets about the transition out of corporate life and has enjoyed the new community he has met as a result. “I’ve met a lot of people doing similar stuff and having a lot of success with it,” he says. “I’m always blown away by the number of people having success online and able to live the way they want to.”
Perhaps it’s time to consider that option for yourself, too.
Elaine Pofeldt is author of The Million-Dollar, One Person Business (Random House, January 2, 2018), a book looking at how to break $1M in revenue in a business staffed only by the owners.