One on One with Gregg Unruh Owner at Unruh Enterprises, LLC

What was the inspiration behind you becoming an entrepreneur?
I have always dreamed of owning a business and I would always think about what could go into an empty store I might drive by. I found locations but could never figure out what type of business.

My son Justin was the trigger that made me act on my lifetime desire to work for myself and own my own business.  He bugged me for months to back him in business. After thirty-five years of a thirty-seven-year career at UPS, I finally gave in and backed him in starting up a franchise sandwich shop of a nationwide brand.  He too had always wanted to run his own business after gaining experience in this same franchise.  I would argue that owning a franchise is not pure entrepreneurship. We were still working for The Man. But we built-out and opened one store, and a year later a second.

Did you face any obstacles that made you think to give up? 
Build-outs for the franchise stores are very very expensive. After opening the first store I thought about staying with only one. Not quitting, just not growing. I had second thoughts about the concentrated investment in the franchise. But we proceeded.

In October 2019 I didn’t quit, but I sold the business and reinvented myself. My son had left the business and his presence had been my main motivation for owning. When he left, he took my motivation. But I sold both restaurants just before COVID-19 emerged. It was an accidentally brilliant move on my part.
Soon after the sale of my business, I kept my business entity and worked independently for a brief time as a Senior Business Analyst. They were looking for business owners and I guess I fit their needs. But I felt the business and their model lacked integrity. I don’t work like that. So I left and my manager told me with a few obscene words to fly myself home.

Fast forward a few months of no work, and I took my company with me and worked under a contract arrangement. The work was less than glamourous but I survived. I was paid to travel to distant cities and drive back box vans that had been purchased. I made the most of driving trucks with or without air conditioning in hot weather. Again, I survived.  But it was again time for a change.

Did you always have family support or did they encourage you to get a regular job?
Initially, when I launched the business, I had a day job, a career at UPS. While married my spouse always wanted to play it safe. She hated every minute of owning our own business. I like to take risks. But I had a career at UPS so the business was initially on the side with a regular income with my primary job. Not high risk.

What is the most important thing you love about doing your work?
I love independence and the variety of work. I have to think for myself. I’m not part of a herd mentality. I don’t have to ask others for permission. There were big exceptions to this as a franchise owner. I would never own another franchise for this reason. Franchisees own their business but they are not entrepreneurs. Neither was I.

Any advice you would give a younger entrepreneur looking to start?
Have a thorough business plan with very conservative revenue plans, but plan on high and unexpected costs. Have lots of cash as a backup. Try not to borrow but if you do find solid lenders with reasonable rates. Don’t let borrowing lead to more borrowing. It really hurt me. Loans became my crack. And don’t buy into a franchise for the reasons I explained.

Did you fail at business before?
I didn’t fail at business but I made it more stressful than it had to be. I got in with some high-rate loans and I was hanging by a thread at times.

What can we expect from you in the future? 
I continue to improvise and adjust to obstacles. The pandemic has presented unique challenges but I have just accepted a position as an Independent Sales Consultant. I will be a 1099 employee and can work as hard as I like. It’s a very sexy job as a carpet and flooring sales rep. And I’ll adjust and survive in the future.

How can we follow you online?
You can find me hanging out on Linkedin