Laid off in his mid-50s after a 30-year career in the airline industry, Richard Hoad decided it was time for something completely different.

After scouring several East Coast locations, he and his wife, Jo-Anne, bought a small Cape Cod bed-and-breakfast in East Orleans, Mass., in 2012. The couple sold their Maryland home and a cottage in Canada to relocate and used a portion of Richard’s retirement accounts to fund the purchase.

After about a year of living in and running the property, they closed for a renovation and reopened the Parsonage Inn in 2013.

“I’d always dreamed about running a bed-and-breakfast, and this one had been running for 30 years with a good reputation,” said Richard, now 61. By updating the facility, overhauling the inn’s website and adding online booking, he figured, the business could thrive.

For much of his career, he was in business development, marketing and information technology, all skills he transferred to the entrepreneurial venture. Jo-Anne’s cooking skills and penchant for local, mostly organic ingredients were also a big plus, he said, and her family had also run a similar business in England.

Even so, the business incurred losses for the first two years and the workload was even more onerous than the couple expected.

“We underestimated the amount of work. It really is 24/7,” he said. “It’s not hard, but it’s a constant stream of laundry, buying groceries and other chores, day in and day out. Conversely, in February, there is a lot of free time.

“Our [profit-and-loss] statement has been positive the last two years and we’re optimistic about this year,” he said. “And, hopefully, we’ve increased the value of the property itself.”

The couple hopes to sell the business in another four to five years, using the proceeds for retirement in their mid-60s.

About 10,000 entrepreneurs annually start businesses using a complex strategy known as a rollover as business start-up, or ROBS, according to estimates from David Nilssen, co-founder of Guidant Financial, a company that facilitates the transactions. He says Guidant, which the Hoads used, oversees about a quarter of the total industry rollovers.

The arrangements have drawn significant scrutiny from the IRS and typically cost several thousand dollars to set up, but Nilssen says the trend is still hot among baby boomers hitting the end of their careers. For his part, Richard said he would do it again, but he cautioned would-be entrepreneurs to be realistic about the risks.

“Use a business broker and take in all the advice you can find,” Richard said.

He says he learned a lot by writing a business plan, which he was required to do when he applied for a commercial loan.

“It’s not for everyone,” he said. “Putting all your eggs in one basket is risky and I recognized that.”

He spent time going to innkeepers’ conferences and chatting up participants about operational challenges.

“Our plan was that it would give us the opportunity to travel in our free time, though we aren’t quite there yet” both in terms of available time and profits, he said.

“We were naively confident at first but felt that if we did the right things we could make it a success,” he said. “But, yes, I’d do it all over again.”


Janet Kidd Stewart writes for Tribune News Service.