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Risky Business Making the leap from employee to owner may be risky, but sometimes not taking the risk, is the biggest risk of all. By Alicia Chapman


here are a lot of risks that go into becoming a business owner. Even when all the details are planned out, unexpected hurdles can be challenging for entrepreneurs. Only 51 percent of new businesses last beyond year five. Yet, every year, over 625,000 new businesses start. There is something appealing about being a business owner — even with all the risks. Just ask Toby Kommer. It was always his goal to own a business. Kommer is very competitive and played many sports as a child, which helped him gain confidence and


taught him how to strive to be the best. “I’ve never been one that’s a risk junkie that likes to jump out of airplanes or go fast in cars or things like that,” Kommer said. “But I guess I’ve always been one that’s felt confident enough in myself to take calculated risks.” After college, Kommer worked at a bank that two entrepreneurs started. By the time he was 29 years old he had worked his way up from an entry-level auditor to part of the senior management team of the $6 billion organization. But, while Kommer was finding success as an employee, he yearned to do his own thing. “I didn’t want to answer to

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a board of directors anymore,” he said. “I didn’t want to answer to shareholders. I wanted to be able to create my own culture and my own organization.” Kommer talked with his wife and kids about what it would look like to be a business owner instead of an employee. And then he started putting together a plan. Seven years ago, he began acquiring banks, CPA firms, and insurance agencies to build what Haga Kommer is today — one of Inc. 500’s fastest-growing private companies. “That was definitely the scariest point in my life,” Kommer said. “And it was the biggest risk in my life. I had

predominantly worked for 15-16 years in companies where I had a steady paycheck every week. But really, it just came down to I wasn’t happy anymore.” Jill Magelssen had similar reasons for leaving corporate America to become a business owner. Magelssen found success finding creative solutions for business owners. She was able to connect her clients with talented individuals who could take on tasks and jobs. As she continued to grow with the company, she managed a team and found herself traveling regularly. “I had to take a step back and figure out what it was that was

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