My story is probably similar to most people’s growing up. The plan I was on was very straightforward: get good grades in primary school to get into a good college. In college, work to get hired by a good company after graduation. Then, start working your way up the corporate ladder and build your career.

I executed the plan faithfully. After high school, I was accepted into Tulane University and graduated with honors. By the middle of my senior year of college, I had accepted a job offer with ExxonMobil. As a kid from Houston, getting a job in the oil industry with ExxonMobil was a huge accomplishment. At the time, they were considered the employer of choice in the Houston area – the best of the best.

ExxonMobil’s sales pitch resonated with me. It was simple: “You take care of us, and we take care of you.” To a naïve 22-year-old, that sounded pretty good. My starting salary was twice what my friends were going to make. Things could not have been going better for me.

However, my illusion was about to be shattered. Three weeks after starting with ExxonMobil, I watched them lay off two guys in their 50s who had been with the company for almost 30 years. This came right after ten new hires, like me, had just started. These men had welcomed me to the company. They had kids in college. They had “taken care” of the company, and now I was witnessing how ExxonMobil took care of them.

My confidence in the plan was shaken. For the next two years, I endured the corporate grind. I quickly learned that “9 to 5” was just a folk saying. The expectation was 50 hours a week at a minimum, but 60-hour weeks were more common. I was spending the majority of my life in a cubicle, staring at spreadsheets or going to meetings where the outcome was almost always more meetings. To put things bluntly, I was miserable.

Unwilling to give up on “the plan” that I had worked so hard toward my whole life, I decided that my problem was that I was too low on the totem pole. What I needed was to be at a higher level. An MBA was the solution. Again, I followed the playbook. I got into a top-tier MBA program, graduated near the top of my class, and secured a senior management position. Yet, nothing changed.

I quickly learned that the only difference between where I had been and where I was now was that the stakes were higher. The competition for the next promotion was fiercer. The reward for success meant more work and higher expectations. The hours were long, and the stress was high. I spent all week wishing for Friday and all weekend dreading Monday. Was this all there was to life? Was this my destiny for the next 30 years? Was this what I had worked so hard to achieve?

I began looking for other answers and started reading books on entrepreneurship. One book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki, completely changed my outlook. In the book, Kiyosaki describes two “dads”: his “Poor Dad” who was educated, held a stable job, yet never achieved financial independence, and the “Rich Dad” – the father of his childhood friend, a successful entrepreneur who believed in making money work for him.

My eyes were starting to open. I was clearly on the “Poor Dad” plan. Around this time, another profound experience greatly impacted my outlook. My father-in-law, a successful entrepreneur, had built a thriving business. One weekend, we visited my in-laws at their beautiful waterfront home in Cape Cod. (Yes, in case it wasn’t clear already, I married up.) That weekend, my father-in-law took me out for a boat ride. He seemed to know everyone and, as we admired the beautiful homes along the water, he’d tell me about their owners. Each house he pointed to belonged to a business owner. The realization hit me: to live the life I wanted, I needed to become a business owner.

Franchising started to look like the best option. I had two roadblocks: I didn’t have a groundbreaking business idea, and even if I did, I lacked the experience to build and run a business. Franchising offered solutions to both problems.

To make a long story short, I left corporate America and never looked back. I have now built two successful franchise businesses. The first, a residential cleaning franchise, grew to over 500 regular clients with 35 employees. I sold that business profitably after moving to Massachusetts. The equity you create when you build a successful business is one of its major advantages.

In the Boston area, I now own a hair salon franchise, a thriving semi-absentee business that requires less than two hours a week from me. Over the last eight years, I’ve built a team that allows this flexibility.

I’m not a brilliant businessman, but I work hard and follow the franchise business plan. I believe that with these traits, franchising can work for anyone.

Business ownership and franchising have transformed my life. I enjoy more wealth, financial independence, personal freedom, and a better work-life balance. I’m a better father, husband, and individual.  We now have the time and resources to enjoy life more.  We travel extensively.  My kids are 11 and 13 and they have been to 9 countries.  In the summer I’m able to spend significant time with my kids when they are out of school.   Friday afternoons are my time now, and we often go to the beach or go boating.  I contrast my life now to the days when I was working 12-hour days and often living out of a suitcase all to build someone else’s dream.

My only regret is the years and resources I spent following the wrong plan.