Dawn Hershik: How to Transition from Corporate Employee to Franchise Owner

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Episode Description

Have you ever gone to your corporate job and thought, "There's got to be more than this?" If so, you're not alone.

When Dawn Hershik was downsized after a 30-year corporate career, she opted for an unusual fresh start by going into business with her husband, Elliott. Together, they launched a Supporting Strategies franchise, which has grown to a company with over 30 employees in just eight years.

Dawn shares how difficult it was to decide to leave her corporate career behind. She also shares her experiences of creating a business from the ground up - with her husband! 

From navigating tight financial constraints to making tough hiring decisions to living and working together through COVID - Dawn and Elliott have been through it all. In this episode, Dawn gives you a behind-the-scenes perspective on boundary setting, task delegation, and fostering a culture of communication and trust within their team. 

If you've ever thought of venturing out on your own, buying a franchise, or working with your spouse, this is an episode you're not going to want to miss!

Show Notes

About Dawn

Dawn Hershik broke free from the corporate world in 2014. Faced with a pivotal moment, during a reorganization at the company she had been with for almost 30 years, together with her husband, she made the decision to leave and pursue the dream of owning a business.

In 2015, they bought a Supporting Strategies franchise. Working side by side with her husband, Elliot, they’ve built a successful business, with over 30 employees, to date. At the heart of their company is a team of skilled, seasoned accounting professionals who provide efficient and effective bookkeeping and controller services to businesses and nonprofits. They bring order to chaos in the Accounting Department.

Dawn is also enthusiastic about connecting like-minded individuals who have similar objectives and can benefit from quality introductions.

Where to Connect with Dawn

You can connect with Dawn on LinkedIn at Dawn Hershik and Facebook at Supporting Strategies.  You can also find Dawn at her website at Supporting Strategies | Chicago Far West Suburbs.

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How to Transition from Corporate Employee to Franchise Owner

Dawn Hershik


divorce, dawn, change, franchise


Karen Covy, Dawn Hershik

Karen Covy Host00:02

Hello and welcome to Off the Fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision making to try to find out what keeps us stuck and, more importantly, how do we get unstuck. I'm your host, Karen Covey, a former divorce lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, turned coach, author and entrepreneur. With me today is my friend, Dawn Hershik, and Dawn broke free from the corporate world in 2014. During a reorganization at the company that she had been with for almost 30 years, Dawn faced a pivotal moment in her career. After much thought, Dawn decided to leave corporate America and, together with her husband, Elliot, to pursue their dream of owning a business. In 2015, Dawn and Elliot bought a Supporting Strategies franchise.


Working side by side with her husband, Dawn has built a successful accounting business which now has over 30 employees and is growing. At the heart of their company is a team of skilled, seasoned accounting professionals who provide efficient and effective bookkeeping and controller services to businesses and nonprofits. As Dawn likes to say, her team brings order to chaos in the accounting department of any company. Dawn is also enthusiastic about connecting like-minded individuals who have similar objectives and can benefit from quality introductions. So, Dawn, welcome to the show.

Dawn Hershik Guest

Thanks, Karen, thanks for having me.

Karen Covy Host

Oh, it is my pleasure and I'm so excited because I want to start right from the beginning. When you decided to leave corporate? Now, full disclosure I have never been in corporate because it's just like I couldn't bring myself to do it. But for somebody who has been in corporate for that long almost 30 years how did you decide to leave?

Dawn Hershik Guest01:55

Yeah. So obviously it wasn't my decision alone. It wasn't easy. I think ultimately it was my decision. But obviously I talked to my husband about what I was feeling. Leaving a company after so many years was not easy. It would have been just as easy to get another job within the company and stay. But I told Elliot as scary as not having a job was to me at the time. It just didn't feel right to stay with that company. And he's great. We sat down, we talked about it and he said, okay, then you'll leave, we'll figure it out and we'll go from there. So that's kind of what happened.

Karen Covy Host02:41

You could have decided to go to another company. Why not?

Dawn Hershik Guest02:45

Well, you know, and that was part of it too when I left the company that I was with, I did think about. Obviously I applied for other jobs, but I felt like it was a hard road to go down after being at one company for so many years, and so I wasn't quite sure exactly what I was looking for, what I wanted to do.

Karen Covy Host03:09

How did you figure that out? I mean, that's the place people get stuck, you know.

Dawn Hershik Guest03:13

Sure. Oh yeah, I think too it's all about talking to other people, because if you're only in your own world and you're trying to figure it out, it's very difficult. So you do need to discuss it, not only with your partner, your spouse, whoever you have in your life, but other people. So what happened with me is somebody that I had worked with called me just to see how I was doing once I left the company. We had worked pretty closely together and he actually introduced me to a franchise coach, because I told this person that Elliot and I always talk about having a business together or buying a franchise, and I didn't even know that those people existed. And so he connected me, and that's really the start of us going down the franchise route.

Karen Covy Host04:02

Ok, so now I have to ask you because this is something I never knew about what's a franchise?

Dawn Hershik Guest04:09

That's what I said to this person. I had no idea. So the franchise coach and they're also known as business brokers. They will help you decide, first of all, if it makes sense for you to buy a franchise. What types of franchises are out there. A lot of people think of a franchise. They think McDonald's, burger, those types of mostly fast food. But there are thousands of franchises out there and if you don't know where to start, it's very difficult. You can do the research on your own, but a franchise coach helps you narrow in what you're looking for. You know, first of all, what's your budget, what do you like to do, what don't you want to do at all? So they help you, kind of weed through all of the choices that are out there.

Karen Covy Host05:00

And then, in your circumstance, you went with Supporting Strategies. But let's say, could they have hooked you up with McDonald's or Starbucks, or do they have a line on how you even go about doing this?

Dawn Hershik Guest05:15

Sure, yeah. So the way it worked for me and the coach that I worked with, we had an initial meeting just to kind of figure out if we should continue down that path, and then they had a questionnaire for me to fill out with all of these answers Again what's your budget? How much do you want to make when you have a franchise, all of that? So then what happened was they brought me a stack of different franchises that kind of fit in what I was looking for. But the other thing that this coach did which I thought was really important is he said to me you know what I'd love to meet your husband, because in my experience, if your partner, spouse, significant other, isn't on board with the whole idea of buying a franchise, it's going to be very difficult to be successful. And I'm sure you talk to people all the time where, if you don't have that support system, there are all kinds of things that can go wrong.

Karen Covy Host06:14

Oh, 100%. And money, money issues, business issues are one of the biggest things that drive a wedge between couples because they're not on the same page, right, right, and I would expect that when you start any new business, a franchise included. I mean, it's a lot of work at first.

Dawn Hershik Guest06:34

It is a lot of work, and if only one person is working in the business, that takes a lot of time upfront, and so the other person might get resentful that you're spending so much time building the business. But if they're the right person, if they're understanding and supportive, obviously they're going to know that that's what it takes to be successful.

Karen Covy Host06:58

But in your instance you didn't just have a spouse who was supportive of your decision. Your spouse joined you. I mean, both of you did this right.

Dawn Hershik Guest07:06

Yeah, we like to say we jumped off the cliff together and that was really why Supporting Strategies is an accounting firm. We provide bookkeeping through controller level services. As you said, I am not an accountant, but when the franchise coach met Elliot and heard his story, found out that Elliot is an accountant, wanted to really find a firm to work in, possibly buy out. That's why he brought us Supporting Strategies to look at and the more we researched it, the more we came to the conclusion that this is something we can both work on together.

Karen Covy Host07:47

Okay. So I have to ask you, were you at least like a little nervous about working with your husband and building this business and being I mean, this is a lot of togetherness.

Dawn Hershik Guest07:57

Yeah, you know, I wasn't nervous at all about that piece of it. You know, obviously there's a lot of unknown, but I think overall but at that point we had been married for over 25 years, right, and so I had a good sense and I think he did to that we would work really well together. And this is what I say to Karen in any partnership, whether it's a marriage, a business and you know, you could be a partner with somebody in business and not be married to him you all need to figure out who's going to handle what, and that's why it works with us, because we have different areas that we work on and in, and obviously there's discussion on what the other person is doing and sometimes it gets a little heated, but we all know, okay, this is what it is and we'll move on from here.

Karen Covy Host08:53

It sounds like you've established your own boundaries and so it's like, yeah, this is my job and or this is the area, these are the areas I cover, these are the areas you cover and that you might have input, but ultimately, you each have your own jobs, right?

Dawn Hershik Guest09:09

yes, definitely, and that was an early lesson. When we first started, it was just Elliott and I, and Elliott, because he's an accountant, was doing the client work. Eventually we started hiring people to do as we got more clients, and at one point Elliott came to me and said okay, I think we need to hire another person, and I'm looking at our book saying I don't think we can. He said, no, we really do. And at that point it was Elliott. We had two other people and he said, no, we can't do it right now. So he didn't. Well, then what happened was one of the people left. We got three new clients. Yeah, so poor Elliott and this other person we're working so hard. It was not a good situation. So after that I told him I said okay, that's your department. I don't interview people. I don't really get involved in that, because he knows he and the other managers know exactly what's happening on the operation side. They know when they need to hire people, when they need to fire people. So that's part of it.

Karen Covy Host10:17

And that's really interesting, and I think that's really important that you I mean you're setting those boundaries and what. The other thing that I hear you saying that I really want people to also pick up on is that you didn't have everything laid out perfectly when you started.

Dawn Hershik Guest10:34

No, no, you, yeah, I think for the most part you learn as you go and, yeah, we always say we try not to make the same mistake twice, because there are going to be times when, oh yeah, I shouldn't have done that. Okay, let's move on and not do that again.

Karen Covy Host10:51

Yeah, that makes all the sense in the world now. I know everybody since COVID has been working virtually, but your business has been virtual from the get go, is that right?

Dawn Hershik Guest11:01

Yeah, and that's one of the things we liked about this franchise when we were researching it we're home based. All of the people that we hire our home based, and it really is great for all of us. From a flexibility standpoint, yeah, we're able to hire some very experienced accountants to do the work for our clients, and part of it is that flexibility that we allow them.

Karen Covy Host11:28

Yeah, that makes all this all the sense in the world. But in terms of the physical layout of your house and your spaces, I mean you're living together, you're working together in the same place. You're living together.

Dawn Hershik Guest11:40

I mean a lot of relationships and marriages did not survive COVID, oh I know it's interesting and clearly, you know, in any relationship sometimes you need to take a break from each other, right, but especially in the beginning.  I do mostly sales and marketing, so I'm  out a lot, whether it's networking events, meeting people for coffee, and if we're both on a video meeting at the same time, we're not in the same room, so there is some separation. That naturally happens, or one of us might have an evening event to go to. It just works for us, and I wish I could tell people what the secret ingredient is. I think a lot of it is flexibility, communicating and knowing. Sometimes, right, you can read the other person's mood and just say, ok, I'm not going to bring that up right now because I know it's just going to turn into a fight. I'm going to step back and revisit that subject later, at another time.

Karen Covy Host12:47

Yeah, that is so key. I mean the whole point about communication you've got and I think that, being partners in a business as well as a marriage, you've got to be able to talk to each other and be honest.

Dawn Hershik Guest13:03

Oh, definitely, yeah, honesty for sure, because it's never going to work. Yeah, you're not.

Karen Covy Host13:09

No. And just to the point of your story with the person that when Elliot wanted to hire someone and you're like yeah, no, no, no, no, and it turned out that, yeah, you probably should have at that point the ability for you to say to Elliot you know what you were?

Dawn Hershik Guest13:26

right, this is your baby now, right, I mean, it takes a level of maturity and communication that makes things work you know, and the other piece too and I think this is true not just with the partnership and relationship with your employees there has to be a level of trust. Right, and with Elliot and myself, we trust each other explicitly, which didn't happen overnight, right, that takes time as you're going through a relationship. But now also with our employees, as we've grown our business, we've delegated more and more, and so we use a phrase that says trust but verify, right. You can't bring somebody on board and say here's all this work I want you to do for us and just leave them alone. Right, you trust, when you hire somebody, that they have the skills to do it, but they need to learn your process and how you like to work with your clients, and so you can't just let it go and not make sure that everything is going OK.

Karen Covy Host14:33

Yeah, no. At the end of the day, it's your business, it's your name on it, it's your work product that you've got to keep a certain standard. Right, but what advice? All right. So you jumped from corporate. Was Elliot in corporate too, or he was in another accounting firm?

Dawn Hershik Guest14:49

He was in corporate, yeah, actually working at the same firm. Yeah, very interesting stories there, but yeah, so we were both in corporate. Good benefits, good company, but again something was, I think, telling both of us that this is the time to do it. And so that's what we ended up doing. And I say, once we made the decision that I was going to leave my job, small things started falling into place that led us to where we are now.

Karen Covy Host15:25

So what would you say to somebody else who is still in corporate and is struggling to make the same decision that you made? Maybe they don't have the outward prompt of a reorganization or something like that, but or maybe they do, you know, but they're still struggling to say do I stay with the sure thing or do I jump off into the unknown and start a business or a franchise or whatever? What advice would you give a person like that?

Dawn Hershik Guest15:51

I would say find someone you trust to discuss it with, right, whether it's a spouse, a partner, a friend who you know is not going to poo, poo your idea, right? I mean, we all have those friends that say what are you thinking? I had those friends Like what do you? What do you mean? You're quitting, you're leaving, what are you going to do?

Karen Covy Host16:14

Yeah, really, what are you smoking?

Dawn Hershik Guest16:15

And it does take some time. Right, there's a process that you have to go through to make that decision. Ultimately, you have to make the decision, but I think it's always a good idea to get feedback from other people that you trust their opinion of. Maybe they know somebody who went through it and you can talk to them. You know it's the network of people that you surround yourself with. It's really going to help you in the long run.

Karen Covy Host16:42

Yeah, and I know, I know personally you have got an amazing network of people around you, but it seems like that's something that you've always valued.

Dawn Hershik Guest16:52

Yeah, I think, you know, early when we first started this business, I had no network. I didn't know what I was doing, but that was part of what we got out of being in a franchise system. They had somebody that coached us, okay, you know, would talk to us. If I had an issue with sales or marketing, I could reach out to that person, and they were really the ones that instilled in us the importance of relationship building. It doesn't happen overnight, right, and you have to nurture those networks. Right, it's great that you're meeting hundreds of people, but what do you do with those hundreds of names? Right, you have to keep reaching back out, grabbing coffee with them lunch? Yeah, it's just checking to see how's it going. Let's catch up.

Karen Covy Host17:41

Yeah, that makes sense. So if you were let's say somebody does jump ship and they're starting their own business what advice would you give someone who's just starting, and at what point do they decide that they've grown enough that they need help? Like to your point, you didn't think you needed help. Elliot said oh yes, we did, and so there was a difference of opinion. Well, what about other small business owners who might like? How do they decide when they're ready for employees, when they're ready for help, when they need accounting service? How do you know that stuff?

Dawn Hershik Guest18:17

Well, again, I think it goes back to who you're surrounding yourself with. Right, you need trusted people, experts at what they do, whether it's a business attorney, an HR person, a bookkeeper, an accountant and so you need to at least have a conversation. You know, having a conversation with somebody usually does not cost anything, right? And if they're a trusted person that you've gotten to know, you can just say hey, you know, I'm thinking about this, what? What's been your experience with that? Or do you know somebody that I can talk to? And then going back to making sure that your processes are in place, if you're doing your bookkeeping on your own, that's great.


Even if it's just an Excel, you need to keep track of what money you're spending, what money you're bringing in, all of those things you want to keep track of, and then at some point decide if you're not getting that done, if you're not handling the books, if you're not sending out invoices, that's a problem, because then you don't have money coming in. At that point you might say I think I need help, because business owners need to focus on revenue generating tasks, and if that's not what you're doing, the business will suffer. And I have an example of that in our own business. When we first started, Elliot did our books because he could. He's an accountant. But what was happening is the busier we got, he wasn't doing our books because he was focused on the employees, the client work. And so we finally one point said to ourselves we have associates that can do this work, so we actually have one of our associates handling our books to make sure that everything's getting accounted for correctly and we can make important decisions based on those numbers.

Karen Covy Host20:16

So it sounds like the decisions are the basis, for the decision is looking at what's going on in the business itself and at what point, being honest about it, what point you need help. It sounds like.

Dawn Hershik Guest20:31

Right, and I think too. Some people think, oh, if I ask for help, that's gonna mean that I don't know what I'm doing. But I think it's the opposite, and I think there's a lot of things that business owners, you can't know everything right and so at some point you do need to ask for. If you start hiring employees without getting help in that area, there's a lot of missteps that can happen right With employment law or issues that you need to be aware of.

Karen Covy Host21:02

Yeah, and I know just because of my background as a lawyer you don't want to have tax issues. You just really don't. The IRS does not play, especially when it comes to employee withholding taxes and other kinds of business tax issues. That's not something you wanna like. Close your eyes, hold your nose and hope for the best.

Dawn Hershik Guest21:25

No, and we say that all the time. We don't do the annual tax returns, but we have a whole list of trusted advisors, trusted tax accountants, that we're happy to refer to. What we do is make sure that everything is in order, so when the tax accountant is ready to do the taxes, they have all the information they need. There's no back and forth, which essentially then means that you're not paying as much to get your taxes done because they don't have to go in and adjust things.

Karen Covy Host21:56

Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense. Okay, now I mean, I'm really enjoying our conversation, but I wanna throw you a curveball, is that okay?

Dawn Hershik Guest22

Yeah, All right.

Karen Covy Host21

So, as you know, this podcast deals a lot with decision making. We've talked about decisions to start a business, to lead corporate, all the other things. Just out of curiosity, what is the best decision you've ever made? I mean, it could be business, could be personal, but what's the best decision you've ever made?

Dawn Hershik Guest22:25

Oh boy, I mean it's interesting. I don't know that I've ever stopped to think about it. But you know, and this is going way back I think one of the best decisions I ever made was moving from my hometown to Illinois and having faith in myself that I could make it.

Karen Covy Host22:56

Okay, tell me more about that First of all. Where are you from? And tell me about that faith.

Dawn Hershik Guest23:03

So I'm originally from Ohio but I knew people in Illinois so I was familiar with the area and I just knew. Kind of like when I left corporate there was just a feeling that said you need more and that's why I left my hometown. I knew that I wanted more out of life. I wanted to really find something that made me happy, that I could do, and so I took a chance. I moved out with no job. My sister was out here at the time, so I moved in with her for a time and then I just kind of went from there. And I can't explain it. I never thought of myself as a risk taker, but I think that's a pretty big risk.

Karen Covy Host23:50

No, that is a big risk. When you don't, I mean, yes, you at least had your sister. But with no job, no, anything except a sister, and you move in, you're like okay world, here I am. I think that qualifies as a pretty big risk.

Dawn Hershik Guest24:04

Yes. So I think that was because, when I made that decision to move out to Illinois, everything that came after really again led me to where I am now. Of course, you go through life and you think, oh man, that really threw me a curve ball. I'm at the lowest point that I've ever been. How am I gonna survive this? And you do, right. And again, sometimes it comes down to finding help, finding somebody to talk to, whether that's a professional, whether it's a coach, a psychiatrist, whatever. You can't do everything alone, right. And sometimes you start out that way and then you realize, okay, something's not working.

Karen Covy Host24:48

But you know and I just wanted to follow up because you've mentioned a couple times now how you have that little voice and you just felt like you needed to do the thing to make the decision that you did. How did you hear the voice? How did you know it was? How did you know it wasn't something you were just making up in your head?

Dawn Hershik Guest25:07

Well, when I made the decision to move, part of that voice was for my sister.

Karen Covy Host25:13

She's like yeah, come on.

Dawn Hershik Guest25:16

But you know, if I would have ignored her saying come out and just stayed in that safe bubble, I never would have had the life that I have now. You know, the same with the corporate world I could have stayed where I was with the company that I was with. But I can't explain it. It was just something. It's like a gut feeling right your instincts or speaking to you and sometimes you really need to listen. Or again, if you're getting that feeling run it by somebody else, say, hey, you know, I've been having this nagging feeling. What do you think? And you know, then talk to two or three other people and get you know a consensus on what's going on.

Karen Covy Host26:00

Yeah, but it sounds like you need to talk to people who, getting back to your earlier point, number one that you trust and number two, that know you really well- yeah, or even people that have gone before you.

Dawn Hershik Guest26:13

Like, I was talking to somebody earlier today and I'm always happy to talk to people who are thinking about buying a franchise. What does that look like? What's that process? How did you make the decision? Because I think really we all need to help each other, and if we can share knowledge that we've gained or talk about mistakes we've made so that other people can avoid it, I think that we're all just the better for it.

Karen Covy Host26:42

I could not agree more, and I think that is a beautiful place to wrap this up. Dawn, thank you so much for being here. You have been an amazing guest. This is a great conversation. Can you tell people where they can find you if they want to hook up with you?

Dawn Hershik Guest26:56

Yeah, the best way is going to be through email. So my email address and I know you'll share it, but it's D Kershik, my first initial, last name at SupportingStrategiescom.

Karen Covy Host27:09

Thank you. Thank you so much for that, don, and I hope people will reach out to you if they have questions about franchises.

Dawn Hershik Guest27:15

Yeah, anytime, just want a network Working with my spouse. There you go, that's a good one. Thanks, karen.

Karen Covy Host27:24

Thank you so much for being here and for all of you who may be listening or watching this podcast. If you like what you've heard, if you want more of this, give the episode a thumbs up like, share, subscribe, and I look forward to seeing you again next time.

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


business, business advice, career transitions, off the fence podcast

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