For some people, working is, in part, built upon the pursuit of becoming one’s own boss—free to make their own schedule or follow a passion the way they see fit. Of course, this aspiration—and business-ownership in general—isn’t available to everyone. Often, only those with the capital to invest in a business or the safety net of a fallback plan feel that the rewards of ownership are worth the possibility of failure.
For Chris Rall, the owner of a cleaning business in San Diego, that opportunity came after a three-and-a-half-year stint as a global consultant. Having used his salary to pay off his loans and save, instead of taking the prescribed career path of his peers—business school and then private or corporate equity—he and his brother looked for a business to acquire and grow. For The Atlantic’s series of interviews with American workers, I spoke with Rall about the trials and errors of his first year of business-ownership, and how acquiring the cleaners freed him from the burnout of his consulting job. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Adrienne Green: What was your first career in global consulting like?
Chris Rall: I was a finance major at Boston College and knew I wanted to do consulting, so I got a job at a company called LEK Consulting. Their U.S. headquarters is in Boston, and I worked there for three years, running the gamut of accounts from health care to biotech to private equity. The last year of my employment, I worked on aviation projects. I got to about three-and-a-half years in, and like many people who are in consulting, I got a little bit of a burnout. I have an older brother who was also at a Boston-based consulting group in Europe, and he was feeling the same thing. I just had an itch to buy and run a business, so we started looking for businesses to acquire.