“I don’t know why Brian thinks he can sell the business. He is the business.”
Brian’s wife looked worried as she made the statement. She works in the business with Brian. They are partners, but everyone knows it’s Brian’s business.
She continues, “Everything has to go through him first. Everyone knows that a decision hasn’t really been made unless Brian signs off. The customers only want to talk to him. He loves being the center of everything. The place just shuts down when he’s not here.”
She concluded, “I don’t know how this place would work without him, but he’s convinced that he can sell it to someone. He doesn’t want to run the business anymore, but he won’t stop doing everything himself.”
Control Or Let Go?
No one cares as much as you. No one works as hard as you. If you want something done right, do it yourself.
Running a small business is hard, and small business owners learn to lean on themselves for the heavy lifting. Anyone who owns a small business will understand the temptation of this do-it-yourself approach. The problem is that this approach will guarantee that you will never sell your business.
Once you understand that “my results buy my business”, the key is to focus on taking consistent steps to improve your results. To do that you need to ask 3 key questions.
What Do You Mean “Duplicate Results?”
Are the results generated in your business created by you? Does the business produce the same results when you aren’t around? Can a buyer reasonably believe they will be able to duplicate the results you achieve after you leave?
Asked another way, are you replaceable?
If the results you’ve created require you to be in the business “doing what you do” all the time, then the business isn’t sell-able.
We’re not suggesting that the business needs to be set-up so that it could run perfectly, forever, entirely without you (although that certainly wouldn’t hurt the value of the business). But can you prove that the business runs without you?
Two areas provide the punch when it comes to duplicating your results.
Build a Team
Your people are your business. Do you develop them? Do you trust them? Do you challenge them to grow and expand their impact and importance in your business?
We know it’s terrifying. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve been let down by people you trust. You’ve seen the devastating impact on your business when someone doesn’t do their job or does their job poorly. It’s easy to react to those experiences by “doing it yourself”. But if you want to sell your business, giving up on your people and “doing it all yourself” isn’t an option.
Your buyer understands the importance of your employees. When you are gone they will be the organizational memory. They will provide continuity for the customers. They will be the bridge between you as owner, and them as the new owner.
You must build your team. Push responsibility off yourself and on to others. If you are ever going to sell your business, you must be replaceable. Building your team makes that possible.
What systems do you and your team use to complete the tasks required to serve your customers?
Is it all in your head? Do a few key employees hold all the knowledge used to make the business work? A good team is critical, but they need to be working in a business with good systems.
Is what you do written down? Is it captured someplace? What are the 27 steps to opening the place in the morning? What 15 ingredients are key to delivering the service? What process do you follow to ensure you get the best materials for the lowest cost?
Your results have been created because you do things a certain way. Those procedures and practices combine to create the results your business achieves. Can your buyer use the systems you’ve created to do things the same way after you leave? Can the systems help them achieve the results if one or more of the key employees leave?
You must have systems. Systems give your buyer confidence that they can replicate the same results you have created in the past.
Are you replaceable? If you are, then your buyer can have confidence that they can duplicate the business results without you. Building your team, and building your systems are the key elements to ensuring that you create results that a buyer can duplicate.
So, your buyer can duplicate your results, but can you document your results?
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