My Teenager Just Predicted the Death of My Small Business
“To be fair Dad, I’m not planning on selling a business any time soon”.
And with that, my daughter switches from the podcast (where I was a guest) to a song from a Frank Sinatra playlist on her iPhone. It might have been “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, but I’m not certain, because I was reeling from her comment.
She had just dramatically realigned my perspective.
The Harsh Truth
Driving in the car, my wife and I were discussing our schedules for the next week. I mentioned I needed to be in the office on Tuesday for a podcast interview.
“Wait . . .what?” My sixteen-year-old daughter injected from the backseat.
“What, what?” I responded.
“YOU’RE being interviewed for a podcast?” (Translation: Dad clearly isn’t podcast interview material.)
“Yes. A podcast. I’ve been interviewed on other podcasts you know.”
“Wait. . .what? What podcasts?”, she asked, incredulously.
“Well, for example, I was on a podcast called Fueling Deals. . . .” I trailed off as I heard the clicks that indicated her cell phone had entered the conversation.
“Found it”, she said, and mysteriously took control of the car sound system from the backseat.
For the next 5 minutes we listened to the Fueling Deals podcast, until it was suddenly shut-off and replaced by the Frank Sinatra song.
“What gives?”, I asked feigning hurt feelings.
“To be fair Dad, I’m not planning on selling a business any time soon”, she retorted.
We Don’t See It
Small business ownership is challenging. I’ve spent the last 25 years owning and running small businesses, and I’ve always struggled to maintain perspective. When you work, non-stop on the inside, it can be hard to stay aligned to how your prospective customers see your business. What do they really think about what you’re saying?
- I see us exploring variety; to them it might seem muddled.
- I see us being clever, but they just see our message as unclear.
- Is our outreach being rejected, or do they never see it, let alone rejected it?
I tend to view my business from the inside. That’s my default perspective. I like it inside, but I know how dangerous that is, so I try to be open to outside views. That's why I was glad to be reminded of another opinion (although somewhat cruelly) by my daughter.
The Inner Voice of the Small Business Owner
My daughter felt that the topic of selling a business didn’t apply to her, so further consumption of the podcast was unnecessary (even though Dad was clearly telling entertaining and compelling stories). I wasn’t surprised or hurt, and I realized that her statement was an exact, vocal manifestation of what is going on inside the heads of the small business owners I am trying to reach.
She voiced their thoughts, and she mimicked their actions.
My message got switched off. What was unique is that my daughter told me why.
This doesn't apply to me right now, I'm going to listen to something else.
I’m Not Planning on Selling a Business Any Time Soon
That’s it. That’s the likeliest, fatal blow for my business (and for most small business owner's ability to sell their business). If I can’t figure out how to penetrate that response from small business owners this effort of ours is screwed. My business will be dead, but then, so will the retirement dreams of most small business owners.
Really? Small business owner retirement dreams are dependent on Exit Oasis? Egotistical overstatement? Let me state my case:
- Currently, less than 20% of small businesses sell successfully.
- Most don’t sell because they lack even the basic elements required for a business to sell.
- These basic elements take time and intention to create in a small business.
- As owners, we usually wait until WE are “ready to sell” before we discover our business is not “ready for sale.”
- And for most, by then, it’s way too late.
Small business owners ignore this topic and it costs us our ability to successfully exit our businesses.
Essentially we wait, and then we fail.
Why do we wait? Because . . .
- 100 other things scream for our attention.
- Those 100 other things have advocates. Employees, customers, vendor reps . . .they voice the need for the owner to pay attention, commit time, and dedicate resources to the topic that they want addressed. They push you to pay attention to their issue.
- But no one advocates for your successful exit, except you.
- And your too busy.
- You think you can wait.
- After all, don’t forget, you're "not planning on selling a business any time soon.
You have your reasons for putting this topic off. You have reasons for shutting off the podcast. I know. I've been there. But I know something about your future, I just don't know how to help you see it. Sometimes I feel like I'm standing on the side of the road screaming, "The bridge is out ahead!" The traffic just rips on by.
What if small business owners hold on to the belief that “I can get to this later when I’m ready to sell”?
What if small business owners react like my daughter?
I started Exit Oasis because I didn’t see anyone advocating for, supporting and helping the truly small business owner engage this subject in an affordable, easy to understand, simple to consume way. My daughter reminded me of the challenge I face, and it’s left me a little disoriented.
Is my business doomed? Are the retirement plans of 80% of small business owners destined to stay just dreams?
I hope not. I believe there's a different path, but I'm going to check with my daughter first.
It’s time to ask: Will I be able to sell my small business?