This week marks the one year anniversary of the release of our first blog and podcast releases. Thank you to all of our guests, for sharing their expertise and insights for business owners to maximize business value. In our podcast each week, I asked the same question of our guests: "What is the one most important thing you recommend business owners do to build long-term sustainable value in their businesses?"
To be perfectly honest, when we started asking that question, I just thought the guest would say something about the topic of that podcast, but many of them and have surprised me with answers that I just didn't expect, but I can tell you that it's been your gold. So today we look at all of the answers to that question, and here is a snippet from every single interview. So let's take a look back at dozens of things you can do to maximize your business value.
1. Build a Strong Leadership Team
"The one thing is, is create to grow, develop, and really nurture, have really, really good leadership team. So if you're going to spend any level of money within your organization, on your people, one of the key things where you're going to get the, where are you going to really get the most ROI from anywhere within your organization is to have good leaders within your organization who are really, they're not, they're walking the talk of your culture and your core values, because if you have a toxic leader within your organization, they will.
But if you have a toxic leader who is doing everything that is counter-cultural and perhaps even undermining the CEO or is doing things that are very inappropriate within the organization, that leader is going to create some turmoil. They're going to drive good people to leave the organization and they're going to take whatever positives the CEO tries to do and twist them. So it's one step forward, two steps back. If you have a person who is a poor leader, who is solidly against the culture and is doing everything they can to drive the culture down." - Mark Mitford
2. Find Trustworthy Advisors
"If I was going to give one piece of advice that business owners, it would be get outside input, whether that's joining Vistage or hiring a coach, get some other folks because it's very hard. If you're just feeling like you're in a bunker to be able to develop that long-term vision yourself.
And I would say, get a team of outside people that you can trust, who will give you some honest feedback and what the successful business owners I've seen are ones who were not myopic and only looking at it in their own bunker, but were getting input that really helped them grow their business and develop a longer vision." - Ladd Hirsh
"Conversations about this stuff are always complimentary. So take 20 minutes to have a conversation, to see if you're sitting on money." - Lindsay Polyak
"I think I would recommend going back to what Jim Rohn said, you're the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. So make them good. People find an accountability, tribe, peers that you trust, people that understand what you're going through. People that aren't afraid to hold your feet to the fire. When things get rough and people that are going to help recognize your blind spots and call you out when you're not making decisions with the best interest in mind, accountability, tribe of folks that will pick you up when maybe you've ran off the deep end and you, and you need somebody to, to save you. I mean, that's what I would recommend to business owners to build their value in business." - Dr. Jill Olmsted
"Invest in coaching. And here's the reason why according to HubSpot. So this is not just coming from Jimmy Curtin. According to HubSpot, if you invest in coaching, you will see a 16.7% return on investment for that time. So can you imagine you can increase your revenue by 16.7% by investing in coaching? I mean, it, that's the one thing I would say to do." - Jimmy Curtin
3. Get a Business Valuation
"At some point, look at getting their business valued of proper business valuation because we see so many owners who have no idea. They think they have an idea, but they do not have a real practical idea of the business, the value of their business. And so, you know, they get to the point, which is I want to sell tomorrow. They've had it for 25 years. They think because some friend down the street or whatever, sold their business for $10 million, that that's their retirement and their business. They live the same lifestyle. Their business must be worth $10 million to, although it's a completely different industry, a completely different success rate, a performance level and all that.
And when you value their business forum, they're literally in shock and think you're crazy. And it's a situation that makes it very difficult because they can get 20 valuations done. And anybody who knows what they're doing is not going to give them what they wanted to hear. Even if they're not thinking about it for five years or 10 years, because they'll at least then know, well, this is how it works. This is how the valuation process works. And they can then know what to strive for, with help from guys like you to get to that level." - Larry Lane
4. Strengthen Your Bench
"Get your bench strength together because you are not going to be able to do it alone. You are going to need to have the right players on the bus, sitting in the right seats, right? It's that concept because without that talent, you really cannot grow a business. It will not be sustainable. So get your talent squared away. To me is the number one thing. The rest just starts to take care of itself. Obviously if you're a decent CEO, you're a business minded. You're looking at building a practice. You're doing all the other things obviously to sustain a business, but the talent will take care of a big part of this for you. If you get to the right folks in place." - Susan Steinbrecher
5. Take Yourself Out of the Business
"You have to get yourself, your personality out of your business in order to be able to sell it. You really have to develop the leadership team too, to have the company really have inherent value for the purchaser of the business, as long as it is just you, as long as it is all commanding control, as long as it is the magic of the moment and not a process and a, a series of, of repeatable processes, you'll never get the value for your business that you could." - Jim Brewer
"Build your, your organization or leadership team, such that you can start elevating yourself to a, to a spot where you can work. You're working on the business versus being mired in, in the business, right? And so defining those, the functions of your business, clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of each one of those functions and, and either report a hire to empower whatever that is, those individuals to operate those roles and inside of those roles or responsibilities. So that the company, when you decide to, to walk away from it in whatever shape, form, or fashion, the company will thrive and not miss a beat." - Dean Ash
So if you were to vanish from this planet tomorrow, can the buyer run your business without you? And if you think he or she can't, that's not a good sign. If they need you to run the business, they're not going to pay you high enough for the business. If you can establish that they do not need you for the business, and they can enjoy that consistent cashflow and let the business still run on autopilot, that business has value. So the closer you closer to get this, now you may not be able to get to it a hundred percent, right? Nothing runs a hundred percent on autopilot, right? Or no, cashflow is a hundred percent consistent, right? But the closer you closer to get to it, 70%, 80%, 90%, the higher, the value." - Bharat Kanodia
6. Find Your "Aha" Moment
"You know, there, there is an aha moment in your experience funnel in your experience that your ideal customer goes through from attraction to referral is very important to find that aha moment. Where does it happen? Does it happen in the marketing process, the sales process that happened when they've been with you for three months and have bought the product three times, wherever that aha moment is, is generally tied to your value proposition, to your unique value proposition. In general, if you have a must have product, you do have an aha moment. If you don't have the aha moment, maybe you don't have a best have product.
And if you, that is something to reconsider and now's the time to be doing that. But looking at that experience, funnel, finding that aha moment and then developing dashboards and reporting around the metrics that are driving the business is just really important because then marketing and the orchestration of other departments can get to work to improve those metrics in order to really just create massive growth for your company." - Michael Rose
7. Protect Your Business
"Protect the cash cow, protect the business that you already built, right? And you can do that through a captive insurance company, and it's going to build even more wealth for you. So you want to protect things that maybe you're going to sell in to five years, Make sure it stabilized, nothing crazy happens to it so that you can get the most value out of your business as possible." - Ken Huffman
"Know what's important to your company. Know what your crown jewels are, because that gives you the ability to focus on. What's really important to me because people look at, Oh, if I got to build all this resiliency stuff and planning stuff, I don't have time for that. It's like, and I can't afford it. It's like, great. I agree. Don't do that. Just figuring out what the real key key items are, what would really take you offline for five days and really creating your business. So that's one to create a plan and document it. You know, you don't have to create a 50 page, be him. If tome of the ages create something relatively small, something that, Hey, here are the steps. Here are the phone numbers of the people to call.
Here's what we want our employees to do. Here's what we want our clients to do. Here's our communication plan. You know, you don't want to be doing that. You know, when the lights are out and then the third item is test the plan, really test it and really understand really where your shortcomings are. And again, it doesn't have to be long. It doesn't have to be a quarterly thing, although quarterly is great, but ideally once a year, if you could test once a year documented, it's great. And then let me just add one more thing, because I think this really adds to the value is promotion of your program, go to your clients, go to your partners and say, by the way, I want to let you know, this is what we do to protect our business, because we value you as a partner and we value you as a client and we're going to be there for you." - Michael Puldy
8. Define Clear Priorities
"We believe the number one thing companies should do is to clearly understand its priorities, because then you can read the greatest impact for success. We see all the time where companies flitter around different priorities, depending on the day of the week or time of the day. And they just don't have clarity on what they are, what they want to accomplish, where they want to get and how they're going to get there. If they understand their priorities, that's the foundation for moving forward." - Charlene Aldridge
9. Document Critical Processes
"Put a plan together around working through your critical processes, working through your critical priorities. And if a company knows this and they know where to put their energy and resources, you know, they'll definitely know what needs to be done first - what processes need to be documented first? Why do those need to be documented first?
How's that implementing where we want to go as a company, how we want to grow, how we want to supplement that strategy that we all feel really good about. And, you know, this is not the sexy stuff, right. But it's a very essential thing. And I think that's what makes it most critical." - Todd Hunter
"This isn't sexy, but this really fits into the theme of your, what you do, right? The business, like the resale value, like how sellable is your business it's systems, man, it's the unsexy part of the business that like every single job you have in your company should have like a Wiki. You should be using some sort of thing with like, here's this person's job description. Here's step-by-step directions for all the tasks that this person performs on a weekly basis with your sales team. It's the same thing. I see this like complete, just winging it with the salespeople that come in and like they wing, they don't have like talk tracks and like emails, templates. It's like really systemizing everything, making sure everything's got a framework that it's got an approach to it that it's documented. All of that stuff is extremely important. You should be able to lose a leader in one department and someone else should be able to come in and pick up right where they left off." - Jason Bay
"Probably to, to document your processes, you know, understand what your, you know, where your constraints are and identify those as strategies to start to move towards those just as we are doing here in the cashflow, but to really document them, to get, to adjust them there, you know, things you may have done last year that just don't make sense to do, to do now." - Gerald McAdoo
10. Have Those Awkward Conversations
"Definitely communicate, talk to each other, sign to each other, write to each other, however you need to do it because anything that you're holding back is going to be affecting the business and affecting you, whether you want to admit it or not. I learned something from my friend, William Larson, who's incredible facilitator, that you should have a space in any meeting, not any meeting, but in certain units for awkward conversations. We have a spot on the agenda for awkward conversations where we can bring up anything that's sort of been eating at us, which could be something like, "I don't agree with that decision that you made," or it could be "your natural deodorant is not working as well as you think it is," Creating a space for communication is going to be the thing that will affect how your communication works the most, which is going to affect how your business runs the most. And so that I think is the most important thing." - Sheila Henson
11. Prove Your Product or Service is Better
"Business Owners need to do some very strong soul searching on, on why is my product or service truly better. I'm going to bring my mom out right now. Okay. So my mom's 78. Again, she was on the first team for North Texas to beat Harvard and national debate. She's an amazing debate teacher, amazing speech teacher. And what she taught me when I was a kid is in debate. It doesn't matter what you believe. It matters what you can prove in a court of law. Right? So, so, so many times I ask business owners, I'll say so great. So tell me, you know, so you're charged $20,000 more than XYZ competitor. Tell me why, you know, and then prove it." - Jason Forrest
12. Get Off of Autopilot
"Look at everything in your business, look at where your money is coming from. Look at where your money is going. Look at your customers, look at what you're doing. Look at systems. I mean, be relentless in constant improvement. You know, self-introspection about where it is. You're going, what is you're doing? And get off of autopilot." - Susan Bryant, CPA
13. Consider Retainer Agreements
"I think the client should be considered having retainer agreements, having an understanding with a lawyer that is the general counsel type that you've talked about and let the lawyer understand your business, encourage the lawyer on their own time to come out and spend a day with your business in a day, half a day, with each of the principles which I've done. COVID has given me that opportunity in the last couple of months. By doing so, the lawyer understands you and your business understands where you want to go and understands where some of your mind fields might be. So that if you've got a contract to be signed and you, and you say, well, would you look at this and spend 15 minutes and spend some time looking at this?
And I can say, sure, no problem. That goes on your retainer and I'm going to, and I'm going to keep track of the time I spend on your retainer matter, but you're not going to get a bill for it. That's part of your flat monthly fee. And so in doing so, you've kind of prepaid for it and knowing that you've prepaid for it, you're a whole lot more willing to give me a call and say, Hey, what do you think about this before I sign it." - Cleve Clinton
14. Understand the Price of What You're Selling
"Understanding what you're selling and what it costs. And it might be, you might have 20 items, but look at each of those and understand, okay, what do I make off of this? Because what tends to happen? I see it, a lot companies have favorite customers. And the says, well, can you do this? Can you do this? Can you make this new formula? And all of a sudden a company is producing something, selling a lot of it, not making any money off it. In some cases they're losing money. So I think truly going in and understanding how you make your money off of what you make your money on is a key and maximizing the value of your business." - John Gorbutt
15. Hire the Best
"Don't just hire the least worst person who applied for the job in the month that you had it open, right? And then once you hire those folks, spend time with them, educate them, right? Make sure you have the long version of the story. Not just here's some tasks to do, go do them really teach them about the business. Really learn from them, really expose them to other trainings, other books, other learnings. And then as you continue to build them up, you can delegate to them. That's hard to beat, you know, going back to the whole sports analogy. If you've got the players, right, you're going to win a lot of games.
So same thing applies to business. If you go out and get great people and you really invest them and make them better every single day and give them the opportunity to do the job, that to me, is how you're going to have a very valuable business with a very valuable team." - Jim Roddy
16. Create a Diverse Team
"It's worth the extra time to bring a diverse group together. And it's worth the extra time to figure out how do you unlock the key character strengths that each person brings to the table." - Rich Russo
17. ROII - Return on Individual Investment
"Businesses is only as good as its employees and how they perform and how they feel connected. It's very difficult for owners today to create an intrinsic value in their employees. But that's why we call it ROII return on individual investment. So what are we doing to maximize our values based on what we're putting into the lives of our, of our employees and investing in them." - Gerald Parsons
18. Clarify Your Messaging
"I think it's to get the most maximize the value out of your marketing and your sales is to make sure you get your, your messaging down, your positioning, your branding, kind of all synonymous, because I think that makes everything, you do that much more effective to me. If you take a minute to do that and then apply that to what you're doing and hold yourself to it, because you know, a good positioning is, is a benchmark. When somebody has a, you know, let's face it, everybody's a marketing person, right? Everybody can do marketing. We in, in big corporate America, we put people out to pasture in marketing, and everyone can do marketing, but, but you know, you, you, when you come up with your, with your brand and hold yourself to it, it's a benchmark to assess things that are put in front of you, right?
So if someone comes up with an idea, the first thing you want to do is is it, does it support that positioning or not? It's something to keep everybody heading in the same direction and a way to say great idea, but it doesn't fit sort of our overall messaging. It might be a sales training thing or something like that. It might be a piece of something else. So not only leveraging the value of your marketing, it's it? I think it just sort of helps the whole organization move in the same direction." - Michael Orr
19. Save Money on Real Estate
"Well, spend as little money as possible on rent or ownership of a building that you're not buying. I mean, that it's real estate is a necessary evil that is required to accomplish business goals and objectives. In many cases, that's all being reconsidered right now. So all I'm saying is that you don't don't spend more money than you have. So how can you best minimize that expense while maximizing the value and the return on investment from that? And, and this is going to sound incredibly self-serving, but the best way is to hire a tenant representative to help you do that. Because, you know, if I'm going to go do my taxes, I'm not going to do it myself. I'm going to hire an expert to do that.
If I'm going to, you know, think about selling my business at some point in the future, I'm going to hire somebody like Tom Bronson, because he knows things that I don't know. And, and so, you know, hire experts that know things that you don't know or that you don't have the time or desire to deal with. So, you know, our job as a tenant rep is to save clients money, save them time to give them expert advice. I mean, they typically sign a lease once every five years a landlord is doing it thousands of times a year. So you're outgunned don't ever Go into a negotiation where you're out gone, knowledge is power. Make sure you have knowledge on your side. And the best way to do that in real estate is to hire somebody who has that knowledge, that's assignment, a lot of other circumstances as well." - Bob Gibbons
20. Empower Your Innovators to Innovate
"If you build that culture of innovation, you will get value for your innovation. And if you're not getting value for your innovation, it is really expensive to innovate. If you're not getting value for it, I'm sure there's a lot of other things to build sustainable business, but, you know, I'm an IP lawyer. So it's sorta like, you know, to, to the hammer, every problem looks like a nail, but, but I'm going to tell you that from my perspective, getting value for your innovation, and that means building that culture of innovation. And in time, I love that you've given that speech I've given it to, from the IP lawyers perspective, how to build that culture of innovation it's critical. And if you do that, you'll find value." - Dan Shulman
22. Invest in the Best
"Long-term sustainable value translates to building something that can grow, live and thrive without you as the owner and the founder, right? And a business that can see where it's going at any point of time and can adapt when needed and justified by the business. So to me, that means investing in know the best people, the best systems, the best processes and documenting. " - Oliver Cone
23. Culture is Key
"Culture is really important. And I think you'll admit to me, admit to Tom, especially as people are looking at maybe selling or even buying a business culture is really important. And if you're buying a business where the culture has been very negative for years and years and years, you literally have to have a fire sale on that thing to actually resurrected. It's very difficult to resurrect a really negative culture on the, on the flip side, if you've got good staff, they they're excited about their work. You've got managers that love what they do. And there's just this culture of gratitude and just respect and everything. It is unbelievable the value that that brings to the business." - Rich Cavaness
24. Control & Protect Your Data
"I think it really goes back to, you know, taking control of their data. You know, the, the, of all the technology that you have in your business, you know, the only thing that's really going to separate you is that data, you know, if you're looking for, you know, merger acquisition or, or something of longer-term value, a lot of your corporate value is locked up and, you know, wants in your data. You know, either they're, they're buying your list of customers, they're buying your, your technical knowledge. They're buying into all the intellectual property, your specialty designs, whatever it is, but realize if that's all your value, you've got to protect it. You've got to mind that you've got to understand it.
You gotta be able to control it. You gotta be able to protect it. You know, all of those kinds of things, you know, it all hinges around your data. But you know, a lot of times when I talk to owners, they, they just don't know where the data is and know I've got servers, but I don't know where my data is at, or I think I've got servers, but, you know, your data could actually be stored in the cloud, you know, on one drive or some other shared application." - Steve Meek
25. Challenge Your Assumptions
"Challenge where you think you're going to be in three to five years challenge, what you think is valuable in your business right now, you know, what does the future value look like? You know, I, I think there are so many ways. If, if you are not continuing to build your business and create an innovate while you're trying to get out, you're not going to have something worth having when it's time to get out. Cause it'll be obsolete. The technologies that we, that we're designing right now are even obsolete. You know, we're looking at, for example, I'll go back to the, you know, the air force, we're up to six generation fighter jets now.
And the ones that are, that were in development, like if we're not thinking about seventh gen already, they're going to be obsolete by the time we produce them. So it, it really is about how do we continue to make sure that we create so that whatever we have in three, five, 10 years from now has even more value." - Chris M. King
26. Give Yourself Options
"Number one is understand the drivers of value in the business. And what's going to make your business marketable at the end of the day, whether you plan an exit or not in the short term, you plan in the long-term, you're at least giving yourself options in the shorter term. If you decide to get out of the business, or if you have a health event, or if you get a strategic offer, if PE comes in and offers you a bunch of money, you're giving yourself options and you're giving yourself the ability to maximize the, the takeout of the business. Once you, once you decide to exit, and then once you understand those value drivers, make sure that you make every decision within that business with a high degree of intentionality around those things that are accretive to that valuation.
And I think a lot of business owners, it, whether it's launching a new product line or whether it's sort of tolerating under-performance in certain areas or not understanding where the profitability comes and therefore not being intentional about the decisions that you make to drive value within the business, every decision you make, you ought to go back to the mission of the business and the mission of the businesses to drive value." - Greg Stanley
27. Always Be Caring
"So, you know, in sales, specifically, many people have heard the ABCs of sales is to always be closing. You know, that's the ABC is of sales. What I really believe the ABCs of sales is to always be caring. So if you own a business and you genuinely, I'm talking about genuinely care about what you do, what you're producing, it's quality, it's the best you care about your people and you care about your customers. I think that is the greatest value you can bring that will pay you dividends year in, year out for however long you want to do it." - Debbie Mrazek
28. Be Vulnerable
"When it comes to being a business owner, when it comes to being a leader. I think vulnerability is one of the biggest things that you can do with your team. If you are getting, cause listen, we're not perfect. Right? We make mistakes. Most of us, you know, well, everybody does. But if you think you don't make mistakes, you make mistakes. And I think there's something so big to be said about, we don't have to always have a stiff upper lip with our people. We don't always have to look like we're perfect. We can turn to our teams and say, I've made a mistake. We can be vulnerable with them. And in that process, you'll build trust with them. And in that process, they will want to be on your team as well. And I've experienced this with my own team.
There have been times where something has happened, where I know I'm like, shoot, like did I, did I mess up? Did I make a mistake? And I will approach them with exactly that like, Hey, you know, we had this conversation yesterday. I noticed your reaction. And I want to make sure that I didn't do anything, you know, anything wrong. Or did I say something that bothered you? Or sometimes they'll say something and be like, shoot, am I not seeing like myself properly? Like, is there something that I'm doing that I can do better? And in that, you know, you even, you have the ability to really show them that you believe that you're not infallible, right. That you can make mistakes and that it really will garner trust and bond you and your team.
And through that, yeah. They'll bend over backwards for you, but that's not, that's what the point of it, but they will, they will, they'll help you and the organization. And because they, they see your heart, they see you and they want to be part of that and help the organization grow." - LeiLani Quiray
29. Stop Running Every Personal Expense to your Business
"When it comes time to going to the lenders, SBA, lenders, they understand add backs, you know, but if you go in there and you're like, yeah, this is my personal cell phone bill. Here's 400 bucks here, 200 bucks there, the, you know, the SB bankers, they just kind of rolled their eyes. They're like, look, what are the top three add back categories that we can actually verify your personal travel meals out. That's about it. You know, if you're running every little aspect of your life for your business. Okay, great. I get it. You know, you, you're going to go from a taxable liability of six, $700,000 a year, maybe down to 300. Okay. But what that's going to do for you on the exit multiple is you might lose a whole multiple and earnings on the exit. So, you know, for the two, three years before selling your business, keep really clean books. You know, obviously it's okay to have an, you know, an add back here or there, but make sure you can just break it down into one or two cleanings." - Josh Kim
30. Invest on the Accounting Function
"I see a lot of times for organizations tend to view the accounting function as something that they'll work on later on, let me get my business up and running and then I'll figure that out later. And then they get busy. They get more revenue coming in and they're, you know, busier than a one-armed paper hanger. Right. And they don't have the time and energy to invest in that accounting function. And then they come to a transaction and they wish that they would have started very early on with that. So I would say finding that right controller, that accounting manager then move into a controller and then ultimately a CFO or a true CFO position, I think is critical to making sure that you can maximize that value long-term in the business." - Jeff Owens
31. Transition On Your Terms
Well, it's not just the dollar figure of the purchase price. It's also, what are the terms of payout? Are you going to be able to stick around, and transition your working years on your own terms and on your own timeline and what are the tax implications? Is it just a single payday or do I have the opportunity as a business owner to maximize the value of this business that I've created on a post-tax basis? ESOP's provided great opportunity there from the employee side and you as a business owner should be considering that." - Jason Luter
So there you have it literally dozens of things you can do to build a longterm value in your business. We are so grateful to all of our guests, our readers, and our colleagues for this continued support and interest in our passion to help business owners maximize business value. I'm looking forward to year two!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Bronson is the founder and President of Mastery Partners, a company that helps business owners maximize business value, design exit strategy, and transition their business on their terms. Mastery utilizes proven techniques and strategies that dramatically improve business value that was developed during Tom’s career 100 business transactions as either a business buyer or seller. As a business owner himself, he has been in your situation a hundred times, and he knows what it takes to craft the right strategy. Bronson is passionate about helping business owners and has the experience to do it. Want to chat more or think Tom can help you? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his book, Maximize Business Value, Begin with The Exit in Mind (2020).
Mastery Partners, where our mission is to equip business owners to Maximize Business Value so they can transition their business on their terms. Our mission was born from the lessons we’ve learned from over 100 business transactions, which fuels our desire to share our experiences and wisdom so you can succeed.