Have you created a business or a job? 5 tips for turning your small business into a big asset

looking for a jobMy mantra for small business owners is simple:  Don’t create a job, build yourself an asset.  When you own a business you have the opportunity right there in your hands to build something that can create financial security for you in the future.  You are going to work hard anyway, why waste this valuable time just paying yourself to do a job when you could be setting yourself up forever?

If you are serious (as I believe you should be) about building a saleable business, here are 5 success factors you can be thinking about right now:

1.  Set your end goal. Decide how much you want to sell it for and by when, and work backwards. In my book Liber8 your Business, I show a simple formula for working out your potential end value, with a link to the online calculator.

2. Name your buyer. It’s important to have a good idea who might want to buy your business in your early planning. Imagine spending ten years building a business you intend to sell only to realize you have created something nobody wants to buy. If you build a business with a buyer in mind, you have a much better chance of building something they really want.

A potential buyer could be a larger player in your industry looking to grow through acquisition. This growth might be regional – they want a presence in your city or town and it’s easier to buy you than start from scratch. It might be strategic – you have a smart product or service they could add to their existing infrastructure to create additional revenue streams. An example of this might be a large accounting firm buying a small book-keeping firm to add value to their client base. Your service or product could become a ‘nuisance’ to a competitor (read more on a strategy called ‘kicking sand in the gorilla’s face’ in my book, Liber8 your Business) and they buy your company to prevent it competing or to regain lost revenues. It could be a management buy-out, when senior employees raise the funds to buy you out. It could be a competitor of a similar size wanting to grow and willing to invest to gain rapid growth through acquisition. I’ve sold businesses to two types of buyer. A multinational bought my advertising agency and a local competitor bought my pet care company. My father’s photocopier business sold to his senior management team. A good friend has built three recruitment agencies. The first sold to one of the original partners, who bought out the other partners. The second sold to a multinational looking for regional representation in her city. The third is in its early days of growth and I’ll watch with interest who buys it (I have no doubt it will sell because I know the founders expect this and will build with this in mind). Another type of buyer could be a private equity group or even an individual who sees great potential in what you’ve built.

So who might want to buy your business? What are you building that could add huge value to someone’s offering? Now is the time to start thinking about these things.

3. Remove the dependence on you. To make your business attractive to your future buyer, it cannot be dependent on you. That’s a key message I want you to learn from this article:

No one will outright buy a business that’s dependent on its owner.

If the buyer takes you out of the picture and no business remains, they will either insist you stay in the business or they will walk away. So whatever your strategy is, whatever your end goal, whatever your vision for the future … it needs to not have you in it. I did that at my agency by making sure the clients loved the business but weren’t dependent on me. In the last few years, I hired two senior guys and put them in charge of our biggest clients, so my buyer could see the clients were not reliant on me.

4. Start building a team as soon as you can. I couldn’t afford to bring in those big guns until later in my business growth. I started by hiring people I could afford, with a couple of youngsters straight from college. I trained them to do things exactly the way I wanted. I call it ‘training your clones’ – teaching people to follow your example and do things your way. I kept building my team that way until we could afford to hire more senior people. And then we had to make sure we had a really strong culture to manage senior people.

5. Secure future earnings. Getting all our key clients on fixed-term contracts was another critical strategy that worked. They all had two or three year contracts so when the buyer looked at my business they saw a high level of spend committed for the next three years. This was an important lesson I learned from my businessman father. Remember I told you about his photocopier business and how he sold it and retired soon after his fiftieth birthday? One of the best secrets to success he shared with me was, ‘you’ve got to have a back end.’ To explain, he gave the example of his own business. While the sale or lease of each copier was worth a lot of money (especially in the 1970s when these huge machines were a relatively new addition to business productivity) the real value came from the additional contract that went with each machine. This locked the customer into buying all their ink, toner and paper for the life of the machine, as well as regular paid servicing – which meant that, for every machine sold, my father had income guaranteed for the next 10 years, enabling him to predict with complete accuracy his future income. You can see why this made by father’s business attractive for a buyer. They could see a guaranteed return on their investment. It made sense to me when I started my own business, and I hope it does to you too. It will get you a higher price when you come to sell!

   A business with committed future revenue that is not dependent on its owner to deliver that revenue is a business worth investing in.

 

You’ll find these 5 factors, and a whole lot of other ideas, tips, stories and exercises about creating freedom from business in my book – Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free.

 

 

What causes customers to leave you?

leavingWhy do customers leave?

Guest blog by Mike Brunel.

I am continually asked why my advertisers leave me after a few campaigns. I do not think for one moment that has not happened to you. It has me, several times, and every time it does I learn something.

As a business owner why do your clients leave you? Do you know?

It actually stings quite a bit; you are just getting to know them when they stop returning your calls, completely ignoring you.

Here is a typical scenario that often happens. You work on a client for a few months and finally they toss you a little order or money. If you have done your job well, you might get some more.

No one returns your calls

Over time you get to sell them more products and services. Things seem to be going along swimmingly. Then all of a sudden, they do not return your calls. You try to call them a few times. SILENCE.

What have you done? They liked you; they seemed to be getting results from your product.

So, what have you done wrong? What did you do?

It’s not what you think; Here are some tips you might find useful if this happens to you.

Solve the problem before it starts.

  1. These days customers like to be advised. If you start giving them everything they want, they will not take you seriously.
  2. Don’t be like all the others companies who sell similar products. If you really want to partner with them, do crazy things once in a while. Don’t be boring. Push them a little. Be a marketer.
  3. Find out early in the relationship what their interests are outside of work and do all the research you can about the topic. This gives you something else to talk about, and helps build trust.

Finally, if you get the “vibe” that this might not work, be up front with them and say “Hey, I do not think this is working.”

It just might be the tonic to get them thinking a little about your relationship.

“They will spend one day, I promise.”

That is like saying, “That girl will go out with me one day.” Sometimes it can be painful, but you are better off working with the customers that you know will be of benefit to you, and not go after clients that you have no show of getting.

Mike Brunel is partner in NRS Media, the world’s leading provider of Revenue Growth Solutions and Customer Acquisition programs to media companies.  The company has offices in London, Atlanta, Toronto and Sydney and employs more than 175 staff.  Mike teaches people how to sell… he loves it with a passion!

 

From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary planning technique that will set every small business owner free

Want to create a business success story? Learn to see the future

fortune teller

I’ve interviewed many wealthy entrepreneurs as part of my mentoring programmes, always seeking to find out what makes them so successful.  How do they build businesses that achieve such growth and generate such great financial returns?  The number one trait that comes through without exception is their ability to look into the future and see what their business looks like five, ten or fifteen years out.  Successful business people have a really clear picture of their business when it’s ‘complete’, they can see where it is all heading.  Rarely do they start a business without a clear idea of where they will take it.  They do not randomly wander into business, nor randomly wander out or give up when it gets too hard or they run out of money.  Successful entrepreneurs know where they are going.

One of the first things a successful entrepreneur will do is create a vision for their business that is set firmly in the future.  They are very clear that the business is separate from them and as such it must have a reason for being that is bigger and more inspirational than the owner/s of the business.  When I started my advertising agency I knew it needed a higher purpose, something clearly articulated that would attract clients and talented staff and give us something to strive for.  We set out to ‘change the face of our industry by setting a new benchmark for agency service and quality of results’.   This vision for our future kept us focused and ultimately created the success that attracted a multi-national company to want to buy us.

What is your vision for the future of your business?

What’s the number one thing to consider if you ever want to sell your business?

soldIf you are serious about selling your business one day, it’s important to have a good idea who might want to buy it. Imagine spending 10 years building a business you intend to sell only to realise you have created something nobody wants to buy. If you build a business with a buyer in mind, you have a much better chance of building something they really want.

A potential buyer could be a larger player in your industry looking to grow through acquisition. This growth might be regional – they want a presence in your city or town and it’s easier to buy you than start from scratch. It might be strategic – you have a smart product or service they could add to their existing infrastructure – for example, a large accounting firm buying a small book-keeping firm to add value to their client base. Your service or product could become a ‘nuisance’ to a competitor and they buy your company to prevent it competing or to regain lost revenues. It could be a management buy-out, when senior employees raise the funds to buy you out. It could be a competitor of a similar size wanting to grow and willing to invest to gain rapid growth through acquisition. Another type of buyer could be a private equity group or even an individual who sees great potential in what you’ve built.

I’ve sold businesses to two types of buyer. A multinational bought my advertising agency and a local competitor bought my pet care company. My father’s photocopier business sold to his senior management team.

So who might want to buy your business? What are you building that could add huge value to someone’s offering? Now is the time to start thinking about these things.

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From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary planning technique that will set every business owner free

 

 

There are only two reasons to be in business. Do you know what they are?

world arrowAccording to Dun & Bradstreet* reports, “Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have a 37% chance of surviving four years and only a 9% chance of surviving 10 years.” 

I believe that the primary cause of these staggering statistics is that too many people go into business for the wrong reasons.

For me, there are only two reasons why you would start a business: firstly to make money and secondly to make a difference.

Making Money

Business is a financial game.  People who are very good at business understand that business is all about delivering returns to the shareholders.  As the Director and CEO of your own business you have a fiduciary duty to yourself as a shareholder to build a business that delivers maximum returns to you.  To look at it any other way is letting emotions get ahead of business.

Making a difference

And yet a business that cares only about money is a business without a soul. Your business is also there to fulfil a purpose, to add value and make a difference to the lives it touches, whether those people are customers, employees or beneficiaries of the higher purpose your business serves.

There is a fun irony to this concept if you can really grasp it.  If your business is truly focused on making a real difference to as many people as possible, you will attract more people to you.  The more people you attract, the more successful you become and the more people you make a difference to.  It’s a wonderful win/win concept.

Combine the concepts of making money and making a difference and you will build a business that will not only make you rich, but make you feel like a million dollars too!

Are you in business for the right reasons?

I hope so!

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*Dun & Bradstreet is a public company that licenses information on businesses and corporations for use in credit decisions, business-to-business marketing and supply chain management. D & B maintains information on more than 205 million companies worldwide. 

 

From the desk of Liber8me.  Small business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary planning technique that will set every small business owner free

 

The 9 big DON’TS if you want to successfully grow your business

no entryEveryone is always telling you what you should do to be successful in business.  I thought for a change, I’d tell you (based on my own bitter/sweet experiences) some of the things you really shouldn’t do.  Here are my top nine DON’TS when it comes to being successful in business:

 

 

 

1. DON’T start or continue a business with no idea of why what you offer is needed and wanted.  Find your niche, be sure people want what you have and have a plan for how you will grow this business into the future.

2. DON’T believe you are the only one who can do what you do as well as you do. No matter what you do, no matter how specialized it is… there will be others out there who can be trained to do it just as well as you… if not better.  Get your ego out of the way.  Or you will become your business’s biggest liability when it comes to growth.

3. DON’T be afraid to hire people.  You cannot do it alone.  No one will ever buy a business that is dependent on its owner.  You must build a team around you.  This is, however, one of the most challenging aspects of business and most small business owner often make a complete mess of it to start with.  Which leads us to DON’T number 4…

4. DON’T do your own HR.  Most business owners are better leaders than they are managers.  You can probably inspire people to want to work for you with your vision, your passion and great ideas.  But an employee will never share the same level of passion as you, no matter how good they are at their job.  Get an expert (HR consultant) to get the right tools and processes in place to motivate your team and manage their performance effectively.

5.  DON’T try to grow too fast.  You need people – but you need to know you can afford them first.  Make sure there is enough forward cash flow in the business first – don’t hire them hoping the business will miraculously appear out of nowhere to pay for them.

6. DON’T ever believe that doing the work is more important than selling the work.  Learn to do the IN/OUT dance – make the out there selling part of your job as important as the in there doing.  You must have a sales pipeline in place at all times, always thinking about where your income is coming from next.

7. DON’T try to run a business without a budget.  Business is a financial game, and you must lead with the numbers.  Project your sales, set your expenses – have a plan to achieve these and then make the plan happen.  Lead with the numbers.  Create strategies to achieve financial targets and take action.

8. DON’T try to do it on your own.  Business can be a very lonely game.  Especially in the early days when you are doing everything.  Even if you have a business partner or management team, it’s too easy to be introspective and talk yourselves into believing what you are doing is right.  Get an external perspective on your business right from the start – a mentor, advisor, Board, Advisory Board… someone who will challenge your strategies and hold you accountable to your goals.

9.  DON’T let the bastards grind you down!  There is an extremely high probability that at some stage during the life cycle of your business you will want to quit.  You will hate your clients, hate your staff, hate your suppliers and maybe even hate yourself for putting up with all their crap.  You will have days like these.  I call them duvet days.  Go home, pull the blankets over your head and hide.  But come out fighting again the next day, because as I saw on a billboard once:  “I’m not saying it will be easy, I’m saying it will be worth it”.

Hope you liked this blog post.  Now DON’T be shy… share your comments below, let’s get talking about the DO’s and DON’Ts of business success!

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Brought to you by Liber8me.  Business Mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every business owner free.

5 critical success factors for a future business sale… what every small business owner should be thinking about right now

soldBusinesses do not typically sell by accident.  The owners that end up selling their business for a significant amount of money have usually been preparing for that day for some time.  You don’t have to be thinking about selling your business any time soon to start planning now for the day when you might want to.  If you consider the following five things, you will be in good shape when the big day finally arrives…

1. Set your end goal. Decide how much you want to sell it for and by when, and work backwards. You’ll find a tool to help you work this out at www.liber8yourbusiness.com/tools.

2. Name your buyer. It’s important to have a good idea who might want to buy your business in your early planning. Imagine spending 10 years building a business you intend to sell only to realize you have created something nobody wants to buy. If you build a business with a buyer in mind, you have a much better chance of building something they really want.

A potential buyer could be a larger player in your industry looking to grow through acquisition. This growth might be regional – they want a presence in your city or town and it’s easier to buy you than start from scratch. It might be strategic – you have a smart product or service they could add to their existing infrastructure to create additional revenue streams. An example of this might be a large accounting firm buying a small book-keeping firm to add value to their client base. Your service or product could become a ‘nuisance’ to a competitor (read more on a strategy called ‘kicking sand in the gorilla’s face’ in my book, Liber8 your Business) and they buy your company to prevent it competing or to regain lost revenues. It could be a management buy-out, when senior employees raise the funds to buy you out. It could be a competitor of a similar size wanting to grow and willing to invest to gain rapid growth through acquisition. I’ve sold businesses to two types of buyer. A multinational bought my advertising agency and a local competitor bought my pet care company. My father’s photocopier business sold to his senior management team. A good friend has built three recruitment agencies. The first sold to one of the original partners, who bought out the other partners. The second sold to a multinational looking for regional representation in her city. The third is in its early days of growth and I’ll watch with interest who buys it (I have no doubt it will sell because I know the founders expect this and will build with this in mind). Another type of buyer could be a private equity group or even an individual who sees great potential in what you’ve built.

So who might want to buy your business? What are you building that could add huge value to someone’s offering? Now is the time to start thinking about these things.

3. Remove the dependence on you. To make your business attractive to your future buyer, it cannot be dependent on you. That’s a key message I want you to learn:

No one will outright buy a business that’s dependent on its owner.

If the buyer takes you out of the picture and no business remains, they will either insist you stay in the business or they will walk away. So whatever your strategy is, whatever your end goal, whatever that picture is of your shed or your man on the moon … it needs to not have you in it. I did that at my agency by making sure the clients loved the business but weren’t dependent on me. In the last few years, I hired two senior guys and put them in charge of our biggest clients, so my buyer could see the clients were not reliant on me.

4. Start building a team as soon as you can. I couldn’t afford to bring in those big guns until later in my business growth. I started by hiring people I could afford, with a couple of youngsters straight from college. I trained them to do things exactly the way I wanted. I call it ‘training your clones’. I kept building my team that way until we could afford to hire more senior people. And then we had to make sure we had a really strong culture to manage senior people.

5. Secure future earnings. Getting all our key clients on fixed-term contracts was another critical strategy that worked. They all had two or three year contracts so when the buyer looked at my business they saw a high level of spend committed for the next three years. This was an important lesson I learned from my businessman father. Remember I told you about his photocopier business and how he sold it and retired soon after his fiftieth birthday? One of the best secrets to success he shared with me was, ‘you’ve got to have a back end.’ To explain, he gave the example of his own business. While the sale or lease of each copier was worth a lot of money (especially in the 1970s when these huge machines were a relatively new addition to business productivity) the real value came from the additional contract that went with each machine. This locked the customer into buying all their ink, toner and paper for the life of the machine, as well as regular paid servicing – which meant that, for every machine sold, my father had income guaranteed for the next 10 years, enabling him to predict with complete accuracy his future income. You can see why this made by father’s business attractive for a buyer. They could see a guaranteed return on their investment. It made sense to me when I started my own business, and I hope it does to you too. It will get you a higher price when you come to sell!

A business with committed future revenue that is not dependent on its owner to deliver that revenue is a business worth investing in.

Hope these five things have given you something to think about.  Good luck!

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 The above is an extract from my book, Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free.  Available now on Amazon.

How do you build a saleable business? Here’s a tip you can start thinking about right now…

money tree productHere’s an excerpt from my book Liber8 your Business… a very useful tip when it comes to planning a business that will attract a buyer in the future:

A successful angel investor friend explained to me the concept of exit strategy like this: To achieve a successful exit, it helps to view your business as a product. A good business person empathises with their customer and understands their reasons for buying your product. You know what need your product fulfils in the market and who will want to buy it. You use your expertise and experience to create the best possible product to meet this need. You build a relationship with potential customers with a view to making sales.

 Now, step back and look at your business as a product. Why would someone want to buy your business in the future? Which companies could take your business and create more value with it? What needs do they have that your business could fulfil? How could you build your business to make it easy for them to acquire and integrate it with theirs? This is your market and selling proposition. And just as it takes time to build a customer base for your product, it takes time to build a relationship with your potential buyer. So start now.

For more useful strategies for building a saleable business check out Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business free.  Available on Amazon  now.

From the desk of Liber8me.  Small business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business.

Can describe your business in one word? Take the challenge here…

freedomHere’s an interesting question: What’s the one word that sums up what you and your business are all about?

A client asked me this question why we were working together yesterday.  I had to pause for a moment.  But only for a moment mind you.  The first word that popped out of my mind for me was ‘Vision’.  I followed this up with a quick explanation.  liber8yourbusiness helps people get clear what their vision for the future looks like, and then build a plan to get there.   Which brings me back to one of my favourite sayings:

“If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?”

The other word I wanted to say was ‘freedom’.  My purpose on the planet is to help people create a free and happy life.  Which leads to another of my favourite sayings:

“The purpose of a business is to set the owner free”

So what is it for you?  What one word describes the purpose you and your business fulfil on the planet?

Ask yourself the question and now… immediately… write down the first answer that pops into your head.

Take a good look at it.  What did you say and why did you say it?  How clear can you really get on the true purpose of your business?  Clarity of purpose is one of the most empowering tools of business success.  Take the challenge now… and let me know how you get on.

Love to hear what your one word is and why.

Be free

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From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8yourBusiness:  The revolutionary planning technique that will set every business owners free.

How to impress the world in 5 minutes… getting clear on your business ‘platform’

 

soaring eagle“What is your platform?”

This is the question I’ve been asking my small business clients recently. But what do I mean?

Here’s an imaginary scenario to help explain:

Imagine you are on a plane with 20 other business owners in the same industry as you, selling products or services in a similar genre to yours.  Your destination is an airport in a country with a massive potential market for your product.  Greeting you all at the airport is the CEO of the largest global company in your industry.  His brief is to acquire a small company he believes has the most potential for growth.  When you get off the plane you firstly have to make the short list by waving a placard that will make him pick you.  Everyone else will be waving a placard too.  He’s only allowed to pick five.  What will your placard say?  What is the message you have to take to the world?  What are you and your business there to champion on a world stage? 

 If you are selected to the short list you will have five minutes to present your business and convince him to buy you.  He wants to know why your product or service is better than the rest.  He wants to know why he should pick your business.  What are you going to tell him?  Remember, your main competitors are also presenting their case.  Why is yours so different?  Why are you so passionate about this?  What is it you really have to say to him?

Now bring yourself back to today and ask yourself the same questions.  What is it that you are really about?  What is your message to the world (or your Country) and why is your offering so important?  Why? Why? Why?

Forget about what you are selling for a moment and focus on why it is needed.  And what makes it better and different from all the others in your space.

This message to the world is your platform.  This is the why behind your business…. the wind beneath your wings.  (Sorry, but I do feel a Bette Midler moment coming on here because this is about emotion… being a hero, flying higher than an eagle, touching the sky…)  With a business you have an opportunity to do something meaningful and to create change in the world around you.  It doesn’t have to be what you sell that makes the difference, it can be the way you go about it.   Whatever you are selling, you will sell a whole lot more if you are clear on your platform. You will have something meaningful to say and people will want to listen.

And on that note I’ll leave you with another lyric that’s bouncing round my head:

‘You’re the voice try and understand it, make the noise and make it clear…’

Make it happen

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From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 Your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free