A football defensive coordinator needs to protect against an “end run,” a tactical play where your opponent sends the running back wide around the offensive line to try to evade the oncoming tackle.

Just like in football, you have to defend against an end run coming from a supplier that chooses to go around you to get to your customers. The more of your supply you get from a single provider, the more vulnerable you are to that supplier deciding they don’t need you and instead deciding to go straight to your customers.

TheAmazeApp

Let’s take TheAmazeApp as a case in point. Sebastian Johnston co-founded TheAmazeApp in 2014. The idea was simple. Social media influencers could upload a picture of what they were wearing (i.e., a “look”) and tag the items on TheAmazeApp’s database of e-commerce wholesalers. Then, when one of the influencer’s social media followers liked their look and wanted to purchase one or more of the items the influencer was wearing, TheAmazeApp would receive a commission, 20% of which was shared with the influencer. 

TheAmazeApp’s founding team raised $800,000 through the San Francisco-based accelerator 500 Startups. By leveraging their influencers to drive traffic, TheAmazeApp quickly grew to 4 million active users per month.

The app was a huge success on the outside, but there was a flaw in their model that held back their valuation. 

For the model to work, influencers needed to be able to tag whatever they were wearing, so TheAmazeApp needed to get a comprehensive catalog of hundreds of thousands of the latest fashion items. That meant that TheAmazeApp relied on the data feed of five e-commerce wholesalers who uploaded their data to TheAmazeApp.

TheAmazeApp was increasingly becoming dependent on Zalando, one of their five data suppliers. Zalando is one of Europe’s largest fashion wholesalers and controlled around 70% of TheAmazeApp’s inventory.

The more TheAmazeApp relied on Zalando’s data, the less leverage they had when it came time to sell. Johnston approached all five of his data providers to buy his business, and two expressed interest in buying TheAmazeApp. This buoyed Johnston’s spirits because he knew multiple bidders would give him some leverage with acquirers.

As the process dragged on, one of the two acquirers dropped out, deciding to set up a competitive app—doing an end run—and leaving only Zalando left. Given Zalando knew they controlled 70% of TheAmazeApp’s inventory and that a comprehensive selection was key to their business model, Zalando knew they were in the driver’s seat.

Johnston also knew that if he pushed Zalando too hard, he risked Zalando also doing an end run around TheAmazeApp and setting up their own competing service.

In the end, Zalando acquired TheAmazeApp for between two to three times revenue, which was a relatively modest multiple given the traffic the app was generating just eight months after being funded by an accelerator.

The lesson? The more of your supply that comes from one provider, the more susceptible you become to your provider doing an end run around you. This liability drags down the value of your business and undermines your negotiating leverage when it’s your time to sell. Do what you can to diversify your suppliers to maximize the value of your business.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing a terrifying event. Although not at the level of enduring a war zone, the events of March 2020 may leave you feeling similar symptoms.

If you’re like most business owners, the first quarter of the year was progressing like any other. 

Then…bang!

A superbug started terrorizing the world. Professional basketball was cancelled. One by one, the world began to close its doors. 

A significant blow impacted your business, unless you offer an essential service. Perhaps you’ve stabilized your company, or you might still be experiencing the worst of it. Either way, you’re probably a different person as a result of this pandemic.

Now, as things begin to slowly reopen, you may notice a change in your outlook. The Mayo Clinic reports four symptoms of PTSD:

  1. Intrusive memories: recurrent, unwanted thoughts
  2. Avoidance: trying not to think about the trauma
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood: destructive thoughts about yourself and other people
  4. Change in physical and emotional reactions: being easily frightened, overwhelming guilt, or substance abuse

Any of those sound familiar? 

If so, you may be experiencing the psychological toll a catastrophic event can have on your psyche. There are three constructive things you can do now.

Option #1: Talk to Someone

Soldiers deal with PTSD by talking to a psychotherapist. Speaking to an advisor about how this pandemic has impacted your business can be therapeutic, and we’re here to help.

Option #2: Rebuild a More Durable Business

Another constructive reaction to this crisis is to commit to building a more durable business that can better withstand shocks to the system in the future.

Option #3: Sell

Many owners—especially those that experienced the brunt of the 2008–09 global financial crisis—have been so traumatized by this pandemic that they don’t have the stomach for another disaster. As a result, they’ve decided to start planning their exit proactively. 

If you find yourself choosing option 2 or 3, your immediate action plan will be the same. There are some things you can do now that will make your business more durable in the long term as well as more sellable:

  1. Focus on your products and services where you have a point of differentiation. You’ll have more pricing authority in the short term, have better cash flow, and be more attractive to an acquirer in the long run.
  1. Create recurring revenue streams that generate sales while you sleep. These can be in the form of service contracts, subscriptions, or maintenance plans. Aim to get the majority of your revenue automatically.
  2. De-risk your business, ensuring you’re not too reliant on a single customer or supplier. 
  3. Create an employee handbook and systematize your processes to lessen your dependence on a key employee (or you calling all of the shots).
  4. Clean up your bookkeeping.
  5. Generate as much cash as possible from customers up front to create a positive cash flow cycle.

If you’re like a lot of the owners we work with, your business is part of who you are. When that gets threatened, it’s natural to feel traumatized. If you can redirect that energy into building a more durable business, you may never have to experience something like this again. 

Whether you want to sell your business next year or a decade from now, you will have two basic options for an external sale: the financial or the strategic buyer.

The Financial Buyer

The financial buyer is buying the rights to your future profit stream, so the more profitable your business is expected to be, the more your company will be worth to them. Strategies that are key to driving up the value of your business in the eyes of this buyer include de-risking it as much as possible, creating recurring revenue, reducing reliance on one or two big customers, cultivating a team of leaders, etc.

The Strategic Buyer

The alternative is to sell to a strategic buyer. They will care less about your future profit stream and more about what your business is worth in their hands, typically calculating how much more of their product they can sell by owning your business. Strategic buyers are usually big companies, so the value of being able to sell more of their product or service because they own you can be substantial. This often leads strategic buyers to pay more for your business than a financial buyer ever would.

For example, Nick Kellet’s Next Action Technologies created a software application that takes a set of numbers and visually expresses them in a Venn diagram. Next Action Technologies was generating approximately $1.5 million in revenue when they received their first acquisition offer; Kellet’s first valuation was for $1 million, a little less than revenue, which is a pretty typical from a financial buyer.

Kellet knew the business could be worth more to a strategic buyer, so he searched for a company that could profit by embedding his Venn diagram software into their product. Kellet found Business Objects, a business intelligence software company looking to express their data more visually. Business Objects could see how owning Next Action Technologies would enable them to sell a whole lot more of their software, and they went on to acquire Kellet’s business for $8 million, more than five times revenue – an astronomical multiple.

Preparing For Every Eventuality

The question is: why bother making your business attractive to a financial buyer when the strategic buyer typically pays so much more?

The answer is that strategic acquisitions are very rare. Each industry usually only has a handful of strategic acquirers, so your buyer pool is small and subject to a number of variables out of your control; the economy, interest rates, the competitive landscape and a whole raft of other variables can all impact a strategic acquirer’s appetite to buy your business.

Think of it this way: imagine your child is a promising young athlete who’s intent on going pro. You know that becoming a professional athlete is a long shot, fraught with unknown hurdles: injury, the wrong coach, or just not having what it takes to compete at the highest levels. Do you squash her dream? No, but you do make sure she does her homework, so if her dream fades she has her education; you make sure she has a back-up plan.

The same is true of positioning your company for an exit. Sure, you may want to sell your business to a strategic buyer in a spectacular exit, but a financial acquisition is much more likely, and financial buyers are looking for companies that have done their homework – companies that have worked to become reliable cash machines.

Doctors in the developing world measure their progress not by the aggregate number of children who die in childbirth but by the infant mortality rate, a ratio of the number of births to deaths. 

Similarly, baseball’s leadoff batters measure their “on-base percentage” – the number of times they get on base as a percentage of the number of times they get the chance to try. 

Acquirers also like tracking ratios and the more ratios you can provide a potential buyer, the more comfortable they will get with the idea of buying your business. 

Better than the blunt measuring stick of an aggregate number, a ratio expresses the relationship between two numbers, which gives them their power. 

If you’re planning to sell your company one day, here’s a list of seven ratios to start tracking in your business now: 

1. Employees per square foot 

By calculating the number of square feet of office space you rent and dividing it by the number of employees you have, you can judge how efficiently you have designed your space. Commercial real estate agents use a general rule of 175–250 square feet of usable office space per employee. 

2. Ratio of promoters and detractors 

Fred Reichheld and his colleagues at Bain & Company and Satmetrix, developed the Net Promoter Score® methodology, which is based around asking customers a single question that is predictive of both repurchase and referral. Here’s how it works: survey your customers and ask them the question “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend <insert your company name> to a friend or colleague?” Figure out what percentage of the people surveyed give you a 9 or 10 and label that your ratio of “promoters.” Calculate your ratio of detractors by figuring out the percentage of people surveyed who gave you a 0–6 score. Then calculate your Net Promoter Score by subtracting your percentage of detractors from your percentage of promoters. 

The average company in the United States has a Net Promoter Score of between 10 and 15 percent. According to Satmetrix’s 2011 study, the U.S. companies with the highest Net Promoter Score are: 

USAA Banking 87% 
Trader Joe’s 82% 
Wegmans 78% 
USAA Homeowner’s Insurance 78% 
Costco 77% 
USAA Auto Insurance 73% 
Apple 72% 
Publix 72% 
Amazon.com 70% 
Kohl’s 70% 

3. Sales per square foot 

By measuring your annual sales per square foot, you can get a sense of how efficiently you are translating your real estate into sales. Most industry associations have a benchmark. For example, annual sales per square foot for a respectable retailer might be $300. With real estate usually ranking just behind payroll as a business’s largest expenses, the more sales you can generate per square foot of real estate, the more profitable you are likely to be. 

Specialty food retailer Trader Joe’s ranks among companies with the highest sales per square foot; Business Week estimates it at $1,750 – more than double that of Whole Foods. 


4. Revenue per employee 

Payroll is the number-one expense of most businesses, which explains why maximizing your revenue per employee can translate quickly to the bottom line. In a 2010 report, Business Insider estimated that Craigslist enjoys one of the highest revenue-per-employee ratios, at $3,300,000 per employee, followed by Google at $1,190,000 per bum in a seat. Amazon was at $1,010,000, Facebook at $920,000, and eBay rounded out the top five at $530,000. More traditional people-dependent companies may struggle to surpass $100,000 per employee. 


5. Customers per account manager 

How many customers do you ask your account managers to manage? Finding a balance can be tricky. Some bankers are forced to juggle more than 400 accounts and therefore do not know each of their customers, whereas some high-end wealth managers may have just 50 clients to stay in contact with. It’s hard to say what the right ratio is because it is so highly dependent on your industry. Slowly increase your ratio of customers per account manager until you see the first signs of deterioration (slowing sales, drop in customer satisfaction). That’s when you know you have probably pushed it a little too far. 


6. Prospects per visitor 

What proportion of your website’s visitors “opt in” by giving you permission to e-mail them in the future? Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson are the cofounders of Conversion Rate Experts, which advises companies like Google, Apple and Sony how to convert more of their website traffic into customers. Dr. Blanks and Mr. Jesson state that there is no such thing as a typical opt-in rate, because so much depends on the source of traffic. They recommend that rather than benchmarking yourself against a competitor, you benchmark against yourself by carrying out tests to beat your site’s current opt-in rate.

Dr. Blanks and Mr. Jesson suggest the easiest way of increasing opt-in rate is to reward visitors for submitting their e-mail addresses by offering them a gift they’d find valuable. Information products – such as online white papers, videos and calculators – make ideal gifts, because their cost per unit can be almost zero. Using this technique and a few others, Conversion Rate Experts achieved a 66 percent increase in the prospects-per-visitor rate for SOS Worldwide, a broker of office space. 

7. Prospects to customers 

Similar to prospects per visitor, another metric to keep an eye on is the efficiency with which you convert prospects – people who have opted in or expressed an interest in what you sell – into customers. 

Conversion Rate Experts’ Dr. Blanks and Mr. Jesson recommend you monitor the rate at which you are converting qualified prospects into customers, and then carry out tests to identify factors that improve that ratio. Conversion Rate Experts more than doubled the revenues of SEOBook.com, the leading community for search marketers, by converting many of SEOBook’s free subscribers into customers. Techniques that were found to be effective included (perhaps counter intuitively) restricting the number of places available; allowing easier comparison between SEOBook and the alternatives; communicating the company’s value proposition more effectively; and simplifying its sign-up process. The trick is to establish your benchmark and tinker until you can improve it. 

Acquirers have a healthy appetite for data. The more data you can give them – in the ratio format they’re used to examining – the more attractive your business will be in their eyes. 

August was a rollercoaster ride for stockholders. Triple digits wins followed by even larger losses left the average investor reeling and were a good reminder that markets move in both directions.

Valuations of privately heldp business have also been somewhat turbulent of late. The average offer extended to users of The Value Builder System was 4.2 pretax profit in Q1, 2015, but dropped to 3.9 in Q2.

Does that mean you have missed the opportunity to sell your business at the peak?

Maybe. But should you care? Probably not.

The thing many of us forget is that when you sell your companypossibly your largest asset and the biggest wealth-creating event of a your lifetimeyou have to do something with the money you make.

These days, that means you’ll have to turn around and invest your windfall into an asset class that is arguably somewhat bubbly in historical terms. The stock market has more than doubled since 2009. The price of residential real estate has been growing at a rate of 1 percent per month in many major centers. The same trend can be seen in many markets that offer exclusive beach houses or ski chalets.

Who Is Richer: Samantha or Scott?

Indulge us in a hypothetical example. Let’s look at two imaginary business owners, each running a company generating a pretax profit of $500,000. Let’s imagine that Samantha sold her business into the teeth of the recession for three times her pretax profit back in 2009. She would have walked with $1.5 million pretax to invest in the stock market.

Now let’s imagine business owner Scott who decides to try and time the market. Scott waited out the recession and sold his business last month for four times pretax profit, walking away with $2 million before deal costs. At first glance, Scott looks like the winner because he sold at the peak and got four times profit instead of Samantha’s three times. But when we take a closer look, Samantha would probably be better off today. Assuming she had invested her $1.5 million in the stock market back in 2009, when the Dow was trading below 7,000 points, she would now have more than $3 million, or a third more than Scott, who waited and sold at the “peak.”

Timing the sale of your business on the basis of external markets is often a zero-sum game, because unless you’re going to hide the proceeds of a sale under your mattress, you’re probably buying into the same market conditions from which you’re selling out.

A better approach is to optimize your business against the eight things acquirers look for when they buy a business, regardless of what’s happening in the economy overall.

Find out how you score on the eight factors that drive your company’s value by completing the Value Builder questionnaire here:

Most business owners think selling their business is a sprint, but the reality is it takes a long time to sell a company. 

The sound of the gun sends blood flowing as you leap forward out of the blocks. Within five seconds you’re at top speed and within a dozen your eye is searching for the next hand. Then you feel the baton become weightless in your grasp and your brain tells you the pain is over. You start an easy jog and you smile, knowing that you did your best and that now the heavy lifting is on someone else’s shoulders.

That’s probably how most people think of starting and selling a business: as something akin to a 4 x 100-meter relay race. You start from scratch, build something valuable, measuring time in months instead of years, and sprint into the waiting arms of Google (or Apple or Facebook) as they obligingly acquire your business for millions. They hand over the check and you ride off into the sunset. After all, that’s how it worked for the guys who started Nest and WhatsApp – right?

But unfortunately, the process of selling your business looks more like an exhausting 100-mile ultra-marathon than a 100-meter sprint. It takes years and a lot of planning to make a clean break from your company – which means it pays to start planning sooner rather than later.

Here’s how to backdate your exit:

Step 1: Pick your eject date

The first step is to figure out when you want to be completely out of your business. This is the day you walk out of the building and never come back. Maybe you have a dream to sail around the world with your kids while they’re young. Perhaps you want to start an orphanage in Bolivia or a vineyard in Tuscany.

Whatever your goal, the first step is writing down when you want out and jotting some notes as to why that date is important to you, what you will do after you sell, with whom, and why.

Step 2: Estimate the length of your earn out

When you sell your business, chances are good that you will get paid in two or more stages. You’ll get the first check when the deal closes and the second at some point in the future — if you hit certain goals set by the buyer. The length of your so-called earn out will depend on the kind of business you’re in.

The average earn out these days is three years. If you’re in a professional services business, your earn out could be as long as five years. If you’re in a manufacturing or technology business, you might get away with a one-year transition period.

Estimate: + 1-5 years

Step 3: Calculate the length of the sale process

The next step is to figure out how long it will take you to negotiate the sale of your company. This process involves hiring an intermediary (a mergers and acquisitions professional, investment banker or business broker), putting together a marketing package for your business, shopping it to potential acquirers, hosting management meetings, negotiating letters of intent, and then going through a 60 to 90-day due diligence period. From the day you hire an intermediary to the day the wire transfer hits your account, the entire process usually takes six to 12 months. To be safe, budget one year.

Estimate: + 1 year

Step 4: Create your strategy-stable operating window

Next you need to budget some time to operate your business without making any major strategic changes. An acquirer is going to want to see how your business has been performing under its current strategy so they can accurately predict how it will perform under their ownership. Ideally, you can give them three years of operating results during which you didn’t make any major changes to your business model.

If you have been running your business over the last three years without making any strategic shifts, you won’t need to budget any time here. On the other hand, if you plan on making some major strategic changes to prepare your business for sale, add three years from the time you make the changes.

Estimate: + 3 years

Figuring out when to sell

The final step is to figure out when you need to start the process. Let’s say you want to be in Tuscany by age 50. You budget for a three-year earn out, which means you need to close the deal by age 47. Subtract one year from that date to account for the length of time it takes to negotiate a deal, so now you need to hire your intermediary by age 46. Then let’s say you’re still tweaking your business model – experimenting with different target markets, channels and models. In this case, you need to lock in on one strategy by age 43 so that an acquirer can look at three years of operating results.

It certainly would be nice to make a clean, crisp break from your business after an all-out sprint, but for the vast majority of businesses, the process of selling a company is a squishy, multi-year slog. So the sooner you start, the better.

When was the last time you had your blood pressure tested?

Taking your blood pressure is one of the first things most doctors do before treating you for just about anything. How much pressure your blood is under as it courses through your veins is a reliable indicator of your overall health; and it can be an early indicator of everything from heart disease to bad circulation.

Does it tell the doctor everything they need to know about your health? Of course not, but one powerful little ratio can give the doctor a pretty good sense of your overall wellbeing.

Likewise, your Value Builder Score can be a handy indicator of your company’s wellbeing. Like your blood pressure reading, your company’s Value Builder Score is an amalgam of a number of different factors and can help a professional quickly diagnose your company’s overall health.

Predicting Good Outcomes Too

When a doctor takes your blood pressure, they not only rule out possible nasty ailments; they can also use the pressure reading to forecast a healthy life ahead. Similarly, your Value Builder Score can predict good things for the future. For example, based on more than 10,000 business owners who have completed their Value Builder Score questionnaire, we know the average multiple of pre-tax profit they are offered for their business when it is time to sell is 3.7. By contrast, those companies that have achieved a Value Builder Score of 80+ are getting offers of 6.6 times pre-tax profit.

In other words, if you have an average-performing business turning out $500,000 in pre-tax profit, it is likely worth around $1,850,000 ($500,000 x 3.7). If the same company improved its Value Builder Score to 80+ while maintaining its profitability of $500,000, it would be worth closer to $3,300,000 ($500,000 x 6.6).

Are you guaranteed to fetch 6.6 times pre-tax profit if you improve your Value Builder Score to 80? Of course not. But just like blood pressure, one little number can tell you and your advisor a whole lot about how well you are doing; and your advisor can then prescribe an action plan to start maximizing your company’s health – and its value down the road.

Heart disease is called “The Silent Killer” because most people have no idea what their blood pressure is. People can walk around for years with dangerously high blood pressure because they haven’t bothered to get it tested. The first step on the road to health is to get tested. If you have a great score, you can sleep well at night knowing you have one less thing to worry about. If your score is not where it should be, then at least knowing your performance can get you started down the road to better health.

If you’re interested in getting your Value Builder Score, please visit

https://score.valuebuildersystem.com/provengain/paul-wildrick

Have you ever noticed that fire trucks always back into the fire hall?

                                                                                                                                                              Why don’t they just pull into their parking spot snout-forward like the rest of us?

Backing in at the end of a shift saves them time when they have to get to a fire. They back in to be ready; whether the call comes in 5 minutes or 5 days, they are prepared to pull out as quickly as possible.

Like the firemen, you, as a business owner, need to be ready when you get the call from someone who wants to buy your business. And these days, owners are getting that call more often. According to the latest Sellability Tracker report, the proportion of business owners who received an offer to buy their company in the quarter ending March 31, 2014 was up considerably from Q4 2013. Roughly 12% of business owners using The Value Builder Score last quarter had recently received an offer to buy their business.

The proportion of owners getting an offer is an important statistic because it measures one half of the equation of a business sale. For a transaction to take place, there must be both a willing seller and a willing buyer.

Companies are becoming more acquisitive because they have access to more cash than they know what to do with. Interest rates are next to nothing, and after the liquidity crisis of 2008, companies have been socking away profits on their balance sheet for a rainy day.

This increase in acquisitiveness among buyers has important implications for you as a business owner. Chief among them is that you need to have a sellable asset when opportunity strikes.

Statistically speaking, the two most common reasons you are likely to sell your business are:

  1. A health scare;
  2. An unsolicited offer to buy your business.

As unsolicited offers increase, so too does the need for you to be ready if an opportunity comes your way. Unlike when the owner is in control of when he/she decides to list a property, the hallmark of an unsolicited offer is the fact that the owner doesn’t’ know when it is going happen; which means you need to operate your business as if an offer were always around the corner.

Companies that are sloppily put together with shoddy bookkeeping or too much customer concentration, or that are run by a Hub & Spoke manager, will end up being passed over for turnkey operations.

The time is now for you to get your company ready to showcase when opportunity comes knocking.

With respect to the Olympic Games, it is interesting to reflect back on some of the big events of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

In the Men’s Downhill race at Whistler, for example, the winning time of 1:54:31 was posted by Didier Défago of Switzerland. The time among medalists was the closest in Olympic history, and while Mario Scheiber of Austria posted a time of 1:54:52 – just two tenths of a second slower than Défago – he finished out of the medals in fourth place.

In ski racing, one fifth of a second can be lost in the tiniest of miscalculations.  And when it comes to selling your business, markets can be equally cruel. Get everything right, and you can successfully sell your business for a premium. Misjudge a couple of minor details and a buyer can walk, leaving you with nothing.

Here is a list of six little details to get right before you put your business on the market:

  1. Find your lease. If you rent space, you may be required to notify your landlord if you intend to sell your company. Read through the fine print and ensure you’re not scrambling at the last minute to seek permission from your landlord to sell.
  • Professionalize your books. Consider having audited financial statements prepared to give a buyer confidence in your bookkeeping.
  • Stop using your company as an ATM.  Many business owners run trips and other perks through their business, but if you’re planning to sell, these treats will artificially depress your earnings, which will reduce the value of your company in the eyes of a buyer by much more than the value of the perks.
  • Protect your gross margin. Oftentimes, when leading up to being listed for sale, companies grow by chasing low-margin business. You tell yourself you need top-line growth, but when an acquirer sees your growth has come at the expense of your gross margin, she will question your pricing authority and assume your journey to the bottom of the commoditization heap has begun.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have formal contracts with your customers, make sure your customer contracts include a “survivor clause” stipulating that the obligations of the contract “survive” the change of ownership of your company. That way, your customers can’t use the sale of your company to wiggle out of their commitments to your business. Have a lawyer paper the language to ensure it has teeth in your jurisdiction.
  • Get your Value Builder Score. Take 13 minutes to answer the Value Builder questionnaire now. You’ll see how you performed on the eight key drivers of company value and you can identify any gaps you need to fill before taking your business to market.

Like competing in the Olympics, selling a business can be an all-or-nothing affair. Get it right and you will walk away a winner. Fumble your preparation, and you could end up out of the medals.

Whether you’re planning to sell your company sometime soon or sometime in the future; now is the time to ensure that your business isn’t all about you. From the latest Value Builder Score* research involving 2300 companies from around the globe, here are two key factors that are linked to the probability of getting an offer for your business when it’s time to sell. 

#1: You’re almost twice as likely to get an offer if your business can survive the “hit-by-a-bus” test.

If you were out of action for three months and unable to work, would your business keep running smoothly? The more your staff and customers need you, the less valuable your company will be to a potential acquirer. One good way to start making your business more independent is to begin spending less time at the office.  Start by not working evenings or weekends, and don’t reply if employees call. Once they get the picture, the best ones will start making more decisions independently. The shift will also expose your weakest employees, the ones that need training or that need to find another job. As for you, it might come as a shock to find out how much your business has become such an essential part of you; but if you’re going to sell your business one day, you need to look at it as an inanimate economic engine, not as something that defines who you are.

#2: Companies with a management team (as opposed to a sole manager) are getting offers at almost twice the rate.

If you don’t have a management team, hiring a 2iC is a good first move. A second-in-command can help you balance the demands of running your company and advance your targeted exit time. 

Here’s a four-step plan for hiring a 2iC, thanks to advice from Silicon-Valley-based Bob Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss. 

1: Identify someone internally. “The research is clear,” says Sutton. “Unless things are totally screwed up, internal candidates have a strong tendency to outperform external leaders.”

2: Give your 2iC prospect(s) a special project, one that allows them to demonstrate their leadership skills to you and the rest of your team. If your candidate or one of your candidates excels, it will be clear to your team why he or she was selected.

3: Communicate your choice. If you pick a 2iC from an internal pool, explain your choice to the rest of your team. At the same time, wrap your arms around those you passed over and make it clear how much you value their contribution.

4: Shift from manager to coach. “The transition from manager to coach is a gradual evolution where the goal is to ask more questions, spend more time listening, and spend less time talking and directing,” says Sutton.

*The Value Builder Score is a cloud-based software tool that allows a business owner to assess the “sellability” of their company. The researchers at The Value Builder Score analyze the data from 2300 companies in a variety of countries to understand trends in the business market, with a special focus on the liquidity of privately held businesses. Get your score:

https://score.valuebuildersystem.com/provengain/paul-wildrick