Posts Tagged ‘selling’

Keeping the Business in the Family – A Cautionary Tale

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

The stories written by the children who bought family businesses should be mandatory reading for all business owners.http://www.profitpath.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/iStock_000016746886XSmall.jpg

Let’s face it, the successors have a unique perspective. They’ve seen what does happen, not what might happen.

For example, a young Australian woman – let’s call her Alex – was told by her father that he had only 12 to 18 months to live. Would she buy the family business?

She, of course, said yes. Most of us would have done.

The company printed “What’s On in Sydney” and distributed it through every hotel in the city. Over the years there had been offers for the business, but they hadn’t met her father’s valuation so he hadn’t taken them.

Alex was a successful freelance writer. She’d never run a business and, until her father announced his illness, had never shown interest in the family one.

She co-opted a brother to redesigning the magazine, they built a web site and her father introduced her to all of her advertisers. And she got to spend 2 or 3 days a week with her father as he taught her the business.

But, after a few months, Alex realized that, while she loved writing, she hated selling advertising so much that she couldn’t keep on doing it.

And she had to tell her father.

So, one day a few weeks before he died, Alex called him. She felt devastated, that she had really let him down.

Soon afterwards he was admitted to palliative care.

With her father’s business partner, Alex found a business broker and put the business up for sale just before her father died.

What’s to be learned?

1.  Her father had passed up opportunities to sell the business because he was stubborn about the valuation that he wanted. He should have compromised. In these circumstances the company probably sold for less than it would have done had the sale been well planned.

2.  Alex responded with emotion rather than logic when asked to buy the business.

3.  Would things have been different if her dad had brought Alex and her brother into the business earlier? They could have complemented each other – Alex writing, her brother doing the design work and her father selling ads.

4.  With more time to prepare, they could possibly have hired someone to replace her dad.

Alex describes the experience as being “rough at the time”. That’s probably an understatement.

Losing a parent is hard. Watching one wilt under cancer has to be worse.

Moving into and learning a business is difficult in the best of times. Deciding to sell is probably one of the hardest things that anyone does in their life.

Dealing with two major life events at once cannot be easy.

And it’s all so avoidable. It’s called succession planning.

If you want to read the story in Alex’s words go here.

 

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 4 Reasons Why Every Business Should Be Sold…..Eventually

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The 2 Truths Every Business Owner Has To Face

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

There are 2 truths every business owner has to face.

You can’t sell a business which isn’t successful. No one’s going to buy a company that hasn’t consistently produced good profits and cash flow – which they believe will continue after the change in ownership.

No one is immortal. So, every privately owned business is going to be sold, to the next generation or a third party, at some point in time.

Why some owners ignore the second truth.

Building a successful company requires vision, developing a flexible strategy and actually implementing that strategy. Then there’s finding funding, hiring and keeping good people, dealing with customers and suppliers, managing/leading and I’m only getting warmed up…………………..

When building a successful business is totally absorbing and fulfilling why would you consider selling? When all of your time and effort is focused on dealing with what is happening now, thinking about an exit strategy seems irrelevant.

Here’s another reason. While all business owners start their companies because they have an idea they think is a winner – their baby – the people who currently own businesses come from at least 2 different generations. And with this, as with everything else, each generation views things differently.

Many older owners – if they even think about it in these terms – didn’t get into business for the capital gain at the end of the day. They got into it to provide an income for their families over their working life time and to build something tangible.

However, younger business owners – those in their thirties and forties – are more likely to be focused on selling before retirement age and doing something else with the money they make on cashing out.

Why you can’t ignore the second truth – especially if you’re older.

If you’re older you are, by definition, closer to the end (however you define it) of your career. And we know that a large number of Canadian business owners are closing in on 65 or 70 – or more. We also know that the majority of them haven’t begun planning for succession or a sale.

This is bad news. Here’s why.

If you build a successful company but make no plans for your exit you destroy the value you’ve created. It’s only a question of the degree to which you do it.

It’s not logical to end a career spent laboriously creating value by doing something that gives that value away.

So if you are an “older” business owner – or if you know someone who is – do something about it now.

It’s not too late – but it will be very soon.

If you’re not sure where to start speak to us – or others like us.

5 Tips To Improve Margins and the Bottom Line……

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Sometimes the old truths are the most important ones. A conversation with a client the other day got me thinking about these simple tips that can pay major dividends.

There are really only 4 ways to increase profits – sell more, improve margins, cut costs or do all three. Costs always have a habit of creeping upwards over time. So, particularly in these economic times, it pays to take a hard look at them and then eliminate the things we can live without. But there’s a limit to the extent to which we can cut costs before we hurt the company’s long term growth potential. To get steady, incremental increases in profit we have to sell more and improve margins.

There are only 2 ways to sell more – add new customers or increase sales to existing customers. In my experience, when we talk about selling more we tend to put the focus on adding new customers. But we know that it costs at least 6 times more to sell to a new customer than to an existing client. That’s not hard to understand when we consider the “acquisition” costs – e.g. advertising, telemarketing, etc.

Tip # 1. Don’t lose your least expensive prospects – existing customers. They must be convinced that we do a great job; otherwise they wouldn’t buy from us. Every business loses some customers over time, but when customers leak away, replacing them with new ones cuts into profits. The key is to focus on our “retention rate”. We need to have a process that alerts us when a customer stops purchasing from us. And we must find out why exactly they’re leaving – not simply make assumptions. Keeping customers satisfied is better for your bottom line than replacing them.

Tip # 2. Remember not all customers are created equal when it comes to profitability. Pareto’s rule tells us that 80% of our profits will come from 20% of our customers. But, how many of us slip into the situation, over time, of treating all customers as equally important? That actually hurts our profits because we waste money using the same marketing and selling techniques on everyone and treat them the same way when they contact us.

So, how do we recognize the 20% of customers who give us 80% of our profits? They are the companies who buy from us regularly and understand the value of what we do for their business. They focus on quality and reliability rather than price and they pay on time. Because they are successful in their field, they have the potential to grow, allowing us to grow with them. They may even refer potential clients to us. These are our “A” customers. Can you identify yours?

Tip # 3. It makes good business sense to treat “A” customers differently than the others. Everyone in the organization should know who they are. So, when they talk to them on the phone or face-to-face, answer their email, make product for them or pick their orders, these “A” clients get the most prompt, attentive, efficient service we can give. We should market differently to them too. Stay closely in touch personally and via email, e.g. send them our newsletters, and develop the relationship by figuring out how we can help them respond to the changes in their industry.

Tip #4. Watch the customers who offer some, but not all, of the benefits of our “A’s” very closely. They still focus on quality and reliability but may not have been around as long as “A’s” and so may not buy as regularly and/or as much. These are our “B” customers, and apart from what they do for our bottom line today, they have the potential to be the “A’s” of the future. Identify them and build a strong relationship with them. They may get fewer face-to-face visits than the “A’s” but they do get regular calls from our internal sales staff – a very effective but much less costly method of maintaining contact. They are also on our email database.

Then there are customers who buy smaller amounts consistently but who have very little potential for further development. These customers – our “C’s” – are solid contributors to the remaining 20% of our profits but the ones who may be most likely to drift away. Our sales and marketing strategies are designed to maintain these relationships in a cost effective way. Primary contact is via regular (but less frequent than for “B” clients) calls from internal sales and email contact about the products or services they buy.

The final group is easy to recognize – they complain most and buy small quantities of our products irregularly. That’s because they are focused on price and discounts. They buy from us only when we’re cheaper than our competitors – they have no loyalty. When they do buy from us, they are abrupt, demanding, they always need delivery immediately and people hate dealing with them. Processing their orders requires our staff to drop everything else and get them to the front of the line. They are our “D” accounts. Dealing with “D’s” can be so disruptive that occasionally they even cause us to make mistakes with the orders for the profitable customers.

Tip # 5. The final tip is to “fire” your “D” accounts. That’s correct, if orders from “D” customers are profitable they’re at the bottom end of the margin scale and the amount of resource required to get them out the door wipes out anything we were going to make. Yet we all have “D” accounts – why don’t we just get rid of them? We don’t have to be rude, simply play them at their own game – quote high prices or long lead times. They’ll make the decision not to deal with us. Do it often enough and they’ll stop calling.

Focus on your “A” and “B” customers and you’ll improve your margins. Match your sales and marketing resources to customer type and get rid of your “D’s” and you’ll improve the bottom line. Make retaining “C’” customers a priority; work hard at turning your “B” accounts into “A’s” and get your sales staff focused on understanding your “A” accounts’ business – then you’ll not only sell more but you’ll make more profitable sales.

Some “oldies” but truly “goldies” in these very difficult times!

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