Commitment to Customer Service Almost Killed Us

“'The customer is always right’ isn’t always right. Listening to my customer almost ruined me.” Patrick (not his real name) is a brilliant guy. He and I have been friends for almost 35 years. I’ve watched him start, grow and sell one company, and he’s about to exit from his second business. It’s going to be a monstrous event, well into nine figures. Since he lives in a different state, I am not going to have an Read More

Grandma Was Right, You Can’t Pull the String

I don’t mind telling you, just two months into 2019 and it’s already been a weird year. I was at my desk a couple of days ago writing an email to a business owner trying to explain why I couldn’t help him sell his business. I was having to choose my words carefully because his adjusted EBITDA is close to $1 million, and he had been told by a reputable accounting firm his company could be sold for $4 million or more. Read More

Do As I Say, Not As I Did

Linda (not her real name) told me she wanted to sell her business in 2020, but was confused about the process. She said, “I get unsolicited letters all the time, is that where my buyer is going to come from or should I just throw them in the trash?” I told Linda I get this question a lot. If you own a business, you know what I’m talking about. You probably get letters from business brokers stating, “I have a Read More

The Private Equity Thesis

“My wife wrote a thesis in the early 90s when she got her Master’s at Duke. So now I need one, too?” Perry (not his real name) was 53 years old and ready to sell his company. He had built his business over 20 years to be worth close to $40 million. He loved going to work every day, but recent private equity consolidation in his industry got him thinking 2019 was the right year to exit. Perry and I did a Read More

The Unsellability of Self-Employment

“You’re telling me my business makes $250,000 a year and I can’t sell it? That makes no sense to me.” Jack (not his real name) was moving to Cincinnati because his wife had just received a promotion that required her to move. “I love what I’m doing here,” he told me, “but I want and need to be with my wife. That’s why I’m selling a business that I love.” I normally don’t get involved in the sale of businesses Read More

The ESOP Fable

“I have worked hard to build this business, but it’s time I sell it while I’m healthy enough to enjoy life a little.” Raymond (not his real name) was as down-home a guy as you can imagine. But behind his slow draw was one really smart business owner. Raymond’s sensitivity to customers seemed to be the lynchpin of his success. “Heck, I didn’t know any better, so I decided I’d just follow what my customers wanted. I Read More

Compensation Dollars vs Investment Dollars

I didn’t know whether to laugh or be insulted. While I love it when a potential client does their homework, there is nothing more frustrating than when they have an advisor who is in over their head. I recently had dinner with a business owner interested in retaining me to sell his business. His business was smaller than I normally handle, but I met with him in response to a request from a mutual friend. When I Read More

Marriage and Entrepreneurship, a Match Maybe Not Made in Heaven

“I’m not sure my marriage will survive. Sometimes I think I’ll have to choose between the health of my business or the health of my marriage.” Lewis (not his real name) was in a great place, in some respects. About two years ago he sold his company for $25 million (the deal value was publicly-reported), and he launched his next entrepreneurial venture about six months later. So here he was, seemingly on the top of Read More

The Dangerous Second Act

“What’s more dangerous? Not knowing what I don’t know, or thinking I know more than I know?” Randy (not his real name) and I were sitting in a coffee shop across the street from his office. As soon as we sat down to enjoy our overpriced lattes, I asked Randy why he asked for this meeting. He didn’t beat around the bush, “My exit from the tech company was way beyond my expectations, but I’m getting anxious to get Read More

The Probable Dysfunction Within a Family Business

I’m so glad it didn’t work out the way I planned. When I resigned from the Walt Disney Company in 1995 to acquire a radio business in Nashville, I had visions of bringing one or all three of my children into the business. The fact they were under the age of seven at the time didn’t dissuade my enthusiasm, I had plans for a “family business.” When I explained to my boss at Disney why I was leaving such a great job, I Read More