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Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

When I first saw the picture, I didn’t understand the meaning. But then my friend Kirk (not his real name) sent me a text that said, “Today is my business’ 30th birthday. Here’s what my staff had on my desk when I came in this morning.” That’s when I connected the dots, 30 cupcakes with icing that said “30.”

Kirk and I text each other several times a week. Football, family and politics seem to be the bulk of our back-and-forth. Good friends for over 30 years, though we don’t see each other much because we now live in different states. But I remember when Kirk launched his company in 1989. He already had one successful business launch under his belt. After sitting out his two-year non-compete, he was eager to get back in the mix. But in 1989, no one knew if this second endeavor would get off the ground, much less be successful.

Fast forward 30 years. Kirk’s company’s valuation would impress even Warren Buffett. Kirk’s story has all the ingredients of the American Dream. He had an idea, took a risk when he didn’t have to, sacrificed along the way, and made some tough decisions that could have gone either way. The result… a business success every entrepreneur aspires to, though less than one percent of one percent ever come close to achieving.

Thirty cupcakes is not the grandest way to celebrate Kirk’s remarkable feat. But the cupcakes were a fun reminder of just how rare it is for a entrepreneur to go from idea to sustainability, sustainability to success, much less the fabulous success that Kirk has realized.

I consider it an honor to get a call from an entrepreneur when they are ready to harvest the value from years of work and sacrifice. But in addition to it being an honor, the process is fun! Sure, the timeline from decision to sale to the closing table can take months (sometimes years), and there are hundreds of details and issues to resolve along the way. Buyers are smart and demanding in their expectations; a business owner can’t skate through the process. That’s why it’s smart for the entrepreneur to have a skilled and sensitive intermediary at their side through the harvest process. But if that intermediary doesn’t see joy in the journey, keep looking.

Kirk isn’t ready to sell his company, he might even pass it on to his family. One of his daughters might one day get a box of fifty cupcakes from her staff, and I’m hoping Kirk and I will be around to see it. I wouldn’t bet against it. But I can guarantee this, it will be fun to watch.

JIM CUMBEE is President of Tennessee Valley Group, Inc. a retainer-based business brokerage and transition mediation firm in Franklin, TN. Cumbee is an attorney and has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Jim is the author of Home Run, A Pro’s Guide to Selling a Business. . He has a wide range of corporate and entrepreneurial experiences that make him one of the most sought-after business transition advisors in the state of Tennessee. The story above is true, but the names and fact patterns above have been changed to preserve the parties’ identities.

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Tennessee Valley Group

Jim is an attorney (non-resident status with the Missouri Bar) and though he no longer practices law, he has read and negotiated enough legal documents to fill a cargo tanker. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and knows how Wall Street and private equity operates. Jim is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 listed general civil mediator with tons of experience helping business owners (large and small) work through sensitive problems to achieve winning results. He is the author of "Home Run, A Pro's Guide to Selling Your Business, Seven Principles to Make Your Company Irresistible."

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