Forgive me for getting a little Kumbaya on you here. I’ve had an unusual number of conversations lately about clients selling their companies versus keeping them.
To let the cat out of the bag early, this message is about keeping your company and enjoying and appreciating the journey of making it great. Most of my clients want to build great companies that will make an impact and provide for their families and the families of their people. Selling isn’t always the first thing on their minds.
I’m not oblivious to the value and strategy of selling your company. I sold mine 14 years ago, and I’ve had four of my 116 clients sell their companies for very high multiples. And incidentally, when they did, the purchasing company in every case said they were the best run small business they’d ever seen. It’s just that selling isn’t the only definition of success or objective.
In these recent conversations, a few really stood out to help make this point. One client made an admirable decision. He was offered two times revenue for his company, and he turned it down. He was more interested in protecting his company and didn’t want to work for someone (he would have had to stay on for several years under contract) or lose his freedom. Another client who was made an offer is considering turning it down and wants to keep the family business and pass a great company on to the next generation. One of the above-mentioned clients who sold the company bought it back and is loving the process of making it great (doubling revenue since buying it back).
So what’s the point? The point is that embracing and enjoying the process of building something great has huge rewards. The big payoff may not be selling; it might be the reward of leaving a mark. By embracing this journey-focused approach, you go against the flow of what many believe success is. As Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, states in his book Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, “Society rewards results, not processes; arrivals, not journeys.” The irony is that if you’re able to fight society’s pull, you’ll then enjoy all of the journey’s rewards.
In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he alludes to the fact that we will never know the greatest company because it may be some small business in middle America that doesn’t want to be known.
In his book, Small Giants,Bo Burlingham illustrates the value of building something great. He shares countless real-world stories of companies that shun the chance to sell, accept money, or go public in order to protect and preserve what they’ve built. They define themselves by their passion for their products and their commitment to their employees, customers, and community by embracing a clarity and loyalty to their purpose.
I urge you to consider building something great. Focus on your core values and culture. Stay true to your purpose and niche. Work toward an energizing goal. Choose the right clients and/or customers, and provide them tremendous value and a world-class, unique experience they can’t get anywhere else. Innovate. As one client says, “Do what you love, do it with people you love doing it with, and do it well. Oh yes, and run it on a great entrepreneurial operating system.
Give thought to why you’re doing it, or even reconsider why you’re doing it. There’s peace, freedom, and rewards in simply enjoying the process of building greatness. The irony might just be that if you embrace this philosophy, this approach might just be the thing that makes you feel successful again in these challenging times. I’m seeing it every day. It’s simple, not easy. We are here to help if you need us.
I’d also like to express a debt of gratitude. Thank you for all of your support and endorsements. Traction is closing in on 20,000 copies sold and will be re-released by my new publisher, BenBella, in a new expanded version in the spring. They will also be releasing my new book (with co-author Mike Paton) in the fall. We now have 30 professional EOS implementers to serve you anywhere in North America.