A large percentage of business owners are not just owners, but also operators. Owning a business can be exciting and rewarding, but it is also a tremendous amount of unending work. In the end, the “buck” stops with you. With that realization comes a significant amount of stress. It goes without saying that stress can lead to burnout.
A business with a burnt-out owner can spell doom. Even if you are lucky and have invested the time to surround yourself with an amazing team, you will only have so much time before you have to jump back in and be very proactive. Otherwise your business will begin to suffer.
Let’s face it, as the owner, you can take a vacation. But your burnout might not let you even enjoy said vacation. This is even more true if you are stuck checking your texts and your computer all day long, trying to manage things from out of town.
The First Step is Acceptance
When dealing with burnout the first, and most important step, is to admit that you are in fact, burnt out. This condition may be the result of mental and physical fatigue. While most people might not immediately connect issues, such as health and diet, with burnout, there is often a connection.
Start Taking Care of Yourself
Owning a business means work and lots of it. That may mean that you are not taking enough time or thinking enough about your own health and well-being. Consider improving your diet to include more fresh foods and reduce or even eliminate fast food, which has been proven to negatively impact health. You should also consider investing in air and water purification systems. A recent medical study showed that indoor air pollution can harm not just the lungs but even the kidneys as well.
In the end, you are the key element in the success or failure of your business. If you are suffering from aches and pains, headaches and fatigue, then you, as the heart of the business, are ultimately harming the business. Putting your health first is a way for you to safeguard the health of your business.
Consider Putting a #2 Person in Place
Many business owners have a great “right hand person” that can take over if the owner becomes sick, but that is not always the case. Keep in mind that when it comes to selling your business, having that key team member will be essential to your potential buyer. If it’s possible to start cultivating that person now, by all means do so.
You may be saying, “But I’m a health nut and I still feel burnt out.” Again, owning a business is demanding, and the years can weigh heavily. It is important, especially before burnout sets in, to step back and look for ways to streamline your operations and delegate responsibilities. Small changes can have a big long-term impact. Additionally, streamlining your operations will make your business more attractive when it comes time to sell.
In the end, if taking a vacation, streamlining your operations, and improving your health regime doesn’t yield big results, it might be time to consider selling your business. There is no rule that states that you must operate your business until retirement. Don’t be afraid to walk away if necessary.Read More
The time, effort and money you invest in keeping your employees happy is well worth it for your bottom line. Oftentimes business owners fail to consider the fact that unhappy employees can, and do, negatively impact every aspect of their operation.
Your employees are your front line in dealing with your customers. If your employees are not pleased, don’t kid yourself, it shows. Unhappy employees not only negatively impact the overall experience of your clients but can also make customers worry that something is wrong with your business. Whether fair or not, many customers may believe that a lack of employee happiness reflects on you as a business owner.
Some owners believe that their employees should share their dedication to the business; this is the wrong approach. At the end of the day, the business belongs to the owner(s) and not the employees. Business owners should refrain from becoming irritated or angry because employees do not match their own levels of enthusiasm. Instead, business owners should strive to help employees become as invested as possible. But at the same time, they need to always remember that employees realize that they don’t own the business.
Every business is different, and what it takes to create happy employees, of course, varies. Determining the best way to facilitate employee happiness is a prudent step. Take the time to evaluate your business and the role of your employees in it. At first, this may sound like quite the challenge, but determining what can help foster employee happiness is as easy as placing yourself in the shoes of your employees.
What would make you happier if you were an employee? Massive pay increases may not be in the cards. But still there are low cost or even free “upgrades” that you can implement. Periodically rewarding employees for a job well done with gift certificates or half-days off can go a very long way in building employee morale. When it comes time for you to potentially sell your business, you want a prospective buyer to see a lot of happy and enthusiastic employees. After all, isn’t this what you would want to see if you were buying a business?
Also consider requesting anonymous employee feedback. If you are having trouble figuring out how to solicit this feedback, you can hire a third-party company to assist you. When you read feedback from your staff, you will most likely be shocked and surprised what you learn.
Ultimately, there is no replacement for respect and kindness. Many business owners worry about employees taking advantage of them and may take an overly harsh attitude towards employees as a result. As long as employees realize that you have high standards and expect employees to uphold those standards if they want to keep their jobs, you shouldn’t have any significant problems. Employees know when they are valued and appreciated. They will, in turn, pass on this feeling of appreciation and value to your customers.Read More
The first key is to have your accountant take a look at your accounting procedures and make recommendations on how to improve them. He or she may also help in preparing financial projections for the coming year(s). Getting your company’s financial house in order is very important in establishing the value of your firm.
The second key is to review the reputation, image, and marketing materials of your company. Certainly, the quality of your product or service is paramount, but how your firm presents itself to customers, clients, suppliers, etc. – and the outside world – is also very important. The appearance of your facilities and customer services – beginning with how people are treated on the telephone or in the waiting/reception area – are the kind of first impressions that are critical in dealing with your customers or clients. Don’t forget about the company’s Web site; in many cases, it is the initial introduction to your company. Now may also be the time to update your marketing materials. The image of a company can help create a happy workforce, improve customer service, and impress those that you deal with – all of which can increase the value.
A third key is to get rid of outdated inventory – sell off any extra assets such as unused or outmoded equipment. The proceeds can be used in the business. If there are any assets that should not be included in the value of the company, such as personal vehicles or real estate, you might want to separate them from the assets of the company. This is especially important if you are considering placing the company on the market. A prospective purchaser expects everything they see to be included in the sale. If a portrait of your grandfather is your personal property, delete it from any list of company furniture, fixtures, and equipment; and if the business is for sale, remove it entirely.
Another important key is to resolve any pending items. For example, if the company has a trademark on any of the important products, and the paperwork for registering is sitting on someone’s desk, now is the time to complete the filing. Trademarks, patents, copyrights, etc., can be very valuable, but only if they have been properly recorded and/or filed.
Contracts, agreements, leases, franchise agreements, and the like should be reviewed. If they need to be extended, take the appropriate action. A contract with a customer has value and if it is scheduled to expire soon, why not get it renewed now? The same is true for leases. Favorable leases for a long period of time can be a valuable asset. Do your key employees have employee agreements?
The key factors outlined above not only build value, but they also increase the bottom line. If you are considering selling your company at some point, these key issues will come back many-fold in the selling price. A professional business intermediary can help with other factors that can influence the value of the business.
One other hidden benefit of building the value of your company is that you never know when the Fortune 500 Company will come “knocking at your door” with an offer that you can’t refuse. At that point, it’s probably too late to work on some of the issues mentioned above.
A recent article posted on Business2Community.com entitled “How to Close the Deal and When to Walk Away When Buying or Selling a Business” explains the business sale process and how to differentiate between a good deal and a bad deal during the process. Closing a deal involves quite a bit of legwork, including producing a letter of intent, doing due diligence, acquiring financing, signing a purchase agreement, and actually closing the deal. These items can be easier with the help of a business advisor, broker, or attorney, but emphasis should be placed on the due diligence aspect: knowing the business inside and out is vital to a successful sale.
Walking away from a deal can be difficult for a motivated buyer, but is sometimes necessary to avoid emotional and financial disaster. The following red flags help to signify that it’s time to walk away:
- Undisclosed Problems
- Poor Credit Rating
- The Industry is in Decline
Being prepared is one of the best things that a buyer can do in the business sale process. Whether preparation proves a business deal is worth it or uncovers red flags, it will be worth the effort.
A recent Axial Forum article entitled “3 Reasons an M&A Advisor is Worth the Cost” presents impressive statistics regarding the utilization of M&A advisors in the sale process. 100% of owners that used an advisor when selling their business stated that the advisor had a positive impact on the sale, with 84% of these sellers achieving a sale price equal to or higher than the advisor’s initial estimate.
While these types of statistics are expected among industry insiders, many business owners will still hesitate to hire an advisor for the sale of their businesses. As the article outlines, advisors can help to identify weak links in a business’ management team, find quick ways to increase cash flow, and whip financials into shape, among many other things.
A recent Forbes article entitled “The Question Every Owner Should Ask: Is Now The Right Time To Sell The Business?” explains why choosing to sell sooner is actually better in a lot of ways than putting off a business sale for a few years. The author goes on to explain how when exits are planned for some arbitrary point in the future, owners often never seem to make it there, ending up wanting to sell but never actually selling. The article goes on to explain five important reasons to consider selling now:
- You May Be Choking Your Business
- Money is Cheap
- Timing Your Sale is a Fool’s Errand
- Cyber Crime
- There is No Corporate Ladder
Being an owner gives so much power over the path a business takes, whether it’s a sale or acquisition or even the owner staying on to work on the business for an extended period. The beauty of this is that the owner has the choice over whether or not to sell, but also the choice on what to do after. Starting another business is a common route to take for successful first-time entrepreneurs after an exit, so the sooner a sale occurs, the sooner they can get started on another business.
A recent article posted on the Axial Forum entitled “7 Reasons to Perform Sell-Side Due Diligence” talks about why sell-side due diligence can be a useful and productive technique within the M&A process. While buy-side due diligence is much more common, sellers can take advantage of this practice to maximize the value presented to potential sellers so that they can ultimately get more out of the sale.
Sell-side due diligence can help to uncover and improve:
- Weak financial and operational data systems
- Overextended employee resources
- Unclear financial narrative
- Unhelpful “tax guy”
- Multiple entities and no consolidation
- Likely purchase price reductions
- Ineffective tax structuring
In the end, due diligence is part of any M&A process. But with so many things factoring into a successful sale, both buyers and sellers have a responsibility to know the business inside and out if they want to get the most out of a transaction.Read More
The National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) identifies trends relating to the small business climate for women. New studies examining the role of female entrepreneurs by the NFWBO have yielded some surprising and eye-opening results.
A joint IBM, NFWBO study of the top fifty women business owners as well as 10 additional “up-and-coming” business owners reached several interesting conclusions. The women in the study covered a diverse array of industry categories including 27% in manufacturing, 25% in retail and 10% in real estate. 46% of the women inherited a business and over 50% started their own businesses, with 34% starting businesses themselves and another 17% starting businesses with others.
A Preference for Flexibility
One key part of the study centered on the fact that women business owners, in general, appear to prefer smaller operations. Among the 8 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., a full 75% are one person operations. Through ownership of these businesses women achieve a high level of flexibility in their work schedules. It is believed that this flexibility improves the odds of women keeping their home lives satisfying and rewarding.
Overall, millions of women are ignoring the notion that small businesses do not equate with success. While NFWBO research indicates that fewer than 1% of small women owned businesses generate over a $1 million in sales, there is no doubt that women are showing their strength in numbers.
Tackling Loan Issues
One major obstacle women business owners have faced comes in the form of bank loan inequities. Recently, for the first-time women owned business are experiencing access to business loans on par with male owners; this may be due in part to the increasing number of women in high bank positions as well as banks now seeing the previously untapped potential of women-owned businesses. The NFWBO has also discovered that women tend to direct loans towards business growth.
Internationally Owned Businesses
On an international scale, the NFWBO studies have shown that women business owners often come from similar backgrounds and express the same concerns regarding business issues. Today, female business owners represent between one-quarter and one-third of the world’s independent business owners and have become increasingly vocal as evidenced by female participation at an international conference in Paris sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
A Trend Towards Progress
To date, many obstacles have been overcome. Simply stated, the future looks very bright for women-owned businesses around the globe.Read More