Take control of your exit strategy

Recently, a good friend of mine lost his wife. It was far too early and she was much too young. On the same day, one of my favorite former employees witnessed the birth of his first child. Not to trivialize my friend's loss, but it's the way the world works, isn't it? Recently, I left my business. Permanently. Oh, it was all good. It was on my own terms, by my choice and with strong, existing leadership

Recently, a good friend of mine lost his wife. It was far too early and she was much too young.

On the same day, one of my favorite former employees witnessed the birth of his first child.

Not to trivialize my friend's loss, but it's the way the world works, isn't it?

Recently, I left my business. Permanently.

Oh, it was all good. It was on my own terms, by my choice and with strong, existing leadership in place. I couldn't be happier.

I've been around this industry long enough to know that it doesn't usually happen that way.

I think it all happened because I had a plan. Some of it was documented, some was just common sense and some was being in the right place at the right time.

In a nutshell, let me explain my plan. Maybe it will help you someday.

For starters, one day I had an epiphany. A specific occurrence made me realize that I couldn't keep doing business the same way or nothing was going to change.

Brilliant, right?

It's hardly original, but I see so many owners and businesses in this spot and, unfortunately, most never do anything about it. It reminds me of one of those stories you see on T V where the dog falls down the well and can't get out until someone calls the fire department. This industry has plenty of "fire departments," and they're waiting for your call.

So the first thing I did was try to gain knowledge. I read. I researched. I tried to find the smartest and most successful people I could and I became a leach. To this day I still believe it's one of my better traits.

The first thing I learned is that you have to get your pricing right. The "going rate" doesn't matter. It has to be based on facts and arithmetic. Tons of resources are out there to help you figure it out. Everything gets better when you are profitable and profits come from intention.

Then, to deliver, justify and add value to your new pricing, you need systems and tools. Systems drive the employees. Systems set the tone for your company. With out systems, you're just winging it and hoping that your people are talented enough to pull it all off. That's a scary place to be! Because if they are pulling it off and it's strictly due to their individual talent, not your system, then you have a real problem should they decide to leave. They can (and usually will) hold you hostage.

Unfortunately, plenty of contractors pay good money to acquire the systems they need, but they get stuck on the next part — implementation. It doesn't do any good to get the stuff and let it collect dust in your bookcase. Just because you have it, you won't get better through osmosis. You have to ACT!

And that's where training comes in. Most of the organizations that deliver the systems have a strong training arm that can help you with this par t. A manager's job is to understand, practice, implement, track and then follow through to see that the system is being accomplished in a manner that creates a winning atmosphere for the customer, the employee and finally the company.

Now here is a key part that I believe most contractors stumble on.

If your typical day consists of putting out fires, running to jobs, and constantly answering questions from employees, vendors, customers and anyone else you come in contact with, you have a problem. And your problem is limiting your company's growth and potential.

Psychologically, it seems like that's what we are supposed to do, right? After all, we're the boss. When we do those things it gives a feeling of intrinsic value. That's why we're needed. That's who we are.

Oh, get over yourself!

It's a statement about your management skills. And unfortunately for you, it's not a good one.

Get out of the way

Can you go on vacation and the company won't skip a beat?

What if you were gone for a month? Does that make you nervous?

What if you were gone for good? Would your company continue?

Like it or not, someday we are all going to leave our businesses. What will that look like?

Which brings me back to my plan. After finding the systems and doing the training and allowing my people to autonomously do their jobs, I would leave. Try it. You will find out where the holes are and what needs to be fixed.

You see, this has to be part of your plan. Because if your business can never operate without you, it really doesn't have much value to a buyer. Most buyers understand that once you get paid, you're probably not sticking around. And they don't want to go there. So you need to get your replacement ready before you decide to leave.

Train someone to take your place and GET OUT OF THE WAY!

If your exit strategy is to sell to an outside buyer, you need to align yourself to be in position to pull the trigger when the time is right. There aren't many qualified buyers out there, de -spite all those "confidential" letters you get.

Follow the steps. Be profitable. Think about your future. Put yourself in position. It can happen for you if you plan ahead.

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