What is keeping you awake at night?
Focusing on business succession and exit planning is often a matter of facilitating solutions to other more pressing problems first.
We often ask our clients, “What’s keeping you awake at night? What’s worrying you? What are the issues that you are finding difficult to solve within the business (or otherwise)?”. If these pressing issues are unresolved then there is little point in trying to provide strategic solutions or an exit strategy.
With several clients in the last few months we have had to stop our normal process and introduce one of our referral partners to solve specific issues. To complete a valuation for example, we often ask for three or four years financial statements. Occasionally, “these haven’t yet been completed by our accountant” is the response we get. This highlights a much greater problem. In my view, business owners must be surrounded by proactive advisers. In the case of an accountant, someone who is prepared to meet on a quarterly basis to review their current financial position and provide proactive advice. On this basis we recommended a change of accountant prior to finalising our strategy. This has led to substantial improvements in financial performance within the business and we are now able to use accurate and reliable information to complete our business valuation and introduce an employee share plan to fund succession planning within the business.
In another example, the business owner was very stressed and completely unable to focus on key business issues as both he and his wife were working ridiculous hours within the business. He was stressed and worried and this uncertainty and distraction had rubbed off on the staff. The business was leaderless and was basically wandering around aimlessly. As a result again, we had to stop our process and introduce a business coach who is now working on resolving these issues to allow us to have the strategic conversations we need to have in the future.
One of the greatest traps for a business adviser is to be so focused on their solution they lose sight of the fact that something else is keeping the business owner awake at night, and therefore unable to even see the solution or how it might pan out within their business.