Inflation is creeping in and the cost of living is rising through fuel and food prices. Consistent political volatility is not making the situation any easier. All this noise creates uncertainty from an individual and a business perspective and can erode your confidence as an entrepreneur and your future endeavors.
As a business owner, you need to steer your ship in the right direction, which means being the captain who stays on the bridge with a clear view ahead.
Business owners need to adopt one strategy! And there can only be one strategy behind your business, and that is to build it into what we refer to as an Asset of Value™
In this podcast of The Money Show, Pavlo Phitidis shares insight on a strategy that all business owners should be working on.
An Asset of Value™ has 3 elements to it:
A business built as an Asset of Value™ will enable you to sell it and reap the capital gain as a reward for all the risk you have taken over the five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years of getting it there.
To build your business into an Asset of Value™, you need to be able to move through the storms because even as a captain of a ship, there are storms that come to pass and how you steer through them will determine the end goal of your business.
Despite the difficulties in the market, your team must be able to find confidence in you to lead them through it all.
With that note, an exercise that will lead you in the right direction would be to take a note pad and, from Monday to Friday, in different colours, write down all your tasks and separate them to see where you are spending most of your time in the business. Is it working with the team? Or micro-managing them to make sure that the business is on track?
This exercise will help you determine whether you are working on the business or for the business.
Having a vision is essential. And sticking to your strategy is essential, because if you don’t have a vision or strategy, then what are you doing? Your business should be built into a business that can one day be sold and not be part of the 94.6% of businesses that are started that never, ever get sold.
When building a business, the goal is to scale and grow and ultimately sell your business. Thus an accurate business valuation is essential.
In some cases, businesses are sold outright with everything they are built on, but in other cases, businesses are stripped and torn down simply because the buyer is only interested in one part of the business that he sees as valuable, which is not a desirable outcome for the owner because he does not receive the actual value of his business.
Listen to this podcast from The Money Show where Pavlo Phitidis discusses valuation and successfully selling your business.
A business that Aurik is currently working with was about to be acquired. However, in the acquisition, the offer they received for the company was way under what their assets were worth and their understanding of the value of the business.
There are 2 key takeaway points which could be seen as red flags in this business:
For a successful business sale or exit, start at the end and imagine yourself as the buyer; this may help you with business valuation. Grasp the mechanics of business valuation and simply construct a business to demonstrate those mechanics. A few key elements to consider are:
Build a coherent business where the sum of its parts far greater than the whole.
About 94.6% of businesses started fail to sell and close at great cost to the owners, their families, and employees as they did not have a saleable business asset.
This should worry any business owner.
Aurik is currently working with a client who led the market in automated SME lending a few short years back, with two rounds of funding backing their development and growth. Today, they find themselves increasingly irrelevant, superseded by lending platforms that have AI and ML baked into their performance. They created the market opportunity, and competitors followed with advanced technology to outcompete their more traditional services. To lead again, they must rebuild their platform at a high cost, requiring another round of funding, diluting all parties further!
The lessons are clear. A business never stops needing innovation, and therefore investment, to stay ahead. It means a business owner invests continuously in their company if they wish to remain relevant and ahead of their competitors. There are always fewer buyers than sellers. Your business will be priced based on that competitive environment, with buyers spoilt for choice in a crowded space.
There are two paths to success worth talking about.
Build a business into an asset.
Build it to be a strategic asset.
Selling to strategic buyers needs extensive forethought and deep knowledge of your sector and industry. It’s the 5th act of leadership in any business owner’s journey and one that few have the commitment and obsession to attain.
A well-built company that is a saleable business asset with $5m EBITDA can earn you a cool $35m. However, the same business sold to a strategic buyer can earn you $100 million in half the time. It’s worth getting right!
Resurrection is a very long, five-season series about the establishment of the Ottoman Empire. The central character, Etugrul, faces unbelievable ordeals to seed the Turkish State. It’s set in 1200 AD and cleverly presents the many, many challenges the hero must overcome to make it all happen. Among all the bloody battles energized by corrupt, nefarious characters, the toughest was his discipline of his childhood friend and closest, most loyal confidant, Bamsi.
Etugrul directed Bamsi to hold a position in a battle and then followed him to conclude the main battle. In the chaos, Bamsi decided to chase the Mongols who intended to kill their horses, which would have left them all trapped in the Mongol territory. He saved the horses, but Etugrul faced a major battle without backup.
Back at his tent, Etugrul stripped Bamsi of his rank and title. It was painful and dreadful to watch. As a leader, he had to communicate through this action the principles and standards that he had set, his tribe stands for justice. Walking the talk came at a high cost.
Listen to this podcast from The Money Show where Pavlo Phitidis unpacks excellence in business.
Can you afford not to set a standard of excellence?
It depends on how you see your life. The only things we control are the present moment and the future, and it’s all a personal choice. Many businesses generate income for their owners and create a good lifestyle. Few become truly excel despite having the potential to.
It’s a tough call to make.
A lifestyle business can certainly give you just that, a good lifestyle. As it suggests, work is work, and play is play. A balanced life is how it’s sold and very often actively and widely supported and promoted, challenging you with questions such as “how much is enough?”. It’s a subtle but determined intention to keep you at the collective level, since surpassing that collective level might imply comparative failure for those who don’t. Striving for excellence is equally a choice, and it’s far easier to make it if you love what you do and do what you love. This sounds ideal, but it’s not.
How do you set a path toward excellence?
Excellence needs to be superceded by a vision of what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. The cost of excellence becomes an investment in excellence and your life if it has meaning for you. And meaning can be fragile. If you find it, attach to it and don’t share it too widely. People will challenge it jealously, and on the tougher days, you can waver and allow doubt to erode it.
Next, you need to establish a standard of excellence. For example, in competitive sports, you measure your team against many others. What then sets your standards of excellence? Is it the number of clients or the rating from clients?
Motivating and engaging your team is essential to setting a path to excellence. If you have your leadership team inspired, and they in turn inspire their teams, you can, for example, challenge your team to raise the standard of their team by 3% per month. Twelve months later, that team is functioning at a 36% higher level of engagement. Three years later, your expectations have risen by more than 100%. Make the number 3% your mantra!
In family business succession, excellence is tested to the extreme. How do you involve your family in the company? Should you? If you bring an incompetent loved one into your business, what does this say about you, your vision, and standards? And how does it make your team, especially those committed to excellence, feel and rethink their futures with you?
Dealing with a rock star
Does a commitment to excellence allow you to have rock stars in your business? Top performers always want different treatment. The thing with standards is that they create the framework against which reliable, consistent, and dependable decisions can be made, and therefore leadership ones as well. Do you demote your Bamsi when the fragile principles and standards that everyone has come to rely upon are compromised in your journey to excellence?
“A 3% increase in standards per month adds up to 36% improvement in a year, and in 3 years you can raise the bar 100%!”
The Covid Era is not over – this is the covid decade! The storm will continue. For those businesses that have survived the last 2 years, there lies within them the possibility of making a success of the next 8 years. The important mind shift needed is to turn ‘hope for a better future’ into a business strategy to adapt. It remains critical for businesses to prepare for this year by having a clear end-objective in mind. The focus should be on why you do what you do and being conscious about the fact that as you cast your mind in the future, the path to get there will chop and change.
Listen to Pavlo Phitidis discuss this on The Money Show.
Possible business strategy:
“I’m growing despite Covid, the economy and politics”
There is a real opportunity to take up the market, to take up the customers, the products, and the opportunities that your competitors are not going to be taking up because most people will remain indecisive in this country, especially around their businesses.
“Because of my age and/or stage, I’m exiting”
Once the decision to exit has been made, build, manage and lead your business differently to make sure your business is buy-able and therefore sell-able.
Because we have little funding in this process, starting, growing and sustaining a business is done with a view to secure revenue as fast as possible. But this develops habits that, if we don’t change them, builds a business that generates income for us, but that can’t be sold.
94,6% of businesses started, fail to sell and close.
A life lived successfully growing and sustaining a business to build an income generating business, is a life lived poorly when you cannot monetise your years of risk and investment because you cannot sell your business for a capital gain.
Rather, we should have our cake (an income generating business) and eat it (a capital growth business). Both are possible and realising this too late is a costly mistake.
Listen to Pavlo Phitidis discuss how to get this right on this podcast from The Money Show
Think of it objectively:
If you have R1000 and you want to invest in the stock exchange, with a view to hold on to it for 5 years.
You can ear dividends – let’s say R200 per year. At the end of 5 years you’ve enjoyed R1 000.
In your business the income dividends come from a salary, other perks of owning the business and dividends.
In 5 years you now want to realise its capital growth
Let’s say your share is now worth R2000 – you sell it and gain R1000 on your initial investment.
You had your cake and ate it as the R1000 you made in dividends covered the R1000 invested AND you made R1000.
The third element to this is that the share has to be interesting to someone, to buy.
In our businesses, this so often doesn’t happen because the business owner is central to the continuation of the business. Without you there, there is no business.
You need to think with both an operator and investor’s hat as you run and build your business. The sooner you start thinking like this, and behaving differently, in accordance with this, the better your chance of making it into the 5.4% who can sell their business, and secure their retirement, and legacy.
Don’t look where you fell, look where you slipped is a favourite African Proverb.
Listen to this podcast from The Money Show where Pavlo Phitidis unpacks why this resonates with him in regard to many business owners he works with:
It came to life after 2 consultations with 2 different business owners today.
The first business owner, in his 50’s has built a remarkable business in a commoditised market. With a $30m annual revenue, he has generated a solid income for himself and the partners. They now want to monetise their 32 years of investment and risk through a sale. This would allow them to enjoy the capital gain that would be their greatest wealth generating instance. But the market does not see their value. After a due diligence from a prospective acquiror, it was evident that the partners hold and own relationships that are responsible for 56% of annual revenue. The uncertainty that these relationships would remain in play after they sold, led to the acquiror discounting their asking price by a hefty 60%.
The second business owner in the security sector is in his late 30’s. Over the last 5 years he has built a very smart, tech-based solution for the eventing industry. Specifically, it is suited to big entertainment, sports, and political events. Recently, his business took off. But his clients, on the back of big, medium-term contracts, insist on his presence at the events, even though he needn’t be there for the service to function and perform. He wants to work with Aurik to resolve this problem. We’ve agreed to help. It’s a problem we have solved many times before. Today was the third postponement of our first session. But the news, like last time, is all good. He is overwhelmed. Having just signed on 3 new stadia and bidding with a high likelihood of success for the Olympics, he urgently has to deal with client needs. Urgent, but how important? This path will lead to the same problem faced by the first business owner – is the business an asset or is it a job?
Starting and building a business needs you at its core. It’s you that needs to learn what works and what doesn’t and through that, find a path to establishment and growth. Transiting from your daily direct leadership to a team then becomes essential. This is where many fail and 5,10,20 years on, still remain front and centre of the businesses sustainability or growth. So how do you get it right? And when should you act to get it right?
Once you have traversed the first 3-5 years of start-up, the time to transfer relationships, processes and responsibilities becomes essential. Should you opt not to or fail to do so successfully, you are building a job, not an asset. You limit the scope of your business’s potential, limit the opportunities to attract driven team members and fail your own future wealth creating instance.
Urgent and important are different. Urgent mostly means that you are being led by other people’s agendas. A client must be responded to. But you have full control over which clients you have, the promises that are made and how you build your business to operate without you. That’s the important, strategic, structural stuff of turning a job into an asset. Put differently, building a business that can be successfully sold in the future to become your greatest wealth generating instance.
Most business owners are so wrapped up in the many challenges of their business that when Pavlo asks them: “What lies ahead?” Their responses are very vague.
The reality is that there are only two destinations for every business: sale or closure. And globally, 94.6% of businesses started, fail to sell.
Many owners believe that because they have built a business that generates good income; that has put a roof over their heads; that creates jobs and has a productive impact in their industry, it will be sellable – this is not the case and the stats are there to prove it!
Listen to Pavlo unpack why we build unsellable businesses, and how to build with a buyer’s mindset in this podcast from The Money Show:
Pavlo’s view is that as business owners we get wrapped up in how we start our businesses – there’s generally very little capital available so all our focus is on generating cashflow to get things going and build some momentum.
In addition, there are usually demands at home that require money, and we build the business around the needs we have to service.
After years of operating like this it becomes habit, and it is very difficult to realise that you’re still doing things the way you did 5, 10 or even 20 years ago.
The starting point is to realise that what you need from your business, when you sell it – is not a credible valuation methodology!
Secondly, as wonderful and unique as you think your business is, there are thousands of businesses just like you.
Valuation is mathematical. The maths compares risk and return across the market. And understanding the levers that can increase or decrease the risk and return in valuation is critical.
Buyers have key questions in their mind when they look at a business.
The questions are designed for 2 things:
Understanding how the buyer thinks, today, will affect how you build the business for tomorrow.