Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Deal-Driven Growth

Preparing for a Strong Exit

Jay Offerdahl and his father, Brad, founded Viking Mergers & Acquisitions in Charlotte, NC in 1996. Now, Jay is the president, and he specializes in mergers & acquisitions, customized exit strategies, succession planning and seller representation. He’s a master of preparing businesses for a strong exit! In addition, Viking Mergers & Acquisitions also handles divestiture services for the mid-market company. They have dedicated and experienced advisors, and a passion for serving business owners. 

Since 1996, Viking’s team of professional advisors have successfully closed on sales of more than 600 businesses. Their team is uniquely positioned to help you navigate through a successful transaction. The majority of their advisors are former business owners themselves. They have been in your shoes and they know the unique challenges of buying and selling a business.

Listen to the DealQuest Podcast.

Following in His Dad’s Footsteps

Growing up, Jay remembers his dad buying and selling large machinery. Like many kids, he gravitated towards wanting to do what his dad did. Later, when his dad bought his first company and got into entrepreneurship, that appealed to Jay as well. He seemed to always believe that his own career would somehow connect to what his father did.

And, ultimately, it has! Not many people have actually co-founded a thriving business with a parent, but Jay and his dad have had great success with Viking Mergers & Acquisitions

By the time he was preparing to graduate from Appalachian State University, Jay did some job hunting and interviewing. However, he didn’t spend much time as an employee before becoming an entrepreneur. Like many, in hindsight he can see that he was spending way too much time working in his business. 

Having learned so many lessons about building a business from the ground up, Jay is very aware that his own experiences have made him especially successful at working with other entrepreneurs and business owners now.

First Deals

The first deal Jay remembers being a part of was setting up a candy store kiosk in a local mall. He thought he’d hit paydirt at 22 years old, and was thrilled to get started. Now, he laughs a bit about that and has fond memories of his humble beginnings.

One of his major takeaways is that there is no substitute for hands-on time on the job. You have to get in the trenches and learn what works and what doesn’t.

In every business he’s been a part of, Jay has seen things that really work, and things that don’t. He’s had to learn what his own philosophies and processes will be, and also what he doesn’t want to be part of his business.

Intentionality plays a large role in this, and that same intentionality has been a major part of determining who he serves, and what kind of deals he’ll take on today.

I Don’t Live to Work

Jay shares that he doesn’t want to get on a plane unless he’s doing it for leisure. He doesn’t want his advisors to have to do so either.

As a result, Viking has intentionally chosen to craft a business model that allows them to serve well, without pushing them to revert to “working to live”. So far, it seems to be working well!

Because of the nature of their work, Jay also shared that a “repeat” client might be someone they see every 10 years! Their clients are doing transactions, and in some ways the work that Jay’s team is doing is transactional as well. That doesn’t mean they aren’t building relationships, of course! It does mean, however, that they aren’t generating ongoing revenue from subscription-type models that enable you to build profits from repeatedly working with the same people or groups.

Instead, they have to continually pursue new deals with new organizations. After all, how many times does a single entrepreneur or owner have a company to sell that’s valued in the millions, or tens of millions, of dollars?

Why Do You Start a Business?

Having seen hundreds of transactions over the years, Jay notes that many entrepreneurs lose sight of the fact that the successful end to their business is to sell it for a profit. No one will be here forever, and the options available are to either close up shop, or to sell.

Being prepared to sell can ensure that your work will live on, and can also prepare you to enter your retirement years with a solid footing.

It’s essential that you’re thinking about the right time to turn equity into cash in your pocket. Some of this is based on feel, much like the stock market. 

Jay also jokes that nepotism can create problems here. It can be tempting to simply hand over the business you bootstrapped from the garage in its early days, but it’s often not the most helpful way to ensure success. He compares it to buying your teenager a brand new sports car on their 16th birthday. You could do it, but it’s likely not a great investment.

Instead, he recommends that you secure your own retirement first buy selling your business, then taking a percentage of those proceeds and use it as a down payment on a smaller business that you can plan to coach your heirs through building on their own.

The reality is, 2nd and 3rd generation businesses have profoundly poor outcomes. Some of that may be connected to the idea that a business should just be handed over to the incoming generations, without making payments. 

In fact, Jay notes that when his dad was ready to retire, he bought him out. It’s a legally completed deal, and Jay did have to take on debt, and risk, to make it happen. However, he thinks that’s an important part of ensuring that he’ll show up, go the extra mile, and be committed to achieving success in his own right long into the future.

The Deal-Making Table

Jay believes that a buyer is paying for what the seller has accomplished, but is buying because they see the opportunity to realize greater success. If a company seems perfect, that can also mean there is little to no room to actually grow, which is actually a downside.

I’ve seen deals fall apart because the buyer is attracted to a company, but isn’t able to see margin for improvement. There can be a sort of ceiling, or cap, that makes a potential sale seem less attractive, and that’s something to be aware.

Funny enough, even though growth margin is a good thing, sometimes the person selling their company can get offended or upset if weaknesses (which are also the growth areas) are named. The ego can get involved and want to insist that nothing is a problem.

Plus, going to market can feel emotional, even when ego isn’t a problem. Your business is incredibly close to your heart, and is often something you’ve poured years of sweat and tears into. Jay counsels clients to really focus on creating consistent results that are intentionally designed with an exit strategy in place. That way, you can go out on your terms, rather than having the sale dictated to you.

Do Your Due Diligence

Professionals know what buyers are looking for. Jay and I are both very familiar with what sorts of questions are going to come up. We’re also skilled at helping you navigate them.

As Jay notes, due diligence and preparing to sell can literally feel like a second full job. If you’re not prepared for that, you can quickly become overwhelmed. Due diligence is the opportunity for the buyer to really assess their risk. Understandably, most of them want to dig into the minutiae in order to ensure that your business will be a good fit for them.

No one wants a lemon, and failure to do due diligence can result in deals that should have never happened.

Listen in to learn more about Jay and I’s thoughts on due diligence and preparing for a strong exit.

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker. He is deeply passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

 

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Deal-Driven Growth

How Your Team Helps You Do Deals

Over the last few years, Kupfer & Associates has grown a great deal. All of the support and growth we’ve experienced, along with the deals we’ve closed, have meant that we’ve also gotten to bring in new team members. I’ve noticed that making key hires in my business has a great impact on our deal-making capacity. 

My hiring process is not just about serving clients well (although that’s a part of it). It’s also about creating a firm that has more value going forward.

Team-Building is Business Changing

Building a great team is not easy! However, too many people are saying things like, “It’s impossible to find the right people.” or even, “There are no good people out there.”

The reality is, that’s not true. You’re quite likely not hiring thousands of people (even huge organizations aren’t looking to onboard that many people at once!). No matter your size, you’re typically only bringing on a few people at a time, or even just one person. I guarantee,the right fit is out there!

So, what are you looking for? The first step is gaining clarity around what you need, and to then look for new hires who will help you create additional capacity in those areas.

In terms of deal-making, that might mean looking at future joint ventures or collaborations that appeal to you, and then considering what kind of candidates might best help you grow in those ways. Ultimately, you’re also looking for key people that will help you become redundant. The worst thing you can do in your business is to create a situation where you are so important to the business that it would be crippled without you.

Building a team that keeps your clients super happy and that perform at a high level is incredibly freeing — it changes everything in your business.

There is Leeway

Sometimes bringing in the right people means identifying the candidate who will need just a bit of leeway to get their feet under them. Being able to see potential, and knowing how to hook that potential into your business, is part of building an amazing team.

Business owners who “can’t find anyone” are often being overly stringent on small things that could be fairly easily taught. Just because a candidate hasn’t used a specific system, or done a specific type of transaction before, doesn’t mean they “couldn’t” do it.

Quite frankly, incredibly skilled and educated candidates get passed over all the time, for small reasons that could have been easily overcome. Instead of doing that, I advocate for empowering your people. If someone has the passion, energy, and drive to be great (along with the basic requirements of the job), I’m more than happy to work with them on potential gaps.

Refusing to be flexible (and insisting there are no good candidates out there) just holds you back and hurts your own business. 

You Need a Team

No matter what you offer, or what you’re selling, you are going to need to build a team if you’re serious about growth. The reality is, what got you here won’t get you there.

Next level growth, scaling, and sustainability usually mean, at some point, hiring. That’s a good thing!

Beyond just hiring new people, you can also look for ways to grow your current people. Investing in their education, empowering them to take on new roles, and encouraging their continuing professional growth can help you build an incredible team around you. It’s also a way to fill the most pivotal positions without having to look outside your own walls. (Don’t forget that you’ll need to bring in someone new to take on the old position still!)

I have team members who have been with me for decades because I’ve given them room to grow. I’ve also had to make hard decisions about team members who haven’t been able to grow with the company. 

Through it all, I’ve seen again and again the power of having a team.

Sometimes You’re the Problem

The reality is, sometimes the biggest problem in our businesses is our own management style. 

Whether that means you’re hiring poor fits, micromanaging the team you do have, struggling to adequately train team members, failing to provide growth opportunities that will help you retain top talent, or otherwise not creating a positive work culture: be open to areas that you can improve your own leadership skills when it comes to team management.

If you have a low retention rate, or consistently have employees that don’t perform well, it’s key that you take a look at your own style (or the management style of your high-level employees).

Eventually, your ability to do deals and to eventually exit your company is deeply impacted by the quality of the team you have. It’s vital that you build an incredible team, and that you’re willing to take a look at yourself as well. Finding that balance is a key part of your growth.

To hear more about my own experience with hiring, listen in!

 

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker. He is deeply passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Deal-Driven Growth

Coaches, Deal-Making, and Buyouts

Remy Blumenfeld is one of the world’s leading business coaches and advisors. He’s contributed more than 50 articles to Forbes. Remy was also listed by an independent newspaper as one of the Top 20 Most Influential LGBTQ People in the United Kingdom. He’s been featured in Forbes, Inc., The New York Times, and more!

Listen to our full interview here.

Getting His Start

Remy shares that, as a kid, he knew he wanted to be in the communication business. He had a little cassette recorder, and he would go around interviewing his friends. (He even found the old tapes from it recently!) His first real job was actually as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal television show in New York City. He didn’t stick with it for his full career, but it was an enjoyable start!

His first deal-making experience was at a school fundraiser. There were all sorts of little booths, and people were selling things to raise money for the school. Remy spent 5 pounds and purchased a set of prints that had been connected to a puppet show theatre. He then resold them for a few hundred! Ebay wasn’t in existence yet, but he was still flipping goods.

Remy and I also discussed the difference between looking 4 years into the future versus a hundred or more years into the future — you can listen in to hear about that!

Later, Remy transitioned into what he’s known for now: coaching and advising. While running multiple businesses, he had found that he was naturally fulfilling a sort of coaching relationship with his employees. (The only difference, he joked, was that he had no coaching training and they hadn’t actually hired him for his input!) 

Now, however, Remy coaches leaders, primarily in the creation sectors. He finds they are usually looking for a combination of coaching and business advice. As a result, he provides a hybrid model based on their needs. 

Early Deal-Making Experiences

Some of Remy’s largest deals include the businesses he’s sold. He started his first production company out of his bedroom in Brixton because he was out of a job. Remy decided he wanted to sell ideas to broadcasters. However, he realized that he couldn’t get companies to invest money into him as an individual person. As a result, he rebranded as a company and kept on trying. Looking back, he notes he was doing many things he now advises his clients to do. At the time, though, he was doing it by accident. In essence, he was making programs about where he lived and what he knew best. At the time, Remy was living in a rough area as a young, gay Jewish man. The shows he was making were often about the edges of society. (Those edges have since become the middle in many ways).

The production company that started in his bedroom made the first Black music show on Terrestrial TV in the UK, the first Asian pop culture show on the BBC, the first gay dating show, and more. He notes they did quite well by doing what they knew best. They understood it, they loved it, and they did it the best.

That lesson holds true in any sort of business and sales endeavor: you’ll do best by doing what you know best. It truly helps to be an expert in whatever you’re doing, as the buyer realizes that you are truly the best choice for them.

Years later, Remy sold his bedroom-started company for a high-multiple figure to a larger production company. Later, they became the company that produced Big Brother!

Leaning Into the End Game

Remy notes that, at a certain point, he understood that the production company had a saleable value that he hadn’t initially recognized. When he had started it, there wasn’t really a true market in the field. 

About 6-7 years into running things, however, independent production companies became something that investors were interested in. Big companies started buying up smaller companies, and he realized he was ready to sell. This required facing many realities about the business that their team had never really thought about before. For instance, Remy and his team realized that if you don’t have processes in place, big companies aren’t interested in buying you. Strangely run companies with weird or lacking systems get overlooked in buyout opportunities. Remy suggests running your small company as if it’s a big company in terms of utilizing systems, procedures, and watching the bottom line. (Watch your growth line!)

Now, Remy always advises people to imagine, from day one, that they are going to sell. He notes that you should be attempting to create a story with numbers — a story of growth, consistency, and profitability.

Remy now works with founders to implement checklists early on so they can create something others would actually want to buy from the beginning. (Rather than trying to “dress the bride on the way to the altar”!)

I noted that it’s possible to get deals done with a last minute scramble, but it’s surely not ideal. Preparing in advance is the best!

The Psychology of Buying a Company

Beyond the numbers, Remy thinks psychology is the most important aspect of the sale of a business. (In fact, he notes that ego tends to get in the way of the best and truest job quite often!)

In the creative sector, Remy notes that people often want to show they’ve done the best possible job tapping into every possible revenue stream and protecting their rights. You won’t feel very proud of yourself if you’ve just “forgotten” to access a revenue stream or market. There is a level of pride involved that can make owners want to emphasize that they’ve done everything.

However, a buyer wants to feel there is room for growth and improvement. If everything has been done that can be done, and growth can’t occur, it will be less attractive to them. A buyer wants to believe they can run the company better than you, or at least that there is room for them to do something bigger and better!

Remy does note, however, that sometimes in show business people forget the business and run the show! In a business deal, it’s key to be able to show that the business elements have been well handled so they can be moved through.

(Listen in to learn more about Remy’s thoughts on how the buyers will be approaching your business just like a home they recently purchased; there will be changes!)

The Power of Coaches & Coaching

I noted that I’ve worked with coaches myself, and asked Remy to share a bit more about the power of coaching. 

Remy noted that one of the things he finds to be most powerful is helping people commit to their own goals and standards, independent of anybody else. It’s key to be able to hold these apart from your partner, parents, clients, or anyone else in your life. As a coach, Remy also finds it useful that he’s not involved in his client’s lives or goals in a personal way. He’s able to provide feedback and accountability that is received differently than that of a friend or colleague would be.

I see that as the deal clients and coaches make between one another, in terms of how they will hold one another accountable and show up.

Listen to our full interview here.

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

 

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Breakthroughs In Health & Deals

For over three decades Dr. Patricia Boulogne has helped thousands of people solve their lifestyle medicine problems & have health breakthroughs. She helps her clients who are sick, overweight, and tired finally release lifelong weight problems, chronic diseases and genetic disposition to restore energy and vitality! Dr. Boulogne accomplishes this by making sense of complex and challenging problems and situations quickly and with measurable results. She’s also the author of the bestselling book, Why Are You Sick, Fat, and Tired?.

Her services are truly unique, as she uses Functional Medicine to target the root of a problem and doesn’t chase symptoms or ignore important signs that may become a disease that will kill you. Genes can’t be changed. However, you can change the message genes receive from the environment. Diet and lifestyle medicine solutions tailored to what counts: Results.

Early Dreams & Deals

For a whole lot of people, what they’re doing is not what they expected to be doing when they were kids. Pat is no exception! Although she often played doctor (and was never a nurse or a patient), she doesn’t remember ever exactly saying or thinking that she would be a doctor one day. She did, however, always enjoy science and running little experiments.

Now, Pat has her MA in Oriental Medicine. She is passionate about working with patients to help them heal lifestyle related problems.  (Listen in to learn why drinking hot tea can help cool you down!)

The earliest deal Pat remembers was running a lemonade stand near her house. She’d purchase the lemonade and supplies, and even put up signs directing traffic from a nearby shopping mall. Later, she moved into shoveling snow and babysitting, both classic early entrepreneur adventures.

Stronger Than Medicine (And Adversity)

 Pat shared that, at the moment, she’s busy rewriting and upgrading her existing course, Stronger than Medicine. This is geared towards busy female executives who want to increase their ability to be present and connected rather than overtired and stressed.

This connects to a lot of Pat’s work; she started in chiropractic care and loves helping people heal without relying on traditional medications or approaches.

One of the things I talk about is how anyone in any kind of business can make deals. Pat’s early chiropractic experience is a great example of this. She started out working with someone who had a great model for an office. After about a year, Pat had her husband start looking for potential practices coming on the market.

Initially, they attempted to get a conventional loan, but they didn’t have enough credit. Finding out they couldn’t qualify for a $25,000 loan was extremely demoralizing! It felt like such a small amount of capital, with a clear conversion into a business — but the answer from the bank was no.

As a result, they pivoted towards an SBA loan. They were able to piece the proposal together and fill in gaps, and the money came through. (Listen in to hear how the bank still tried to withhold funds, and why silence can be so powerful!) By the end of the year, the business had revenues 6x what Pat and her husband had purchased it for. In fact, she was able to purchase needed high ticket equipment with cash.

Selling Out & Moving Up

For the first 4-5 months after buying the business, Pat and her husband were on their own with the business. When they had made the purchase, the office was seeing about 30 patients per week. By the end of the year, they were seeing 125.

Their growth came from networking and doing in-office talks. They made growth goals, and Pat managed the practice by statistics. She knew what their goal was for the week, and she always kept at least 20 cards on hand. From canvassing the local health food stores to visiting area college campuses, Pat was motivated and determined. The practice continues to grow, at an average of 15-20% per year.

Eventually, they hit the cap of how much they were able to take on. This also coincided with Pat’s divorce, leaving her to run the practice solo after buying her ex-husband out. She shifted into hiring the right people that would allow her to continue running the office. (Including her handy Post-It note CRM system.)

Pat also started doing interviews and engaging with media and other groups. She spoke to her local Rotary and Lions Club, and visited any club or organizations that would have her. This organic growth sustained her practice and enabled her to flourish. It also set her up for a very successful deal when it came time to sell the practice.

When it came time to sell, Pat started looking for the right person to handle the marketing of the practice. She had a full assessment done, and was able to sell within 3 months, which was incredibly fast for the industry. (Plus, she got the full price she was asking for.)

Organic Growth & Final Sales

Although Pat grew the practice with the intention of keeping it, it was a huge relief to be able to sell it when the time came.

A powerful lesson illustrated here is that there are no downsides to organic growth. While Pat was actively working, organic strategies increased her revenue streams and success. Those increases greatly impacted her assessed value, and likely contributed to the quick, full-priced turn around when it came time to sell.

Being able to leave her business (at profit), allowed Pat to step into the next part of her journey. Her writing, courses, and consulting work are driven by her passions, and she’s so glad that she did not tie herself to a private practice that she was never able to leave. Too many business owners tie themselves to businesses that no longer bring them joy or profit; properly preparing to exit can help you avoid that!

Overall, the deal came together quite well. One note: Pat shared that there had been no clause to prevent the buyer from pre-paying. He made a final large payment unexpectedly on Dec. 27, which wreaked havoc on Pat’s taxes that year. If she could go back, she would definitely have addressed that contingency!

To learn more about deal-making in the healthcare industry, listen in to the full episode!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

 

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Angel Investing & Startups with Dom Einhorn

Dom Einhorn is a French-American social entrepreneur and founder and CEO of UNIQORN, the largest rural incubator-accelerator of its kind in the world. Located in southwestern France (Sarlat-la-Canéda), its mission is to give entrepreneurs and their families their lives back while helping them build game-changing technology startups. Dom has a long history of working with startups and in angel investing, and he shares so much wisdom in our interview!

He is also the founder of multiple other successful startups and businesses, including the Startup Supercup. This is a leading tech conference that unites 1000 carefully vetted angel investors, VCs, private equity funds, technology startups and leading media outlets from around the world. The three-day conference takes place in medieval Sarlat France.

Listen in today to hear all about Dom’s work!

Young Dreams

As a kid, Dom wanted to be like his dad, who worked for the French railway as an engineer. Clearly he ended up going down a different route!

The first deal-making experience he remembers was with his magazine route. Students could get a commission for every issue they sold, and Dom outsold everyone else. It was his first time getting compensated, and it sparked his entrepreneurial dreams.

Now, Dom has several major focuses. One major one is UNIQORN, which he returned to France to launch in 2018 (in German Dom’s last name means “unicorn”!). UNIQORN startups are provided with a complete ecosystem for success. This includes direct access to proven funding sources, top-notch legal and accounting representation, access to the world’s most generous business incentives and, most importantly, a dedicated sales and marketing accelerator. All that combined puts a startup’s product or service on the fast track to success.

Art Auction Adventures

In 1996 Dom created the first online art auction company. It quickly became one of the largest in the world, and he was able to turn around and sell it 5 months later.

At that time, Dom happened to have a lot of artists as clients. They were all “starving artists”, including himself! He decided to build the online art auction in order to solve a problem he saw his clients facing. Selling art on a one-off basis was difficult, and didn’t scale well. His solution? An online auction house.

The first few months saw little activity, but one day a major magazine came in and did a report. They skyrocketed from 150 bidders to 20,000+. Overnight, they were in the art business….which they realized they knew nothing about. They were shipping art uninsured, with glass, and found themselves in a logistics nightmare.

One day they got an email from a buyer willing to buy them out; Dom was ready to move on and do something else! The new buyer had infrastructure to handle logistics and shipping, but were lacking on the technical side. Their weaknesses were Dom’s strengths, and they arranged a 6 month transition period. Once their team had the platform knowledge they needed, Dom was fully out of the business.

The fundamental lesson he learned from the online art auction house was that whatever you launch you should serve a legitimate purpose and respond to a problem in the market.

Vanity Business Models

Dom has noticed there are a lot of companies popping up that don’t solve a new problem or reach a new market. He referred to these as “vanity business models”, and noted that they simply aren’t sustainable.

If you want to become a billionaire, help a billion people. The rest will happen by itself.

Early on, Dom noted that if you wanted to be in e-commerce, you needed an Oracle license that cost $32,000. Raising cash was key, because barriers to entries were extremely high. By 2015, if you had a couple hundred dollars worth of technology you could launch an entire business. That’s both a blessing and a curse; there isn’t a natural economic gatekeeper. That means more opportunity for more people, but can also mean there is no real vetting process pushing people to only bring the best ideas to the table.

Back in the 90’s, you had to be in Silicon Valley if you wanted to get backing or support. Now, however, you can be anywhere. Dom shares that when he’s visited Vietnam with his wife they’ve seen co-working spaces the size of Walmart, with teeneagers building out online games that are worth billions now. The market is expanding, and decentralization has really democratized the process.

Dom foresees that we’re heading “back to the garage”, where things first started for technology.

Moving Away from Cities

Prior to Covid, Dom’s UNIQORN team did a study and found that 12% of young entrepreneurs wanted to move away from large urban centers to launch their businesses. Today, 38% say they want to operate outside of large cities.

He feels that the world is coming to the realization that not only CAN that be done…it probably should be done.

Dom shared some great examples of employees who have new commutes of about 45 seconds on foot. He’s seen this new way of living and working lead to better quality of life, with employees who are fresher, less tired, and able to show up in a different way. Now, more than ever, people see what is possible when it comes to living and working outside of major metropolitan centers of business.

This trend isn’t just in entrepreneurship. Large companies are starting to realize that their people can be just as productive working remotely as from inside the office. Employees are also starting to show up to interviews with more confidence to request remote or flexible work options.

From No Cash to Major Deals

In the first 2-3 years of one of his early startups, Dom was ready to throw in the towel. By 1999, however, the company exploded. They had a leg up on the competition, they were gaining traction for clients, and things were taking off. From a handful of clients to 500+, they grew with amazing speed.

One day Dom realized they had run out of money. Because of their fast growth, they had been burning through cash at a much faster rate than he had thought. It was time for payroll, and the reality was: there wasn’t enough money to pay everyone.

Dom was sitting at his desk, trying to get creative with numbers, when he got a call with an offer: someone wanted to buy the company. Although he first held out on selling, the offer was too good to refuse. The seller was building a new technology, and they needed merchant relationships. When the check was put on the table, he took the offer — then rushed to the bank so he could deposit it and make payroll.

When clients are pouring in and business is booming, entrepreneurs often underestimate the need for cash flow and profit. What Dom learned the hard way was that revenue and profit are not the same thing, and profit margins are an absolute key.

Dom shares that when he looks at a new business now, he doesn’t pay any attention to top line revenue. All he wants to see is actual margin, because that’s where you can see how healthy and sustainable a business is.

Building Value

Dom’s had deal-making success throughout his life because he’s built value again and again. From the outside looking in, buyers were able to see that value, and they came to him. That’s a much different situation then being in a bad place with your business and desperately looking for someone who might be willing to buy.

If you focus on solving a fundamental problem, Dom believes that there will always be people out there looking for what you have. He’s never proactively gone out looking for a buyer, because the people who need the solution he’s created have always been able to find him.

To hear more about the ways in which Dom has leveraged strategy, connections, and deal-making, listen in to the full episode!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Deal-Driven Growth

Family Business

This week I was honored to interview not one, but two amazing guests. Farida and Ramia El Agamy are sisters with phenomenal backgrounds in family business. They bring a global perspective to deal-making opportunities and family businesses. This episode is worth listening to in full.

LISTEN HERE

About Farida

Farida F. El Agamy is a social entrepreneur by conviction, and a lawyer by passion and profession. Since 2008, she’s been the General Manager of the Tharawat Family Business Forum, the first knowledge resource and networking hub for family-owned companies in the Middle East and North Africa. Farida’s main interests lie in the advancement of corporate and family governance systems, the economic impact of family firms on the economy, and the support of individual family members within the family business context.

About Ramia

Ramia Marielle El Agamy is the Editor-in-Chief of Tharawat Magazine, (@Tharawatmag), a global publication for family businesses that attracts over 3 million readers (online and print) per year. The magazine encompasses a library of over 1000 articles. She is also the host of two podcasts: The Family Business Voice and WiFB. Ramia is also a strategic advisor in the Tharawat Family Business Forum as well as a Director in her family business’ board. Since 2017, Ramia is also CEO of Orbis Terra Media, a content studio and an award-winning publisher that stands for the highest standards in content production and omnichannel strategies. With a data-driven approach to content marketing and distribution, OTM specialises in helping brands achieve a consistent narrative across multiple platforms and to reach their audience.

Early Starts for These Citizens of the World

When I asked the pair what they had wanted to be growing up, Ramia nominated Farida to share first, as the older sister. Laughingly, the sisters noted that family businesses require respect for the family hierarchy. 

Farida shared that, early on, she was interested in societal questions. Her father had studied archeology, and he would bring his children on hikes to old dig sites. In addition, they would visit extended family in Cairo and visit ancient sites. These early experiences grew Farida’s interest in archeology as a possible career when she was a girl.

Ramia noted that, even as a child, she could see herself working in the family business. Seeing her father traveling frequently, and missing his presence, she imagined being able to pack a calculator into a bag and travel with him. She also had a very entrepreneurial spirit, and remembers opening a detective agency, a travel agency, and several shops with her sisters.

(Ramia and Farida also noted that they have a third sister in the family business as well. They thought it might be too much to bring all three of them onto the show!)

The sister’s mother is from the Netherlands and their father is from Egypt; they were raised in rural Switzerland and consider it home. However, their international roots and extensive travel histories, including studying in the UK and living in the UAE, have made the world their oyster in many ways!

First Deal-Making Experiences

Culturally, deal-making is perceived differently in various parts of the world. Looking at their father’s generation and work in the business, the sister’s agreed there were fewer activities that may have been directly considered “deals”.

In fact, the first deal-experienced Farida recalled was assisting a family business in getting out of a deal. A nephew was finding himself in a very bad situation with a possible deal involving his uncle. They could see it going south, and needed to intervene.

Ramia notes that both her sisters are lawyers, and often see deals through the legal and business lens. As an entrepreneur herself, she feels she’s been making deals her whole life. When you start a business with nothing, everything is a barter, a trade, and exchange, or some other way of growing and deal-making. She remembers many skill exchanges that grew in size and significance as revenue grew.

She also shares that she thinks the first deal entrepreneurs make is with themselves. Deciding to go into business requires trading time and energy and capital. 

Negotiations in Family Business 

The family business, as a construct, is a constant negotiation. This is true both internally and externally. Every day you enter into your family business, you’re entering into an emotional negotiation with your family. There is a constant need to recalibrate, adjust behavior, and figure out how to incorporate your personal and professional lives.

Part of this is holding people accountable when they are part of your family. It is challenging to have a parent or sibling that you have to challenge, hold to high standards, and question. Handling these ongoing family business negotiations on a daily basis requires you to truly leave your ego (and childhood patterns) at the door.

(There was an amazing conversation about ego here that’s worth listening to!)

The sisters note that family businesses are often stable and thinking long term. In addition, they are perceived as having “skin in the game”, and are often quite regionally embedded. Attributes such as these make family businesses a popular choice for others looking to make a deal.

In addition, the whole family business as an entity is an ongoing deal.

A Major Myth About Family Business

There are many family businesses in the world….and just as many myths about them! Since I had the experts on the line, I decided to ask their thoughts on a major common myth I often hear.

If You’re Not First Generation, You’re Not an Entrepreneur

Some people question whether someone in a family business can truly consider themselves an “entrepreneur”. Many entrepreneurs in the US are first generation entrepreneurs. Even if their parents were also entrepreneurs, they are often not involved in the same business. Across other parts of the world, however, many entrepreneurs are working within multi-generational family businesses.

The sisters noted that there is a difference between a real family business, or enterprise, and an enterprising family. They consider entrepreneurship to be the force that compels any family business to keep growing. They also encourage each generation to think of themselves as founders of a startup, in terms of needing originality, adaptability, and other entrepreneurial skills.

Being part of an entrepreneurial family doesn’t mean you’re not an entrepreneur. It does mean, however, that you have a heritage of entrepreneurship and usually the support of your family.

(Listen in to why they consider family business an “extreme sport” in the entrepreneurial world! This includes the weight of legacy, which can feel like a “backpack full of stones”, and the “ghosts around the table”.)

Layers of Governance

Imagine the most difficult professional situation you’ve ever been in, in your life. Then, imagine the most difficult family relationship you’re currently experiencing. Now, put those two together every day of your professional life.

That’s family business.

The emotional toll that family situations can take on you, and your business, are much greater than you may expect. That’s why governance in family firms is so vital (and so difficult). There are many, many layers to governance within a family business, and often the laws pertaining to family business are less clear than other legal statutes.

For example, there are rarely laws requiring a family business to utilize a family council to learn to regular their behavior as a family. Some families have waited for too long, growing more and more misaligned. Eventually, it can become too late for change.

Families who have aligned decision making as a result of internal deal-making have a much greater chance of making it in the long term. They are also better equipped to handle unexpected challenges, such as Covid-19.

Ramia and Farida share so much valuable insight on family businesses. Listen in today!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

How to Hire the Best

Business psychologist, How to Hire the Best author, and Tap The Potential Founder Sabrina Starling is back with us again! This time she joined me for an amazing interview we conducted live on Facebook. Dr. Starling has coached thousands of entrepreneurs to overcome the day-to-day struggles of business growth by getting out of their own way and developing a success mindset that propels them to higher and higher levels of success (and profitability). Last time we talked we focused on transforming small businesses into highly profitable, great places to work. Today, we focused in on her latest book in her How to Hire the Best series.

Small Business Owners with Growth Opportunities

Years ago, Dr. Sabrina realized she was working with small business owners who were passing on growth opportunities because they didn’t have the capacity to take on anything new. They were stuck in that place so many entrepreneurs find familiar: running their business reports, ordering supplies at Staples, and wearing so many hats they were ending every day drained and exhausted.

Even though they were reaching the point where more and more opportunities were naturally coming their way….they had maxed themselves out and could no longer take advantage of their natural momentum and growth. If they did happen to have an employee or two, they were often what Dr. Sabrina calls “warm body” employees. That is, they were technically hired to work there, so they were there. They didn’t really have that A-Player, above-and-beyond, valuable asset energy of someone who could help you reach a new level.

Dr. Sabrina knew what they needed: to hire A-player employees and increase their capacity! However, she also knew that hiring is a huge commitment. From candidate searching and posting your job, to screening and interviewing, to onboarding and then releasing responsibilities to this new team member — the time, expense, and potential for things to go wrong make it feel prohibitive!

That’s why so many small business owners and entrepreneurs make the choice to put off hiring until “later”. The truth of the matter is, however, that you will never magically become less busy. If your business keeps growing (which is usually desirable!), you’ll actually have less time and capacity. You have to choose to either “cap out”….or find a way to expand!

For Growth, You Need A-Players

As a business psychologist, she tried coaching business owners on how to turn their “warm body” employees into something more…and it just didn’t work. The alternative, however, seemed to be hiring top-line employees. A lot of small business owners didn’t feel that was possible. After all, the more skills and experience someone has, the more they expect to be compensated. 

This felt like a true dilemma, and was one Dr. Sabrina herself believed for quite a while!

One morning, however, she woke up with this question: “What if it’s not true?”

That question resulted in the search for small business owners who already had employees they considered A-level. She started interviewing them, and kept asking how they had found them and hired them. Their answers, again and again, were “I don’t know!”. (They also requested she come back and tell them if she ever figured out, because they all wanted to do it again!)

I see that as “unconscious competence”, which Bob Proctor has done lots of work on! Somehow, some small business owners had hit the hiring jackpot. Since they weren’t clear on how they had done it, they weren’t able to truly profit from it.

Eventually, Dr. Sabrina found that networking and word of mouth seemed to be the key for success. (Very similar to the most proven marketing techniques for finding clients.) Because the small businesses employing these tactics weren’t aware WHY they were working, they hadn’t been able to consistently and methodically employ them for ongoing, repeated hiring success.

Traditional Hiring Methods Don’t Work

When you follow traditional hiring methods, you have a 1 in 4 chance of hiring an A-player. (And a 3 in 4 chance of ending up with another “warm body”.)

Traditionally, you decide you need to fill an opening. You make a job ad, and put that out into the world. As applicants respond, you complete interviews, then you pick someone. That’s how we tend to do it….and that’s the method that offers a 75% chance of missing the best fit for the role.

In How to Hire the Best, Dr. Sabrina teaches employees how to leverage her non-traditional method that’s been proven to work consistently.

Part of her approach includes starting with the end in mind, and employing best practices in a strategic way.

The first question I had is, “When does all this start?” I knew it probably wasn’t going to be “Once you realize you need someone.” – and I was right!

A-Players Think Differently

For one thing, Dr. Sabrina notes that traditional job postings tend to attract people who are unemployed. This can mean they’re willing to accept anything — even if they aren’t that excited about your company, mission, or values, they’ll position themselves as if they are because they need the job. 

A-Players, however, move from one opportunity to the next. They are looking for opportunities, and they transition when people in their networks let them know about promising positions. You should be networking for A-Players long before in the position of desperately needing to hire.

The best time to hire is when you are generating consistent business leads. As soon as you hit your rhythm here, you should be tapping into your networks and using them to look for your next A-Player. I appreciate Dr. Sabrina’s technique here, and see that it would fit into the bucket I call “entrepreneurial freedom”. 

It’s important to note that A-Players aren’t necessarily people who are superstars on every level. An A-Player might be a role player with a very specific ability or capacity — but in your business, that ability is what enables them to shine. You can’t be the best at every single thing, and your employees can’t be either. It’s not fair to expect that from them!

Hiring an A-Player is more about bringing on the people who have the gifts, talents, and personality strengths to do what you need them to do. They also need to resonate with your business’ values and culture. When you can get them plugged in, the change is powerful!

So who are these magical people? Well, they are go-getters, problem solvers, and autonomous agents who know how to use resources. A team full of people who think like that can change your business from the inside out!

Build Your Team to Create Your Desired Lifestyle

Regardless of what you do, building a team enables you to create a lifestyle business that will allow you to step away as needed and have your business continue to run without you. (Your A-players are there making it all happen!) 

This could mean you’re setting yourself up for a 4-week vacation, or that you’re working on a future transition plan. Dr. Sabrina notes that no one comes along and says, “I hear you work 70+ hours a week in your business. I’d love to buy it!” No one is looking to buy a job, they want to buy a business.

When you learn how to hire the best, you’re setting your business up for success, both now and in the future. The more A-Players you bring on to your team, the more value you are adding.

Dr. Sabrina notes that if you currently have many players who are more like D-Players, it can be overwhelming to know how to fix it. She encourages business owners in that position to focus on hiring up as they grow. That might mean you have the chance to replace someone, and you find an A- or B-Player for the open position. Once you hit a tipping point (say 3 out of 5 are strong employees), those who are lower performers will either choose to leave, or will rise to the challenge. 

Gradually, your culture will shift!

If you’re looking to hire the best, you NEED to listen in to this interview!

 

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Conversations About Difference Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

HR Insider Knowledge


Ashley Paré
is a Leadership Coach, Negotiation Advocate, TEDx Speaker, and HR Change Maker. She holds a vast reserve of HR Insider Knowledge that she’s gathered over her career. She’s also the CEO & Founder of Own Your Worth, an organization dedicated to breaking glass ceilings. Her signature leadership program, The Activator®, takes clients on a journey within to uncover the hidden blocks that are holding them back from stepping into their power. This is so they can take action to negotiate the career, business, and life of their dreams!

You may have seen her on Good Morning America, TEDx, New York Times, CNN, and more!

Early HR Ambitions?

When she was younger, Ashley wanted to be an author, psychologist, and live in London. (Looking back, she feels like her HR work was a little like being a psychologist!)

The first deal that stands out to her was her first post-college job. At the time, she didn’t know the “rules” of applying for jobs. She did know she needed to be able to make enough to afford housing and student loans, and when she got offered $15 an hour she countered with $16. (They met her in the middle with $15.50!)

That early success enhanced her confidence and showed her that it was possible to ask for more! However, that was a lesson she’d have to continue to learn how to activate as her career continued to grow. Ashley has seen that many women have a similar need to learn how to speak up and negotiate for what they desire. 

[Note: Ashley specifically works with women, and we focus on women’s issues in this interview. I do want to be clear that we both recognize that “women” are not one monolithic group, and that each person is unique and faces unique challenges. In addition, not all humans identify on a binary spectrum. No matter who you are, I think you can find some gems in this episode!}

Avoiding Your Own Core Truth

Many times young girls have no problem asking for a bigger slice of cake, so to speak. As they get older, however, they often stop.

Some of that may be connected to socialization, which often encourages women to be people pleasers, or to play the “good girl” role. Ashley believes that it goes even deeper, however. Somewhere on the journey, many women begin to lose their sense of self. We abandon our truths to ensure that we are liked and to avoid potential negative consequences.

Because speaking up for ourselves can lead to negative responses….we have a tendency to stop. Our sense of worthiness and self becomes dependent upon external validation, which is never fulfilling in the long run. If we don’t build our own sense of self through self-awareness, of course our inner confidence takes a hit!

This can lead women to retreat into their “shell”. It doesn’t have to, however! By digging deeper, women can tap into their core truth and own their value and their voice. 

In my own work, I see how being disconnected from your own core truth and value significantly impacts your ability to be a deal maker.

HR Insider Knowledge

As a former HR leader and business partner, Ashley had access to salary data, leaders, policies, and the best training. Yet, she still struggled to grow her career. She realized she had stopped self-advocating out of fear of what others would think of her, and focused so much on proving herself until she finally burned out. 

She realized that having the tools to navigate a corporate career is important, but what matters most is having the confidence to speak up and use them. Now she’s dedicated her career to sharing her HR insider knowledge to help clients define and articulate their value and effectively ask for what they want. 

Ashley notes that, in her experience, a vast number of companies prefer to be seen and experienced and flexible and open, especially to incoming candidates! When they offer you a position and potential salary, it’s often expected that you may counter with areas that matter to you. In fact, it might even be encouraged! Negotiating should never be seen as problematic.

The worst thing that can happen is they’ll turn you down; that’s okay! Even if you don’t get everything you asked for, it’s likely you’ll learn more about what your options are and where there may be flexibility within the company. That’s a good thing! 

Confidence in Negotiating

Ashley notes that she offers a variety of packages and rates for clientele. As an early business owner, she was apt to negotiate with clients over those rates. Now, however, she rarely does. She is well established, she owns the proven value she has consistently created over the years, and she sets her rates annually.

When she first started as a speaker, her contracts with larger companies and organizations were more likely to involve negotiating. Now, however, she’s found that she has not only raised her rates, but she’s also started getting more “yes’s”. Her ownership of who she is and what she does, and her confidence in communication, has decreased the amount of negotiating involved in getting the rates she desired.

We both see this phenomenon happening for many of the people we work with and around in our careers. Those who own their value and communicate it with confidence are able to command better rates, broker better deals, and have more success at the deal-making table.

Listen in here for the full interview!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Deal-Making is About Relationships

Here we are at the end of 2020. What a year! Today, I’m offering up a solo-cast that leads back to the most basic truth about deals: deal-making is about relationships. As I share often, almost every business deal is either the start of a relationship, or the continuation of an existing relationship. There’s just no way around it, and it’s a key part of how I teach about the deal-making process.

Also, we just celebrated our 100th episode with guest Joe Apfelbaum! It was an incredible interview, and Joe shared awesome insights about his deal-making prowess and partnership experiences. 

Relationships are a Key Deal-Making Ingredient

Whether you’re in an acquisition or merger, or you’re creating deals with partners, vendors, or suppliers, relationships are a key element. You name the deal, there’s likely going to be a relationship being established, built, or leveraged. 

The journey towards a deal is usually paved by relationships as well. Your broker, your agent, your banker, your partner, your friend — these are the relationships that position us to know who we need to know, get people to the deal-making table, and start the deal-making process.

That’s what makes relationships such an important part of both business and deals, not to mention our day-to-day lives!

2020 Highlighted How Essential Relationships Are

In 2020, relationships played a key role in my life for even more reasons than usual. 

The support, guidance, connection, and opportunities that came from relationships during this hard, long year were key for me. Not just for growth, but for peace, strength, and stability. Now, more than ever, I know that connection with others fuels me, fuels my personal growth, and fuels my business.

I know that many of you have had to make major pivots this year, and I’ve seen again and again how relationships can truly pave the way to make those successful. Even as things have been hard, relationships with family, friends, and industry professionals often provided a key element that allowed us to turn things around, make the best of the options available to us, or otherwise find a way to navigate this year.

If you’ve been part of my relationship network this year as a client, a friend, a podcast listener or guest, a DealDen member, or otherwise: thank you. I truly appreciate you, and I hope to continue together with you into the new year!

Know, Like, Trust: Business Relationships Pave the Way for Deals

People want to do business with people they like. It’s just the truth! 

When it comes to deal-making, nothing much changes. When you’ve built that know, like, trust factor via real relationships, you’ll find opportunities seem to naturally appear. Why? Because when someone is thinking about who to offer a partnership to, who to strategize with, who to make a deal with, they feel best if they’re doing it with someone they know, like, and trust. 

Being in a relationship with someone builds confidence.

Worried that you’re not well positioned when it comes to relationships? Well, there is no magic pill that will develop them overnight! In fact, it can take a long time to build relationships. As the old Chinese proverb says, however:

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

Another note: Just because deals are technically transactions doesn’t mean that your relationships should be described that way! People sense when you’re only interested in them because you want or need something. If you only set about to build relationships because you’re trying to get something, it won’t work the way you hope.

Instead, practice nurturing your current network. Add value. Seek to serve. Find a way to genuinely support someone else. Connect with people you’ve possibly just “not seen” in the past. If 2020 taught you anything, let it be that relationships matter and are always worth investing in.

Listen in to hear my full thoughts on the connection between deal-making and relationships!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast..

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

High Energy Purpose

Joe Apfelbaum is the CEO of Ajax Union, a business-to-business digital marketing agency in Brooklyn, NY. He’s been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, The Wall Street Journal and more. His newest book, High Energy Purpose: How to Be All in On Your Life and Find Your Truth, is out now.

Before we dive in, I’d love to share that this is my 100th DealQuest episode! This is a huge mile marker for our show, and I’m proud to have consistently released episodes for over two years now. If you’ve been a long time listener, thank you! If you’re just joining us, welcome in!

Making a Living Helping Businesses 

As a young kid, Joe watched his mother try to make a living. He knew that one day, he wanted to be successful so his own kids and family wouldn’t have to struggle so much. At the time he didn’t know you could make a living helping businesses. Now, however, he’s thrilled to be the CEO of Ajax Union, where he gets to do that every day! It’s been part of his own journey to high energy purpose.

Joe’s company works with large companies to build marketing funnels. Typically they work with the in-house marketing director to make sure that there are marketing systems and processes that will yield results. Qualified leads that convert are key, and randomized acts of marketing won’t cut it!

As Tony Robbins says, the right strategy will save you a decade. Rather than wasting time, Ajax Union helps companies market smartly.

Joe’s other company, Evyrgreen, helps influencers, coaches, consultants, and businesses make strategic use of their online time. They have a course and coaching program to help people leverage LinkedIn so they can get in and use the platform to make a difference in their businesses. This is worth checking out if you’ve wanted to uplevel your online presence in the new year!

Deal-Making History

Joe’s mother always told him, growing up, that he could never trust anyone else in his business. Although his mother worked hard as an entrepreneur, she never surpassed the million dollar mark. Joe wanted to go further, and for him to do that, for his own business, he was going to need to bring in other talent. He needed support from others in order to focus and get things done!

Early on, Joe had a business partner who turned into a close friend. They started their business together without considering anything beyond a 50/50 structure. There was no real strategy, other than building a million dollar business. Unfortunately, however, it wasn’t gaining traction. At the end of 2008, they sat down together to brainstorm. At the end of the night, they decided to offer SEO to small businesses. Although they weren’t 100% sure if it would work yet, it seemed worth trying.

They used a prepaid, recurring model in order to grow a steady income. Soon enough, they were closing 10 deals a month. When Joe approached the CEO of the company he was working for full time, he was encouraged to strike out on his own and focus on growing his business. In fact, that company even ended up signing on as his biggest client! (You can hear more about that in our interview!)

We Have to Focus to Achieve Success

At the time, Joe had multiple side hustles going on: IT management, tech, eBay sales, and other services. He had to think seriously about whether it was worth it to scrap all those side hustles and grow only the main company. His partner, however, told him it was non-negotiable if they were going to grow together.

After contemplation, Joe decided to go all in and focus. With his partner, they quickly grew to one of the fastest growing companies in America. They were making millions in revenue, but didn’t have the cash they needed to grow even more.

They didn’t have cash flow, but they had relationships with people. (Although at the time Joe didn’t really know how to move beyond transactional relationships and build real relationships for deal-making.) His partner approached a friend, who offered a hundred thousand dollars in exchange for 50% equity in the company, and the guarantee of a full time, paid position within two years.

They turned him down, but they also realized that possible partners could be interested in exchanging cash for equity. This was news! Joe and his partner were in a strong place because they were a strong pair. Rather than flying solo and appearing to be a flaky entrepreneur (which Joe says he was!), their partnership added stability and credibility to their work.

Taking on Investors

Their first investors offered money for small portions of the business, and it was thrilling. It was also clear that they absolutely had to become a five million dollar plus company if those investors were going to make their money back.

Joe was loving the growth, and avoiding the paperwork. He let his partner handle all the contracts, legal paperwork, conversations with lawyers, and more. That was a mistake. He was completely out of the loop when it came to what was happening in the business. He also didn’t realize that his own sweat equity in the business was worth something.

The biggest problem ended up being that there were no exit clauses. There was nothing; no way out, no clear end point.

Looking back, Joe considers it a miracle that they grew the business to the level they did, because they had no idea what they were doing. He thought he was the smartest person in the room, and he lacked the awareness to see what he didn’t know.

Now, he knows disastrous things can happen within partnerships without clear agreements. He absolutely recommends that ALL parties are involved in the creation, understanding of, and implementation of these agreements. The language must be clear. Everyone involved must know what the company’s future is, and what the terms are.

If you have a partner and are growing a business, you cannot think things will just “come together”. Definitely don’t disregard elements that seem too future facing. Having clarity is life-giving and creates a foundation for everything in your future. Don’t take that lightly!

Living With Your High Energy Purpose

Expectations for growth can create pressure sometimes. And when you take in significant capital, you can seriously stress your business.

Joe noted that he had no idea how to deal with their investors. He didn’t know how to communicate with them, and he didn’t know what they were allowed to do, or not do. Now, he notes that if there is a specificity problem in your business, you are responsible for that.

You have to lay down what is expected, and how things work. If you don’t know, invest in resources that will help you! Joe notes that joining EO is what made him realize he didn’t have things like core values, team huddles, and processes. Creating those things helped him shift himself as an individual and build a business that serves a much larger role than anything he could have created just flying along and focusing on making money.

These lessons have also taught Joe the integrity he needs to not only be a CEO, but to be a husband and father. As he’s learned to embrace and embody his values and integrity, he’s found how he can live with his best, high energy purpose and create a life he is proud of.

Listen in to learn more about partnerships, integrity, high energy purpose, and building a business you can be proud of!