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Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Create and Transfer Business Value

Laurie Barkman is the CEO of SmallDotBig, where she works with entrepreneurs, private companies, and family businesses on innovation, transition, and growth strategies. All this is to help clients achieve their long-term goals. She also works with closely-held companies to grow the value of their business and prepare to transition ownership in 7-10 years. As the Host of the Succession Stories Podcast, Laurie speaks with CEOs and experts about how to create and transfer business value. Altogether, Laurie has more than 20 years of digital transformation, entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship in tech, retail, logistics, and service industries — from startups to corporates. 

Laurie’s Early Start

As a young person, Laurie had no idea she’d go on to be a CEO. She did start to recognize pretty early, however, that she was a leader. As a student she was often in situations where she had a chance to make an impact, create change, and coordinate with other students. In fact, her mom thought she’d go into politics and be a diplomat!

When it came time to pick a school and major, however, Laurie still didn’t know what she wanted to do. As a result, she chose a school and area of study that she felt would serve her no matter what direction she ultimately went. Her first career move after graduation? HR!

Laurie considers her first deal-making experience to be selling Hickory Farms meat and cheese as part of a fundraising campaign. She sold so much she earned a prize, and she considers this her first confidence boost in the sales arena. 

As her career has evolved, Laurie notes she has been in a variety of different industries and companies. From startups to billion dollar traded companies, Laurie has found ways to be innovative and creative. Now, she looks back and sees that her journey is what brought her to where she is today.

Healthy Succession Planning

Laurie loves working with entrepreneurial families, in which the founding entrepreneur created something and future generations have grown it into something even larger. She shares about a 3rd generation family business she worked in during her career. The family had moved from horse and buggy delivery to larger transportation to reverse logistics.

Eventually, Laurie was involved in the company’s succession plan. This required understanding the potential of long-term strategy with multigenerational impact. Stakeholders mattered, but so did employees and customers. 

Companies who have this sort of long-term vision inspire Laurie, and she loves partnering with them to help them see the potential for healthy succession possibilities.

As we were talking, I realized that we haven’t had much podcast content focused on family businesses. I’d love to dig into this area even more because there is so much that can be said about family members running a long term business together. There are major partnership dynamics at play, as well as other factors. (Would you be the perfect guest for this? I’d love to hear from you!)

Family Businesses, Family Values

Laurie notes that family businesses are incredibly unique. Each one is a sort of “snowflake”, in that you’ll never find another exactly like it. That’s one of the things that makes them so much fun to work with!

She shared the concept of shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations. Essentially, the first generation invests and innovates to build something successful, but the second generation is fearful of “sinking the ship”. They are more likely to play things safe and fail to creatively expand and grow. The third generation may be able to turn things around, but it may also be too late. There may also be family conflict, or a family that has grown so quickly that the business cannot sustain them.

Other issues in family succession can be connected to lack of fit or ability to take a business on, or a lack of a successor because there are no family members left.

Building skill sets and creating a pipeline for next generation talent is a key part of succession, whether you want to keep your business in the family or not!

On her podcast, Succession Stories: Insights for Next Generation Entrepreneurs, Laurie has interviewed multiple CEO’s of family run businesses. She has noticed that family run companies tend to be incredibly value heavy. They understand where the values have come from, and how they play out in day to day life. These values are also attached to the history of the company, and it’s essential that they are written down.

She emphasizes that any business can benefit from having value clarity. Another of Laurie’s clients, not a family business, recently came to her without clearly established values. The start of their work together was to figure those out.

Top Down or Bottom Up

Laurie notes that a family board can be a really helpful method for families running a company together. This might be considered a “top down” system. She notes that these boards can include owners or higher level executives within the company in addition to family, but it is comprised heavily of family members. This board is in addition to an executive board, or advisory board. Family boards can help diffuse family tension and provide a forum for conversation.

On the other end, a “bottom up” approach may mean that family members start at the bottom of the business and work their way up. When it comes to family members working within the business, Laurie notes that it can’t be forced. If a family member doesn’t want a role or position, then it will never work.

Strengths, motivation, and fit are absolutely key “buckets”, in Laurie’s point of view.

A healthy succession means that a potential family member needs to have the necessary strengths, they need personal motivation and desire, and they must fit into the role that needs to be filled, which includes personality, organizational dynamics, and more.

Although any of those three buckets might not be 100% at the start, time can change and grow all things. Listen to the full episode to hear Laurie share about a family member who originally didn’t have great fit or motivation, but who later came to realize that running the business was his calling!

Family business or otherwise, healthy succession relies on the ability to create and transfer business value across time. Sometimes there is unnecessary drama and chaos because a business’s leaders don’t know who they would be outside of their company.Rather than let go and learn who they really are, they cling on in an attempt to retain a sense of self. This can be especially problematic in family run businesses, because there are the added pressures of the family name being attached to a certain way of being.

Create and Transfer Business Value

In the technology world, things move fast and the larger successful tech companies are comparatively new. There aren’t many multi-generational families who have been involved in the tech space, and even less with the ability to transfer business value!

Laurie notes that she got into digital marketing as a personal career pivot herself; it wasn’t her first path, as it wasn’t for many. As a result, she had an early look at what it means to have technology or tools, but no market. She also saw that start ups can appear really glossy from the outside, but can be really messy on the inside.

Because her role was connected to succession and going to market, she could see that internal mess was problematic. In another shift, Laurie moved into apparel retail at the start of the ecommerce boom. She considers that a corporate start up, in that it was an established company doing something brand new. Again, she was involved in structure, scaling, and marketing. Her career has allowed her to work with budgets of a hundred dollars, and a hundred million dollars.

As a result, Laurie knows how to assess a business and get to the root of what’s working and what is not. She has an eye for understanding fit, operational needs, and market, all while building value.

She also knows what it means to create and transfer business value. Rather than leave money on the table, Laurie helps businesses think through healthy succession based on the transfer of accrued value.

Now, Laurie loves working with small to medium privately owned companies in order to bring together a strategic planning process that creates momentum to move forward. When a team understands where they are going, they are aligned and empowered to grow. This brings a business to life; it’s creating the plan AND executing, which is key. (90% of strategies don’t get implemented….which renders them worthless!)

Listen in to Episode 93 to hear 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!

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Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Create the Synergy for Optimal Deals

I am so excited to have Marc Gordon’s interview going live this week. He’s a Customer Experience Expert out of Toronto, Canada, and is an internationally recognized thought leader in the field of customer experience. In our interview, we had a chance to discuss what it takes for two companies to create synergy. This is essential for there to be a positive outcome for buyouts or partnership opportunities. We also dig into the importance of integrating the culture of a business post-merger and post-deal. After all, you can have the greatest deal structure, legal agreements, and finances, but if the rest of it doesn’t come together? You’re in trouble.

Marc has been regularly featured on TV and radio. He’s even been referred to as Canada’s Marketing Superstar by the Oprah Winfrey Network. As an award winning keynote speaker, Marc has spoken for some of the world’s most respected companies, including Bausch and Lomb and Hilton Hotels.

Corporate Staging to Enhance Deal-Making

One thing Marc has done a lot of work with lately is what he calls “corporate staging”. A lot of companies have a great product or service, and they reach a point where they are looking for either partners or buyers. But even if their books are good, they can’t get into a conversation. Their online presence is sabotaging them. Potential buyers and partners go straight to Google, and when there are huge issues with a company’s online presence, they can’t even make it to the table to discuss deals.

Whether the issue is their branding, their website, or their social media; they have massive barriers. These problems are based on the way they’ve curated their online presence. And who can blame other organizations from saying, “If this is such a great company or opportunity, why do they look this bad?”

No matter how good the numbers might be, it’s hard to overcome perception issues. Marc’s had the opportunity to work with companies on corporate staging in order to turn their image around. Often, this is done quickly. 72 hour turnaround times are a regular request. Why so fast? Well, it seems that many businesses realize in the final days before a proposal goes out that they are going to be under a whole new level of scrutiny. Of course prospective partners and buyers are going to be heading to their website and social accounts! And in order create synergy for a great deal, details have to be considered.

Drive Deals With Marketing

When people think of deals, they don’t automatically see how something like customer experience or marketing might play into success. However, deals can absolutely be impacted!

The truth is, quite a few companies that are turning a profit look unprofessional. When they reach the stage where they may be looking for venture capital, a buyout, or a business partner, they just aren’t prepared.

Often this happens when a company has been super focused on creating a stellar product or service. They simply let marketing and branding fall by the wayside. Essentially, they realize too late that they’re walking into a formal affair wearing jeans and a t-shirt. That’s a problem, especially when they should be wearing a tuxedo!

When they call me, says Marc, they’re saying, “We need you to make us look like the company that we believe we should be.” And the truth is, they ARE that company. It’s just that no one else can tell. This creates huge issues when it comes to sitting down at the negotiating table.

Marketing Reveals Who Your Company Truly Is

By focusing on marketing, they have the ability to look established. They can come to the table and look as strong as they actually are. They want to look like they are leaders in their niche and market, and they can do that by stepping up their marketing and brand presence.

Hoping to gain a partner, start a joint venture, enter into a strategic alliance or sell your company? Marc recommends that you work with a branding and marketing expert sooner than later. Certainly make sure you have a strong online presence before you start putting out offers or bringing people to the table.

And speaking of the table… When you go to make a deal, you have to consider the perspectives of everyone involved. Yes, that includes the CEO. But it also includes the people in charge of sales, marketing, and branding. And everyone is looking for reasons it might not be a good idea, reasons it might not work. If you have a poor online presence, you can expect there to be conversations about that. At the very minimum, someone will have the due diligence to say, “We’re going to have to sink time and money into laying a groundwork that doesn’t exist yet.” I’ve personally seen that be an issue during negotiations. It can literally result in a less lucrative deal for the company.

Create Synergy and Position Yourself for a Strong Deal

Another great way to think about your marketing and online presence is as a key to your corporate culture. A website or social account is a great way to actively show what kind of culture you’ve built, and how dynamic your business is. That also means it’s a great place to create the synergy for a strong deal.

However you desire to position yourself or be perceived, a solid online presence can help make that a reality. When done right, you can artfully reveal exactly who your company is. You can profile how you relate to your target audience, and why you’re positioned to be an industry authority. Those are all excellent things to have established long before you sit down to make a deal!

Again, you have to remember that the first thing an interested party often does is Google your company. And no matter how much of a positive impression you or your product may have made, it’s really hard to overcome what Google turns up. Of course, we’re not talking about inflating your company. We certainly aren’t misrepresenting who you are. Ideally, your online presence is a robust extension of your culture, values, product, or means of service. It’s vibrant, it’s clear, and it’s directly connected to who you are.

It’s Worth the Investment

That’s why it makes a difference to work with a true branding or marketing professional. It’s a field where you get what you pay for. It’s worth investing here in order to put your best foot forward in a digital age. Essentially, you have to have your ducks in a row. To start with, you have to have the product, the service, the quality support, and a great team. Marc uses the analogy of icing a cake.

When you buy a cake, you don’t look at the cake inside. You look at the frosting. It’s your first impression; the thing that makes you go, “I want that one.” Now, if you take a bite and the cake’s stale, everything goes downhill from there. Marketing and branding can’t compensate for a mediocre business. But when you have the business foundations down, they can be a really fun way to top things off. You can use them to create synergy and set yourself apart as a top candidate to anyone in the market looking to make an acquisitions, merger, or other profitable deals in your industry.

Marc and I also had a great conversation about customer service. We discuss how creating great customer experiences can build the foundation for strong deals. To hear more about that, listen in over on the podcast!

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 Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Non-Traditional Tactics for Deal-Driven Growth

Andrew MacKinnon‘s early business experience was selling coupons on the streets of London. It wasn’t the ultimate dream, but it was a place to get started. Ultimately, he was determined to provide something different to the marketplace by encouraging brands to show their audience what they do. This is a different approach than simply telling them! Recognizing the need for this type of marketing service, Andrew set about developing non-traditional tactics to create participation between brands and their audiences.

Now 18 years on, Andrew and a carefully curated creative team have spurred Taboo to evolve into a full-scale creative agency. As such, they deliver campaigns for the country’s biggest brands: Telstra, TAC, Nike, NAB, General Mills, Mecca, Myer and CUB.

Andrew continues to have an insatiable appetite for creating. This appetite has helped him create a non-traditional career spanning marketing, hospitality, real estate and (just about) everything in between.

Using Guerrilla Marketing for Non-Traditional Deals
At the age of 20, Andrew created Taboo. Although he felt he had no idea what he was doing, he took the plunge and signed paperwork on a space. Shortly after, the agency became known for their street marketing.

This was pre-internet, and most small businesses were relying solely on word of mouth. Andrew’s approach was based on getting people IN to a business to experience a product or service. The businesses were confident that if they had that chance to interact, they could get the customer to return. At the time, this non-traditional approach provided a wide-open space for growth.

Taboo continued to evolve and was soon labelled one of Australia’s first guerrilla marketing agencies. They were approached by record labels, movie houses, and companies launching new products. Taboo was making deals with DVD sales, MP3 sales, credit card companies, and more. Their non-traditional approach relied on getting people to experience something or talk about something, and it worked!

A Variety of Deals
Andrew’s brother James was working at a large agency that had a top-down approach. They recognized that they had an opposite approach to marketing, and decided to join forces and combine the best of both worlds. They called it the “East-meets-West-philosophy” and started hiring the best possible people from the top agencies.

Their core beliefs are:

What a brand does is more important than what a brand says.
People are a brand’s most powerful medium.
The most important thing a brand can do is to get people to love, adopt, and share. That is more important than any advertising campaign or marketing spiel and enabled the brothers to grow Taboo to where it is today. Andrew has also expanded in other ways.

In 2011, he engaged in a few real estate deals in order to open the iconic Ponyfish Island, situated in Melbourne’s Yarra River. He did this deal with his partners, Grant Smillie and Jerome Borazio.

On the other end of the spectrum, Andrew’s latest venture is called Skymorials. This is a technology start-up targeted at the digital generation interested in commemorating loved ones via an online memorial platform. The site is now the fastest growing online memorial site in the world.

Andrew’s desire to build non-traditional creative projects continue to re-emerge. He’s now branching into property development through the establishment of Assembly House, a 1200m workspace in Cremorne. The building will be home to several of Melbournes leading agencies.

Bringing in Business Partners

Andrew’s partnership with his brother and another associate had its challenges. Taboo was already four years in the making when the brothers decided to merge together. Andrew didn’t want to just give away 25%, even to family or close friends. He also wanted to be sensitive about over-pricing it, however.

They engaged an independent 3rd party that they all respected. This party enabled them to put a fair evaluation of the business. Andrew also encouraged them to seek another independent evaluation, which they did.

In addition, Andrew negotiated a deal with James that enabled him to pay for his shares of Taboo using future profits, rather than an up-front cash payment. He shares that salaries, bonuses, and other incentives were also something that had to be carefully assessed. This whole negotiation took place over three years, during which time James came onboard and was already working in the business.

However, by the time their third member was ready to sign the paperwork, Taboo had begun to lose some of its profitability. The evaluation didn’t seem as strong, and ultimately, that party accepted another position with a different marketing agency on the day he was supposed to sign on with Taboo. 3 years of work blew up in their faces. At that point, Andrew and James recut their own deal. Andrew goes into those details (and Taboo’s renewed success) on the show!

Trial & Error

Andrew shares that failure is a huge part of how Taboo has grown over the years. He has found that his own ability to detach from being “right” makes it easier for him to allow other decision-makers in. From his brother and partner to Taboo employees, he is open to other perspectives and ways of thinking.

This comes down to trusting others and being willing to learn from what doesn’t work.

Rather than expecting perfection, he encourages that Taboo members learn from failure. This enables them to try new things and think in creative ways. This trademark open-mindedness, as well as the willingness to always learn, has paid off beyond the agency and its work.

Mackinnon was honored with the role of President of the Entrepreneurs Organisation Australia Victorian Chapter in 2017, after having served on the board for four years. In addition, Mackinnon’s engaging vivacity has made him a compelling asset both inside and outside the boardroom, with The Financial Review Magazine listing him as a must-have on any events Guest wish-list.

His genuine interest in others has led to both leadership opportunities and better deal-making skills. Listen in to the full interview 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!

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Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Five Ways to Accelerate Growth

After one year and more than sixty episodes, we have gathered countless insights from the most talented negotiators, speakers, and dealmakers across industries. And with so much ground covered, we decided to introduce a series of ‘best of’ episodes. Here we’ve distilled the main talking points from our Fueling Deals guests. Today we’ll focus on how to accelerate growth as we learn from our deal-driven experts.

The Experts Take: How to Accelerate Growth

Each quarter will bring a new theme that combines different topics from each interview. This time, the theme is “accelerating growth”. We explore some of the major talking points from my interviews with Carl Gould, Bruce Eckfeldt, Phil Buchanan, and Matt Wavro.

Carl Gould dives into the growth and sale of his two businesses. His creation of monthly recurring revenue, as well as his branding and networking accomplishments, enabled him not only to sell the companies, but also to affiliate with the company and earn an income post-sale.

Next, Bruce Eckfeldt and I had a conversation about how to scale a company. We highlight points from Les Mckeown’s book, “Predictable Success.”

After that, Phil Buchanan shares advice for small onboarding deals and acquisitions. Our focus was on geographical expansion.

And lastly, Matt Wavro explains how he has utilized strategic alliances to accelerate growth. This includes partnering with minority and women-owned business enterprises.

Get the Full Experience

The excerpts from these conversations only represent a small part of the invaluable information from each episode, so make sure to go back and give them a listen if you didn’t get a chance.

Carl Gould, Bruce Eckfeldt, Phil Buchanan, and Matt Wavro each have unique perspectives on accelerating growth in their own companies, or by working with other companies. Make sure to check out the latest episode of Fueling Deals, and keep an eye out for a new ‘best of’ installment every quarter.

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!

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

Deal-Driven Growth

Stephen Woessner is the founder and CEO of Predictive ROI, host of the Onward Nation podcast, a digital marketing authority, speaker, educator, and bestselling author of two books. He comes from a long lineage of business owners, and the early exposure to entrepreneurship primed him to follow a similar path. After serving in the Air Force for four years, Stephen landed a job with an advertising agency in La Crosse, WI where he became a partner in just three years. There, he honed his craft in digital marketing and devoted his energy to understanding how business owners think, act, and achieve.

Predictive ROI

Predictive ROI has always operated as a digital marketing agency, but over the last ten years, it has transformed into something entirely unique. Predictive’s core services were built to help business owners identify financial opportunities and hemorrhages in the digital space. But recently, Stephen and his team have added podcasting to their service line. Now, Predictive ROI helps business owners build their thought leadership through podcasting and supplementary content, so they can monetize that content with courses, workshops, events, sponsorships, and a variety of other opportunities.

Inorganic Growth in the Agency World

While Predictive ROI’s client base continues to grow organically, the agency is finally at a point where the world of strategic partnerships and acquisitions is finally opening up to them. It means Stephen and the leadership team at Predictive can look into different plays such as acquiring a software company that will increase their analytics capabilities; possibly even absorbing smaller agencies in different verticals with client rosters that are strategically advantageous. But if you are considering inorganic growth as an option, there are a lot of indicators you should be watching to determine if it is the right move.

Will it help you hit your revenue goals within your current timeline?

Are you making the right acquisition or is there a better alternative?

Stephen shares advice for navigating this process in the latest episode of Fueling Deals.

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!