Steve Wells: I'm Steve Wells.
[00:00:06] Jeffrey Feldberg: And I'm Jeffrey Feldberg. Welcome to the Sell My Business Podcast.
[00:00:10] Steve Wells: This podcast is brought to you by the Deep Wealth Experience. When it comes to your liquidity event or exit, do you know how to maximize the value of your business? You have one chance to get it right, and you better make it count. Most business owners believe that business value is determined during the liquidity event.
[00:00:29] Unfortunately, most business owners are wrong. Your enterprise value is a direct result of the depth and quality of your preparation. Who are we and, how do we know? We're the 9-figure exit guys. We said "no" to a 7-figure offer. Two years later, we said "yes" to a 9-figure offer.
[00:00:47] Despite having the same people, the same company, the same services, we increased our business value 10 times.
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[00:01:39] Jeffrey Feldberg: Welcome to episode 43 of the Sell My Business Podcast.
[00:01:44] There's a saying that if you want to change your life, change the questions that you ask.
[00:01:49] So, here are five of the most powerful questions every business owner must ask. You know what, whether you're going to be keeping a thriving and profitable company forever, whether you're going to be having a liquidity event tomorrow.
[00:02:02] In either case it's a terrific choice, but when you ask these five powerful questions, it allows you to not just enjoy the journey, but you're actually following the nine-step roadmap that we follow at Deep Wealth and that allows you to create a blueprint to optimize the value of your business.
[00:02:23] So, of the five of the most powerful questions that every business owner must ask, let's start with question number one. Question one is at the heart of everything. What painful problem are you solving? When you started in business before you actually had a business, you looked around, maybe something was bothering you, you found a problem.
[00:02:44] You were passionate to solve that problem. And you did it. Congratulations. That problem that you solve that put you out in the marketplace and you did it so well, you became world-class that you not only attract customers but your customers became raving fans.
[00:03:01] But it's ironic because success can plant the seeds of failure. Yes. Success can make us lazy. And so, one of the questions that I want you to think about is today, what problem are you solving? What you did yesterday, what you did the day before, it doesn't count. As far as your customers are concerned, you're only as good as what you can do for them today and for tomorrow. Well, yesterday's nice. It's come. It's gone. It's no longer here. And your customers are looking towards you. They're looking for you. They're counting on you to solve whatever that new, painful problem that's going to be there for them.
[00:03:41] So, what do you do, how do you find and make sure that you're keeping current on the problem that you're solving? Well, in my case, I'll share a quick story. My favorite question that I would ask customers all the time from the very first customer that I got when I started my e-learning company, Embanet all the way through was when it comes to business, what's keeping you up at night.
[00:04:03] And I remember when I'd asked this question. At this point in time and Burnett was about three, four years in the making. Things were going quite well.
[00:04:12] We had just turned a corner. We went from cashflow positive to actually be profitable. Clients were growing, revenues were growing. Profits were growing. But I knew that kind of situation only lasts for a certain period of time. And I was always looking at how do I put myself out of business? I want to put myself out of business so I can put myself back in business with something that's going to be bigger and better.
[00:04:38] So, the one question that I would ask, what's keeping you up at night, that was really a doorway into finding what's going on with my customers, what's going on in their world. Maybe it didn't involve me and my business with what I was doing, but it involved their lives.
[00:04:54] And it was something that was important to them. So, I remember it was the first customer that I brought on to Embanet. It was a business school. And I was speaking with the Dean of the business school and we were a number of years into our business relationship.
[00:05:07] We knew each other quite well. I was making one of my regular phone calls just to see how things were going and what was happening. And I remember asking the question, so what keeps you up at night? And what I heard was interesting. He said, well, Jeffrey, I'm glad you asked me that because I was actually thinking about that earlier.
[00:05:23] And I have a meeting with my board to talk about this very problem. And the problem that he was facing was that this crazy wild thing called the internet, which some people call a fad back then. Well, that started to eat into his business. His competitors, other business schools were setting up shop in town.
[00:05:43] Other business schools were setting up shop via video conferencing and for whatever the medium was, what he found was that his incoming class was getting smaller and smaller. And this was his challenge. And he was saying, Jeffrey, it's harder for me to fill the seats.
[00:05:59] It's costing a lot more money and I'm getting fewer students. Is that something that you can help me with? Now at that point in time, Embanet, was strictly a technical support company. We did not do marketing. We did a hosting. We did course conversion. We did technical support, but marketing was not our world.
[00:06:17] And here's the important thing. Obviously, my customer was my world. He was having a problem in an area that was outside of my current scope at that time. So, I made the commitment to the customer that I would check around and see what I can find to help him solve the problem. Now, openly, I thought that solving the problem would take a few days to maybe a few weeks at the very most, but I was shocked with what I found.
[00:06:41] When I went to look for marketing solutions that would work with online business school programs and not just any business school, a business school that had a really good reputation. I wasn't finding a lot. I was coming up empty and I began to understand why my customer was going through this particular problem.
[00:07:01] And so when all was said and done, I saw there was an inflection point right there in the marketplace. If I could figure out how to do marketing and how to bring that to my customers, which were business schools, as well as other online programs, that would be a wonderful way to put Embanet 1 out of business and start with Embanet 2, which would be even bigger and better.
[00:07:25] And maybe if I was lucky, I'd create a market disruption. Now, I had no idea that would actually happen. And that would work out. But what I did do was I began asking, well, how do I solve this painful problem? And truth be told it wasn't easy. It cost money. And it took a lot of time to figure out. It was a good year, year and a half until I actually had the beginning of answering that particular problem. But once I answered that problem, once I solved it, I never looked back. And the rest, as they say, is history, because what happened was Embanet 2 created a market disruption and Embanet 2 made Embanet 1 look like a rounding error in terms of revenues, in terms of profits, in terms of scale. It was absolutely phenomenal.
[00:08:14] And here's the irony. If I would have just rested on my success and say that life's going to be good, it'll be like this forever. Somebody else would have done it for me. So, isn't a better that it's you. In this case, that would put me out of business and put myself in business with the next latest and greatest to take me to the next level.
[00:08:33] So, question number one is one of the most powerful questions that you can ask, what painful problem are you solving? And I'll put one caveat to that. What painful problem are you solving today that's current for your clients, for your customers, whatever's keeping them up at night? So, now let's talk about, the five, most powerful questions.
[00:08:53] Every business owner must ask. Let's go on to question number two. And for question number two, here's how we're looking at it. Well, congratulations. You've identified a painful problem, but are you actually solving it? So, question number two is, are you actually solving a painful problem? And here's the thing I don't want you to confuse simplicity with simple. And here's what I mean by that. You spent all kinds of time and money on a solution and you've been busy and you've been doing all kinds of things to get that going, but maybe you're confusing activity with progress. And as simple as it sounds, maybe your solution doesn't work.
[00:09:38] I want you to forget market studies. I want you to forget surveys and I certainly want you to forget focus groups. On paper, they sound great. There are all kinds of companies out there that will do that for you. They'll happily take your dollars to do that. In my experience. It's a waste of time and it's a waste of money. Why would you do that when your direct source of the questions is your customers. You know, one of the things that we talk about in the Deep Wealth Experience in the nine-step roadmap, you are the world's best expert when it comes to your company. No one knows your company better than you.
[00:10:15] You have all the answers, but what you don't have are the right questions. And you'll remember what I said earlier. If you want to change your life, change the questions that you're asking. And so, when you ask the right questions or when you have your customers ask you the right questions that will have you do a deep dive to figure out what the answers are going to be to those questions.
[00:10:38] So, as an example, when I began to create that marketing solution, as I was creating it, as I was building it, I was going back to that Dean at the business school and it was getting his feedback. Here's what we're working on. What do you think? And the feedback that I got was invaluable.
[00:10:55] Yeah, Jeffrey, you know what, no, that doesn't really resonate. Yes. Jeffrey, what you're doing, can you do a little bit more of that, or have you thought about this? And it was a collaborative process back and forth and back and forth. It was helping me fine-tune it.
[00:11:08] And as I took that solution out to the marketplace, I was always asking for feedback. Does this work for you? Is there something that you would pay for? Is there something that makes sense to you? How would you make it better? What would you not do that I'm doing? What would you do that I'm not doing?
[00:11:24] What would you stop doing that I am doing? I would just ask lots of questions to make sure that I was on track. I'm going to flip stories here for just a moment and I'll share another story. This was after I sold Embanet and at that time, not proud of it, but after my nine-figure exit, there was a point in time where I just thought that I had the Midas touch.
[00:11:44] Anything that I touch will turn to gold or platinum. So, I got involved in another business. Whereas at Embanet. I couldn't write the check because I didn't have the resources at the time. After the liquidity event of Embanet, I could write just about any check I wanted for the business. And there was a valuable lesson in that because there's a saying that I have one of my favorite sayings and that is resourcefulness trumps resources. In Embanet. As an example, there were not the resources there weren’t the resources in talent. There weren’t the resources in the capital. We had to get resourceful to do with what we had. And it was because of that, that Embanet was forced to push the envelope as far it could and that process really had us just do unbelievable things while in his next company that I was involved with. And it was with my business partner who was also involved with me at Embanet. So, we had the same team, the same people. We all had this knowledge after the liquidity event. We now had the capital to do all kinds of things and we created a solution.
[00:12:49] But I forgot in this instance, what I had learned. I didn't check with the marketplace. I didn't check with clients. I didn't ask if this was working, did it not work? It was a beautiful product. This happened to be in the healthcare business. It was a mail-order business. It was a beautiful product that was created.
[00:13:06] It was glossy. It was looking terrific and it was really a wow factor. But all that really matters is what the marketplace thinks and the marketplace didn't like it. It didn't resonate with them. Ultimately that company failed. It was sold for pennies on the dollar and on paper. It was a company that just should have skyrocketed to the moon because the capital was there.
[00:13:29] The talent was there, the experience was there, a painful problem was identified, but I didn't ask the question, am I actually solving the painful problem? So, with whatever painful problem that you're now working on, that you're solving, or perhaps you think you solved.
[00:13:45] Stop and ask yourself the question. Am I solving it? And don't just ask yourself, don't ask the people in your company. Go to your customers, go to prospective customers, go to anyone who could be a potential client, and ask them. And if it's a resounding no, time and time again, you have your answer.
[00:14:05] Now, let us go back to why is it important that we solve a painful problem? Well, for starters, as business owners, as founders, as entrepreneurs, this is our DNA. We're here to make people's lives better. We make people's lives better by solving painful problems. When you help enough people get what they want, eventually you'll get what you want.
[00:14:28] And so when you're solving a painful problem, number one, you're increasing your profits. And then number two, if you're thinking about having a liquidity event down the road, this is increasing the value of your business or what some people call enterprise value. So, solving a painful problem is actually step number two in the nine-step roadmap.
[00:14:50] It's one of the many X-Factors that we talk about of how you increase your value. So, the takeaway from here is number one, you want to find a painful problem that you're actually passionate to solve. And so, you ask the question of your customers, what's keeping me up at night. What are some painful problems or what is a painful problem that I'm passionate to solve?
[00:15:11] Once you begin going down that path to solving that problem, you asking yourself am I actually solving it? So, that's question number one and question number two. Let's go back to the five most powerful questions that every business owner must ask. And when we get to question number three, the question is, is your business world-class?
[00:15:33] So, let's make some assumptions here, and let's take a step back. Question one, you found a painful problem that you're passionate to solve. Question two, you've asked yourself if you're solving the problem, and let's make the presumption that yes, you're actually solving the problem.
[00:15:48] Terrific. But solving the problem isn't enough. Because you must absolutely be world-class. Neither the market nor the future buyers are going to tolerate a business that isn’t world-class. The internet has shrunk the world. It used to be that your backyard was your playground in terms of different prospects and customers and the products and services that you can offer.
[00:16:14] And the competition was local. That's no longer the case. Your backyard is the world. Your competitors will come in from every place to try and replace you and have them dominate. The only way around that is having a world-class business. You know, it's interesting because when you prepare for a liquidity event when you follow the nine-step roadmap, it's that preparation that does a whole number of things.
[00:16:41] And in my case, when I did the
preparation, that's what allowed me to go from a
seven-figure offer to say no, to, and later on, say yes to a nine-figure offer. That preparation allows you to really look into every nook and cranny in your business and find out what's not working so that you can make it work.
[00:16:59] In the Deep Wealth Experience in the nine-step roadmap after you've done all the preparation in step number eight, we're asking you to find the hidden Rembrandts in the attic. So, what's a hidden Rembrandt in the attic? Well, every business owner and every business for that matter has at least one hidden Rembrandt.
[00:17:18] Usually it's more. What is a hidden Rembrandt? Well, a hidden Rembrandt. This is what differentiates you from the competition. The mistake that most business owners make is they assume that whatever they're doing, the competition is doing and everyone else's doing. You can't make that assumption. Do a deep dive, look around, look at what you're doing differently than everyone else.
[00:17:40] See what your competitors are doing differently than you. When you find what's world-class, you can take that to the marketplace. You can take that to your future buyers. It helps you convert customers into raving fans, and yes, you guessed it when you have something that's world-class when you have a hidden Rembrandt, it helps you increase the value of your business.
[00:18:01] So, what would be a hidden Rembrandt in the attic you might be asking? Well, let me share a quick story. Back in the Embanet example with my e-learning company, when I began the preparation. I had known that the ten-year contracts I had with my clients, I knew that were long contracts, but I never realized how special they were until I began that preparation.
[00:18:22] And what I learned was that a 10-year contract is a hidden Rembrandt in the attic. When I took it out of the attic and it was no longer hidden, some wonderful things happened. When I went to prospective customers and I shared who my clients were and the 10-year contracts, my prospective customers were looking at me saying, wow, if those customers have a 10-year contract with Embanet and Embanet is good enough for those customers, maybe Embanet is good enough for me.
[00:18:51] And it helped me get more customers. When my future buyers saw the ten-year contracts, they became very excited. Once the company was purchased, once a liquidity event was done, they would have a long runway. It was like protection for them that if something were to go off base, for whatever reason, they still had a long contract to make things up and to do things even that much better.
[00:19:14] So, the buyers love that. And I'll tell you a little something. What I've learned and I've seen this time and time again, your future buyer is smart and sophisticated, and experienced. You don't know what you don't know, but your future buyer does. If your future buyer sees a Rembrandt, but it's hidden in the attic and you don't know about it, your buyer will not disclose that to you. Your buyer will likely keep that to him or herself, keep a lower enterprise value. And they're the winner for that. So, when you find all the hidden Rembrandts in the attic, it's now public information, you take that to your future buyers. They know that you know, and because, you know, and because you've done the preparation, like we said the Deep Wealth, Experience, you'll walk out with the certainty that you'll capture the maximum value in your liquidity event.
[00:20:05] Your future buyer knows that they better be on the best behavior when putting forward a value for your company. So, when your Rembrandts are no longer hidden. Future buyers know that you have them, they're putting up top dollars for that. Prospective clients know that you have them. It makes you more attractive as them coming on board to become a new client.
[00:20:25] And when your existing clients know that you have them, it gives them that confidence to keep on doing business with you. It gives them a sense of pride of ownership. That you're a part of that solution because of what you're doing. So, we've now covered three of five of the most powerful questions every business owner must ask.
[00:20:44] And to do a recap question number one, what painful problem are you solving? Question number two. Are you actually solving the painful problem? Question number three is your business world-class?
[00:20:59] So, now why don't we talk about question four of the five of the most powerful questions that every business owner must ask. And question number four, and this one is a big one. Does your business run without you? I'll say it again. It's a simple yes or no. Does your business run without you?
[00:21:19] If you're honest with yourself and you feel like most business owners, the question is no, it doesn't. And truth be told leading into my liquidity event my answer was a no as well. My business didn't really run without me. And let's face it as owners, we're Type-A personalities. We love what we do. The businesses, us.
[00:21:39] We are the business. We can't imagine life without the business. And we become the center of the universe. And perhaps at the beginning that's needed. When we're just starting out, we have something to prove to the marketplace we're getting going. We don't have that track record that's absolutely required.
[00:21:56] But once you get that track record of success, your business must run without you. Most business owners have no idea of how much they're robbing themselves of their health and their future when the business doesn't run without them. And I know it can be a scary thought of not being in the business, but here's what I want you to think about. When you're working on the business, not in the business, you've done something very powerful.
[00:22:23] You're freeing up your time.
[00:22:24] Why is it important that you free up your time? Well, it's amazing how powerful these five questions are because you remember with question number one, I asked what painful problem are you solving? This is one of the X-Factors roadmaps, step two in a Deep Wealth Experience. And if we're honest about it, as business owners, as businesses we will sometimes get lazy, and rests on our success and not find all these new problems that we can solve.
[00:22:52] But life doesn't stop. The marketplace certainly doesn't stop. So, with question number four, when your business runs without you and you now have more time, you freed up your time to work on the business. If you choose to, and I encourage that you do, you can now spend your time finding more painful problems, new painful problems that you're passionate to solve.
[00:23:14] When the business runs without you, that means you have a talented and capable management team that is running the company. You've created a success path, a career track for your talent to move up the ladder so that they too can run the company at one point in time, it becomes a wonderful tool to attract new talent.
[00:23:35] And so you're doing what you do best. This is how you started. You're the visionary, you're the market creator. And yes, you can even create a market disruption. So, when your company runs without you, you now have that ability to find new problems to solve those problems, put yourself out of business. So, you can put yourself back in business into something that's bigger and better.
[00:23:58] And as we spoke about when your business runs without you, it does one huge thing that I cannot emphasize enough. And that is, it increases the value of your business. Your profits will go up and the value to a future buyer is tremendous when he or she knows that the business will run without you. I've yet to meet a buyer who said Jeffrey, I look for companies where the business doesn't run without the owner.
[00:24:25] It's the absolute opposite. They want to get a return on investment. They don't want to buy a company today and find out that they have to close down the shop tomorrow because it won't run without you. The future buyer, not only wants to see that the business runs without you, but the future buyer must have confidence. They must see a track record of success, which is usually at least two or three years, minimum of the business running without you.
[00:24:52] I'll share a quick story with you. When I was preparing Embanet for a liquidity event and is going through the preparation, I realized in step number eight of the nine-step roadmap that one of the skeletons in my closet was that the business did not run without me. So, I put together a management team that hired all kinds of supervisors, managers, and the president of the company.
[00:25:14] And I put them in place. The team hasn't been in place all that long, but you know, I'll just have them do all the presentations for the liquidity event. I'll remove myself from the picture as much as I can. And that'll be okay for the future buyer. Well, did I have something coming to me.
[00:25:28] Remember your future buyer is smart, sophisticated, and experienced. And just about every buyer who took a look at the company said, Jeffrey, we know you put this management team in place for the liquidity event and they may be as good as you say they are, but you don't have that track record of success.
[00:25:46] And because of that, we're going to have to downgrade the value of your business. Remember, your future buyer is looking for anything and everything to lower the value of your business, and did I hand that to them on a silver platter. So, when your business runs without you, and you're looking to have a liquidity event, you definitely need a president or CEO and a management team that has been in place for at least two or three years of consistent and solid profitable results.
[00:26:15] That really makes a difference. At that point, you take any, and all excuses away from the future buyer that the business does not run without you, because it actually does. And you can point to the financials and they can speak to the customers. They can speak to the employees and see and hear for themselves that it's your management team and not you, that doesn't run the business.
[00:26:36] So, answering question four, does your business run without you? That is one big question and really the linchpin around having a liquidity event, the linchpin around having a company that is thriving and profitable, because as much as it may pain you to spend the money and the time to find a president or CEO it’s absolutely the right thing to do.
[00:27:00] Now on a side note, a lot of business owners will ask me, well, Jeffrey, I'm pretty sure I know who my future buyer is going to be. It's probably going to be my competition. They already have a precedent. Why should I spend the money and the time putting a president in place?
[00:27:13] When I hear that, and it's a common one, I can really empathize because I often thought the same thing when I was running my business. But I've seen time and time again. Number one, you cannot assume who your future buyer is going to be. Chances are, it will not be your competitor. Your competitor may want to buy you, but may not offer the best value.
[00:27:33] You may find another company that's going to offer a much higher value and that's going to be where you go. So, you don't know who your future buyer is going to be. And do you really want to risk a deal or no deal because you don't have a president or CEO in place because you didn't want to pay the recruiting fees to get the best possible talent that you could. Look to a president or a CEO as insurance.
[00:27:56] Your future buyer, if that's needed, it's going to make the deal across the finish line and add more value. If your future buyer doesn't need a president or CEO. Well, who's to say that your president won't be the one that's chosen to run the new conglomerate versus the existing one that your future buyer already has. You don't know that.
[00:28:14] So, it's always best to cover all the bases and ensure that your company runs without you. So, question four, an absolute big one, a linchpin to having a profitable and thriving business, a linchpin to getting your lifestyle back. But let's now round out five of the most powerful questions that every business owner must ask.
[00:28:34] And we're now getting to question five of five, and this question is, are you doing the right thing? Now you may be saying, well, Jeffrey, wait a minute. What are you talking about? I found a painful problem that I'm really passionate to solve, and yes, I'm actually solving it. I'm making a difference out there in the marketplace.
[00:28:51] And by the way, my business is world-class and an absolute, yes, my business runs without me. What do you mean? Am I doing the right thing?
[00:29:00] The answer to this question is a purely subjective answer. You may be great at solving this particular problem and you're world-class and all those other things like we spoke about, but is it the right problem for you to solve? Is it a problem that has you interested? Is it a problem that has you passionate to solve?
[00:29:22] Is it a problem that you're solving, but it's an industry that's in decline. I'll mention two names. Maybe you've heard of them. Maybe you haven't, if you haven't heard of them well, it's a great example of what happens. And if you have heard of them, you'll see the irony. And those two names are Blockbuster and Kodak.
[00:29:40] Both were titans of their industry. They're at the top of the top. They solved a painful problem and they did it so well for so many years. And then something happened. Life changed. The marketplace changed. The industry moved on. There are different problems to solve and other competitors were only too happy to solve those problems until these two companies were no longer in existence.
[00:30:03] So, you may be solving a problem, but is it the right thing? Is it the right problem to be solving? Now here's the thing. If you're feeling burnt out this isn't the time just to quit and have a liquidity event. Maybe that's going to be the answer for you, but if you're feeling burnt out, maybe it's because you're not working on the right thing.
[00:30:22] Maybe it's because you're not doing the right thing. I want you to go back to when you started your business. And when you started your business, you were passionate. You were fueled by passion and energy and all these insights that you just want it to go and conquer the world. If you've lost that, perhaps it's because you're not focusing on the things that really drive you to that area.
[00:30:43] And here's a wonderful thing when your company runs without you, I'm going to go back to question number four for just a moment. When your company runs without you, it takes you out of the day-to-day that you're not involved in those stressful things in the daily grind. You have a world-class team that's helping you do that.
[00:30:59] And when you have your time back, this is where you can find the right thing for both you and your business to be working on. And when you find the right thing, that's where you're going to thrive. And so that really wraps up the five questions.
[00:31:12] Let's do a quick recap. So, five of the most powerful questions that every business owner must ask are the following.
[00:31:19] Question number one. What painful problem are you solving?
[00:31:25] Question number two, are you actually solving that painful problem?
[00:31:30] Question number three is your business world-class.
[00:31:35] Question number four, does your business run without you?
[00:31:40] And question number five, are you doing the right thing?
[00:31:44] So, there you have it. There's the Roundup of five of the most powerful questions that every business owner must ask. And I want to thank you. As I begin to wrap up this episode, I want to thank you for your time. Money is not your currency. Time is. You can go out and do different deals and earn more money. That's something that you can do anytime that you want, but you can't go back and manufacture more time.
[00:32:06] So, the fact that you've spent time with me today, I'm so grateful for that. Thank you so much. If you found value in this episode, if you find value in the Sell My Business Podcast, please go on to Apple Podcasts and leave some reviews so that other business owners can also find us and benefit the same way that you have.
[00:32:24] If you want to learn more about the nine-step roadmap that helps give you the certainty to capture the maximum value in your liquidity event go to DeepWealth.Com, you'll see an area there where you can reach out and we can contact you to have a free exploratory call.
[00:32:40] And would love to find out how we can help you achieve your goals because remember the best time to do preparation for your liquidity event well, that was 10 years ago. The next best time is starting today.
[00:32:51] It's never too early to start the preparation for your liquidity event. And speaking from the trenches, speaking from my own experience, the only difference between saying yes to a nine-figure offer and no to a seven-figure offer was the level of preparation that I did.
[00:33:08] On that note I'm going to thank you so much for spending part of your time with me today. Please stay healthy and safe.
[00:33:14] Thank you.