According to statistics from BizBuySell, less than 1 out of 5 of businesses marketed for sale are able to find a buyer and to consummate a successful transaction.
Even this depressing statistic vastly under-estimates how few companies are able to attain a successful exit, as the great majority of the over 6 million U.S. business owners are never able to even consider listing their companies for sale.
That’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears expended on work and businesses that yield comparatively very little.
Even more viscerally, working hard and long on a business that doesn’t get to an exit is, far more often than not, a profound form of losing.
And losing sucks.
Now, there are always reasons and excuses as to why better and faster progress is not made: Cheap, overseas competition, difficulty in attracting and retaining talent, taxes, regulations, and perhaps my favorite the lament that one’s struggles are caused by customers that don’t “get” how awesome our products and services really are.
These reasons and excuses are just that. For every one of them, there are infinitely more possibilities and opportunities that with just a little refocusing of effort and action can turn declining or flat-lining business vectors into solid and sustainable growth trajectories.
Here are three of them:
1. Always Ask This One Question. The great Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway for over 50 years and one of the most successful investors of all time, is famous for asking his managers this question when it comes to important operational decisions: “What is the Low Cost, High Quality choice?”
What I love about this question is that no matter the business process – marketing, sales, operational, financial – it forces us to not to make the classic (and lazy!) false choice between cost and quality: we can have and deliver both.
2. Start at the End. Growthink Co-founder Dave Lavinsky’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship best-seller Start at the End should be required reading for any and all executives truly interested in building their companies to a successful exit.
In it, Dave goes into great detail as to the effective practice of business goal-setting far out in the future, and then how to work backward to today’s most important projects, tasks and to-do’s.
3. Trust Our Guts Less and the Numbers More. Pioneering work by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman has demonstrated that in almost all business arenas – hiring, marketing initiatives, sales teams, customer satisfaction, financial performance – almost always it is the cold, hard numbers that are right and our warm and fuzzy guts that are wrong.
This has always been true, but now for the first time we can protect ourselves from our guts, utilizing Predictive Analytics (automatically making sense and order of our Big Data world) and Business Intelligence Dashboards (automatically giving us a “Quantified Self” snapshot of where we stand in real time against our goals and what to do about it).
It is simple: Be numbers-driven, define as precisely as possible our long-term objectives, and at every turn make the lower cost, higher-quality choice.
Build these muscles and you will avoid becoming unfortunate destiny of the vast majority of your business peers…