Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
A loud word from management
Guys have no idea of how much space they take up or how much noise they make. My life at the moment is nonstop airports as we tour the country visiting each office for Christmas parties.
The Virgin lounge is my home in December, and it’s packed in every city. I sat less than a metre away from a silver-haired business gent who I quickly learned was in the mining drilling game, via his fifteen minute Facetime video call on full speaker volume.
He was berating some poor employee, whose appearance added nothing to what should have been a phone call. Throughout, he referred to himself in the third person, as “management”.
“You tell them management is very unhappy about this. Management will not accept that,” and so on. The idea that there is anything more important than his own needs in that crowded public space will never enter management’s head.
The First Law Of Loud Guys In Airport Lounges states that at some point in the conversation, they will always say “ducks in a row”. They love the ducks. I was waiting for management to deliver the line and he did not let me down.
I don’t see business in terms of ducks, but it’s important to plan now to realise your business dreams.
Get your exit strategy sorted before you need it
High up on that list is your exit strategy. Any competent business advisor will tell you to start working on it now, well before you want to sell. Because it can take years. Forming a board, reporting, formal meetings, policies, documentation of everything, getting the books done by a prestige firm and so on.
This has been on my mind recently as our business grows, because people keep asking. It’s been fifteen years. How do we finally realise the value of this beast we’ve created? Everyone would like to know what’s our exit plan, and what are we going to do with all the money?
My business partner PK and I got onto this topic kicking back in deep leather chairs in a dark cocktail bar in Hobart, reflecting on that evening’s Christmas party. Our Tasmanian business was hit hardest by COVID, and it’s turned around in dramatic style. It was so great to celebrate a year of genuine achievement, rather than huddle around saying “hope next year is a smaller bag of dicks than this one.”
(For those who’ve joined the blog recently, we have equity business partners in each state who run each business like it’s their own. They are great at it and I love them like family.)
PK, reflecting over a French martini, got to the core of our strategic plan re exits:
“We can never sell our business. It’s too entertaining.”
“100%. I live for this stuff.”
Oh my God we love it. Our people have taken the business to places we couldn’t have imagined when we started it. We’ve provided a bit of guidance along the way, but the credit belongs to so many people on every level of the company.
PK and I live in different cities but we spend hours on the phone each day batting ideas back and forth, and laughing like B-grade movie villains. We, and our partners, revel in the puzzle-solving, the tension of pursuing big contracts, the celebration of wins. We love seeing future stars rising faster than they would in other businesses.
And, frankly, we like nice restaurants around the country that the business pays for.
I don’t want your money, buyers
As the tour of Christmas parties in each state continues, I feel energized like Godzilla snacking on nuclear reactors. Endless fascinating chats with all our staff, who ask intelligent questions about where things are going. That relaxed party feedback offers essential clues about how to steer the business in future.
Lots of them wanted to have a quiet word about other people they worked alongside. To let me know how good they were and how much that other person helped them do a better job.
I’ve had jobs where Christmas parties were nonstop whinge-fests from disgruntled staff who wanted to have a word. This is the opposite of that. Last night I looked at my watch, thinking it was around 11 and I should get back to the hotel. It was 3am.
You could offer to transfer me an 8-figure amount for my share of the business today and I would say no thank you. Because I would be bored out of my fucking mind.
My partner has told me I can never sell the businesses. She sees my joy when I’m talking to our business partners. She knows that without it I’d be a sad shadow of myself and I would mope around the house being a general burden. If that makes me an unbalanced human being then so be it, but it keeps lots of good people employed. And I still have enough time to run hobbies like this very blog.
Also if you don’t love your business that much, your staff can feel it and your business won’t get as far as you hoped.
I have friends planning for exits right now and they are absolutely right to do so. It’s right for most and if you work directly in the business I can see how it might be attractive. Just don’t assume it’s compulsory for everyone.
I don’t want to get too zen on you but if you set your business up right the destination isn’t so important because the journey is so fun. Yes there’s stress but that’s part of the joy. If you want predictable flatline comfort, move to a nice sunny place, play golf and tell everyone “great day for it”.
Not everyone has the option. Our approach works if you have enough profit and cash flow to put out enough dividends to keep everyone happy. Some businesses can’t do that, it’s a choice of a capital gain from a sale, or the rest of your life feeding the growth monster. In which case, sell that puppy.
The pine box exit strategy
I want to work till I die. Sure it’s not nonstop high-stress work. I work the amount I want to. The business would run fine if I only did two hours a week, but that would suck. Business can be that fun if you take a positive view of people.
2022, it’s been a pleasure despite some seriously evil bullshit at times. That’s it for the blog, back in 2023 when it’s South Korea time for the book. I have seen some previews and I am very much in love with what they’ve done with it. Stay tuned, enjoy the break my friends.
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