Podcast: Planning for Life After Business, Interview with Geoff Green
Exit planning is one thing. But are you ready for what comes after you sell? Geoff Green talks planning for what happens after you exit.
About the Host
Ryan is an entrepreneur, podcast host of the show Life After Business and the co-owner of Solidity Financial. Having personally experienced the hazards of selling a business, he joined up with his friend Brandon Wood to educate others on the process. Through their business (Solidity Financial), they provide a platform for entrepreneurs called Growth and Exit Planning that helps in exit planning, value building and financial management.
About the Guest
For over 30 years, Geoff Green has been helping business-owners not only build great businesses but also get rewarded for their blood, sweat and tears when they exit. In 1998, after 15 years as a corporate lawyer, Geoff founded GRG Momentum, which quickly evolved into one of Australia’s first business advisory firms specializing in business exits.
Geoff released his first book, The Smart Business Exit: Getting Rewarded for Your Blood, Sweat and Tears, in late 2014. Following the success of his book, he decided to launch The Smart Business Exit hub to provide business-owners and their advisors with easy online access to information about business exits. Geoff is regarded as one of Australia’s leading business exit strategists and thought leaders. His peers include highly acclaimed business exit authors and entrepreneurs such as John Warrillow and Dr Tom McKaskill. He is also a member of the international advisory board of The Value Builder System, a North American group developing one of the world’s largest and fastest growing networks of business exit advisers. Geoff provides strategic guidance to a number of private businesses in his roles as director and advisory board member. He is also a regular contributor to mainstream and online media, a popular guest on business webinars and podcasts and a highly engaging speaker on high growth business strategies and profitable business exits.
If you listen, you will learn:
- Geoff’s background: Where he came from, where he’s been, and how he has gotten to the point he’s at today, as well as where his passion has come from.
- What Geoff would describe as the best-case scenario when it comes to an exit.
- Some of the intangibles that affect how happy you might be with a sale, as well as some of the emotions that you might experience after an exit.
- Some thoughts on how to prep for the exit and its aftermath.
- The “uncomfortable truths” of an exit.
- How to prepare to keep the control when it comes to both building and exiting a valuable and transferable company.
- The biggest challenge a business owner often has in exiting his or her business.
- Why thinking like a buyer is vital to successfully making a sale, as well as tips on how to do that.
- The Baby Boomer exit tsunami and how it has changed the relationships between buyers and sellers.
- Why Geoff would like to see entrepreneurs become more purpose-driven in building something that will go on after an exit.
Announcer: 00:00:07 Welcome to Life After Business, the podcast for your host Ryan Tansom brings you all the information you need to exit your company and explore what life can be like on the other side.
Ryan Tansom: 00:00:20 Welcome back to the Life After Business Podcast, this is Episode 78. Do you want to know what a great exit looks like and what are the different variables to accomplish a great exit? Well then today's episode is perfect for you because we have Geoff Green on the show who is the author of The Smart Business Exit he started off his career as an M&A attorney. He's been a business adviser, a value building adviser, an exit strategist for many many decades. And Geoff and I had an amazing conversation of all the different variables to build a sustainable business that is highly transferable, valuable. What it means to have control as the business owner over the process of who you choose to sell to and when. And also what are the different emotional ramifications of selling your business and what prep work do you need to do ahead of time to make sure that you're extremely happy post sale and 12 months later.
Ryan Tansom: 00:01:10 So there's a lot of different variables that go into a great exit, but after today's episode, you're going to have a lot of actionable takeaways that can help you focus your time and energy in the right spots. So without further ado here's my episode with Geoff.
Announcer: 00:01:24 This episode of Life After Business is brought to you by Solidity Financial's growth and exit planning. Their proven process gives you clarity on all of your exit options and how those options impact your financial success, timing and future happiness. Sell your company on your time frame to the right buyer at the price you want.
Ryan Tansom: 00:01:24 Geoff, how are you doing today?
Geoff Green: 00:01:24 I'm excellent, Ryan. Glad to be on the show.
Ryan Tansom: 00:01:52 And it is morning there and evening here because you are way over in Australia.
Geoff Green: 00:01:52 Correct. Melbourne, Australia.
Ryan Tansom: 00:01:59 And I love because you know I- for the listeners I've spent half a year over in Australia and it's a great part of the world. And what I find amazing is your Marketplace has really been diving into the growth and exit planning quite a bit and you've made quite a name for yourself with the book that you've written and some of the things you've been doing. But you know for the listeners I don't know you Geoff if you could kind of maybe just give them a little bit of a brief background on you know where you came from and how you got to where you are today?
Geoff Green: 00:02:29 Yeah, sure. One of the things I really loved about my career Ryan is I've had the opportunity to do quite a few things over my career - worked some great organizations - and probably particularly worked with some fantastic entrepreneurs. So I look back and those things. They are terrific things for my career and my development. So in terms of key areas in particular I've spent a lot of years as an M&A lawyer, so I've done a lot of transactional work with one of the largest law firms in Australian, MinterEllison, worked in mid-tier firms and also set up a couple of my own boutique firms, so really really in-depth transactional experience with our business transactions, particularly exits. Spent quite a bit of time as a business adviser and that's what I spend most of my time doing these days. Also we spent quite a bit of time on boards and advisory boards particularly with private companies, high-growth companies and so on, and also I've spent a little bit of time with the corporate regulator here in Australia, the equivalent to the FCC in the US, and I worked in their policy area which was a fascinating place to view the world from for thirty-three years.
Geoff Green: 00:03:40 So a pretty sort of varied career, but probably the three key things that I always come back to in my career is that working with entrepreneurs, working with high-growth companies and particularly working with innovative companies otherwise being drawn to companies that are trying to do new things. So those have been the three key things and over the years working with some great entrepreneurs I've just learned a massive amount about you know building value and then exiting well and moving on. So that's really in a nutshell what's been my career over the last 30-35 years.
Ryan Tansom: 00:04:14 Well and because you spend so much time around the exit now and and building valuable companies, I'm just kind of curious where did the passion for this specific topic come from?
Geoff Green: 00:04:25 I think I think the passion has come from a range of things. I guess working with a lot of business owners over a long long time in particular as a corporate lawyer, you'd often get brought in quite late in transactions so you know somebody will be coming to you when they'd already made the decision to sell, they were perhaps a long way down the path and so on and you are really helping them just execute the transaction. And I always found it incredibly frustrating. You know particularly as a younger lawyer just seeing so many business owners work so hard for so many years just not not get rewarded for their blood. sweat and tears at the end of that and I guess as I've got more experienced and I've in our talked a lot more with business owners, you'd sort of see all those areas where you can't just- you know if you'd just done these things two or three years ago or if we could have been involved earlier or helped you firm up your IP or you know make sure your employment contracts were all in place properly and a whole lot of you know basic fairly basic sort of stuff that would have just got much better exits. So that was probably one of the one of the key drivers probably more broadly than that I guess is you know as my creed developed and I was probably doing more business advisory work that straight legal work you know started to sort of see the real importance of the way business transactions just fit into the the whole framework of economic activity and how important it is that when valuable businesses are built that you know that they actually gets passed onto to other owners and all the stakeholders in that business you know continue to benefit from the fact that you know somebody took a risk one day it went out and set up their own business.
Geoff Green: 00:06:06 And I think that's a really important part of our society generally which often gets overlooked by the community generally by politicians and so on, so that's a sort of more general driver and I guess fundamentally familiar: I just love working with entrepreneurs and I really think that you know if you build value as an entrepreneur you take the risk you are courageous enough to have a crack that you should get rewarded for your blood, sweat and tears. It's simple as that.
Ryan Tansom: 00:06:36 Touché I mean and it's all the risk to the blood, sweat and tears and crazy amount of risk that you have and it's you know time to de-risk sometimes.
Geoff Green: 00:06:45 Yeah, absolutely. And and I think you know that you know I think as a society we often take for granted the fact that there's only a relatively small number of us who actually go out and build something valuable that creates jobs, develops products and services, that pays taxes. It does all these things. So you know that ability to you know as you say de-risk you know whether that's through a total exit or taking some money off the table as you build your business I think it's really important and a lot of people you know I don't think value you want business owners and entrepreneurs actually bring to our society generally, so yeah that risk part is absolutely fundamental.
Ryan Tansom: 00:07:30 Well OK. So I totally agree. And I'm thinking about you know with our time here because you've written a book you know The Smart Business Exit and you've been doing this for so long, Geoff, there are so many different ways we can go because of the knowledge and experience that you have. And I'm kind of thinking you know before we do you know and hammer out a couple of big key categories you know in your mind with all the things that you've seen what would you describe as the you know the best exit. Like what is a great exit like if you were to look at someone and say they did it correctly. How would you kind of summarize that up and what did they do right?
Geoff Green: 00:08:08 This is something I've thought about a lot over many many years. And I guess I've really boiled it down to three things and this has been very much driven by me just watching you know dozens and dozens and dozens of entrepreneurs go through business exits and I think it comes down to three things. I think the first thing is freedom. And when I say freedom, I mean freedom in a really broad sense. So it should include financial freedom. You know if you if you build a business you should be going OK financially I'm now set up. You know I can do whatever I want to do from a financial perspective, you know, within reason. It's not just the money it's the freedom then to have time to do things if you want to do.
Geoff Green: 00:08:53 And I think that's something that's often overlooked. You know if you get good exit, you suddenly go from working you know crazy 70, 80, 90, a hundred hours a week to you know potentially nothing. And to have that time and to use that time in really good ways I think's really important. I think also freedom in the broadest sense of being able to do a lot of things that you can't do when you're running a business full time and I guess it's- you build up a lot for networks and expertise and knowledge when you build a great business. So the having the freedom to actually use those skills and resources and expertise in a whole range of other ways. So that's a first- that's first thing. The second one which I think can really creep up on people is legacy because for a lot of people when you build the business there's a lot of you in the business you know.
Geoff Green: 00:09:48 The purpose of the business is often very personal to you. All the relationships you have through business - the staff, your customers, your suppliers - you know people you know underestimate how important those things often are to business owners. So that sense of is my more business going to go on in a meaningful way. Where I kind of feel like everything I've built is going to get preserved. In years gone by, a lot of that legacy component was dealt with by passing on the business to the next generation. So you still had this connection with it but when you sell to a third party you know your connection with your business is often severed. So thinking about how do you have that sense of I built something great and it continues and I think I've had some great discussions with Michael Gerber who, as a lot of people know, wrote the E-Myth Revisited, over the last couple of years and I think Michael articulates this really well because he talks about your purpose as an entrepreneur is to build a business that will continue beyond you.
Geoff Green: 00:10:56 It's almost like you're creating something to pass on. So it's that building something that you can look at in 10 years’ time and go "you know what I've built is still there and the fundamentals are still there" even though you will obviously change some things. So that's the second that's the second bucket the third bucket is what I call renewed purpose. That you need to you know when you've exceeded your business you know stop and take stock and work out what am I going to do now? What's the new thing that's going to you know really fire me up and get me wanting to do things every day. I think that's a good thing to be thinking about well before you exit and starting to put some stakes in the ground in terms of what might I want to do afterwards because you know afterwards you're financially free, you've got time, you've got a lot of things you didn't have when you started your business. You want to throw that into something else and the best entrepreneurs I see, they'll take a break, they'll do some holidaying, they'll spend a lot of time with the family and so on. But pretty soon they want to get back to something. So having a way of working at what that renewed purpose is I think is really important.
Ryan Tansom: 00:12:12 Life after business, right?
Geoff Green: 00:12:15 Absolutely.
Ryan Tansom: 00:12:18 So true and I like how you bucketed those three pretty easy things because it is so important. And my guess is you know when you were sitting at the transaction table or something and the people that didn't do one of these crucial things you probably saw either remorse or some sort of version of unhappiness and that's even regardless of the financial outcome right? Because Geoff I was at this panel and there were these advisers up there and you know they were talking about successful exits and they were pushing you know essentially everyone all the advisers want the owner to sell and punch out make all this money. But that's all they were talking about. I'm like, there's so much more involved in this than just the finances. I mean like there- it's so much more... the intangible stuff that could make or break how happy you are with it.
Geoff Green: 00:13:00 Yeah you're right about that Ryan and let me give you just one small example that I was talking to a business owner recently and they've got a large business in a regional town in Victoria. And it's the biggest business in town by a long way and they are a second generation family, really built a fantastic business, they're really proud of it and they are at a stage now where they, you know, it's three brothers and they are in their late 50s early 60s so they are thinking about exiting. One of the biggest issues for them is how do we walk down the main street afterwards if we've sold it to somebody who just comes in and rips the guts out of it? You know because it's their town, they've lived there their whole lives and they don't want to move. How do we exit in a way where we can be comfortable still living in this town? So for them the financial side's important, but a lot of it is what you know what's going to happen at the business afterwards you know and so many business owners underestimate how big an issue that is.
Ryan Tansom: 00:14:02 Well yeah I've been there, done that. My dad and I, after we closed, it was like a trauma event you know? It was now okay so yeah there's money in the bank account but like emotionally like what- It's hard to even describe and articulate after, unless you've got years of thinking about it. And you know you and I were talking about that, Geoff. You know there's all these intangibles these different values, so whether it's you know how do you affect the community like the story just told about all these different emotions. You know you said you thought a lot about that, too. What are the different things that people should be- you know that the owners should be thinking about to even start. How do you start figuring out what's important to you and in your mind what are the emotional things that people should be aware of?
Geoff Green: 00:14:44 Yeah I guess over the years I started very much as a technical adviser as a a corporate lawyer so you know I spoke to you a lot on all the logistics and nuts and bolts stuff and getting the deal done. A lot of a lot of advisers focus on that, but I guess over time, particularly the last five years or so I've started to see business exits very much as being there's all the technical stuff and it's really important to get that right because it makes a big difference, but then there's all the emotional stuff which if you don't work through that it has an impact and I guess the way I've come to you know describe it to people is I say at least, you know, selling your business you're going to go through the emotional roller coaster here. You know one that's going to be great because you're thinking about a down payment on a Ferrari.
Geoff Green: 00:15:31 The next it could be terrible because you know you realize that the new buyer might want to come in and strip out half your stuff so it's an emotional roller coaster and you can't avoid that. But you can prepare for it. So that as it happens you're working through it and probably in terms of the things that I talked about a moment ago about a great exit, one of the things I often ask particularly baby boomer business owners, one thing I ask them straight up is, "What are you going to do after you've sold your business?" And it amazes me how many, particularly with older guys, how many people just look across the table at you absolutely blank. They have no idea what they're going to do. And those are people who for 40 years have been working you know six days a week ninety hours a week. Monday morning you're going to wake up and go, "Cripes! What am I going to do now? Play golf five days a week?" They're not going to do it.
Ryan Tansom: 00:16:29 So they go to VFW or the Legion and you play pull tabs? Like it's not sustainable.
Geoff Green: 00:16:39 It's not sustainable. So, I often start going, "Well, before we even start looking at your exit, let's start talking about what you're going to do afterwards because I could tell you if you don't have an idea what life afterwards looks like it's going to come up during your exit and cause all sorts of difficulties." And it's when you're sitting in meetings and I'm sure that you've sat in meetings like this Ryan where you're sitting there going this business owner is surrounded by lawyers and accountants and contracts totally disconnected with the process because they're thinking about something that's more emotional and no one in the room's focused on it at all. So it's just sitting there and it causes massive issues in business exits both during the exit and afterwards. So I think you know as advisers it's one area that I think is really important that you know there are more and more advisers who you know work with business owners to help them help them through that part of business such as I as I got through them.
Ryan Tansom: 00:17:31 Well yeah and a hundred percent agree with you. And what I find challenging Geoff like when I was sitting at the table and I've seen other people since sit at the table where you don't even necessarily know the emotional side or the emotional entanglement you have with your company until afterwards. So it's like it's hard because it's the unknown unknown and you know a couple of examples I personally went through is so if the trade associations and your friends and your family so like if you think about it, we were like... so we were we were office equipment and IT distributor and servicer so it was the trade associations were all of our friends, all the different trips that we had with our people, our vendors were actually close friends of ours, the employees were all of the work trips, so I mean literally it was my entire community was ingrained in our in our business.
Ryan Tansom: 00:18:21 And you don't really realize that you're selling like a group of family and friends. It's the and you have no way. So I'm just curious you know in that kind of scenario which you've probably seen before is you know, how do you prepare someone to go through that? You know I just don't... Is there a way that you can actually prep for that or does that have to do with what you're talking about afterwards just curious what your experience on that?
Geoff Green: 00:18:48 I think I think part of it's actually building an awareness around all of that because you're absolutely right that that unless somebody starts to talk to you about that you know before or during your exit you often don't realize that till afterwards. And and and I think they you know the sort of situation I see from time to time which I think is actually really tragic is when you see a business owner get a fantastic financial exit so you know they tick that part of the Freedom box, but they don't get the other two and everybody externally is looking and going you know, Ryan sold his business for ten million bucks, what happy days. Everything must be wonderful. Where, as you say, you could be sitting there going "oh hang on I feel terrible" you know because you've lost all of those things. Now so it's really hard to actually talk to a lot of people about it.
Geoff Green: 00:19:40 Give me a break. You know here I am working, I have a job, and you just walked out of this massive exit. And there's not a lot of people you can talk to. So part of it for me is really encouraging. You know my clients and people you know business owners I talk to is make sure early in the process you know you start to read some of the stuff that is out there on this stuff and there's a lot so far, but hopefully will be more of the time. But also start to seek out people you can talk to, try and find other business owners in your network who've already sold the business and go and have a beer with them and talk to them you know specifically talk to them about this stuff because you'll learn a whole lot of stuff that is just not there in the public domain.
Geoff Green: 00:20:26 And at least it gets you starting to think about the issues and get you starting to thinking about the fact that you know if a lot of my community is caught up in my business, then I need to start building you know other communities outside my business so I've actually got something to step into afterwards because those things are so fundamental to just how happy we are in our day-to-day lives.
Ryan Tansom: 00:20:49 And I want to drop a note for Bo Burlingham's book Finish Big who is a mutual friend of ours who is kind of the pioneer of a lot of this stuff because if that's the book that I read that sort of sparked this journey I know you have followed and worked with him closely, too, and you know one of the things that his book mentions too which you were kind of just referring to Geoff is it's this sense of relevancy where even though you might have the ten million dollars and you don't have a company you like you have nothing to do and talk about. So like I mean honestly like my dad is still calling up the old copier your buddies and talking to them but like he doesn't have the talkable payables or vendor problems so there's nothing to literally talk about. Even though he's still friends with them, the friendship dynamic completely changed and they hadn't worked at that relationship without the business there. So there was literally like all these relationships the dynamic is immediately different.
Geoff Green: 00:21:43 Yeah. Yeah. That's absolutely right. But often the- once you take the business connection out of the relationship, it is just completely different. Sort of Well yeah we caught up for a beer, but what do we next time? Just catch up for another beer. So the relationship just sort of seeps out of it which is not that you don't still feel really good about each other it's just that the thing that made this strong connection is not there anymore. And that's why you need to look for other things.
Ryan Tansom: 00:22:12 So in your book you call some of these the uncomfortable truths of an exit. Can you explain a little bit more about what you mean by that?
Geoff Green: 00:22:25 Yeah. So I guess the uncomfortable truth was something I came up with to look at how does this actually manifest itself in practice because you know a lot of people you know they are very emotional about their business, much more so than they actually realize. And the problem is when you are emotional there's a lot of things that you don't want to go and explore. So the whole idea of exiting your business, there can be a lot of psychological barriers around that. And one thing which I see some business exit advisors talk about which I actually disagree with is that- pick up Stephen Covey's habit from his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and I talk about this idea that you know you should start with the end in mind. And I think that's actually not the right way to think about exits. I think I think exits you need to think about it as a really important step in your journey as a person and as an entrepreneur because if you think about rosy in ended mind, to me that's got a whole lot of negative connotations to it so like well that's the end, there's nothing afterwards. You know that's time to finish up when in fact it should be a really important step on your journey as an entrepreneur. And if you look at it that way you can approach the whole emotional side differently you can start sort of looking at it like I need to feel positive about you know what's on the other side of my exit not not sort of see it as an end where you know I've got no idea what's going to happen afterwards because the best entrepreneurs who exit the business go on and have you know do bigger and better things afterwards.
Geoff Green: 00:24:07 So you know it's I think you need to see it that way and the problem is if you don't, you get what I think are the uncomfortable truths so you know you get the fact that most business owners aren't ready for their exit at all even if they say they are. Once you start looking, they're not. They underestimate the fact that we often don't have any control over their exit. So a lot of exits get precipitated by a potential buyer tapping on your shoulder or a serious health issue to yourself or a partner or whatever. So often you get tumbled into an exit without realizing it. They take a long time. You know a reasonable sized business by the time you get ready, actually go through the sale process, you might have to wait for while in the business afterwards, so you know an exit might end up taking three, four or five years before you're completely free of it.
Geoff Green: 00:24:56 So you don't want to be approaching your exit when you're absolutely exhausted. You want to be approaching your exit while you still got plenty of petrol in the tank. Or gas I should say right Ryan? Then there's a lot of issues around how valuable your business actually is because my experience usually is the vast majority of business owners think their business is worth a lot more than it actually is. So it could be a lot of emotion tied up in that as well where have I really created something as valuable as I thought I had. And you know again that that involves sort of working often with advisers and business colleagues around you know accepting that it's probably not worth as much as I thought it was and how do I deal with that?
Geoff Green: 00:25:38 Things like the fact that you know kids I think aren't taking over the family business as much as they used to. And often there's a whole lot of emotion tied up with "Well you know I thought Johnny was going to step up and you know take the business over and now I realize he's not" you know. So there's often a lot of conversations in family businesses that don't happen and there's all sorts of the expectations that don't get dealt with. Yeah. So there's all the- and I've sort of bundled these up as the uncomfortable truths and I see part of my role as an adviser to help drill down into some of those and go well say you're ready but let's really have a good look. Are you really ready? And if not what's stopping you actually doing that? And often it's emotional stuff.
Ryan Tansom: 00:26:16 Oh right and have you talked about any of this stuff with anybody?
Geoff Green: 00:26:19 Yeah exactly. And and you should be talking to a range of people not just not just your professional advisers, but you know I'm a big fan of things like advisory boards or you know mentoring arrangements or just just having a relationship with other business owners where you can sit down and talk about some of this stuff. Because lots of private business owners live in pretty lonely worlds in terms of having people around that they can talk to about this kind of stuff and I often find I quite like getting a bunch of business owners you know around a boardroom table or a private room in a restaurant or something and just go, "Guys, let's talk about some of this stuff" and once you start talking, you know, people go "it's not just me that's thinking this way or having this issue." Suddenly you'll have Tom down there and Fred down there who I have known for twenty years and they're worrying about this stuff as well. You know it can be really cathartic, I think.
Ryan Tansom: 00:27:16 It's super therapeutic and you start to realize that you can then start to slowly move towards action because it's not some sin to be talking to an exit that's seven years away. It's such a ridiculous preconceived notion that you're going to sell your company right away when all you're doing is preparing and planning so you can control everything.
Geoff Green: 00:27:33 Yes absolutely.
Ryan Tansom: 00:27:34 Well and also going back to that control and I think it's going to be a dovetail into the rest of our conversation Geoff where you know I think having that control and I kind of joke around about it, but it is like it it's not just an exit when you're selling right now but it's a growth and exit plan and that allows you to have almost like a Choose Your Own Adventure so you you referred to it as a stepping stone and an entrepreneur's journey really. You know the Choose Your Own Adventure kind of books and the style of that book is no matter what falls on top of you, you've got the ability to make the right decision based on all of the criteria you've put in line and that is essentially control which is why us as entrepreneurs started your company anyways because you like control and you're willing to take the risk in order to have it.
Ryan Tansom: 00:28:15 And I think you explain in your book and there's a lot of things that you adhere to on how do we do the preparation to get the control that we have which is kind of a combination of planning out for various exits but also building a transferable and valuable company. So maybe we can kind of take those in two chunks where you know in your mind you know what is it that you see in a company that makes it extremely valuable and easily transferable that allows the business owner to reap the rewards of their blood, sweat and tears?
Geoff Green: 00:28:47 Yeah I think I think it's a whole mixture of things and I think you need to start with the mindset first. What do you think you're actually trying to build? And part of that is about understanding what type the business owner you are and John Warrilow, who you know we both know well, has a really interesting way of categorizing business owners and he talks about business owners who crafts people who are motivated mostly by doing the work and producing really high quality products or services.
Ryan Tansom: 00:29:23 Sorry to interrupt, but let's give a couple examples for the listeners. So the craftsman is like a photographer right? And there's a bunch of other people that are like name someone that might be a craftsman that you know.
Geoff Green: 00:29:31 Yeah yeah. So a photographer is a great example so somebody who would be a photographer who was a really good craftsperson is somebody who just loves the feedback I get when they take great photos. They love the process of doing the photography themselves. And you can think about a lot of people in a lot of different sort of businesses who love the work itself. And they love the recognition they get from doing great work. So so that will do that will build the business that keeps them that satisfaction and that will keep coming back to that all the time. The second type of business owners John talks about are freedom fighters. Who were people who hate working for other people; they just want to do it their way. They want to build the business the why they want to do. They want to run it the way they want to run it and it's all about not so much that they're selfish but they just want to want to do it their way.
Geoff Green: 00:30:26 And often they build great businesses but they have trouble sometimes building really big businesses. And then you've got the mountain climbers who are probably the quintessential entrepreneurs who go to the top of the mountain to do whatever it takes to get to the top of the mountain. I'll raise capital, I'll give part of the company away, I'll sack people, I'll do whatever it takes. You know the you know Steve Jobs, the Elon Musks. And you know just your absolute quintessential entrepreneurs. So you need to understand who you are first. Because I find a lot of business owners will try and build the business which is actually inconsistent with the kind of business owner they fundamentally are.
Geoff Green: 00:31:04 And if you are a craftsperson and you want to build a bigger business, you probably need to find somebody who has a bit more of a mountain climber-type approach to life and maybe need to team up with that person, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are probably you know great examples of that with Apple. You know you had a master craftsman and a you know the ultimate mountain climber and build a fantastic business as a result. So I think you need to start there. I think also looking at what you do with the business and I think a lot of business owners when they're running and building their business particularly from the outset. It's a lot about how much cash flow can I generate how much profit can I generate and it's like your business is the automatic teller machine, your ATM. It's the cash provider, you know.
Geoff Green: 00:31:52 And so a lot of what you do is focused on you know. Making cash you know to fund your lifestyle. Have your holidays, put kids through school, that sort of stuff but that dictates a lot of the kind of business that you run, it's very focused. And there's nothing wrong with profit, nothing wrong with revenue. But if that's the sole focus you're not necessarily at the same time building a valuable business but then you know a lot of business owners will do that for a number of years and then suddenly go oh now I want to sell it. So I now want his business to magically turn into something valuable. And it's not necessarily doesn't necessarily happen like that you know unless you focus on building you know what I call a highly sellable business. You're not focusing on the value and the ability to pass that value onto a new owner.
Ryan Tansom: 00:32:42 Go ahead sorry.
Geoff Green: 00:32:42 Yeah, no, go on.
Ryan Tansom: 00:32:47 I was going to say say I want to interrupt you for a second because I think I've got an interesting example to highlight what you were just saying. So I'm in an executive peer group and there's a bunch of business owners and they're all talking about their goals. And you know it's the cash in the ATM is one thing all the perks and lifestyle part of it but then there's these goals that I think that we as entrepreneurs have that are based in like ego or a bunch of junk because it's like if I want to double in revenue and profit. So as this gentleman was explaining this and I'm like So why you know so I want to go take some hypothetical numbers from 5 million to 10 million. And I'm like OK. So that five million... You're a distributor right? So he's in service and distribution. So he competes with his distributor. So if you're going to spend all their time money and energy in doubling in size you're still competing with your distributor and all your revenue comes from the distributor.
Ryan Tansom: 00:33:40 So you might not be making you know you're still only going to be making 7 percent, and with revenue that's junk so it's totally measuring the wrong things. So maybe that'll tee up because you're certain to get into what is a highly sellable business.
Geoff Green: 00:33:57 Yeah look that. I think that's a good example where you know if your focus is so much on revenue and profitability and I think a lot of businesses focus way too much just on revenue you know because of the profitability you know often gets lost. A lot of people talk about we want to you know double triple quadruple our revenue and I always ask, "So what are you doing about profitability?" Cause that's one of the things that's going to drive drive your exit price. But in terms of in terms of looking at how you make the business more saleable and I love going back to Michael Gerber on this stuff with the E-Myth Revisited you know and so as a lot of your listeners will know Michael first coined the phrase 'Work on your business, not in your business.' And to really understand that phrase, you've also got to get back to what was the e-myth?
Geoff Green: 00:34:45 The e-myth was that most business owners aren't actually- they're not entrepreneurs, they're not creating a business, they're just creating a job for themselves. So that idea that you have to work on your business not in your business is is to me the mindset needed to bring to building a valuable business. And that's looking at you know how do I build the business in a way that it is not dependent on your day-to-day to run the business. How do I take that step back? And that can be quite counter-intuitive for a lot of entrepreneurs. How do I effectively end up with the business where I do very little in the business you know and that can be a big shifting mindset and how you actually operate day-to-day. How do I build the systems and processes here so that it's easy for me to scale the business as opposed to everything coming back to me all the time.
Geoff Green: 00:35:35 How do I focus on building you intellectual property in a business that you know is potentially really valuable to a buyer? These are all sort of things and you know you and I cover a lot this with our Value Builder Program which looks at you know eight key drivers of you know value within businesses.
Ryan Tansom: 00:35:53 When you look Geoff at like a business owner what is the biggest challenge you see that they have on getting out of the day to day and removing themselves from everything?
Geoff Green: 00:36:05 I think that- I think it does vary from business owner to business owner. I think some some sometimes a lot of it's tied up in their sense of who they are and often there is you know quite a bit of ego that people need to feel important; they need to feel like everybody needs me you know I get into my office and there's ten people lined up wanting to talk to me about stuff so that they can get on with what they need to do. That might make you feel good and make you feel wanted, it also makes you feel exhausted. But it's not actually being a better business because you're you're actually the bottleneck in making a business go well. You want to get to a point where people you know people don't need you, they're just getting on with it, which is then giving you time to do this stuff thinking about maybe we should do an acquisition maybe we should get that R&D project up and running. I need to spend some time getting that happening.
Geoff Green: 00:37:03 And I'll give you one interesting little anecdote on that. There's a guy who I've done quite a bit of work with over the years who has been very good at building and exiting businesses. And he sold a business a little while ago to a big European company. And I said to him afterwards well you're going to have to stay on for three years under a performance earn out blah blah blah. He said I don't think I really need to but if you insist on it I said yes and I'm going to pay you really well to do it. After about three months I said to him. "What do you actually do?"
Geoff Green: 00:37:38 And he said, "Well I don't do much at all. I told you that a while ago. I said I built a great management team. The business runs itself, I don't need to be around." And I went, "Oh, OK. Just let this run for another three months." And we had this conversation again and I said we can't say what you're actually doing. What are we actually paying you for? And he said, "Well you're not paying me to do anything. I'm happy to take the money but I'm also happy to go. I've got a few other things I want to do." So that was really good- he did it really well. I've seen him do it three, four times in a row. He made himself redundant. He was very comfortable with that. And you know that's one of the things you want. You want to actually say goodbye, you don't need me after all so just pay me full value now and let me go.
Ryan Tansom: 00:38:21 Well I think you know of all the AP drivers and Warrilow talks about or any of the value drivers. You know any other professional might talk about, I think it's such a one of the most important ones because everything kind of falls into line you have to systematize you have to concentrate on the right things and you have to eliminate your ego and start thinking more where you want to spend your time so there's a lot of ripple effects from just having that one goal. And you know I think to note for the listeners or owners that are thinking OK well I like what I'm doing. You know I don't know. Geoff if you've seen it, but you know if you pull yourself and you systematize it like that story you just told as an owner you can still do whatever you enjoy right. So if you're an engineer you can go and still go make things and still own the company or a salesperson or whatever so you can go back and not have to be the CEO right.
Geoff Green: 00:39:09 Yeah absolutely. And you can do the stuff that's really fun in the company because I find a lot of business owners you know when they've been working in a business for a long time you know you talk to them and they go "Oh I'm exhausted, I'm sick of doing that job, sick of doing this, sick of people problems blah blah blah." You know what if what if you didn't have to deal with that anymore. What if you could get almost back to the coalface. You know you've got three projects here that are all stacked because they kind of need someone like you to get in there and get them moving again and you can actually free the business owner up to almost go back to what they started the business for in the first place. And if he can achieve that, you can often totally revitalize business owners and they're like "Oh, this is great."
Ryan Tansom: 00:39:09 It's fun again!
Geoff Green: 00:39:55 It's fun again. Exactly. So you know I've worked with a lot of business owners around here. How can we you know get the right people in place plus so you don't have to do all the stuff that you hate in their business. Get back to doing the stuff you love in the business.
Ryan Tansom: 00:40:09 I think you know it's a challenge too because when you look at you like OK I have to hire a couple of hundred twenty five thousand people. Well that's fine. But it increases the value of business an increase even if it's a more long term with the value the business. But it actually frees you up to get to do what you want to do. So all around it accomplishes a lot of different objectives. And I think that brings me onto you know one of the questions that you constantly bring up in your book or the perspectives you want them to think about as always think like a buyer. So if you were to switch because I think the value building is the opposite of like if you're a buyer you discounted the value driver's not there. So it's kind of two sides of the same coin. You know in your mind what is thinking like a buyer mean and what do they actually what are the things that they're looking for?
Geoff Green: 00:40:55 Yeah. So I went out when I was writing a book I was trying to come up with some of kill ideas that I thought were really important and so this idea that you're always thinking like a buyer it's really will sort of trying to get business ideas into a mindset of constantly trying to stand back from the business and look at it as if they were a buyer because it's really hard when you're working the business every day to be objective about it. There's a lot of things that you just don't see anymore it's like you know when you're getting your house ready for sale you know you sort of start looking around. There's always blemishes here that are kind of silly every day but I don't see any more. You know it's the same with your business. You kind of walk in and you kind of don't notice the front sign probably needs new paint or redoing and and you just don't see stuff in the business that a buyer's going to look at and go oh that's a bit of a problem.
Geoff Green: 00:41:52 You know. You know that would need to get fixed up or that's going to cost me money if I buy this business. So it's getting into that mindset of of trying to on a regular basis to stand back and look at your business businesses if you were a buyer. And it's important for two reasons. I think anybody who's selling a business it's useful to have this sort of mindset and sort of understand what what what sort of things are going to be going through the mind of a buyer and how's a buyer going to approach the business. And if you can cover quite a lot of this in my book just that the kinds of things that that buyers do or think about that you don't.
Geoff Green: 00:42:31 So if you're selling to a larger business for instance the people you're dealing with in that business their paid employees, they're not emotionally fired up about your business, they'd see it is a financial transaction. So the you know all the hard work you put in to build your logo or your brand or whatever, they don't have any emotional attachment to that it's just yeah look is it a good brand or not a good brand you know. Are we going to have to redo it? You know.
Ryan Tansom: 00:43:01 They're not looking at the color... the color scheme is not ideal. It's not going to fit well in our PowerPoint.
Geoff Green: 00:43:09 So. So the way they approach your business as a buyer is really different from how you approach it when you walk in everyday working the business. So I really encourage all business is over a period of time to start thinking as buyers of the business and you can do this in a whole lot of different ways. My one one thing I think is good for business owners to do is, whether they're actually going to do it or not, is look at what if we bought another business? What- how would we approach it? So if you just go as far as looking at a couple of other businesses to potentially acquire, it doesn't take much time and effort to do it - there are businesses up for sale every day - But just go and get a hold of the items for the business. You know maybe hedge a couple of initial discussions so start to look at another business as if you were going to buy it. And what are the things you start thinking about. Because that's that's how a buyer's going to look at your business when they come to buy.
Ryan Tansom: 00:44:05 Geoff, you know a cool exercise there was one of our clients. So in interesting ways and I don't know do they have the SBA loan over in Australia? So the SBA loan is backed by the government and what it is it allows you to buy companies with like 10 percent down 15 percent seller financing and then the rest is a 10 year loan payment. So I actually went through this with my one of my clients as we were trying to prioritize other things that they were doing. And we went through and looking at this business and I said OK so if it's a you know if you're going to pay if you're going to literally write it you know you're going to pay two million dollars. Let's say it's no 200 grand down the know 15 percent seller financing and then the rest is a loan it's a 10 year loan.
Ryan Tansom: 00:44:51 Do you believe that you're going to continue to be able to pay that debt out of the profits? He's like my God. Well the owner she doesn't know she's do the financials are bad and he starts listing off all these things he goes no way I would pay a place a ten year bet on that. And then he kind of looked up and I'm like all of those things that you just listed are things that we're trying to fix here. Yeah because it was like the fact that they had to have a 10 year locked in agreement. Right. I mean that's that's a that's a strong commitment. What's the commitment you would have to the sustainability of the business.
Geoff Green: 00:45:23 Yeah. Really good exercise. As far as I know, we don't have anything similar back in Australia. But it is that exercise: Start to think what like a buyer. Because if you can get into that and set it just helps you look more critically at your business and to go through those sorts of exercises I think are really useful. The other the other thing I try and encourage people to think about in terms of thinking like a buyer is that everybody in their business every day is selling their products and services, try and take a step back and look at your whole business as if it's a product. Because that's the way a lot of buyers are going to look at it because a lot of bigger buyers are going to go we've got these you know eight products, and we are missing that one and that one.
Geoff Green: 00:46:06 Can we go there and just buy one of these? So they'll often look at your business as being yep that helps us buy that product. Now if you think about your business that way as opposed to all the bits and pieces that hang off most businesses for a lot of business buyers they look at your business and go, I like that bit, but why on earth are they doing this. We'd have to go in and just shut that stuff down or sell that stuff off or get rid of it when all we really want is that bit. So if you're thinking more like a buyer you build your business in a way that it's the kind of business that a buyer would want to buy and that it's easy for them to acquire you know all of the value you know in one bunch rather than rather than have them do a whole restructuring work afterwards.
Ryan Tansom: 00:46:53 Well totally and you know one of the things that to go back to one of our earlier points too is you know when you think about three things that you want to have in order to have a great exit which you know one I think is having control over that potential buyer because we're going to have all these stipulations and if you've got your walk away ability it's because you've worked yourself out of the company and worst case scenario is you should continue to keep your own cash flow.
Ryan Tansom: 00:47:15 So it allows you to have all these different options to essentially pick whoever you want to accomplish your goals and I think you know this dovetails into the last you know one of the bigger picture things that you and I want to talk about where you know the buyers and the sellers. The demographics are going to change. So yes let's say you haven't prepped your work and you've got one specific buyer and you're going to be kind of forced right into that situation where you have to make a lot of concessions but you know that's in one particular situation but Geoff why don't you describe what you've been discussing as the Baby Boomer exit tsunami because I think that will change the demographics and the relationship of the buyers and sellers in the future as well.
Geoff Green: 00:48:00 I think we are heading into a really interesting phase because if we look at if we look at baby boomers, particularly in Western economies, the baby boomers have had a massive impact on education housing job market all the rest of it. And not surprisingly they have a massive impact on the private business market. And if you look at most Western economies well over 70 percent of private businesses are owned by baby boomers. Most of them are looking to exit in the next 10 to 15 years. Last the last baby boomers clicked the 50 last year so they're all well into that retirement type age and most of them don't really have an exit plan. If we then if we couple that those sort of numbers with what else is happening in the marketplace where a lot of the Next-Generation are not taking over the businesses anymore.
Geoff Green: 00:48:51 You know if they're entrepreneurial most of them tend to want to set up their own businesses. We're getting you know a very different sort of shifts in the marketplace. So you know a lot of you know the obvious buyers that businesses in the past just aren't there anymore. You know a lot of private businesses would often get passed on to another business owner not dissimilar to themselves. I don't think there are as many of those buyers around as there used to be. So we see all these different different sort of changes happening. Also when you drill down into different segments you look at some industries and you know particularly some of the health areas a lot of the service industries and so the vast majority of owners in private businesses in those areas certainly in places like Australia you know are really aging quickly so I saw some figures the other day saying that you know pharmacy businesses in Australia that are independently owned, the average business owner is well over 60. So we're going to get to a point in some industries where all of a sudden you get a whole get a whole pile of people who want to leave at the same time and it's just not going to be buyers enough buyers for those businesses. So that'll have a whole lot of knock on effects for employees for people who use those services and all the rest of it. And I just think there's a lot of people thinking about this issue very much at the moment.
Ryan Tansom: 00:50:13 It's a huge deal. I think it's a huge deal.
Geoff Green: 00:50:18 And this potential phenomena was first identified by a guy called Pete Crisman in the U.S. who wrote book The 10 Trillion Dollar Opportunity. So he identified those sort of macro-economic indicators and sort of said well there's going to be in the next probably 15 to 20 years 10 trillion dollars’ worth of private businesses transitioning in some form or other. My concern is if as you know as societies we don't think through this issue and its ramifications we potentially have a whole lot of ugly outcomes from this and look I'm really mindful about not being over the top about this or being you know scaremongering in any way because you know some would go oh, it'll just sort itself out. I think I think the trouble is you know what I'm saying at the coalface is I'm seeing a lot of businesses closing in Australia and they're businesses that you know they're not your typical well we have been up and running for three or four years and we didn't make it.
Geoff Green: 00:51:21 We we just shut up. These are businesses that have often been going for decades and decades and they you know they're often quite large private businesses might be point 50 and 200 people that just go. It's all too hard. We can't fix it. We've got to have a plan. We can't find anyone to buy. We're just going to shut it down. Now that has a massive impact for the business side firstly, but also for staff suppliers customers all the rest of it. So I'm starting to see that now have to get stats on all of this sort of stuff because governments really not looking at it. So a lot of it's you know trying to scrape together you know information from different sort of places.
Geoff Green: 00:51:58 But I think it's really important for your industry organizations relevant government and government bodies to really start looking at this issue because I think it really will bite in some pretty unfortunate ways over the next 10 to 15 years if we don't.
Ryan Tansom: 00:52:13 Well I think you're you're. I think definitely not being a doomsdayer because I think it's just more being very realistic about what's actually happening. I mean, the way that I describe it is I don't know if it's the same way but you literally can't turn the corner Geoff without seeing 150 unit complex for assisted living. And that's that's the first and that's the first part of the bell curve of the baby boomers and I'm like well right in the middle of there is were literally half of the U.S. GDP is it is run by privately held baby boomer business owners. So when those people start going into those housings and like seven years what happens is the companies it's a legit fact if all the investors are moving their money at the beginning of the wave. What do we do about the middle that no one's looking at. And you know the challenge I see for you know these owners who are not preparing is OK. Do you have Zillow out in Australia? It's like a real estate...
Geoff Green: 00:52:13 No.
Ryan Tansom: 00:53:14 So it's like... I'm sure you've got like a real estate app where you can pull up everybody's houses and you can see everybody that's for sale around you. And there's the value of it. So the challenge I see is there's no housing houses for sale and all these people haven't done a single update. So it's all the shag carpet, orange walls and the old cabinets. And then everybody needs to move at once. There's not enough buyers. So what do you do. You just give it away or what? I mean especially if you know if the non-business owners you know most of the equity or their you know net worth is in their house. So it's kind of a weird analogy that I'd hopefully doesn't you know go to off track but it's relevant because when you have all those buyers, buyers then have a choice of who they want to buy from.
Geoff Green: 00:54:00 Yep, and I think for business owners regardless if you're a baby boomer or any business owner who's potentially looking to exit sometime over the next 10 years or so, you need to be aware that that this is coming and I think it's already starting to you know have subtle impacts and we're going to need to be more creative about what we do with businesses. One thing I'm working on with quite a few clients is it might be hard to sell the business maybe you should be looking at you know internal transitions because you've got you know people in new businesses who are interested in potentially stepping up to owning only part of the business.
Geoff Green: 00:54:36 Maybe maybe that's going to need to be more of an option for people going forward. Now that might not get as good a price going down that road [Ryan interjects: or it might take longer.] because you can't just walk up to employees and say look we're thinking of selling the business you probably need to know it by the end of next week you know these processes take a long period of time you to make sure that you know if any of the senior management team want to do that they're really the right people and they're well prepared and they can take time to do that and I need to do that progressively.
Ryan Tansom: 00:55:15 And then and I'm curious if you're seeing in the marketplace, Geoff, I've had a couple of people on the podcast really you know seen in the marketplace for buyers are actually changing too so it's not always maybe the typical buyers I've had some people on this show over they've grown and sold really large digital marketing agencies and because they understand that world so much they're actually buying traditional service based businesses for a higher dollar amount because they understand a different part of the world than the traditional owners. So there's like synergies and different ways than people have normally seen I don't know if you're seen like of different sectors of buyers coming up.
Geoff Green: 00:55:52 Yeah I am. I think one of the changes particularly as the Baby Boomers kind of move on from for business is when I look at younger entrepreneurs I think they have a very different mindset to businesses. Ironically it's a lot easier to talk to you know really switched on twenty five year old entrepreneur about business exits than a 65 year old baby boomer who's run that business for forty years because a really switched on 25 year old will go Look I've identified this great market opportunity I want to exploit it over four or five years, I've already worked out who are I think I could sell it to. I just need you to me set up and get the best exit. You know you are just starting but that's good. They're starting with a different mindset now they will go on and do other things that might be buying other businesses whatever.
Geoff Green: 00:56:40 So I think we'll see a much more dynamic kind of marketplace going forward as younger entrepreneurs come in with different mindsets. They don't see themselves necessarily as owning a business for 30 40 years like their parents might've.
Ryan Tansom: 00:56:55 So because you know we're wrapping up on time you know and we've talked about a lot of stuff and you know for the people that want to dive more you know of the links to your book The Smart Business Exit in the show notes you know is there something that you want to highlight just that you want to leave her body with or something maybe we haven't touched on that you want to make sure you reiterate to the listeners?
Geoff Green: 00:57:16 Yeah look it's probably one key thing and this is really come out of some of my in discussions with Michael Gerber. I really think as a business owner in building your business, I'd really like business in the near future to be what I'd describe as more purpose driven entrepreneurs so building businesses that are really grounded in really important purposes that go beyond just making a profit and thinking about building business so it's not just for you. You're building something that that will go on well after a you've stepped back as the business side of it. So you really building a legacy to future not just for yourself but for your community and society as a whole and I think if business is much more heading in that direction it would be good you know for all of the stakeholders in that.
Ryan Tansom: 00:58:23 Well and not only the stakeholders but you know if you think about it I think it's an excellent point to kind of wrap up on because if you've got a passion and purpose filled business you're focusing on other things that are just profit and having those 10 people at your door right. So you naturally hopefully I guess I'm just kind of assuming here but if you're tied until like- so Patagonia you know or there's these things called B-Corporations around here in the U.S. we're like you know their their purpose filled. So you're naturally going to migrate off into something that's not the business if you're doing something like that.
Geoff Green: 00:58:23 Yeah. And we're starting to get B-Corporations in Australia and they're doing some fantastic work.
Ryan Tansom: 00:58:45 I love it. Geoff what is the best way for our listeners to touch with you?
Geoff Green: 00:58:49 Probably a couple of ways. Probably our Website, for starters: www dot GRG momentum dot com dot au, or www dot missed my exit dot com or au. So people can sign up for my blog there if they want to get more information. My books... Probably Amazon's the best shot for my book, The Smart Business Exit. And I'm on a range of social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
New Speaker: 00:59:21 Thank you so much for coming on the show, Geoff, appreciate it.
New Speaker: 00:59:21 A pleasure Ryan. Thanks.
Ryan Tansom: 00:59:27 Thanks for sticking to the end and always a little bit of a longer episode but I had too much fun talking to Geoff to cut it short. So for my three takeaways that I had. I'm actually going to highlight and reiterate the three variables of the great exit that Geoff talked about because freedom in my mind is huge. The reason we start our businesses and that's the reason we take all this risk and I agree with Geoff that freedom is a couple of different things. One is financial freedom and you put all this blood sweat and tears and risk into a company. You should get financially rewarded for everything you did but then it's also the freedom of time to do the things that you want to do and to do things you can't do while you own the business. And also I think one of the biggest takeaways of the freedom piece that I experienced from talking to owners that have sold is freedom to hang out with the people that you want to and not the people that you don't want to.
Ryan Tansom: 01:00:16 So it's really just painting your own picture of everything that you want to do. And the second piece of the great exit I agree and really like to reiterate is the legacy and having a very clear vision of what is the legacy that you want to pass on. Is it something to your kids. Is it a legacy of an industry disruption that you did or changing people's lives whatever it is really get clear. What is it that you want to be remembered for with your company. And the third is what is your renewed purpose. The whole point of this podcast is the life after business you know what is on the docket for you next.
Ryan Tansom: 01:00:51 Is it to help start a couple other companies as the mentor is it help business owners. What is the new purpose that you're going to drive towards. Because your community and all your activities will surround that purpose and it will make you happy and allow you to explore and grow as an individual instead of just sitting and wasting away after you sold your company. So I really hope you enjoyed the episode. Next week is a fantastic episode. I've got a gentleman named Marcello who had built an amazing company and he explains his entire journey of selling his market research company that had 700 employees. So until next week, I hope you have a good one.