Recently a reader wrote the following comment about one of my articles:
"If you are running your business with one eye looking at selling it to someone else, how much passion and dedication are you putting into it?"
Respectfully, I have to disagree with what the reader is suggesting.
I have found that I have never been more passionate about a business than in the weeks and months prior to selling it. I have never woken up with a greater sense of determination, than just before selling a business.
If it wasn't for the potential disruption to employees and customers, I might go so far as to say that every business owner should put his or her business on the market every five years for the Red Bull-like jolt of energy it can bring to solving the business's toughest problems. Here are four things that putting your business up for sale gives you the energy and discipline to tackle:
1. Offloading pet relationships
Every business owner has them: customers who are loyal to them personally and insist on dealing with them directly. When I went to sell my last business, I had to gently pass my pet customers over to other people to manage.
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2. Standardizing contracts
My customer and employee agreements were developed iteratively over time. Each agreement would be slightly different from the last, as we took into account things we had learned from past contracts. When I started to prepare my business for sale, we needed to get disciplined about having one standard employee agreement and one standard customer agreement.
3. Fixing up your website
Updating our website was always a bit of an afterthought for me. It was months before we updated our "contact us" page after we moved offices, and employees who had tendered their resignation months before remained on our online list of team members. In short, I was sloppy and let other matters take precedence over keeping our site sharp and accurate. That is, until I decided to sell my business. Then I got serious about implementing changes to the site so potential buyers' first impression was of a professional, relevant company.
4. Dealing with problem employees
I used to procrastinate when it came to firing problem employees. I would try to get them to quit through a series of ever-harsher performance reviews. If that didn't work, I'd restructure their job in an effort to minimize the shrapnel. When I know I'm getting ready to sell a business, my desire to close the deal gives me the courage and determination to stomach the most difficult of business conversations.
If you find yourself losing passion for your business, the fastest way I know to get re-energized is to prepare your company for the market. Whether you decide to sell it or not, your business will benefit from the shot of adrenalin you get from getting something ready to sell.
Special to The Globe and Mail
John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. He writes a blog about building a valuable - i.e. sellable - company at www.BuiltToSell.com/blog