We’ve all heard about environmental climate change. But what’s the climate in the Canadian business market? Where’s the tsunami? Here are some insights from three business brokers on the street in my latest article in Profit Magazine.
The Business Transition Blog
My wife is ‘de-cluttering’. Deep in a closet was a box that probably hasn’t been opened for 30 years, maybe longer. In it were remnants and reminders of my youth; birthday cards, letters from friends, (mostly girls, long since forgotten) photographs and at the very bottom, a newspaper from May, 1977. 35 years ago!
It was The Owen Sound Sun Times. The paper was much wider than today’s papers, and heavier. It had substance. So too did the stories. I read the whole front page and didn’t find a single spelling mistake or grammatical error. The articles were well presented and relevant. Too bad that today’s newspapers can no longer afford to have editors, publishers and journalists that have the time to do as good a job.
Interestingly enough, the stories haven’t changed that much. Here are some of the headlines:
Ottawa will decide when to end controls… a story about wage and price controls; the government involved in trying to manage the economy – something that rarely works.
Trudeau loses temper… a story about Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau uttering under his breath, “Shut up for Christ sake.” A comment he later apologized for, which was directed at NDP MPs. Will we be hearing an echo in the near future with another Trudeau?
Election to cost $15 million… The numbers are smaller but the press still focuses on the cost of elections. 2011’s Ontario elections cost approximately $100 million.
Lewis, compensation board head tangle… Provincial NDP leader at the time, Stephen Lewis was sniping at the ruling Conservative government over neglecting the manufacturing sector of the economy and the operations of the Workman’s Compensation Board. Today, Lewis is still a force to be reckoned with but is advocating now for eliminating the devastating effects of HIV and AIDs in Africa. Still passionate and working for the disadvantaged.
Tragedy can be avoided… a story about the dispute in Canada over Quebec separation. Will that ever be resolved?
I lied but I won’t grovel: Richard Nixon… a reminder that political scandal, unethical behaviour and a sense of entitlement and unbridled power, has been with us for a long time. Too bad we still haven’t learned a way to enable highly moral people to survive and thrive in politics without losing their way.
It was a walk down memory lane. A reminder that 35 years can go by in a flash. Where did that time go?
For a while now, my wife has been asking a question I should be able to answer. But couldn’t.
Here’s my latest article in Profit Magazine
It’s one of those days we used to love as kids. From the inside looking out, it is beautiful! A winter wonderland. Pillows of virgin snow weighing down the branches of pine and spruce trees. The house down the street a soft, hazy apparition. Kids that aren’t stuck on their computer are heading for the nearest hill with anything that will slide. Toboggans, fancy ski machines or a piece of plastic. Even a a broken down cardboard box will work in a pinch.
But today, I’ll simply catch up on loose ends and check off items on my to do list. If you’re interested in a neat little program that makes a simple to do list even more simple and easy, check out this website.
If you want to know more about what’s happening at The Achievement Centre, go here. There are a few great events coming up in which you may wish to participate. There’s a symposium in Guelph Ontario on February 19th. I’ll be one of 5 speakers dealing with the legal, taxation, selling and practical business transition issues that business owners are or will soon be facing.
Let’s assume for a moment that you’re nearing the point of transitioning or selling your business. Perhaps you should test the waters first to see how well you’d do. Here’s my latest article in Profit Magazine.
In order to prepare your business for sale or transition, you have to start delegating more of your responsibilities to others. For the full article, go here.
Robert was frustrated. He worked for an opinionated, controlling, autocratic boss named Ivan. Robert was the sales manager and in the past he had given everything to the company. He liked the business, the work and the customers – and he had a grudging respect for Ivan, the owner of the business. But he was expected to make sales projections and budgets without knowing the past year’s financials and results. He was expected to increase sales, but had no authority to invest in marketing or sales promotions without getting Ivan’s approval. There was an implied (but not clarified) agreement that someday Robert would buy the business, but at this point he felt that he was a puppet, doing only what he was told.
Should Robert have the authority to spend money without approval? How much? How could he be accountable for results without having the authority to do what was necessary to make it happen?
Robert’s case isn’t unusual. He wanted more authority than the owner was prepared to give him. He felt that he wasn’t trusted, that he held a title in name only, but was powerless to really excel in his role as sales manager and possible successor to Ivan. This was demoralizing.
When I talked with Ivan, he clearly didn’t trust Robert. Robert made a mistake several years ago that cost the company money. Unfortunately, there had been no frank discussion about it, why it happened, how he could redeem himself after that experience, and, most importantly, the lessons learned. As a result, Ivan continued to treat Robert in a paternalistic manner. So Robert “lived down” to Ivan’s expectations. Responsibility without authority is demoralizing.
There are four levels of authority that can be given to a prospective successor depending upon the current level of the successor’s experience and skill, and the current level of confidence the owner has in the successor.
- Just do it. There’s no need to ask for permission, get approval or even report on it. Just get it done.
- Do it and report. In this case, keep the owner in the loop, but you don’t need advance approval.
- Do it only after discussion. The successor should consult with the owner and get their advice, but in the end, the successor makes the final decision without interference from the owner.
- Do it only after approval. The successor presents the situation, outlines alternative solutions based upon research and then makes recommendations based on the best rationale. The owner then approves, disapproves, or requests additional information. The successor does not move forward until the owner says so.
If you truly want to groom a successor, you must give them responsibilities that help them grow, authority that is clearly defined and advancing over time, and feedback that will help them learn from your vast experience and wisdom.
To transition or sell your business requires you to make significant changes. And if you don’t control and manage the necessary changes, someone else will – with or without you.
John Kotter, one of the foremost authorities on change, suggests that there are eight steps to successfully negotiate through the change process. Consider these in the context of a change strategy to transition your business:
- Create a sense of urgency. Complacency is your enemy. Be prepared to act before you announce that you’re going to make changes so you can start right away. Set short-term deadlines and actions that need to take place immediately. A sense of urgency is required to break through the inertia.
- Pull together a guiding team. You need others to support you through the process and execute the actions required to make change happen. You’ll need your internal management and a group of advisors who will help you set and execute the strategy for moving forward.
- Develop the change vision and strategy. Envision your personal direction and that of the company. Create your vision for what you will be doing next – what you want to do and have earned the right to do.
- Communicate for understanding. Kotter suggests keeping it simple. Tell a story. Tell team members how the change will unfold, how it will affect them and their positions, and how they can contribute in a positive way to the goal. Tell your story often.
- Empower others to act. Entrepreneurs who wish to prepare their business for sale or transition are under pressure of priorities and time. The only way to free up your time to work on these priorities is to delegate more of your current duties.
- Produce short-term wins. Rather than trying to change the world and celebrating only when the job is done, celebrate your initial wins as quickly as possible. Add more tasks only as you complete the first ones. Set up a visible score-keeping system or chart so your team can see small wins adding up to big ones.
- Don’t let up. Remain single-minded in your pursuit of that change. The dogged determination that made you successful in your business needs to be re-engaged at this stage.
- Create a new culture. Old habits die hard and so do traditions. You have to create new traditions, new ways of seeing the world, new approaches, and a new culture.
Change isn’t optional. It will happen with or without our permission. When you implement it, you are taking control. And that’s what responsible entrepreneurs do.
 Kotter, John. Leading Change. Boston, Harvard Business School Press, 1996 p. 21.
In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote about the importance of purpose and a goal in one’s life. An Austrian psychiatrist, he wrote from the perspective of having survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. His life in Auschwitz and his subsequent research confirmed that people who lose their sense of purpose could will themselves to die.
We all need a purpose, and for many entrepreneurs it is working at their business that provides that purpose. We need something to strive for, to stretch ourselves until the day we die; thus we extend our lives. All your life, you’ve been living with gaps that you’ve tried to close. The difference between what is and what you would like it to be. You’ve had mortgages and loans to pay off, properties to buy, places to go, new product lines to develop, new ways of doing business, new markets to pursue, and competitors to beat. If you suddenly stop, and there is no work, no creative tension in your life, you’re in danger of losing your sense of purpose and your will to live.