A quick Google search on books to read before selling your business produces few results. By comparison, if you are looking for books about starting a business, there are thousands to browse through. At your disposal are numerous books about starting-up, but few focus on ending up.
This is odd. If you are a founder or owner, the completion of your entrepreneurial journey consists of the successful sale of your business ‘baby’. That is, the business you started, nurtured, grew and aimed to sell to provide financial security for you and your family. In addition, this involved a succession plan for your employees and stakeholders.
As a business owner, you will be leaving your business one day. You will either be bought out, pushed out or carried out, and we can agree on which option is preferable.
It makes sense to spend time researching the key issues around what could be the most crucial financial transaction of your life. Books provide a wealth of insight, ideas and case studies. Many are written by those with direct personal experiences of the highs and lows of a business exit.
It is sensible to learn from others who have gone before you in order to increase your chances of a successful exit. And to ensure that you (as one of the books is called) ‘Finish Big’.
Here are Capital’s current Top Five.
Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
If you are a few years away from your exit, grab a copy of this book and compare it with how your business is run. What Harnish provides is a complete model of how a world-class business operates, from your One-Page Strategic Plan and the style and format of regular meetings, to people and cash flow. He provides you with a full set of tools and templates that, when implemented, will add significant value to the sale value of your company.
Harnish also writes a weekly blog which is a gold mine of ideas, links and recommendations for the ambitious business owner.
“If you are past the start-up phase and are truly ready to scale up your business, this is the essential handbook for you to use and follow the step-by-step proven methodology and tools that will actually enable you to realise the reason you started your business… freedom!”
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
In a similar vein, but with perhaps more accessibility, Traction focuses on the relationship between the ‘visionary’ and ‘integrator’. Many entrepreneurial visionaries are ideas-machines born with a magpie mentality. They always come up with new initiatives but then get bored and move on to the latest shiny new thing (sound familiar?)
To be successful they need an integrator – a ‘doer’ – someone who can take these crazy ideas, work them in to something practical and make things happen. Famous visionary-integrator double acts over the years include Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak at Apple, and Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger at Berkshire Hathaway. Neither would have enjoyed the level of success they did without the other.
“With the Traction tools in place, we now have faster growth, increased profitability and great people that we enjoy working with. Our growth rate has averaged over 20% per year. These results put us in a position to sell our company to a public company for above-normal multiples and reacquire the company after just a year and a half.”
Rob Dube, President, Image One
Traction and the accompanying website are packed with ideas to help your business run like a well-oiled machine.
Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warrillow
Warrillow has been there, done it and bought the t-shirt. An experienced entrepreneur who has built and sold several businesses, he spends his time consulting with business owners who are planning to sell up and ensures they are doing what they can to maximise their sale value.
John has created the Value Builder System which is proven to help business owners increase their company's sale value.
This is a practical book that will give you some valuable insight into the sale process long before you do it for real. Check out the Built to Sell podcast where Warrillow interviews business owners who have sold and happily share their great success stories.
“Essential reading if you run a business that you might want to sell one day. I've run businesses and sold them and have read over a hundred books on entrepreneurship. This is one of the very best.”
Walk Away Wealthy: The Entrepreneur’s Exit Planning Playbook by Mark Tepper
Tepper provides more detailed insight into the entrepreneur’s journey as he or she prepares for a successful exit. He lays out a clear step-by-step process which covers the key issues you need to think about to ensure you do ‘Walk Away Wealthy’.
The author is a certified financial planner in the US and, like the planning we do with clients at Capital, he provides a useful framework and checklist of the core matters to consider. These encompass not only pre-sale matters but the transition to your new life with significant wealth and a new role as an ex-business owner.
The book is written from an American perspective but most of the ideas and concepts hold true in the UK.
“A friend told me about the book, and it changed the way I work on my business. My big takeaway was that spending long hours each week in the business actually hurts the value of the business. Who wants to spend top dollar for a business that takes them 60 plus hours a week or needs to hire two people to replace you”.
Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top by Bo Burlingham
Probably my favourite of all these books, Burlingham has an easy style of writing honed over the years as editor of Inc Magazine. Bo has studied the art and science of the entrepreneur and had a front row seat to some of the biggest successes and failures in company exits over several decades.
He goes into more detail than simply increasing your sale value, and he shares case studies and real-life examples which consider vital issues such as:
What happens to your employees after your exit?
Will you stay on in a new role or leave the company for good?
How will your clients be looked after by the new owners?
If you only read one book on building your business for a successful exit, make sure it’s this one. And be prepared to take a lot of notes.
“Every business owner (and aspiring business owner) should read this book - and the sooner the better. Bo captures the four key stages of exiting your business in an easy to read, entertaining and highly informative book - and explores the emotional journey of the business owner in a way that other books on the subject just don't even begin to address. Excellent book”.
At Capital we believe in helping you make well-informed decisions for the benefit of your family's long-term financial security. Reading great books is one of the most cost-effective ways of learning from others who have walked the path before you.
If you have plans to ‘Finish Big’, come and talk to Capital. Our team has decades of experience helping business owners transition from a company sale to a whole new life. Contact us today.