Speak the Business Owner's Language
Byron McFarland of The McFarland Group taught some BEI Members how to speak the business owner's language. He provided a working example of how to talk to a business owner about Exit Planning in the following terms.
If supply is high and demand is low, what happens to price? It goes down. There are 6.5 million potential business sellers. There are just as many buyers as there are sellers. So what's next?
McFarland uses a stadium and a football field to illustrate a point. He asks owners if they are a founder or a successor. If they are founders, they have to move the ball the length of the field to play the business game. If they are successors, they start on the 20 yard line. In his experience, When a business owner makes it all the way to the end zone and scores, it's game over. If the owner sells his or her company to outsiders, a new team starts playing. If the owners sells to family, the owner will sit in the stands.
His questions that he can then pose to the business owner are:
- Are you ready to leave that stadium or are you ready to sit in the stands?
- When would you like to be off the field or in the stands?
McFarland draws a rocket for the business owner and a planet millions of miles away. A business owner that is ready to plan an exit by selling to outsiders is essentially building a rocket on its way to a distant planet (the new buyer). The owner's important fuel cells are as follows:
- Have a business niche.
- Scale that niche.
- Create an operating system to manage that scale.
*Don't forget to put a management team in the command module!*
Owners should make sure to have legal counsel, financial team, and human resources teams looking out for the rocket and taking care of it. This will launch the rocket and put the owner on a navigational path to a business sale.
As a BEI Member and expert Exit Planner, McFarland relies on simple explanations to introduce emotionally, mentally, and physically complicated ideas and plans to his business-owner clients. He connects with his business-owner clients by keeping them engaged using simple drawings and slow discussion. By asking questions throughout his explanation, he can understand his clients' needs while gaining their trust through his concise, simple explanations.
He then asks, "How much will the business owner need to get out of the stadium or enjoy the show from the stands?" He looks at tax shelters. He looks at mailbox money. He adds it all up and uses that information to quantify the business owner's burn rate. He has a form that he provides, which helps them do this.
Then he talks risks. He informs the business owner about these risks in order of frequency. What is the highest probability risk? That a key employee is going to defect. Second risk: The owner and his or her partner divorce. Third risk: The owner becomes incapacitated. Fourth risk: The owner dies.
From there, he turns the discussion into a vision-driven talk and discusses the Exit Planning Process with a business owner who now understands that Exit Planning encompasses many different aspects, including a competent team to assist the business, risk factors that can occur and how to be prepared for these risks, and building value in a company. It's a personable, simple way to engage business-owner clients who may be experts in their businesses, but not in finance, risk management, value building, and other factors needed to create a full plan.