Partner, Planning, Sales and Selling



There is an art to selling a successful business, which goes beyond simply finding an enthusiastic buyer with the right offer at the perfect moment. Though good fortune will undoubtedly play a small role in any successful transition of ownership, you will soon realise that each of these factors can be planned for and worked towards.

Whether you are the sole proprietor of a modest high street shop, or the director of a multinational corporation, the same method will apply when it comes to selling your stake in a business. Follow the correct procedures, and you will walk away with a just repayment for your years of hard work, and your company will continue to thrive and grow without you.

Maximise Your Value

Having built a company up from nothing, very few entrepreneurs would be satisfied with walking away from their enterprise with anything other than a generous payout. To ensure the best deal on the table, it is important to first of all get your house in order. Every potential buyer will perform due diligence. Prepare for them.

Know your intellectual property. Your range of products and services, your patents, and your in-development products will all play a major part in the value that any interested party is going to make. Understand the product life cycle, and set realistic forecasts so that your numbers are realistic.

Never underestimate the value of cooperation over competition. It is fine to have a 51 per cent market share, but new buyers will be just as attracted by agreements of mutual understanding with other businesses in the industry, or further along the production and distribution chain. A favourable contract with an international retailer may be your greatest selling point.

Finally, create a business plan which projects your company’s operations into the future, long after your departure. Existing agreements and a robust strategy will be highly attractive to any potential buyer, especially if they are new to the industry. 

Create Stability

With the business plan set, the next step should be simple: do not alter your course once you have started out on it, unless external factors make change unavoidable.

Any business plan which has been in place prior to the sale being initiated was the correct direction for the business at that time, and will not change simply because management-level personnel have left.

Similarly, a drastic change to the existing business plan may damage the confidence of both colleagues and potential buyers, who will question the new decisions and may suspect that alterations are being made to maximise the personal earnings of the outgoing owners.

Additionally, any time a business changes ownership, it will require both stability and certainty. Remaining on course and steady can afford new management the time to seize control of the business’s trajectory, whilst alleviating any doubts of colleagues and employees about their own futures during the changeover.

Sell Yourself

A sound advertising strategy is essential to generate the interest of competing bidders and securing favourable terms and an attractive price. Use all of the tools at your disposal: sound out figures within the industry, as well as using online tools to promote and market your company.
Look within your own market. Not only will buyers from within the industry understand the true value of your enterprise, but competitors will frequently bid higher. An increased market share is of greater value to your competitors than a first foothold is to a new entrant to the industry.

The basics are there. The important stages in selling a business are to set realistic expectations; to whip up interest and activity around the sale to create competing bids, and to maintain a strong and diligent working ethic and business plan throughout the transition. That way, you can ensure a fair return on your own years of hard work, and give the enterprise you helped to create the best possible chance of continuing long after you have moved on.


This article was contributed by, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis, the online media group also behind and

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Marketing, Sales and Selling


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The Pontiac Division of General Motors once received the following complaint:

“This is the second time I have written you, and I don’t blame you for not answering, because I kind of sounded crazy.

We have a tradition in our family of ice cream for dessert after dinner each night. But the kind of ice cream varies so, every night, after we’ve eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. It’s also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my trips to the store have created a problem.

You see, every time I buy vanilla ice cream, when I start back from the store my car won’t start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine.

I want you to know I’m serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds: ‘Why does my car seem allergic to vanilla ice cream?'”

The team at Pontiac was understandably sceptical about the letter, but sent an engineer to check it out anyway. The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful, obviously well-educated man in a good neighbourhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner so they could go together to the ice cream store. It was vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car, it wouldn’t start.

The engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, the man got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.

Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. He also started to test and measure – he collected all sorts of data, time of day, type of gas used, time to drive back and forth, etc.

Soon he got his first clue: the man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavour. Vanilla, being the most popular flavour, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pick up. All the other flavours were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer to find the flavour and check out.

The power of this data driven insight was to immediately change the question from – “Why is my car allergic to vanilla ice cream?” to a more sensible, “Why does the car not re-start when it takes less time?”

Once time became the problem — not the vanilla ice cream – the engineer quickly understood the answer: vapour lock. It was happening every night, but the extra time taken to get the other flavours allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapour lock to dissipate. Here was a genuine technical problem that could be solved.

There’re several messages here for the business owner.

First, the customer is always right! Thinking about every issue raised by a customer will go a long way towards improving the quality of your own product/ service.

Next, we often confuse correlation with causation. While the customer thought that buying the vanilla ice cream was causing the car not starting, these were merely correlated events and that made the initial complaint a lot more sensible.

Finally, the first step to identifying a solution to any problem is to ask the right question. The more time spent in identifying the right question, the easier it will be to find the solution. Remember – Questions are often the Answers.

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Change, Personal Growth



“The truth is that the first changes are so slow they pass almost unnoticed, and you go on seeing yourself as you always were, from the inside, but others observe you from the outside.” Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water it will understandably scramble out pretty quickly.

However, if you place it in a pot of water at room temperature and don’t scare it too much, it will stay put. If you then set the pot on a stove and gradually turn up the temperature, something very interesting happens. As the temperature gradually increases, the frog will do nothing. In fact it will show every sign of enjoying itself. As the temperature continues to increase it will start becoming groggier until it no longer has the strength to climb out of the pot. Though there is nothing physically restraining it, it will sit there and boil.

The frog’s psychological apparatus for sensing threats is geared to sudden changes in its environment, not to slow gradual changes. In psychology, this phenomenon is called sensory adaptation. The frog’s ability to adapt to the slowly increasing temperature is definitely not a good thing for it in the long run. But is this not how a lot of change creeps up to us in life? Change is in fact more often than not slow and gradual rather than sudden.

In helping businesses deal with change, I have discovered this phenomenon repeated – we get accustomed to terrible situations and don’t realize how hot the water is getting. If we were to describe our current situation to a 10 years younger self, our younger self would probably be shocked beyond belief.

Why do we stay in water that is approaching the boiling point? Is it because it is a lot more difficult to look inside and self evaluate? Quite often it takes someone from the outside to see the gradual change building up and awaken the slumbering entrepreneur.

Sometimes however, we fear that any attempt to jump out of the water will land us straight into the fire. We are paralyzed by the prospect of change. So, instead of jumping, we tread water hoping that the heat will soon stop. Is it risky to try to change the environment or jump out of the pot? Or is it riskier to continue to adapt to the increasingly unpleasant environment?

We will not avoid the fate of the boiled frog until we learn to slow down and see the gradual processes that often pose the greatest threats. We need to constantly question how comfortable we are and whether the situation is good for us and our business.

What kills the frog is not the boiling water but its own inability to decide when it had to jump out.

We all need to adjust with people and situations, but we need to rethink when to adjust and when to change the situation. There are times when we need to face the situation and take the appropriate action.

We have to decide when to jump. Deciding not to jump is also a choice. Blaming the water for changing around you is pointless.

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Business Finances, Planning, Profits



How much do you earn from your business per hour? And how much do you charge out? Unless you are in a business charging per hour, this might seem hard to know or even irrelevant. And even if you do charge an hourly rate, chances are that not all your hours are billable.

Most business owners never think of how much their time is worth per hour. This leads to the fallacy that you save more money in the business by doing stuff yourself and not hiring an extra hand. Here’s a simple calculation – If your profit after tax (and before you take any money out of the business) is £50,000 for the year and you are working 50 hour weeks, with a couple of weeks of holiday every year, your per hour rate is only £20 (£50K/ 250).

Now the interesting questions –

What should you be doing which earns you more than £20 per hour for yourself?

If you went looking for and found a new key customer, how much will they be worth over the next few years? How many hours of work would that take and what is the difference on a per hour basis? If you look at the value of time recruiting a new member of staff, training staff to be as good (and valuable) as you, what is the per hour return of this effort? Most business owners agree that these are all incredibly high-value activities….but then they tell me they don’t have time to do them! It’s not rocket science – the higher the value of the work that the business owner does, the more profitable the company.

What should you not be doing to make sure your per hour rate does not decrease further?

Make a list of all the things that you spend an incredible amount of time on each week. These could be answering the phone, doing quotes, manning the counter, bookkeeping, administration etc.

Against each activity, write down what you could pay someone hourly to do this. If the hourly rate is less than you can be worth when doing your most valuable work….employ someone to do the lower-paid work.

The question is not “Can I afford to employ someone?”, it’s “Can I afford to not employ someone?”  As a business owner, you have a remarkably high level of control over your level of income. Why then would you choose to do minimum wage work? You need to pay someone else to do the lower value work so that you can do the more valuable work and earn more money for the business.

Take action. Make a list today, identify one thing that you can outsource and ask your coach or other trusted adviser to recommend someone to give the work to. Don’t do work with a lower hourly rate than you could be doing. Identify one item which is the clearest high value work in your business. Make time for this at the expense of the low value work.

If you focus on using more of your time to earning a higher rate per hour, your business will be more profitable – or you’ll be able to work less hours – whichever is more important to you. Which brings us to another set of interesting questions –

How much per hour would you pay for extra leisure time? How much per hour would your partner/ child pay you for an hour of your leisure time? Is £20 per hour worth the sacrifices you make?

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Leadership, Personal Growth, Team Management



I received a mail today from a client’s employee which reminded me of an old story that had puzzled me when I first read it and continues to puzzle me today in very different ways. It is the story of Bartleby, the Scrivener, by Herman Melville.

In the story, an elderly Manhattan lawyer employs the forlorn looking Bartleby.

At first, Bartleby appears to be a boon to the practice, as he produces a large volume of high-quality work. One day, though, when asked to proofread a document, Bartleby answers with what soon becomes his stock response: “I would prefer not to”.

Soon he is doing fewer and fewer tasks around the office and despite several attempts to reason with him offers nothing but his signature “I would prefer not to”.

After a while, Bartleby stops working completely. Tension gradually builds as the lawyer’s business associates wonder why the strange and idle Bartleby is ever-present in the office – he is now even living there. Sensing the threat of a ruined reputation but emotionally unable to throw Bartleby out, the exasperated lawyer finally decides to move out himself, relocating his entire business and leaving Bartleby behind.

Soon the new tenants of the old space start trying to unsuccessfully evict Bartleby until he has to be forcibly removed and imprisoned.  Towards the end of the story, despite access to plentiful food, Bartleby is found dead from starvation, having apparently preferred not to eat.

What really causes our employees to close themselves to change and to Action? How may times do our team members imply “I would prefer not to” and then don’t do something even after committing to do it. Does this attitude in a team reflect on the leader’s own attitude and attributes?

Why does a business owner close himself/ herself to new ideas and fresh thinking that could massively improve their business? Who really loses when this happens?

In the lonely job of the entrepreneur, why would we choose to not work with others creating win-win scenarios and making a difference bigger than ourselves?

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Goals, Personal Growth

In a recent conversation I was having with a fairly successful business owner, we started talking about some of the goals he had for himself and his business when he first started and how they compared to his goals today. As we discussed how his thinking had evolved in the 10 years he had been in business, we realized that as he had achieved one measure of success, time had also taught him to compromise on his bigger goals and ambitions. He felt comfortable where he was in his business and was loathe to overextend himself or his business to drive further growth.

How many of us reach that plateau in life and in business? We convince ourselves that what we have is good enough and there really is no point in trying to relive our dreams. Those dreams were of a forgotten youth when we didn’t understand how the world worked. The passion, energy and drive that first got us started in business and saw us claim success after success seem to be a thing of the past and long forgotten.

What happens when you face the truth about what your business could really achieve if you started rebuilding it with the same passion, energy and drive that you first had. Only this time you also add to it the years of experience and best practice you have accumulated and the strategies that have worked for thousands of other businesses across the world?


In The MatrixNeo (Keanu Reeves) is introduced to a mysterious man named Morpheus. Morpheus talks about the Matrix and the truth that Neo is just a small part of the Matrix and one of the Matrix’s “slaves”. Morpheus then presents Neo with 2 pills, a blue pill and a red pill, and explains a choice to Neo:

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.  

You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth – nothing more.”

So the question for the business owner/ entrepreneur is whether reality, truth, is worth pursuing.

The blue pill will leave us as we are, in a life consisting of habit, of things we believe we know. We are comfortable, we do not need truth to live.

The red pill symbolises passion and drive along with risk and questioning the status quo. It forces us to ask ‘What if?’ and ‘Why?’ Asking these questions ultimately leads us to a choice. Do you continue to ask and investigate, or do you stop and never ask again?

Neo chooses the red pill. Which one would you choose?

Click on the red pill to get in touch with us for a complimentary strategic review of your business.

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Goals, Personal Growth, Planning

In 1996, a 20 year old Tiger Woods was named Sports Illustrated‘s sportsman of the year and the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. In 1997, he won his first Masters with a massive 12 stroke victory at Augusta, becoming the tournament’s youngest ever winner.

Then he changed his swing!

tiger woods sean foley

He called in Harmon, his coach, and told him that his swing was too reliant on timing. “Anybody can time their swing for a week, but I want to do this for a career,” he said. Tiger wanted to build a system which would work under the extreme pressures of a world championship. “When the pressure’s on, good mechanics will overcome nervousness. At the same time, the guy who has good mechanics will get less nervous because he knows the other guys will break down first.”

Throughout 1998, Tiger Woods struggled and won only once. Still he stood by the new swing he was learning and practicing.

At the Byron Nelson in 1999, Woods famously signaled what was to come with a phone call to Harmon from the range. “I got it,” he said.

Between 2000 and 2002, Woods won 19 times on the PGA Tour, with six majors, including a stretch where he won four majors in a row; the so-called “Tiger Slam.” Golfers today often talk about Woods’ Harmon swing as one of the greatest swings in the history of the game.

There are several ideas in the above story that apply to businesses. Here’re some that stand out –

Critically examine your success

Ask yourself what really has made your business successful. Often, business owners tend to look for reasons for whenever they fail and spend an incredible amount of time identifying the things that the business should not be doing. When things work however, they peg it down to their superb sales/ entrepreneurship/ creative skills. You need to constantly ask yourself what the actual reasons for your success are and how easy they are to replicate.

Accept Change

No business is immune to change. For a business’s long-term survival it is important to take a step back and re-evaluate how you deliver your core product/ service and message. You can either reach acceptance through the cycle – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance – or simply start there.

Accountancy as a profession changed relatively little until the introduction of computers. Now as cloud based finance systems revolutionize the market, the profession is throwing up massive opportunities for those willing to embrace change.

Plan for change

The first step is to recognise the need for constant change. Every year, if not every quarter, set aside at least a few hours to analyse your business and the potential and likelihood for change. One of the oldest and most established tools for doing this is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis.

Look at what your customers and competitors are saying and doing. Ask your suppliers for input. You’ll be surprised how much competitive information they would have. Go online to research what people are saying about products and services similar to yours. When was the last time you googled for ‘I need a [your product]’?

Create a specific plan of action to implement the change. Remember that people rarely like the the idea of change, so there will always be a lot of pressure to keep things as they are and hope for the best.

Stick to the Plan

Often in every process of change, there is a dip before the really steep climb begins – in profits and in motivation levels. Remember that failure and success are not on two ends of a scale – they are at the same end of the scale – failure is right before success.

The successful businesses are those that exhibit ‘grit’ in their pursuit of their goals.

Play for the long term

Pick the top things that you believe have worked for your business since inception, or for the last 20 years. Then list 3 reasons that threaten each of these things not working in the next 3 years. Build your business with the end in mind – robust systems and a good team should be running the business when you are ready to retire/ move on. If you are the majority of the strength that keeps your business alive, you need to rethink your business swing!

Seek Best Practice

Often, business owners are so ingrained in their day-to-day, that they miss out the forest for the trees. The complimentary strategic business review we offer is to help you take a step away and look at your business alongside a business coach to identify areas and strategies where you can start the process of small and massive improvements. Drop us a line and someone from the team will get in touch to schedule this with you.

Change your swing, then do it again!

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Leadership, Planning, Team Management

A long time ago in central Africa, there was a trader who decided to travel with his wares from the north to the south, across desert and jungle, to a place he had heard would fetch astounding value for his particular wares.

The first half of the journey was dangerous jungle country. He sought out the best advice he could find and decided that the best way to undertake this journey would be to carry his wares on a herd of elephants. Elephants, of course, are incredibly strong animals able to travel long distances and more importantly, most carnivores give them a wide berth.

As he traveled through the jungle, he also marveled at the adaptability of these animals – they could swim across rivers, find their own food as they traveled and actually seemed to understand what he wanted them to do. He grew attached to them, gave them individual ‘pet’ names and through many an adventure finally reached the other end of the jungle.

For the second leg of his journey now, he had arid desert ahead of him. As he rested at the edge of the desert, he was approached by multiple people trying to ‘sell’ him camels. Now, as a practice, he hated hard selling techniques. The more people tried to convince him that he should trade his elephants for camels, the more he dug his heals in and resisted. These animals (the elephants) had helped him through an incredible journey over the last few months. He had shared many adventures with them. How could he now leave them when the environment had changed? Did he not have a duty to take care of them? Was he not responsible for teaching them how they could become good camels? Besides, they did have flat feet like camels to help them stay up on sand, small eyes to help prevent sand blowing into their eyes and hard skin to take the rigors of the desert.

So he started off on the second leg of his journey with his herd of elephants. He soon started noticing things that he had not picked up before. First, his journey was slower because, the elephants kept sinking into the sand. He realized that they are quite heavy animals, about 10 times more than a camel. He also realized, that they need to keep eating and drinking – and there is no food and water for miles in a desert.

By the time he reached the first oasis, half his herd had died.

He traded the rest for camels.

Here’s the moral of the story for the businessman – To cross a desert, you need camels, not modified and trained elephants. Often to define the next level for your business, you will need to move away from the current people in your business and hire a completely fresh group. Daunting as this may seem, not only is this the best for your business, it probably is, in the long run, the best for your employees.

When you rethink your business goals and where you see your business 3 to 5 years from now, first define clearly the kind of people you need to get there. And then decide whether the people you have currently can be trained and challenged to get you there. Don’t decide your business goals on the basis of what your current team and resources can achieve. What got you here may not be sufficient to get you there!

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Team Management

If you are like most business owners, you probably wish you had a foolproof way of hiring the best possible salesperson for your company.

Contrary to popular perception, it takes a lot more than being a people person or having the gift of gab to be good in sales. A good sales person will combine a pleasing personality with good follow up skills, a competitive edge, discipline, persistence and great listening skills.

Since many of these qualities are not immediately apparent, here is a check list of six questions you should be able to answer after you interview someone for a sales position and before you make your offer.

Transactional Vs Consultative Sales

A transactional salesperson will get to the sale quicker, while a consultative salesperson asks a lot more questions, take a more empathic role during the sales process and then closes a prospect with specific benefits. While both are great sales qualities and selling styles, you need to know which is best for your business and whether the candidate brings that to the table.

Listening Skills

Most successful sales in today’s world starts from need identification. Observe the questions the salesperson is asking and whether they understand and listen to your response to these questions. Do they assume that their track record would make them successful in your business or do they ask you about your needs and the skills necessary to be successful at your business?

Closing Skills

During the interview, did they ask any trial closing questions/ temperature check questions?  Did they ask for a second interview or engage in your sales process? A good sales person should be able to sell themselves and at least attempt to close of that sale – else they are either not interested in the job or will not be able to close deals for you.

Quality of Response

When you ask a question, does the candidate respond in a logical manner or ask you to clarify any questions? When you challenged them, were they defensive or did they use sales techniques to turn the challenge around positively?  Did they answer your question with another question?

Transferable Skills

Skills for one company do not automatically transfer to the next company.  If a previous employer gave them warm leads on a regular basis whereas your business requires them to hunt for their own leads through networking and cold calling, hiring them could prove disastrous irrespective of how well they did in the previous role.

A History of Achievement

During the interview process, ask the candidate who their previous manager was. Then make sure they understand you will call their previous employer to ask:

  • What would they say your strengths and weaknesses were?
  • How would they describe you?
  • How would they rate your sales skills on a scale of 1 – 10?

Reflect on whether they seemed truthful as they answered these questions?  Did they present themselves as the greatest salesperson in the world or did they start talking about how incompetent their previous manager was? Make sure that you ask these questions when you reference check them with their past employers to compare how aware of their own competencies and deficiencies candidates are.

Hiring the right salesperson requires a lot of thought before, during and after the interview process.  More importantly, you need to know there are different kinds of salespeople to hire for your business, and while some may work for one business, they might not work for yours.

While the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley, having a well thought out hiring process will ensure that the probability of successfully finding the right person for your business becomes significantly higher than betting on the result of a coin toss!

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Business Finances, Goals, Sales and Selling

Begin with the end in mind!

When Dr Steven Covey defined the 2nd habit of highly effective people, he asked the question – “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” When was the last time you asked this question of your business? – “How would your business look when it grows up and is ready to move onto a new owner?”

Over the last few years, we have worked with several business owners in defining their medium to long term exit strategies and found that the best way to realise true value in your business is to spend at least three years preparing it to be saleable. This includes working on creating systems in the business, building the right management team that can work with minimal supervision and ensuring that the business can generate predictable cash flow.

Here’s a stunning statistic – More than 90% of the businesses that put themselves up for sale do not get sold! A big reason for this that business owners have not consciously prepared their business for exit and they and the business have become inseparable. Selling a business is not very different from selling a product or service but most business owners ignore the need to prepare the business the same way they have prepared their product or service.

Here are some pointers on what preparation needs to go into building up the business before you approach your first buyer.

Step 1 – Re-Building the foundations of the business

The first step focuses on the fundamentals of building a business. It includes –

1) Creating a working document for planning and achieving the vision of the business and breaking this down into quarterly and monthly targets

2) Understanding what numbers drive the profitability of the business and setting systems and dashboards to start measuring these on a regular basis

3) Improving personal and business productivity by re-classifying all activities as urgent and (or) important and moving items off to do lists and onto your diary

4) Building consistency into what the business produces and delivers to its customers – both products and services.

The main focus of this step is to start getting an objective picture of where the business is and clarify where it needs to be to re-focus attention on the drivers that impact overall performance.

Step 2 – Creating Predictable Cash Flow

This step focuses on re positioning the business through an added emphasis on marketing strategies for creating and defining the niche the business is in and moving away from a cost focused strategy to a differentiation based strategy.

Establishing testing and measuring strategies at every level of the business sales process is required to start getting management reports for a deeper dive into business performance. This step starts focusing you on the results of the proactive actions that you need to take to see the final financial results of the business.

Step 3 – Building Systems

This step focuses on building processes, systems and work flow across all levels of the company. Systems in a business perform the function of a lever, allowing large amounts of work to be done through small steps and changes. The systemisation is usually focused on the routine whereas exceptions and personalizing is where individual inputs are still encouraged – that’s usually systemising 80% of the work that typically happens in most businesses.

Systems also include Vision, Mission and Culture statements for the business, along with implement individual goals, organizational structure and Key Performance Indicators to guide how everyone in the company works on a daily basis.

This step starts narrowing down the business owner’s function to the critical elements that need to be managed.

Step 4 – Hiring and Training the Right People

The final step is to get the right people on the bus – to drive the bus forward, without the business owner, if required.

At this step, the focus now moves to people management through building winning teams, strong leadership, common goals and following a plan of action with well defined checkpoints and targets for everyone.

While I’d love to tell you a secret recipe and the short cut to doing this, it is hard work and it takes time. However, when structured systematically, it can be done in bite sized pieces that when put together massively increase the value of your business.

If you can envisage selling your business and moving on in the medium term, now is probably the right time to start working ‘on’ the business instead of ‘in’ the business.

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