InSight

Exit and Growth Strategies for Middle Market Businesses

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

By Jim Gerberman | Jun 02, 2014

Diploma handsIt’s that time of year for commencement speeches as new graduates across the country face “the next step”. Advice is given freely. I’m reminded of the old adage: “You get what you pay for.” For that matter, the following words are surely no exception.

I’m reminded of a certain commencement ceremony that my wife and I attended along with family members for our son, Steven. On that day, little did we know that the 2005 class of Stanford University would be addressed by none other than Steve Jobs. His speech that day has been heralded as one of the best ever…no argument from me. In fact, the speech was published in its entirety a few months later in Fortune magazine. I have shamelessly used (and respectfully acknowledge Mr. Jobs) the title of that speech for the title of this article. For a complete text of the speech, click here.

The essence of his speech was “love what you do”. Peppered throughout are quotes such as: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”, “…have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Good stuff. One of the things that distinguish most business owners from those who “work for a living” is the passion that they have for their business. It’s your “baby”. In some ways, this type of passion can be both a blessing and a curse. Loving what you do is the ultimate. On the flip side, being so intimately immersed in your livelihood makes it difficult to think about letting go…about planning for next steps…about succession.

In many ways, the “commencement” – more specifically the process (for parents) of graduating a child, can parallel what business owners go through in preparing for and launching “the next steps” for their business. In elementary school and high school, we encourage our children to work hard, get good grades, hang with the right crowd, etc. By doing so, our rationale is that these behaviors and habits will get our children into a good university, introduce them to lifelong relationships, and, lead to success in their “life beyond the nest.” Likewise, preparing a business for next steps involves “working hard, getting good grades, and hanging with the right crowd, etc.”

As M&A Advisors, we routinely represent business owners looking to sell their companies. Ideally the timing is right – for the business, for the business owner, and for the buyer. We find that business owners who have started their “succession planning process” early are better prepared for success and more likely to optimize their valuation. And, as Trusted Advisors, our ability to help you as a business owner make decisions that will influence your results is greatly improved by starting early with you in your planning process. So that, on your “commencement day”…when your business is taking “the next step”, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve prepared it for life beyond your nest. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And, Rest in Peace Mr. Jobs.

Posted by Jim Gerberman.

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