Have you ever thought about selling your business? Even if you’re just getting started, beginning with the end in mind is an important part of the long-term success of your venture. In this episode, I am talking with Michelle Seiler Tucker. She is the author of the book Exit Rich and has the greatest close rate for selling businesses in the USA. Throughout this episode, Michelle explains how we can experience more streamlined success in our businesses by developing our exit strategy from day one.
For resources and additional content, visit: https://creatingabrand.com/081
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How To Sell Your Business For A Huge Profit With Michelle Seiler Tucker
Have you ever thought about selling your business? Even if you’re just getting started, beginning with the end in mind is an important part of the long-term success of your venture. In this episode, I’m talking with Michelle Seiler Tucker. She is the author of the book Exit Rich. She also has the greatest close rate for selling businesses in the United States, only the best for you creating a brand.
Throughout this episode, Michelle explains how we can experience more streamlined success in our businesses by developing our exit strategy from day one. For links to resources that we mentioned during this episode, please visit CreatingABrand.com/081. Get ready to learn a lot from a brilliant business mind. Here is my conversation with Michelle Seiler Tucker.
Michelle, welcome to Creating a Brand.
Thank you for having me, Alex. It’s a pleasure to be here.
First off, I want to say thank you for giving us the time. I know that you have a packed out schedule but when I explain who the readers are to you, you are very interested in coming on and adding value. I want to thank you in advance for that. In this episode, you’re going to share some high-level points from your book, Exit Rich. I love the title and the content didn’t disappoint either.
Thank you so much. I’m very proud of it and my co-author, Sharon Lechter. She wrote Rich Dad Poor Dad with Robert Kiyosaki. She’s been New York Times bestselling author seven times. Plus, she wrote several books for the Napoleon Hill Foundation, which is Think and Grow Rich. She’s my co-author. She’s a CPA. She has the mentoring corner that you’ve seen at the end of every chapter.
She brings in that financial expertise. She’s also a financial literacy expert. Plus, she’s been an advisor to President Obama and several other presidents, which is fascinating. Her husband is an intellectual property attorney so I got two for the price of one. It didn’t cost me. She’s my co-author but he had content in there too. It’s somebody who’s been in the trenches for many years selling over 1,000 businesses with a CPA and an IP attorney.
You’re doing us a huge favor by talking to us about how to plan an exit strategy. I explain who the readers are to you. We’re also doing you a bit of a favor because these are your favorite people to sit down with. Many of my readers are early on in the business. You told me that’s people you love to sit down with to start educating from day one. I want to start by asking the question, when should we start thinking about our exit strategy?
From the day you begin. Nobody does it because nobody thinks about it. Everybody’s like, “I got to put together my business plan, do due diligence and get my money.” The checklist is pretty long so the exit is never on that checklist. It needs to be because 8 out of 10 businesses won’t sell. According to Steve Forbes, who also endorsed Exit Rich, 8 out of 10 businesses will not sell.
The reason they don’t sell is that business owners don’t plan their exit. They don’t think about selling until they have to due to a catastrophic event occurring or rather that’s internal or external, COVID. By that time, the business is typically not doing well. It’s usually trending downward and that’s the worst time to sell your company.
This makes me think about my time in the aerospace industry before I was doing podcasting in my SaaS startup PodMatch. When I was there, I can remember we regularly see companies that we’d work with listing themselves for sale. It was always premature. It was very rarely someone was in a good spot and ready to sell. It was because they were being forced to.
There were two commonalities we find. The first one was they had wrong relationships with their customers. We’d find companies that they would have like a stellar salesperson, somebody who was a Rockstar who had built all the relationships. When they decided they wanted to leave that industry, whether it was retiring or moving to another company, they would lose their customers because customers were there because of that one person.
That was a dangerous thing that we saw happen a lot. On the flip side, we’d see the owner want to take less of a role in the organization. Whether that means retiring, going part-time or working on something else. We’d find that they had all the processes for how that company ran in their head. All the documentation was their brain instead of documented along the way for other people to be able to follow.
No one knew how to do the business except for that owner. It was sad because we’d always see these businesses would sell for far less, if they’d sold it all even, than what was originally the anticipated amount that the owner would want for it. I say this because it’s important for us as entrepreneurs to start thinking about exiting our businesses from day one. There are babies. We’re building this because we love it and we want to but we need to start thinking about selling it now because at some point our perspective is going to change. That’s the right way to properly run a business.
It is going to change and you have to plan for it. What shocks me in America is nobody plans for their largest asset. Your business is your largest asset in most cases. If you have a real baby, you plan for that baby’s future. You plan for where that baby’s going to go preschool, elementary, high school or college. A lot of parents plan on what their children are going to be when they grow up, whom they’re going to marry or how many grandkids are going to give them but you never plan for your largest asset.
You never think about it until you’re burned out, had enough and tired, until a catastrophic event has occurred like a partner dispute, divorce, health issues and COVID. By then, it’s too late. When you go into business or buy a business, ask yourself, “What is my end game? What do I want to sell this business for one day?”
It might be twenty years from now but ask the question. You’ll thank yourself later. If you say, “I want to sell my business for $20 million.” It’s like a GPS. When you want to drive somewhere and you don’t know where you’re going, you pull out your little phone and plug in your destination. Your GPS already knows where you’re starting from and they’re going to plan the quickest path to get you from where you are to where you want to go.
The same thing with a Seiler Tucker GPS Exit Model. Plug in your destination, where you want to go and what your endgame is, which is $20 million. Nobody reverse engineers anything. Reverse engineer it and then say, “Where am I starting from?” Maybe you’re starting from a million or ground zero. Say, “Let’s say I’m starting from a million and I own a manufacturing plant. If I want to get from $1 million to a $20 million company, what’s my timeframe?”
Let’s say seven years. “Who are my buyers going to be?” There are five types of buyers, the first-time buyers who are not buying a $20 million manufacturing company. You can scratch them off the list. Private equity groups. They buy platforms and based on add-ons. You need to know what is a private equity group’s criteria. How do they buy businesses? What are the gross revenue criteria? What’s the cost of goods? What’s their EBITDA?
The most important number is EBITDA, Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization. What is the EBITDA requirement? Does a business run on all six cylinders, all six Ps? You need to know what your buyer’s criteria are so you can build the business to suit their criteria. There are also strategic and competitive buyers who would also be a good fit for a $20 million manufacturing business because they buy synergies.
You have to ask yourself after you determine your desired sales price, current valuation and timeframe who your buyers are, what their buying criteria are and then your why. Why do you want to sell your business for $20 million? Let me tell you something. If you don’t have a powerful why, you’re never going to stay in the game. If it was easy to sell a $20 million company, everybody would be doing it. You have to have a strong powerful why because you’re going to have a lot of roadblocks, obstacles and unforeseen circumstances to come. Your why has to be so powerful that keeps you in the game.You have to have a strong, powerful WHY because you're going to have a lot of roadblocks. Click To Tweet
That determines your destination, which is the desired sale price. It’s about knowing your current location and where you’re starting.
It is your valuation. Most business owners have no idea what their business is worth.
It’s identifying who your buyers will be, knowing your timeframe and determining your why, which is extremely important. What I like about this approach is starting with an exit strategy. It gives you a roadmap for where you want your business to go instead of running aimlessly like, “I hope it does.” It can help you to forecast and figure out where you want to go. I want to jump into these six Ps that you hinted at. Before we do that though, I want to talk about something you mentioned in chapter three. You had it titled What Kind of Business Are You? Can you talk about this for a minute?
There are different types of businesses out there. You have to identify what type of business you are in. Your readers can go to SeilerTuckerAcademy.com and take the quiz on what type of company they own. There are small businesses and these are your coffee shops, cafes, small retail stores or maybe dry cleaners and things of that nature. These businesses are dependent upon the owners.
They might have 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 employees but they’re dependent upon the owner. You take the owner out of the business and there is no business. You have the one woman, one man show. These businesses are very difficult to sell. Let’s say there’s a dental practice. One dentist has been in practice for twenty years. That business is almost impossible to sell unless he gets another dentist training under him and that dentist buys the practice or we sell it and the dentist agrees to stay on for so many years to ensure a smooth transition.
That could be a dentist, a chiropractor, an MD, a real estate agent, an interior decorator, a photographer or an insurance appraiser. I can go on and on. That’s a one-woman, one-show business and those are very hard to sell. You have your slightly little bit larger businesses in your cafes and restaurants that maybe have 15, 20 or 30 employees and may be doing around $1 million to $2 million. The owner is still involved in a day-to-day tasks but maybe not as involved in some of the small businesses.
You have your medium-sized businesses that have been around for many years. The business is not as dependent upon the owner. They do have employees in place. They’re a little bit more stable than some of the other businesses. Think about it. If that dentist has a catastrophic event occur, he’s out of business. Any of those businesses. You have your larger businesses that have been in business for 10, 15, 20, 30 or 40 years. They are well-oiled machines. They have employees in place and typically do over $1 million in EBITDA. Those are the different types of businesses.
In this part, you asked this question, “What business are you in? What business should you be in?” You have a difference between those two saying, “This is what I’m doing but what should I be doing?” Can you explain the story that you used in this?
I did ask it in that chapter but what’s funny is as I’ve been doing these shows, radio shows and TV interviews, I have been asking those questions under the second P. That second P is Product, especially after COVID. You have to ask yourself, “Is your industry thriving or dying? Do you have an Amazon in your hands or a blockbuster? Amazon is thriving. A blockbuster is dying. Which one do you own?”
You should always ask yourself, especially if your business is dying, “What business are you in? What business should you be in?” Let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate this point. When Amazon started, they asked themselves, “What business are we in?” They said, “We’re in a book business.” Every owner should ask themselves this question, “What do we do well? What are we best at? What are our core competencies?” I came back and said, “We’re good with fulfillment. That’s what we do well.”
The follow-up question is, “What business should we be in?” “What business are we in? We’re on books. What do we do well? We do fulfillment well. What business should we be in? We should be in fulfillment.” Those three questions right there took Amazon from a bookstore to a conglomerate. I’ll give you another example. One of my favorite examples is McDonald’s. Have you ever watched the movie The Founder?
Everybody should go watch the movie The Founder. The McDonald Brothers had a small business with so many employees. Ray Kroc came in there and is the one who developed McDonald’s into what it is now. Ray Kroc went in and started the franchising department. He ended up taking a loan out against his house. He was overleverage. He was making no money. He was back in the bank trying to borrow more money. The bank was like, “I can’t lend you any more money. You’re already upside down.”
This gentleman that was in another cubicle that was also a client of the bank followed him out and he said, “Can I ask you a question?” Ray says, “Sure.” He said, “What business are you in?” Ray looked at him and goes, “I’m in the restaurant business.” A gentleman said, “No, that’s not the business you’re on. What business are you in?” Ray’s like, “I’m in the restaurant business.” He said, “What business should you be in?” Ray goes, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
He says, “You need to be in the real estate business. You need to buy the real estate up, build McDonald’s, get a franchisee in there and lease to them when they’re non-compliant.” The whole issue with Ray was franchisees were non-compliant. They weren’t paying him. When they’re non-compliant, you kick them out and bring another franchisee in. Those two questions right there took McDonald’s from almost filing bankruptcy with Ray Kroc into the world’s largest holder of real estate.
Steve Jobs did the same thing when he came to Apple. Remember when he left Apple and he came back to Apple? He said, “What business are we in?” They said, “We’re in a computer business and technology business.” He said, “No, we’re not. What business should we be in? What do we do well? We need to be in a communications business where everybody connects. We’re in a connecting business.” That’s what developed the iPhone and iPod. That’s a big question that all owners should be asking themselves.
I’d like to transition this conversation into talking through the six Ps of business that you hinted at early in our conversation. These six Ps are what you consider to be the most important part of a business. Michelle, your company reviews each of them in detail during the evaluation process of a business when determining its value. To give the readers a little bit of an overview, I’m going to quickly share all six of them. They are people, product, process, proprietary, patrons and profits. Michelle, can you cover each of these in detail for us?
The number one P in any business is People. You don’t build a business. You build people and people build the business. You have to have the right people in the right seat. Many companies have the right people in the wrong seat. You need to ask, “Who in my business opens the office? Who handles accounting? Who handles customer service issues? Who handles manufacturing? Who enters distribution? Who handles environmental issues? Who handles tax issues? Who?”
You need to put a name next to every who and that name should never be yours. I know when you’re starting, I get it. I used to clean the toilets and mop the floors. I still do sometimes but I get it. When you’re starting, you are the who but you want to develop a business that’s not dependent upon you. You want to build a business that can operate without you. You don’t want to build a job for yourself. You want to build a business that works for you instead of you working for it. You need to determine the whos in your company and who is going to do it other than you.When you're starting, you are the WHO. But you want to develop a business that's not dependent upon you, build a business that can operate without you, build a job for yourself, and build a business that works for you instead of working for it. Click To Tweet
“Teamwork makes the dream work.” That quote is mentioned there. I love that. It’s a great quote.
Startups and small business owners don’t think that it’s so difficult to hire employees because it’s not. Focus on your strengths. Hire out your weaknesses. You can get interns. I have interns all the time coming in and out of here. Every year, I’ll probably go through about 20 to maybe 50 interns. Some we hire. Some we make permanent and they’re great employees. I have four colleges around me. You can get interns and 1099 contractors. You can figure it out but you cannot do everything by yourself. Focus on your strengths and hire your weaknesses.
People is number one. Product is number two, which we already talked about. Number three is Processes, which are typically never developed in the beginning. Most business owners don’t think about processes until they have to out of necessity like, “A client got mad and wrote a bunch of bad reviews on Google.” Your processes were not designed with the customer experience in mind.
Processes should be developed from day one of starting your company. They need to be developed with the customer experience in mind. Think about your mission statement. Why are you in business? What is your objective? What are you trying to accomplish? I’m going to go back to McDonald’s. The McDonald’s brothers developed McDonald’s themselves back in the 1930s to 1940s.
Back then, you only had Sonic-type drive up where waiters and waitresses would come out on roller skates. The food was always cold, the order was always wrong and it took forever. McDonald’s says, “We want to change restaurant fast food. We want to create fast food and give you quality food that tastes great in a minute or less.” They took all their employees to an empty tennis court to practice, rotate and draw out the processes.
Who takes the order? Who toasts the bun? Who cooks the burgers? Who puts the two pickles on the bun? Who packages and gives it to the client? What was their objective to deliver fast quality food in two minutes or less? Did they design the process with the customer experience in mind? Yes, and that’s why wherever you go to McDonald’s like in Singapore, Russia, Sweden or the US, they might look a little different but the experience is the same. Design your processes with the customer experience in mind and make sure they’re productive, efficient and well-documented and your employees are trained on all.
This is one that many people getting started want to take shortcuts on because they assume, “I can do the process later,” when there are more of them who can figure out the process. They’re just too busy to focus on that. Getting this right from day one is going to give you a good foundation to build a business.
If you just focus on sales and bring in so many clients, your business is going to crumble because you don’t have a solid foundation. All the walls are going to cave in. You have to build up that foundation. The fourth P is Proprietary, which is the largest value driver there is. Meaning that you can get the highest multiple on EBITDA if you build your proprietary.
There are six pillars to proprietary. I don’t know if I went into the whole six pillars in my book so stay tuned for a sequel. The first pillar of proprietary is brand. The more well-brand your business is, as long as it’s relevant in the mind of consumers, the more value it has. What brand do you think is the biggest in the world?
It would be Apple.
You’re right, $389 billion. That’s just the brand. That is not assets, inventory, EBITDA or real estate. That’s only the brand that is worth $389 billion. The Coca-Cola brand is worth $89 billion. Build your brand then you build your exit rich. Trademarks are another big value driver. When your readers are going out to start a business that they’re not going to buy a business, all business owners make this mistake.
They go and get a state trademark. They start a company name like SquadCast and don’t get a federal trademark. Guess what happens? They get a cease and desist letter one day in the mail. They got to spend thousands of dollars to fight it and they’re going to lose. They’re going to have to change their company name. I can’t even tell you how many times this happens. Go get a federal trademark. It is not that expensive.
Protect your company name. Also, protect your slogan. I have the six Ps, the Seiler Tucker Six Ps trademark. I have the ST GPS Exit Model trademark. Get trademarks. If you have some great ideas, get a patent. Everybody says, “A patent is not worth it.” I sold a company for $18 million that had 18 patents so yes, it is worth it.
The other thing is contracts. Contracts are very valuable in the sale of a business, vendor contracts, manufacturing contracts and distribution contracts. The most valuable are client contracts, client agreements. If a business has hundreds of contracts, that’s a lot of times reoccurring revenue or it’s at least guaranteed revenue, depending upon how the contract is written.
The problem is that most business owners don’t have that two-sentence transferability clause. Therefore, when it’s time to sell your business, it’s going to be an asset so 99.9% of all sales are asset sales. If your contracts are not transferable, the deal’s not going to go through. Take the time to get the two-sentence transferability clause and put those in your contracts. The other valuable thing in proprietary is databases.
If you’re starting to build a database and that database can be retargeted and repurposed, businesses will pay you huge money for that. Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp. WhatsApp was hemorrhaging money. They were making zero but they had a billion users. WhatsApp was buying that synergy because it knew it could monetize and get a return on its investment.
The last thing in proprietary is, let’s say you have an eCommerce business selling pillows and you got to number one on Wayfair. That is prime real estate. That is very tough to get. Other home good companies will buy your business because of that. Let’s say you make a unique vacuum cleaner and have a patent on it. You’ve cornered the market on this vacuum cleaner on Amazon. Let’s say you have a skincare product and you have celebrity endorsements on the radio like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh endorsing your product.
They can only take one skin care at a time. That’s what we call valuable real estate in business. The fifth P is Patriots. You want to make sure you have customer diversification, not customer concentration. If you’ve been in business for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years, you want to make sure customers are not aging out. If they’re aging out, you have to replace them. The last P is Profits, which is the most important.You want to make sure you have customer diversification, not customer concentration. Click To Tweet
I found it interesting that you brought up profits as the sixth P instead of the first. Typically, when profits are talked about, it’s the first thing that comes up, not the last. Why’d you decided to talk about profits as the last P?
Here’s why. I’m so glad you asked me that question because profits are never the problem. Profits are the symptom of not operating on one of the other five Ps. If you don’t have the right people in the right seat, then you’re going to lose profits. If the owner is doing everything themselves and can’t handle the demand from the consumers, they’re going to lose profits. If you’re in a dying industry, your product is dying, not thriving and you got Blockbuster and not on Amazon, you’re going to lose profits.
If your processes are pissing off and alienating clients, then you’re going to lose market share, which loses profits. If your processes are not productive and efficient, then it’s going to cost you in profits. If your proprietary is not protected and you have to spend thousands of dollars to protect your IP, it’s going to cost you in profits. If you have customer concentration and 80% of your revenue comes from 5 clients and you lose 2 clients, you just lost profits. Profit is a symptom of all the other five Ps. It is never a problem. That’s why I put it last.
That makes a lot of sense. I’m glad that you elaborated on that. Also, thank you for explaining the six Ps to the audience. That was very valuable for everyone. You also have the third part of your book which covers the actual sale of the business but we won’t be getting into that in this episode. Michelle, before we end this episode, is there anything else that you want to share with the readers?
Let me give you some encouragement. In 2013, when I wrote, Sell Your Business for More Than It’s Worth, I did the research. We all know this. About 85% to 95% of all startups would fail. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know but the tides have turned. When I wrote Exit Rich in 2019 and did the same research, I found out that only 30% of startups will go out of business. Only 30% are at great risk. For all your readers, you’re okay.
Here’s a big difference. Out of 27.6 million companies, those businesses have been in business for 10 years or longer, those businesses 70% are at risk of going out of business. It flipped. It used to be like, “I made past five years. I’m golden.” No. 70% of businesses that have been in business for over 10 years are going out of business. Why is that? You have to ask yourself. You hear about the big-box stores, Toys R Us, Kmart, JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, GNC which is closing down 900 locations, Ty-Mawr and even Starbucks is in trouble.
Why is that? It’s because of AIM. Business owners stop innovating and marketing. AIM, Always Innovate and Market. They stopped innovating and marketing. They became complacent. They were like Blockbuster. Blockbuster sold Netflix. They saw the writing on the wall but they sat back happy and did nothing. You can never take your customers for granted.
Consumers’ buying habits change dramatically. You can thank Amazon for that. You can buy anything on Amazon and have delivered in two days. You can even buy a horse on Amazon. Business owners have to be more aggressive and innovative than ever before because these companies have changed consumers’ buying habits.
Business owners stop asking their clients, “What do you need? What do you want? How can it make it easier for you to do business with us?” Whoever makes it easiest for the consumer to do business with them is the one who is going to win and that’s why. My advice to your readers is to align yourself with an expert. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Get a mentor that’s already been down your path because geniuses learn from other people’s mistakes.
Learn from their mistakes and your path will become so much shorter because you’ve aligned yourself with a mentor who’s already done it. Don’t try to start something fresh. Also, make sure your idea is unique. Make sure you’re not putting another coffee shop up and it’s going to be half a mile radius. Look around and see what’s missing. Entrepreneurs solve problems. That’s what we do. We’re solution experts. That’s what we are. Be a solution expert. Think about the client and customer. Put them way ahead of yourself and then you’ll be successful.
Michelle, you’re brilliant. This was great. You had so much wisdom to share with us. I appreciate this.
Thank you for having me, Alex.
As soon as I finished this conversation with Michelle, I immediately took action on evaluating my business against the six Ps that she talked about during this episode. Although I don’t plan on selling my business anytime soon, I want my business to be run in the best possible way and also position so I can exit rich one day. I encourage you to do the same thing for your business.
Michelle was kind enough to offer us a few free resources to help us figure out how you can begin planning to exit rich. Michelle, thank you again for being a guest and sharing your wisdom with us. To pick up a copy of Michelle Seiler Tucker’s book, Exit Rich, and to access the free resources that she’s giving us, please visit CreatingABrand.com/081. Thank you as always for reading. I’m looking forward to bringing you another masterclass episode soon.
- Exit Rich
- Sharon Lechter
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Think and Grow Rich
- Seiler Tucker GPS Exit Model
- Sell Your Business for More Than It’s Worth
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