Create an unfair competitive advantage by optimizing the right things, in the right order, at the right time.

We want things—it’s a subconscious process.  There is no way around it, and it happens instantly: nice jacket in the shop window, I want it.   Coke commercial on TV, I want it.  We don’t control the desire so much as acting on the desire.  We understand this, seemingly, when it comes to Coke, but we don’t seem to understand it when it comes to running our businesses.

Businesses are optimized to do something for the owner.  If we don’t ask ourselves what we’re optimizing them to do—we don’t get it.  It’s really quite that simple.

Businesses can be optimized for different outcomes: cash flow, asset growth, etc.  My biggest question, when I work with someone, is this one: do you plan to sell it?  To anyone—do you plan to sell it to your employees?

Because everything changes the minute you plan to sell it.  Until that point, if you love the work, and you’re looking for cash and it does cash flow, you can meet your goals.  But if you want someone else to give you an exit—where you are not their employee—you can’t be the bottleneck.  We have to get the business to a point where it runs without you.

The problem with that is it makes plain every problem in the business—you’re not there to solve those issues—which you’ve probably been doing for the last decade or more.  A process has to solve it, or a person has to solve it.

That is expensive, or time consuming.  Often both.

The payoff is, when all that is solved, you’ve got a cash flowing asset that is also a saleable asset.

One of the first conversations I have with new clients is: where are we ten years from now, and what did we do with this business to get you there?

If we know that, we can get to work.

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