As small business owners, we are tied to our businesses, in mind, body and spirit. We need our businesses and our businesses need us. But, it is inevitable that a time will come when we can no longer be there for them.
Whether we accept it or not, we are mortals. We must eventually hand over the business reigns to someone else. Steve Jobs handed them to Tim Cook, someone he had groomed for the post since 1998.
The major differences between our businesses and Steve Job’s business are (in all likelihood) size, market share and access to capital. But, there is no difference in the fact that for our businesses to survive after we’re gone we must consciously prepare for it.
We need our own Tim Cook. Our businesses need to have someone groomed and prepared to take over in our absence. Whether our absence is due to illness or a change of ownership the need is the same.
A buyer will want to know that our businesses are not contingent upon us, our personality, our relationships and our “know-how”. The buyer will expect that we show them our businesses can operate at the same level without us as they do with us. If the buyer suspects a decline in the company’s performance after we leave they will discount the price they are willing to pay for it. After all, they’re paying us for what they believe the performance of the business will be going forward as of the date of sale.
The more assurance we can provide them that the business will not decline without us, the less risk they assume and the more they are willing to pay.
So, how can we provide this assurance?
- Build our brand around our products and services not around us as owners.
- Have replacement employees trained to do our jobs and let them do it!
It’s much more convincing to a buyer to see our businesses operate without us before they buy them than to merely tell them. We must put the systems in place NOW to allow our businesses to run at full speed after we’re gone. Steve Jobs did it. So should we!