In his new book, "Built To Sell," John Warrillow tells the tale of a fictional business owner who discovers no one wants to buy his business and provides a framework and action plan for ensuring your company is sellable. In Chapter 4, business owner Alex Stapleton struggles to balance specialization with the need for cash flow.
John Warrillow is an entrepreneur, author, and speaker. Throughout his career, John has started and exited four companies. Most recently he transformed Warrillow & Co. from a boutique consultancy specializing in studying and reporting on the small business market into a recurring revenue model subscription business, which he sold in 2008 to Corporate Executive Board.
"Built To Sell" is about how to create a sellable business. It's the story of an imaginary business owner named Alex Stapleton who wants to sell his service business but discovers that nobody wants to buy it because he is the business. While the story is fictional, Alex's experiences are very real for many business owners. There are approximately 23 million businesses in the United States and only a few hundred thousand are able to sell their company each year. That means for every small business owner who creates a business that someone will buy, there are about 100 businesses that do not sell. This book provides a framework and action plan for ensuring that you are the one in a hundred who has a sellable company.
Tony clutched his latest draft of the direct mail piece for First National Bank as if he was choking it. Alex knew the word REWRITE with a diagonal line through his work without further explanation would set Tony off.
"Alex, I need a little more direction if you expect me to be able to write another draft," Tony said. Alex was at a loss for constructive criticism; he didn't know where to start. It wasn't the opening paragraph or the salutation or the PS or the offer or the tone or the grammar or the spelling.
It was everything about the letter that he found unbearable. Quite simply, Alex was paralyzed by Tony's incompetence.
"Look, Tony, I don't have time for this right now. The bank is all over me for their branch posters and I haven't seen Elijah yet this morning. Let's talk about this later."
Tony rolled his eyes and stalked back to his desk.
Alex checked in with Sarah to see how she was progressing on what he hoped would be the final changes to John Stevens' brochure project. As he approached Sarah from behind, Alex had a full view of what was on her 21-inch monitor. Instead of the First National Bank brochure, it seemed Sarah was engrossed in a last-minute travel site.
Alex approached, and stood beside Sarah until she noticed him and sheepishly removed her earphones.
"Planning a vacation are we?" Alex asked, the words dripping with sarcasm.
"Alex, I just... "
Alex raised his hand like a police officer stopping traffic and walked away without engaging in what he knew would be a feeble excuse.
The mail came in and Alex hungrily opened the white number 10 envelopes. There were three invoices from suppliers and two checks. The checks were from small jobs totaling just over $23,000. Better than nothing, but Alex still needed another $24,000 to cover payroll and rent by month's end. He was now down to 12 business days.
Alex scheduled his meeting with Elijah for 8:00 a.m. Elijah walked into Alex's office sporting a smug grin. "Good morning, Alex. How was your night?"
The meeting unfolded as Alex anticipated. Between his mother's job at First National and Sarah's resignation, Elijah squeezed Alex for a raise. Alex countered with Elijah's age and relative inexperience. The result was a split decision with Elijah getting a $2,500 raise and Alex promising to review his salary again in six months.
Elijah would not be working for The Stapleton Agency in six months.
Alex scanned his emails and the usual client fires caught his eye: the bike shop wanted a discount on the search engine optimization project because The Stapleton Agency couldn't deliver first or second ranking for their keywords of choice; Buddy's BMW was getting criticism from a lawyer in Munich because their website didn't adhere to BMW's brand standards; and First National's retail banking group wanted another six branch posters printed by the end of the day. Ralph Stone also needed invoice number 12-673 re-submitted with the correct purchase order number listed. There was an email from Ziggy. She'd enjoyed the Natural Treats personification exercise and was keenly awaiting the sketches as part of step three in Alex's system.