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 1, business owner Alex Stapleton confronts the chaos of his business and makes the decision to sell.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

March 18, 2010

4 Min Read

Don't Miss:
John Warrillow's 8 Steps For Leveraging Technology To Build A Business You Can Sell

The Decision

Alex met a client for breakfast on Monday morning. It was after 10:00 a.m. when he got to his office. When he arrived, he knew it was going to be a bad day. Taped to his door was a note from Sarah:

Sunday, 4:00 p.m.
We need to talk.

This was not going to be good. He'd hired his best designer away from a rival agency last year. Sarah was needed for all of the First National Bank work. He walked over to Sarah's desk. She looked up from her work.

"Let's do this in your office."

Alex turned and walked back to his office. Sarah followed and closed the door. She didn't waste any time.

"Look, Alex, I like you and the rest of the team here but I'm going back to my old job at Curve Designs. I'll wrap up the brochure project for First National, but when that's done, I'm out."

Alex felt rejected. He knew that there was nothing he could say or do. Working the weekend to revise the First National Bank brochure to accommodate a client who knew nothing about design had finally pushed Sarah over the edge.

The meeting ended with Alex making some weak attempts to thank her for her service. Both knew the damage was done and neither wanted to be where they were at that moment. Sarah went back to her earphones and computer. Alex sat back in his chair and considered the rest of his team.

Leveling with himself, Alex knew that he had assembled a mediocre team. Sarah was the best of the lot. He had two other designers who were generalists. They could create decent brochures, functional websites, and acceptable print ads.

Neither of them excelled at any one discipline. His account directors were equally average. Before joining The Stapleton Agency, Dean Richardson had been an account supervisor at a large local agency. Having been passed over twice for promotion to account director, Dean had been easy prey for Alex to recruit with an offer of becoming an account director at The Stapleton Agency. Alex knew titles were a currency he could afford to be liberal with.

Rhina Sullivan was the other account director at The Stapleton Agency. She was efficient and detail oriented. However, as account director, she was also responsible for client strategy, which was over her head.

Despite having Dean and Rhina (or perhaps because of them), all of The Stapleton Agency's clients wanted to deal with the boss. Alex's name was on the door so he needed to attend virtually all client meetings. Losing Sarah meant his other designers would need to work overtime. He'd need to rely on Dean and Rhina to handle more clients while he spent time recruiting a new designer. His team, average to begin with, would be stretched to their limits.

When he started his agency, Alex dreamt of attracting the best specialized talent in the city, paying them well, building a magical work environment, and eventually selling out to a multinational agency holding company. In reality, he had second rate generalists working at the beck and call of unknowledgeable clients. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Alex was tired of the grind and decided it was time to sell his company.

Don't Miss:
"Built To Sell" Chapter 2: A Worthless Business? "Built To Sell" Chapter 3: Putting The Process Into Practice "Built To Sell" Chapter 4: Pressure From Within

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