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.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

March 18, 2010

4 Min Read

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"I like the idea of specializing in something and getting really good at it."

Chris added, "I'd love to do more freehand sketch work. I haven't done any drawing since art school."

Elijah wasn't so enthusiastic. "Specialization sounds great, but I thought advertising was supposed to be creative. What you're talking about sounds like working in a factory."

Dean chimed in. "I think we should be the trusted marketing advisor for all of our clients. How am I supposed to build a trusting relationship with my clients if all I am doing is flogging one service?"

Sarah, with nothing to lose, said, "As a designer, I don't want to be pigeonholed into having to follow a set of rules."

Elijah had triggered a mutiny. Alex felt his temper rising. He inhaled deeply, counted to five, and said, "Our new process still allows plenty of latitude for creativity."

With that, Alex asked each employee to study the manual and to see him with questions. He quickly adjourned the meeting. Alex stared as Elijah fumbled to collect his things, refusing to make eye contact with his boss. Anticipating a confrontation, Alex's other employees left the boardroom quickly. Alex walked across the room to close the door.

"Have a seat," Alex said, pointing to a chair.

Sitting back down, Elijah said, "Alex, I didn't mean to... "

Alex cut him off. "Why did you become a designer?"

"I was always creative as a kid. I like drawing and did well in art class. It just seemed like a good choice."

"Being creative is a great asset, but The Stapleton Agency is a business. And as a business, our first priority is to make money. If you want to be an artist, I suggest you go find somewhere else to work."

"But Alex, an agency is supposed to be a creative environment."

"Then go work for a traditional agency. We're focused on creating logos using our five-step process."

Elijah sat motionless for more than a minute. Resigning himself to the obvious, he said, "Well, I guess I'm leaving then."

"Good luck."

With that, they shook hands and Elijah returned to his desk. He put a few things in his bag and left.

Alex felt good to have exercised the power he had as the owner of his own company. After all, his name was on the door and he would not stand for such blatant contempt—especially from his most junior employee. The broader implications of what he had just done started to wash over him. He'd be down to one designer. Elijah's mother would find out and that could jeopardize his relationship with First National Bank.

A knock on the door jolted Alex out of his fog. It was Rhina.

"Alex, I know the meeting didn't go as well as you had hoped, but I want you to know I'm really excited about our new focus."

"Thanks, Rhina." Alex said, feeling buoyed by her statement.

"I think your skills will be well suited for our new process."

Don't Miss:
"Built To Sell" Chapter 1: A Company In Chaos "Built To Sell" Chapter 2: A Worthless Business? "Built To Sell" Chapter 3: Putting The Process Into Practice

Curious about whether you could sell your business (and for how much)? Take the 10-question Sellability Index Quiz at

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