Why Do People “Disappear?”

I recently met someone I considered an “A” prospect. We met, he heard me speak, we met again with his wife present, and I gave him a proposal on how we could work together. He sent me an email saying he’d, “…get back to you next week.”

When I didn’t hear from him I called and left a message. Two weeks later another message and finally an email saying I’d left two messages and the ball was in his court if he wanted to get back to me.

Assuming he’s alive and not severely disabled it means he disappeared on me. Not even the courtesy of an email saying he’s not interested.

And it’s not just him or me. Everybody I know in the employment field (applicants, coaches, recruiters, etc.) say this behavior is very common in the job industry. People at companies don’t reply, leave applicants hanging, etc.

It’s a form of passive aggressive behavior (and being in Seattle, the passive aggressive capital of the world, it’s not unusual). It’s also rude and unprofessional, and probably speaks to the self-esteem of many people as they can’t say no, even in writing (it’s called Minnesota Nice in that part of the country).

If you’re not interested, just say so.

Know What You’re Going to Say – And Say It

On May 10 I was on a panel at the monthly Association for Corporate Growth meeting titled, “Deal Warriors of the Lower Middle Market.” My co-panelists were Lisa Forrest, Greg Russell, Todd Marker, and John O’Dore.

I realized after about two remarks my regular lines, quips, and stories are new to others, no matter how familiar I am with those lines. Statements that make me a “unconscious competent” get laughs and applause from others.

It goes to show how important words are. When used properly they create a full-color, HD picture. Good salespeople don’t just talk, they say the right things and ask the right questions. They know the correct words and how to use them.

No matter what business you’re in, communication is what makes you successful. Think about what you say and concentrate on:

  • Stories of past client/customer experiences. We all remember stories, more than anything else we hear or read. I know my story on the panel about the advisor who didn’t understand transactions but still was “helping” a client went over huge.
  • Statistics that make a point (as to why your product or services make sense). Statistics that are legitimate but show they are legitimate (sorry, but today you must, given all the “fake news,” as per President Reagan, “trust but verify”).
  • Examples of results you’ve generated. Stories tell how things happened, results are what happened. In my book If They Can Sell Pet Rocks Why Can’t You Sell Your Business (For What You Want)? I open with a story about George, how we prepared his business for sale, and how he sold it with more cash at closing than the total offer before we started working together.

Time spent on saying the right thing is critical whether you sell your services, machined parts, food, construction supplies, or anything else.

“To overpraise is a subtle form of disrespect.” Mary Gaitskill



From Fee & Free to Loyalty

One of my sons convinced me to (finally) signup for Amazon Prime Photos, which Amazon defines as, Secure unlimited photo storage and enhanced search and organization features in Amazon Drive for you and the members of your Family Vault.” In other words, a great place to backup and store all your digital pictures, and it’s included in the annual Prime fee.

What are some of the other Prime benefits, besides free two-day shipping?

  • Videos, including free movies, TV shows, and Amazon produced content.
  • Kindle First, a free Kindle book every month (to own, not borrow).
  • Kindle lending library.
  • Some same day, two-hour, and restaurant delivery.

I could go on and on, the above are things we use and the list on their website is about a foot long.

What does this mean? It means they are ingraining themselves into many parts of our lives and creating customer loyalty. Their goal is to have you and me think, when we need something, check out Amazon, which many of us do too often as it’s so easy.

What are you doing so your company is the first, and only, thing people think of when they need what you have? My goal is to be front-of-mind when everybody I know is asked about business buy-sell, exit planning, and related. You do this by:

  • Staying in touch (like this weekly memo, events I put-on, etc.)
  • Offering value, before, during, and after someone hires you
  • Doing great work

This doesn’t just happen. Amazon had a great idea (pay a fee for free shipping), added a lot more to the program, and ingrained themselves into the lives of many people.

“The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” William Gibson

Do More in Less Time

I recently read an excerpt from the book, “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less (by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Copyright © 2016), shared it with a client group for discussion, and I’m now reading the book. BTW, my clients really identified with the topic and had positive feedback.

The title of the excerpt is: “Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too – Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours.

In simple terms, the book (and article) explain why some of the most productive people ever to set foot on the planet only “worked” (or work if they’re still alive) about four hours a day. The opening of the book is about the science behind this (proving it) and is a bit deep as the author describes the various brain tests and similar.

Charles Darwin is a perfect example of this as he put in three intense 90-minute segments a day of work. The rest of his day was filled with correspondence (email to us), walking, napping, family, etc. During this time, and on this schedule, he wrote 19 books including the famous, “The Origin of Species.”

Other interesting tidbits:

  • Studies have shown there’s an “M” curve of productivity, which peaks at between 10 and 20 hours of work per week. After that, it’s lower productivity. In fact, 60-hour per week researchers were the least productive of all.
  • Great performers (music, dance, sports) didn’t practice more than the average but they practiced more deliberately. This means, “engaging with full concentration in a special activity to improve one’s performance.” It’s more than repetition, it’s focused, structured, and has clear goals and feedback.
  • The biggest factor was rest. The best scientists, musicians, dancers, and athletes, made sure they got enough rest, sleeping an average of one hour more per day than those not as good.

Interestingly, a few weeks ago I returned on Tuesday from a long weekend of fishing and other things, got in my office Wednesday morning about 8:00, at 10:00 I took my first break, realized how much I had accomplished, and noted I needed a break. It hit me how subconsciously I was doing as described in the book.

“I’m at the point where naps are a necessity not a luxury.” My best friend’s dad to my dad when both were in their 70’s

Controlling Your Customer’s Expectations

On their menus and placemats PizzaVino in Palm Desert, CA describes true authentic Neapolitan Pizza as, “It’s all about balance, The Oven, San Marzano tomatoes, Fior di Latte Mozzarella, and Doppio Zero flour.”

At the end of their description of how the ingredients come together they write,

“If you are looking for lots of pasty cooked tomato with funny Italian seasoning and lot of melted processed mozzarella then you are in for a disappointing meal. We hope you’ll order something else from our menu.”

Talk about a good job of setting customer expectations! Before you order you know you’re not getting assembly-line chain-restaurant pizza. You’re getting an old-world, handcrafted meal.

All (small) businesses should be doing something similar, i.e. letting their customers know to expect high quality (and that’s why the prices are not rock bottom). Small business is niche business and that means quality, value, and service.

Whether you provide a product, a service, advice, or a combination of all three, don’t chase the customer looking for a deal. Do what PizzaVino does – discuss quality and describe what you’re not. It builds better long-term relationships, better customers, and more profits.

“Americans who overslept invented the word brunch.” Joan Crawford

Getting Your Message Across

I’m a member of Seattle Executives Association (SEA) and we recently had elections for the board of directors. Unlike my Rotary club where there’s one person nominated for each position, in SEA it’s truly an election, with two people for president-elect and treasurer and six people for three board positions.

An interesting twist is you don’t campaign for yourself, you give a “speech” telling the group why your opponent (or one of your opponents) should be elected. What I noticed is:

All of those elected had their promotion filled with something a bit outrageous and/or humorous. Those not elected had their promoter give a talk filled with facts (went to this school, worked here and there, has these skills, etc.)

People remember stories and humor is a form of a story. An outrageous action (outrageous meaning a surprise or something unusual but in good taste) is remembered the same way.

The business lesson here is facts may be important but the delivery is much more important.


When Rookies Wing It

Every competent attorney will tell you they want another competent attorney on the other side of a deal, whether it’s a buy-sell deal, contract negotiation, family law, etc. They don’t want a litigator working on business transaction or a business attorney doing divorce law.

I write this based on having the experience of a recent conversation with a rookie in my industry. He didn’t understand how things are done, the process, and especially the qualifications both buyer and seller must have. If he’s like this consistently he’ll do his clients a disservice.

My business is not much different that most businesses in that we want a satisfied buyer and satisfied seller (in my business we want them equally, and a little bit, unhappy as that’s when a deal happens). So do people in real estate, retail, manufacturing, and other industries. When perceived equal value is provided and received both sides are happy.

So, what’s my point here? It behooves us all to be competent professionals whose goal is to get the work done efficiently and at a fair cost. If something is over your head, get help. Better yet, don’t take the assignment.

The person mentioned above was new to his business and came from a different industry. He needed a mentor or coach. Contrast this to the class I teach at the local SBA office on, “Dynamically Growing a Consulting Business.” The students are experts in what they do, they need help marketing and securing clients. Big difference. Be an expert first, get clients second.

“You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow

Pace Yourself with Urgency

The Seattle Mariners, like quite a few teams, started their 2017 season very slowly, going 2-8 at one point. The press and the casual fans started to panic, then they won 4 games in a row.

You see, the baseball season is like a life, it’s long and has many ups and downs. A baseball team with a 50-50 record at the All-Star break has plenty of time, there’s still a lot of season left.

By contrast, football is like a year of life. There’s 10% of the games (in football versus baseball), and a bad few games, like a bad few months in life or business, can wreck your season/year. A football team that is 5-5 at the same 5/8 point of the season better go at least 5-1 the rest of the way or they’re in trouble.

It’s why, in life and business, we need a balance between the short and long term. We can’t panic every time we lose a deal and we can’t get overly excited when we do get a deal. Our focus should be on what we need to do every day to keep a steady stream of customers coming in our door, which means long term strategy implementation.

However, we can’t lose urgency. Some things need be done now. You can’t put off phone calls for a month and expect potential customers to still be there. I can’t miss three weeks of this memo and then have four come out in one week.

For years I’ve told all my clients (buy-sell, coaching, mentoring, etc.) if they keep doing the things they are supposed to do, good things will happen. Of course, it usually takes someone who knows what the heck they’re doing to make sure the things they’re doing are the right things being done the right way.

“Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’.” Ronald Reagan


Business Basics – From Day 1

A recent edition of my Marquette University alumni magazine had an article on a new mandatory Business School course, Business Day 1 (something I wish they had when I was in school). Every business school freshman takes this class, which exposes them to accounting, finance, managerial economics, human recourses, marketing, supply chain management, and IT.

The course culminates with a “signature curricular component,” an advanced business simulation. The simulation includes hiring, pricing, sourcing, marketing, and ethical scenarios (being a Jesuit institution ethics classes were always on everybody’s course list).

Like most universities, Marquette has a strong entrepreneurial program and this introductory class sounds great for budding entrepreneurs. As most of you reading this know, most business owners are strong in some areas and not-so-strong in others. In fact, they often have very limited skills outside of their core areas (core strengths being a huge component of why they’re good owners/entrepreneurs). A class like this will probably prevent many lessons learned from experience.

However, there’s one learning area missing, and that’s sales. I’ve maintained for years universities should require students to take a Sales 101 class. To give them a basic understanding of what sales and business communication really is (solving a problem) as well as to dispel myths about sales (no, all sales is not like an old used car lot, i.e. sell anything to anyone, just make a sale).

My first “real” job out of college had me buying services. I didn’t understand too much about sales. Although I must have been decent at it as I had my own painting business through college and grad school and I was the one doing all the customer relations and bidding. I feel class on basic sales would have tremendously accelerated my learning and career.

“People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.” Anna Wintour


Forget Startups – Buy a Business

Fast Company recently had an article titled, “Forget Startups Just Buy a Small Business from a Retiring Entrepreneur.” The first sentence was, “Sure, you may want to found the next “Uber for [insert service here],” but that’s not the only entrepreneurial path you can walk.”

They gave eight tips on how to best make an acquisition and I’ll comment on three of them (one of the others being “perform due diligence,” which even partially competent buyers automatically do some of).

But first, let me take issue with one of the facts mentioned. Using statistics from BizBuySell.com the article stated the median price of businesses at the end of 2016 rose 8% from 2015 to $216,000. Let’s face it:

If someone buys a business for $216,000 they are buying a job, and a mediocre job at that.

For reference, the average price of my clients deals over the last year or so was about $3 million, and every one offered the buzzword buyers use and want, “scalability.” The micro deals from the BizBuySell.com stats mean the buyer/owner will spend their time working “in” the business not “on” the business, and that means a rut that’s hard to get out of.

Now for the top three points in the article.

Figure out how to appeal to the owner. Or, as I’ve preached for years, build a relationship because nobody will buy from or sell to someone they don’t like. The article makes a great point, “Prospective individual buyers may have an edge; many retirees want to sell to someone with similar values, hopes, and dreams. It’s their baby and they want to bring their grandkids by it in 5-10 years and tell them how this very successful business used to be theirs.

Be ready to add value–even to a successful business. I like their line, “If you’re merely keeping the lights on, then you have a boss: the bank.” Bill saw who he could immediately add value by turning the website from a brochure to an ordering system. Matt started promptly following up on leads (amazing what people coasting don’t do). Richard but in a sales system and culture, which attracted customers and high-quality employees.

Have a 100-day plan. I mention this one because I stress it to buyers and sellers. Don’t fall into the following endless loop the day after closing:

  • Buyer: Tell me what I need to learn.
  • Seller: What do you want to know?
  • Repeat

It’s why I give my clients an outline of a transaction plan and encourage them to formulate their own details with the other party. The transition often gets overlooked as the rush to close gets frantic (and overwhelming with administrivia). Three key transition points:

  • Initially the buyer should shadow the seller to see what he does on a daily basis.
  • After three to four weeks the seller should disappear for a week to let the staff know the buyer really is in charge.
  • Make sure the transition agreement covers the seller being around for annual events that don’t fall within the contracted time. This could be trade shows, contract renewals, annual closing of the books, or other things specific to the business.

Entrepreneurism isn’t for everybody and if it is for you, and especially if you don’t have an idea for the next greatest thing (or don’t want to put in 80 hour plus weeks), consider buying a business. It’s faster, cheaper, and easier to finance. You trade your capital for immediate cash flow, i.e. you get a paycheck on payday just like everybody else.

And in closing, a great line from the Fast Company article, “If you’re buying a company because you want to be your own boss but don’t plan on making any changes once you take over, keep your day job.”