It’s Been A Great Job But A Lousy Career

I got to talking with a guy about his job, he works for a major tech company, putting together  financing packages for multi-million-dollar purchases (this means he sells financing). His company was acquired about 10 years ago and that’s what led to his statement that’s the title of this memo.

He likes what he does but doesn’t love it. He’s at an age where changing jobs would be tough, and he’s not treated with respect. He told me he hasn’t had a week off in eight years and on a four-day weekend trip to New Orleans he spent most of Thursday and Friday (vacation days) putting out (work) fires.

It’s people like this, usually 10-20 years younger than this person, that allow me to have my business. They get fed up the corporate world and look to escape. When the escape pod is buying a business, that’s where I can help.

It’s also when a business owner says he or she wants to move from X to Y. Y may be a new product, new service, or new geographic area. The options are start a new division or buy a business with said product line or new territory, which is where my book Growth By Acquisition Makes Dollars and Sense comes into play.

Life is too short to have a lousy career. It’s why entrepreneurship is popular.

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime double so.” Douglas Adams

Founders Are a “Different” Type of Business Buyer

Some people will never own a business. They won’t buy, start, or get a franchise. Others are continually starting or buying companies. And there are subtle differences between the types of people who get into business.
My old friend Bill Pearsall coined the term re-entrepreneur for people who buy not start businesses. But it goes deeper. The individual business buyers I work with have developed management and leadership skills in the corporate world and want to use them to grow whatever business they buy. They understand the importance of a good foundation and since they’re not “product” people there’s less chance they’ll work “in” the business.
After working with people who started a business and considered buying another one (to grow, get employees, have a different customer base, etc.) I find most of them don’t always get you have to pay for what you’re getting.
Having started something they often ask, why would I pay (that much) for it when I can grow into it?
Neither model, either “I want to pay for a great base” or “I’ll pay a little because eventually I’ll do it myself,” is wrong. They’re just different.

Faking It Doesn’t Work

My wife and I are big fans of the show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives with Guy Feiri. In late 2017 there was a spin-off show, Guy’s Big Project, to find the host and concept for a new, similar, show showcasing certain types of restaurants (no spoiler alert, just that it’s a fun show with a surprising ending).

They started with 10-12 contestants and eliminated them over a number of episodes. When they got down to the final group they had them prepare a meal and present it to a group of celebrity chefs.

One of the contestants booked himself as being weird (and it seems he is a bit weird). What the chef judges didn’t like is how he “tried too hard” to be weird. Weirder than his normal.

There’s a lesson for all of us in this. You have to be yourself because when you try too hard you’re faking it and others will notice. It reeks of insincerity. You can’t be like your boss, father, mother, mentor, coach, or anybody else. Just because your boss wears ugly ties doesn’t mean you should.

Be yourself, it works.

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” Roger Staubach

Tax Law Confusion

As I write this I have just sent my CPA a note asking if they’re sending out a summary of the new tax law and how it affects small businesses. I’m not sure what I’ll get back. Not because of my CPA firm but because of the way the tax law was sloppily slapped together (probably with a lot of lobbyist input).

On my table are four articles from the Wall Street Journal with the following titles:

  • Apple set to pay big tax bill, touts U.S. spending
  • The one tax change that really bites businesses
  • Tax law to drive savings, buybacks
  • Some small business to miss tax break

While a tax layman I think I’m sharp enough to draw some conclusions from all I’ve read about this. One is if it’s a large corporation the odds are it will get a tax break. If you’re a small business, an LBO specialist, or emerging company (especially with a lot of debt) you don’t know what’s in store for you.

A Florida accountant who works with entrepreneurs said (in the last WSJ article listed), “My head is spinning. I have been doing this for decades and even I don’t feel comfortable.” Marshall Goldsmith, noted coach and author (What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and many more books) was quoted about taking the new pass-through entity deduction saying, “My accountant is not sure how this impacts me. I guess my answer is, ‘I don’t know.’”

Bottom line, don’t run your business like the government does tax laws. Take your time, pay attention, and do things right the first time.

“Every new year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a longline of proven criminals.” Ogden Nash

Refresh Relationships – In-Person

The New Year is a time of refreshing (and it seemed a lot of people kept refreshing the first week of January and then it got very busy the second week), out with the old, in with the new, etc. I’ve seen a few things questioning why it’s this way when for most people, what they do this week is similar to what they did before the holidays.

The answer for most of us is because it’s a new tax year. We record on an annual basis to pay the taxman. It often also means new initiatives, because it’s a new recording period.

My big change is realizing there are some areas in which I can add great value, but don’t have the bandwidth to help these people. Thus, I have a new employee who will take some office work away from me, get out in the community, and eventually take on client work.

When I say get out in the community I mean it. Recently I saw the following in a blog post by Alan Weiss:

According to Jonah Berger’s research (the author of Invisible Influence and Contagious) word-of-mouth is by far still the THE most important marketing dynamic, and only 7% of it is virtually viral. You read that correctly: All of the rest is personal and conversational in “real” life, not virtual… Stop hiding behind a keyboard and get out on the streets to meet with buyers. You don’t build relationships with a “return” key. You build them with a handshake.

No matter what business you’re in, electronic outreach is fine, but it won’t get you much in the way of long-term clients/customers. As I preach to my clients, and tell students in my class at the local SBA office, when you do the things you’re supposed to do (meet people), good things happen. And it’s the good things that are memorable and make us appreciate what we do.

“Try as often as possible to do something you’ll remember, because memories make us rich.” Vic Ketchman

Timing is Everything – Proven

On December 30, 2017 the Wall Street Journal featured a column by Daniel Pink, How to Be Healthier, Happier and More Productive: It’s All in the Timing, which was an excerpt from his new book When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. I’ve started reading the book and found this article to be an excellent introduction to the book.

The article concentrates on timing during the day. Pink writes that we all have cycles, most of us on a cycle of peak-trough-rebound, although about 20% of people are truly night owls, with a cycle of rebound-trough-peak. Because of this cycle, most of us are creative in the afternoon, during our rebound period. Our analytical skills tend to be best during the late morning, after we’re energized and in a groove, and before we hit the mid-day slump, i.e. trough.

What I found interesting was the study’s research on exercise. Exercising in the morning allows for:

  • Building a routine (we do it before we get tired and/or distracted).
  • Boosting our mood.
  • Losing weight, because people generally don’t eat before early exercise and therefore burn fat not food.

Exercising in the afternoon or evening gives:

  • Fewer injuries because as our body temperature rises during the day our muscles are warmer.
  • Better performance (cardio and strength).

Last fall I wrote about a book titled, Rest. Similar to what’s in Rest, When recommends we take more breaks to increase productivity. This was shown to be true in a study of students and their taking of tests during different times of the day. Morning tests generate higher scores. But afternoon tests after a break yielded much better results than without breaks. The efficiency of working with others also improves after a break.


What was really interesting was that when the break included being outdoors, people who took a short outdoor walk were happier and more rested than those whose break included walking around indoors. In the book Rest, one of the focal points was how Charles Darwin took daily outdoor walks. He also took (what I’ll call) super breaks, aka naps.


It appears the more we study human patterns and tendencies the more we get away from the philosophy that everybody needs to work, work, work. This is especially true for people who use creativity to some extent. This could be writing, art, sales, problem solving, and much more. The concepts above don’t apply to those of us on an assembly line, running a CNC machine, hanging drywall, or similar. But, it’s also known regular breaks from physical work increase productivity (I remember this from my Production 101 class).

The above lends credence to what I tell students in my Dynamically Grow A Consulting Business at the SBA office, find your best time of the day for certain tasks and do those tasks at those times. And, in the final topic, on life balance, I emphasize taking breaks.

Employee Lesson From Sports

In early January the Seattle Times broke a story saying the Green Bay Packers asked the Seattle Seahawks permission to interview Seahawks general manager John Schneider for the GM job in Green Bay.

The Seahawks refused permission and Schneider supposedly wanted to interview for (and wanted) the job. The Times reported NFL rules say permission can be denied if it’s a lateral move but can’t be denied if it’s a promotion. It became a moot point Sunday when the Packers filled the position.

I doubt this will have any effect on any of the parties moving forward but things like this can be sticky situations. Many years ago a client had an employee leave, they went to enforce a non-solicitation agreement, the customer said, “we don’t want to be in the middle so figure it out (without us).” What do you do? Run up legal bills, lose any chance with the customer, or let it go?

I remember another client who did everything right when hiring someone but the industry’s 800-pound gorilla put their legal department on it and the cost of winning wasn’t worth it.

What’s interesting about sports is it’s in the culture to groom people (primarily assistant coaches) for advancement, knowing the advancement will probably be with another team. There’s pride in seeing protégés move ahead, as it should be.

“Never take anyone’s advice.” John Banville

Taxes, Deficits, and the Future

I just received a notice on my phone from the Wall Street Journal saying the federal deficit this year will be $984 billion.
I majored in Economics (undergrad and grad school), my program was primarily monetarist professors (versus Keynesians), monetarist meaning Milton Friedman was a hero (as were low deficits).
There is nothing wrong with deficits, especially in a strong country like the US, and also when times are tough. But this high a deficit when times are great makes no sense. This is when we should be running surpluses, like we did in the 1990’s.
It’s like our businesses or households. There’s a time for debt (mortgage, car, line of credit, new equipment, etc.) but it’s also important to save. We don’t want to leave our children with (personal) debt and we shouldn’t leave them with government debt either.
My conclusion is, it doesn’t matter which party is in control, when in power they all spend like money grows on trees.

Integrity and Relationships

I was reading an interview with a noted Seattle real estate developer and when asked about what he learned from his first mentor he stated it was the value of relationships, and the value of integrity.
Pretty good lessons I’d say. It’s tough to do business without great relationships and integrity. Sure, people can make a lot of money with questionable ethics but, in my opinion, at some point it catches up with them.
As many people know, I preach the power of relationships to my clients in the buy-sell world. In small to mid-sized deals nobody buys from or sells to somebody they don’t like (or trust). When one client disagreed with me I pointed out how the seller gets along with the customers and employees and if the buyer and seller don’t get along how will the buyer keep the customers and employees, which are what is really being bought.

If You’re in Business You’re Providing Value

Recently we had to take our Kitchen Aid mixer in for repairs. I was amazed at the sight of hundreds and hundreds of small appliances on the shelves of the repair shop. In this age where so much is disposable (think electronics like a DVD player) there were a lot of items being rehabilitated.

It demonstrates there’s a need for all kinds of services. The shoe repair shop near us looks the same, hundreds of items on the shelves. Good shoes or boots cost hundreds of dollars and it makes sense people want to keep them even when the basic parts wear out.

Think about where you add value. The above examples are simple to understand. Your appliance works again or your shoes don’t leak. At “Partner” On-Call we always said our goal is to have our clients better off with us versus without us. Here’s a simple three step process.

  • Determine how you can get in front of more people you can help (it’s using the phone and in-person meetings, not Twitter).
  • How do you figure out the value you can add (ask questions)?
  • Impress them with valuable information before they hire you (no hard sell, have them realize what they’ll be missing without you on their team).

We all can provide value. But if your value stays hidden within you it’s not helping anybody.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful, that a life spent doing nothing.” George Bernard Shaw