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While driving on I-90 over Snoqualmie pass and through Eastern Washington we encountered numerous drivers in the left lane who were slowing the cars behind them. We maneuvered around one who was coasting in the left lane as he went by a sign that said, “Keep right other than to pass.”

Coasting is the apropos word for too many businesses. I see this constantly when evaluating companies that want to sell. The owner gets in a comfort zone, is making a great income and doesn’t want to take even manageable risks that should lead to growth.

Of course, these are the owners who, when they decide to sell, like to talk about their business’s potential and insinuate they should be paid for that potential now, even though it hasn’t been realized as they coast.

What happens is usually one of the following three things:

  1. The company ends up with mediocre employees because the good employees feel stifled and look for a job with more opportunity.
  2. Buyers see a stagnant company and aren’t willing to pay the “high end of the fair price range.”
  3. The competition is aggressive and innovative, sails by and compounds the previous two issues.

“A mistake is simply another way of doing things.” Katherine Graham

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