Most entrepreneurs and leaders know when their team isn’t aligned or working in the most efficient way. It
shows up in petty arguments, protection of resources or turf, being blindsided by priority failure, customer issues, cash flow problems, and on and on. As a leader, you feel the knot in your stomach or a mental cloud that follows you wherever you go. Even if you can’t articulate the issue, you can feel it. I’ve seen hundreds of team and individual patterns, which can typically be traced to a lack of alignment and transparency. Ultimately, this can kill the value, if not the operation, of your business.
When it comes to the value of your business, one of my trusted sources is John Warrillow, creator of the Value Builder System and author of The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry and Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You. Here’s what John has to say regarding 10 of the 11 ways to Kill Your Business:
They say heart disease is the "silent killer" because there are no outward symptoms of clogged arteries. You walk around oblivious to the growing risk inside your body until, one day, you wake up in a hospital bed--or worse.
Similarly, there are a number of business attributes that can be secretly dragging down the value of your company. We see this all the time with the business owners who use the Value Builder System. We ask each owner who starts with us to do an assessment of what his or her business is worth. Inevitably, we find things that are silently dragging down the value of their company. In most cases, fixing the problems is relatively easy as long as they know what the problems are.
Here's a list of some of the most common "silent killers" that are decreasing the value of the businesses we evaluate:
1. Customer Concentration
Strive to have a diversified customer base so that no one customer makes up more than 15% of your revenue.
2. Declining Gross Margin
If your gross margin is dropping as you grow, a professional buyer may draw the conclusion that your competitive advantage is weakening and you're having to compete on price to win customers.
3. Ugly Lease
If your lease includes a change of ownership provision that requires you to seek the permission of the landlord before selling, this can scare off some buyers.
4. Supplier Over-dependence
Seek to have a variety of sources for your raw materials. If you're forced to buy from one supplier, their negotiating leverage over you can drag down your company's value.
5. Sloppy Books
Keep your books clean. Nothing scares off a buyer faster than shoddy, inaccurate bookkeeping.
6. Regulated Markets
If you operate in a market where a change in government attitudes towards your industry can dramatically impact your business, expect buyers to get cold feet.
7. Employee Flight Risks
If you have a handful of key employees, make sure they are locked into some sort of incentive plan that rewards them to stay beyond the sale of your business.
8. Owner Dependence
Strive to ensure that your company runs well when you're on vacation. After all, for a business to be valuable to someone else, it needs to survive when you're gone for good.
9. One-off Revenue
Try to create recurring revenue through subscriptions and service contracts so a buyer can see where solid sales will come from in the future.
10. Bad Buzz
Try to ensure that the majority of your customers are willing to recommend your business. A buyer can and may check the satisfaction level among your customers before making an offer.
Avoid these silent killers and you'll have a healthy business that will command a good price when it is time to sell.
John’s advice is solid and I would add to number 10 above, use some version of a Net Promoter Score (NPS) to monitor customer satisfaction.
So, you may be wondering, what's number 11 on the list? I alluded to it in the opening paragraph. Number 11 is alignment and transparency in reporting weekly progress toward the agreed-to priorities. The faster and more accurately that you can know your ‘real’ status, the faster your team can be productive and create value.
Work on the above list and enjoy no more petty arguments, turf protection, being blindsided by priority failure, customer issues, cash flow crunch, and more. The knot in your stomach is gone, the mental cloud blown away. When you’re aligned, you can feel it. Besides, you’ll build business value, have a more cohesive team, and improve the operation of your business.
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