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6 Secrets To An Effective Business Exit Strategy

business team - man standing outAre prospects lining up to look at buying your company?

Ready to make that happen?

Before I explain how, you have a choice to make.

How do you intend to get a return on your investment in your business? What’s your exit strategy?

Imagine this: Your business is what acquirers are looking for. They may be willing to pay you millions for this brainchild you built… if you have made it saleable.

To understand the power of this opportunity, appreciate that 90% of successful business owners who attempt to sell, fail. They did not choose to become saleable. A Painful Experience!

Grow your business to the next level and become saleable (because you never know when a buyer will knock on your door) by becoming a ‘Go-to’ company.

‘Go-to’ companies protect and grow their profits by easily attracting new fans. Not by social media. Not by blogging. Not with enviously gripping marketing copy. With intangibles that are hard to copy.

Did you know that becoming a ‘go to’ company is essential if you want to:

  • Be more profitable.
  • Scale your business.
  • Attract your next owner, by selling on the way up. (Not on the way down as unprepared owners do!)

There are six steps to uncovering your sauce, embedding it in your operation and working it to attract fans and have a profitable business.

Step 1: Learn the Secrets of Sauce

All businesses have core competency. Your Secret Sauce is embedded in ‘how’ you deliver that core competency.

Let’s take restaurants, an experience we can all relate to. Generally, core competency hallmarks are in how we are treated, the taste of the food, the cost, the atmosphere, convenience and our last experience there.

But these basics are not enough to bring repeat business.

The Secret Sauce adds the magic layer.

Given there are two restaurants to choose from, which will win you over? Your answer lies in the winner’s Secret Sauce.

In B2B, our choices are also guided by our consumer experiences.

My favorite example: A distributor whose customers are contractors on the road all day. They provide clean washrooms, barista stations, and lounges with free Internet. Contractors love this company – they talk sports, technical issues, share tips and order more products as a result.

Lesson? Build your customer experience for a narrow niche.

Resolve your niche’s specific problems and needs in a delightful, ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ way that awakens them from their stupor to say, Wow, impressive! I like this place! I like these people, and I like how they work with me!

So, what happens when your company becomes the go-to company?

  • Referrals
  • Higher Margins
  • Star Performers
  • Growth Capital
  • No Competitors

Becoming a “Go-to” company may be the smartest decision you’ve ever made!

Step 2: Think Evolution, Not Revolution

A “Go-to” company isn’t built overnight – it isn’t a destination. It’s an evolution. (We keep getting better at solving the right problem in ways that make us more relevant to our clients).

Adding Secret Sauce means re-inventing the business so it works for the people you serve.

Re-inventing may cost you at first and then pay off. It reduces business risk.

Be your customer. Think about your business like the person you are when you are not working—you know, the weekend person who consumes stuff.

Step 3: Build Your Awareness

Use this ‘Build Your Awareness’ exercise to hone observational skills.

Think of a bad experience at a business.

That’s Business #1. Think about its competitor, Business #2:

Answer the questions about each company in narrative form; then create your own rating scale.

  • How was the atmosphere when you walked in?
  • Did you start to compare prices, or was it deeply and satisfyingly worth every penny?
  • Did you feel cared for, or grudgingly dealt with?
  • What did the staff do to get your engagement?
  • What or whom did you appreciate most? How come? What did they do or say that made a difference for you?
  • Which business would you return to and why?

Rate your answers by comparing Business #1 with Business #2.

Look for common themes in your favorite business. What do they do that makes them your ‘go-to’ company?

Step 4: Think Like a Picky Consumer

Ever been frustrated in a buying experience? We all have. Which is what has made us Picky Consumers! You want to be treated the right way, or you won’t be back!

Despite frustrations, we are unlikely to think deeply about what worked or didn’t work. We rant or barely register a ho-hum experience!

That’s the point—how would you like to own a business that people easily forget or complain about over dinner? Listen to your Picky Consumer concerns!

Step 5: Learn How to See Into a Business

Wear your Picky Consumer Hat now.

How do you know if a professional service provider is right for you? We rely on friends ‘in-the-know’ to help us ‘see inside a business’.

Does this firm have secret sauce?

We needed a tax specialist.

Weeks later we meet the highly regarded referral. We sit on stackable chairs, still in our coats, facing his wall of achievements and credentials.

He sits in a comfortable chair at his desk and asks two questions.

We spend minutes explaining our situation. He doesn’t ask clarifying questions.

Instead, he spends an hour describing his wizardry rescuing people from Catch 22 tax problems. Fascinating. Except we don’t have a Catch 22. We need advice regarding how to avoid a Catch 22!

Then he offers to send us articles to answer our questions.

A week passes. An envelope arrives. No articles. We receive an invoice for the privilege of listening to him.

Can You See Inside This Business?

By seeing the flaws, you suddenly see what needs to be changed to add the Secret Sauce this man is missing.

Does he have Secret Sauce? Surprise! Yes. Does he wrap it into how we experience his firm? Not in the least.

His Sauce? He is an expert pattern recognizer. Clearly, he rescues people from their Catch 22s. In fact, 
he loves rescuing over anything else! Yet he sells himself as an accountant, not a tax problem guy.

He should narrow his focus to “Got yourself in tax hot water? Call Ronny the Tax Rescuer.” And offer no other services.

We needed the: “Want to avoid tax landmines? Call Tommy the Tax Preventer.” Tommy’s friends would make better referrals knowing this positioning statement.

Step 6: Weave Care Into Your Customers’ Experience

Layer in the next ingredient.

Model transparency, authenticity and curiosity to generate mouth watering, have to have more, Secret Sauce.

You and your team are curious because you value making a difference in the lives of others—your coworkers, customers and your boss.

Genuine curiosity sounds like this: “Tell me more about what’s important to you about this situation. What outcome are you hoping for?”

Masters of the “Go-to” game know how to ask the right questions to gain and exchange meaningful relevant information.

When people hear/see/feel you care, they respond.

It’s Time To Invite Picky Consumers To Shop Your Business.

Using the questions from your analysis of business #1 and business #2, give ‘shoppers’ permission to describe pet peeves experienced and acknowledge what worked.

Review their narratives. You’ll see your unique talents, core competencies (or, lack of), and you’ll recognize the missing ‘care’ ingredients needed to amplify Secret Sauce.

It might not be easy to fix the problems that bury your Sauce. Neither is it fun owning a business that struggles to stand out. Which future would you prefer?

We’d love to hear about Secret Sauce you admire and how you found yours. Tell us your experience.

Remember, amplifying your Secret Sauce is a ‘go-to’ strategy that puts your business on a buyer’s radar. That’s how to get a return on your investment in your business so it’s saleable!

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