Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You
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Built to Sell is a compelling story of an entrepreneur’s journey to create a valuable and sellable business. The story revolves around Alex Stapleton, a business owner who struggles with his advertising agency’s dependency on him. With the guidance of his mentor Ted, Alex embarks on a transformational journey that turns his business into a valuable, sellable enterprise. Through Ted’s advice, Alex could transform his company from a worthless asset into a successful business worth $5 million.
This engaging narrative teaches entrepreneurs the crucial steps to building a business that can thrive without them, making it an attractive acquisition target.
Warrillow explores the various factors that can affect a company’s success and how to build a successful business without its owner. He also provides a step-by-step guide that will help readers follow their own path.
In 2012, both Inc. and Fortune chose Built to Sell as one of their top 10 picks for business owners.
About John Warrillow
John Warrillow is a successful entrepreneur, speaker, and bestselling author. He founded four companies, including The Value Builder System, which helps business owners improve the value of their companies. Warrillow’s expertise in entrepreneurship and business management has made him a sought-after speaker at various events and conferences.
His other bestselling books include The Automatic Customer and Drilling for Gold. Warrillow’s work has been featured in several publications, including The Globe, Mail, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.
StoryShot #1: Turn a Worthless Company Around
Alex owned an advertising agency known as the Stapleton Agency, which had seven employees. Sarah, the agency’s senior designer, worked on various projects for MNY Bank, the company’s client. During a meeting with John Stevens, the head of marketing at the bank, Alex showed eight different mockups for the bank’s brand.
After meeting with Sarah, Alex informed her she needed to make some changes to improve the work she was doing for the bank. The next day, Sarah told him she was quitting. She was the best designer in the company, but she was not happy about her new job and was going to leave. Alex was also thinking about selling his company. The agency was not doing well financially, and the other employees were not particularly good at any task.
Before making a big decision, Alex met with Ted, a wealthy entrepreneur who had sold several companies. He told Alex that the company was not doing well financially, and it was competing against other firms. He also noted that it would be difficult to sell the company without major changes.
Alex had taken on various projects requiring diverse talent. However, being limited to hiring generalists instead of specialists impacted the overall quality of the work. Ted advised Alex to specialize in a specific area, allowing him to hire experts and improve the quality of his services.
StoryShot #2: Follow a Five-Step Design Process
The agency’s logo was the best thing the company could do, and they used a five-step process to create it:
- They first asked the client about its goals, and they also asked them silly questions, such as “What would a cookie taste like?” The designers then sketched out ideas.
- Before creating the final design, they created a better black-and-white version of the logo based on the client’s feedback. Ted suggested Alex focus on logos, as this strategy would allow him to focus on one field.
- Ted also told Alex that he should not have a client that brings in more than 15 percent of the company’s total revenue. In Alex’s case, MNY Bank was the client of the company, which contributed 40 percent of the company’s revenue.
- He then created a sell sheet that detailed the process of his logo design.
- He then contacted some of his previous clients to see if they liked it. He met with a client named Zucca, who was developing a new product and needed a new logo. After talking about his process with her, she was hooked and asked for a proposal.
StoryShot #3: Sell the Process
Ted told Alex that he should learn how to master a process that would allow him to control everything the company does. For instance, if the company started selling a product, it could ask its clients to pay in advance to establish a positive cash flow cycle. Also, if Alex wanted to sell the company, he would have to find people who could deliver the same quality of work.
Ted then told Alex he should create an instruction manual that would explain the process of his logo design. He said perfecting it would allow his employees to do the work he did. After completing the first draft, Alex presented his manual to his team.
During the meeting, Elijah, the company’s youngest designer, was unhappy with the strategy. After talking to him, he decided to leave the company. This was a slight relief for Alex, as he would have one less designer, but it could also affect the relationship between the company and MNY Bank.
A letter from Urban Sports Warehouse informed Alex that they wanted the company to handle all their marketing. He was thrilled about the opportunity, but he knew that it was the right decision to reject the offer. Since his company was more competitive than other agencies, they would require him to work for them for five years. He would also have to meet certain milestones in order to get fully paid.
StoryShot #4: Build a Sales Team to Take Your Business to the Next Level
During the next meeting, Ted and Alex would talk about his sales engine. One of the most important factors that a potential buyer would consider when it comes to choosing a company is the stability of his team. He needed to make sure that he had the necessary changes to improve his team.
After talking about his sales engine, Alex decided to let go of Dean, his account director, and Tony, his copywriter. This would allow him to hire two more salespeople.
He met with Blake, who had experience in the advertising industry, and Angie, who had been a successful product salesperson for small businesses. Both of them had the necessary skills and knowledge to help the company grow.
Ted told Alex to avoid hiring Blake as he had the necessary skills and knowledge to help the company grow. He had the necessary experience to cater to clients and sell services. However, Alex needed to hire a product specialist, and Angie had the necessary skills to sell products. He then hired her and brought in a former colleague named Seamus to work for him.
Harry, the company’s accountant, informed Alex that he would be losing money this month due to the fees that he and his team charged for a logo. Ted, however, assured him that they were fine and that they were currently implementing a new system.
They would be able to start doing well in three months, and the next two years would not be easy. Ted also told Alex that he wanted to get the company to a value of $5 million. At this time, the company was worth less than $500,000.
We rate Built to Sell 4.2/5.
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This piece was first published in October 2022. It was revised and updated on 23/03/2023.
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