Question 9 of 12 before selling your business – Can the business thrive without me?

Tip 9 of 12

Can the business thrive without me?

If a buyer is concerned that a business is too dependent on the owner or a single customer, he may take his offer elsewhere. A good business can operate when the owner is on vacation and has good revenue diversification, where no one customer represents more than five percent of the business.

Many entrepreneurs hope to grow a business that will one day run without them. Matt Shoup, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member from Colorado, is founder and CEO of He helps inspire and encourage CEOs and leaders around the world with life, love, and leadership advice. Matt provides the advice below for entrepreneurs who would like their business to run without them.

Here are the steps Matt recommend to others looking to ensure that their business can run without them.

1. Stop hovering and answering questions. You hire people for a reason, so let them do their jobs. When team members have specific roles and you move out of the way to let them fill them, you get a group of inspired and empowered team members. When you “hover” and watch over them, they tend to be less motivated and come to you with questions instead of figuring out things on their own. Now, to such questions, I often respond, “I trust your decision, which is why I hired you.”

2. Take a mini vacation. There is no better way to see how the company runs without you than leaving it. Plan a vacation during which you are completely unavailable for one to four weeks. When you come back, evaluate where issues arose, and unanswered questions linger. These bottlenecks will show you how you can and should empower your team.

3. Become the grandparent. When team members are new to the organization, they are like “children”–they don’t know what they don’t know. You teach them the basics of their position through their “teenage” years. As they become trustworthy “adults” who are ready to bring new leadership and team members within the company, you must give them room to do that. You now become the “grandparent”; they are old enough to make their own decisions and appreciate the repercussions of making the wrong ones.

4. Delegate the role. Although Matt is the CEO and leader of his company, his job description did not match his title, so he erased his role from the whiteboard and listed out his last year of activities. From there, he categorized and delegated everything. He realized that he was doing 10-15 percent of each one of my leader’s roles. Changing this did not create more responsibility for his existing team–instead it gave them the opportunity to fully take on their responsibilities and roles.

5. Let failure happen. As his leadership team ran things independently, he noticed them doing things he would not have done. Sometimes, they find better ways that produce more effective outcomes. When he first saw a small failure, he jumped in to help. However, he learned to embrace failure as an opportunity to coach and lead his team.

6. Get rid of anything that can tie you to the company. When Matt left the company, he handed over the company vehicle to a sales team member, turned in all his company shirts and gear, threw away his business cards, and canceled his phone extension. In his case, the company has been part of his identity for a third of his life. This step is extremely difficult, but he believes it is crucial.

7. Let yourself go and announce it. Once everything was in line for my exit, he made that known publicly. He posted on social media that he was “let go” from my company, which led to some interesting calls and messages. He also announced any promotions, new roles, and acknowledgments that needed to happen in the company. This created some wonderful free exposure and got a lot of people talking about his company.

8. Avoid the “zone.” His dominant personality can lead to him getting trapped in the zone of running things. These bad habits can linger. But as you stay away from the triggers, they will lose their hold on you. Understanding how you are wired and how you will get sucked back toward the business is important.

It wasn’t easy for him to step away. It still isn’t, but he believes this is the framework to create a machine that runs without you, while honoring who you are, what you stand for, and what you have built over the years.

Most entrepreneurs shift over time from Finders to Minders or Grinders. Finders live in the future with little regard to what happened in the past. Minders live in the past and are not future thinkers. Grinders are only concerned about what happened today; no concern is given to the past or the future. Finders often do not delegate certain tasks to people simply because they do not trust others within the company. In this situation, we need to ask two questions:

1. Is the problem with the Finder?
2. Is the problem with the Minder or Grinder?

The solution to this dilemma may be a difficult one to find if the Finder is the reason for the lack of trust. Sometimes the lack of trust is because the company does not have written policies and procedures (infrastructure) that give comfort to the Finder that the job will be done correctly. Often, the Finder feels that nobody can do the job correctly. Sometimes the Finder simply has an issue with trust. Ultimately, the Finder must delegate tasks to people in order to grow the company.

Answers to these and many more questions can be found in The Exit Strategy Handbook. See Chapter 5, “Increasing the Value of Your Business,” page 60.

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