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Start-up to Exit Strategy, Companies Follow a Predictable Development Path

Aug 17, 2007
No matter which stage of development your client's company is in - there are issues requiring your services. You can help them see around the corner ahead - because you know what's coming. You may be the voice of reason. You may be the outsider they are looking for - no hidden agenda, no ax to grind, no previous advice to protect.

Or are your services no different than your competitors?

Really, why should people do business with you and not one of them? You've got to have a very good answer for that, or you are on your way out of business.

In an earlier piece I discussed the importance of finding and owning your niche, your target audience around which you create your unique selling proposition.

That description was based on the principles of psychographic marketing, a strategy of focusing on what your audience has in common, learning everything you can about that commonality, and positioning your solutions around issues that effect each of them.

In another article I described how "Doing It Right" can play an important learning/teaching role, making you feel more at home calling on and selling your services to business owners. I know it works, I published it based on almost three decades of real-life experience.

Here is another way to choose your ideal client type, based on where they are on the curve from start-up to sale or exit strategy.

In the previous article I suggested a 'vertical' psychographic process, every prospect being in the same industry for example, an industry you already know something about or have existing credibility in.

Here is another way to look at your target market, one that may help you further identify where you want to work, where your specific knowledge, skill, and abilities will have the greatest impact.

How about working with start-ups?
When businesses are just getting going, everything that each of them does they are doing for the first time. There will always be mistakes when creating business strategies, but at this stage the mistakes can cause the business to fail before it even has a chance.

Perhaps your specialized knowledge, that unique perspective you bring to the equation, is especially suited to helping these entrepreneurs. I know a business coach who has conclusively demonstrated to me his clients and me, that without him, they would fail failed and lost everything.

What have you learned or experienced to date that gives you special insights when working with people at this fragile stage?

Perhaps yours can be the voice of experience, the voice of reason - while their excitement runs from high to low from one minute to the next.

There are three principles for new business failures. How can you help?

One is a lack of experience, can you help them with this? Do you have a coachable point of view worth paying for?

Another is a lack of money, they run out of money before their revenues exceed their expenses. Again, can you help them figure out what's important to use their limited resources on? Can you help them set priorities, make decisions strategically so they will have a fighting chance to get over the hump?

And finally, the business was a bad idea. You know, "It seemed like a good idea at the time." Can you be a voice of reason? Your interactions might help them redirect their energies and resources into a more productive venture.

How about working with businesses that have escaped the failure of most entrepreneurs?
This business is a survivor that has beaten the odds, moving from the weekly panic that the payroll will bounce - to one that is looking for more employees, more equipment, and perhaps a more professional management structure.

This business must build on what's working, focusing on what's important to their continued growth.

Even though they are successful. seventy-five percent of them will fail to outlive their founder. The average life span of this successful company is 23 years.

Why is that? Maybe they lost their focus, their identity, or their vision. Maybe things were going so well they quit doing them.

Is this a coachable opportunity for you? You bet. They have already demonstrated that they have a viable economic proposition. They did not already go broke like eighty or ninety percent of the other start ups.

If they recognize that you can be part of their turnaround, in your manner, in your attitude, and in your focus on them, they will pay your price. After all, their very life (business and personal) depends on the business and hopefully on you too.

Maybe you can focus of companies that have hit a "flat spot" in their developmental process.
It happens to all successful companies after the making money equation has been figured out, the founders of the business are making more money that they ever thought possible, and they have not yet started thinking about what is going to happen to the company when they are ready to step down.

The people begin to be effected by a sort of malaise, stagnation brought on by no urgent battles to fight.

The business proposition is working just fine thank you very much, often in spite of them. They're making money, living the good life - but there is a lot of dissatisfaction often under the surface. There's no joy in the process.

This is where most coaching takes place in business today. Can you see yourself as part of their solution?

Issues such as conflict resolution, executive burnout, lack of motivation, intergenerational conflict, sibling rivalry to name a few.

Opportunities in team building, strategic communications, employee motivation, strategic planning, and on and on.

Maybe you specialize in only one of the above. A place where your specialized knowledge has a maximum value to a group of business owners.

There's no limit to what you can achieve working with companies in the doldrums!

The Final Frontier! Maybe this is where you will find your niche.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the next ten years will see the largest transition of wealth and management in history.

The gigantic boom that began after WWII in the US and gradually around the world over the last fifty years, those business owners who were successful, outlasted their competition, and got past the "flat-spot" in productivity are now passing the torch to those who follow them.

Is this where you belong? Working with the most wealthy among us.

These successful businesses have only three options available to them. What role can you play in the process?

They can be sold, perhaps to strangers, to investors, or to their competitors wishing to consolidate their position in the industry.

To achieve any of these possibilities successfully requires insights and knowledge not likely to be found internally. Perhaps this is an area of special experience for you?

A second option is that the business can be sold at auction at a drastic discount compared to its value as a going concern.

If this is determined to be the only option, special knowledge, strategies, and techniques may help the business owner make the most of this often very negative situation. Can you add value in this process?

Or the company can continue on in the life of a family member or other insider. This is the preferred option by the vast majority of business owners.

Succession planning in expectation of this option works best when developed over time.

Gauging the commitment of the successor generation, the owners not ready for retirement yet, but are ready to share the management load, or perhaps no one wants to run the place in the next generation. How can you help them uncover what's important to each of them?

Each business determined to continue beyond the retirement of the founder offer those of you who specialize with them, virtually unlimited opportunities for coaching, training, and mentoring.

And those opportunities are not just for business and executive coaches.

Coaches specializing in pre and post retirement coaching, management, conflict resolution, career coaching, and life coaches will find a fertile field among these wealthy business owners.

I know a life coach who helps high school students whose families own large companies.

Her role is to help them surface their real desires, interests, and aptitudes - so they can move beyond high school toward a productive role in the family business or not.

Her presentations to trade association groups present both sides of the stories, with not a dry eye in the place at the end.

She has all the business she can do working with business owners in a single industry, as well as world of satisfaction helping people see their futures in a positive and exciting light.

My objective here is to help you see your potential prospects from an angle you may not have considered before.

I hope you are making notes and brainstorming with your associates and friends.

I hope you will read all of the articles in this series. I guarantee you that you will be able to come up with a very tight, specific, and accurate description or your ideal client and a very targeted strategy for getting your benefits in front of them.
About the Author
Wayne Messick has spent well over two decades helping business owners position themselves for the future. His legacy of transferable ideas and strategiesfor coaches and consultsnt.
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