By Willow Older, Former Editor-in-Chief, Intuit QuickBooks Community
You know that working for yourself means wearing countless hats, juggling endless tasks, making myriad decisions and, in short, doing whatever it takes to move your business forward. Given the non-stop, all-in nature of the job, the idea of one day selling what you’ve worked so hard to build may seem strange, if not downright nuts.
Yet seasoned entrepreneur, business coach and rockstar QB Community member Julie Gordon White (@JulieatTheWELL) wants you to carefully and deliberately plan for a future sale, starting right now (or, better yet, yesterday). Julie, who founded a coaching and training organization for female entrepreneurs called The WELL, firmly believes every business owner – particularly women – should embrace a solid business strategy at the outset with a specific end-goal in mind: to one day sell your company for $1 million or more.
Why think big from day one?
While you digest that lofty goal, let’s break things down a bit. First, it’s worth noting that Julie more than walks her talk. She launched her own highly successful mergers and acquisitions firm, helping to sell businesses across practically every industry, from “flower shops to consulting firms.” Next, Julie wrote a best-selling book called Exit! 12 Steps to Sell Your Business for the Price You Deserve. Today she uses her “super power” to help women entrepreneurs think strategically from the very beginning about building and growing their business.
Julie says female entrepreneurs are particularly likely to benefit from embracing a strategic mindset early on. Since women often start their business to pursue a passion project or have flexibility while raising a family – both fantastic reasons – few consider growing their company for a future high-stakes sale. In fact, research shows the majority of women-owned companies top out at $202,000 in value.
Julie uses a simple analogy to put her “think ahead” strategy into perspective. “If you’ve ever sold a house, you know it always looks best right before you sell. You paint, put in new plants, maybe even remodel the kitchen. Then it looks so good you think, ‘Why didn’t I do this years ago? Now I don’t want to sell!’ If you make your business as great as it can be from the very beginning, you’ll enjoy running it so much more. And when it comes time to sell, it will be worth more, too.”
“I want to impart the idea you can work hard, love your business and get the pot of gold at the entrepreneurial rainbow,” Julie adds. “If your company is systematized and well run, life will be good. If it’s not, your business is going to run you.”
One more reason to start building for the future today? “You’re going to be more creative and have a lot more fun along the way if you’re not doing everything by the seat of your yoga pants!”
Julie’s three steps to business success
Let’s dive in to Julie’s strategy for building a business you love right now – and a future buyer will love, too.
1. Seek alignment. It’s worth stating this fairly obvious truth: If you build a company based on a product or service you don’t truly, madly, deeply love, chances are, you won’t be super motivated to give it the attention it needs (and deserves). Same goes for a business that isn’t totally aligned with your inherent skills and expertise. Julie says a surefire way avoid this problem is to make a list of what you’re great at.
Consider these “alignment” guidelines (and channel your own Mrs. Fields):
2. Identify your ideal client. “The core of what I teach is the importance of being crystal clear about who is your ideal client,” says Julie. Of course, knowing who they are is one thing. Knowing where you can find them is even more critical. Why? Because that information will drive all your lead generation to come. Since a predictable flow of leads creates a predictable flow of revenue, never underestimate the value of precisely defining the “who” and “where” of your customer base.
Julie recommends defining your ideal client in terms of a “Business Love Triangle.” The three “sides” of the triangle are 1) love who you serve 2) serve what you love and 3) serve it with those who love both.
Here are four things to keep in mind when figuring out who you want to work with.
3. Create proprietary processes. If you’re going to grow company, your systems and processes must be organized, scalable and repeatable. “Trying to customize every engagement or transaction is a losing proposition,” Julie explains. Instead, you can save precious time, money and resources by creating 1-3 profitability “tiers” of service or product packages for clients to choose from.
Julie shares an example from her own business. “I teach my ‘Scale to a Million Playbook’ program to both individuals and groups. The content is the same, but I offer the program in an online group format, privately one-to-one, and, occasionally, as a workshop – with three different price points based on the number of participants."
Another tip? Don’t forget to streamline your internal systems, too. For example, if you’re hiring employees, put a solid onboarding process in place. “Having someone shadow you is a terrible way to train a new hire,” says Julie. “Use your proprietary process as the framework for your training program, and you’ll be on your way to scaling your business to a million.”
One more (really important) thing …
Here’s one more straightforward tip for women entrepreneurs. Whatever you think you should charge for your services, double it. “I guarantee,” says Julie, “you’re undercharging.”