BOOK RELEASE: Defusing the Family Business Time Bomb

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new book, Defusing the Family Business Time Bomb!  This isn’t just another family business book.  Why?  Because family businesses are facing the most explosive challenge in a generation.

The reason?  While it is quite normal for a typical family business to be inundated with challenge and change, seldom have so many potential threats been evident:

  • Demographic factors.  The majority of aging Baby Boomer business owners do not have a succession plan and don’t appreciate the reality that there are a limited number of potential successors.
  • Disruption of key industries.  New, complex business models and rapid digital/technological advancement have the potential to reduce valuations and make transition to new ownership either irrelevant or much more costly.
  • Dramatic change in the global economy.  Makes strategic planning difficult, increases competition, and could escalate the cost of doing business, thereby shrinking profit margins.
  • Uncertain financial times.  Complex tax changes, restrictions to family income sprinkling, and a new clawback of the small business deduction all impact profitability, investment opportunities, and access to capital. This challenge could be especially difficult for young entrepreneurs or successors.
  • Typical family business problems.  The conflict, apathy, sudden or emerging illness, or control issues can affect relationships, decision-making and, ultimately, the health of both entities: the family and the company.

Business leaders are under siege, but do they know it?  These issues are significant and very much present in the current business environment, with additional evolution and challenges occurring with each day that passes.

Whether you are a long-time business owner getting ready to transition out or a new entrant to the “gig economy”, poised to grow and expand, you will appreciate this book for its contemporary and practical advice. It brings a common-sense approach to the challenges associated with building a company that has the potential to be sold to someone else in the future. This from two experienced authors and business leaders who have helped the owners, executives, investors, and professional advisors with whom they work to prepare for the most explosive challenge in a generation: the retirement of the Baby Boomers and transition of their companies to a new guard, who face pitfalls and opportunities of their own.

Join me and Evelyn Jacks on this important journey for your business and your family.  Pre-order your copy here!

MEDIA: Dragons’ Den Blog Interview

Thanks to the Dragons’ Den Blog for being in touch to discuss The Worst Ways to Raise Cash as an Entrepreneur; it’s always great to share some tips and traps when it comes to building a company.

Although it’s no secret that there are various approaches than an entrepreneur could take to finance a young venture, this should be considered in a broader context. Startup companies typically receive their initial financing through “founders, family, and friends”, with perhaps some support through grant and similar programs. What tends to get lost in the process is whether or not doing so is actually a good investment.  Considering this includes determining the likelihood of: (i) the capital being repaid, at some point in time; and (ii) the return that could be generated, if any. Doing so can really only be achieved by way of developing a thorough and complete business plan, including a financial forecast for at least a three year period.

Entrepreneurs and business planning don’t always have a good partnership, however.  Business planning tends to get downplayed as “not that important” or “impossible to do for a startup”; both of which are false. When an entrepreneur prepares a business plan, they tend to insufficiently address areas that are of significance to investors, such as industry and market issues and the right business model, and instead, focus on an abundance of product and technical content.  The impact?  Little to no chance of raising investment capital.

Entrepreneurs should, instead, consider whether or not a startup is worth spending their time and money on, as it will surely take plenty of both. It is important to take the time to do so before investing one’s own capital, regardless of the source, and before asking others to do the same. As a business advisor and former venture capitalist, I have seen too many young companies that likely would not have been launched, had these questions been asked and answered in advance. Further to this point, rarely have I met an entrepreneur who actually took the time to do their business planning homework first, although I have met many who wished that they had better understood the financing implications and realistic potential of their company sooner.

Not sure how to address these important areas?  Advisors can help. Not only can they assist with putting the right business planning efforts in place, they can also help to identify opportunities to generate cash sooner, which is another area that entrepreneurs tend to miss.  Contact us to learn more.

When Canada Day is also Tariff Day

Happy Canada Day!  I’m very proud to live in such a beautiful, diverse, and well respected country.

This year, Canada Day includes all of the usual celebrations, but also a particular action that demonstrates our strength and resolve as a country; newly imposed tariffs on the United States, in response to those that have been in force against Canada and other countries since June 1st.  As indicated by both our Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Canada had “no choice” in terms of imposing these tariffs, which represent a response in equal measure, not escalation.  Our government has also taken various steps to help industries impacted by the tariffs, including export diversification, training, and business liquidity support.

Although there are various complexities around how tariffs work, the expectation is that there will be price increases on some items, for both consumers and companies, making the need to source products that are not subject these measures of particular importance.  As there is a lot being said about the implications for consumers, let’s consider some things that Canadian businesses should be thinking about:

  • Know your costs:  Too often, companies do not have a good understanding of the actual cost to deliver products and services, on a current, comprehensive, and complete basis.  Typical shortfalls include not recognizing all of the costs that should be included (such as overhead items or allocation of all labour costs) or not reflecting cost increases and other charges on an ongoing basis.  Not only does this provide a false sense of product margins, it also results in a poor basis for establishing prices.  The latter can be particularly destructive for companies, with each sale occurring at a price that is too low to support operations.
  • Identify supplier options:  Although companies might have longstanding supply and other relationships, it’s never been more important to expand the list.  Managing risk involves identifying a range of suppliers, including outside of the United States, to ensure that options can quickly be accessed, in the event that pricing or delivery terms become untenable.
  • Research market opportunities:  Tariffs can create business opportunities for Canadian companies, in situations where US goods become less price competitive.  Fulfilling market opportunities requires targeted research, and assuming that new business is no different than a company’s current customers is a recipe for disaster.  Take the time to fully understand what’s needed in order to generate success.
  • Secure necessary capital:  Business leaders don’t always remember that approaching new opportunities and generating growth require capital.  Reasons include the need to expand facilities, procure raw materials, increase distribution, hire staff, or conduct the previously mentioned research, often in advance of when sales proceeds are received.  In order to ensure a successful outcome, it’s critical to understand capital requirements, as well as the source, before approaching growth opportunities.
  • Monitor financial results:  As new business opportunities evolve, financial results must be monitored on a timely basis, to ensure that progress is on track.  In order to do so, a company must have a strong complement of fundamental systems, processes, and procedures in place, to ensure that good results and information are being generated.  This includes ensuring that the person in the senior finance role has the right qualifications, skills, and experience, particularly for a growth related company.

Putting these key areas into place generally takes longer than expected, so business leaders should be doing so now.  Advisors can be particularly helpful, including identifying market opportunities, action planning requirements, implementation options, access to partners, and tested solutions that can be fast-tracked, representing a competitive edge.  Feel free to contact us for more information during this important time in the Canadian economy.

NEWS: Executive Business Builder Program Now Available!

As the lead instructor, I’m pleased to announce that the Executive Business Builder Program is now available!

This program is designed to help business leaders build a future-ready company, including building value and best practices, through courses, mentorship, and access to a powerful network of inspirational, like-minded people.  Learn practical strategies for building a company that can generate solid performance and be positioned for transfer to someone else in the future.  Value doesn’t just happen, and leaders need to take tangible steps to enhance their company.

The first course, Strategic Business Planning, is already available, and additional courses are already in development.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to move from business leader to business builder!

NEWS: Strategic Business Planning Course Now Available!

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new Strategic Business Planning Course, the first course in the new Executive Business Builder Program at The Knowledge Bureau.

It might be news to a lot of CEO’s and entrepreneurs that most business plans are not prepared very well.  Although a company’s management might find the plan useful, they tend to fall well short of what external parties, such as potential financial partners, require in order to make a financing or investment decision.  This course provides sound business planning guidelines for both internal and external use, putting leaders in a better position to pursue the necessary capital to support the next level of growth.

Getting it right involves developing a thorough and complete business model, strategy, and plan (including a financial forecast), as well as preparing to make the approach to potential financial partners.  Gain insight into a range of important areas, from the perspective of a former investor, including:

  • The key sections of a business plan and what should be included
  • What to consider when building a business model
  • How to identify and select a target market(s)
  • How to select and position products and services
  • Guidelines for developing a marketing strategy
  • Developing an organizational structure, including identifying key roles
  • Guidelines for preparing a financial forecast, including assumptions
  • The perspective of external parties, such as financial partners
  • Guidelines for approaching financial partners

Details and registration are available here.  Stay tuned for additional courses in the Executive Business Builder Program!

Speaking Tour Day 4: Notes From the Road

We have completed the Western segment of the Distinguished Advisor Workshop (DAW) speaking tour and have met many talented advisors along the way.  As is the case with any session of this nature, the level of value increases when peer learning is part of the process, so your participation is appreciated!

I’ve been sharing thoughts around the topics of business transition and the next generation, as well as business continuity planning.  Some advisors who don’t work in these areas might be asking the question: why should I attend this type of session?  Here are some things to think about:

  • It’s likely that your clients are facing transition related issues, such as business transactions and succession planning.  These areas can require a lot of support to compensate for knowledge gaps, so checking in with clients on a regular basis and getting a sense of what they are up to is an important must for advisors.
  • Although you might not be the one to perform whatever transition related assistance is required, advisors should seek to have a range of skillsets within their professional network, to assist clients when needed.  Advisors that are well connected are in a position to add tremendous value to clients.
  • Those who are not up to date on client needs run the very real risk of being replaced by advisors who do a better job in this regard.  Clients expect more than just completion of the deliverable at hand, and successful advisors know how to ensure that they are providing incremental value.

Advisors can enhance their position by taking the time to understand the issues that their clients are facing, being a supportive, while objective sounding board, and making the right connections when needed.  Raise the likelihood that you are the first call that your clients make, in the comfort that, one way or another, you can help.

Join us at the remaining DAW sessions in Toronto and Ottawa to learn more; you can register here

Speaking Tour Day 3: Notes From the Road

We’ve been out on the Distinguished Advisor Workshop (DAW) speaking tour for a few days now, and have visited Vancouver and Edmonton.  It’s been great to talk to advisors about their own businesses, as well as some of the general situations that arise when working with clients.

I’ve been sharing thoughts around two topic areas: Next Generation Continuity Planning and Building Business Continuity Plans.  Given that so many companies are poised to change hands, now and in the not so distant future, these area critical areas for advisors to understand.  Here are a few thoughts to consider:

  • Transitioning a company from one set of owners to the next (and one set of leaders to the next) is a specialized area; something that most business leaders will encounter only once in their career.  Often times, they lack the knowledge of where to start when considering this important issue.
  • It’s often been said that it’s “lonely at the top”, and this is never more true than when dealing with transition.
  • In the absence of a well developed plan to raise the likelihood of business continuity over the long term, companies face the risk of ceasing to exist; an unfortunate end to what might be a lifetime of work.

Will you be the advisor to answer the call, when a client needs assistance in this area?  Are you ready to answer this important call?  Learn more about our DAW speaking tour here

EVENTS: Speaking Tour (Distinguished Advisor Workshops)

Coming to a city near you!  Join us for the Distinguished Advisor Workshops in Vancouver (May 29th), Edmonton (May 30th), Calgary (May 31st), Winnipeg (June 1st), Toronto (June 5th), and Ottawa (June 6th).

Looking forward to sharing thoughts in the following important areas:

NEXT GENERATION CONTINUITY PLANNING

In this session, you will learn how to prepare your clients who are transitioning their businesses to the next generation of leaders and/or preparing their business for sale. Tax and financial advisors can be of significant help by guiding clients in the direction of formal business continuity planning

Learn how to address key issues your clients should be considering, including:

The transaction “knowledge gap”;

The opportunity to apply innovation to business continuity planning;

How to approach strategic business planning, and the succession transaction itself; and

How to address financial partner considerations.

Things to consider in finalizing the transaction.

The continuity of these companies could depend on your help: and, it’s your opportunity to differentiate your services from others.

BUILDING BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANS

Every business needs a formal plan throughout its lifecycle, for focused decision making, as well as in preparation for its exit and/or transition.  This session will discuss the sound guidelines that business owners should use to develop such a plan and other value building considerations, including:

Guidelines for developing a well written business continuity plan;

Identifying and articulating your market opportunity;

The relationship between the business model, strategy, and plan;

Key planning components, including products/services, marketing strategy, and operations, and Management;

Guidelines for preparing a financial forecast for three to five years; and

An introduction to the Executive Business Builder Designation Program

Details and registration are located here.

As the lead instructor and author of four certificate courses in the Knowledge Bureau’s Master Financial Advisor (MFA) Designation Program in succession and business planning, and certificate courses in the new Executive Business Builder Designation Program, I look forward to delivering these sessions.  See you on the road!

Beat the Growth Curve by Enabling (and sustaining) Business Growth

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Every once in a while, something magnificent happens.  A company, through no fault of its own, finds itself in a situation of unexpected growth: that uncharacteristically large order, email inquiry from markets afar, or perhaps media coverage that yields a rush of customers.  As enticing as such growth can be, there is an important question that must be carefully considered: can this level of demand be sustained?

It’s easy to find joy in times of success, wanting little more than to sit back and savour the moment.  Having said that, it’s important to not fall into the trap of taking short term growth as a given for the future.  This is a dangerous approach that has been the downfall of many companies, who banked on the money before it arrived and made decisions on this basis, many of which involved outlays of cash.   Too often, the “can’t miss” opportunity is anything but, with the key unanswered question being whether or not the increased level of demand was sustainable or just a bump in the road.   Paired with this is often a lack of appreciation of what’s required to create sustainable growth over the long term.

Business leaders can take matters into their own hands to increase the likelihood of a better outcome, to effectively stay ahead of the growth curve and beat it.  The approach is built upon fundamental, good business practices; here are some tips to get you started:

  • Research always rules—when demand rises, it’s a great opportunity to find out why. This can be achieved by engaging with customers and keeping an eye on the marketplace for developments of interest.  Published research sources, industry associations, and economic analysts can bring information about key trends and how demand could be impacted.  Utilize this information to understand changes in demand for the short and long term and how your business strategy might be impacted.
  • Focus on what makes you special—every business must be able to tangibly articulate why customers should choose them, as opposed to the competition. It’s important to communicate what your company has to offer, not just in the present but also on a sustainable basis.  Focus on areas such as proprietary expertise, products, service levels, and other areas that set you apart.
  • Keep an eye on external developments—which includes emerging trends and happenings in the industry and marketplace where you do business. Look for opportunities to offer new products and services in your area and pay careful attention to changes in consumer preferences.  Too many business leaders focus the majority of their time on internal matters and can quickly find themselves out of step with opportunities in the marketplace, as well as displaced by savvy competitors who didn’t make the same mistake.
  • Accentuate the positive—increased demand can be tempting, in terms of quick decisions to scale up, buy, hire, and other expansion related steps. Conversely, a good strategy is to leverage what you already have and minimize new cost outlays.   Accentuate the positive by building on what you already have; longer business hours, a greater online presence, and making use of existing capacity are all options.  Strategic partnerships can also expand your product offering without significant costs.
  • Build the brand— ideally, it’s important to create an identity that positions your business as the “go to” provider of choice; this is key to sustaining demand for the long term. Most communities have such examples, so utilize your efforts to make your name a recognizable one.

Recognize these efforts for what they are: an investment; to take control and grow on a proactive and prolonged basis, well into the future.  Your business (and your bank account) will thank you for it.

Grow Within your Means? Yes, You Can!

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Generating growth in the business world can be a tricky thing.  Companies do whatever they can to grow, but many find themselves unprepared when success happens.  On the other hand, some businesses take mighty steps in advance of growth: hiring staff members, moving to a bigger location, and buying new equipment, only for increased sales failing to materialize.  Business leaders often struggle with which road they should take: forward, back, stay put?  Sometimes this indecision can be a good risk mitigation strategy, and at other times, it leads to opportunities being missed.

Growth, however, does not always have to involve adding significantly to a company’s expenses.  This might sound surprising, but by applying some careful thought and creativity, it is possible.  The potential is compelling, as in situations where revenues increase and expenses decrease, profits can multiply in ways that you might not have thought possible.  There are ways to generate growth by getting the most out of what a company already has and is likely still paying for; and however you look at it, it’s a great time to grow:

  • Utilize your existing workforce to the fullest—hiring staff members is a long term commitment, so ensure that you are not using it to resolve a short term problem. Each and every staff member should be fully utilized with a meaningful workload, so identify inefficiencies and work smarter.  Using cross-training and reassignment of tasks across departments and hiring part time/contract staff during peak periods can all help.  Standardized procedures, templates, and documents can be used repeatedly and eliminate the wasted time associated with “reinventing the wheel”.  Ensuring that staff members have the right technology to increase productivity is a must, recognizing that more is not always better.
  • Take a fresh look at your premises— consider reorganizing work schedules, adding shifts, or servicing customer markets that could be accessed during off hours. Ensuring that your online and social media presences are as robust as possible also represent opportunities to spur growth.
  • Take things in stride—turbo speed growth isn’t always the best approach, as it can be difficult (and risky) to service and maintain. Long term success is often better achieved by taking a gradual approach, raising the likelihood of profitable growth that is also cash flow positive.  View this as creating the basis for the next level of expansion.
  • Look to fill product and service gaps—identifying partners who have products and services that fit well with your own, or would be of interest in your marketplace, can be a great way to grow. Each partner works within their own resources, but benefits from offering products and services to each others’ customers.  It’s also no secret that groups who work together can generate additional productivity, simply by collaborating and working smart.
  • Take a short term focus—view growth as a series of small steps or advancements. Stay away from long term facility commitments and equipment loans, as they are expenditures that remain well into the future.  Generate growth that has a likelihood of being sustainable over at least a moderate period of time, such as a couple of years, before committing into the long term.  This approach can be repeated over the years, resulting in managed growth that mitigates risk.

Much of what is required to achieve success in this regard is not glamorous, but rather, represents good, fundamental business practices.  Take stock of what you have, make it run like a charm, utilize it to the fullest, and monitor, measure, and refine.  Do it well and be prepared to welcome the kind of growth that will be with you for years to come.