Pile of Money or Creative Platform?

By April 26, 2011blog

I’ve had a half-dozen of conversations in the past couple weeks with entrepreneurs who are considering selling their companies… $4 million, $15 million, $20 million, $40 million, $70 million… all at crazy multiples.

My questions go as follows:
Do you NOT enjoy your business?
Do you have partnership issues?
Do you think your core model is flawed and not sustainable?
Is your growth done?
Are you lacking in money to sustain your lifestyle?

In most of the conversations, the answer to ALL of these questions has been NO. The reason for thinking about selling has been solely about MONEY. More of it. More of it in a way that they can feel more secure about their future.

Little thought is given to how they would invest it and usually after talking it through more there’s a realization that they won’t be able to beat the return they are getting from keeping their company. But diversification makes sense.

Little thought is given to what they would do after they sold. Just the thought of hitting a nice beach, buying some cool stuff, and then coasting right into their next “midas-touched” venture (rarely happens twice). Or be more purposeful in helping others through sitting on nonprofit and for-profit boards and helping others. But they’ll figure it out in between margaritas.

Little thought is given to what will really happen with their great cultures and family of great employees. But the acquirers are good people who promise and insist on not changing the magic formula or the great cultures… yah right.

Then I remind them what it took to build the amazing platform they have now. And how they are the masters of their domains. The kings of their happy kingdoms. The painters of their beautifully growing canvases. But all the annoying stuff will be gone. I saw a great quote recently, “Big offers are a good thing, but personal sovereignty matters a whole lot more over the long run”

Having gone through all of the similar thinking, I shared with them that the reality was different for me and many others I know who have “cashed out”. The reality is the money means little in the end in comparison to having a great platform/canvas to continue growing and creating great things with.

In most cases, NO ONE is advising them NOT to sell. It seems to be part of the American dream, the ultimate accomplishment, and the biggest ego stroke for an entrepreneur to “cash out”. What if we changed that dream to having pride in building great companies that our great grandchildren can be proud of?

Three of the six entrepreneurs I spoke with decided NOT to sell. Not because the money wasn’t enough (it was). But because they were excited about continuing to create and grow on THEIR hard-earned platforms.

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