Getting Your “House” in Order
It was one of those days that can’t be predicted. I was sitting in my office when the phone rang. It was Kevin, our sales and support rep for Celco Software. He said a caller on the other line was giving him a hard time. The person had repeatedly called asking for copies of the company’s financial statements and other proprietary information. I told Kevin to put him through to me. As I picked up the receiver, I coolly asked, “Can I help you?” hoping to get rid of the guy so I could get back to running my company.
Almost an hour later, I quietly hung up the phone and sat staring at my desk in shock. Far from being a prank caller, the man represented Swedish investors looking to buy Internet café-related businesses. They were interested in Celco Software. Without any preparation or advance warning, we were being targeted as a potential acquisition. That one day in 2006 set off a chain reaction that eventually led me to where I am today— it literally changed my life.
Have you ever put a house on the market? My experience with Celco Software taught me that selling a business is exactly like selling a house. Attractive businesses, like attractive houses, are orderly and well kept from top to bottom. Investors want organizations that run effectively on their processes and procedures, not on their current CEO. Selling my business resulted in a significant shift in how I ran my other company, Celco Controls. I worked to build systems and processes into the fabric of the business to make it more attractive to buyers.
Throughout this experience, my Forum colleagues and EO helped me make smarter business decisions. For example, hearing about the challenges that other Forum members faced highlighted changes that I needed to make. When I needed fresh ideas on how to improve my processes, I could always count on them. In 2010, when a private equity group called, Celco Controls was primed and ready for due diligence. I didn’t have to go through a massive “house cleaning” to prepare for the sale.
Looking back, the sale of my Celco businesses taught me two important lessons: First, the processes and procedures that make a business perform well also make it attractive to investors. Second, and most important, I realized that I find much greater joy working on the business than working in the business. I love finding the most efficient way to do things. It’s interesting to tinker with processes until they run like clockwork. What’s more, I enjoy the challenge of streamlining procedures for maximum productivity. I wouldn’t have realized any of this had it not been for EO’s support.
Subsequently, my current business is a consulting, training and speaking firm, where I help other organizations run at peak performance. What I’ve been doing for years in my own companies, I now get to do for someone else’s business. I guide them through the steps of “deep cleaning” their processes and procedures, getting rid of excess and waste, and eliminating pain points for customers and employees. Whether they plan to sell their business or not, in the end, their “house” is in order. And order, I now know, is the best door to opportunity.
Richard Brodeur is the president of Process to Excellence, Ltd. Fun fact: Richard is so process-driven that he has a process manual for his vacation home. E-mail Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.