Six (6) Ways to Overcome a Business Trauma

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing a terrifying event. Although not at the level of enduring a war zone, the events of March 2020 may leave you feeling similar symptoms.

If you’re like most business owners, the first quarter of the year was progressing like any other. 

Then…bang!

A superbug started terrorizing the world. Professional basketball was cancelled. One by one, the world began to close its doors. 

A significant blow impacted your business, unless you offer an essential service. Perhaps you’ve stabilized your company, or you might still be experiencing the worst of it. Either way, you’re probably a different person as a result of this pandemic.

Now, as things begin to slowly reopen, you may notice a change in your outlook. The Mayo Clinic reports four symptoms of PTSD:

  1. Intrusive memories: recurrent, unwanted thoughts
  2. Avoidance: trying not to think about the trauma
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood: destructive thoughts about yourself and other people
  4. Change in physical and emotional reactions: being easily frightened, overwhelming guilt, or substance abuse

Any of those sound familiar? 

If so, you may be experiencing the psychological toll a catastrophic event can have on your psyche. There are three constructive things you can do now.

Option #1: Talk to Someone

Soldiers deal with PTSD by talking to a psychotherapist. Speaking to an advisor about how this pandemic has impacted your business can be therapeutic, and we’re here to help.

Option #2: Rebuild a More Durable Business

Another constructive reaction to this crisis is to commit to building a more durable business that can better withstand shocks to the system in the future.

Option #3: Sell

Many owners—especially those that experienced the brunt of the 2008–09 global financial crisis—have been so traumatized by this pandemic that they don’t have the stomach for another disaster. As a result, they’ve decided to start planning their exit proactively. 

If you find yourself choosing option 2 or 3, your immediate action plan will be the same. There are some things you can do now that will make your business more durable in the long term as well as more sellable:

  1. Focus on your products and services where you have a point of differentiation. You’ll have more pricing authority in the short term, have better cash flow, and be more attractive to an acquirer in the long run.
  1. Create recurring revenue streams that generate sales while you sleep. These can be in the form of service contracts, subscriptions, or maintenance plans. Aim to get the majority of your revenue automatically.
  2. De-risk your business, ensuring you’re not too reliant on a single customer or supplier. 
  3. Create an employee handbook and systematize your processes to lessen your dependence on a key employee (or you calling all of the shots).
  4. Clean up your bookkeeping.
  5. Generate as much cash as possible from customers up front to create a positive cash flow cycle.

If you’re like a lot of the owners we work with, your business is part of who you are. When that gets threatened, it’s natural to feel traumatized. If you can redirect that energy into building a more durable business, you may never have to experience something like this again. Frank Mancieri (GT Growth & Transition Strategies) is here to help, (401) 651-1585, frank@gtGrowth.com.

Three (3) Ways to Get Your Life Back

How’s your workload these days?

If the pandemic has forced you back into the weeds of your business, you’re not alone. Many owners are again doing tasks they haven’t done in years because they have had to lay off front-line staff or their employees have fallen ill or are caring for someone in need.

Being back in the middle of things is neither healthy for you nor your business long term. Personally, it’s a recipe for burnout, and professionally, your business will be less valuable with you doing all the work.

Now is an excellent opportunity to retool your company so that it can start running without you again. These three steps should help:

Step 1: Sell less stuff to more people.

Most companies become too dependent on their owner because they offer too many products and services. With such a full breadth of offerings, it’s hard to find and train employees that can deliver. The secret is to pick something that makes you unique and focus on finding more customers, not more things to sell.

Take Gabriela Isturiz as an example. She cofounded Bellefield Systems, a company offering a timekeeping application for lawyers. Over the next seven years, Bellefield grew to 45 employees. Although many businesses bill by the hour, Isturiz focused exclusively on timekeeping for lawyers, which is one of the reasons she was able to integrate with 32 practice management platforms used by lawyers—a big reason Bellefield’s product was so sticky. It worked out well for Isturiz as she was growing 50% a year with EBITDA margins of more than 25% when she sold her company in 2019. 

Step 2: Systemize it.

Next, focus on creating systems and procedures for employees to follow. For example, Nashville-based Bryan Clayton built Peachtree, a landscaping business. Most lawn care companies are mom-and-pop operations, but Clayton built Peachtree up to 150 employees before he sold it to LUSA for a seven-figure windfall.

What made Peachtree so unique? Clayton focused on documenting his processes. For example, one of his customers was a McDonald’s franchisee who owned 40 locations. He was frustrated by how many people discarded cigarette butts in his drive-through, so Clayton offered to clear the debris from the lanes as part of his lawn care process. He then trained his employees on the drive-through clean-up process he had created so it was followed across all 40 of the customer’s locations. 

Step 3: Outsource it.

Next, consider outsourcing what you’re not very good at. For example, David Lekach started Dream Water, a natural sleep aid bottled in a five-ounce shot similar to the famous 5-Hour Energy Drink.

Lekach built Dream Water to almost $10 million in annual revenue before selling it to Harvest One, a cannabis company, for $34.5 million in cash and Harvest One stock. Lekach saw his role as “selling Dream Water, not making it.” That meant he outsourced the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of Dream Water to a co-packer, ensuring Lekach and his team could focus on selling Dream Water.

It’s natural for a leader to step in during a crisis, but that’s not sustainable for the long term. Pull yourself out of the doing, and you’ll build a valuable company for the long term that’s a lot less stressful to run along the way. Frank Mancieri (GT Growth & Transition Planning) can help you get your life back, so please reach out to him at (401) 651-1585, frank@gtGrowth.com.