How I learnt more about running a business from selling one than I did in 10 years of operation

They say hindsight is a wonderful thing, and the same can be said about learning (and applying) business principles. I gained a lot of insights about successful business practices after I sold my business than I did from 10 years of operations. Many of the lessons came from reflection after the sale, and others were learnt during the process of transitioning to the new owner.

The transition process gave me the unusual opportunity of observing the results of business decisions and activities. Although I was still employed in the business, the business was no longer under my control and I benefited from seeing the results of decisions that were made by someone else. (Admittedly, I often struggled with this aspect – it is extremely difficult letting go of something you have built up over a 10-year period.)

I became aware of how certain actions I had taken when I owned the business had hindered on its overall success. It was the sale of the business which finally hammered home the importance of valuing your product and service. This was an aspect I had always grappled with and the greatest lesson I take away.

If I am truly honest, I admit the things I learned about running a successful business I already was aware of. The sale process simply exposed the areas which needed improvement and magnified those aspects where I was excelling.

So, what did I learn and/or reaffirm when I sold my business?

1.      Relationships are key. Although I have always known that a strong business is founded on good relationships with clients, it wasn’t until after I sold my firm that I truly understood how valuable maintaining a solid relationship is.

2.      Focus on the Client. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes, how would you like to be treated, how can you wow them, would you be happy with the result you are providing?

3.      Busy does not Equal Success. If the profit results don’t reflect the level of “busy” you are experiencing there is something wrong with your business. This is a result of your price point being too low, your costs being too excessive, there are inefficiencies within the business, or a combination of all 3.

4.      Value Yourself. In addition to the point above, you need to be confident with the value you are offering to your clients and customers. If you do not charge an appropriate price to reflect your value you will ultimately go out of business.

5.      Let Go of Control. If you want to build your business, and continue to prosper, you need to be prepared to delegate to staff, trust them to do their job, and accept that at times they will make mistakes. You can’t micromanage all of the tasks and grow a successful business.

6.      Your Team is your Greatest Asset. Treat your team as you would like to be treated and their appreciation and loyalty will be evidenced by their commitment to, and performance in, your business.

7.      Not Everyone is Your Customer. You will not be able to run a successful business by trying to please all people. Find the aspect in which you will excel, your point of difference, or market niche. You only need enough customers who share your vision and are looking for your offerings to fill the capacity you have available within your business. Sing to those customers and you will have an enjoyable, successful business.

8.      There is nothing wrong with Being Small. Being a small business gives you the advantage to make changes quickly, adopt new processes and technologies giving you an edge over your competition.

What I learnt most about being in business is that no one has all the answers. Even the most successful business owners make mistakes and have areas in which they can improve. You will benefit immensely from learning from your peers, sharing stories and observing each other’s strengths and shortcomings.