Lessons Learned From 400+ Post-Exit Entrepreneurs: John Warrillow, Host of Built to Sell Radio

My Guest

My guest today is John Warrillow, author of the bestselling book Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, and Founder & CEO of The Value Builder System, a sales and marketing software tool for business advisors to find, win and keep their best clients.

Built to Sell was recognized by both Fortune and Inc magazines as one of the best business books of 2011, and has been translated into 12 languages since its initial publication. John is also the author of The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry and The Art of Selling Your Business: Winning Strategies & Secret Hacks for Exiting on Top.

John is also the host of Built to Sell Radio, a hugely popular podcast where he has interviewed over 400 SMB founders about their exits. Forbes ranked Built to Sell Radio as one of the ten best podcasts for business owners.

Before founding The Value Builder System, John started and successfully exited four companies.

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Lessons Learned From 400+ Post-Exit Entrepreneurs: John Warrillow, Host of Built to Sell Radio In The Trenches

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Questions Asked

  • Tell us more about yourself, your own professional journey, and what has led to what you’re doing today

  • You’ve said that younger business owners and older business owners tend to paint very different pictures of the future to potential acquirers, and as a result tend to get different valuations and structures. Can you expand on this idea?

  • You’ve (rightly) suggested that “time kills all deals”. What do you mean by that? What implications might this have for selling CEOs?

  • One of the most important questions that a prospective acquirer asks is a deceptively simple one, namely: “Why are you selling?”. What might constitute a “good” answer to this question versus a “bad” answer?

  • In your experience speaking to entrepreneurs who sold their businesses 5 or more years ago: On average, how do they tend to look back on their decision to sell? Is their answer more likely to be characterized as satisfaction or regret?

  • What recurring themes, if any, do you notice among those who thrive after selling, versus those who have a much harder time post-exit?

  • What about for those who are still running their companies? What characteristics tend to recur in the happiest entrepreneurs?

  • Selling CEOs often don’t know how much to share with their direct reports about a pending sale. Many value transparency, but also worry about the possibility of the deal falling apart even when its close to the finish line. What are some of best practices that you have observed over the years specific to employee communication?

  • The first time that I attempted to sell my business through a competitive auction process, the difference between the highest and lowest bids was 471%. How common is a valuation disparity like this is? How should selling CEOs treat offers on the low end of the range?

  • How are business owners currently thinking about the timing of their exit? On one hand many may want to move on after enduring the pandemic, “the great resignation”, and more recently high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates. On the other hand, valuations are generally down relative to 12-18 months ago, and some are hesitant to sell into such a market. Where are most folks shaking out?

  • In your book, Built to Sell, the protagonist in your story wrote down his “number” (i.e. his desired valuation) on a piece of paper, and stored it away in his desk, only to return to it under very specific circumstances much later in the deal process. Can you talk about why he did this, and why entrepreneurs listening to this might consider doing something similar?

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Thanks to our Sponsors

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