It is probably safe to assume that none of your clients have businesses that have grown as quickly as Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.com. While many factors contributed to Bezos’ phenomenal success, this blog focuses on the process Bezos uses to create an environment for success and how Exit Planning Advisors can apply his process to their business-owner clients.
Focus on the Future
First, Bezos focuses on the future. In 2011, he told Wired Magazine, “If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people, but if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that.”
Imagine if your clients structured, invested, and operated their companies today based on what they intend them to be in seven years. Bezos doesn’t focus on current performance: what has to happen today, this quarter, or even this year. He takes a long view of performance, which you should encourage your clients to consider doing, too.
Second, Bezos builds his strategy and process on his view of the future. He looks seven years into the future and then works backward to determine what needs to be done over time to accomplish the distant goals he’s set. In other words, he develops a strategy and plan to accomplish those goals.
Decide and Act
Third, Bezos acts. There’s an old riddle that says, “Three frogs are sitting on a log. One decides to jump off. How many frogs are left?” The correct answer is “three”: One frog decided to jump, but the implication is that the frog never acted on jumping. In this way, Jeff Bezos is not your typical frog.
We can see this sort of “decision without action” often in the business world. For example, three business owners are having coffee together one morning. Kermit T. Frogge announces that he has decided to sell his business in five years. Five years later, the same three owners are having coffee together, and Kermit announces that he has decided to sell his business in five years.
BEI Members refer to this as “the rolling five-year Exit Plan.” Owners decide to act. Then, they decide to act again. Then, after deciding to act, they decide to act once more. When they are finally ready to actually act, it’s too late to sell their businesses on their terms.
Bezos doesn’t just decide to act. He actually jumps off the log. While he does what many owners do—establish goals, formulate a strategy, and develop a road map to reach his goals—he avoids the failure that 9 out of 10 organizations experience: failure to implement their strategies. Bezos is acting seven years in advance while Kermit is having coffee and wasting valuable time deciding instead of acting on taking steps to exit his business on his terms.
Act on Exit Planning
Today, the reason most owners are not able to exit their businesses on their terms is unpreparedness caused by a failure to act. Their excuse is that they are too busy: They have no time to actively plan and act to “drain the swamp.” They lament, “How can I drain the swamp when I’m up to my armpits in alligators?”
BEI Founder, John Brown has been on that log. As a former Estate Planning Attorney, he jumped from that log into the swamp, and drained managed to drain that swamp through action, turning it into a nice resort called BEI in the process. In fact, the working title of his first book on Exit Planning for business owners was Drain that Swamp! The publisher ultimately chose a different title, but the theme remains relevant: Owners can’t drain the swamp without diving in, regardless of the alligators that await.
Don’t let your clients get caught on the log wondering what could have been. Dive into that swamp with them, drain it, and make “what could have been” a reality.