Bo Burlingham is an absolute hero.  He was Editor at Large at INC. Magazine for years, Author of some of the business book classics like The Great Game of Business, Small Giants, Street Smarts and the Finish Big. His insights in Finish Big on how the greatest entrepreneurs exit on top lead me to create this podcast and build our firm. If it wasn’t for Bo, Solidity Financial wouldn’t be what it is today.

He is undoubtedly the leading author on what it means to be a true Entrepreneur… one where there is a beginning, middle and end to a journey.  We felt it was high time we spoke to Bo about his experiences in putting together his trailblazing books…

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How the greatest entrepreneurs exit their companies on top
  • What the REAL journey of being an entrepreneur looks like
  • How to finish big AND be a small giant
  • Why 75% of entrepreneurs are unhappy after they sell their companies

Why did Bo Burlingham write the book Finish Big?

He’d been working for the magazine Inc for 25 years and never once had he heard anybody talk about the end game for the organization. This suddenly changed when his co-columnist Norm Brodsky received an offer for his company.This eventually formed a monthly column called “the offer”, which was basically an ongoing narrative on the trials and tribulations of the sale negotiations.

The response they had was amazing – it turned out to be a topic that people simply couldn’t read about elsewhere – and it took off so much that at one point, the cover headline was “Norm Decides To Sell”. Alas, because certain things came to light towards the end of the sale,

Norm didn’t sell after all, but the whole process made Bo realize that people were very interested in the subject, and that there was almost nothing else out there for people to read on the matter. So he decided to write his first book, which was to be based on the findings of a series of interviews with business owners who’d sold up.

The regrets of selling a company…

Through his interviews Bo found about half of the entrepreneurs were unhappy after they sold. He set about trying to understand the common themes in the back stories of those who were happy versus those who were unhappy.

The 5 things entrepreneurs did to exit their company on top:

  1. They felt it was a fair process and got reasonable reward for the work they’d put into the business.
  2. They could look back at what they’ve done and feel pride that they’d contributed something to the world.
  3. They were at peace with what had happened to the other people that had been on the mission with them.
  4. They found something afterwards that they really became engaged in, i.e. something that gave them a life after business.
  5. Not an absolute constant but was true of some people…. their companies were doing well without them – they’d built a legacy.

Bo felt that if an owner was missing just one of them, they were likely to have a very bad exit.

How can you passionately grow a company that can thrive without you?

To grow a company ‘artistically’ – with the kind of love that forms the basis of entrepreneurship – but then step away so the company doesn’t revolve around you like a hub and spoke can be the hardest part of being a business owner.

Bo says this is the ultimate paradox, and was a constant source of conflict across the many companies he has studied down the years.

What to do after after selling your business?

Leadership is so important in any company, so when somebody sells, how does it impact the legacy of the business? This was another constant problem in Bo’s experience. Many companies simply weren’t the same afterwards. This was a huge deal to the entrepreneurs that wanted to watch their baby continue on without them.

The happiest entrepreneur that Bo interviewed was John Warrillow… who just happen to write the book Built to Sell and now has a program called The Value Builder System™ which helps owners do what he did.

Bo’s top advice for every business owner:

Ask yourself these questions from the very beginning:

  • What are you looking for out of business and out of life?
  • If your goal is building a great company, what exactly will this do for your life?
  • Are you building a company to work after you leave?
  • What exactly is it that makes a company great?
  • Why are you doing what you’re doing?

Wise words for the road:

“I always thought the most challenging thing in business was to build a great company. I now realize that the most challenging thing in business is to build a great company that remains great after you’ve gone.”

“Remember that you’re on a journey, and all journeys have an end. Don’t think of it as a construction project.”Click To Tweet

Book recommendations:

All of Bo’s books are amazing!

  • Finish Big
  • Small Giants
  • Street Smarts
  • The Great Game of Business – With Jack Stack
  • A Stake in the Outcome – With Jack Stack

Find them here

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