The Olympics, Inbound Marketing, and Your Succession Plan… If you are like me, you were practically glued to the television and enjoyed the competition that is the Summer Olympics. Sports, like business, is about more than just competition but also involves decision making, preparation, planning, and especially desire.

One of the stories in the most recent Olympics that invited comparison to a recent business situation involved an American track and field athlete, Lashinda Dumas. Lashinda is a specialist in the 400 meter hurdles, who had a tremendous life lesson while qualifying for the 2008 games. She was a nationally recognized star at the University of South Carolina and her bio is a long list of her amazing accomplishments.

The Olympics, Inbound Marketing, and Your Succession PlanHowever, in the 2008 Olympic games, Lashinda relaxed when crossing the finish line in her qualifying semi-final. Runners call this coasting and this time it allowed another runner to ever so slightly beat her to the line. She came in 4th and failed to make the final, nor compete for a medal.

Lashinda, like every Olympic-level athlete, has had to make many sacrifices and has undergone many hours of training and competing to get to her present level of success. A common rule in sports is that it requires 10,000 hours of training to achieve a world class competitive level. Lashinda probably had well over that and lost this opportunity because she coasted in the last moment of that one race.

Don’t cry for Lashinda- she is the ultimate competitor! That loss and the resulting embarrassment fueled an even more challenging training regimen and she enjoyed a tremendous 2012 Olympics.

Business owners don’t usually get a chance to go back and train for another four years. Their Olympic opportunity to “medal” is when they sell their business. They have “trained” hard for thousands of hours and when the finish line is in sight, they have to have the training and coaching to cross the line ahead of the competition to get the maximum value for their company.

But sometimes they coast…

We have run across business owners who have achieved a certain level of success, some respect in the community, perhaps even have a decent investment portfolio or retirement account. They know that in a few years the race will come to and end, but today they are content and in a comfort zone that doesn’t result in the same desire to win or sense of urgency that propelled them earlier in their business career.

They are coasting… assuming that in a few years their business will be worth what they anticipated years ago it would be, and that the state of the business will be attractive to a potential buyer. They don’t feel the need to put in the extra time, or investment, to do what is really necessary to “win the race” and find reasons to play golf, travel, and/or get involved in outside organizations. They have worked damned hard for a long time and deserve a break. After all, the finish line is way down the line. Isn’t it?

In business, a lot of emphasis is placed on the start of the race. Business plans get written and rewritten, capitalization is acquired, the proper talent is sought out, and as the business scales little attention is placed on the finish line. The business plan may have a reference or two about a succession plan but this is usually vague and theoretical.

If you own your business and anticipate selling it within the next 5 years, now is the time when you had better start thinking about your next 10,000 hours of training1. And where will your focus and investment be best placed to maximize your company’s value and be attractive to a buyer?

Buyers look for companies that have exhibited good sales growth over the previous 5 years, has a strong bottom line flow through, and has a good and hopefully sustainable customer list. How can you insure your company jumps higher than this bar?

In a word… marketing. Developing a powerful inbound marketing process today will drive revenue, increase customers, and actually enhance awareness with potential buyers. Plus a successful and transferable marketing process will be easy for a new owner to like.

Why? There are several reasons the adaptation of a robust inbound marketing process may actually assist in the sale of a business:

  • It isn’t solely dependent on the previous owner’s involvement.
  • It usually involves several other team members.
  • It allows for the business to continue to grow during the management transition.
  • It shows a long term investment on the business.

How can you prepare for your Olympic final? Invite an inbound marketing professional to meet with you. The right one will evaluate your current marketing process, learn more about your business, and more importantly get an understanding of your intended audience. The right firm will have experience with both outbound and inbound marketing processes plus be adept with all of the tactics and tools the internet provides.

1In the business world accomplishing 10,000 hours of work requires approximately 4 to 5 years. In sports it is usually 8.