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Sunday, 26 October 2014

When Does an Entrepreneur Become a Serial Entrepreneur? Whenever There is New Challenge!

Some years ago I was involved in a business in what has now become extremely unfashionable, that is, a conglomerate asset stripper.

It all sounds strange these days but in essence we searched in Moddie’s Cards (anyone remember them?) for undervalued listed companies with relatively realisable assets, preferably cash.

Our leader was a brilliant accountant with a great deal of industrial experience and he led the business with much bravura.

I well recall his saying one day that he had no time for patient trading; he much preferred to make money than to earn it. In other words he preferred to do deals rather than run a day-to-day business.

In many ways this encapsulates the views of some entrepreneurs while others have a dream of creating something that will eventually become a legacy.

The question to ask is: at what point in the life of a company does it evolve from being an entrepreneurial venture to being a mature trading entity?

Even more important, at what stage in the evolution of the business does the creator realise that much of the excitement of the creation of the business has evaporated and the company now has a life of its own, hopefully trading successfully and employing people?

In my years working with many entrepreneurs I have heard them confess that frankly they are bored with the routine and need some stimulation.

This can lead to a range of distractions such as involvement in a charity, extreme sports and others too delicate to mention.

In a productive sense this problem can be and often is solved by seeking out other opportunities in terms of products, services or markets that can challenge the abilities of the leader and the business.

Some countries are inherently more entrepreneurial than others, for example many in the Far Eat whereas in more mature western economies entry into established markets can be more difficult.

You may recall that President George W Bus remarked that some countries do not encourage the creation of new businesses saying "the French don't have a word for entrepreneur!"

Is there a difference between an entrepreneur and a serial entrepreneur?  At what stage does the leader feel that enough is enough and decides to cash in rather than leaving the business as perhaps a family legacy?

Selling the business can be an emotional exercise. I remember a client telling me that the acquiring company wanted him to stay on for at least two years. As he put it "they want to adopt my baby but they want me to stay on to wipe its bottom".

There is no hard and fast answer. Some leaders can sell their business and walk away without a backward glance while others desperately need an outlet for their enthusiasm and creative juices.

Watch out for another potential stumbling block.  I recall one of my Vistage members who sold up and a couple of months later called me to fix a time to meet for a chat.

“What’s the problem?” I asked

“The wife” he replied; “She says that she married me for better or worse but not for lunch!”

The most important factor is that the vendor understands that it is far better and more positive to GO TOWARDS something new rather than merely to GET AWAY and escape from something.

So many leaders would go demented after a couple of months of golf and/or bridge simply because most of them are young enough and still sufficiently enthusiastic to take up another challenge.

This is perhaps the biggest issue for the entrepreneur. Very few lose their taste for creativity simply by selling up and it is a good idea to factor into the deal (if only in the head of the leader) an answer to the question:

What next?

Download my book "Leading to Success" from Amazon Kindle
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