A bittersweet side effect of my consulting work with clients is that owners sell their print businesses when they hit a pre-determined level of success. That comes about at my prompting. I have only myself to blame. You see, at the beginning of our relationship, I ask them to tell me their strike price – a fantasy number of their choosing. 

colorful umbrellas floating in sky Selling print businesses

The premise is this: if a competitor walked through the door and offered a price, what would it take to make my client stop and take a look? Any number is possible. 

In our industry, owners of successful printing companies get soft pitches reasonably often. During a round of golf, another owner might say, “George, you old duffer, things look like they’re going well over at your place. I’d like the right of first refusal when the time comes to sell your business. Haha.”

Veteran owners (especially founders) often brush off these types of forays because they are fishing expeditions from competitors to start a conversation about how the business is doing. Also, competent owners believe they are the best person to carry their business forward, so they ignore “soft offers.” 

However, without a strike price or some sort of external validation and measurement, an owner can get too comfortable. Time passes. The people around him stop telling him the truth, and his vision of reality gets blurry. 

“You’re too focused on where you’ve been to pay attention to where you’re going.” ~ Mary Poppins

So we need specific points along the way where the owner takes a close look internally and externally and says, “Is this the right time to sell?” 

As we work together, we talk about what retirement or exit could look like and the types of things they’d like to experience in their lives. My clients are creative, accomplished, and energetic people, so this is a meaningful conversation. None of my clients wants retirement in a rocker covered with a knee cozy.

Setting an outrageously high strike price gives me something to shoot for. We make a game out of it. 

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!” ~ Mary Poppins

I bring this up because when a client reaches his strike price, it’s usually the end of the line for me. Of course, I always meet the new owners and discuss my role, but here’s the reality: 

I’m Mary Poppins. The new buyers don’t want Mary Poppins around. They have their own vision and ideas. They’re not looking for the unique style of transformation my work brings to a long-standing business.  

“As a matter of fact, since you hired Mary Poppins, the most extraordinary things seem to have come over the household.” ~ Mrs. Banks

New owners usually can’t envision a time when they might want the kind of order and perspective an outside expert can bring. 

“Who looks after your father? Tell me that. When something terrible happens, what does he do? Fends for himself; he does. Who does he tell about it? No one. Don’t blab his troubles at home. He just pushes on at his job, uncomplaining and alone and silent.” ~ Bert

I’ve been through this enough times with clients to know it’s time to pack my carpetbag. It’s time to meet a new business family out there who will appreciate my quirky approach. 

“Head up and feet beneath you.” ~ Mary Poppins

I’m getting better about letting go. No, just kidding. I am terrible at letting go. I always remain friends with my clients as they head into retirement, but I miss our ambitious conversations and our celebrations when the “impossible” happens. I am so proud of my “charges” and proud that I had a role in their successes. Yet change is inevitable. 

 “Winds in the east, mist coming in/Like somethin’ is brewin’ and ’bout to begin/Can’t put me-finger on what lies in store/But I feel what’s to happen all happened before.” ~ Bert

My long-time clients know what I’m going through. They have seen me “graduate” clients before. In sympathy, they dream up projects to distract me. One of my clients just launched a new media division, something I’ve been advocating for. There’s plenty to do. 

Still, I have not yet filled the space of the client who sold his business. I’m holding it open for the right person, someone who is ready to believe and grow. 

My question to you – as it is to all my clients – is this:

>> What is the significant milestone that will make you stop and consider a new path?

Is it a too-good-to-say-no offer to buy your business? A lucrative job offer? A whole new way of life, maybe in a new place? A soulmate who has exciting plans worth following?

How bold is your vision? Over the top, I hope. 

If you never decide ahead of time on these milestones, you will never know when you’ve reached them. 

Envision the impossible.

Amazing things are happening to people all around you every day.

You are worthy. Dream big! 

“Everything is possible. Even the impossible.” ~ Mary Poppins

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Last month’s post by Sandy: https://printmediacentr.com/marketing-to-the-lucrative-saas-sector/

See all of Sandy’s posts here.


Sandy Hubbard is Marketing Strategist for the Printing Industry. She helps owners and sales-marketing leaders fine-tune their marketing programs in today’s ultra-competitive environment.

Sandy is co-host of #PrintChat, a weekly online conversation held on LinkedIn. She has been a loyal contributor to Print Media Centr’s newsletter since 2011.

PHOTO: Umbrellas Sky via Raw Pixel. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

 

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