A question we are often asked is, “So, what exactly do you do?” Any specialized skill can seem mysterious to someone who doesn’t have the same background. Just like a doctor doesn’t rely on a dice roll when prescribing medicine, and an engineer doesn’t guess where a structural beam should be built, we rely on proven methodologies to get real results.

Workshops are a big part of what we do. A good workshop will involve lots of questions and exploration of the topic that allows participants to see new angles and solutions.

Fred and Stan, the hypothetical business owners we have been following, are now at the stage where we sit down and ask questions, a lot of questions, so they talk — and talk, and talk — about their business and their goals. And we listen.

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A Tale of Two Businesses: Part 4

Fred’s Luxury Auto Services

Fred Jr. has some preconceptions as he walks into the meeting room. He wants a quick fix, “just some advice,” that can be delivered in a one-off meeting. After some consultation, he acknowledges that it didn’t take an hour to get into this situation, so it will take longer than an hour to get out of it.

The initial assessment Eagle Corporate Advisors performs has many sections, each containing a few dozen questions. This covers business operations as well as his family situation, goals, retirement hopes and any plans for contingencies.

Fred Jr. has not given any thought to what might happen down the road. He has a young daughter and, to him, it made sense to compartmentalize — to enjoy his time as a father while he was home, and only think of business when he was at the garage. Some of the questions force him out of those neat compartments, to think of future possibilities (really, future inevitabilities) that would impact his family.

Questions like, “Do you want to leave your daughter in the same position you found yourself in?”

Fred shudders. It’s a tough question. He commits to the full assessment and brings in his key employees. Over a few hours, the whiteboard fills up and Fred becomes aware of facets of the garage’s operations that he’d never considered before. It’s equal parts overwhelming and invigorating.

After these meetings, with all the data plugged in, Eagle is able to calculate a range of value for Fred’s business. It’s far lower than he thought — and getting lower. With his new awareness, Fred is now able to learn about the eight fundamentals and see where his business lacks. Together, he and Eagle work on a multi-year plan that will be implemented, step by step, to grow the value of Fred’s Luxury Auto Services.

Stan’s Auto Repair

At Stan’s initial meeting, he is jarred by the cost. He, too, had hoped for a quick visit — just a tune up, tighten some screws and out the door for a small fee. He explains that when he does an estimate for major car repair, it’s broken down by labor and parts. So, what exactly does Eagle do for that price tag?

Chuck and Brian explain what they are about to do is a diagnostic of the whole business. This allows for an in-depth look at how the business functions and how it can be tailored to help him reach his goals.

Stan has been so busy keeping things afloat, the thought of what his goals actually should be seemed a faraway exercise in daydreaming, until now.

“So, what if my goal is to spend more time at home in the near future, and someday retire?” he asks.

Chuck and Brian agree those should be reachable goals for any business — first, though, all involved need some time under the hood to see how to get him there. It won’t be easy or fast, and it will require some humility, a lot of focus, and the desire to learn.

Stan commits, but he’s worried his wife will be upset about investing the money. To his surprise, Chuck suggests Stan bring her in for the full assessment. “She’s part of the business, even if she’s not a mechanic,” Chuck explains. “It’s her house that’s been put up for the business loan too, and you said you make decisions together.”

It can seem like a difficult step, one that most don’t make, unless they can understand the big picture. Similar to the way regular tune-ups save money on gas and help avoid breakdowns, Stan realizes it’s not a luxury expense, it’s a necessary part of the process to grow his business and secure his future. With a new awareness of the business’s current value, they formulate a multi-year plan.

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes… but no plans.”
–Peter Drucker

Commitment can be difficult when your immediate worries are centered on how much something will cost or whether you can spare the time. Time, money, and action are exactly what turns a hope into a commitment. They should not be viewed as a negative in this equation.

Workshops with clients are really where the bulk of our work is done. The good news is that a big part of a client’s job in these initial workshops is simply showing up with a positive attitude — as we’ve learned, clients who are humble, teachable, and focused tend to do the best.

Once the many questions are answered and the information has been analyzed, then the next stage can begin. A plan is laid out, and each step will take work. This plan will be reassessed as factors change, and new challenges will be rolled into a business’s overall framework. Yet, in retrospect, once the pieces have all come together, it will seem like magic.