Intentional Growth

#211: What it Takes to Finish Big with Bo Burlingham

#211: What it Takes to Finish Big with Bo Burlingham
Intentional Growth
#211: What it Takes to Finish Big with Bo Burlingham

Bo spent over twenty years as an editor and editor-at-large of Inc. Magazine and is the author of five books, including three of my personal favorites Finish Big, Small Giants and The Great Game of Business. Bo explains to us the wide range of “good” and “bad” exits from businesses built by owner-founder entrepreneurs, and why over 75% regret the sale 12 months later.

What You Will Learn in Today’s Podcast Interview: 

  • Why the word “exit” is a curse word for most business owners
  • Why the word “exit” can mean different things to your role vs your ownership
  • How to avoid regretting the eventual sale of your company
  • How to get clarity on what you want from your business
  • The 7 components of a sale that help an owner achieve the 25% who are happy
  • The importance of understanding how the company value impacts your exit options and your personal drivers
  • Bo’s 4 (sometimes 5) characteristics of a “good exit”
  • Why missing just one principle leads to a “bad exit” and can put you in the 75%
  • What to think about in order to prepare you to mentally for a sale
  • How Bo’s work intersects with the 5 Intentional Growth™ Principles
  • The Seven P’s of Evergreen companies according to Bo and the Tugboat Institute
  • How companies that plan to last over 100 years think about their businesses

Podcast Summary:

Today’s episode is particularly special for me. I read Bo’s book Finish Big back in 2015 after our family company’s sale. His book was the reason I started this podcast and eventually created the Intentional Growth™ 5 Principles. I had the chance to interview Bo when this podcast was first starting (ep. #16), and today we have the chance to catch up and talk about the changes myself and my business have undergone over the past four years.
Bo explains to us the wide range of “good” and “bad” exits from businesses built by owner-founder entrepreneurs, and why over 75% regret the sale 12 months later. He shares what the entrepreneurs did who were proud and happy with their exit compared to those who were not. Bo and I reconcile his research with my four years of work and over 200 interviews.
One of Bo’s key takeaways from his research was: business owners that know “who they were, what they wanted and why” were the happiest about how things had unfolded during and after their exit. In my work, I found that the missing piece was a framework that helps owners figure these pieces out.
Bo emphasizes the value of our framework today when we talk about just how important is it to intentionally approach your company and plan for the future, which includes building a valuable company that gives you options, and why being educated is the missing link to eventually getting what you want from your business.

About the Guest:

Bo Burlingham is currently a contributor to Forbes where he produces the magazine's annual Small Giants section. Previously, he worked for 33 years at Inc. magazine, as senior editor, executive editor, and editor at large.

He is the coauthor, with Jack Stack, of The Great Game of Business and A Stake in the Outcome and, with Norm Brodsky, of The Knack (renamed Street Smarts in paperback). He is also the author of Small Giants and Finish Big. The popularity of Small Giants led to the creation of the Small Giants Community where business leaders learn and share practices and systems they can use to make their companies great, whether or not the businesses are big.

Podcast Interview Quotes:

14:32 – “One thing that struck me was how many people I talked to were unhappy and wished they hadn’t sold their businesses and were full of regrets and that there were parts of the whole experience that they didn’t like.” – Bo Burlingham

21:42 – “People who have a clear idea in their own mind about who they are or what they want and why are able to make decisions that are going to make them happy. Whereas otherwise  you end up making decisions based on other people and what they think you should do.” – Bo Burlingham

22:00 – “It’s important to build a sellable company and by ‘sellable’ I mean that you’re able to sell your company to who you wanted, when you wanted, and why--or for an amount that you considered fair.” – Bo Burlingham

52:00 – “There are a lot of responsibilities that come with ownership and there are a lot of times where you have to do things you don’t want to do.” – Bo Burlingham

58:43 - “I really think the most powerful business tool that I have ever seen has been open-book management. At least, as it’s been practiced by Jack Stack.” - Bo Burlingham


Links and Resources:

Episode with Norm Bordsky: From Bankrupt to $270 Million Dollars

Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top, by Bo Burlingham

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, 10th-Anniversary Edition, by Bo Burlingham

Mastering Your Cash Flow Digital Course

ARKONA Boot Camp

Reach out to me if you have questions about the boot camp!

You can also reach out to me via email at [email protected], on my LinkedIn.

Brought to you by Ryan Tansom of Intentional Growth