On this episode of the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast I talk with Josh Patrick with Stage 2 Planning Partners. Josh is not an expert on real estate, but he is an expert on business. He is a certified financial planner who has helped thousands of businesses become more successful and sustainable. What he means by sustainable is the business would run just as it does not without owner involvement. While Josh does not specialize in real estate, much of his advice can be used by any business owner including real estate investors and real estate agents. While conducting this interview I realized my business is not nearly as sustainable as it should be!
How did Josh get started in the financial planning and consulting business?
Josh operated a successful vending machine business for many years. He says it was one of the worst businesses to be in! At one point he had 90 employees, but the business was constantly changing and took a lot of capital. His company grew very quickly at 20 to 40 percent per year. However, he would routinely have to set up new vending operations that cost $100,000 or more. Because of the way his business was taxed, he could not deduct those huge expenses, he had to depreciate them. Although his business grew quickly, and was profitable, he often had very little cash to show for it. He ended up selling his business and got into financial planning and consulting to help show others what he had learned.
What are Josh’s 5 key pieces to a sustainable business?
Josh and I talk about many things on this podcast including the economy, automation, and recent economic crashes. However, I think Josh’s 5 keys to a sustainable business are very important to any business owner. If you ever want to sell your business, a new buyer will need to see these things as well.
- Customers: The number one thing any business needs is customers. If you do not have any customers, you cannot make any money. Out of 28 million business in the United States only 6 million have any employees!
- Recurring revenue: To have a successful real estate business, you must have recurring and predictable revenue. If you make $50,000 in one month, but $5,000 the next 6 months it is very hard to be successful.
- Values and Culture: If your employees or contractors who help your business do not know your values, it can cause problems. You need to have a purpose behind your business that everyone knows and follows.
- Cash Flow: A business can be extremely profitable, but have very little cash. Some very profitable businesses have gone bankrupt because they ran out of money to operate. Josh suggests a business should have 6 months of operating expenses in cash.
- Systematization: Systems make it easy to do business and make an employee’s job much easier. For a business to run without the owner, you must have systems in place. No one wants to buy a business where the main source of revenue came from the owner working everyday.
How can Josh’s ideas translate into success for real estate agents?
Many real estate agents and real estate investors are a one person shop. The agent handles all of the marketing, lead generation, and selling on their own. If that agent does not work, they do not make any money. However, real estate agents should treat their job as a business. They should be creating something they could sell or would be appealing to someone else. Here are some ways an agent could create a business that they could actually sell:
- Create a team: I have a real estate team of ten, who sell 100 to 200 houses a year. I used to sell that many houses on my own, but I was working all the time! Now my team sells almost all of the properties. I have agents, assistants and managers all on my team. A successful team is a valuable asset.
- Create an awesome database: Real estate agents should have a very detailed and large database of past clients, friends, and acquaintances. Marketing to a great database is one of the best ways to create a sustainable real estate business. You can even sell your database if it is set up well.
- Create a real estate office: I do not own my own office, but the thought has crossed my mind. By owning a real estate office, you definitely have a business that could be sold if it is run right and according to the five key points Josh talks about.
For more help on all of these ideas, I cover them in my Six Figure Real Estate Agent Success System.
How can real estate investors set up their business to be sustainable?
Real estate investors also tend to set up their business with the owner as the person who does all the work. Many rental property owners manage properties themselves, they do maintenance work themselves, and they do all the accounting as well. This can save money, but it can also make it tougher to sell your properties to other investors. Turn-key rental property companies have become successful because they offer a sustainable business model. The properties are already rented, managed and repaired by third parties.
Many flippers will complete the work on houses themselves, they will source all the deals themselves, and they have no business to actually sell. There are flippers who have assembled teams with agents, contractors, project managers, and deal finders. If you have the right systems in place, and the right people, you could have a flipping business that runs itself and could even be sold.
How can you reach Josh Patrick?
Josh loves to help businesses become more sustainable and successful. Do not feel bad if your business is not perfect, Josh estimates 95 percent of more of the business he talks to are not sustainable. Mostly because the owner is the business. If you can create a business that does not need you to run it, you have created a sustainable business. You have also created something that can be sold. You can reach Josh at [email protected] or even call him at 802-846-1264 extension 2, and if you want to learn more about what it takes to create a sustainable business, he has a free one hour audio CD course.
[0:00:58.9] MF: Hey everyone, it’s Mark Ferguson with InvestFourMore and welcome to another episode of the InvestFourMore real estate podcast. Today, I have a great guest for the show. Josh Patrick with Stage Two Planning Partners. Josh is a financial adviser, loves to talk about cash flow and just making smart financial decisions, whether it’s real estate or pretty much any business.
So, Josh, thank you so much for being on the show, how are you?
[0:01:23.3] JP: I’m great Mark, how about yourself?
[0:01:24.8] MF: I’m doing well and I thank you for being on and sharing some of your knowledge with us. First off, I always like to start from the beginning, how did you find this career path? What got you started in the financial planning business?
[0:01:37.5] JP: Well, I was in the vending business for 20 years first. The vending business is arguably one of the worst industries in the United States and in 1995 I sold it and I was looking around at what’s next and I’ve always liked consultive selling, so I went into the financial services business. Started off with life insurance company and realized the business owners, which is my specialty by the way, have needs besides life insurance so I had to spread out. I opened my own firm up about a year and a half later and I’ve been doing that ever since.
[0:02:09.1] MF: Very cool. I’m curious, what kind of vending business did you have before?
[0:02:13.4] JP: It was food vending. We fed people who worked in factories basically.
[0:02:16.1] MF: Okay.
[0:02:17.1] JP: That grew to 90 employees and we found a buyer for it and it was time for me to move on.
[0:02:17.1] MF: Nice. That’s a first for people I’ve talked to. I haven’t heard of anybody being in that business. Always interested to hear people’s background and how they got started. What was it that attracted you to the kind of helping businesses, the life insurance business?
[0:02:24.1] JP: Life insurance at a higher level certainly, it’s a consultative sale, meaning that you work in collaboration with your clients to help find interesting solutions to issues and I’ve always liked life insurance as a financial product and I thought it was a good place to start, and I did. But I found out very rapidly that when you work for a life insurance company that you really just want you to sell life insurance.
The fact is, people who own private businesses have a lot more financial needs than just having life insurance. So I went and opened up my own financial planning firm, became a certified financial planner, and have been working with how to help private business owners create economically and personally sustainable businesses for the last 20 years or so.
[0:03:26.6] MF: Nice, so you’ve been doing it for just a little while then?
[0:03:30.5] JP: Yeah, just a day or two.
[0:03:31.2] MF: I’m curious, working in the industry this long, have you seen any major changes or evolutions in the financial planning, the way things are taught, or what you teach people, major changes or has it all stayed pretty steady?
[0:03:47.3] JP: Well, I guess it’s been pretty steady. The fact is, too many business owners focus on sales and not on profits. Too many business owners focus on profits and not cash flow, and that pretty much has stayed pretty much standard but in the last 20 years, we’ve seen a pretty big disruption in an awful lot of industries, and that disruption has been a challenge for folks who have been in business for a long time.
[0:04:17.2] MF: Is that from the economy, or other sources that’s causing that?
[0:04:21.2] JP: Well, certainly for the economy. I mean, the last 20 years we’ve had two major recessions. One might even say 2008 was more like a depression than a recession. 1999 when the tech bubble burst, that caused all sorts of stuff and we’re probably in another tech bubble right now and nobody’s talking about that, but that’s a different conversation.
It really comes down to every industry is a little bit different, but basically every industry I’m aware of has been at least a little bit disrupted by the tech revolution where the microchip is replacing people. It’s one of the biggest problems. One of my favorite quotes in the last elections cycle was by Tom Friedman says, “It’s not Mexico, it’s the microchip,” and if you own a business and you’re not thinking about the microchip, you’re probably going to be disrupted out of business.
[0:05:13.0] MF: I saw somewhere, a lot of the States voted to up the minimum wage and McDonald’s response was, “Okay, we’ll just start doing self-serve kiosks to save money.” Imagine that.
[0:05:25.3] JP: They’re going to do that anyhow. That’s one of the more ridiculous statements in the world when people say, “You know, if we up the minimum wage, they’re just going to automate.” They’re going to automate anyhow. I have a client who just invented — he owns a budget car wash and he just invented a piece of equipment that’s going to save him four employees.
They’re going to sell it for $150,000, which is a lot of money, but when you think of the cost of four employees, the return on investment and that piece of equipment is pretty darn fast. And that had nothing to do with minimum wage, it was with today’s wages. So when people tell you the minimum wage is going to — “we’re just going to automate a few and raise the minimum wage”, that’s one of the more ridiculous things in the world that people can possibly see. We’re going to automate anyhow whether we do the minimum wage or not.
[0:06:13.3] MF: Well, maybe they can feel better about themselves for automating when that minimum wage goes up.
[0:06:18.8] JP: Maybe they could feel better about themselves. But if you’re in the business of fast food, or you’re in the business of car washes, or you’re in the business of building roofs, you better be looking at automation because if you’re not your competitor’s are. That’s just the way it is.
[0:06:37.2] MF: Right. I completely agree with that. I’m curious with…
[0:06:42.2] JP: In your industry, look at what’s happened to your industry. My god, the day of the old MLS books went away a zillion years ago.
[0:06:50.3] MF: Right, yup.
[0:06:51.6] JP: How many of your customers have done a significant internet search before they even picked up the phone and called you?
[0:06:58.5] MF: I think at least 50%, if not more, are doing a significant search before talking to an agent. So yeah, it’s changed tremendously.
[0:07:08.1] JP: When people call an agent, they’ve pretty much researched that agent before they ever pick up the phone. Even if you’re managing your reputation, you better be thinking about how you can make things easier for your customers, all those things are becoming reality today and 10 years ago, weren’t even on the radar screen. 20 years ago, they didn’t exist. There was no world wide web 20 years ago.
[0:07:29.7] MF: Right, it’s crazy how much things have changed. I’m curious before we get more in depth on some other subjects. With all the automation and the decrease in the need for as much employment, do you see that as a major problem for the economy? Is that going to really come up to bite us soon?
[0:07:46.4] JP: It’s going to be disruptive that’s for sure. I mean, at some point, I think automation is going to kill enough jobs where there just aren’t going to be enough jobs for the human beings that are alive and we have to figure out what to do about that.
[0:08:01.0] MF: That’s an interesting concept and yeah, I know the days of the old giant manufacturing businesses that provided you a job for life are pretty much gone. o it’s a time where everybody has to adapt.
[0:08:11.4] JP: Yeah, you keep reading about the gig economy where people are freelancers and working from gig, to gig, to gig and they have no job security and frankly employers have basically stopped that. I don’t know of any company that’s even hinting towards lifetime employment anymore.
[0:08:30.9] MF: Right.
[0:08:31.7] JP: Those days are way gone and frankly, for my grandchildren who are you know, just been born, I have no idea what their life is going to look like, but it’s going to be way different than it is right now, that’s for sure.
[0:08:43.7] MF: Yes, things keep changing at unbelievable paces and yup, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. That’s one reason why I love being an entrepreneur and having my own business is because I’m not depending on another person to provide me with employment.
[0:08:56.9] JP: Right. I’ve said it for years, I’ve said this for 40 years now, the best job security in the world? Start your own business.
[0:09:04.6] MF: Yup, for sure. I’ve said that a lot too.
[0:09:06.9] JP: There is no such thing as job security unless you work for yourself.
[0:09:09.7] MF: Yup, exactly. So in the last 20 years, you’ve been helping businesses help them like you said, focusing on profits not just how much you sell, need to have cash flow. What are some of the easiest things or simplest things you can fix in businesses that someone might be able to hear this podcast from and apply to themselves?
[0:09:32.1] JP: Well, I think there’s five pieces to a sustainable business; but the first thing that sticks is, are you doing enough sales to make your business be viable? Is your business — “Are you getting enough customers to be viable?” Really is the real question. If the answer is “no”, then you’d have to start asking yourself, “Well, what would I be doing differently if I was going to have a viable business?”
And the viable business is not just making what you made when you worked for somebody else down the street. You have to have money for growth, you have to have money for a safety fund, you have to have money to save for retirement because when you work for yourself, no one’s giving you a retirement plan. You have to provide your own, and if you think your business is going to be what you’re going to retire on, unless you’re one tenth of one percent on the business owners in the country, you’re probably wrong about that.
[0:10:20.8] MF: Right. I’m curious, how many people do you see who don’t really own a business but are working in a business they started?
[0:10:30.2] JP: How many people own a business?
[0:10:33.0] MF: I’m saying, you know, when you start a business, your real goal should be for it to run itself I think without you being involved in it all the time. But so many people get stuck paying themselves a wage or working 80 hours to make it work. Do you see…
[0:10:47.1] JP: Okay, that’s the vast majority. Here are some interesting factoids. There are 28 million businesses in the United States approximately, only six million of that 28 million have any employees. Right out of the bat, 22 million people who own businesses are solopreneurs. There’s no way for them to become operationally relevant and of the six million businesses that exist, only 300,000 do more than $5 million dollars in sales.
So you can assume that at least five million of those businesses, the owner is intimately involved in the day to day operations and in fact is part of the service delivery team. If your part of the service delivery team, you’re not making yourself operationally irrelevant. So you’re basically working for wages.
[0:11:36.0] MF: Right, that makes sense. I see that a lot as well and me, myself, it’s tough to really force yourself out of the business and work on it instead of in it but it’s definitely vital to success.
[0:11:48.5] JP: Yes.
[0:11:49.4] MF: What are some of the other pieces you see for sustainable business?
[0:11:53.3] JP: Well a sustainable business needs to have recurring revenue and if you’re in a construction business or you’re in the real estate business like you are, recurring revenue doesn’t really exist in what the classic thought of recurring revenue is. But if you have a predictable sales system that brings new customers in your door on a predictable basis all the time, then you have a recurring revenue system and your recurring revenue system is how you create new customers.
So I’m assuming that if I was in the real estate business, I would probably focus on having a methodology for creating listings on a consistent basis and not focus so much on selling, although I wouldn’t want to sell real estate. But it seems to me that the people who are really successful and real estate are really good at listing property. Is that true?
[0:02:44.1] MF: Yeah.
[0:02:45.1] JP: So it just seems to me that if you work on a machine that helps you list property on a regular basis, you have a very nice recurring revenue system and in fact, there are a couple of real estate agents in our town, they don’t even get involved in. They just create the system and it runs pretty much by itself. They’ve got very large teams that they work with.
[0:13:06.3] MF: Yup, I would completely agree with that. I have 10 people on my team now with six licensed agents, and I personally might sell five houses a year for really close friends or family, that’s it. Everybody else goes to my team and then we used to have a lot of foreclosures in our area and I was a HUD listing broker, listed properties for banks and that was kind of like the system you’re talking about where you’ve got a steady stream of listings, you’re not out there marketing all day long for one property.
Since that’s changed and REO’s and foreclosures have dried up, we’ve gone to more postcards, direct mail, Facebook advertising but like you said, systems that bring in a consistent amount of leads where we can say hey, if we have a hundred leads, we’ll probably have 10 closings or five closings where it’s all very systematized and we know how many sales are probably going to happen form what marketing we’re doing.
[0:14:00.9] JP: Right. I would define that as a recurring revenue system. As a result, because you have that, your business is actually saleable where as if you didn’t have that system, you say, “Gee, I want to sell my business,” and people are going to say, “Well, what am I buying?” There’s really not much for them to buy, this one construction companies are notoriously hard to sell.
We have a construction company in town, it does a half a billion dollars a year and they ended up saying for the employee stock ownership plan because they couldn’t find a third party buyer to buy it and pay them a reasonable price and this is a company doing $500 million dollars a year with thousands of employees. So if they couldn’t find a buyer, just think about the local plumber with 20 employees.
[0:14:44.7] MF: Right, that’s a great point. As real estate agents, technically we’re running our own business but most of those businesses are worthless if they try to sell them. That’s kind of one thing I always try to — if you build a team, you can sell a team or if you have a really well put together database of clients, I know agents who have sold databases before. But yeah, if you’re just kind of running by the seat of your pants, doing a sale once in a while, you’re not going to be able to sell that business.
[0:15:11.5] JP: Well if you’re a traditional real estate agent where you go out and knock on doors and you pick up listings that way and then you try to market that property, you don’t have anything that’s saleable. So in your case, if that’s your business model, you better be out there setting up a retirement plan for yourself that allows you to put a ton of money away because you have nothing to sell at the end of the day.
If you want to stop working and you haven’t saved money, you’re not going to have that ability. That’s one of the challenges that we as a society are going to be facing big time over the next 20 years. There just has not been enough baby boomers who have saved enough for retirement. So you’re going to have a lot of people working in through 70’s and maybe even 80’s.
[0:15:51.3] MF: Right, that’s some great points and concerns, that’s one thing why I love rental properties. If you can get into them, it’s a great retirement avenue.
[0:15:59.0] JP: Rental properties is a classic passive ownership. In fact, we have a thing called The Four Boxes of Financial Independence and one of those boxes are people who own businesses and have the opportunity to own the real estate that they operate their business out of. If you’re 50 years old or younger and you’re not buying that real estate, you’re crazy.
Because when you get to retirement age, you’ll have paid off that property most likely and in many cases from a cash point of view, rental property is more valuable than the income value of the business once you sell it. Let me give you an example. Let’s say I have a million dollar building with an 8% cap rate, I’m getting $80,000 a year in rent and let’s say my business was worth $2 million dollars and I sell it, I’m going to keep a million too after I sell it and if I spend 4% of that a year, that’s $48,000, which is a whole lot less than $80,000.
So that rental real estate that I own that I just paid off and paying myself rent to somebody else, ends up being more valuable from an income point of view when I want to stop working and my business was. My business is worth twice what my real estate is.
[0:17:08.2] MF: Right, that’s one of the great benefits of real estate. Plus, you would have been paying rent on that property for the same time period anyway as buying.
[0:17:17.9] JP: Yep. So if you’re in the real estate business and you’re working and you have a chance to work with business owners, you should really be trying to sell them property if they don’t own it already.
[0:17:25.6] MF: Yes, I completely agree with that. It’s funny too, bring this back to agents but I forget what the statistic is, but it’s something like 50% of real estate agents don’t even own their own house. So they really aren’t’ doing a very good job of planning out for retirement or finances in general.
[0:17:42.8] JP: That’s probably about the same amount of people who are in the financial service business that don’t have a retirement plan for themselves.
[0:17:49.4] MF: They’re advising others how to retire but they don’t have one for themselves?
[0:17:52.9] JP: Right. They don’t know how they’re going to retire themselves.
[0:17:55.7] MF: Right. It’s amazing how that works. Very cool. Do you want to go with one of the other pieces? You mentioned the five pieces to sustainable business?
[0:18:05.6] JP: Yeah, another piece is what I call values and mission. Every business has a culture and most of the time, culture happens in a business by mistake not my employee. Many times, what the culture ends up being is at odds with the business owners personal values. As a result, the business owner feels like a stranger in their own business at some point. So one of the things, the first thing we do with folks is we help them figure out what are your personal values? And we say, “Well how can we transfer those personal values into your company and how do you take those values and take us with operating your company?”
Let’s face it, everybody thinks they know what the business values are but unless you’ve actually told people what they are, they don’t really know, they’re just trying to make it up. And there’s a good chance if you’ve got 25 people in your company, you’ve got people who thinks there’s 25 different sets of values that the company runs on. Wouldn’t that make more sense if you said, “Well here’s what the values are that are really important to me,” and then you run your company around those values.
If you take a look at all the really great companies, they’re pretty much all values led, there’s a purpose behind them. They’re not just there. When someone says, “The purpose in my company6 is to make money.” No, that’ snot your purpose, that’s the result. Making money or being profitable is a result of serving customers in a manner the way they want to be served ending up with a cost structure and revenue structure that leads profit at the end of the year.
So profit is a result, it’s not the purpose, Peter Drucker said this, who is the guy who invented management science more or less said, “The purpose of the business is to create a customer.” I think that’s a great way to look at your business. If you don’t have good values, how would people know whether you’re the right business or not? If you don’t articulate those values, how would people know if you’re the right business or not? So those are the sort of things you want to think about.
From there, you can develop a mission statement and in my world again, I like things relatively simple. A great mission statement is something that’s trying to emerge or less, and it can be answered with a yes or a no. For example, at Stage Two Planning, our purpose is to help make our client’s lives better. Well that’s not especially, you know, earth shattering mission statement but we’re either doing it or we’re not doing it and if we’re not doing it, we better be looking at how we can do it.
With financial planning, you can help people think about their financial life. Are they in the right track or the wrong track? If we help you stay on the right track, we’re helping to make your life better. If you’re on the wrong track and we’re not helping you do that, we’re not really doing our job very well.
[0:20:47.2] MF: That’s a great point. I think, bringing it back to the real estate field, there’s a lot of real estate agents in the business. Some good, some bad, but I doubt very many of them have any kind of mission statement, have any kind of really purpose behind what they’re doing besides what you said, you know, making money.
[0:21:04.8] JP: Part of the recurring revenue, going back to the recurring revenue stream, is that, if you don’t know who your best customers are and what type of person is your best customer from a demographic and a psychographic profile, you’re doing yourself a real big disservice because your market is not everybody. Your market is everybody, it’s nobody. Nobody can figure out who you are, who you’re meant to serve or how you’re meant to serve them.
But in fact, you know, really specifically about the type of person who is the perfect client for you, then you’re going to get a much better sense for who you should be saying yes to and more importantly, who you should be saying no to. Because if you don’t say no to a lot of the people that want to do business with you, you’re not making room for the people who you’re meant to serve. So “No” becomes a really important factor and a really important word to use a lot if you own a business. Especially if you’re in something like the real estate business because let’s face it, you couldn’t serve everybody if you wanted to.
How many houses can only sell in a year. 30, 40, 50 if they’re really good. Even in Burlington Vermont, which is a tiny little area, I’m sure there’s close to a thousand transactions or several thousand transactions a year and 50 is just a small percentage of that. So you might as well get the right people and not try to do business the wrong people because they won’t buy from you and nor will they list for you, they’ll just waste your time.
[0:22:29.1] MF: Right, that’s a great point and then real estate is so relationship based, the better job you can do for your clients, the more business you’re going to get through referrals. So if you are taking on the wrong clients and not doing a good job for them, it really hurts you in the long term.
[0:22:43.4] JP: There’s two books I highly recommend people read who are in the sales business. One is, Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port which is more on the marketing side than the sales side. The other is The Challenger Sale, which is really more in the sales side. You take those two books and you combine them and you’re going to have a very powerful sales person. You’re going to be selling to the right people in the right way.
[0:23:08.9] MF: No, that’s great, thank you for the recommendation. One thing earlier you mentioned too was, a lot of mistakes business make are they focus on profits and not cash flow and that happens to me in my business because I have 16 flips going on at the moment which is a bit crazy, and it takes a lot of cash. But how important is cash flow to really running a successful business?
[0:23:33.0] JP: Well, if you don’t have positive cash to stay in business. It’s that simple. It’s possible in fact, often it’s probable that you can have a business that’s showing the profit but you’re running out of cash. I’ll give you my vending company as an example because this actually did happen to me. My first three years in business, we were knocking it out of the ballpark. We were growing between 20 and 40% of the year.
To take on a new account, I’d have to invest $100,000 or so in vending machines. We did this for account after account. Well when you buy vending machines, you don’t expense them, you get to appreciate them. That means let’s say you spent $100,000 from machines and I would depreciate them over five years which means I would only get a deduction of $20,000 per year. That other $80,000, that cash out to come from some place.
Although I might be showing a profit, if I had a profit of $50,000 and I was deducting $20,000 for depreciation, that means I have $70,000 where I spent $100,000. I just saved $30,000 event though it appears improfitable. Any business that’s capital intensive has that problem. If your business is growing like crazy and you have receivables, well again when you increase your receivables, it does not become an expense on your profit and law statement.
It does show up on your balance sheets so you can be profitable, growing like crazy and run out of cash. Well, banks don’t really care if you’re running out of cash because you’re profitable, they care that you have cash. Then they’re not going to finance 100% of your growth anyhow. So you better have money aside and paying attention to your cash flow statement, which is you know, in most business owners know there’s a profit and loss statement and almost every business owner knows there is a balance sheet.
But almost no business owner understands that there’s a cash flow statement. Frankly, that cash flow statement is the really important one. That tells you what they’re going to continue to play the game or not or you’re about to run out of cash or you have ran out of cash, which was my case. So I learned really fast how to read the cash flow statement.
[0:25:46.6] MF: Cash is very important, especially if you’re doing real estate investing obviously. There’s a lot of people who want to get in to with no money, no credit, nothing down and it’s possible, not likely but at the same time, you’re really putting yourself in a bad position investing that way. The more cash you have, the more you can save, the better off you’re going to be.
[0:26:04.7] JP: There’s no question about that.
[0:26:06.2] MF: Is there a certain percentage of revenue or value of the company that you like to see in cash or is it all different based on the business?
[0:26:17.7] JP: I like to see between six months and a year, operating expenses in cash. I think that’s a good safe number to have. The reason is that all businesses hit rough patches. Even if you’re not growing fast, your business is going to hit a rough patch at some time. Typically, if you don’t have a cash reserve and you hit a rough patch, that’s when people go out of business because banks will not loan to you when business isn’t good.
They will loan to you when business is great but they’re not going to loan 100% then either. So you have to realize that there’s an awful lot of expenses or growth money that you need to fund yourself and if your business hits a rough patch, you can’t expect the bank to come in and rescue you because they’re not. Banks are not in the business of making loans at there’s a probability or possibly they’re not going to get repaid. They only want to loan money when they are reasonably sure at about 95% plus range, that loan is going to be repaid, otherwise they’re not making it.
During the recession in 2008, people kept telling me, “Well, small business can’t get loans.” No, it was crummy small businesses that couldn’t get loans. All the businesses that were running profitably and were doing the right things, they could get all the money they needed. That was a myth about 2008 and of course if you’re using a five money center banks, they weren’t lending to anybody. But all these community banks, they never shot their loan windows during 2008, nine, 10. They were loaning money like they always did.
Only to credit worthy customers, though. So that word “credit worthy” is a really important one. You should be always be asking yourself, “Is my business credit worthy?” Can a bank have a reasonable assurance that if they loan me money, it’s going to get repaid?” If the answer is “I don’t know” or “no”, the bank’s not going to loan you money. If the answer is “yes”, the one you own the money you need. It’s really — don’t blame the bank, look in the mirror. Banks are not in business to take risks.
[0:28:23.9] MF: Right.
[0:28:25.3] JP: That’s how they stay in business.
[0:28:26.7] MF: Yup. Very true. When I have investors come to me and say, “Oh, I have bad credit, I have all this, I have all these things or you know, I’m just not sure how to get a loan.” My first question is, “Have you talked to a bank?” They say, “No. Go talk to the bank. That’s your first step to see what they say if you have a problem, they can tell you what the problem is and then you have the start of a plan on how to fix it because ultimately…
[0:28:52.1] JP: Banks are really good about doing that by the way.
[0:28:54.3] MF: Yes. They’re very good.
[0:28:57.0] JP: By the way, for the people that are listening, forget Bank of America and Wells Fargo and the gigantic banks, they’re not interested in your business. They say they are, they’re not. Go to a community bank that has nine branches, and you’ll get to talk to somebody who is actually going to set up a relationship with you and will help you figure out what you need to do to become lendable.
The money is going to say, “Well what’s your credit score?” That’s all they care about. Smaller banks go past credit scores, they use a person, are you the type of person they can trust? Are you the type of person that they think they’re going to get their money we paid? And by the way, never, never, never lie to your banker. You do that once, they write you off and they never want to talk to you again. Always tell them the truth
[0:29:43.3] MF: Yup, they will find out usually too if you’re lying.
[0:29:47.4] JP: Not usually, always. Because you have to give them your tax returns at least once a year.
[0:29:52.0] MF: Yup, they’ll pull credit, they’ll see what you’re doing.
[0:29:55.9] JP: They will. These guys were not born under a turnip, they’re a pretty smart usually, especially people that work in the credit department.
[0:30:05.0] MF: Oh for sure, yep and I always tell people too, I always tell them portfolio lenders, the banks that lend their own money not securitizing it on Wall Street because it’s easier…
[0:30:15.7] JP: And those are banks you want to do business with. They’re great to do and those banks if they take you in and they decide you’re a good risk, they will ride through bad times with you. They’re not going to throw you out the door. but Bank of America, you have a blip, they’re going to put you on workout so fast your head will spin whereas the smaller banks, they have trust where if you go through hard times they know how that works and know how to deal with. They won’t lend you more money necessarily but they won’t call your loan either.
[0:30:47.4] MF: Right, very true and they’re much more flexible on real estate especially investment properties where the big banks are just they don’t want to even…
[0:30:55.3] JP: The big banks, I don’t know why anybody in a small business would ever want to deal with a big bank.
[0:31:00.1] MF: Yep, completely agree.
[0:31:03.2] JP: I find that flabbergasting.
[0:31:05.4] MF: Josh so we’re talking about the cash flow, credit, is there any other major point for businesses?
[0:31:13.3] JP: Well there’s two other points. One is you’ve got purpose, operation irrelevance, which means you as the owner have to get out of the way of your business. You’ve got reoccurring revenue which also includes having a marketing and sales systems that works. You have profit, which we touched on briefly, there is four areas of profit. Is that enough money for you to live your life, enough money to have a safety fund, which we talked about.
Enough money to pay for your part of business growth that the bank won’t fund and enough money to save for retirement and then there’s the fifth area, which is a biggie, which is systemization. Too often business owners think that their employees want to figure out what they should do to be successful. That’s because the owner likes to figure out what they should do and they don’t like systems. But the fact is our employees generally do like systems.
They want to know what it takes to make their job successful and for them to be successful in their job and they want to know what they need to do for success and that means you have to systematize your business. So your employees wants systems so do your customers, but you see your customers want to have consistency when they do business with you. They don’t want to have their service delivered one way one day and then completely different day the next day.
They want to know that when they call you’re going to do X, Y or Z and you’re going to do X, Y or Z every single time they call where they have a question and if you don’t do that, you’re going to have frustrated customers and frustrated customers always find someplace else to go. So systematizing your business is really important. The one thing I always tell people who are trying to sell a business is to look at your buyer would tell you they want you — they don’t.
They want your people, they want your systems and they want your reoccurring cash flow. They do not want you and if you don’t have systems, it’s hard for a buyer to figure out what your business is about and how it runs. If your business is systematized, it makes it much easier for them to say, “Hey, if I buy this thing, I’m likely to have success with my acquisition.” So systems are really, really important.
Many business owners don’t like them but employees and customers love them, and realize that your job is to make it easy for your customers to do business with you and easy for your employees to provide great service. Those are the five things that I think are really necessary to have a business that goes and becomes sustainable, which means the business will last past you.
[0:33:46.4] MF: Right. I’m curious, do you have an idea of what percentage of businesses meet all five of those things that you talk to?
[0:33:54.6] JP: I doubt it’s one percent. I mean the fact is, the amount of businesses that are actually sold, there’s a site called bizbuysell.com and it’s a market place of small businesses that want to sell their business and I forgot what the percentage is, but it’s less than five or 10% of the businesses that get listed are ever sold. So when businesses aren’t sold there’s a reason for it. Typically the number one reason is, is that the business is the owner, and the owner is the business, and you just can’t sell a business when that happens.
But there’s also if you don’t have a reoccurring revenue source, you are not profitable enough, you don’t have systems, your people are going to walk out the door as soon as it’s sold, all of those things get in the way, which gets discovered during a thing called due diligence. So if you want to sell a business, do yourself a favor, do a mock due diligence to examine your business., see where your weak and fix where you’re weak, and if you can’t fix it, at least manage it and have a reasonable explanation of why it is not a big problem.
[0:35:03.3] MF: As I am listening to this, I’m realizing most of my businesses are not sellable.
[0:35:08.7] JP: Well, you can join the vast majority of other business owners.
[0:35:13.5] MF: Oh, yeah well, it’s tough. I mean as a business owner, it’s tough to really, it takes time to put those systems in place and it’s also tough to detach yourself emotionally from the business and realize that you aren’t, or you shouldn’t be needed in the business.
[0:35:30.6] JP: Yeah.
[0:35:31.7] MF: Awesome, well Josh I know we’ve gone over a number of different things, really awesome information. I learned a lot. If someone would like to talk to you more or wants more help with their business, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
[0:35:45.0] JP: Well they can always send me an email, which is — my easy email address remember is [email protected]. Just send me an email. I’m email addictive so I’ll get back to you quickly. If you want to give me a call, you can call me at 802-846-1264 extension 2, and if you want to learn more about what it takes to create a sustainable business, I have a free one hour audio CD course and it’s really easy to get it.
All you have to do is take out your smart phone and text the word “sustainable” to 44222 and you’ll get a link. Click on the link and give me your address. I will give you the audio CD, which you can listen to in your car while you are driving in places between appointments and you can learn a little bit more about it if you want to talk to me, after that then I am happy to do so.
[0:36:43.3] MF: Awesome and I will do a write up and have the show notes with that information as well. If people are listening, they can always come back to my site and see those. Do you have one last piece of advice for business owners, if there’s one thing they can do right now to take more control or make it a better business, what should they focus on first?
[0:37:02.3] JP: Make sure you have passion about what you do. Running a business is too hard not to be passionate about what the business does.
[0:37:10.2] MF: That’s awesome and I completely agree with that. I’ve tried to start or worked on things that I thought might make money but I didn’t really care about, and it never worked out just because I didn’t want to spend my time on it. If you don’t want to do it, it’s probably not going to be successful.
[0:37:25.4] JP: Yeah, you’ve just have to remember that running a business is just really hard work and you better love it because making money is not a reason to do it all by itself.
[0:37:35.3] MF: No, that is great advice. Awesome, Josh. Well, thank you so much for being on the show, I really appreciate it. I learned a lot, I’m sure my listeners did as well and yeah, let’s keep in touch and thank you again for being on the show.
[0:37:48.0] JP: My pleasure, thanks so much for having me Mark.
[0:37:49.9] MF: All right you have a great rest of your week.
[0:37:52.1] JP: You too.