Revisiting 30 Years. A Tale of Two Exits: My Scale Up 15x Story. Beyond 2019
This year marks my 30th anniversary year in the field of management consulting since getting my MBA, Entrepreneurship degree with an emphasis in Management Consulting.
A Local Success Story … Scaling Up 15x
Ten of those thirty years – my first ten from 1989-1999 - were spent building a fledgling small business development center in Van Nuys, California. During my ten years there, we scaled our annual revenues 15x.
In 1991, a small group of us developed a vision to have Valley Economic Development Center ("VEDC") become a nationally recognized organization. While it took a number of years for that to happen, our vision and shared purpose drove our business.
From 1992-1999, under my leadership and management as the 2nd-in-command, our business became the largest not-for-profit business and economic development center in California.
After the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, we grew three-fold from about 9 to 30+ employees in one year. In subsequent years, our staff packaged more SBA loans than any other Small Business Development Center in California. And, our leadership team developed a revolving loan fund that got approved through the US Dept. of Commerce, which resulted in $30M in funds to make small business loans to earthquake-impacted companies in the Southland. And, I directed an economic development research study for the San Fernando Valley, which if it were a city today would be the 5th largest in the nation – larger than the cities of Phoenix, San Diego, San Antonio, Dallas or Philadelphia. Our strategic vision for the region resulted in the formation of The Valley Economic Alliance, a private-public collaborative of business, government, education and community organizations serving the 2.1 million residents and 70,000+ businesses.
Sadly, two decades later, on July 2, 2019, twenty years after my departure, VEDC filed a voluntary petition for relief under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.
The Role of Second-in-Command
During my tenure there, I honed my skills as the chief integration officer of a visionary leader, John J. Rooney. As my boss, he turned to me regularly to talk confidentially about his vision, plans, challenging issues on his mind and the occasional frustrations of some team members.
I always knew that I worked best as a #2 person due to my strong listening skills and easy-going relationships with everyone in the company.
The role of 2nd-in-command served me well as I continued on as a coach of other small business owners and a chief whisperer to those clients. At the age of 41, I went out on my own. None of my family or in-laws would have believed that I would make a full-time business out of consulting. There were the earliest years when my income only equaled years at VEDC. And, I missed having a team to share in our victories and struggles.
But my independence was priceless. I was able to work from home and spend time with my child. I had the freedom to work when I wanted and with whom I wanted. And, I no longer had a boss. Now I had to be accountable to coaches and mentors, whom I sought out to help me grow.
2019 and Beyond
It’s been 20 years since I launched my own business. And, 2019 was my best year ever. Most of my clients grew their revenues between 20-40%, while one of my clients exited his business for $8M at a multiple more than 6x EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation and Amortization) on TTM (trailing twelve months) revenues.
Growing a service business is difficult, especially if you are the sole service deliverer. You can charge higher prices, but you cannot easily replicate yourself. You can find ways to leverage your talents with teaching tools, outsourced experts, and a scaling up mindset, but there as only so many hours in a day. (Read my blog on Scaling Up Your Service Business).
With 30 years of advising, consulting, coaching and financing small and medium size enterprises, many of them family businesses, I can proudly say that the clients whom I’ve advised and coached have brought me a lot of satisfaction.
As I’m thinking about 2020 - reflecting and reviewing these past three decades - I have learned a lot about growing a business, mine and my clients. I plan to work another ten years or longer, if I continue to be valuable and relevant and passionate about serving my clients today.
I’m excited to help more businesses scale up and exit successfully.
Are you ready to scale up your service business?
Schedule a conversation and let’s talk about your next steps.