Be a Dealmaker, not a “doer”. Part 1: The light bulb moment

You’re going to have many light bulb moments throughout the process of learning about business acquisition strategies, and thinking about buying businesses and the opportunities and the possibilities that can unlock.

This is part one of a two-part article in which we’re going to look at the very distinct differences between being a dealmaker and being a doer.

You’re going to have many light bulb moments throughout the process of learning about business acquisition strategies, and thinking about buying businesses and the opportunities and the possibilities that can unlock.

Those light bulb moments will likely differ, depending on what you already know and maybe where you are on your entrepreneurial journey. However, there’s one that I think is pretty much universal – the realisation that you need to become a dealmaker, not a doer. Why? Because you will make more money buying and selling companies than you could ever make from just running a company, and certainly more than you would make as an employee.

I know because I’ve been there!

I’ve been the doer. I was the doer for years and the thought of it still pains me now when I look back on it. I’ve got a photograph of myself sitting in an office over twenty years ago, and while I did actually have a smile on my face I’m sure, deep down, I was crying.

When I was a doer, I was in the office every single day and I felt that if I wasn’t, the business would fall apart. People would need me and I wouldn’t be there. Who would answer their questions? Who would make the decisions? Who would power the engine? And if I wasn’t there in person, I’d be thinking about it! It was a crazy period of my life.

And it was a nightmare managing staff, an absolute nightmare! If you have staff right now and you can relate to this, you probably also know that the staff themselves never realise that they are the nightmare. If you work for someone else right now, you probably don’t realise that you are your boss’s nightmare. That’s something you will only discover when you employ people yourself. 

You see, all the stuff that employees think is normal – taking extra time off, working from home, changing your hours for personal reasons … that’s all a nightmare for the boss, and that was my nightmare every single day. I worked weekends because it was the only quiet time in the office and, as a result, I never saw my family.

That was then, this is now

For me, those times are long gone. I’m no longer stressed, I don’t wake up in the middle of the night worrying about things. Why? Because I started buying businesses.

When you buy a business you’re not buying a job, you’re buying a business that someone else operates on your behalf, and that gets you out of the day-to-day ‘doing’, it gets you out of the activities that cause the stress.

When I started selling businesses that I bought, when I lived life as a dealmaker, not a doer, everything changed. I had freedom of choice, because I made so much more money.

In the early days it often comes down to things like having the choice over which car you drive and where you go on holiday. Then it can be choice over better cars and holidays, homes, schools and more.

As for the day-to-day, yes it still all needs to be dealt with. I own a lot of businesses and I employ a lot of people. There’s always something going on with the staff somewhere! During the pandemic, workplaces changed fundamentally and a lot of staff were furloughed. Then they came back and workplaces started to open up again. Sounds like a nightmare, right? And it might have been, but none of it affected me because I have a management team to run it all for me.

Make the switch from being a doer to a dealmaker

Are you a doer? Maybe you run your own business, but feel like it’s two steps forward, one step back. It’s hard to make headway. You pay everyone else first and you get paid last. Your staff can get a mortgage but you possibly can’t.

Alternatively, maybe you work for someone else. That’s even worse, isn’t it? Because no matter how much work you put in, you’re still just getting paid a salary. There might be a bonus to look forward to, but that’s not going to change your life.

In both of those situations, you’re a doer. To get ahead of the pack, you need to transform from being a doer to a dealmaker, someone who buys and sells businesses for a living.

As I mentioned in the introduction, the fact that you make more money buying and selling companies than you will ever make from just running a company was actually a light bulb moment for me. Let me say that again because it’s worth repeating: you make more money buying and selling companies than you will ever make just from running a company. And the key to that is making the switch from being a doer to a dealmaker.

Life as a doer:

  • In the office every day
  • The nightmare of managing staff
  • Working weekends and never seeing your family

Life as a dealmaker

  • The freedom of choice
  • Hiring a management team to run it all for you
  • More time, less stress and more money

But you know something else? Buying and selling companies is also a lot more fun than running a business day-to-day. Having done both, I can tell you without any doubt whatsoever you will have more fun and make more money and experience less stress.

I don’t know what’s not to like about that!

Dealmaking myths

There are plenty of myths surrounding dealmakers. But they’re just that – myths.

Let me debunk half a dozen of them right now.

Myth #1: You need a large cash reserve to buy other businesses.

Reality: You don’t need a large cash reserve because you won’t be using your own money to finance the deal.

Myth#2: You need a perfect credit history.

Reality: You don’t need to have a perfect credit history because you won’t be approaching banks or lending institutions to buy businesses.

Myth #3: Only big businesses or big players can buy out other businesses.

Reality: Individuals can buy businesses just as easily as multi-national conglomerates can. Sometimes it’s easier for individuals because owners know that you can do the deal quickly and it won’t take months of internal meetings for you to be in a position to buy.

Likewise, you don’t need to operate out of an office to be a dealmaker. You can sit in your lounge with a laptop and do it all from there, or else hold meetings in hotel lobbies or cafes.

Myth #4: You’ll work yourself to the bone.

Reality: Being a dealmaker means you can structure your lifestyle to suit your needs and wants. When you’re the sole trader of a start-up, this is almost never the case. You have to be available 24/7. That’s why I strongly recommend that you don’t get into the habit of turning up every day or even week at the offices of the companies you buy. Let your manager or management team run it for you. Yes, you should attend a monthly board meeting, but you can hold that meeting anywhere: in your front room or a hotel foyer down the road. In other words, you don’t have to get sucked into the daily running of any business you buy.

If you are in the office every day, something is wrong. You’re not allowing your manager or management team to do their job and are probably getting in the way.

Myth #5: It’s very complicated, and you need to be a financial whizz to know what you’re doing.

Reality: You don’t have to be a financial genius to be a successful dealmaker. First, I’m going to show you how to do deals. Second, you can hire experts to help you get the best possible deal. I have a team of people whom I pay to help me analyse, buy, grow and sell businesses. My team includes experts in finance, tax, law and HR. Unless you have expertise in each of these areas, I strongly recommend you do the same – hire a team. Don’t try to wing it!

Myth #6: Negotiating deals is hard.

Reality: As a dealmaker, you’ll be negotiating with business owners. No matter what you might think, negotiating is not difficult. Every day I receive emails from business owners who want to meet to discuss the purchase of their businesses. How much negotiating does that require? None. People offer me their businesses.

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