Threading the Needle

When it comes to building and selling a company, the path to success is pretty direct. In order to enjoy a successful exit, business owners need to keep cost down, revenue high, and growth promising. That may sound simple enough, but just because the path is direct does not mean that it is easy.

I have enjoyed a handful of successful business sales in my career, and I am currently working on another one. In my experience, when outsiders looking in see a successful sale, they see a perfect tapestry of success. The business grew, the team worked well together, the market for the product was good, and the buyers were motivated. What they don’t see is the work that went on in the background.

In order to wind up with a gorgeous tapestry, you have to thread your needle 100s of times. These needles include finance, manufacturing, marketing, sales, corporate culture, and the general economy. Missing just one of those things can cause everything else to unravel. Every department, business decision, and marketplace factor contributes to the tapestry you wind up with. If you miss something, or try to take a shortcut, it makes your entire piece weaker or even worse, a complete failure.

Businesses are complex. There are details at every single stage that need to be addressed and kept in line. What if 10% of your customers don’t get charged properly? That can affect your revenue flow, which in turn, can affect your vendor payments, which can weaken your marketplace relationships. If your employees do not get along it can affect productivity and output. If the economy tanks then your consumers may stop buying your products.  Putting together a successful business is basically a never-ending process of threading 100s of needles with thin and breakable thread.

When you are in the middle of the process, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. The cavalier attitude of “it will all work out” will not serve you well. If all you can see in your mind’s eye is the beauty of your finished product to the detriment of the details, your vision will never come to fruition.  You have to pay attention to every detail, every external influence, and every decision in order to not miss a thread. Even if you do miss, you may not miss it by a lot, but unfortunately in this game close doesn’t count.

When the world sees you, they will only see the end result. They will not see all of the critical points at which you barely made it or barely missed it. So stay conscientious. Success is dependent on a series of smaller actions and decisions. 

If you don’t perfectly thread the needle time and time again, the tapestry will never come together. So start there.