Summer may be a time for light beach reads, but if you’re ready for something a bit more insightful and inspirational, here are a couple books that fit the bill. Both are highly readable and engaging, but they also deliver important takeaways that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.
Consider this a follow up to last month’s blog post about how to have a financially savvy summer!
Back by Popular Demand
Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street
How can you resist a read that both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet agree is the best business book ever?
Originally published in 1969, Business Adventures by New Yorker contributor John Brooks went out of print in the 1970s. But after Warren Buffet loaned it to Bill Gates—who publicly called it his favorite business book—it was reprinted in 2014 with an updated title: Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street. It’s been wildly popular ever since.
What makes this book so special? Brooks provides detailed stories of 12 defining events in business history and makes them crackle with life and wit. He also reveals plenty of insider information on what went right—or terribly wrong—in each situation.
As entertaining as he is perceptive, Brooks delivers important insights we can all learn from. In fact, his tales are so enjoyable you may even find yourself turning them into educational conversations with your kids.
Although he’s writing about incidents from the 1950s and ‘60s, Brooks’ observations remain as relevant today as they were back then. As Bill Gates put it in a blog post about the book, “the rules for running a strong business and creating value haven’t changed.”
It was particularly fascinating to read about “The Fate of the Edsel,” a fresh take on Ford’s spectacular failure to listen to and communicate with their customers. It’s a cautionary tale for business leaders today, and at JJ Burns, the story’s lessons have been helping us communicate better with our own clients.
There’s also much to be learned from Brooks’ exploration of the seemingly invincible Xerox Corporation’s downfall, which was primarily due to a massive failure of vision and innovation. This story will resonate with our entrepreneur and executive clients. Continued innovation is essential to continued success.
You’d think such high-profile failures would never happen again. And yet, only recently, Kodak followed a very similar downward trajectory, going from undisputed industry leader to bankruptcy court—mainly because of misguided innovation and strategic management failures.
They say whoever is ignorant of the past is doomed to repeat it. In addition to being a delightful piece of writing, this book helps inoculate you against that ignorance.
Enjoy it like a vintage wine.
From Searing Pain to Soaring Purpose
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
Before reading any further, stop. Write down the three things you are most grateful for in your life.
If you’re like most of us, your answers will be drawn from the following: health, family, relationships, and the fortunate circumstances life has afforded you. We often take these things for granted as we go about living our everyday lives.
But for Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, the ability to take such things for granted came to a crashing halt with her husband’s sudden and untimely death during a family vacation.
Her answer to this devastating loss was to write about it with help from her friend, psychologist and top-rated Wharton professor Adam Grant. The resulting book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, continues to climb bestseller lists around the country.
And for good reason. Both hopeful and heartbreaking, Sandberg’s book is a generous treasure trove of wisdom and inspiration. Her personal grief and isolation in the aftermath of losing her beloved husband is interwoven with many other stories of people triumphing over adversity. It’s a moving testament to the human spirit, as well as a practical guide to building resilience and recovering from life’s inevitable difficulties.
Sandberg rose above her own experience to bring about workplace change. She recently helped enact a new policy at Facebook that gives employees 20 days of paid bereavement leave—which is two times more than the previous amount.
Using a devastating setback as a springboard to societal change may be out of reach for most of us, but this book will certainly inspire you to a deeper appreciation of all that you have. And it is a book you may find yourself returning to the next time life sweeps away your Option A and leaves you to make the most of Option B.
Navigating Difficult Times
As financial advisors, we’re frequently called upon when clients are going through major life crises, many of which are as devastating as losing a loved one or a business. It’s our privilege to serve in these situations. Our concern goes way beyond simply answering the question, “do I have enough money or resources to get through this?”
While we can’t ease the emotional pain of loss, we can ensure that no additional suffering occurs because of insufficient planning. Making sure you’re prepared for the unexpected is one of the most important things we do.
It’s also one reason we’re very proud of our vocation. We have the opportunity every day to make a difference, to help ease life’s burdens, to provide a safety net when life’s inevitable tragedies occur—and just as importantly, to help families like yours live life to the fullest in the good times.
We consider you, our clients, to be part of the JJ Burns family. We’re here to help with whatever you need.
You’ve worked hard to build your business to where it is today. Whether you are selling your business to move on to other things, or it’s simply time, it’s important to think ahead. As with most things in life, a good plan is very important to have in place.
Strategically look at the sale of your business. Even if you’re not ready to sell just yet, you should be building it with the intention of selling or the possibility of creating a strategic merger. Whether you sell or merge, you want your organization to look appealing to any potential growth opportunity. Many owners don’t prepare in advance for their business to be sold so they miss the opportunity to leverage the sale for themselves, their family, and their employees.
As part of your planning process, consider these five common mistakes many business owners make – so you can avoid them.
Mistake #1. Not planning with the end in mind. It can be hard to think beyond the day-to-day running of your business. Making the decision to sell may happen one day, or over time, but having your plan ready will be important either way. Think about what you can do to fetch the highest value for your business and “who” would likely be a purchaser. Ask yourself these questions:
What is the value of your brand in the market place?
What is the tenure of the people on your executive team
How vested is your team to stay on after you’ve sold?
What are the most important intangibles of your business that are difficult to replace making it appealing for the purchaser?
Remember, your business is, well, business. As hard is it may seem, you need to keep that in mind. It may feel like your child, but there comes a time when you let the child grow up and move on. Selling your business can give you a means to fulfill other goals you may have on your “bucket list”, whether it’s seed money to start something new, the opportunity to concentrate on something else, or living the life you only dreamed of.
Mistake #2. Not using the right advisors or accessing the right guidance. Selling your business is an important step in your life. Make sure you get good advice as you make your plan.
Get unbiased advice from your financial, accounting and legal advisers. A solid team often yields significant results. Clients often tell us that they did their due diligence when they started their business, but did not do the same in choosing the wealth planning team to plan and manage the life they want to live.
Try to avoid “emotional” biased advice. Because you’ve been strategic, you have the opportunity to weigh opinions and options and can time the sale, prepare your documents, and consider alternatives.
Your team of advisers can help you prepare a strategic, thoughtful financial plan for your business so it thrives after the sale, just as it has thrived under your leadership. Continued performance may be part of the installment sale plan.
Mistake #3. Not knowing what happens after the sale. You’ve made it! The sale has gone through. There will be that first day you do not go to the office. What will you do?
You may have reached this point in your life through a variety of paths. You may have more than one business or want to start a new venture. Maybe your health has changed. It might be time to retire. No matter the reason for changing ownership, after you sell, your life will be different. Be prepared for this change.
How you fulfill your dreams may take many different forms. If you plan to volunteer, check out some of the organizations that interest you to see how you can help. Many people travel. Research the destinations you’d like to visit. Maybe you’d like to work part time for a business or cause that is dear to you. Evaluate those opportunities as well.
Practice what an average day will look like in your new life. Create an agenda and live by it. Make sure you write it down! Our clients have found the gaps in their lives and filled it with many more things they were never able to complete when they had the responsibility of running their business. Don’t let the new time on your hands come as a surprise to you or your family.
Mistake #4. Not thinking about financial implications. Time will be exhausted. Will your finances too?
Just as you have an asset allocation for your investment portfolio, you will also want one for your wealth. All your capital should not be placed in the business. Create “diversifiers” for your money. For instance, you can consider placing assets in real estate and your portfolio.
If you plan to retire when you sell your business you will no longer pay for expenses through the business. Expenses that were once part of your business are now your own personal expenses. You will have to think twice before going to the office supply store, buying the extra service package for your cell phone, or getting those box seats to a show/game. These and other expenses will need to be provided for by your portfolio or other sources of income.
Whether you still own another business or have retired, your taxes will also be impacted. Talk with your financial and tax advisers to discuss the possible tax implications of the sale. This is important when setting up your plan ahead of time.
Another change could be to your income. Hopefully business was good and the sale left you sitting pretty for this next chapter. But you may have less income now. Either way, think about making the most of your sale so it lasts as long as possible to give you the lifestyle you want.
Mistake #5. Not considering alternative approaches to selling your business. Just because you want to sell your business doesn’t mean you have to sell it to some stranger. You could make it part of your legacy planning. When creating your succession plan, you could include the business as part of an inheritance. This way, if you were to die before you retire or sell it yourself, you could still keep it in your family or with key owners.
You can also consider an alternative that keeps you working in the business but lets the ownership get divided. In this case, you could implement an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). ESOPs provide employees with an ownership interest in the company, giving workers stock ownership, often at no up-front cost to the employees.
Evaluate options and start your plan
You may hope to stay in your business for years or you may be looking at potential buyers or a merger soon. Either way, creating a plan ahead of time can help you make your business attractive when the time comes. By seeking professional guidance and doing some research, you can make these positive changes in your business – and your life – less stressful and more beneficial to all involved.