Built To Sell

by John Warrillow

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
 3 min read
Built To Sell
Built To Sell

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Aiming for long-term sustainability while preparing for a potential sale makes a business more valuable and adaptable.
  2. Specialization in a specific area, rather than generalization, enhances a business's quality of work and appeal to buyers.
  3. Establishing independent business processes and not tying the business's identity too closely to the owner increases its sellability.
  4. Effective financial management, including positive cash flow strategies and a strong sales team, is crucial for a healthy and appealing business.
  5. Preparing for sale involves having solid financial records, a skilled management team, and strategic planning for future growth and language use in the business.


Building a Sustainable and Sellable Business

  • You should always run a company as if it will last forever, and yet you should also strive constantly to maximize its value.
  • The best businesses are sellable, and smart business people believe that you should build a company to be sold even if you have no intention of cashing out or stepping back anytime soon.
  • Once your business can run without you, you’ll have a valuable—sellable—asset.

Specialization and Client Dependence

  • Don’t generalize; specialize. If you focus on doing one thing well and hire specialists in that area, the quality of your work will improve.
  • Relying too heavily on one client is risky and will turn off potential buyers.

Control and Clarity in Business Processes

  • Owning a process makes it easier to pitch and puts you in control.
  • Don’t become synonymous with your company.

Financial Management and Sales Strategies

  • Avoid the cash suck. Charge up front or use progress billing to create a positive cash flow cycle.
  • Two sales reps are always better than one.
  • Hire people who are good at selling products, not services.

Preparing for Selling the Business

  • You need at least two years of financial statements reflecting your use of the standardized offering model before you sell your company.
  • Build a management team and offer them a long-term incentive plan that rewards their personal performance and loyalty.
  • Find an adviser for whom you will be neither their largest nor their smallest client.

Vision, Language, and Employee Retention

  • Think big. Write a three-year business plan that paints a picture of what is possible for your business.
  • If you want to be a sellable, product-oriented business, you need to use the language of one.
  • Don’t issue stock options to retain key employees after an acquisition. Use a simple stay bonus.


  1. How can I manage my business to ensure it's both long-lasting and always ready to be sold at a high value?
  2. Why is it important for a business to be able to operate successfully without my direct involvement?
  3. How can specializing in one area improve my business's appeal to potential buyers?
  4. What strategies can I use to manage my business's cash flow more effectively?
  5. What steps should I take to prepare my business financially and structurally for a potential sale?
  6. How can changing the language I use and the way I plan for the future make my business more attractive to buyers?

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