by Richard Harshaw



In a previous article in this column, I wrote about not neglecting that 401-K that is your business. I showed how your retirement income needs may well outstrip even an aggressive savings plan and suggested that you not overlook that growth of the most important investment in your life—your business. In today’s column, I will touch on some ways to build a business that will be worth its weight in gold (well, almost) when you decide to retire.


First, if you are not yet married, consider making your business divorce-resistant (not divorce-proof—there is no such thing).  Consider a pre-nuptial agreement with the spouse-to-be.  And if you are already married, think about putting your business into a trust.


For your sons and daughters who may some day come into the business, have their spouses sign post-nuptial agreements that state they lose all claims of ownership if they divorce their spouses.  (They’ll scream, but your business will be safer.)


Every successful business is like a solid triangle—it is built on three vital sides.  These are culture, leadership and ownership.  Together, they result in a successful organization.


A company’s culture are its values, its ethics, its vision and its destiny.  The culture must be in harmony with the business strategy or trouble will surface.


Leadership speaks to a successful company having an outside perspective (not inwardly focused).  It deals with leaders who are truly leaders (people who have others who voluntarily follow them; a leader without followers is just taking a walk by himself), not just title holders and pompous dorsal sections of horses.  Leadership translates the culture into action by the employees.


Ownership must not be stuck up or bureaucratic.  It is there to empower leadership and catalyze the culture.


What sort of things can you do to contribute to such a company?  Plenty.  Here is a partial list:


  • Hire the best talent you can find to manage and lead the operation
  • Impart your vision and culture to those managers and leaders (and every employee) every day with zealous energy
  • Improve your systems so that the company can run perfectly well if you took a six-month vacation on Bora Bora, where there are no cell phones…
  • Build renewable revenue as much as possible (service agreements come to mind…)
  • Avoid a high risk customer portfolio (a small number of large customers, especially those who pay poorly)
  • Become an icon in the community (give back as much to your town as you can; they will bring it back to you)
  • Focus on building a marketable image for your company that sells the sizzle, not the steak


These are some of the things that build an operation that is very attractive to an investor when it comes time to sell your business, pack your saddle bags, and ride off into the sunset.  In fact, such a business—a printing press for greenbacks, if you will—will be worth many times its annual earnings.  So you think you’ll need $2 million to retire?  A business that earns $200,000 a year in easily-renewable incomes can well be worth it!


Go for it, King Midas!  Turn your business into a gold mine!