On May 14, we hosted a webinar with two former Wardell clients, fellow entrepreneurs Louise Turgeon and Paul Farrell. We discussed how the Wardell program has helped them in their entrepreneurial efforts, all the way through their exits of their business.
Paul Farrow is an entrepreneur who has achieved "Freedom 54.” Paul is the former owner of several businesses, including an advertising agency and most recently Sauble Golf and Country Club, a private golf facility, both in Ontario, Canada. Paul's career has spanned across multiple industries, including music, leisure and management consulting.
Louise Turgeon is the former owner of Vancouver institution La Baguette et L’Echallot. The first French bakery in the city. Throughout her 40+ year career in food and hospitality, Louise’s experiences have encompassed manufacturing, retail, catering and restaurant ownership. Having been successful in both retail and wholesale, a fire in 2012 had La Baguette pivoting to wholesale. Louise sold La Baguette in 2017, and stayed on as General Manager for several years.
If you tuned in, you may have noticed that we were having some technical difficulties, but soldiered through. Unfortunately, these difficulties persisted offline, and we were unable to process the recording.
For those of you who rely on our replays, our apologies. Instead, we’ve summarized the key topics below.
You’ve probably heard that to build a successful business, you need to work on it, not in it. But how do you know if you’ve taken steps in the right direction?
Your job as a business owner is to make sure your business makes some progress (whether it’s an inch or a mile), climbing the Value Pyramid each and every day. Here is how it works.
The First Level: Owner Driven
The base of the Value Pyramid is where every business starts — being Owner Driven. This means the business relies on you, the owner, for survival. If you stop paying attention to the business for any length of time, things stop progressing.
The Second Level: People Driven
To solve this problem, a business owner must work to move to the second level by bringing others on board, moving the business up to becoming People Driven. If you’ve brought on the right people who take on the responsibilities that were once solely on your shoulders, your business will grow.
Inevitably, however, people will leave and without proper protocols, the work will fall back to the owner. Additionally, new members of the team will find new ways to do the same thing, and it may become difficult to provide a consistent experience. The solution lies in climbing to the third level to become Systems Driven.
The Third Level: Systems Driven
Systems Driven businesses have sustainable structure for future growth. This may include position outlines, key performance indicators and automated systems. So the next time you lose an employee, you have a recruitment system to find a replacement, a hiring system to identify the right candidate, an orientation system to get them started, and so on.
If you get here, you will be further ahead than 80% of your peers, but the truly successful businesses, no matter the size have made the journey all the way to the top, having built a Culture Driven business.
The Fourth Level: Culture Driven
This is an environment where employees are empowered and encouraged to contribute to the continuous improvement of the organization on a daily basis. They follow the systems, but they are constantly on the lookout for ways to make them better. We call this a Culture of Excellence, and it is the secret to every truly successful organization.
If you’d like to learn more about the Value Pyramid, check out Mark’s TEDx talk on Maximizing your Potential.
Mission, Vision and Values: What Do They Mean?
The mission of your business is its purpose, the vision is the goal, and the values are the rules of engagement.
Paul: When I bought the golf course, the management team left. I posted the mission, vision and values everywhere. Our vision was to be the Disney of golf — they’re the masters of customer experience, so while it was lofty, it was our goal. When these are published, it’s something we can use in employee development and reviews as well.
Louise: Creating our mission, vision and values was new to me, but it helped me focus on what I do best. Over time, the staff felt more comfortable, customer relationships grew, and it gave me a purpose for going to work everyday. It kept me focused on the business, and it helped me earn the trust of the employees.
Even in hard times like our current climate with COVID-19, these apply all the time. Dignity, respect — these things don’t change.
Goals and Planning
Strategic objectives are how you get people to connect with the business and help it find direction. Knowing where you’re heading gives you the ability to make decisions when opportunities occur.
Paul: We knew going into the [golf course] that we were going to sell it. We wanted to rebuild it, increase the value, and then exit. We set that goal and stuck to it. Without having the end in mind, we couldn’t have gotten to where we did.
Louise: Our goal was to also sell it, or keep it in the family, but later. With the strategic objectives in mind, it helped guide our strategies in customer retention and acquisition, product offerings and the like, but having it laid out made it easier to go to the bank for funding when we needed it, because we had a clear plan.
Data in Business
One of the most important things in your business is what you know. The more you know, the more you can draw from when making decisions that help drive your business towards its strategic objectives.
Paul: We wrote down everything. When we considered keeping the club restaurant open year-round, we had to consider what tourism was like, and what our surrounding competition was like. When it came to promotions, we knew what other businesses’ promotional schedule was, so we made ours opposite to that to maximize business. By recording everything, we were able to see what supported our key performance indicators, and we were able to succeed in subsequent years because we knew what to do.
Louise: In an industry where margins are thin, even small, incremental changes could impact the bottom line. By gathering information about our clientele and being in tune with trends and seasonality, we were making constant adjustments to suit our clientele. This ensured that we delivered what our competitors couldn’t, and helped us find profitable niches. Being able to choose your customers, especially in the wholesale business, was a large part of our success.
Paul: Having the data at hand also helped us see how parts of our businesses interacted. This led us to bundling services together to deliver more value to customers and raise revenue. To make this bundling effective, however, tracking changes in each part of the business — food and beverage, labor, maintenance — was essential. We were able to understand what impact this was having on our KPIs, which in turn allowed us to communicate this impact with employees so they could make decisions that supported our strategic objectives as a business.
Without structure, without process or systems, you’re always counting on people to do the right thing, but it might not always be the same.
Louise: One thing that about having a system is that it felt like teams felt they had the authority to make decisions. They also knew that if someone was away or sick, someone else could fill in and still be relied upon. It was definitely better than being called in the middle of the night when something had gone awry.
Paul: For me, it was important to help the staff and support everyone in reach our customer service goals. When I helped out by bussing tables in the restaurant, it allowed other employees to focus on the customers and provide the best service possible. Though this goes against the idea of turnkey businesses, ownership involvement not required, if you have the proper systems, you can choose to do this, to help the team and support company culture.
It’s not just about the pieces of the puzzle, but how the pieces assemble. If you have a transparent, structurally sound business, there aren’t any surprises waiting to be discovered when it’s time for due diligence.
Louise: By writing everything down from the start, it was easy to prepare the documents necessary for potential buyers. Systems and job descriptions were organized and straightforward, which attracted our eventual buyer. With budgeting and forecasts ready to be provided, the buyer was able to see the expected rate of return.
Paul: When we made the decision to sell, we found out we would be losing one of our key managers. Since we had the documentation around the position already laid out, it was easy to pinpoint the best candidate for the vacancy, as well as train the new hire to make sure that when it was time to hand over the keys, it was as seamless as possible.
Though both Paul and Louise had the same goal in mind, the steps they took aren’t exclusive to those looking to sell alone. By setting a clear objective, defining their mission, vision and values, using the data available to them and systemizing their business, they were able to make their businesses thrive, vaulting them up the Value Pyramid.
Interested to see where your business is at? Take the Business Strength Test.