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From Founder to Visionary: The 7 Stages Every Entrepreneur Must Master by Scott Ritzheimer


From Founder to Visionary: The 7 Stages Every Entrepreneur Must Master by Scott Ritzheimer

By , February 23, 2024
Scott Ritzheimer_quote



Want to find joy and fulfillment in each stage of your entrepreneurial journey? Discover the solution to achieving this result as we dive into the stages of entrepreneurial growth and the key to lasting satisfaction. Get ready to embrace the journey and savor every moment along the way.

With a wealth of experience as a scale architect, Scott Ritzheimer has provided guidance to over 20,000 visionaries in launching, scaling, and preparing for business succession. His extensive involvement in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors has equipped him with a comprehensive understanding of the entrepreneurial journey. Scott’s expertise lies in assisting founders in overcoming the challenges associated with scaling their organizations, ensuring a smooth transition and successful exit strategy. His proficiency in recognizing patterns and opportunities has proven to be invaluable, enabling entrepreneurs to make informed strategic decisions for sustainable growth and long-term success.

In this episode, you will discover:

  • Mastering each entrepreneurial journey stage brings growth.
  • Clarifying vision drives business success and innovation.
  • Transitioning out of operational role fosters strategic focus.
  • Building strong executive team empowers sustainable growth.
  • Embracing new technologies fosters adaptability and innovation.

Transitioning Out of Operational Roles

Gradual disengagement from day-to-and-day operations is a critical phase in the entrepreneurial journey, as explained by Scott. Weaning the business off the entrepreneur’s constant involvement allows the development of a capable team that manages daily operations efficiently. Moreover, this transition empowers the entrepreneur to focus on strategic decision-making roles that influence the business’ future growth and direction.

Watch the episode here:

Welcome to the podcast that’s dedicated to helping business owners prepare for exit so that you can maximise value and exit on your terms. This is the Exit Insights podcast presented by Succession Plus. I’m Darryl Bates-Brownsword, and today I’ve got Scott Ritzheimer to talk to. Scott is a scale architect. He has done this a gazillion times and has a ton of experience and is now helping everyone else or many others, to scale their business and learn from his mistakes.

Hey, thanks for joining me today, Scott.

Darryl, excited to be here. Excited for this conversation.

Good stuff. So, Scott, what I think would be really helpful is if you just give us a couple of sentences on who you are and what you do, and we’ll just use that to set the scene for listeners to understand your background and what puts you in a good position to help others scale their businesses.

Yeah, as you mentioned, I’ve been doing this a gazillion times. Anyone watching on video will be like, how’s that physically possible? I’ll let you know when I figure it out. But I’ve had the opportunity to help about 20,000 different visionaries to launch scale, and many of them ultimately go through succession. I say it that way because some of them are businesses, some of them are nonprofits.

Being able to see both sides of that, how they’re the same, how they’re different, has been fascinating, I would say you see something happen that many times, you see some patterns, right? You start to pick up on what works, what doesn’t. But that all kind of is like, okay, that’s great. Whenever you find yourself in that same position.

And so a lot of what I do now for clients is taking what I saw over all those patterns, taking the experiences I had, trying to apply those patterns in my own life and just really working out the details of it. And now what I help folks do, particularly founders. I love working with founders, that entrepreneurial spark, right? And for many of them, later in their entrepreneurial journey, they may not really even feel like entrepreneurs anymore. Those days of having launched their business of starting it up are so far in the past. And what folks find out, and anyone listening to this knows this, that organisations get bigger. They don’t really get better. Right? There’s just this sense of, we think when we get our first million or our first 5 million or our first hundred million, that on the other side of that, it’s awesome. To an extent, yes, it is true, and that success is wonderful. But the reality of it is the other side of 100 million looks a lot like this side of 100 million, it’s bigger. Bigger problems, bigger wins. A lot of what I do is help founders to overcome those bigger challenges that come with scale to build scalable organisations that are a joy for them to lead.

And in the context of this conversation, make succession highly successful. And for founders, give them that exit that not only checks the kind of financial box, but also checks the legacy box that so many are in it for.

Yeah. So, Scott, there’s just so much, I started writing down a whole stack of notes there because you moved at such a pace, which means that you’re a high energy guy and you’re a classic entrepreneur who makes stuff happen and breathes energy, which is fantastic.

So I think one of the really interesting things that you said there was as entrepreneurs, I think they’re classically optimistic and always forward looking people, and they’ve got a vision and they’re forward looking and they go, if I can just get here, then everything will be okay and then I’ll be able to do this, and if I can just do this and if I can just achieve that. And when they get there, they’ve totally forgotten about it and they’re already looking at the next thing that they’re moving forwards towards. And they never stop and smell the roses or smell the coffee or sip of pinacolada on the beach because they’re always exhausting everyone around them with their energy when they’re hearing the information of, well, it can’t be done that way. No one can do that. Well, they’re just busy saying, well, get out of the way because I’m making it happen.

So you’ve seen and helped 20,000. How does a young guy like you help 20,000 business owners achieve great results at such an early stage?

Yeah, you got to chalk it up to some extent to dumb luck. Right. It’s easy to, come on, pretend I’ve got it all figured out, but the reality of it is a lot of it was just, I accidentally ended up in the right place at the right time.

The other part of it was we were just part of this really dynamic community. Being able to work on both the for profit and nonprofit side of that was a big part of it. Right? And again, seeing the similarities, seeing the differences standing in the gap between those two was a big challenge. But we just found ourselves in that very entrepreneurial community, helping them create order from chaos.

A lot of times we’d call ourselves the second call somebody, be like, I’m going to start a business. And they’d call their wife, or she’d call her husband, say, I’m going to start a business. And they would say, how are you. going to do that? I have no idea. So they call us, how do I start a business?

There’s lots of things that contributed to that. Had an unbelievable team that I got to work with that really made all that possible, and that we just found. Ourselves at the right place at the right time in a number of different ways. But again, the number is what the number is.

I think the patterns are what are really important that come out of that. And what I really appreciate to this day.

We didn’t rehearse this, honest, but that was my next question I was going to ask about, you mentioned patterns, and I think there’s something, and I heard something recently, and I’m kicking myself because I can’t remember specifically what it was, but it was about something about entrepreneurs see patterns and fast thinkers, big picture thinkers, tend to see the world in patterns. Is that your experience also?

Whereas I guess the rest of the world are just seeing the next task that needs to be done and just get the job done, whereas these entrepreneurs and big picture thinkers, for some reason, see through the details and just see the big picture and patterns.

Yeah, I would say that’s a subtype of entrepreneur, in my experience. That’s not true of all of them. I would say what’s true of all of them is they see opportunity. Right? Some of them see opportunity in action, some of them see opportunity in people, some of them see opportunity in patterns.

And some of them are just lit on fire enough to make opportunity happen, even if they don’t see it. So I would say there’s different subtypes of entrepreneur. And yes, a significant portion of them see the world in patterns, and particularly those that really excel in the later stages. That tends to be a trait. Now, in the same token, that can be a detriment early on because you’re too busy looking at patterns and not doing stuff.

So there’s two sides of that coin. But when you look at a lot of the real big name entrepreneurs, a lot of them are actually wired more for the later stages than the early stages, which is why we see their success. And I would say kind of added. Element to this is that technology really amplifies the benefit of pattern recognition.

And so we’re in a season and a time where that subtype of entrepreneur can scale very quickly. They can scale to a very large size because of the ability to translate patterns into technology, into code, into reproducible systems that’s a very beneficial trait in the current economy.

Sure. So, as someone who sees patterns, are they effectively extracting themselves out of their business or out of whatever environment it is, and is able to take that helicopter view and look down and see the whole field of play at one time, so to speak? Is that what we’re referring to here?

Yeah, I think so. I think you see it in a microcosm inside of chess. Right? You know, what the set of moves are. Now, where I think chess is very different from the real world is that it is a confined environment.

And so you won’t necessarily see visionaries be great at chess, but you will be able to see them do it in an open environment, which is the world. Right. There are not those same set of limitations that you have in chess, but that same idea of being able to think and move a couple of steps ahead. Here’s why it’s so important. Again, in the early days, it’s not as important because you just got to get out there and get stuff.

What’s helpful is knowing, hey, this is all worth it. Right? It’s worth it because of the patterns that I see. But later on, you should have a team around you who’s helping you execute. And so by seeing the patterns, what that allows you to do is spend the bulk of your time as that visionary leader, as that entrepreneur, looking at what’s coming and entrusting your team to. Execute on what is, if that makes sense and what that does for your team. Even if they’re not necessarily prone to thinking in patterns, or even if they kind of get a little annoyed at you when you do, it still creates this wonderful context for them to do their best work. And it move you, as an organisation, toward the vision that you have, toward the mission that you’ve created. And that’s where I think that strength is so helpful in scaling an organisation up again, because it creates the context. for why what we’re doing matters.

Okay. And you touched on the vision there, or the mission I think you’re referring to. Is that something that you use and you see? Is that a pattern that you see that successful entrepreneurs have? They’re aware of what their mission or vision or some sort of big picture?

Absolutely. 100%. And I would say it’s a big part of what separates. We’re kind of early on in the process, but it’s a big part of what separates entrepreneurs who just create a job. Right? The kind of technician, the solopreneur, from the entrepreneur who builds a company who ultimately can actually scale that thing up is that idea of vision and mission. I was talking to a gentleman. He had actually inherited a business from his father, and he’d been doing it for 15, 20 years and about five of those as the leader of his organisation. And he was frustrated as I’ll get out. And I asked him, I said, hey, tell me, what is your vision for the company? It’s yours now. What’s the vision for it? And he kind of dodged the question. He went on to some problem he was having with a client, and I kind of rained him back.

I was like, okay, that’s great. We can deal with that later. If we’re going to work together, I’d love to know what your vision is so I can help move you in that direction. And he started talking about an employee challenge. Like, totally ignored the question.

And I’m a little like, what’s going on? So I kind of let him go. We talk about this employee thing for a couple of minutes, and I bring him back. I’m like, well, let’s call him Jeff. Jeff, what’s your vision like if I were to help you, where do you want this thing to go?

And he said, Scott, you keep using that word, vision. I don’t know what that means. He said, my dad told me, to have success in this industry, you’ve got to have ten appointments scheduled for next week and every week since then, unless I was on vacation. And even then, sometimes I’ve had ten appointments scheduled for next week. In his industry, him and several of his team members do three to five times, depending on the year, what an average person does in revenue for that industry because of that ultra near term focus.

But they’re spinning their wheels again and again. They can’t get beyond that because there’s no vision for where the organisation can go together.

Well, that’s the classic definition of being stuck on the hamster wheel. Isn’t it a groundhog day?That business becomes soulless. And I see a similarity with businesses like that. When they don’t know where they’re going, they just know operationally what they have to do and how to do it. Well, operationally, and dare I say it, that’s the risk of what happens when someone comes in and drives the business from the numbers only. They’ll drive the business from the spreadsheet, and they’ll tweak it and they’ll tweak it and they’ll tweak it and they’ll make operational improvements from a spreadsheet perspective, year in, year out, to the point where it’s acting like a swiss watch.

But then you have a look at the people in the business, and there’s no soul. None. And then they’re the sort of businesses where you expect and often see high staff turnover. How do they counteract it? Well, they start paying the people more because they’ve got great operational effectiveness.

They’ve got better than average margins. They’ll pay people more. And that holds people for about six months, from what I’ve seen. And they’ll get a job elsewhere, and they’ll go, no, stay. We’ll give you a pay rise.

Okay, well, I’ll get a pay rise. If they don’t remove the underlying factor that made the person want to leave in the first place, I. E. The place was soul destroying, then that’ll only buy them for another six months. Look, so we need to get a vision, because humans are people that are inspired on energy and feeling and passion, right?

And when they’ve aligned to a business where a business owner’s got a vision or a mission, they’re basically saying, we’re going in this direction, and people buy into their energy and they’ll go, I’ll go on that journey with you. It sounds like you’re building something of value, something important. That’s part I want to do, that that’ll feel like I’m making a positive contribution. Yeah, I’m getting paid, and I’ve got to get paid in my job and what have you. But as humans, we crave good leadership, and we crave to be part of something bigger than ourselves, don’t we?

100%. And folks listening to this, they’re thinking about exit planning. So what in the world does this have to do with exit planning? Because entrepreneurs are like, that’s not my business. Right?

That’s not how. We’ve got ideas and mission and vision for days. They’ve got their set of challenges. But what I really want to dial in on is what happens when you’re not there anymore, right?

What happens when you completely exit day to day operations? What happens when you sell to private equity or even to folks inside the business? What they’re going to do is whoever takes over after you is most likely going to be or install what we call an operator. Right. Or someone who is good at running by the numbers.

Why? Because your leadership style as a visionary is messy. Let’s just be honest with you. You create a lot of problems, but it’s that messiness and that dynamism that brings the appropriate excitement for an organisation. Now, it has to be controlled. It has to be tempered, right, that you have to be part of a team. But what happens is when you pull that out, it looks like this great, everything gets better in a certain way. It’s like you don’t have that messiness anymore. You kind of get the toddler out of the house, and it’s like all of a sudden it’s clean, but it’s a little boring too, right? And so what happens is, when you.

Exit, if you don’t really think through. This, if you don’t plan for it, what happens is your organisation starts dying. From the day that you’ve left and. Your legacy goes with it. Now, folks will do it and they’ll look and be like, no, it’s actually gotten better, right?

And so for the first couple of years, it will look like it got better because we got all that messiness out. We’re running by the numbers. To your point, it’s more efficient, it’s more effective. You might hit peak profitability or your successor might hit peak profitability. But what’s going to happen is this long, slow slide into irrelevance, right?

This irreversible decay. I was a picture of this for folks. I was taking my dog for a walk. We’ve got these beautiful woods back behind our house. And here in Atlanta, every once in. A while, we’ll get these really crazy windstorms, know, typical day, we’ll have a couple miles per hour wind, couple meters per second, whatever you want to call it, but then these strong gusts will come through. And so we had this happen overnight. It was super loud, as crazy. And I take my dog for a walk the next day, as we’re walking through the woods, you kind of round this corner and this giant tree that I couldn’t fit my arms around twice, right? It’s just this huge tree that I’ve always loved walking out.

It’s this beautiful tree, looks awesome and. Strong, and it’s laying there on its side. And I’m like, how is that even possible? Right? Like, wind is wind, but it’s like, how can a tree that big, that strong get blown over?

And as I continue walking around the path, it kind of corners on this tree. And I get to the point where I can see down into the inside of the tree. It was completely hollow. All but the last couple of inches had been roted out and eaten out by ants. And so we look at these giant organisations from the outside, and they look strong, right?

They look beautiful. They look big. But what happens is when they don’t have that visionary life. Right? They don’t have that visionary spark, that continuously developed vision for the future.

They start to die from the inside out. Again, it sounds really rough, but it’s true. And you need to know it is that the one and only exit from that is that the business disappears. Right? Same thing for nonprofits, but we’re talking about businesses here.

It just simply ceases to exist when you look back. And this isn’t something that just affects small businesses. You look back 50 years ago now, around 1970, you look at the Fortune 500 list, you compare that to the list today. Do you know how many companies are. Still on the list?

I’d be less than a handful.

Yeah, it’s about 10%, and it’s a little less now than it was when I first did the study. That means 450 of them aren’t on the list anymore. Right. The 500 biggest companies just a generation ago, all but a handful of them are gone.

And for this same reason, at some point, they lost their vision. They pursued the numbers and the data, said that they were right to do. It, and they didn’t realise that that was wrong until it was too late.

Okay. We’re talking about a solid, reliable core that holds it together like a foundation or a soul. A heart and soul. We often talk about the founders of an organisation being like the sun. They’re the energy source for the solar system. That is their business. So, Scott, what are some of the patterns you see? We need a vision. We need that energy source. Know, I think what you may have even been alluding to was a source of drama in business, which just keeps it interesting, shall we say? But a lot of business owners, when they start to think about exit, they’ll go, well, things can’t happen without me. How do they start that exit journey?

If they’re thinking from some point in time, I want to start thinking about exit, I’m not going to be in this business forever. Some of them think they will be in it forever. But for the ones who are thinking about it, how do they start that journey? Because I think you touched on it being a journey. And what is that journey that they need to start planning for?

Yeah. So a couple of things in order. There’s a couple of phases to this. So the first phase of this is, is the organisation operationally dependent on you? Right?

Are you the key consultant? Are you the primary sales rep? Are you necessary for your organisation to hit its goals for this year? Right. Are you still in producer mode?

If you’re in producer mode, you’ve got some work to do. That’s the first thing that you need to eliminate. And so getting out of producer mode is the first one. The second one is, and this is a little harder. Are you the magic eight ball of the organisation? Right. Anytime something goes up, I see this, especially the early stages of working with a business. We’ll be sitting there, there’ll be a leadership team, and again, from the outside, it’ll look great. And then I’ll say, we’ll get to some big decision that has to be made. And everyone goes like this. Everyone looks to the guy, the girl, whoever’s in charge, and you realise, oh, no, you don’t have a decision making team. You’ve got a leadership team of advisors. And ultimately, when push comes to shove, it comes down to you. Now, we pride our self on that. Right? Yeah. It’s not inherently a bad thing. You’ve got to be a great decision maker to get a business to that stage, but it’s not going to get beyond that stage if you’re still the magic eight ball. Right? If you’re still the one who’s got all the answers.

So once you’ve eliminated the production requirement, the next thing that you need to begin working on is not exercising your magical decision making skill. It’s building a team that can make decisions with you. Right. It’s building an executive team that’s capable of carrying that decision making load along with you. And then the third big stage of this process of removing yourself from the function of the organisation so that you can exit, so that success can work, is we start looking at the organisation, we start looking at succession, and the natural thing to do is to find somebody that we trust to carry the organisation toward our vision for the future. Right. That’s a natural thing for an entrepreneur to do. The problem with that is your vision just becomes a static point in time. If you find someone who wants to curate and caretake your vision for the rest of the organisation’s history, every year it’s going to get more and more stale. Every year it’s going to look more and more like a museum of the vision to the past.

Let’s make this practical. So, right around the time that IBMis transitioning from Watson senior to Watson Jr. Watson senior had this vision for these computing machines, right? The kind of imitation game magic, massive mechanical machines that performed calculations and had just tremendous success, right?

I think they had 80% of the Fortune 100 as clients. Something like it was just crazy, right? If you had one of these, chances are it came from IBM. It’s what they were known for. And again, right around the time that we’re transitioning from one generation to the next, right around the time they’re looking at succession, this new technology starts to emerge, right? Early versions of what we now call computers. And Watson Jr. has to make a really big decision. Right. And let’s just be honest. Am I going to continue to develop dad’s company, right, that was a computing machine company. Am I going to continue to promote dad’s vision for becoming the best computing. Machine company in the world, or am. I going to embrace this new technology that I can see? This is where it’s. Essentially, long story short, Watson Jr. says computing machines were of the past. They’re great, but this is where it’s going. We’re going into computers, we’re going all in. It almost wrecked the company. Right. We know the acronym IBM today because of it. But when you look at the practical requirements of this, they didn’t know how to build computers. They didn’t know how to write software. They didn’t know how to sell computers or sell software. Their clients didn’t know how to use computers. They had to reinvent virtually every aspect of who they were as an organisation. And that’s why some 40, 50 years later, Jim Collins still writes about them as one of the top companies in the world. Right. This is the next existential challenge that they’re facing as an organisation.

But what you can see is the secret to that succession. The reason why IBM is the celebrated organisation so many decades later was that it wasn’t just about Watson Senior’s vision for the future. It was about the freedom for Watson Jr. to build on that vision and. Create a new vision for the future of the organisation?

Okay, so new leaders need to bring their vision forward so that they can, I guess, authentically, or they’re using their energy to drive the forward and keep the business moving. Otherwise, the vision just becomes a destination. And then once you reach the destination, you then revert to hamster mode that we touched on earlier.

Yeah, I was talking with a client, and he said, we’re working on our values. We want to deepen it. We’re trying to develop the next generation who can carry our values forward. And I said, that’s nice. That’s great. What you really ought to do is develop a next generation that you trust to create the values for the next set of growth.

Okay? So, always thinking forward. So does this mean, Scott, that when we’re thinking about our exit, we need to be thinking when we should be exiting as opposed to how we’re going to exit and get that timing right, so that if we are interested in leaving a legacy, we’ll get ourselves out of the way when the timing is right. I guess it’s a bit like a pro athlete knowing to retire when they’re on a high rather than waiting just one year too late and all of a sudden they’re running downhill down the other side. If you retire on a high, is that what we’re talking about here?

100%. And I would say the athlete one is a very good illustration of what we’re talking about. Because they can play another year, right? It’s okay. I’m a big fan of Formula One racing.

And you know, that year after they’re out of their prime and it just looks like the wheels fall off and what’s happening there is how are they remembered? Are they remembered for the elite player that they were? Nico Rosberg retires the year after he wins the Formula One World Championship and shocked the world. But we remember him as a champion. We don’t remember him as he probably would have got beat by Lewis Hamilton after that, I don’t know, but it’s how they’re being remembered.

So similar thing for founders. What separates founders from a lot of other owners is this desire for them to be remembered for their organisation, to be remembered for something, to still be there when they’re gone. And so because of that, it’s not just about when do we cash out. What we’re looking at is how do we build an organisation that when we leave it, accelerates and can continue to accelerate? And here’s what’s so special about that.

It’s a little bit more work. You won’t always be able to come up with, hey, the financial incentive behind. It on the front end. But when you build an organisation that has that capacity, that can not only execute well and produce, can not only make great decisions consistently again and again and again, and can not only have a new vision for where you’re going as an organisation. When you start stacking all those things up, that is a very sellable organisation.

This really cool thing happens because a lot of folks start thinking about exit. When they’re burnt out, right? They’ve already started that long, slow slide and they’re allergic to it. If you do it before that, right?

If you do it before you hit that period, your multiples can be through the roof. Right. And so what we’re looking at, the pattern here is selling when your organisation is ready, not when you’re bored.

It’s a really interesting thought process to get the timing right, because we’re never going to get the timing right. And if you’re looking back, hindsight is always 2020 vision, but you can’t drive the future of the business by looking in the rear vision mirror. It’s crazy. And as you were talking, I was trying to think of some of the athletes, and I’m thinking, Jordan, amasing athlete. I’m going to say freak because he was so unique, but didn’t he blow it by trying to go and play baseball or something and change sports? And an amasing athlete.

Here’s another one, actually. I actually tell this story just briefly in the book. I’m a big hockey fan, too, here in the US, and if you don’t know hockey, that’s fine. You don’t need to. But there’s a very good player from my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. His name was Mario Lemieux, and he was able to win two Stanley Cups with his team, which is the big championship. Very few people have ever done that, but similar. He actually comes back into the sport, kind of waffles a little bit, and ends up owning the team. Now he has five championship rings on his hand.

So what happened was when he took over as owner, he was able to win three more Stanley Cups as owner. He won more Stanley Cups as the owner without ever getting checked once, right? Without ever having to make a shot, didn’t have to do a single lap around the rink, right. He made three Stanley cup wins, three rings, three celebrations as owner. It was more than he ever did as a player, and he didn’t have to sweat a drop to do it. And that’s what’s so special about the entrepreneur’s journey, is that we can do that.

We can become owners, and we can actually achieve more as owners with so much less effort than we ever did as producers or as magical decision makers, or as even the visionary for our organisation,

If you got the capability.

Okay, great point. It creates this question of, like, how far can I go? Do I really have what it takes? How far can I do it? And my experience with that is this far less fatalistic than we think. We all think. We have this kind of hard ceiling somewhere. We don’t know what it is, but eventually we’ll hit it.

And to a certain extent, that’s true. Each organisation is its primary limitation is the market that it’s in. But here’s why that conversation, I think is just completely wrong, is because when you take entrepreneurs, and you mentioned this early on said, if you tell them that something can’t be done, what are they going to do? They’re going to blow right through you and figure out a way to do it. What happens is more often than not, when we hit that kind of existential lid, it’s not because we don’t have the ability to become the next leader that we need to be. It’s because we’ve reached the lid of how we’re showing up as a leader. From a past stage. The stage has changed. Right. And I actually outline these seven distinct stages in my book, the Founder’s Evolution. But what’s happening is it’s not that you can’t move forward, it’s that you can’t move forward by doing what you’ve been doing. And so when you look at every founder who’s progressed through each of these stages, who’ve gotten from four to five or five to six or even six to seven, they didn’t have the skills to do that beforehand. They learned the skills to do that. And so what happens is you have to recognise that the game has changed. You have to recognise that there’s a different skill set. And what I’ve found the primary limiting factor is, do you want it? How much do you want that next skill set and the success that it brings. And once you articulate that to founders, once they realise, oh, here’s how I need to change the way I’m showing up, and here’s what the benefits of that are. Nine out of ten of them will do it. And the one out of ten who don’t realise, no, I actually didn’t want that .It’s more work than I want. I’m happier back here. Right. Either way, they’re empowered to build a. Business that they want.

Yeah. And gives them clarity. So, Scott, you’ve mentioned a couple of times, I think you’ve written a book that outlines the whole journey for business owners. And we’ve touched on a number of things here today. So is there one key message? Is there one key top tip? If you like that you really want listeners to take away, they can, obviously, we’ll put the link to your book in our show notes so they can go and find the book and get the whole story. But what’s the key theme? What’s the one tip you’d love listeners to take from our conversation today?

That’s a great question. I’m going to hearken back to something that you mentioned earlier here. So the first one is, I think when I look at entrepreneurs who are stuck particularly founders who are stuck. Maybe they’ve had a lot of success and they’re just bumping up against what feels like that glass ceiling. The most important thing that you can do is to find out what stage you’re in as a founder. There are seven of them, from pre launch to post exit, and they all have completely different skill sets that are required.

And then you decide, hey, do I want to build that skill set or not? But here’s why each of those stages is so important. And again, this goes back to the point that you made early on when, as entrepreneurs, we are very forward looking. I don’t think I’ve ever met an entrepreneur who didn’t want to go to the next level. Now they have no idea what the next level actually is. Right? You dig in, it’s kind of more of the existing level, but they’re future oriented. They’re looking at what can and should be. And to get there, you’re going to have to adapt and evolve as a founder. But none of that matters if you’re miserable every stage along the way, right? If you put your joy on hold until you reach some milestone, I guarantee you at the other side of that milestone is less joy than you have today. If that’s your mindset going into it, and it’s not because there’s less joy available today, it’s because you will militarise your idea of, I’m not going to be happy until I’m here. I was working with a client, and their dream was to make $10 million and to keep a million of it.

And they finally get to this point, they make $10 million, they keep a million of it. And you know what the first thing he told me was after he told me that now I got to figure out how to pay a $400,000 tax feel. Yeah, right. And so what we have to do is we have to recognise what stage we’re in, what skills are required for that stage. But more important than anything, we have to recognise what joy is available to us in this stage. There’s something really special about every single stage. There’s something that when you look at folks who are three, four stages down the road where you say you want to be, they look back at where you are and say, man, I missed that. And so the biggest tragedy is to miss it in the moment because we’re waiting for some future.

And I think, upon reflection, a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners, they’re on a continual learning journey. They may not be consciously on a learning journey, but they’re just going, what I have to do to overcome this? Here’s the next problem. What do I have to do? And when they look back, they’ve been continually learning, pushing themselves, stretching themselves, getting out of their comfort zone and achieving targets.

And so they’re on that forever learning journey. But the key point that I think you made is wherever you are, just enjoy the moment you’re in, enjoy it for what it is. Because we can so easily get caught up in the trap that the grass is always greener. It’s better. It’s better.

It’s better in the future. And then you live life forever in the future. One day you’re going to be happy and you’ll just never get there.

Yeah, that’s 100% right.

Scott, that’s fantastic. Look, I really appreciate you sharing those insights. We’ll put the link to the book in the show notes so that people can dig deeper and understand a whole lot more about the seven stages and the skill sets that they need to acquire to get through each of those stages as a journey from a founder through to, I guess, what’s the last stage exited?

Visionary founder. Right. We finally get the title that we’ve kind of used all along.But when you look at what a visionary founder does, it’s really special.

Brilliant. Thanks, Scott Ritzheimer really appreciate get your exit insights with us today.

Darryl, it was an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.

About Scott Ritzheimer

Scott helped start nearly 20,000 new businesses and nonprofits and with his business partner started and led their multimillion-dollar business through an exceptional and extended growth phase (over 10 years of double-digit growth) all before he turned 35.

He founded Scale Architects to help businesses across the country identify the right growth strategies and find the right guides to get them on the fast-track to Predictable Success and stay there as long as possible.


If you would like to learn more about how to start preparing your business, then you can get more information here: It All Begins with Insights.

Darryl Bates-Brownsword

Darryl Bates-Brownsword

CEO | Succession Plus UK

Darryl is a dynamic, driven Business Mentor and Coach with over 20 years of experience and passion for creating successful outcomes for founder-led businesses. He is a great connector, team builder, problem solver, and inspirer – showing the way through complexity to simplicity.

He has built 2 international multi-million turnover businesses; one now operating in 16 countries. His quick and analytical approach cuts through to the core issues quickly and identifying the context. He challenges the status quo and gets consistent, repeatable and reliable business results.

Originating in Australia, Darryl’s first career was as an Engineer in the Power Industry. Building businesses bought him to the UK in 2003 where he quickly developed a reputation for combining systems thinking with great creativity to get results in challenging situations.

A keen competitive cyclist, he also has a B Eng (Mech) Engineering and an MBA.