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Preparing Your Business for Sale: The Hidden Importance of Digital Assets with Chloe Thomas

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Preparing Your Business for Sale: The Hidden Importance of Digital Assets with Chloe Thomas

By , July 5, 2024
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Discover the unexpected: Chloe Thomas reveals the crucial business element most entrepreneurs overlook when preparing for an exit. It’s not just about the financials but also the intangible assets that could make or break a deal. Want to find out what this often-missed factor is?

Chloe Thomas is a marketing and business strategy expert with over 16 years of experience as a business owner. She has a down-to-earth approach and genuine insights into building an effective marketing function and preparing a business for exit. Chloe’s personal experiences in selling her own business add a unique layer of authenticity, offering valuable lessons and practical advice for business owners. Her expertise and relatable storytelling are bound to provide you with a fresh perspective on the key pillars of business strategy and the ownership of the marketing function in a business. Get ready to gain some actionable insights and enhance your marketing approach with Chloe’s wealth of knowledge.

In this episode, you will be able to learn:

  • Mastering an effective marketing strategy to elevate your business.
  • Weighing the pros and cons of outsourcing versus employing a marketing team.
  • Unveiling the key pillars of a successful business strategy to propel your growth.
  • Preparing your business for a successful and lucrative exit strategy.
  • Taking ownership of the marketing function in your business for maximum impact.

Watch the episode here:

In this episode of the Exit Insights podcast, we’re exploring how to build your marketing function with expert Chloe Thomas. We talked about and include in this episode, like when do you need a strategy? Who owns the strategy of your business? Should you be outsourcing your marketing team or should you employ them in house? Now we also touch on talking about the points of if product and your routes to market are your two pillars of strategy, should you be starting your business with a really clear strategy, or should you just be winging it and testing and experimenting with different routes to market until you get some traction and then revisit it as things settle down a bit and you’ve got some experience in the market with your product, these are some of the things we cover.

Chloe also shares some of her experiences when she sold her business and that adds a bit to the mix as well. Look, this is a great episode with a real expert in marketing. It’s one of the key pillars of strategy, as we discussed. I hope you enjoy the episode.

Welcome to the podcast that’s dedicated to helping business owners to prepare for exit so you can maximise value and then exit on your terms. This is the Exit Insights podcast presented by Succession Plus. I’m Darryl Bates-Brownsword and today I’ve got Chloe Thomas joining me. Chloe is I beat. Well, let me be upfront and honest. I’ve listened to Chloe’s podcast on and off for a few years and I’ve asked her to come and join me to share expertise on the marketing function in a business and how we can maximise the marketing function in our business so that we can maximise the value.

Chloe, thanks for joining me. Really appreciate you taking time out of your hectic diary and sharing some of your insights with us.

Lovely to be here. Darryl. I think, I love that you have a podcast on this topic because I think it is an area where, you know, everybody says when you, when you start a business, they’re like, oh, you must have so much freedom now.

And it’s like, no, you can turn around and hand in your notice any day you choose. You only have to be there for another 30 days. You try leaving a business you own nightmare. Yeah, I love that you’re flagging that to people before that point where they’re like, why can’t I leave tomorrow? So, yeah, really excited to be here chatting with you.

Thanks. And just hearing you say that sounds like the voice of experience to me.

Yeah, been there, done that. Probably did it badly, but got out of it. So, yeah, you have to. I think there are so many things in business you do not learn until probably you’ve done them. You know, like we’ve all kind of been down the pub and gone, oh yeah, this happened, this bad thing happened to me. And suddenly everyone else in the room admits it’s happened to them too. And you’re like, if you told me that two weeks ago, I’d have saved, you know, in life and in business. And I think exiting is one of those things people don’t talk about enough until it’s too late. So, yeah.

I totally agree with that. And as an immigrant in this country, so we’re talking about the UK. I think there’s a bit of britishness in that. In that there’s the old stiff upper lip and we do present a good picture and less talking otherwise. And I found that when inviting people to join the podcast, I’ve spoken to people just out there networking and they’ve said, yeah, well, I’ve already sold my business. And they tell me a good game and I go, that sounds fantastic. Perhaps you’d like to share your story on the podcast. And then all of a sudden it’s, well, yeah, maybe not because it didn’t really, um, or, uh, go quite and, uh, well, you know, and, and it’s human nature, isn’t it? We present, and it’s a bit like being on social media, we present that story, but that we want everyone to, to buy into and then the reality behind the scenes and you don’t have to scratch too deep and you find out that it’s not a perfect story, but that’s normal.

Yeah. And I think it’s, it’s like if, I think I’ve been doing it, doing this pretty much being my own boss for about 16 or 1617 years now, I find, I find it really fascinating what things people find impressive. Right? So I’ve written books, people, some people find the fact you’ve written a book to be just like unbelievably impressive. And then I’ve spoken in countries other than the UK and people, some people find that just unbelievable. You spoke in Europe.

That’s amasing. It’s like really wasn’t got asked, paid a lot in travel, spoke, gained nothing from the experience, came back sometimes, and sometimes it’s better than that, but it’s like, it’s not that impressive. And I think when you say, when I say to people, oh, yeah, I sold my marketing agency and then, oh my God, you sold your agency. And you just see them imagining you now live this kind of like made in Chelsea lifestyle and it’s like, no, no, no. It sounds so.

It’s one of those things in business that people see as being an awful lot more glamorous than it really is, naturally. And sometimes you can just kind of, I’ll roll with the glamour. You assume the glamour will roll with the glamour, but it really wasn’t that glamorous and I didn’t make that good a job of it. But it is one of those weird things that people, like, put you on a pedestal because you’ve achieved it, rightly or wrongly.

Yeah. I was talking to a friend, colleague recently, and she said, so you work with entrepreneurs. And I could see it going down this route, and I’ve gone, whoa, whoa. When you hear entrepreneur, what does that mean to you? What association do you apply? And she says, well, business owners, and they’re doing deals and they do it. And I go, most people who call themselves entrepreneurs, if you had a look at the average income of these people, they’re not making a heck of a lot of money. So let’s just dispel that myth right off the bat. Let’s talk about. Yeah, and some people are very entrepreneurial. And I was going to say, well, yeah, they’re freaks and I’m totally impressed by them.

And the guy who started Succession Plus a friend of mine who’s based in Sydney, he fits one of those categories, but freaks aren’t always good. He’s got some amasing qualities. Craig, if you’re listening to this, I’m sorry, but sometimes they’re just so damn hard to manage. Cause he comes up with 20 ideas a day and we’re moving from one to the other and then we’ve got to go. Right, those 19 are rubbish Craig, let’s get on this one and it’ll be absolute brilliant and we’ll get halfway down and you’ll want to change direction. We’ve got to go. Let’s finish off this one. And Richard Branson’s another one in that ilk. But he’s got a magnificent team around him and he’s mastered the art of getting teams around him.

It’s not for everyone. It’s hard work. And let’s. Before we, I dragged you too far down that rabbit burrow, I wanted to pick up. What I wanted to talk to you about today was your expertise in building and supporting the marketing function of a business. Yeah, but if I could just put that on hold for a sec, because you’ve really captured my attention.

Do you want the inside story? Do you?

Yeah, I’d love for you to share your story and your experience when you said, hey, I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve sold my business. So if you could just share with the audience what you know, just in a short story, a quick abbreviation, what you knew before you started, what you did, and I guess what you wish you knew before you started.

So the quick side of it is 2007, accidentally started a marketing agency. I was Managing Director from day one. I thought I was in charge, didn’t realise I was in charge until the person who suggested it and who was who, you know, I was very excited to be doing it, who suggested it and who let me run it and was kind of the silent partner in it, realised that, realised about three years before I did that I wasn’t ever going to be particularly great at this, and shifted the shareholding. So then I became 80% shareholder, fully in charge, realised I had known nothing for the previous two years.

And then about three years after that, discovered that I was an introvert. And if you’re an introvert, you, I get exhausted by dealing with people. And then when you’re managing a marketing agency and trying to grow it, you have to deal with your team and you have to deal with your clients and you have to deal with new business. It is endless people.People. So it was never going to be. Knowing what I know now, I would never start a marketing agency. I might be maybe at some point in the future where you find me as coo of a marketing agency or an advisor to a marketing agency, but you would never find me founding one again because it just doesn’t fit with what I need to be happy in life, if. So, I realised this. I realised I needed to get out of it. And it took me five years, roughly speaking, to get out of it. And I tried lots of ways and failed lots of ways to get out of it, and in the end sold it to one of my team, who was brilliant, who was pretty much running it. At the point where I sold it, I sold it, one lump sum. Pay me the money, you get the whole business done, dusted. I wanted out. I did have a fairly juicy six month consultancy support package that I. But we agreed within it, but basically no earn out. One fee, gone.

I was tested soon afterwards. Was this a good idea or not? Had I done okay? And, you know, you know, sometimes you don’t understand. You don’t really get to grips with whether you’ve done the right thing or not until an event happens and you feel the feels and you’re like, okay, I did okay.

And one of those things was about three, four months after I sold, they signed. I had like an earn out on you. I had like mini teeny commission on new business. So not an earn out at all, but a nice little commission deal on people. I referred to them and stuff.

Three, four months after I sold it, they signed more new clients in a month than I’d ever achieved in the ten years of owning the business. And I was like, that’s the moment where either you feel angry or you sit there and you go, awesome. I have done the right thing. And every cell in my body was on the awesome side. And I knew I had done the right thing at that point and that it was the right.

We ticked all the right boxes. The clients were happy, the staff were happy. They were succeeding with this idea. I’d evolved over a decade, and I was very, very happy not to be a part of it anymore. I’m not sure if that entirely answers your question.So what did I miss? What else do you want to know?

So the question I think that we always want to know, find out about is when you agreed, so you sold it to one of your staff. So one of the management team. Great. So an internal buyout. Did you have any advice? Did you have someone to help you with the legals, the transitions, the tax side of things, putting the deal together to protect both parties?

Not really. I probably did it very, very badly. So I’ve had a few good friends who’ve done similar roles to yourself over the years. So I did a lot of network, I did a lot of entrepreneurial business owner learning over the years. So I knew, I’d known a fair amount in my five year journey to try and work out how to exit of the theory and the things to avoid the things not to do. I had at one point, I’d taken on a new. I’d like done a 50 50 split at the agency with someone who I thought would be my route to exit and was a part of that route.

To be fair, I didn’t have got there without that part, but that was definitely a bad idea. Bit like your boss. Lovely, but nightmare. I like everything ordered and we just. We were not a good combination. Huge respect for the guy. He’s an awesome person to help me in many ways over the years, but we shouldn’t have been running a business together. So that was a bit of a diversion. But I learned a lot of the things as we got there. And then when we reached that point of actual putting the deal together, I knew what I wanted to. We did a little bit of negotiation between the two of us. Then they hired a lawyer and worked my way through the paperwork, which I’m sure many people would tell me was a terrible thing to do. But by that point, she knew more about the business than I did. So it’s like you’re writing all these, signing all these warranties to say, this works. And this I don’t know, because I’m only in the business one day a week anyway, by this point, so I’m not looking after the clients. I can’t guarantee this stuff. So I did it with a possibly naive, but it’s all turned out okay. Lack of professional support, but with some friends who really know this stuff, who helped me.

Yeah. So a little bit of classic entrepreneurial. Took all the risk by doing it yourself and saving some money, but.

And saved a grand. Arguably not worth it. There we go.It’s all been okay.

And fortunately, it’s worked out okay. So, Chloe, how did you agree that the price that the new owners would pay for the business and buy the business off you?

I can’t remember how I came up with the original number, but I put a number out there. They came back with a, would you like to do this number instead and hold on to a percentage for a period of time? That would, given what I said about them doing a lot better with the business than I had financially, that probably would have been a really good decision. But emotionally, I needed that clean break. I needed to be done and dusted to move on to other things, you know? And that was definitely the right decision for me. I’ve never regretted that.

But I know that many people on paper will go, why on earth didn’t you take that? It has flickered my brain. God, I can see how much they’re doing. I could have had a percentage, but that was the right decision. So I went back with another number and said, no, I don’t want to hold anything.

I want to be gone. And we agreed. And alongside that, we agreed a six month consultancy fee for an extended handover, plus a commission on new business. But at that point, I was quite a key referral with what I was doing with my now business. So it made sense for everybody. Everybody was happy.

And hindsight’s always so clear, isn’t it? Why didn’t you hold on? Well, I didn’t know then. And it’s good to be self aware of what you needed for the deal to work.

Yeah. I mean, the other thing, which I suspect a lot of people would have advised me to do differently was to have found a way out of it earlier. I mean, there was definitely an argument. You’ve discovered you really shouldn’t be running this business. You are not very good at it. You’re looking after the team, you’re looking after the clients. You’re doing a terrible job of looking after yourself emotionally, financially, energy wise, work life balance, all that kind of stuff. You should have gone right. I’m going to give myself 18 months to get out of this, and if I cant, I’m just going to close it down. Because arguably, if you had a p and l of those five years, I’d probably have, on paper, been better off.

But I think to this day I would still regret the fact I’d, in my head, screwed over my team, screwed over my clients. But maybe there’s definitely an argument for saying that would have been a more sensible strategy for me to have taken, because as I quickly discovered, it’s very hard to sell a tiny agency. Very hard.

Yes. Yep, absolutely. We find that all the time a small agency is much, or a small business is much harder to sell than a bigger business. And the bottom line for that is kind of expressed in all the things that you’ve expressed in what you are feeling and going through, is that it’s hard work and a small business is really risky. One or two people, if they leave, the business evaporates. One or two clients, a small number of clients leave the business can evaporate. So it’s a high risk, which is why people, if they’re going to invest a whole lot of money in acquiring a business, want to buy a bigger business.

And that’s why it’s so important that when we work with clients is let’s figure out what it is you want. Let’s get the cultural and the commercial elements in balance and your goals and aspirations, and we start there. Is it that you want to leave with a fistful of cash? Is it that you want to leave a legacy? What is it you want to leave behind?

And importantly, what do you want to move on to? And we consider all those three elements, the business, the financials, the numbers and the people. Consider those three elements and then you can manage all of the components to get the key outcomes.

You drill it down to what are they actually buying and where’s the actual value? And for the size of business I had, the team were good. The client list was reasonable, but it wasn’t going to set a bigger agency on fire. It was a reliable, friendly, nice client set of clients who would deliver, who kept using us. It wasn’t something that a larger agency, which is the typical thing, is you get absorbed by a larger agency, they’d look to that and gone, we could poach them in about two months if we wanted to. It’s like why would we buy you and the team? Yeah, they’re interesting, but after we poach the clients, we’ll just offer them some money and they’ll come and work for us.

So it’s not a viable thing. Whereas if you’ve got USP’s strong marketing, a solid team that has space for progression, if you’ve got systems and processes that are valuable within that business and that aren’t replicatable, something which will basically a set of assets for that buyer, then it really changes the game and you can massively change the value of business. We just weren’t in a position to be able to do that value stack for somebody.

You’ve touched on something really important there. Yeah, we talk about the seven layers of intangible assets and its IP and its people and its process and its route to market, which is probably a nice segue for us to touch in onto the how do we access the marketplace?

And as a growing SME business, we often start with our product. We’ve got a core bit of product, we’ve got an IP and there’s something we want to sell or a problem that we want to solve. We either start our business with the problem we want to solve or we start with the route to market and go, hey look, I’ve got this access to this marketplace. What’s the next product? What’s the next solution for that marketplace and the way we look at it, at a core business opportunities.

If you’ve got a product or a route to market, if you’ve got both of those things, there’s your business opportunity. What I’d love to explore with you is for those who have got really good product skills and product strengths, whether it be something that they want to retail or it’s a physical product, or whether their product is a solution, a service based solution, what are some of the things when you start building your marketing function? So as your business grows and you get to the point where you’ve probably tried a few things, you’ve done some Google Ads, you’ve created a website, you’re starting to produce a lot of content, you may have a podcast where you’re trying to get your name and reach the marketplace and do some marketing. What are your tips, Chloe, for business owners who are just sort of getting beyond that and go, I need to get some more structure, do you start with some sort of strategy, do you just go, well, let’s be entrepreneurial and go, well, let’s try some email marketing. Do we just wing it? What’s your advice? From a position of expertise?

I think this could take us three days to discuss. We’ve got about 15 minutes. Yeah, we got 15 minutes. So I think how the marketplace is really changing now, options for us, whatever we’re buying as consumers, whether we’re business consumers or consumer consumers, we have so many options that the intangible parts of marketing tend to be what lead people to take action. And by the intangible, I mean things like the story, the messaging, the USPs, the feeling, you know, the founder story. Frequently, what leads someone to choose to buy from that company rather than another one is that they resonate with that story. Not that the, you know, the water bottles are better from them than they are from someone else, or the mugs are better, or whatever else I can see lurking around my desk is better than someone else’s, because there’s so, you know, in the western world, there’s so little difference to choose between these items that what we’re buying based on is the way we resonate with that. And that is really, really, really hard to tie back to a spreadsheet of this piece of activity led to that sale, especially when you’re selling services rather than more tangible products via a website. So getting to grips with those intangibles, it’s very, very easy, because we’re not getting that immediate feedback on what’s working. It’s very easy to go down completely the wrong path. You know, my nephew said TikTok’s where it’s at. So we’re going to invest the next six months of our marketing activity on creating TikTok videos.

But you’re actually selling coffins. So clearly this is a market misfit. And if you’ve got someone who’s seen more across the industry, some kind of advisor to help you narrow down the million and one options to an actual sensible testing list of messaging channels and how you’re going to go about doing it with a side of the idea of doing a video is hideous to me. So we’ll find another way of doing this, for example, or I hate LinkedIn, or whatever it might be in your business, because when you’re a smaller business, you’ve got to play to your strengths, and trying to make yourself do something you hate is never a good idea.

I think you need limited cash flow, too.

Well, yeah, exactly. You’ve got limited resources, so you need to try and make good decisions inside a company. That’s often very hard to do. You need some advice from externally, especially on these softer things, because often you, you know, you can’t see the wood for the trees. It’s so much harder to sell yourself than it is to sell someone else.

Yeah.

You know, frequently us marketers have terrible marketing ourselves, but we could do a great job for someone else. It’s so much easier to market someone else. So you want to, but that’s the sort of thing which you can. You can get very easily from someone who knows the space, someone who does a lot in your, your industry, who understands the social media space or who understands the other space.

You’ve kind of got to find someone who resonates with you, who can give you that high strategic viewpoint. You probably don’t need someone full time to do that because once you’ve made those high level decisions, there’s a huge amount of delivery to do. And depending on what that delivery looks like, you may or may not want it in house. If it’s a lot of content writing, arguably you want that to be the same person because they’re learning the brand voice and they’re developing it. You want that in house, whether that’s emails or blogs or social posts or whatever it is, the graphics and that it can be quite easy to outsource. But there’s no. There’s no kind of one hard and fast route for doing this for every business. It’s not like I can say, right, here’s your team structure for getting from x to x, or getting from this point in your marketing journey to this point. It’s very much about testing and measuring and finding the option that works for you.

I talk to business owners all the time on my podcast, and some of them are like, we don’t do anything in house. Everything is agencies. Others are like, we’ve got an amasing consultant who comes in once every six months, rips everything to shreds for a day, builds our plan back up for a day, and then we execute internally. And it’s. It seems to be almost as much as mindset as it is about what actually works, if that makes sense.

Some people like it in house. Some people like the ability to switch and change. And of course, these days, with the. With the joy of remote working and the power of the Internet, you can get freelancers from all over the world to work on your stuff. And they can be absolutely brilliant.

And they can be, depending on which country you hire, from they can be an awful lot more cost effective than hiring a full time person in the UK. But it’s. That doesn’t really answer your question, does it? It just poses more problems.

Well, I guess it’s the classic, it depends, but you threw in some criteria in there as well. So let me try and I guess narrow it down a bit. If we’re thinking from a business exit perspective, we’re now growing our business, but we may go, hey, look, I’ve got a timeframe where I’d love to exit in two or three years and I want to maximise my valuation. And I’m thinking, hey, look, of the intangible assets in my business, having a brand or a position in the marketplace, having that message, that reputation around what’s different is probably pretty important. Having a consistent stream of informing the marketplace and getting continuity is pretty important. So getting our brand or our marketing strategy, if we go back and said, hey, look, the two main cores of the business are having our product, right? And owning and understanding our managing, our route to market. Those two core fundamentals in our business are the primary intangible assets. So I guess, what are your thoughts on? Do we have to have someone inside our business owning that marketing strategy and the strategy being the brand, the product messaging, the reputation, our content strategy? Do we do ads? Do we do website, do we do TikTok? Do we have a fractional? How do we handle that?

This is the point, I think, where knowing that you’re trying, trying to exit becomes a really important factor in deciding how you do your marketing, because this is the point at which you’re going, right, what is the value of my business? The value of my business is hugely on the marketing and the product, as you’re saying. Then at that point you don’t want your whole marketing knowledge. We talked about the assets that people are buying. They are buying your marketing team. And if your marketing team is a clever freelancer who doesn’t cost you very much because they don’t realise their own worth, and they’ve decided they don’t want to work for big tech and they’re going to work freelance because it fits in with their lifestyle, et cetera, et cetera, who, if you’re planning on running the business for the next 20 years, is a brilliant way of doing it. But if you are prepping for exit, that becomes a risk for the person that you’re selling to because that person may disappear.

They may see this is their opportunity to go and do something else. Whereas if they’re a person in your team who’s owning it and controlling it, it becomes very different. So I think that’s the point at which you’re going. If this is a core asset, then it’s really important for us to have it internally and it may be in a general business that you’re going. Actually that’s become super important. It’s too risky for us to have it externally. But I think those kind of decisions become much more drilled down. I think the other big one is outsourcing to an agency or running it in house. If you look at your marketing and if a core pillar of your marketing is Google Ads or Facebook ads and you’re outsourcing all of that to an agency, I would think you’d end up going through the process of actually should. It’s the right decision long term because they’re using, we’re working across loads of agencies, but actually should we?

Because that’s so critical. Should we be having that internally or should we leave that externally as a cost that the buyer’s going to think they can cut?

My understanding. Tell me if I’m wrong on this, Darryl, because you know so much more about it than I do, but it’s never a bad thing to have costs that the buyer thinks they can cut when you’re selling for their opportunities and they may see it and go, oh, we can get a freelancer, we can hire someone in to run the ads for half the cost of the agencies and we’re immediately saving x thousand pounds a month. So you may choose you want to leave it out for that reason, but you may decide you want it in house. I think less skill set dependent would be things like email and blogging, those kind of things which you would probably, if you get getting ready for sale, you’d want to be managing those in house. It’s a lot easier to hire a great person to run those internally. So I think it changes your decision process when you know that’s your exit.

Yeah, and you’ve made some really good points there, Chloe, around what do we need in house? What are the core assets we need in house so that the buyers go, yes, I’m not at risk of losing those assets and getting that balance right between. Because if it’s a bigger business buying you and depending on the scale of your business, which is another dependency, that just complicates things. You want some assets in house, some resources and talent in house and some outside.

So because the buying business could go well, we don’t need those anymore because we’ve already got a team and they can pick up the extra capacity, so there’s no problem. We can get economies of scale there. And they’re all those factors that you started to touch on. So something else is, I think, the way the economy works now, the gig economy, where people are working from home and there’s so many self employed and. Yeah, and I think you framed it up beautifully.

That’s such a good way to grow and scale a business.

Yes.

 As you’re learning and going, hey, look, let’s try email with these companies. Let’s try it with that company. Okay. We’ve learned a whole lot more from those companies. And then you’re building up your bigger picture and going, okay, so now we know how we want email marketing to work, or these guys seem to be on top of email marketing. We’ve got a resource in house that can direct all of the agencies or all of the suppliers. And that way we’ve got control. We own our marketing even though we outsource a lot of it could be a good way to go.

And as the business really gets bigger and it just has become cheaper to employ some of your own people if you’ve got multiple people, is what we see.

Yeah. And I think there’s considering that risk element as well. It’s like my business now. I use, I have team members in the Philippines, in Nigeria and in Kenya who are all on, legally speaking, pretty flimsy contracts. They’re good people. They love what we do. They do brilliant work for me. They are a lot more cost effective than someone in the UK. But if I was trying to sell this business, I would have to do a whole host of soul searching about what I do about that situation because that would be a massive, if I was buying my business, that’d be a massive red flag to me, would be, I want to meet all these people and you need contracts in place before I am going anywhere near taking this on.

So I think it is a brilliant way to keep costs down when you’re owning your business, when you’re not prepping for exit. But it’s a big thing you need to consider if you’re going into that. We talked about owning the strategy and I think that’s potentially a huge risk that you need to have in if you’re going to be going for the exit process. The delivery, as we’ve talked about it really changes from element to element based on how core that is, based on what the solution you’re trying to do is and how you’re trying to position that to the buyer. And I think it’s probably getting the marketing is probably one of the hardest things to get right in prepping for sale, I would imagine. Is it something you find people have a lot of soul searching over?

I think the biggest issues are the ones you touched on first when you talked about selling your business and the emotional attachment where we become, as much as we try not to, it is really hard to separate yourself from the business. And we know that we need to work with the individuals to do that collating. And I think you’ve started to summarise where we’re at really nicely. So what we need to do is get really clear and pull together and maybe prepare or have an asset register all of our intangible assets, including who owns the marketing strategy, what is our marketing strategy?

And maybe have a plan of how, as you see the business scaling, how you make that transition of expanding resources, whether it be recruiting in house or just going, hey, look, I know these are the consultants that I’ve got lined up next. I want one on SEO, I want one on email, one on AdWords, one on design, and just go. I’ve already identified those people. I’ve been looking at them for years and networking and picking them out on LinkedIn and Fiverr and what have you, and I’ve got my dream team lined up and ready to get them on contract. And then designing your marketing function as you grow and just documenting your strategy so that whichever agency or freelancer you bring on board, you go.

Look, here’s our marketing pack and brand guidelines and our tone of voice that, as you mentioned earlier, here’s how I want you to do ads within that context so you’re setting the scene for them.

Can I give you a big tip which is marketing based, but you may well have covered before, but something which I find certainly was an agency, I found a lot of people didn’t have this in place and it would worry me senseless, which is who owns your domains. Technically speaking, we’re still in the space where a surprisingly number of surprising number of businesses don’t actually seem to know whether or not they own their domains, by which I do mean everybody. The ww. Who owns your ad account? Hey, you know, who’s got the Facebook ads login? And is that set up the way it should be? You know, quite often it’s been someone came in and they set it up and then actually, we never really considered the legalities of the setup of our ads campaign. And there’s so much data in there. Likewise, your Google Ads, your website hosting.

Are these actually owned by you? Or could that be a massive. However much you trust your agency, who did all the setup for you? And even though they say, yeah, yeah, you can have the login anytime, we’ll transfer it to you, go and look it up. Who actually owns it? Can it be transferred to you? Because that. I think that’s the sort of thing which I mainly see the horror story of, oh, my God, we tried to leave our agency and we could have because. Or this suddenly went down and we had no way to fix it, or it was very difficult to fix it, but it is the sort of thing which you wouldn’t necessarily think of in the process to exit. And then you suddenly discover, going through due diligence, that, oh, no, don’t technically own our domain. We do own our domain, but technically we don’t. So I hope that’s okay to add in there, but I think it’s something. People forget.

That is priceless top tip there. They’re all the things that we need to get in order when we’re preparing a business in advance of due diligence, as you suggest. And we can get all excited by the strategy and the big picture stuff, but there’s no point if we haven’t got the bread and butter right, if we haven’t got the absolute basics under control, we’re in big troubles. Really nice reminder to finish on there. I normally ask and go, hey, look, what’s your top tip? But you’ve almost started it with that. That is a brilliant tip. And I think that’s the place to pull it together. Unless you’ve got something else that you’ve kept up your sleeve to go, here’s the one I wanted to finish on.

I suppose the other thing, the less tangible top tip, would be to consider what you need, not just the P and L through it all. For me, a business sale, it’s not purely about the financial side of it. Anything I do in business is not purely about the financial, it’s about other aspects, and those other aspects differ for different people. But I would. I bear that in mind as you approach exit. It doesn’t change a lot of the steps you’ve got to take, but it might change some of the nuances of how you do it. So I think about the softer side as well as the money.

That’s a really nice rack, Chloe. If people want to follow up and go explore more in this conversation, how do they find you? What’s the best way to find Chloe Thomas?

Cool. Easiest place to find me. Is LinkedIn. I just searched Chloe Thomas. I should come up. I’m a top retail voice on LinkedIn in the UK, so I am super. I should be super easy to find. If you can’t find me, find another way to let me know and I will work out to fix that.

And my podcast, where I interview loads of business owners about their businesses, is called e commerce Master Plan. So you’ll find that on all good podcast places. And if you google it, you’ll find us too. And just for listeners, just to make it easy, we’ll put all those tips on the website with the show notes for this episode.

So just to make it nice and easy there. Chloe Thomas, thanks for sharing your exit insights with us today.

My pleasure, Darrell. It’s been really cool chatting to you and I hope it’s helped your audience. In this episode of the Exit Insights podcast, we’re exploring how to build your marketing function with expert Chloe Thomas. We talk about and include in this episode.

About Chloe Thomas

Chloe Thomas – Best selling Author, International Speaker, and host of both the Award-winning eCommerce MasterPlan and Keep Optimising Podcasts.

Chloe is one to the Top 30 eCommerce Influencers 2021 (Scurri), and her podcasts are regularly included in lists of the top eCommerce & marketing podcasts in the world.

Chloe Thomas has been in eCommerce since 2003, she’s worked client-side, agency-side, and adviser-side. Over the years she’s helped retailers and brands large and small, and there’s barely a part of the eCommerce landscape she’s not got involved with. One thin she’s always done is solve eCommerce Marketing Problems.

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 brought 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.