Think of it this way: if owners are clear about how they want to keep score, board members and management teams will know how to win.
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There are three broad goals that owners can seek. They can aim for growth , meaning to maximize the financial value of the business. They may pursue growth to build long-term wealth, broaden their impact on society, or for the psychic rewards that accompany getting bigger. They can also seek liquidity , which is to generate cash flow for the owners to use outside of the business. Liquidity can be useful to pay for lifestyles, fund philanthropic efforts, or allow owners to have more independence by diversifying their assets.
Lastly, they can want control by keeping decision-making authority within the ownership group. Others value control as a way to run the business in a way that preserves what they value, such as a distinctive corporate culture, or having a company that lasts for generations. Most successful businesses face a trade-off between the pace of growth, how much liquidity the owners take out of the company, and how much control the business retains over its decisions. A company could pursue only one of these goals, or some mix of the three.
Growth-control GC companies are focused on getting bigger while maintaining control over decisions. They grow primarily through their retained earnings, paying low or no dividends to the owners. They also have low or no external equity or debt, since answering either to outside investors or borrowers requires surrendering a level of autonomy. The avoidance of debt is often a surprise to those used to looking at widely-held public companies or private equity firms, who seek to maximize returns through leverage. For private companies, debt can be useful, but is usually recognized to come at the cost of control.
Closely-held public companies will often take a similar view. When companies go public, they are adopting this strategy. Private companies can use it too. We worked with one business that had a lot of growth potential, but the owners were concerned about the long-term threat for disruption in their industry. So they sold a stake in their business to a strategic investor and used part of the proceeds to diversify into other areas.
Liquidity-control LC companies are not concerned with how rapidly they grow, but instead want to produce significant liquidity for the owners while allowing them to maintain control over decision-making. Elisa and Mark fit this profile as owners of their watch business. These are broad types, and companies can find a space in between. But, as they move from one part of the triangle to another, they are making trade-offs among the three main goals. Each of these core types brings its own advantages and risks to be managed. And we know of highly successful companies that follow each path.
The key is for the owners of a company to be aligned on what goals they want to pursue, recognizing that there are trade-offs among them. It is also important to revisit these trade-offs as things change, either external factors like the economy and industry consolidation, or internal factors like a shift in ownership or senior management.
What worked brilliantly in one environment can be a disaster in another. We have found that aligning on the priorities of the company is extremely helpful. But to make it real, these broad goals have to be translated into specific ways of measuring performance. And that leads to the second question:.
They define what is in and out of bounds. Guardrails can be financial or non-financial. On the financial side, they should align with the mix of growth, liquidity, and control that the owners want to prioritize:. In our experience, owners should hone in on a small number of financial metrics usually four to six that can define whether or not the company is successful based on what matters to them.
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Many owners are willing to sacrifice some level of financial performance to achieve other objectives. Oftentimes these objectives are not stated explicitly, but it is essential to define their non-financial guardrails. In our experience, they typically fall into four main categories:. There are no right or wrong answers in defining guardrails.
The key is to create alignment among the owners on specific metrics and targets that measure success and inform major decisions. In order to codify their alignment, the owners of a company should draft an Owner Strategy Statement , which not only articulates their goals and guardrails, but the rationale behind them. The statement should be as specific as possible. The acid test is: does it help the company make decisions that require tradeoffs? Seller Inventory GI3N More information about this seller Contact this seller.
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Brand new Book. View the author's companion website for more information and extra materials Whether they have full governance powers or are just there in an advisory capacity, trustees on library boards need to understand the complex issues that affect a library's ability to provide its community with materials and services that support lifelong learning, jobs, and quality of life. Seller Inventory AAV New Book. Shipped from UK.
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