Save Me from Drowning!

 Barbara Bigford

September, 2012

All entrepreneurs must think ahead. They must write out a plan detailing where they will be in five years, in some cases ten years. Then they should include their exist strategy.  After years of devoting herself to a work schedule that demanded fourteen hour days, including weekends, Barbara was ready to exercise a successful exit strategy . . . and so was her family.

 “There cannot be a stressful crisis next week. My schedule is already full” –Henry Kissinger

 

I was at a point where I decided it was time to devote most of my energies toward an exit strategy. My constant thought was “I must find a buyer, an interested company to create a licensing agreement or a buyout for my two patents”. This would free me from manufacturing, distribution, and sales, and the problems that bombarded my everyday life, as my company grew over 400% in those last two years. I knew it was time to do what I had always dreamed of doing—hand over the reins of my fast growing Seabreeze Products Company to a much larger company and then, through them, take the business to the next level.

When does the exhausted, hard working, entrepreneur know when it’s time to execute their exit strategy? I knew when the financial demands of meeting our expanding orders started to overwhelm our financial sources. Banks weren’t doing a lot of lending in 2008 but our bank, Citi Bank was one of the few that knew more about small business growth than any other bank I had spoken too.  They came through for me and allowed my company to meet our manufacturing needs, yet I knew that next year would only find me needing more and more financial support. Not only was it time for me to start thinking ‘exit’ due to financial demands, but the toll it had taken on my family.

I thought about my “exit” strategy while I was taking a walk at one of the most scenic and historic local parks near Philadelphia known as Valley Forge National Park.  It is one of my most favorite areas. With limited down time, these walks were needed every so often just to clear my head.

I started to say little prayers…“Dear God please find me a buyer or partner to continue the work I started. I wanted a miracle.  I felt inspired knowing I was not alone. It was at that moment I realized I had not been fully enjoying life, not even the simple pleasures and knew this next step was the right one for me and my company.

If I had to do over, which none of us can actually do, but certainly enjoy imagining it, I would have spent more money on office help. How often have we heard that the one mistake entrepreneurs make is that we think we need to do it all?  We only come to realize this when we are so far down the journey, that many of us either give up or we start to realize our errors, learn from them and through this process make smarter decisions.

As I continued on my walk I thought of my two choices: One was to continue running my growing company, which would have meant that I hire more help, a few more sales reps and move out of my existing three room office space to larger facilities, or  I could “exit out” by selling my company or find a partner and create a licensing agreement allowing them to manufacture and sell my brands. The best part about a licensing partner is that I would receive royalties for the life of the patents.  I made my decision to find a licensing partner. I did the work needed to make this happen and then 4 months later my Prayers were answered.