Is Hustle Culture Dead? A Serial 8-Figure Exit Entrepreneur Weighs In – 260
We’ve all been busy this last year and because of that, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “hustling” through our days. Today on the AM/PM Podcast, Tim Jordan speaks to a very successful entrepreneur who warns against that tactic. Mac Lackey built and exited two different 8-figure businesses by the time he was 30 years old. Now, through his company ExitDNA, he mentors other entrepreneurs on how to take the steps necessary to create their own exit.
Mac cautions that his success didn’t come from the single-minded pursuit of monetary gain. Instead, he ascribes to the theory that “people” are the magic ingredient behind his success. Mac says that at one point he had reached a fork in the road where he was repeatedly told that he’d have to choose between family and entrepreneurship. Determined to have both, he used the strategies of creating personal boundaries, and trusting co-workers to grow into roles that would support and make possible his refusal to choose one or the other.
Whether you’re trying to find ways to spend more time with your family or just like the idea of multiple 8-figure exits, there’s something here for everyone.
In episode 260 of the AM/PM Podcast, Tim and Mac discuss:
- 03:40 – Early On, Mac’s Dreams Centered Around Soccer
- 05:30 – Mac Launched His First Company Just as the Internet Exploded
- 06:50 – Two 8-Figure Exits by the Time He Was 30
- 08:15 – How Has the Landscape Changed for Entrepreneurs?
- 10:40 – What Would Mac Have Done Differently?
- 12:30 – 5K From the Right Person is Better Than 50K From the Wrong One
- 14:00 – Do Entrepreneurs Really Need Partners?
- 17:40 – Mentoring Founders to Maximize Value
- 20:45 – Nick Wanted to Combine Fatherhood and Entrepreneurship
- 24:45 – Prioritizing Work/Life Balance and Building a Team
- 29:40 – Is the Hustle Culture a Fallacy?
- 31:45 – What “Moves the Needle?”
- 34:30 – What are the Traits of a Successful Entrepreneur?
- 37:00 – Are Your Business Decisions Good for a Prospective Buyer?
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Tim Jordan: Entrepreneurism sounds awesome. The idea of building up a company and selling it for a big exit sounds really, really great. Unfortunately, most people that attempt will never even do one exit. Our guest today has done six. He helps founders and a lot of other startup entrepreneurs and business owners build their game plans for success. He’s going to tell us a lot of secrets, a lot of information on this episode, it’s going to be a great one. Stay ’til the end. Here we go.
Tim Jordan: Hi. I’m Tim Jordan, and in every corner of the world, entrepreneurship is growing. So, join me as I explore the stories of successes and failures. Listen in as I chat with the risk-takers, the adventurous, and the entrepreneurial veterans, we all have a dream of living a life, fulfilling our passions, and we want a business that doesn’t make us punch a time clock but instead runs around the clock in the AM and the PM. So get motivated, get inspired. You’re listening to the AM/PM Podcast.
Bradley Sutton: Hey guys, Bradley Sutton from Helium 10 here. Quick message. If you’re an FBA business owner, you’ve maybe put thousands of hours of hard work into growing your business, but what happens when you’ve grown it as much as you can and you don’t have the time or resources to take it to that next level? Well, that’s where Thrasio comes in. They acquire category-leading FBA brands from small business owners, just like you. They’ve got the experience of acquiring over 125 Amazon businesses, and they’ve seen it all when it comes to managing and growing an Amazon brand. So if you’re thinking about selling your FBA business, visit thrasio.com/helium10 to connect with Thrasio’s deals team. That’s thrasio.co/helium10, for more information on if your brand is a good fit for Thrasio.
Tim Jordan: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the AM/PM Podcast, where we talk about entrepreneurism from the eyes of an e-commerce seller, a lot of us got into e-commerce by accident. We were looking for a side hustle, some extra income. We didn’t know that it was going to turn into a career, right? And a lot of us have kind of opened our eyes and open our minds to the realization that some of these side hustles are turning big like they’re becoming real legitimate businesses, and we’re starting to see the potential of real wealth creation and creating a real asset with what was a side hustle. Now, it’s potentially a pretty large and prominent e-commerce brand. When we look at the success of others, right? Especially recently, we see a lot of talk about selling your business. We see a lot about building up these assets and making an exit. And our guest today has done that multiple times. I’ve looked at my notes here six times, six times, and he now works with a lot of other sellers or brand owners or founders in preparing to do the same thing for themselves. But it’s not always easy. There’s a lot of things that we to consider like work-life balance and you know how to make sure that you’re not building a company that’s not worth anything. Right? So, today’s guest Mac Lackey has been through it. He’s done it all. He is currently helping other founders do it, and he is going to share a lot of that wisdom with us. So welcome to the podcast, Mac.
Mac: Thanks, Tim. Great to be here.
Tim Jordan: So, I know I kind of gave a rough intro just to make sure everybody has a little context of what we’re getting into today, but go ahead. And just for five or 10 minutes here, give us your background. Tell us about some of these companies that you exited. Tell us what you’re doing before you became an entrepreneur and kind of give us a little insight into what you’re doing right now.
Mac: Great. No, happy to do it. So, I think about my life in kind of two big pieces. For most of my childhood up until, and through college, I had a real passion for soccer. That’s been a big influence on my life. All my goals and dreams were sort of soccer-related. I wanted to play in college. I wanted to be a professional. And so most of my life was occupied doing that. Thankfully for me, I checked off a lot of the boxes. I traveled the world playing. I played in college. I was a collegiate All-American. I played briefly professionally. The bubble sort of burst when I realized that, this was before MLS. So, this dates me a little bit, but there was no real option to play outside of the United States. There was no real option to play at an incredibly high level. There were no jets flying to games. I was taking Greyhound buses from my hometown to Delaware, or nine hours on a Greyhound. I realized that I needed to find something else to do with my life. I was a psychology major, never took a business class, never took a class on entrepreneurship, never took a computer class. So, my options were relatively limited. Thankfully I met an individual that I played with that was part of a startup that needed help in their marketing department. And so, I was hired in 1994 to join this little startup and I fell in love with it pretty much day one. The energy, although I had no skills at that point, the energy of showing up every day, learning something different, you know, one day we were learning to write code the next day, we were making cold calls. The next day we’re licking stamps and taking out the trash.
Mac: But something about that energy really appealed to me so much so that I met an engineer in that company and convinced him to leave with me to start my first business, which was an internet company that we launched shortly after Netscape launched the commercial web browser. So, I was in the first quarter of 1995 launching my first company, right as the internet boom was sort of taking off really fortunate timing by pretty much every level. And that company was a very stereotypical garage startup. You talked about the side hustle, we did pursue it full time, but I was living in a one-bedroom apartment, eating peanut butter and jelly every night, hoping that we were going to be able to make it another week. And all of a sudden, after working hard for a couple of years, we had an offer to buy our company for pretty life-changing money. We were in our mid-twenties, we sold our business for eight figures, and went from kind of peanut butter and jelly to checking off a lot of my goals and dreams and business at a really young age. That’s kind of how I got started, felt really fortunate, really lucky, good timing. We worked really hard, but that was kind of the start, but I was so convinced that the entrepreneurial journey was the path for me, that the day after, actually the company I sold subsequently went public, the day after the IPO started my next business. By the time I was 30, I’d had two eight-figure exits. My life kind of at that point was set in terms of I’m going to be an entrepreneur, I’m going to build companies. This is what I want to do.
Mac: So fast forward, looking back over 26 years. Yeah. It was kind of starting scaling up and exiting six companies, different industries. One of the things that perhaps was a little bit unique for me versus some of the other kinds of “serial” entrepreneurs is my companies were tech, media, sports apparel. I sort of moved in and out of different industries that I was excited about versus a rinse and repeat in SAS or e-commerce or product or something like that. So I had a lot of diversity in my companies and also in my exits, I sold public companies and private companies, US-based buyers, international buyers. So, all of that really informed quite a bit about how I think about building companies and then ultimately exiting.
Tim Jordan: So Mac, how has the landscape changed for entrepreneurs, right. You kind of – it sounds like got lucky with the timing with your first company with the creation of the internet and the browsers and all that stuff. But do you think it’s a better time to become an entrepreneur now, a worse time? What’s the difference?
Mac: Yeah, it’s a really good question. It’s hard. I think for people that perhaps are younger or were not entrepreneurs, back in the kind of mid to late nineties, because people hear about the internet bubble and how crazy it was. And there was some of that that was certainly true. But for me, I was in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was not in an entrepreneurial or tech hotbed by any means. And it was really not cool to be an entrepreneur. I mean, it’s not like, you know, I would go to cocktail parties and people would be like, oh, that’s awesome. You have a tech company. It was literally like, oh, you couldn’t get hired at the bank. So, you started a little company. It just was not a cool thing to be an entrepreneur. I also didn’t have a lot of mentors or people to sort of look up to and sort of watch how they did it. So, I would say it’s changed mostly for the better, it’s become much more acceptable, almost cool, or exciting to be an entrepreneur. Everyone understands what it means. There’s a much better ecosystem around most entrepreneurs to sort of help them navigate. Probably the biggest benefit. I always think about my second company. We raised $2 million from angel investors to start my second business. We spent 1 million of its building content management and e-commerce system that today you could get for probably $29 a month. And so the cost of getting started and building out infrastructure and all those things in a world where you have AWS and Shopify and all these tools available have really lowered that barrier to a pretty low level. So, I think it’s gotten a lot better for entrepreneurs. I guess the only potential negative is clearly it is more competitive. There are a lot of people vying--
Tim Jordan: [inaudible] lowered, of course, more people are going to get into it.
Tim Jordan: That makes a lot of sense. So, you’ve obviously got a lot of experience in this whole entrepreneurial thing and you’re still relevant. I say that because a lot of people have had some success 20 years ago, but wouldn’t even know where to begin right now, but you’ve done it multiple times. You’re still working with current founders and startup companies. But when you look back at all of the things that you’ve done, if you could go back in time and do some things differently, right? Like now, of course, hindsight’s 2020 now that you can see some of the mistakes that you made, what are some of those mistakes that you made that you kind of openly share with your consulting clients or other businesses that you’re involved with that I think would be relevant and helpful to our listeners?
Mac: Yeah. I think it’s an important question. I always talk about the highlight reel and it’s easy to do that. The exits and the great outcomes, but yeah, the reality is over 26 years, I mean, you make every mistake possible. I’ve had countless mistakes, horrible timing, stupid decisions. But I think the thing that really stands out to me, particularly early in my career is that I had this early success, even though it was hard to get there. You kind of puff your chest up and feel like, gosh, I really have this thing nailed. And that those skills are transferrable. You had something worked really well and all of a sudden you can do anything. And I didn’t have a particularly big ego, but at the same time, in my mind, I thought, all right, I can attack anything in this entrepreneurial space. And what that leads to is you having a tendency to undervalue people around you. And the reality is, as I look backward, I can say without question, people were almost always the difference between success and failure, who my co-founders were, who the team I built, the employees that we had, the advisors that we had involved with us, making the mistake of thinking if someone’s willing to write you a check as an investor, that $50,000 is worth taking money from someone that’s not valuable or is a jerk or not helpful when the reality is $5,000 from the right person is worth a lot more than 50,000 from the wrong person. So, one of my mentors used to always say care more about the who than the how much. And there’s so much relevance in that, but I didn’t get it early in my life. It took me a lot of years to look back and go, oh, I see what he means now. And so, I always tell founders, I work with, number one, people are almost everything. You can have the right people around the wrong idea or bad timing and still navigate to a good outcome, but a great idea, a great business plan, great timing, and the wrong people will fail more often than not. So, people are a big one I focus on.
Tim Jordan: Let me pause you there for a second because I want to unpack some of this. This is so valuable. And I actually wrote down two quotes here. Care more about the who than the how much and people are almost everything. When I look back at my fledgling entrepreneurial career, I haven’t been doing this nearly as long as you have. The biggest heartaches and the biggest headaches and the biggest disappointments I had were involving partner drama, right. And I don’t know of any successful company that began with partners or investors that didn’t have some of that in the beginning. Right? It’s like, you don’t know until you know. You have to get through that experience of bad relationships or bad partners or bad investors to figure out where the good ones are. And a lot of people have said, Hey, it’s not worth it. Like, why would I partner with somebody? Why would I bring on an investor when I could do it all myself potentially, and avoid all of those headaches? Do you have a specific philosophy on whether you think people need partners, people need investors, especially if they’re just getting started?
Mac: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right. I mean, to some degree over time, maybe not day one, maybe not year one, but over time, if you were in an entrepreneur long enough, it’s very likely that your biggest successes and your biggest challenges and your biggest heartaches are all going to be related to people. Most likely that is the kind of the closest to you in the business, right? Your co-founders, your key executives. And I can tell you without question. The worst thing that has happened to me in my entire business career is a bad partnership. And looking back it’s as obvious as anything on earth. It was one of the only times where I went against my gut and partnered with someone that I knew was not a good person and was not really the right fit culturally, but I was being greedy. I knew how smart he was. I knew how valuable it would be to have someone like him in our business. And I went against my gut and it proved out very quickly that that was a mistake. And so, one, I’m not saying people should just always blindly follow their gut. Data matters a lot interviewing, having a process for how you vet out partners and things is really, really important. But I think the overarching thing, and my wife will remind me of this pretty frequently is if your gut is really telling you something and your head is sort of saying, oh, but it’s great timing and this person’s really talented and they like--
Tim Jordan: Yeah, like you’re trying to talk yourself into it.
Mac: Yeah. That’s just – it’s just going to backfire. I mean, that’s absolutely been my experience again and again. And so, I’ve also heard this kind of quote, which I believe in which is hire slow and fire fast. The very thoughtful when you’re bringing on partners, co-founders employees, and when you know something’s not working, make the decision to move on, it’s better for you, better for them. So, I’ve kind of stuck by those. To answer your original question, I actually think it is rare that an entrepreneur can get where they want to go by themselves. And that really includes partners and co-founders. I think that’s scary. I’ve had some amazing partnerships. I’ve had a longtime business partner that I’ve never had an argument with, I think is one of the best partners and best humans that I’ve ever been around. So, I’ve been very fortunate to have some really positive results from partnerships. But even though I’ve had some challenges and negative ones, I don’t think I would go into a new business that I really wanted to scale and create some fantastic outcomes without thinking pretty deeply about having other incentivized, aligned people around the table. It’s just, you can’t get as far or as fast or as well because we don’t all have the skills necessary. I’m good at a few things. And as long as I’m leaning into those things, that means there are some other critical areas of the business that needs someone that’s really good at them. And that’s not me. So, that’s kind of my philosophy.
Tim Jordan: Got it. So, the first mistake would be partnering with or hiring the wrong folks. What’s another mistake that you’ve made that you love telling people about?
Mac: Well, I think the very nature of I do currently my – I have a program that I found that I work with founders and I mentor them. And the whole idea behind that program is basically at the very earliest phases of a business, helping them understand how to create value that gives them the option to exit in the future. And the reason that that’s so heartbreaking is that if they don’t do it, I made this mistake multiple times. I was very fortunate, very early, but I also look back at multiple of my exits knowing I left millions of dollars on the table, simply because I didn’t know how to structure my company and really maximize the value. And if that was my only exit, if my first one or my third one, whatever was my only exit. And for most entrepreneurs, if you’re really fortunate, you’re going to have one in your life. Some people might have two. Statistically, most people will never have one. So, it’s really important that you maximize the value. So, a lot of what I sort of preach at this point is to think deeply about how you’re building your company because the little things you can do now are not hard if you know what you’re doing, but they compound into value in the future. So, it’s one of the biggest things I talk about is designing your business, not so that you flip it, but so that you have the option to sell it in the future, knowing that you’ll maximize value. Because if you do that, you’re basically building a better company and you have the option. You can choose not to sell it. You can choose to raise money. You can choose to keep it for yourself and just cashflow it. But if you don’t really optimize it, what happens to most founders is a wake-up one day and they need or want to sell for some reason. They want to fund retirement. They want to pay for their kids’ school. They want to buy a house, whatever it is. And then they want to exit in the next four to six months. And you can do that, but it’s almost guaranteed. You will not maximize the value. So, that’s another one that I just didn’t understand early in my career, but I was very thoughtful about later in life. And my companies were really maximized. Everything I did in the last kind of half of my life, I think was optimized. So, I could sell it. I could raise money, I didn’t have to sell it. It could keep it. I had all those options available to me. So I feel really strongly about that one as well.
Tim Jordan: All right. You got a third one for us?
Mac: I would say probably the third thing that I feel really strongly about it – and I’ll tell you a 60-second story, but after I sold my second company in July of 2000, and my daughter, my first child was being born in August of 2000. And I was really excited to be a dad. But at that point in my life, I basically went into a depression because I was thinking I had been working 80 to a hundred-hour week and flying all over the world and sleeping on the floor in my office. And I was thinking, how in the world am I going to do that? And be the kind of dad that’s home for dinner and coaches the soccer team, and carve the pumpkin in class, which is what I really wanted to be. And everyone around me at that point was saying, Mac, you’re just going to have to choose. You can either be a dad who’s around for everything, or you can be an entrepreneur, but you can’t really do both because something’s got to give. And for whatever reason, after really struggling for a couple of weeks before she was born, I just made a decision. I said you know what? I am not willing to accept that trade-off. I am going to be home every night for dinner, but I’m still going to be an entrepreneur that scales companies. Because that’s the way I identified kind of as myself. And so the way I often tell the story, now, if I’m up on stage is, I made that decision in August of 2000. I pretty much told my daughter who was a baby and didn’t know what I was saying, that I was going to be there.
Mac: And in August of 2019, I dropped that little girl off for her freshman year at NYU. And I looked back and not only did I start to scale and exit four more companies, I never missed donuts for dad. I carved every pumpkin. I was home for dinner. So, I know that’s possible. And I don’t want any entrepreneur to make that mistake that I know they’ll regret amid this kind of constant hustle culture that we’re hearing about now, like work now. And you’ll have time to spend with your kids later or you’ll have time to travel later. I pulled my kids out of school and went to 14 countries when they were in middle school, in the middle of running my companies because I thought, what if I can’t do that later in life? So, I feel really strongly about this idea of not accepting the trade-off. And there are a lot of reasons which I’m happy to talk about that it actually leads to building a better company. It’s not to the detriment of your business. It’s actually better for your business. But that’s another one that I spend a lot of time kind of talking about.
Tim Jordan: So I feel like your contradicting mainstream teachings right now, which is you have to put in the hours, you have to sacrifice stuff. Exactly what you said is, yeah, I’m going to lose time with my family right now, but I’ll make up for it later, right. And what you’re saying is that’s a fallacy and it doesn’t have to work that way. So, how does someone like myself who does travel a lot and who spends a lot of time in the office? Like, what advice would you give to someone like me that does have three small kids, to be able to help me understand that I don’t have to distance myself, but I can still continue to scale companies and be successful?
Mac: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think first and foremost, I never think it’s easy. I don’t think, oh, you just decide and it kind of magically happens. But I do know it’s possible. And I think if it was one time, it would have been easier to be like, all right, well, got lucky with that one or whatever, but having four more sorts of exits and experiences of building companies amid this decision. I’m convinced that it’s not only possible. It’s actually smarter. And what I mean by that is, number one, the first thing you have to do as an entrepreneur or founder, you have to make that decision to basically say, I’m no longer going to accept those trade-offs. I’m going to do both. And when you make that decision, it’s one of those things. It’s almost like writing a crazy goal down that you don’t even know how it’s going to happen yet. You’re going to be worth a hundred million dollars. And you’re like, that seems impossible, but you still need to kind of step one, decide that today or tomorrow, or whenever it is, is the last day that you’re going to accept the trade-off. But once you make that decision, what I will tell you is it does actually make sense. It feels counterintuitive, but let me give you an example. One of the first companies I was running after I made that decision, we’re sitting in a meeting. This is probably six months later. My daughter was, was a toddler, starting to kind of have these early phases of being smiling and babbling and all that, those kinds of things.
Mac: And we’re sitting in a conference meeting in the conference room, five o’clock rolls around, I’m speaking. There are 25 people in the room. And I literally get up, stand up and walk out of the room. And I think everybody’s like, the hell is Mac doing. And the first time you do it, and I was like, Hey, I’m going home. I told my daughter, I’d be home for dinner. And they’re thinking like, what in the world is he talking about? And then the fourth or fifth time you do it, two things happen. One is people start expecting, okay, Mac’s serious. He’s literally going to get up and walk out at five o’clock because he’s going to go in for dinner. But the business by-product of that is what’s so powerful. People understand, okay, Mac’s not going to be in every meeting. So, how do we run an effective meeting when the CEO is not going to be there, someone else needs to have the agenda. `Someone else needs to be prepared to stand up and go to the whiteboard. They still have to send me notes and follow up with what was decided and what happened. And so what I found really, really early in my career is that when you commit to being there for your family or for your health or whatever decision you’re making, it doesn’t have to be about your family. It’s whatever. The other thing that’s important to you, then it gives an opportunity for your company to develop systems and processes in your absence. It gives employees the opportunity to step up and perform at a higher level. I used to always tell people when I’d hire him, and this was very consistent for me. I throw people in the deep end of the pool on day one, good people, swim bad people, sink. If you’re the kind of person that wants to have an opportunity and perform and prove what you’re made of, you’re going to get it 24 hours after you joined my company, because we absolutely want people to step up.
Mac: It’s better for everybody. I feel more empowered to leave and go to a play at school. And two o’clock on a Tuesday, if I know my team is stepping up and they’re capable in my absence, the challenge is most entrepreneurs hang on to that stuff. So tight that they’re probably right day one, that no one can do the job as well as them. That’s a fact, but if you never let it go and you never let anyone have an opportunity or a chance, and you don’t let systems and processes develop around you, that will remain the case. That’s why hustle culture feels so true. It’s like, yeah. I mean, if you’re not there in the office, it’s not going to happen the same way. True until you let others step up. And then ultimately you should be hiring people around you who are better than you. I’m good at a few things. Those are the things I need to be putting my time and energy on, but I need to have people that are better at the other things. And that doesn’t require me in the meeting. If they’re better than me, why am I there? So, that was kind of a philosophy that I was testing and the feedback and the results were getting better and better to the point my very last company, I was chairman’s largest shareholder. I had all those kinds of things and I technically had a desk in the office, but people didn’t know when I was going to be in or not. I mean, I would pop in and out. And it was really incredibly valuable for my lifestyle and my life with my family and things I cared about. But it also ensured that every single day the business was built with the assumption Mac may or may not be in this meeting, but it still has to go well. Mac may or may not respond to this email, but it still has to go out on time. And so I didn’t do that to make it challenging. I did that so that the whole company would step up and that’s what tends to happen.
Tim Jordan: Yeah. I love that book built to sell with John Warlow. In fact, I’m interviewing him I think in two weeks. And that’s kind of what he said was when he had to build his company to allow for him to exit out of it. It forced everybody else to step up and set up procedures and set up processes. So, even if he wasn’t leaving the company immediately, he could actually go home on time and he didn’t have to make every decision. He didn’t have to be involved in all of it. And that’s tough. And I think it’s tough for a lot of reasons, especially with entrepreneurs because we don’t know how to do HR and we don’t know how to manage people and we don’t know how to set realistic expectations or we have a terrible employee and we’re so terrified of losing them because whatever reason we think that they’re more valuable than they are. But it’s tough. It does make a lot of sense though. And I do think it’s interesting that you kind of have this anti-hustle mentality, right? Because it’s even cool to wear shirts now that just say hustle. Do you think that that is misguided like people are hustling in the wrong way? Or do you think that the whole hustle mentality is just a complete farce?
Mac: This was funny. I was kind of smiling or laughing when you said that because I was in New York yesterday and I literally saw a sweatshirt that said hustle across it. And I was thinking to myself, I really should buy it and put the cross through it, like [inaudible]. But I think it’s a little more nuanced. I think the reality is people could hear me say something like that and think that I’m saying, you don’t have to work hard or you don’t have to put in the hours. It’s a little bit different the way, at least I did it, or I would recommend it to my own friends or people I care about. I would say, throughout my life, I’ve worked really hard. Even when I was going home at five o’clock, a lot of those nights, I was putting my daughter to bed and then working for two or three more hours at home, or I would go back to the office. I say all the time, I still to this day work seven days a week, but I vacation seven days a week. And that just means Sunday to me is like Tuesday. I tend to work on Sundays, but I also go for a walk with my wife most days. And I have lunch with her or my daughters if they’re home. And so to me, it’s about controlling your time and when, and where you do things. It doesn’t mean you don’t put in the time or you don’t work hard. But I also think the overarching obvious statement is really just working incredibly smart. I could have a to-do list that is seven pages long, even at this point in my life in legitimately every day, just go through the checklist. But I also know that there are only a few things that I can do that I’m the most qualified to do that are really going to make a difference in my business, that I am the person that needs to do them.
Mac: And if that’s the case, I need to get them done. If that’s not the case, I need to find a better place to land those tasks. An employee, a teammate, outsource, whatever it is. And I’ve really gotten to the point where I try very hard to focus on what I always call, what moves the needle. And most days for me, I’ll take a three-by-five index card and write down first thing in the morning, what moves the needle and put three things on the list. And those are the three things that if I do those, it’s probably going to propel my business forward, making a great day, but it also might be two hours’ worth of work. It’s not necessarily a bunch of busy work and businesses tend to move faster and achieve bigger and better things when everybody’s focused on what moves the needle, not just checking stuff off a list. And so I think there’s kind of nuance in there of like, you do have to work. You do have to put in the time, but the more you focus on things that actually are moving the needle or critical success factors, whatever you want to call them, the more likely you are to have that freedom while still propelling your business forward.
Tim Jordan: That makes a lot of sense. Now, let me ask you this because we’re going to run out of time and this is one of the big questions I want to ask. So, with exit DNA, you basically help founders and business owners and startups succeed, right? So, you’re working intimately with them. You see under the hood, you’re utilizing all of your experience, plus all of the new stuff that’s going on, and try to funnel that in to help them. We, as founders, business owners, entrepreneurs know that we’re not going to be good at everything, right? We only have so much time, energy, and effort to figure this stuff out, but we can pick some things to learn and to be good at or to create habits or create environments around us that are good. So, we can’t do everything all right. But we know that we need to make some changes to ourselves, to our mentality, to our environment. And if I could look into your crystal ball and look at all the experience you have, yourself, as well as what these companies that you’re working with now. You must see some traits that are common to success. When you talk to people, you say, Hey, this guy is going to be a success because he has these traits. So if I can impact I, like I said, my environment or my skillset, or my knowledge base, what are some of those skills or those traits that the successful founders have that maybe I can start working on for myself? What’s important? What do I need to be focusing on?
Mac: Yeah. What a great question. The things that pop to mind, I think there are a lot, but I think the sort of the first things that pop in my mind when you asked that, a founder or an entrepreneur that is really, really clear on where they’re going and why is more likely to get there, perhaps that’s a statement of the obvious. And yet it shocks me. When I sit down with people that even join our program, we go through an exercise, I call the great outcome, which is one of those kinds of typical roll the tape for three years, paint this amazing picture of where you are, how many people struggle to get crystal clear on what a great outcome really looks like. And for me, when someone tells me what their great outcome is, what they want with their business, if they want to sell it or not, what size they want it to be, what their personal life looks like, I can back up and start reverse engineering that with them, I can really help them say, okay, well, here’s where you need to be. And here’s some things that we might work on together. But that clarity is so important. And so number one, I would say, the founders and entrepreneurs that constantly are looking out saying, this is where I’m going to be in three years. This is exactly what it looks like and why those founders tend to be more successful. And it’s easier for them to work with people, whether it’s founders, co-founders, advisors, people like myself to help them sort of achieve those. So, that’s a big one. I think one of the first things we do in exit DNA is we really talk about, let’s say, you’ve got that kind of crystal clear vision of where you want to be. I talk about using the exit lens and really what I mean by that is if you’re constantly among your group of decision-makers, however, you make decisions today, every new decision that feels material, launching new products, making new hires, opening new offices, whatever you’re trying to decide, make the decision the same way, but add one more series of questions, which is how would a prospective buyer look at this decision.
New Speaker: Just by literally starting to ask those questions, it starts giving you clarity on if you’re doing something that’s starting to put you in the direction of creating more value for a buyer, or if it is actually negative. The example I always like is like opening a new office. Sometimes it’s incredibly logical to open a new office if you’re on the east coast to have a west coast presence, but expansion is great. But if you ask, is this office opening good in the eyes of a prospective buyer? The answer is probably no. They don’t want to lease obligation. They don’t want the liability. So you may look at that same decision and say, well, Hey, we still want to be on the west coast, but let’s do it in a co-working space, or let’s do it with our team working from home because we don’t want to add a liability. That’s going to be negative for exit value or negative for options in the future. So, just by starting to ask that kind of question, when I’m in meetings with people and they’re starting to ask and think about things that way, they tend to be much more successful and much more clear on the way they’re building value in their companies.
Tim Jordan: Yeah. That makes so much sense because there are so many things that sound good on paper, but they might not actually be good in reality or in practice. So, we’ve come to the end of our time. We need to wrap this thing up, but Mac, thank you so much for being on. So awesome to be able to talk to somebody who has successfully done it so many times, right? Because it’s easy for a lot of us to sit down and whiteboard out an idea, but we don’t know what mistakes we’re going to make because we don’t have the experience, right. We haven’t been there. So, for someone that’s successful like you to come in and share all of this with us, super, super valuable, and we appreciate it so much. For all of you that are listening, make sure to please leave us a review on whatever podcast platform you’re listening to, whether it’s iTunes, Spotify. If you’re watching the video version on YouTube, hit a thumbs up and like on that video for us, if you would subscribe to the channel. We thank you all for being here. Love all of you guests. So, thankful that you support us in all the ways that you do. And we’ll see you guys in the next episode.