Recently I worked with a new client – let’s call her Melanie (not her real name). She is the MD of a niche technology business, and approached me for some coaching. She has a 30% stake in her business (most of it owned by venture capitalists), and wanted some coaching on how to overcome some short-term obstacles that were preventing her from focussing clearly on how to develop the business. For example, would it be best to grow by acquiring other businesses, sell her company or grow organically? At the start of the two hour session she believed her business was worth about £45 million, her stake therefore being about £13 million.
Introductions, covering some basics and then clearing the short-term obstacles took about an hour or so, and she was delighted. Because she was thinking more positively as a result of the negativity being lifted, she recognised that the business was worth closer to £55 million than £45 million, which appealed to her even more! She had already got more than she wanted from the session.
I offered her two main options: to end the session at this point, or to ‘play’ and explore areas of her business that she had not thought of, to see whether she could take anything else from the remaining 45 minutes. One option she had mentioned earlier was to sell her business. We continued the session and explored questions such as:
- Who the potential buyers were?
- What would be the benefit to them of buying the company?
- What would each of the potential bidders lose if a competitor bought her business?
- What further information Melanie needed to make an informed choice?
- What tactics she could use to achieve the maximum price?
For those of you who have studied NLP, you will recognise techniques such as ‘Perceptual Positions’ (i.e. putting yourself in different people’s shoes, such as the MD of potential bidders, a neutral industry expert), and the ‘what-if frame’ i.e. brainstorming possible ideas.
As a result of these types of questions, and being willing to put herself in the shoes of other relevant people, Melanie recognised that whilst by usual business valuation methods her business was worth around £55 million, because of the niche nature of the product and the competitive advantage it would give the £multi-billion potential bidders, the likely value to them was a minimum £125 million, possibly even £150 million. This values her stake at between £35 and £45 million, as opposed to the £13 million she believed at the start of the session.
The extra 45 minutes was well worthwhile for her!
So whilst not every client will be in Melanie’s position, there are some key lessons that can be learned:
- How much ‘negative’ thinking could be costing people.
- How unblocking negative thinking can open the door for creative thinking.
- The value of thinking outside the box, and putting yourself in other people’s shoes.
- The value of being willing to fully consider options.
- The value of quality thinking time. In those final 45 minutes, there was no set agenda, no targets, just a freedom to explore.