Jan 25, 2022

On “Behind The Podcast”

What’s a Business Transition Sherpa? Laurie Barkman sits down with Stephanie Scheller on the Behind The Podcast to share the backstory on her podcast and her business. If you’re a business owner, she’s a highly valuable listen for you, so check her out!

Want to know what your business is worth? Schedule a call with Laurie for a complimentary consultation.


Welcome back, everybody. Stephanie, here we are back with

another one of our series here on behind the podcast. You know

me, I love digging in behind the scenes behind the whatever, why

does things work? Why do things work? That’s the question,

right? Because if we can figure out why it works, how it works,

we can replicate it for our business. Today I am joined by

the amazing Laurie Barkman, the Business Transition Sherpa. The

Business Transition Sherpa. I’m just gonna stop right there.

Because now I really desperately want to know, what does the

business transition Sherpa do?

It’s a lot of things, Stephanie. But at its core, it’s about

working with business owners to help them build the value of

their company. And then when they’re ready to let it go.

Now let it go doesn’t always have to be sell it right.

Sometimes it’s them like transitioning themselves out, or

am I going too far with that bad interpretation?

It could be any of those things. That’s right. That’s why I talk

about business transition pretty generally, you hear the word

exit or sale. And for sure, if you want to sell your company,

that’s a way to transition, you might also transition it to the

next generation of family or the next generation of management.

That’s succession planning as part of this, too. It’s kind of

a broad context.

Okay. So there’s, there’s a variety here. And I know your

official title is business transition, and M&A advisor with

lots of ads sprinkled in there, because we all need a little bit

of seasoning and flavor in our life. What is that? You said

it’s two designations, right?

Yeah, I talk about it that way. Because not everybody wants to

sell or buy a company. So the mergers and acquisition side is

very transactional. And this getting ready side is really

what takes a lot of time. If you’re building the value of

your business, you’re building a more enjoyable business to run,

you’re building a more successful platform to build

upon. So it just makes economic sense to build the value of your

company. And it doesn’t have to be because you’re going to sell

it. But if you’re understanding what your enterprise value is,

your understanding your differentiation, you’re

understanding the risks, and you’re managing all those

things, you’re inherently going to build the value of your

company. And so that way, it’s about building options and

generating options so that when you’re ready to think about

transition, you have different options to consider.

Now, I think this is where I think a lot of people don’t

think about selling or transitioning until they’re

frustrated with the business. Or a lot of people do think about I

know people think about it on the other side, too. And

they’re, you know, having done it for a while and very proud of

it. But I think a lot of times people go to I’m going to sell

this business because I can’t make it work. What do you do

when you do you get people to reach out to you and I get

people to reach out all the time, they’re like, Who do I

talk to you about selling this business? Because it doesn’t

work? And I’m like, well, you’re probably not gonna be able to

sell a business that’s not working. What are you doing? You

get that person who reaches out going, get rid of this business

for me? And you’re like,

Well, you know, value is in the eye of the beholder. Just like

if you have a house, what’s your house worth? It’s worth what

someone’s willing to pay for it. Just like a company, what is it

worth it’s worth what the market will pay for it. Because it’s a

private market, not like a publicly traded company, where

we know what that stock is, in a private company, its value has

any number of combinations. And so it’s in the eye of the

beholder. If a company is more risk associated with it, then

someone’s going to want to pay less for it than if it’s, you

know, perceived to be less risky. So it’s all relative, the

size of the business is definitely one of those things

that can be more risky, if it’s under 10 million. And I know a

lot of your clients and folks that you work with might be

under that 10 million mark. And yeah, that’s kind of a general

heuristic that a more established business by its

revenue, its size, and its back office capabilities, its team,

all the things that go into making that business

transferable. It’s about the risk profile. So what is that

future stream of future cash flows? What’s the predictability

of that? And what gives that possible buyer the confidence in

that stream of future cash flow? So if someone says my business

isn’t successful, and I’m having trouble running it, then yeah,

it’s inherently going to have less value to a buyer. Hmm.

So do is 10 million. I know we have some other questions we’re

going to get into but I’m fascinated with your answers

here is 10 million a pretty good like milestone for people to aim

for like, Okay, I want to sell my business. I want to exit I

know, I need to get it to roughly 10 million, is that a

general rule of thumb?

I’m not necessarily it can really vary by industry, for

sure. You might have a technology that is really

compelling and interesting and differentiated. And, and a

company wants to acquire it because they’re building on this

future potential think. Snapchat thing, right, right. Facebook,

Instagram. Exactly. Yeah. So it could be a situation like that

where it’s generating revenue, but it’s really about the future

of that business, it’s also about the profitability of it.

So in that example of texts are, sometimes it’s not so much about

the profits, it’s more about that potential. But then in most

businesses, it is the profitability of it. And so we

as we, as owners of our business, can, we make decisions

about what we want to invest in and how we’re going to focus our

time and energy and resources. And so if you are looking at

building the value of your company, you might actually have

less profits in a certain year, because you’re choosing to make

those investments that are going to actually increase your value

in the future. So there’s some crazy examples like, you know,

companies that run every expense, like every personal

expense through their business, like toilet paper. Okay, so you

saved 30 cents on the dollar, right? By from a tax

perspective, but you’ve hurt yourself destroyed your company,

your if the value of your company, let’s say is a 3x, on

average for your profits. So then you’ve lost $3 on that $1.

Right. So that’s the way we have to kind of get the mindset of

what does it really mean in value building?

So how did you get into all this? I know you have the

podcast succession stories podcast, we’ll talk about that

in a second. How did you get into this as your business,

it’s been a journey, they’d started, I would say, in 2013.

For me, I’ve had a career in marketing, and really fun

organization, startups, larger companies, and very

entrepreneurial environments. And in 2013, I was part of a

company well established 100 plus year old company, I was a

CEO of one of the divisions. And it was really exciting. And then

two years later, we were acquired by FedEx, you might

have heard of them. And it was, you know, this, this small

acquisition about a billion, billion, over a billion dollars.

And so going through that experience was something and it

was a family led company, privately held. And, and having

a front row seat to what that was, like on the inside of a

company getting acquired, got me interested in the world of

mergers and acquisitions. After that, I was with the company

went through the integration. And then after that, I worked

with a private equity group for a while. And then I was in

professional services. And I got to really understand this

landscape of professional services for business owners. So

it’s your accounting, your your wealth management, and then my

lane, my swim lane is growth. And so I thought, You know what,

this is really interesting. I’m bringing strategic planning to

the table, and I’m coupling it with the value building side. So

if you’re a business owner that saying yeah, at some point, I

want to have these transition options, what might they be, you

know, you didn’t build your business on your own. So why

should you plan to exit or transition on your own, you’re

gonna need people around you that can help you do that. So

that’s really the space that I’m playing, and is this business

advisory role to help you maximize the value of your

company. So that one day when you are ready to transition, you

have more options? And the other hat that I wear? Is this more

transactional? So if you want to sell a business by business, we

want to value your business. It’s really the first question

is, what’s your business worth today? Most people have no idea.

Or they’ll say, Oh, well, so and so’s sold his company for this?

So mines worth that? And the answer is no, it isn’t. We have

to really understand your particular situation. Because we

talked about those risks, you know, the risks and the value

drivers. So we take a look at that. And we say, okay, from

this starting point on the business is the business ready?

We also look at, are you ready as a business owner? So it’s the

personal readiness, the business readiness, and then the

financial readiness? And that’s the three legged stool.

That’s I love that you look at like, are you ready to because

I’ve seen so many people who go into these self destructive

spirals, when they’re no longer, you know, running and managing

their business because they weren’t ready their entire

identity was the business and all of a sudden it’s gone

overnight. And they are just, I mean, yeah, some really, really

crazy stories that have ended very sadly. So that’s awesome.

So what prompted you, because succession stories podcast is

coming up on its second year? Anniversary? What prompted you I

mean, I know you have plenty else going on your plate

podcasting. I think a lot of people think, Oh, I’m going to

start a podcast. It’s going to be like this really easy. Like,

I’ll just record for half an hour every week and it’ll be a

podcast. Like, it’s not it’s a whole thing and for the podcast

to be going consistently for a year and a half coming up on two

years. What What prompted you to go Oh, my God, I need to start a

podcast. And two part question. How do you balance that in your

business? Because a podcast is almost a business in and of


Yeah, it is balance. I think the vision behind the podcast was I

wanted to have a mechanism that was beyond the business card. I

wanted to have kind of this calling card for what is it that

helps an audience get to know me in an interesting and authentic

way and at the same time educating and providing value.

And then they also thought I thought about it as like a

highly curated referral network. So my vision was not to sell

ads, my vision was to have people come on the show that

either could have the potential to be a client, or to be a

referral partner. And so with the premise that this is a

business show, of course, we have human interest elements to

it. But we’re looking for interesting stories. And

everybody, I guarantee you, and guarantees that in the sense

that if you’re not satisfied, I’ll have another show for you.

My guarantee is that you’ll learn something. Now, you didn’t

learn something on this episode, you’ll learn something on the

next one. But it’s everybody that takes the listen to the

show. They’re always like, wow, I really took away a lot. My mom

who’s not a business person, listen to the show, of course,

and she gets a lot out of it. And so that’s good, too, you

know that it’s not, it’s not as the overly sophisticated

complicated thing. But you all can take away the human interest

side, too. And I think this the overall theme is transition, you

know, what inherently is succession, its transition. And

so we play that out. It’s about personal transitions. I had a I

have a sub series called The what’s next series, where people

share really personal stories about Yeah, maybe there was a

transition in business. But there’s also a transition in

life. I have a friend of mine from high school, who’s a former

NFL player, who was successful in business and, and he started

his own company. And I thought, You know what, I’m gonna have

him on the show, let’s talk about that. I have a gentleman

who’s a what I call a better printer. He’s a veteran. He was

in the Jag, and he’s now an author. And so we talked about

his experiences. And so there’s those elements too. But mostly

the shows are about business owners, entrepreneurs, founders

that are doing the hard work of the hard work. They’re trying to

work on their business. And there’s lessons learned of

what’s worked, what hasn’t worked. We have folks that have

sold their company bought businesses, it runs together.

So how do you balance all of that? Because you have to find

guests, record podcasts, get them edited, get them produced,

get them pushed out, get them marketed? Like there’s a whole

process here? How do you balance that in business? What is your

secret or, or key concept that lets you pull this off?

For a long time, it was just me doing all the steps except for a

few key pieces, which are really fundamental. One is I found an

excellent producer. And he and I created a really good workflow.

So I record and then he takes it from there to finalize, finalize

the elements. But I also probably should tell the

audience that I have 2025 years of marketing experience. So it

was different for me to market me and market the show and

market myself as the product. That’s different. I had to get

over that hump. But the mechanisms of marketing and

being comfortable in different mediums and learning different

tool sets. I was very comfortable with that. So it’s

been a challenge of how do you put it all together? And how do

you create processes that can that can scale and for a while,

I was doing literally every step. But I’ve tried to find

tools where I can automate. So that’s been helpful. And then

also, I do have a team I have added to folks, I use AI worker

as a platform, which is a B Corp to find folks in economically

developed countries. So I have a writer in Nigeria, I have a

graphic designer, in Brazil. And so they we have now we have a

workflow. And that’s been tremendous. That’s very, very

helpful. They’re awesome. So this, you know, this kind of

this team, if you will, I don’t outsource the whole thing, I all

sorts of pieces of it. And I maintain creative control. And I

like that I think it’s important for me to have that creative

control. Because I think about how a lot of these aspects tie

together. Maybe at some point in the future, I’ll be able to

outsource more of those. But because it’s a it’s a show that

is representative of my business, I am holding it kind

of close to the vest for that reason.

So if you could give one piece of advice to someone who’s

thinking of starting a podcast, while running a business, what

would it be,

to really process put process around it and I think where you

can add people to help you, you can find services to outsource

to the 100% if you want to, you could find you know some

combination like I’m doing where you can take it on yourself but

it’s really good to know what it is what’s your purpose, like why

are you doing what you’re doing? And then thinking about your

mechanism for consistency. So if you tell your audience you’re

going to do it weekly, then you got to do it weekly. If you’re

just too much for you then go to bi weekly or monthly but

whatever it is stick to it and come up with a process that is

workable for you if it’s creating you stress, then change

it Don’t Don’t drive yourself nuts and you know carve out the

time to it and and really have fun with it. I think the more

you really truly enjoy it, the better the product is going to

be. Love it.

Love it more if someone is interested in continuing this

comment With you, where do they find you?

Happy to do that they can reach out to me on LinkedIn, Laurie

Barkman. They can email me directly my email is lbarkman at

smalldotbig.com. And they can also hit my website and schedule

time with me directly, which is smalldotbig.com.

Fabulous. And we will drop all of those links down below for

you guys as well. In the meantime, as always, I want to

leave you with one piece of encouragement and the piece of

encouragement I’m going to drop you with or drop with you guys

today is this is that if Microsoft can still be asking

you to default to edge as it’s your default browser. You can

give your business one more go get at it today. You got this.

You’re gonna knock it out. Gotta be great. Make it an awesome


New Episodes Available Weekly On:


Get Succession Stories in Your Inbox Free

Case studies, examples, templates, and tools for business transition, plus notification of new episodes.

The Business Transition Handbook

The Business Transition Handbook

Preparing owners to navigate the emotional and practical nature of the transition process so you can exit on your terms and avoid succession regrets.

“A game changer to help you win in your exit and in life.”


Browse More Episodes

How to Protect Your Equity When Your Business Needs Cash

How to Protect Your Equity When Your Business Needs Cash

When it comes to financing your business growth, you might feel stuck between two tough choices: selling shares to raise cash, or borrowing money from a bank. Selling shares means giving up some of your valuable equity, while bank loans can be expensive and often require a personal guarantee. But...

Lazy CEO Podcast, Business Transitions and Liquidity Events

Lazy CEO Podcast, Business Transitions and Liquidity Events

In this episode of The Lazy CEO Podcast, host Jim Schleckser discusses the topic of liquidity events and business transitions with expert Laurie Barkman from the Business Transition Sherpa. Laurie shares her personal experience going through an M&A process as a CEO and highlights the challenges, emo...