Having an Endgame for Your Machine Shop Business. Part 4: Reaching the Destination

April 17, 2023

The finite nature of life provides us with the motivation to find meaning in how we live it out, so that our personal story is meaningful. All stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end and that applies to your story as a machine shop owner, too. How do we ensure that your story has a happy ending? That’s been the focus of this blog series. 

When the story began, everything was new and exciting. Perhaps you started a shop from scratch or took over the reins from someone else. In either case, you likely spent the first part of your journey keeping your head above water as you found a rhythm for how you thought things should operate. Eventually you hit a ceiling on your growth and found yourself at a fork in the road. It was this time of pause where you first realized that this story would eventually come to an end.

In the middle of the story, you moved beyond the fork in the road and defined what a successful endgame would look like. From there, you cast a vision for success with goals that are specific and measurable. You took that vision and reverse engineered the steps to successfully achieving it. Only then did you know what needed to be accomplished on a yearly basis in order to reach the destination. From this point you shared the vision with the team, deputized them to help you accomplish it, and installed an operating system whereby your hard-earned methodology for business success is now able to be taught to and learned by someone else. 

Now we arrive at the end of the story. How do you know if you’ve gotten there, or if you’ve been successful in executing the plan? If your goals weren’t specific enough, it’d be hard to know. Vague goals are elusive and confusing. They often are never accomplished because there’s never any urgency to accomplishing them. 

To illustrate this point, consider this scenario which involves a shop owner who is five years away from retirement. The shop owner wants to retain ownership of the business and hire someone to run it on their behalf. Here are two approaches to goal setting for that particular endgame:

Scenario 1: Vague Goal Setting (Low likelihood of success)
“I need to hire someone to operate my business before I retire”

Scenario 2: Specific Goal Setting (High likelihood of success)
“In order to retire in 60 months, I need to:

  1. Hire an operator within the next 12 months and mentor that person so that they can be fully in charge in 60 months when I retire.
  2. Finish defining the operating system within the next 6 months.
  3. Install the operating system and roll it out over the next 24 months.
  4. Delegate my daily responsibilities in stages so that I am completely removed from operations in 60 months. 
  5. Cut my involvement back to 2-3 days a week for the final 18 months leading up to retirement.
  6. Make my exit as planned in 60 months”

Do you see the difference?

As previously discussed, one shop owner’s end game might look different from the next. Perhaps your goal is to simply step back from operations and focus on the strategic work of building the business. Alternatively, you might be ready to depart from the business entirely to focus on your family and your hobbies. Your endgame might include the sale of the business to a key employee, family member, or perhaps someone new. In any event, the importance of leaving the business in a good position can’t be overstated. Not only are businesses worth the most when they are running well, but your team deserves a good continuity plan. 

In last week’s installment of the blog, we discussed the importance of developing and installing an operating system whereby the business can be learned and operated by someone else. In this week’s installment, we’ll discuss the indicators which communicate that things are going well and that you’ll be able to make your exit as planned. 

Long term goals are being achieved. You’ve done a great job at casting a long term vision for business success and have broken it down into measurable, specific, and achievable goals. Those goals have been documented and shared with the team. Team members have been empowered to execute on the goals and push the business forward with gusto. As a result, amazing things are happening in your business without additional input from you! 

You aren’t a part of new processes. Your goal in approaching your exit is to reduce and ultimately eliminate your involvement in daily operations. As I’ve said before, if your name is part of the process, then it needs to be revised and delegated to someone else. When you notice this happening organically as a result of a well-installed operating system, you’ll know that you’re on track for a successful exit.

People are being hired, nurtured, and managed effectively. You’ve got the right people in the right seats. You’ve established a great company culture and you’re seeing those values be lived out on a daily basis. Team members have clear expectations and are properly equipped to thrive in their roles. You’re seeing the results on the bottom line. Managers are providing regular feedback so that everybody is focused on the right tasks.

KPI’s and Measurables are Looking Good. Not only is data being regularly recorded and analyzed, but the indicators are looking great! You’ve worked hard with your leadership team to get to this point. When you notice poor performance, the team is able to react quickly to overcome the issue without requiring your help.

There’s a new Sheriff in town. This one will look different depending on how you make your exit. The key point is that someone else will be taking over. Your goal might be to remain tangentially involved, or to walk out the door for good. The important thing is that you’ve communicated this to the team and have shown care to leave them in good hands once that takes place. This might be the hardest step of all. 

Some stories live on and on. 

As I often point out, machine shops might be the hardest kind of business to run, but also one of the most rewarding. As the protagonist of your own story, perhaps you feel like the underdog who is constantly inundated with new obstacles to overcome on the path to success. Despite the odds being against you in this high stakes game, you’re still here.

If you take away only one thing from this series, I hope it’s this: 

Not everyone has been born into a meaningful legacy, but you do have the opportunity to leave one behind. As you live out a meaningful story as a machine shop owner and operator, you invite others to do the same. Those who follow you can build on your example and make it better because you’ve done the legwork. Perhaps you already have a strong end game in place or maybe you’re considering this for the first time. There will be hard days along the path to getting there, but success is yours to make. 

Go for it, I’m rooting for you.     

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