And most people I talk to, find the process of selling the excruciating part.
The Truth of Why I sold my business (and what you can learn from it yourself)
It doesn’t really make sense on paper to sell a business during COVID that has recurring revenue, an amazing mission, and extraordinary executives, writers, and marketing.
So why sell?
To provide context, I’ll give you more of the story and background, plus sprinkle several important lessons and considerations along the way. These lessons work for anyone with co-workers, or those who own a business, and especially for those that have all the signs of success, but know there is something more.
From the time I could remember, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My grandfather had inspired me. He was a coal miner, but also a TV repairman and toured the weekends with his band. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew there was something special with the connection my grandfather had with his clients and his community.
My first business was cleaning cars at the age of fifteen. I won 5,000 dollars by being awarded the Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the state of Utah. I thought 5,000 dollars was a ton of money and wanted to invest it. This led me to the financial industry.
I started in financial services in June of 1998.
I passed the life insurance exam and was licensed at the age of nineteen.
A few months later I passed the 6 and 63 securities exams, allowing me to sell mutual funds as well.
At that time, I was a naïve, product-peddling salesman, posing as a financial planner, but I set my own hours, was paid on commission, and was passionate about studying this topic.
My main strategy was to read and learn as much as possible, but I don’t know how much of it actually made me smarter, but I did sound smarter.
Now, sounding smart is far different from having the know-how, intelligence, and capability to provide a financial plan, manage risk, and properly empower people.
I did enough studying to know all the jargon and often left people feeling overwhelmed or underprepared. My family and friends weren’t financially literate. They were mostly blue-collar, hard-working people that didn’t have enough money to attract the best planners.
IT WAS EXCITING TO THINKI COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE, HELP THEM, AND MAKE MONEY AT THE SAME TIME.
All my studying led them to trust me with their money, but my ability was limited.
In the vast universe of finance, passing a few tests and investing a year’s time didn’t qualify me to give them the best options or advice. I simply didn’t know the best questions to ask, whom to ask these questions to, or what to study, so I focused on sales training and gathered as many marketing resources to support that narrative.
At the time, I didn’t realize there may be a better way.
The education being provided focused more on sales training than actual technical analysis and understanding of the economy, and markets, and did almost nothing to support a due diligence process, until a bald man with a ponytail from New York showed up to train us and scared the shit out of me.
I realized I sounded smart, but this man had decades of experience and poked holes in my philosophy to the point I thought I was going to throw up.
Now I was motivated and armed with more knowledge and a new set of questions. I realized to truly add value to my clients, it was going to take a different methodology and higher level of thinking than I had been accustomed to.
I turned to a college professor, Steve Harrop. Steve was a former top-rated money manager (managed 5 billion dollars).
Plus, I found the Lifetime Economic Acceleration Process (LEAP), a comprehensive life insurance selling program.
Even though LEAP focused heavily on life insurance transactions, it also focused on properly reducing tax, the flow of money, building out all pieces of a plan, and had such a solid foundational philosophy. This changed my life and the life of my clients.
And both LEAP and Steve showed up when the stock market started to decline, in the year 2000.
Before LEAP, Steve and Mr. Ponytail, people used phrases, clichés even, like:
The market is on sale, tell your clients to buy.
High risk equals high return.
The market goes up, the market goes down, but it will trend up.
Volatility is a required part of the game.
This is only a short-term dip (wrong). Well, that particular dip lasted three years.
These statements and beliefs were limiting my ability to serve my clients at the highest level. And the market dip created stress with my friends and family members that were clients. There had to be a better way.
I went back to Steve with a lot of questions, and with my newfound knowledge, I had new conversations with my clients. These conversations saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars (would have been millions, but I was young without that much money under management).
First, and it is hard to admit, I let my clients know I was wrong, my training was limited, and I wasn’t sure what to do next.
That wasn’t easy.
I was trying to appear confident in those early days, but the way I studied had more to do with covering up insecurities than learning philosophies of money.
Again, rather than keep on pretending, and with Steve Harrop’s advice, I let them know I didn’t know what I was doing and that they should get their money out of the market and find a new planner (or give me some time to figure out other ideas of what to do).
Almost all of them listened and waited.
The reward was in 2001 and 2002 when the market was down, I was introducing them to a strategy that got 41 percent and 44 percent returns those two years, all while being in cash around 80 percent of the time.
IT WAS A LOOK INTO NEW POSSIBILITIES.
To remove the losses for many of my clients and for others, I was able to get 1-3 percent cash flow per month for a time through bridge financing/hard money lending. But that came with its own set of risks and wasn’t sustainable either (the market crash of 2008 wiped out those returns).
The first strategy only lasted two years because retirement plans changed the rules in 2003 on the number of trades and when they posted, limiting our ability to execute the strategy
But all along, Steve Harrop’s advice was to learn, find multiple options, and continually manage risk.
In his investment class, we learned how to analyze investments and look at financials.
This wasn’t something I wanted to do every day.
I had been offered a job as an analyst at the second-best-performing mutual fund family at that time, but it wasn’t something I would have enjoyed.
Relationships fuel me, connection is my currency.
With the advice to always be learning and looking for multiple options, and better returns, I found something quite unexpected.
I did 26 straight months of flying somewhere to learn from the best minds and advisors I could find in the financial world.
My young age was an advantage as many of them were willing to meet as a way to give back/pay it forward.
They would share recordings with their clients, or let me watch them meet with people or host trainings I could attend.
I also was able to shadow a well-known and respected advisor and was introduced to the concept of a family office. I wrote about family offices in What Would The Rockefellers Do aka What Would Billionaires Do (GarrettGunderson.com/WWBD).
When families are wealthy enough, they could have their own full-time, financial team (family office)- accountants, attorneys, risk and money managers etc.
These family offices started with a focus on something that made so much sense, but no other planners I knew were doing.
This thing would give me a sustainable advantage since the majority of people had no clue about this critical thing.
Plugging financial leaks.
SHOWING PEOPLE HOW TO KEEP MORE OF WHAT THEY MAKE RATHER THAN TAKING RISKS AND CHASING RETURNS.
I became obsessed with ways to save money without having to budget or cut back.
Saving on tax, interest, non-performing commissions and fees, and even duplicate coverages or improper structure with their insurance. I stopped gathering assets (aka managing money) altogether and put my focus on getting people’s financial house in order and reclaiming cash that was being lost to insurance companies, financial institutions, or the government.
This was the main mission for a number of years, find lost money and put it back into people’s lives. Well, and I wanted to be the pre-eminent planner in the state of Utah.
To fulfill the mission of being a pre-eminent planner, I created a Virtual Family Office. A Virtual Family Office meant you didn’t have to be wealthy enough to afford a full-time group, but use the methodology of a comprehensive, connected, and communicative team of professionals to support the implementation of all things money and finance. This team wouldn’t be in the same building, but they would all work together for the implementation of the plan.
This was easier said than done.
I was able to build a team of professionals (Virtual Family Office) to support my clients (called The Accredited Network). Yet, I found that no matter how many leaks are plugged, no matter what growth or return people get, without conquering the scarcity mindset, there wasn’t sustainable happiness.
This opened up the possibility to start hosting one-day events that were focused on mindset, philosophy, and finances.
Marrying money and mindset started a movement we called the Producer Revolution.
A “Producer” creates more value than they consume and dedicates their life to value creation consistent with enjoying life along the way. It was about unlocking people’s ability to create value, know their value, and embrace abundance to live better.
This struck a nerve.
The stories were pouring in that led with stories of loving life, taking trips, doing more fulfilling work, and having renewed energy in life and business.
This movement was the precursor to Wealth Factory.
It showed me the impact of workshops, newsletters, recordings (webinars, courses, interviews), and supporting systems and processes for people to design an intentional life.
This showed me there was something financial planning was missing; an emphasis on the person, on their life, their obstacles, and the real issues at hand.
From faulty philosophies around money and the stories, they were stuck in, not feeling like enough.
Plus combining that with work around Soul Purpose, mindset, and life design was the combination that led to forming Wealth Factory.
Wealth Factory’s mission wasn’t to help those with access to family offices or the ultra-wealthy, instead, it is to liberate 1 million people to achieve financial independence.
I love this mission.
I am a catalyst for this mission.
Eventually, my preferences and abilities were a hindrance to my living my best life and even to this mission being realized.
Initially, Wealth Factory’s program was only for entrepreneurs, but as we evolved, the team-built programs to support those that would never be an entrepreneur or to support those becoming entrepreneurs- aligning more with the mission.
It was the team that really drove the quest for new ways to reach more people and asked how we would ever reach the one million in our current business model.
Even though it was a massive decision to sell the business, it happened in a moment. It was when I really got fully clear about the next chapter of my life, what I wanted the most, and where I could create the most value.
Although it was a moment, it become possible and changed in 2015 when I talked to my business partner and CEO (Norm Westervelt) about the prospect of a summer in Italy with my family.
It seemed unlikely, even impossible. My grandfathers and father didn’t have the time or money while raising their family to take a summer off. To go to Italy wouldn’t have even been a consideration and I could feel that generational fear underneath, deep in my bones.
But from all I teach, I knew it wasn’t impossible, I was just feeling a bit of scarcity.
Norm assured me it was all possible, and sooner than I thought.
It was a manner of planning and he was just the person to do it. He had already given me a year to focus on my family in 2012 without taking a dip in income as he improved processes and margins.
He had my back.
During our conversation and planning session, I booked the villa for 18 months later- now it was real.
That summer in 2017, the business matured while I was in Italy.
I wasn’t on any stage.
And not only was the business able to sustain itself without me, but after a few weeks, they found new ways to bring additional people to the database and programs.
Buckminster Fuller teaches a concept called precession. The Bee doesn’t intend to pollinate, it is a byproduct of the actions though.
Dan Sullivan talks about something similar- strategic byproduct.
My intent was to have a summer with the family- the byproduct was being able to separate my identity from my business.
That wasn’t my plan.
It wasn’t even on my radar.
Another by-product was the team matured and discovered new skillsets and new methods of generating business began without requiring my support. It gave Norm the ability to make choices and emphasize programs that were more scalable.
I shouldn’t have been surprised.
This had happened years before when I had chosen to only work 1-1 with 5 clients at a time and we hired an amazing team of Financial Architects and Wealth Engineers.
Yet, where I was still a bit more concerned was how the three-day Wealth Acceleration Workshop would go without me.
It went very well.
Coming back from Italy, I went from teaching most (sometimes all) of the three days, to only the first day of our Wealth Acceleration Workshops.
These workshops created predictable results for the team, and the attendees, and the process became less interesting to me.
Thanks to Norm’s management of the finances and business, and the marketing team’s capability to generate leads without me, 2017 was my highest income year to date.
Before that summer, selling was never an option or a consideration.
But now I had plenty of time to think, to even be bored at times in a slower culture, and time by myself (which rarely happened before Italy).
It was this combination of time to think about what I really wanted, combined with some deep personal work after coming home, that allowed me to see in a moment, it was time to sell.
FOR A LONG TIME, I DIDN’T SEE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MYSELF AND MY BUSINESS.
My confidence was wrapped in the feelings and results of any and all of our members.
My identity collapsed with who I was and what I did.
But now I could see that business is a canvas to create value, a canvas for creation.
And as I began more consistently and intentionally working on myself, I focused on life design, my winning game.
I invested in more one-on-one experiences with coaches and mentors for personal clarity and healing.
This allowed me to design my life, be fully expressed, and leverage my strengths.
Daily, I began taking my meditation practice to heart, stopped listening to podcasts about sports or business, and started listening to my spiritual mentors’ recordings.
This, combined with time away, created the ability to listen to my inner voice. With a new level of self-awareness, I wondered what I would/could do with a blank canvas, in the void where there is a blank slate for creation.
This process, this work, created an awareness showing me my contribution to the business and how my mode and model were actually slowing the process down.
The first issue, was my trying to keep the peace as a sort of mediator, but creating tension through people pleasing.
People pleasing prevents communication and disrupts collaboration as people don’t feel seen or heard, diminishing their ability.
When people don’t communicate and hold back in order to avoid disruption, it leads to resentment and destroys trust. This is hard on the people that have to accept a situation that is less than ideal. In the name of keeping the peace, everyone is unexpressed and disconnected.
There were people in the firm loyal to me, therefore undermining the operations, management, and growth of the company. The loyalty wasn’t to the vision or other executives and the lack of communication led to mistrust.
The tough part is when talented people want to do things one way and go rogue. When I was taking time to write or on the road giving talks, or gone for a summer, my lack of presence was part of the problem. And the fact I don’t love to do operations or manage people, or hire and fire didn’t help either.
To be the leader I knew was required, I let the team know we would fully collaborate and communicate or people would no longer be working with Wealth Factory.
The other option, I would actually sell the business.
The team all sat down together and made the effort, but I could see that changes needed to be made and it wasn’t in my wheelhouse to make those changes.
The best way to grow, was for me to let go.
To turn the business to those who helped me build it for over a decade.
This wouldn’t require business brokers or comb through the finances or being under attack from buyers so they could negotiate a better price. Instead, the time I would have taken in those meetings was reserved for writing, rehearsing, and performing a comedy special. It allowed me to life my best life, embrace being an artist, and allow the team to allocate time and resources to grow.
People had been with the firm for a long time.
We had such low turnover at our firm, but sometimes no turnover comes with stubbornness and limits.
I could see my place in those limits by not always having the hard conversations or not allowing other people to have a voice to avoid disruption. I’ve never subscribed to or believed in the notion “isn’t personal it is business”, because business is relationships and people.
Relationships can be complicated and dynamic.
I knew that my management ability and consistency were limited.
The divergent management styles of Norm and myself didn’t allow for the best results.
My style can be described as full of passion and inspiration but with inconsistency as I would travel, and write, therefore having periods of time without leadership.
I am clear about my weaknesses.
- Hiring and firing
I did fire people, but usually long after it was time. It is hard to see someone hurt or upset. Yet, it isn’t in their best interest to be in a job where they either don’t love it, are disengaged, or simply not performing. One of the things I do feel best about, most everyone that I did let go of, eventually thanked me and we have a relationship today.
Creating content is different from building processes that allow performance and predictable results. I might be able to do operations at an adequate level if I were to emphasize and prioritize them, but I am not uniquely gifted in this arena.
This is still something that I am working on and managing with increased communication, but it requires daily effort. Wealth Factory has a lot of moving pieces and plenty of details. Norm is gifted in this area in a way I am not. It made sense to give him the full power and ability to handle this.
Creation comes in spurts. Doing the same things over and over becomes very mundane for me. I am consistent in my spiritual practice, health practice, and in writing. But when it comes time to do the same things over and over in business, I lose interest, and that limits the capability and speed of implementation for the team.
Loyalty can be a great strength, but also a weakness. When loyalty removes accountability or prevents production, it is a hindrance. It can be great to give people the benefit of the doubt, but there can also be a “labeling” of people that isn’t empowering at all. For example “that is just how they are”, letting them get away with things for too long becomes habitual and they are loyal because they don’t have to be responsible.
I am even more clear about my strengths:
Creating one, helping others get clear on one. When we see beyond what we can do on our own, it allows for other people’s support. We then have the ultimate container in which to create value. Vision is the rarest commodity. When it is murky or undefined, busyness takes over and it can be exhausting and be part of the reason people want to sell. Now, I love to support others in creating their vision and see how my overall vision can further support Wealth Factory with my personal brand.
“To plant a seed of hope, connection, and expression in the hearts of one billion people through entertainment”.
- Creation and Content
I see things about money, and life design that seems impossible or elusive to others. I especially love to write books and workbooks, and courses, or even make money more fun by making fun of bad money ideas through comedy. To this day, I deliver webinars, videos, and financial content to support Wealth Factory.
- Coaching and Mentoring
I love to ask people questions they would never think to ask themselves and unlock new levels of potential. To be able to go deep and accelerate results. I love facilitating breakthroughs and creating clarity, confidence, and peace of mind. This is why I still worked with a handful of clients as a coach at Wealth Factory and why I to this day, chose to do one-on-one life-changing immersions to help people create their richest life. In the past, I could carve out the time for about ten per year, but now am able to do around twenty-four.
- Speaking and Teaching
I want to be world-class at delivering from stage, blending entertainment and education, and that requires developing new skills and time to rehearse, write, and even be coached (flying to LA every month). This is using elements of performance, comedy, and speaking to blend work and play for a more meaningful and memorable experience.
- Building Relationships and Making Connections
This is joyful for me. Connecting two people and seeing them achieve more together, but especially having people I can learn from, love on, and connect with. I regularly send Norm, Wealth Factory’s CEO, quality relationships to support the business. In my one-on-one immersions, I open up all of my Relationship Capital to support the results for implementation. Often saving years of research, work, and time in implementation.
Again, my vision now- planting a seed of hope, expression, and connection in the hearts of one billion people through entertainment, and healing people’s relationship with money. This increases the chances of Wealth Factory liberating one million people and leading them to economic independence. I become a Catalyst, freeing up my time for what I do best. This is different than selling a company, this is leveraging skill sets to accomplish more. Collaborate.
I couldn’t continue in my weaknesses and achieve this mission or help Wealth Factory achieve theirs.
The program I was most involved with and attached to with Wealth Factory was called Freedom FastTrack. It was less scalable. I was holding on and holding us back.
ENTER Wealth Architecture AND Wealth Builders Club.
For years now, the writers on the Wealth Factory team knew my financial content intimately (as we had worked together for years) and would research topics more deeply and develop resources and tools with less and less of my input.
This is/was fantastic and I welcomed it.
Although, it isn’t always easy.
It was hard to go from being directly connected to our members and seeing the results firsthand, to having others work with them to create results. As much as that is a great step in business, I did miss the feeling of working with people, facilitating breakthroughs, and being acknowledged for my role in their life. That is exactly why I continue to find joy in immersions and they continue to be a big part of my life.
Selling created the opportunity for creation and creativity. But creating a new way to sell. One I co-created with Norm, one we invented. Less money upfront and an ongoing relationship.
Since selling I have written three books.
At best, I could have maybe written one when I was with Wealth Factory.
And it was selling the company, letting go of the areas that weren’t my best, and focusing on my strengths that allowed this to happen.
Selling = space.
I had space.
Space to do a comedy special
Write this blog
Do two comedy tours
And to know my win with absolute clarity.
To live what I teach and love my life.
I have a rich ongoing relationship with Wealth Factory.
But where they leverage my best skills- leading webinars, filming videos, and brainstorming ideas. It was time to pass the baton. But I am still supporting them, in the best way.
Dan Sullivan taught me to look at things from 20 to 25-year viewpoints. It had been 23 years of building a Virtual Family Office financial firm.
It had the infrastructure, great people, and a crystal-clear vision.
I had the person I could always rely on and trust with consistency and commitment.
Again, let go to grow and that is exactly what has happened.
I have grown in my purpose, clarity, and as a person.
I want to dedicate the next twenty years to using entertainment to educate.
To write, perform, and create to reach more people, in ways they wouldn’t otherwise be reached.
To have the delivery method be more memorable, inventive, and fun.
And I want people to get results from this content and that is exactly why I refer them to Wealth Factory. Wealth Factory for most and immersions with me for those that apply and qualify.
Immersions keep me grounded in results, to stay sharp, and connected. This allows me to help architect a plan and watch the implementation. And not just watch, but open my Rolodex to support the process (makes me sound old saying Rolodex).
Wealth Factory is where I continue to trust and send people for financial education, financial support and results, and a Virtual Family Office.
And, Wealth Factory has grown double digits with Norm in charge since the transaction.
So, what do you want? What do you want to create? Is your career everything you want it to be? If not, who could you co-create with, or partner with, or even sell to? Maybe you don’t own a business and it is finally time to develop what you do best and let go of the things that hold you back.
For me, I am an artist.
My canvas is creating with my strengths.
Doing comedy for financial events, a theatrical keynote at events and workshops, and staying connected with immersions:
Sharing Relationship Capital
Connection and Building Lasting Relationships
This change has been difficult, but it has been richly rewarding.
It has been fun and it has had its challenges.
MY COMMITMENT IS TO LIVE MY RICHEST LIFE AND TO INPIRE AND SUPPORT OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.
My wife used to ask, why can’t you just sell life insurance. That was my first career and I was good at it, but the answer was and still is, it doesn’t fulfill me at the same level as writing, speaking, and inventing.
I love doing things that haven’t been done before.
A comedy special about money.
A theatrical keynote where I act out the four money personas.
These are challenging and exciting to me.
Not the easiest path for sure, but the one I enjoy the most.
Are you committed to living your richest life?
I’d love to help. Meet with me for financial, business, marketing, and quality-of-life discovery with three one-on-one sessions. This co-creation is about gaining momentum and tapping into my mental and relationship capital to bring your vision to fruition.
This is about accessing capabilities and potential through mentoring, coaching, and connections. I’ll show you how to get out of the stuff you hate and stay locked in your Soul Purpose, your zone of genius, so you can make and keep more money while also enjoying your life more.
You can apply to these discovery sessions here