Ep727: Laurie Barkman – Quit Often Quit Fast

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Quick take

BIO: Laurie Barkman, the business transition sherpa, is the former CEO of a $100 million revenue company that was sold to a Fortune 50 company.

STORY: Though Laurie has had a flourishing career in the startup world, she regrets not spending that time building her own business.

LEARNING: Quit often, quit fast. Don’t hesitate, or stay in something that doesn’t bring you value. Pay attention to your instinct; don’t be afraid to act on it.


“Gravitate towards your strengths and follow your passions if you’re clear about what they are.”

Laurie Barkman


Guest profile

Laurie Barkman, the business transition sherpa, is the former CEO of a $100 million revenue company that was sold to a Fortune 50 company.

Laurie guides business owners through the often overwhelming process of transition planning. As a mergers and acquisitions intermediary, she facilitates sell-side and buy-side transactions in the lower middle market.

Laurie is the Amazon best-selling author of The Business Transition Handbook: How to Avoid Succession Pitfalls and Create Valuable Exit Options and hosts the award-winning podcast Succession Stories, rated in the top 2.5% of podcasts globally.

Laurie earned an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and a bachelor’s from Cornell University. She received a professional designation from The Alliance of Mergers & Acquisitions Advisors.

Get a complimentary business assessment. See how an acquirer would evaluate your business, enabling you to focus today on what will be important down the road. Learn what changes could double the value of your business.

Worst investment ever

When Laurie was studying for her MBA, she also took entrepreneurship courses and was the president of the entrepreneurship club. Laurie was excited about graduating and going into entrepreneurship. But, she didn’t have the big idea or tech skills. This was in the late 90s when it was all about tech startups. Laurie also lacked the risk profile. So, instead of starting a business or buying an existing one after her MBA, she joined a startup, which in and of itself was a good thing.

Looking back at her career, most of the positions Laurie had helped her add value and grow professionally. But one or two roles made her realize that she should have invested her time in building her own business instead of going into employment.

Lessons learned

  • Try to figure out what you’re good at, what you’re not, and what you enjoy and don’t before settling on a permanent career path.
  • Gravitate towards your strengths and follow your passions if you’re clear about them.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • Quit often, quit fast. Don’t hesitate, or stay in something that doesn’t bring you value.
  • Pay attention to your instinct; don’t be afraid to act on it.

Actionable advice

It’s important to trust your instincts. If you’re feeling unsure about something, trust that little voice.

Laurie’s recommendations

Laurie recommends her book, The Business Transition Handbook, for business owners with questions about business transition at any stage of their entrepreneurial journey. The book has a lot of content, resources, and ideas for how to help you build your business with the mindset of creating value. Every chapter is a succession pitfall to avoid and ends with an action summary and tips on your next steps. There’s great content, stories, and case studies for companies that have had some challenges and successes along the way.

Laurie also recommends checking out her website for other resources, including two assessments you can take. One is a business assessment to understand your business’s strengths, opportunities, or risks. And if you share your financial information, you’ll also get a valuation of your business. The other assessment is for personal transition readiness to help you understand the emotional side of things.

No.1 goal for the next 12 months

Laurie’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to help a million business owners with business transitions. She’d like to take her book and make a course.

Parting words


“Keep on working on your transition; you’ll always remember the value it brought you.”

Laurie Barkman


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning in our community. We know that to win an investing you must take risks but to win big, you've got to reduce it. Ladies and gentlemen on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. Fellow risk takers this is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz from a Stotz Academy and I'm here with Laurie Bartman. Laurie, are you ready to join the mission?

Laurie Barkman 00:33
I am ready. Yes, absolutely.

Andrew Stotz 00:37
I've turned on my radio voice. So let's have some fun. Well, I want to introduce you to the audience. Laurie, the business transition Sherpa is the former CEO of a $100 million revenue company that was sold to a fortune 50 company. Laurie guides business owners through the often overwhelming process of transition planning, and as a mergers and acquisitions intermediary she facilitates sell side and buy side transactions in the lower middle market. Lori is the Amazon Best Selling Author of the business transition handbook, how to avoid succession pitfalls and create valuable exit options. And she hosts the award winning podcast succession stories rated in the top 2.5% of podcasts globally. Boy earn Lorie earn an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and a bachelor's from Cornell University. She received a professional designation from the alliance of mergers and acquisitions advisors, my goodness, Laurie, take a minute and tell us about the unique value that you are bringing to this wonderful world.

Laurie Barkman 01:51
Andrew, thank you so much for that introduction. And thanks for having me on your show. My unique value, what is it, it's working with business owners in this next phase of their journey. Transition is a word that I've chosen very specifically, because it's a movement, it's not one point in time, it's a phase of time, we've worked so hard to build our businesses, we've taken it on from the next generation or we've acquired it. Nonetheless, at some point 100% of business owners are going to leave their company one day, but very few are prepared. And I am on a mission to help change that.

Andrew Stotz 02:31
That's, you know, it's a good point, I have a coffee factory that I started with my best friend, he runs it. And he's been running it for 20 years now in Bangkok. And we were having a meeting with the staff and we were talking about some urgency about something and we were like, Guys, we're almost 60 can do this forever. You know, that's right, really raised the issue of succession. And just the fact that you know, there's going to come a time that we're going to, we're going to move on. And it first thing it made me think about is how like, a business isn't really your own, in a sense, you have it for a period of time, I had this beautiful Lincoln Continental, it was a 1963. And I had it for 10 years in Bangkok. And then it was just time to let it go to someone else. And I think business is a lot like that, that just will be come a time. And if you're not prepared. Goodness, yeah, you can't

Laurie Barkman 03:24
do Exit Planning when you're exiting. That's too late. When time is on your side, you can create more options. And that's what my podcast my book and my practice is all about, is working with business owners from transition to transaction and from creating value to letting go and that doesn't happen overnight.

Andrew Stotz 03:48
So for the people that are listening or viewing you if you've got a business and you've been running it for a while and you realize, you know, it's something that reminds me, my mother lives with me here in Thailand, and my mom and dad did a lot of pre work on their health, directive health care directives. And you know what they wanted, and it made life so much easier when my dad got sick, and we had to make some decisions. I felt the comfort that there was a plan there. And now, as my mom's, you know, continues to age and she's 85. You know, we have been to the hospital to go and fill out some forms about her living will as well as we have her living well that she brought from the US. And it just brings comfort to know that you've prepared in advance for something that is going to be inevitable for all of us.

Laurie Barkman 04:38
It sure does. Comfort is a good word. It gives an emotive feeling. A word that I like to use a lot I encounter a lot with clients is clarity. People who are entrepreneurs and CEOs, they're a lot of times talking to themselves in their head. And a lot of questions are swirling, but they don't have answers to it. and they will do one or two things, they will swirl on them until it completely, you know, just consumes and they have to do something about it or they will ignore and put it on the back burner. And either way, it's, it's helpful to find someone as a trusted adviser to talk with somebody like myself when you are, let's say, three to five years out from a transition of some sort. And that transition can take various forms, whether you're selling the business or transitioning with your family, or management, etc. And nonetheless, it's those conversations that are really important to find that clarity and find your path. I work on a planning process with folks to put it together. And just that process of asking questions, and what are their goals and where they want to accomplish? And why can help set a foundation for making big decisions and also setting options so that you don't lock it locked into one option that falls apart? And then you feel like you're starting over? If we are setting option 123. And we were very purposeful about that, and we have intent about around it. So a common one would be, should I sell my business to a third party? Or should I try to sell to management? Or another example would be Should I sell to a third party? Or do my kids want it one day? Those tend to be the most common, but there's other flavors too.

Andrew Stotz 06:32
And what's the state of family business in America, I know, in Thailand, and in Asia, it's like every single business is a family business is a very small number, that are like what we what you may call in the US like a professional company. But what is the state of family business these days?

Laurie Barkman 06:49
I think that's pretty common. Most of the companies in the United States are founder led, or family led businesses, the ones that are publicly traded are pretty small number, they're the ones that make the headlines in the news. And we can look them up on Yahoo Finance, and find out what their value is. But most of the companies in the United States and what's moving our economy, or independently owned companies, and so they're really important to the US. The main street companies, which are under a million in revenue is one category. The other category, would I say the lower middle market, it's a pretty broad range, above a million to let's say 50 million in revenue. And then And then beyond that, but the lower middle market, if you look it up is a very, very broad range, some will even say up to 2 billion. So most companies do fall under that, of course. But I think that there's you know, this sort of special place for the two to 20 million revenue company. And that tends to be the size client that I work with, and the mergers and acquisitions firm that I'm affiliated with that stony Hill advisors, that's, that's our sweet spot, because what we find is the owners are still very much involved in the business, which can be a challenge. And, and also an opportunity. And also, you know, for family businesses. The other thing that I've noticed is quite a bit now that I'm spending more time in this space is more and more educational programs at a university level. So for example, my alma mater, Cornell University, has the Smith Family Business Initiative, which is part of the Johnson MBA school. And when you're part of that initiative, you can take courses, there's conferences and things of that nature. You're still graduating with the MBA from the Johnson School, but it's kind of a specialized area. There's other schools as well, with Northwestern and I think in North might be Chapel Hill, I'm not sure exactly. But across the US for sure. And Carnegie Mellon University, I'm an adjunct professor, I didn't have that in my bio, but I'm an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon, in the business school. And we are working on a family business initiative with speaking speakers coming in and other things like that. So it's a growing area. It's a growing area of support. The other dynamic in the United States for family businesses is the age wave. And what this is what this is, from Baby Boomers, just generationally, needing to transition their business because of age, I'll say there's age, and there's life stage. And when it comes to this dynamic, it's age based. And let's face it, too, if you're not answering the question of your transition, people around you are wondering, so just be mindful of that.

Andrew Stotz 09:39
Yeah. I was talking to one of my clients and we were talking about how, you know, it could be that their kids don't want to run the business. And what I explained to them is that, you know, legacy is not just, and they were talking about legacy, and I said legacy is not just that, that your family is the CEO, for instance, Toyota One of the biggest family businesses in Asia 12 out of 12 CEOs from their founding, seven of them were family members, including the latest one that just stepped down. And there was also five that weren't. And so that's one thing. And then I told the story about my family businesses in Pittsburgh, my grandmother, my great grandfather started and, you know, went from 8098, to about 1980, or something along that lines. And then they sold it, and my father didn't want to work in it, I didn't have any interest in it. And so now it was bought by another firm, and you know, they're running it, the direction that they want to take it. But still, there's a legacy there. That doesn't mean there's not a legacy. And so it doesn't always have to be, the succession doesn't always have to be that your children run as an example.

Laurie Barkman 10:48
That's right. That's a really good point. And it comes back to the family and what's important to the family. And I advise family boards advisory as an advisory board member, there's one particular company's construction company, and the brothers have been talking about these issues. Without going into too much detail, just say, in general, it's a tricky thing when your parents have passed, and you can't really ask them, they're not still here. And but you're trying to remember, well, what is it that they've said is important to them, but at the same time, they are not here anymore. And you have to carry this legacy forward. And what might have been said in the past may not be as relevant for the business and for its future sustainability. And so you do have to make, I think interpretations of what was important to the past, but also be mindful of future. And when it comes to I had a gentleman on my show, who is the fourth generation CEO of a publishing company for children's books, and content. And one of the things that really struck me was in our conversation, he said, It's not about me, it's not about my leadership. It's about the culture we create. It's about the generations to come. And he's working really hard to make it not about him and what his ideals are for this company. He really envisions it continuing in perpetuity. And I don't think they put constraints on well, it always needs to be run by a family member.

Andrew Stotz 12:18
Yeah, I think Toyota is really a great one. I've looked at it a lot recently. And just the idea that they put in place many years ago, Toyota Production System, the Toyota way of thinking, and they maintain that. So you know, it's a bit inspirational really to talk about it. So but that's not why we're here. We're here to get to know you, for sure. But now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one goes into their worst investment will be tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to then tell us your story.

Laurie Barkman 12:51
Well, when I think about investment, I think about time, talent, and treasure. And my story is one of not taking the chance on something that I think in the past I maybe I should have. When I was getting my MBA, I was taking entrepreneurship courses, I was the president of the entrepreneurship club, I was really excited about the idea of graduating and going into my own thing. However, I realized that for myself, I did not have the big idea. I did not have the tech skills. And at the time was the late 90s zooms all about tech startups. And I did not have the risk profile. I really didn't. And so what I did, instead of starting my own thing, or buying something, which I didn't even know was a thing back then that you could buy a business by a business from an owner who was looking for succession plan, right? I didn't know I didn't know about that. And instead, I joined startups, which in and of itself was a good thing. But I would say that so that's the kind of the talent side. On the time side. As I look back at my career, most of the positions I've had and working for other people I've enjoyed, I've added value. And I've and I grew professionally and benefited. But there were one or two roles that uh, as I look back, I think, you know what, that wasn't the best investment of my time. And my return on time, you know, we think of again, investment in terms of money. But what I'm saying here is I'm reflecting on a return on time. And that's my worst investment is I think that for those years, which it wasn't a lot, but it was enough that in my memory, I think I probably could have made other decisions about how to spend my time.

Andrew Stotz 14:44
That's time talent. And you said treasure.

Laurie Barkman 14:47
Treasure. Yeah, so I don't have investment worst investment to say I bought the stock. I mean, I guess the one thing would be just I'm not a great investor. I really just want to put it under my pillow and not worry about it. That's the kind of investor Am I So when I tried to do something like, Oh, I heard of this stock, I'm going to buy it. It's really stupid. It's like I heard on the news. And of course, it's too late. And I didn't know enough. And there was one example. I think it was a three M stock, and it was shooting up and I said, my husband, oh, we gotta buy this. But of course, it was too late. Why did I. So that would probably go under the worst investment because I laugh at myself and say, I'm not really a good investor, I should just keep it under. You know, it's, it's something I don't look at every day, I don't monitor the stock market, which I means Emotionally, I don't ride the highs and lows. I'm in it for the long term. I'm all about compound investing. I'm all about you know, dollar cost averaging. And I'm happy with that.

Andrew Stotz 15:42
One of the things that I would take away from what you said is the idea of, as I tell people quit often quit fast. You know, we don't know. Most of the time in our lives, we don't know where we belong, but we know where we don't belong. And once we get the awareness of where we don't belong, then I think my takeaway is, and I've generally done this, as I've said, Okay, I'm out of here. I'm on to the next. And my takeaway from what you said is that don't hesitate, don't end up, you know, staying in something, you know, that just doesn't bring much value to you. I guess that would be my

Laurie Barkman 16:25
I think that's fair. I think that's fair, there was one position where I stayed there two years, and I think it was a mutual, you know, separation, I was making the decision, they were making a decision. And it was like, you know, it was the right thing to move on. And to your point, I probably knew it, and they probably knew it sooner than that timeframe. But we sort of wanted to make it work. And inherently, as I look back on that, I probably never should have taken that role in the first place.

Andrew Stotz 16:53
It also, you know, to flip it around as a boss, when you've got someone that you think probably the wrong position. Don't let it go on that long, you know, try to get them number one into another position in the company, if you can, or if it doesn't, it's not going to work out.

Laurie Barkman 17:12
Yeah, there's a saying in the startup world. Yeah, like kind of like you said, it's hire, hire slow fire fast. And I think it's, I think it comes down to also I try to tell this to my kids and their and their friends as they've been growing up. And now going to university and now looking for jobs is trying to figure out what you're good at, what you enjoy, what you're not good at, and what you don't enjoy. And when you're just getting started in a career, you don't really know how to fill out those boxes. But as you have more and more experience, you really do know where you start to gravitate. And that I think is one of the main things is to gravitate towards your strengths. Trust your instincts, you know, and follow and follow your passions. If you're clear about what they are.

Andrew Stotz 17:54
Go if we look at a young person who finds himself in the same type of situation, what would be, you know, one action that you'd recommend that they take to avoid? Let's say, spending the two that two years there or whatever that would be? What would you say?

Laurie Barkman 18:10
I think the instincts really important to trust your instinct, if your gut is just saying, You know what? I'm not sure. Trust, trust that little voice.

Andrew Stotz 18:20
It's a good point that one of the lessons I've learned from this podcast is the value of instinct. Because we have like mental analysis. We have emotional impacts, you know, of the way we emotionally react to something. But instinct is like that fleeting moment. And I like to think of it when you know, when you've done something horribly wrong, and you just like feel sweat come over your head, like, Oh, no. And when you have that feeling, it's not really feeling it's, it's an instinctive reaction that your body's going through. And there's meaning to that. And that that's one lesson that I've learned from this podcast is that there's meaning to that instinctive reaction. So I think the big takeaway from this discussion is, pay attention to that instinct.

Laurie Barkman 19:11

Andrew Stotz 19:12
Yeah. And don't be afraid to act on it. That's another hard part. Right? Because you may have, as I was thinking about, you know, there's two aspects of this one is, if you're not aware of your instinct, or you're not really being aware, first thing is to be aware, but once you become aware, then you know, take action.

Laurie Barkman 19:33
I think I think the visceral part of it is the body telling the mind. This isn't right. You know, I would have mornings where I would be driving in the office, I'm dreading getting there. I'm like, oh, what can I do? Let me stop for coffee. Okay, let me take the long way. Okay, let me you know, just didn't really want to be there and my body was sort of, you know, giving me clues and I just find that my, if we ever hear the phrase The mood elevator right? My mood elevator would go down as soon as I walk in the door, and I just knew it wasn't right.

Andrew Stotz 20:08
All right, well, let's talk about a resource that you'd recommend for our listeners, one of your resources, in particular for any others.

Laurie Barkman 20:17
Yeah, for business owners who will come across these questions about business transition, at any stage of their entrepreneurial journey, you know, you don't have to be three to five years away to read my book. But I would start with recommending my book, which is the business transition handbook. There's a lot of content and resources and ideas for how to help you build your business, and build it with the mindset of creating value, what creates value, the Hey, I called it a handbook for a reason. Because it's actionable. Every chapter is a pitfall to avoid a succession pitfall to avoid. So there's great content and stories and case studies for companies that had some challenges and had successes along the way. And I think people are, the feedback that I'm getting is wonderful, people are really enjoying it. And this is why we feel like we're, you know, you're sort of talking with us in this book, and sharing these ideas and stories. And then every chapter ends with an action summary, and what are you going to do and what's your intent, what's your, what's your next steps, and I have a website, the business transition sherpa.com, you can get my podcast is there, my the book is there, you can download a complimentary pdf of the book, if you would like to go to the business transition handbook.com. That's the book page. And specifically, of course, it's available on Amazon, if you want to get your own hardcopy, and there's lots of other goodies on my website, other resources to help business owners, that includes two different assessments that folks are welcome to take. One is for business assessment to understand the strengths and opportunities or risks in the business today. And if you put in you share your financial information, you'll also get a valuation of the business, which can be quite helpful that I will meet with people and discuss that with them. And then the other is for personal transition readiness. And that's the more emotional side of things, which is really important. I have a third, I have a third assessment, but I reserved that for clients, which is financial, those are the three aspects of planning, just to put that in perspective, that goal setting standpoint. And so some of those resources are available for people anytime.

Andrew Stotz 22:41
Okay, well, we'll have links to all that in the show notes. So check it out, and go and learn more. All right, last question. What is your number one goal for the next 12 months?

Laurie Barkman 22:51
Well, you know, it's funny, I was listening to your mission. And as you stated it, I thought, wow, you know, I want to be able to shape a mission that's got that sort of broad perspective on it. And your mission, if I'm saying this correctly, is you want to help 1 million people report risk in their largest risk. And as I frame my mission, which is not here today to say, here it is exactly, but I'd love to shape my mission. That's I have an x for 12 months. I mean, I probably do it sooner than that. So what I'm looking to do is, if I can use a placeholder, say I'm looking to help a million business owners with transition, and one of the things that I'd like to do is take my book and make a course out of it. And I think that'll be a way to have broader, nice broad reach. So the show has a nice succession stories, as a podcast has reached the book has reached and I think this course will also have reached to help people.

Andrew Stotz 23:50
I think that you're on your way, you know, having the podcasts the naming of it in relation to what you do. The book, the course. Fantastic. It's exciting. And so you are on your way. I'm on my way home. Remember, today was the first day that you thought about the mission for millions, right? Well, listeners, there you have it another story of laws to keep you winning. Remember, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. As we conclude, Laurie, I want to thank you again for joining our mission. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Laurie Barkman 24:36
Just keep on working on your transition, you will always remember the value it brought you. Hmm,

Andrew Stotz 24:45
fantastic. Well, that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. Let's celebrate that today. We added one more person to our mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. This is your word. This podcast hosts Andrew Stotz saying I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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