Welcome to The Roadmap, an ASBN exclusive created to educate entrepreneurs on the importance of planning their business exits. On this episode, host Lee Heisman sits down with speaker, TV Host and author Michelle Taylor Willis. Willis is the CEO of Gagnant Media, a public advertising agency serving small businesses, and has a passion for inspiring young professionals to strategically pursue their careers.
Willis notes that many small businesses do not have access to the connections, tools or skills needed to produce many forms of advertising. While larger companies have enough capital to afford a spot during the Super Bowl with a commercial filmed in their own studio, most entrepreneurs have extremely limited ad budgets.
Many of Willis’s businesses and services are strategically tied together, allowing her to combine multiple pieces to suit her goals. She explains that the realized the power of this interconnectivity when she worked as a medical consultant. Upon discovering she needed certain resources, she founded a business to buy equipment for herself. When she needed to work with labs, she founded a lab business. With this “internal referral” system, Willis was able to expand. Her TV Show works the same way, as she is both the host and the advertising coordinator.
However, every career and business encounters roadblocks. Willis notes that false accusations are one of the biggest obstacles to success. An important rule she often shares with other entrepreneurs is: “Document everything” with the addendum: “texting is not documenting.” She explains that leaders will often be called upon to prove they are meeting their obligations as promised, and can face consequences if they cannot offer evidence. While it can be stressful to painstakingly ensure that all communication is permanently recorded through email, the satisfaction one earns by vindicating themselves is well worth the effort.
Willis intends to continue working for several years, but explains that she has already formed the base of her exit strategy. Having this foundation is incredibly important for business owners, since it provides a framework for their remaining careers. As one’s company grows and scales, more levels can be added to the retirement plan, allowing professionals to set key performance indicators to guide the timing of their next move.
Willis also underlines the relationship between goal setting, achievability and growth strategy. A goal which is unachievable for a business in its current state means that the business needs ta growth strategy. Likewise, growth strategies need unachievable goals in order to provide objectives for the company. Finding a balance between the two is essential for a smooth, profitable exit.