Value vs. Risk: Joanna Oakey on growing your business with an endgame in mind

- August 31, 2022 4 MIN READ
Joanna Oakey flying Solo

Joanna Oakey is a legal expert passionate about helping small business owners. Her advice, fashioned from experience, guides business owners and budding entrepreneurs to begin their journey with an endgame in mind. Thinking ahead, she believes, is the best way to avoid the mistakes that deplete the value of a business and ultimately encourage sustainable growth along the way. Joanna joined Cec Busby, editor of Flying Solo, to share the lessons learned from her own experiences and clients.

Boasting an impressive career in law for the last two decades, Joanna also hosts two popular business podcasts and recently wrote a new book that explores the three critical phases of business. Buy, Grow, Exit is a step-by-step guide for small business owners, covering the best ways to acquire, grow, and move on from their business ventures.

“I’m an entrepreneur at heart,” says Joanna. “I fully identify with all of our clients in the journey that they’re on”.

Why a solid legal infrastructure might be the silver lining your business needs:

“I’ve seen some really sad stories of business owners who have created issues for themselves by not having that legal infrastructure and the business infrastructure in place.” says the legal expert.

According to Joanna, the most common reason many business owners throw in the towel at the wrong time is exhaustion.

“We’ve been through a horrendous period for many business owners,” she says of the past few COVID-infected years. “We’re seeing a lot of business owners who are exhausted, who are thinking about exit, not exit into retirement, but exit into something that they perceive to be easier”.

After years of experience, Joanna emphasises two things for people to consider when setting up a legal infrastructure to protect their business against adversity. Firstly, business owners must expect the unexpected. Unforeseen circumstances (like a two-year pandemic) can alter plans for retirement or resale overnight.

“It’s important that people bear in mind that exit isn’t just years and years and years in the future,” says Joanna. “Sometimes, it can creep up on you quickly because you’re exhausted, you’re over your business, or there’s a health event that has hit you.”

Secondly, most new businesses springboard off the momentum of a great idea alone, without much consideration for what would make it saleable in the future. According to Joanna, this usually results in a much lower value at exit for the business.

“How you set up a business to run in a sale-ready state is also the same way you set up a business to be an excellent investment in the future,” explains Joanna.

Listen to Joanna Oakey on the Flying Solo podcast:

Identifying risk and protecting your value as a business

Predicting and protecting against risk is something Joanna is very passionate about. Setting up your business with an airtight legal infrastructure helps business owners quickly identify dangers before it’s too late. Then, business owners can implement mechanisms and processes to protect their current and future assets, encouraging more reliable growth.

“The risk with exhaustion is a tendency to take your mind off how you can build this infrastructure to protect you into the future,” Joanna says. “Being able to prevent them is much cheaper and easier than dealing with the aftermath of not having it in place.”

According to Joanna, there is proven value in business owners taking a step back during periods of stress and identifying their long-term objectives. The legal whiz guides her clients through a step-by-step process to determine the value in their business, protecting that value and making it something that a future buyer would ultimately want to pay good money for. While sudden bursts of growth are usually celebrated, the legal expert warns they can often be counterproductive in the long term.

“Businesses that are in a growth phase usually have a business that grows a lot quicker than the infrastructure under it,” says Joanna. “It’s better for the legal infrastructure to grow in advance of the size of the business, so that you’re protected.”

Creating opportunity

Despite introducing obvious adversities for small business owners, the changed environment caused by the pandemic has ultimately introduced new growth opportunities. Thanks to the restrictions and regulations put in place for retailers everywhere, E-commerce is booming.

“There are so many opportunities for business owners to reimagine what their business could be for them,” Joanna says. “And to put a new thought process in place about what they can create.”

While many people grow a business from scratch, an equal number of entrepreneurs see an opportunity to develop someone else’s idea into a profitable enterprise.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with startups,” clarifies Joanna. ‘It’s just that in buying a business, you have something that has a proven track record and is up and running from day one.”

When it comes to acquiring an existing business, identifying the risk and value is just as important. Having a solid legal infrastructure in place offers a layer of protection, instantly boosting the saleable value of your business to prospective buyers. Even if your business is in its early stages, preparing for the future should be front of mind.

“I think passion and purpose have become so important to many business owners these days,” Joanna says. “So when it comes to exiting a business, many of them are thinking about the legacy they’ll be leaving behind.”

Joanna Oakey on the Flying Solo podcast

Joanna Oakey shared more advice for business owners in this Flying Solo ep- listen now.

Listen to the latest episode of the Flying Solo podcast now:

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"