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Get the Hell Out of the Hourglass – Part 5

Posted by Amy Lynch on January 19, 2023

I started fighting my way out of the hourglass. I became the CEO, and it worked. We hit our goals and celebrated significant accomplishments as a team. That was very gratifying. I did miss making the sales, but there was plenty of other work to do, and I found new ways to get the gratification. (I took up running marathons!) I have always been determined not to think about regrets, but I wish I had quit selling jobs and become a CEO earlier in life.

Things kept improving when I began to hire some folks: I replaced some of the ‘me’ boxes on the organizational chart with names like Steve, Colin and Jon. That was exciting because I could take off a few of the hats I was wearing and pass them around. Along with sharing the load, additional relief came to me when I discovered the concept of the primary aim.

Primary Aim

The answer to your bottleneck problem starts with the primary aim.[1] This is your first layer of muscle.

Starting your own business needs to serve your life; otherwise, you’d be better off with a regular job and a good boss. A good boss treats you better than you treat yourself –  a steady paycheck, Paid Time Off (PTO), and no work to do when you are home with the kids.

Now, imagine a perfect life…..Next, pick a specific date in the future and write a letter to yourself. Tell what’s happening on this date, in real-time and with detail. This is part of your primary aim. I’ve included an unedited example below to give you an idea of what it might look like. I chose October 10, 2018, (which, at the time, was three years in the future) for my letter to myself. It is amazing how much came true! So that’s what it’s about in business.

Ask any business owner; the most important thing about being a business owner is autonomy, no question about it. Whether it’s about making lots of money or taking off when you want, it is about the freedom to build something that serves you, your family, your future, and your community.

You’re halfway to a better life. Having a primary aim is part one. Part two is writing a vision statement. We’ll do that on Thursday. See you then! Build muscle.

Primary Aim

Three-year Vision October 10, 2018

The morning starts like most, at 5:30. I feel great. So I go for a run. I don’t have to rush into the office. The weather is cool and clear. This is a fantastic time. So many years of planning have come together, and I appreciate this moment.

 All that I have been talking about for the last five years has come true. Nolan Painting has achieved over 10 million in annual sales. Summit has grown, and Brian is comfortable with my role. I have run a marathon in all 50 states and completed an Ironman.

These next few years will start major changes in my life. The next stage of my life will culminate in all my planning. But, I will enjoy it as I have all my life so far.

 Now it’s time to move on to other things. I have a detailed plan for that.

 I just turned 59 a few weeks ago, and 60 looms! I am planning to retire as CEO of Nolan Painting in the next few years. I want to finish big and move on to new challenges.

 I will likely hire a CEO from within the company and remain chairman for the next decade. After that, I will move out of my office and take an office on the  3rd floor of Hillcrest Ave. After that, I will look for leadership among my family to take on eventual ownership of Nolan Painting.
 As I think ahead and explore possibilities, I plan to travel more with Mary Fran; I would like to start to develop my property in Florida. Then, I will start a national brand in the painting industry and contribute to Nolan Painting and Summit; I will prepare for succession and be Younger Next Year.

 Nolan Painting is currently in great hands. The management team has been steady and runs a great company. We have continued to recruit great people. Family members have contributed in amazing ways. The power of our shared mission and values has been tremendous. We love being a team.

 The emerging leaders have strengthened their roles and will make transitions smooth as established leaders move into the next phases of their lives.

Collaboration and teamwork are at an all-time high.

 Back to my personal life.

 I am still as fit as ever. A little smarter and not quite as much of a maniac, but no one notices except me. Everyone thinks I am maniacal as ever. I ran a couple of half marathons,  a dozen 5ks, and trail runs. I work out at the Y, My weight is still below 180, and I can still run a sub 8 min 5 k on (a flat course). This is the first year in 21 that I have not run a marathon. I have no such plans on the horizon.

 Mary Fran is very happy. We still love our home and do gardening projects together all the time. Our property is on fire with color at the moment. The meadow is so wonderful, and we appreciate it every moment we look out the window.

 Our children are our friends; we enjoy each other’s company and love working together. They are all successful and happy. Colleen, Kevin, Chris ( G2),  work in the business, and I hope  will eventually take over. We have great relationships and respect each other. Working with them has been the most wonderful time of my life.

 We also have a great community of extended family and friends, and we are truly blessed.

MF and I do travel more. I take regular two-week vacations and pay a little less attention to the day-to-day affairs of Nolan Painting. We plan to travel to Florida in Feb. I am still looking for a condo to purchase. I have a trip planned to the Rockies in late January for a ski trip with a gang of folks. The family always uses the lake house, and we have great reunions and parties. I got up there ten times this year. 

 I need a little more cash to retire, but I will have enough in the next few years. After that, the building will be paid off, and Nolan Painting will pay me rent. I will also still have a stake in Nolan Painting. As I start planning the future, I would like to continue to be chairman and owner till I am 70, when I hope to pass the business on to my children. This succession will require much thought as I ensure major stakeholders are taken care of and treated fairly. My management team is the reason we are successful. I need to reward them and help create a similar dynamic in the next group of leaders. Leadership development and transfer are my significant concerns now.

 We will need a lot of cash to reward stakeholders, which we have. So the company spins off a nice bit of cash.

  As I retire from being the CEO  in the next few years (62- 65), Steve, Jon or Jim would be able to handle the CEO role. We have a shared value system that makes decisions happen quickly. Everybody votes; the CEO decides. Soon I won’t be the one deciding. Believe it or not, I look forward to that. The kids will run it in a shared format in a few more years. Each child gets a percentage. Kevin, Chris, and Colleen are determining leadership roles. 

 My role is to remind and reinforce the values structure. Then, push for change and help and support in any way I can.

I plan to develop my property in Florida at Southern Oaks in the next five years. This is a project best done while I am in my early 60s. I plan to clean up the land myself (fun) and subdivide it into multiple lots. I would then find a builder and coordinate sales with building homes. I expect my outlay to be less than half a million in addition to the purchase price of $400,000. I own this land outright.

 As I think of myself in Oct. 2018, I never want this to end, but I look forward to the future.

Written October 10, 2015

Stuff I think I still want

Condo in Florida (Mary Fran is against this)

New car for Mary Fran (2016)

Tesla for me 2018

RV (towable) for road trips and to live in while I work the Florida project (maybe)


[1] Michael E. Gerber The E Myth

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