Episode 154: Helping Family Businesses Plan for Tomorrow with Jeremy Stevenson – Transcript

Episode 154: Helping Family Businesses Plan for Tomorrow with Jeremy Stevenson

Rennie Gabriel  00:09
Hi folks, welcome to Episode 154 of the Wealth On Any Income Podcast. This is where we talk about money tips, techniques, attitudes, information and provide inspiration around your business and your money. I'm your host, Rennie Gabriel. In past episodes, we spoke about how to understand the numbers from your business, how to measure the level of pleasure based on where you spend your money, how to track your money in 5 to 10 seconds, what determines how close you are to Complete Financial Choice®, and how to run your business without being in your business. Last week, we had Eli Natoli, speaking about how to increase your income by moving from working one person at a time to working with many, using workshops, programs, and more. Today, we have as our guest, Jeremy Stevenson. Jeremy founded iBridge, to get back to what he loves - helping family businesses achieve their goals. He has co-founded and sold a $1 billion+ company, consulted with 100+ businesses, and worked for or managed, several family businesses. So he knows what family businesses look like. Outside of business, he mentors military veterans, advocates for animal welfare, is a car and bourbon enthusiast, and tries to play golf. Jeremy, welcome to the Wealth On Any Income Podcast.

Jeremy Stevenson  01:39
Thank you very much having me. I appreciate being here. And thanks for letting me talk to your audience.

Rennie Gabriel  01:43
You're welcome. So when you say, "tries to play golf", what do you mean?

Jeremy Stevenson  01:49
I tell you, I've been playing for a while. But you know, it was always just for fun. And eventually you want to try to get good at it. So you know, you can focus on the game, or focus on the conversation and not so much the game. And right now it's kind of in a binary scenario there. So you try to lower that score, you try to get to where it's sort of an autonomous situation. When you take the driver out, you know where it's going to go. It's not going to look like Tiger Woods drive shot back in the day, but at least it's going to go straight. You don't have to stay and look around in the woods for it.

Rennie Gabriel  02:15
Okay, well, that's good enough. So tell me a little bit more about not only what you do, but why you're doing what you do.

Jeremy Stevenson  02:24
So why I do it? I've seen, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I love family businesses. I like the family dynamics of it. And honestly, they're the ones that generally contribute the most to the local ecosystems. They're embedded in their local ecosystems. And they literally make up the backbone. It's not just a saying, I mean, they make up the backbone of the United States economy. I mean, 90% of the businesses in the United States are family-owned or controlled. And that equates to about 25 million businesses. So I mean, they basically provide 67, 66% of the GDP for the United States economy. So I mean, they're significant in every way. And again, they're the ones that are usually contributing the most. They care about their local ecosystems, their local communities, you know, they're going to church and all this other good stuff. And unfortunately, a lot of times they're at a disadvantage when it comes to strategic planning and long-term thinking and figuring out how they're going to actually transition out of the business, how they're going to grow the business. Build today, what they're going to plan or pass along tomorrow, so to speak.

Rennie Gabriel  03:18
Yeah. And, you know, it's not necessarily so easy to pass on a business to children, if the kids aren't equipped.

Jeremy Stevenson  03:26
No, I mean, it is a journey. And that's the way I usually say it basically. So I mean, yes, it's, you don't want to do it quickly, you want to take the time to plan it. I can tell you that I saw a stat - not too long ago actually - from a company that I'm affiliated with, that did a polling and it said 81% of business owners that sold or passed their business along wish they would have done more to plan for that scenario. And it's not always about the end goal. But that's kind of like a road trip, you got to know where you're going before you can figure out how to get there. I mean, there's a lot of things you can do in between now. You know, how do I grow the business? How do I create a better family harmonious environment so we're collaborative, and we're on the same page and all this good stuff, driving towards a focused goal? But you've got to know what that focused goal is, whether it's going to be, at least in pencil form, and you know, an external sale, or it's going to be, you know, an internal succession plan passing down to X, and whoever X is needs to be ready to take the reins. So this stuff doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. So again, the earlier you start, the better, as they usually say. 

Rennie Gabriel  04:25
Yeah, exactly. And you know, we've all heard the expression, if you don't have a target in mind, anywhere you shoot will be fine.

Jeremy Stevenson  04:32
Yeah, I mean, throwing darts works pretty well, but you're trying to hit a target assumingly to get the most points. And it's the same thing. I mean, it doesn't have to be written in, you know, a tattoo, so to speak. But, you know, sketching out in this pencil that I'm holding up is really the way that I usually frame it. Yeah, it's got an eraser on and that's fine, because, again, we're probably going to have detours along the way. You know, how do you grow a business into what you're going to actually pass down or sell? But, you know, are we going to try to sell it to a PE firm, a strategic partner, whatever? You can drill down as you get there. But also the other side of it is, part of the journey is owners figuring out what they're going to do next. You know, what's their next chapter? What's their next passion? And that's a required . . . for my process that's required, basically, because they have to do that, "founderitis" is real. You don't want them bouncing back and forth, regardless if they hold on to the business. Because at one point, if that's the case, they're still going to stay in that same routine, show up the office, try to be, I guess you'd say, you know, interact with the office, essentially, and still going to chime in, because they've done it for X amount of years, decades, whatever it is now. And you got one generation trying to run it with post-it notes, and the other one trying to run it with iPhones. And it just unfortunately, that doesn't work out to well.

Rennie Gabriel  05:38
Yeah, I get it. And one of the ways you and I connected, as you're probably aware, or remember maybe, that I donate 100% of the profits from the work that I do for various animal and veteran charities. And so I know that there are things that are important to you. Tell me about them.

Jeremy Stevenson  05:59
Yes, as you said, I love animals more than I like humans most of the time.

Rennie Gabriel  06:03
Oh yeah, I'm going to have to interrupt you, because you noticed I got my Hawaiian shirt on. And this is a picture of my dog, Scout, that I got for my 75th birthday. Like I said . . .

Jeremy Stevenson  06:15
Yes, absolutely. That is fantastic. And that is a nice, customized shirt. I don't have one of those and apparently, I need to go get one now. So I can be like you.

Rennie Gabriel  06:23
Yeah, tell your wife or a child, you know, go on then to Amazon or Etsy, and here's what I want. Do it.

Jeremy Stevenson  06:32
Yeah. But yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, you know, animals are, you know, they're generally rely on most of us for help, basically, for most of their caring anyway. And unfortunately, you know, we're only one of the species that sometimes aren't so sweet to other things, just for fun, or whatever it is. They don't always get treated appropriately. How about that? You know, so I mean, that's, I'm always trying to advocate for animals and help be their voice, essentially, raise money for them, provide for them. And as far as veterans go, I mean, because of what they've done, I've been able to do what I've done. My dad was in the military. He, in your neck of the woods, I know you're in California. He was stationed out in California during, you know, in the 60s, 70s, years. And that's how he met my mom and all this good stuff. And yeah, I mean, because again, of what they've done, and a lot of times, it's special ops guys, because I do this through a couple of different organizations, but translating their skills, what they acquired, you know, I mean, helping them think outside the box, and a lot of it is also just opening up my contact list. Because I mean, we all know that contacts, relationships, matter big time. So, you know, you have to be able to say the right things once you get on the phone, but you got to be able to get on the phone in the first place. So, you know, Green Beret, if I say that you probably think green face, and then you know, some type of rifle or whatever.

Rennie Gabriel  07:44
No, I know some Green Berets. 

Jeremy Stevenson  07:46
Yeah, well, that's exactly right. They usually have a lot of other skills, essentially. But you've got to define that, you can't just put that on a LinkedIn profile. So I mean, you know, did you coordinate Overwatch between embassies in different countries and all this stuff? And, obviously, make sure you knew the right people to make decisions when they needed to happen, like that. And that's literally something that's played out, you know, in my experiences. So, you know, I mean, I've got all kinds of stories like that. And these people have operated at an extremely high level. And now it's time to transition. And, you know, it's kind of like us back in the day when we started a career, Okay, what are we going to do now? Now, they fast forward X amount of years and have all this other stuff that they've done, but they've got to be able to compile that into something that's meaningful in the civilian world. So you know, it's a little bit of translation, a little bit of interpretation, and a lot of just basically connecting the dots, and helping it along in that journey, and being a confidence booster in some cases. 

Rennie Gabriel  08:36
Yeah. And I know with the animals, you're on the board of the Humane Society where you are. So I know you're actively involved. Now, tell me in terms of the target market, the people you work with, I know their business to business, family businesses. Now, some people, when they hear family business, they might think the Three Dog Bakery run by, you know, someone, is a family business. When you talk about family businesses, what are you, how would you define it? Because I know it's different than what most people think. 

Jeremy Stevenson  09:10
Well, yeah, I mean, family business means a lot of things. I mean, basically, it means Mom and Pop, obviously, Chick-fil-A sort of speak basically, and things like that. That's just a big name. But yeah, I usually start at certain revenue thresholds. And these are usually enterprises, whether or not it's first, second, third generation, really. I did work with a 10th generation company once and there was still improvement in professionalization that could be made at that stage. And it was basically to tee it up to be in the family for another 10 generations. Now, you know, what do you want that business to look like? And you can turn businesses into asset, basically wealth generating assets, so the family is not engaged in the operations. They're just engaged in the overseeing of it. And this is all up to what their particular target, again, what they're trying to do with it. You know, they have children that have other passions, and that's a big problem when it comes to family businesses. But yeah, honestly, my definition of the family business that I typically work with, to your point, are usually b2b, not b2c - so their business to business not business to consumer - normally, and a lot of times, you know, 15 million and up from a revenue perspective and up means 2, 300 million. It doesn't really matter essentially, because the conversations a lot of the same. Most of my owners hopefully are in their 40s. But it ranges from 40 to 60. You know, because the earlier you start trying to figure some of this stuff out and professionalizing the organization and making it into, I guess you'd call it a mini-fortune 50 without a lot of the red tape -  is the way to . . .  a lot of the ways you can actually scale, grow into something that you're going to pass down or sell in a very seamless fashion. Because you're creating an entity, you're not, you know, you're pulling the family out of it a lot of times, but yeah, you run into those scenarios, and that's certainly, you know, 50% of what I do is unlicensed therapy. I mean, absolutely. I mean, you know, you've got to deal with family issues, and, you know, brothers and sisters, kids, moms, all this good stuff that are imploding that don't see eye to eye, and you have to be the interpreter in the, I guess you could say  . . . 

Rennie Gabriel  11:03
The therapist. 

Jeremy Stevenson  11:04
The arbitrator. Yeah, the therapist or arbitrator, essentially, that kind of connects it to the business, because usually, my perspective and the way that I work is business, or family business governance - ending the business. You know, so how do you get in and out of the business? How does family get in and out of the business? And how do they resolve conflicts? And then of course, you actually have to have those nuts and bolts of how are they resolving the conflict that they're in, because I do get those phone calls where, you know, I mean, there's been scenarios where people were going to the hospital, because they weren't in good shape, because everything was collapsing around them from a family perspective. And you know, if your kids are fighting or whatever, it's really not a good scenario. And it causes turmoil, and then you start making decisions from an emotional standpoint. And that does not work out from a business standpoint. And then you have to think bigger too, I mean, this doesn't just impact the family and generations to come, or however that's going to, however that's going to unfold, but it also impacts the employees and their families, too, because they rely on these businesses for employment just like anything else. And there's, as we discussed a lot of those employees that work for family businesses in the United States - one out of three people, actually.

Rennie Gabriel  12:08
Yeah, it's a big number, absolutely. Getting to another question I want to ask you. Now I remember, you said something about, you had signed a loan for your dad to collateralize a restaurant with a bad partner when you were only 20 that didn't work out so well. Tell me what your biggest insight was from that.

Jeremy Stevenson  12:28
Business partnerships are dangerous. They make the divorce rate look good. So, 80% of business partnerships fail. I mean, that's, you know, that's reality. That stat's in existence, and you can look it up. Yeah, that scenario . . . So my parents had two family businesses when I was in college that I ran. And I worked for a family business before that when I was in high school. So I mean, yeah, I certainly got, you know, that family business that I worked at in high school had the old generation that wanted to run everything with post it notes, and literally yelled that almost on a weekly basis, Get rid of these computers. And you know, we're going to scrap this new computer stuff and run it the old way. And the son's like, No, that's not going to happen. So I mean, it was definitely a show to behold, sometimes, but you know, it's a very successful family business. And then fast forward, yes, I did have to sign a loan for my dad to get some money to start a restaurant, actually, in that particular case. He also had a payroll company, which wasn't a partnership, but it worked out splendidly for its size, and scope and scale and its intended purpose. But unfortunately, you know, when you deal with business, and you deal with friends, everything has to still be on that business level, unfortunately, because everybody loves each other until they don't. Until everybody's contributing equally, they don't. You always want to hash this stuff out in what's, I guess you could say, the worst case scenario, shareholder agreements, whatever it's going to look like, and makes sure that everybody's contributing both effort, financially, whatever it is equally throughout the entire process. And you also have to make sure that, and unfortunately, it's a little scary to do this and a little hard to do this, make sure that everybody has the right, I guess you could say thought process for what the business is going to look like, what's its intended purpose, what's the longevity? And what are you trying to do with it inevitably? Are you trying to create a, you know, a legacy business? Are you trying to create something to sell? Or are you just, you don't know. Unfortunately, you don't know, is not a good answer. But you know, at least again, you can write it in pencil. In that case, there was a lot of stuff going on, basically, in terms of that. But my dad was the one that fronted the money for the business. And efforts weren't put in place on the other side of it, and all kinds of stuff, again, partnership 101, that just went downhill very, very quickly, after he got into that business. I was the one that was kind of operating on a daily basis. And a lot of it at that point was, I guess, you could say conveying the information. So, you know, I was in the middle of being a referee to sort of speak, I guess you could say, and saying, Yeah, he didn't show up today. I don't know exactly. You know, no, he didn't, you know, he didn't put in that particular effort or those finances essentially. And yeah, so we're short. Wo we're going to have to make another draw to make this happen. And unfortunately, again, it was definitely, it was literally a case study in bad partnership. Not all friends make good business partners, maybe, is the way to frame that. 

Rennie Gabriel  15:02
Yeah, and it sounds like you learned young, how you needed to be in the middle of this transaction. And, you know, you've been doing that for a long time. There are people in the audience that are, you know, my listeners that are - or video because we're on YouTube as well - that are probably going to want to reach out to you for you know, learning more. What's the best way for them to get a hold of you or find out more?

Jeremy Stevenson  15:25
So they can find me on LinkedIn and that, Jeremy Stevenson at ibridgeglobalpartners.com. My phone number is 502-741-7852. Or you can go to the website, which is, www.ibridgeglobalpartners.com.

Rennie Gabriel  15:39
Perfect. Okay, I will have that in the show notes. So people can just click on it or speak the phone number into their smartphone and give you a call. Jeremy, I want to thank you for being on the Wealth On Any Income show.

Jeremy Stevenson  15:53
Thank you very much. I appreciate you having me today, Rennie. It's been a pleasure.

Rennie Gabriel  15:57
You're welcome. And to all those who are listening, or watching, if you'd like to know how books, movies and Society programs you to be poor, and what the cure is, then log on to, wealthonanyincome.com/TEDx. You'll hear my TEDx talk and can request a free 9-Step Roadmap to Complete Financial Choice® and Philanthropy, and receive a weekly email with tips, techniques, or inspiration around your business or your money. And if you'd like to see how you can increase your wealth, and donate to the causes that touch your heart, please check out our affordable program, Wealth with Purpose. To my listeners, thank you for tuning in. You can listen to the Wealth On Any Income Podcast on your favorite platform. And please rate, review, and subscribe. Until next week, be prosperous. Bye bye for now.

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