In 2005, i devoured a book called Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. It was a time in my life when I had come to realize that success as an entrepreneur didn’t have to mean growing revenue year after year. Success also can mean focusing on more satisfying goals – such as being the best at what you do, providing exceptional client service and having a better work/life balance.

Now, 10 years later, the author of that book, Bo Burlingham, is back, offering his latest insights into the mind of the entrepreneur. And, for me – as a student of financial advisor succession planning – again, his timing couldn’t be better.

Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top is all about the eventual exit that all founders must make from the enterprises they created and built – often, over their lifetime.

Yet, all the statistics tell us that most entrepreneurs are grossly unprepared for that next stage in the natural evolution of their business and that the reasons are four times as likely to be emotional rather than practical. In fact, entrepreneurs who’ve been through the exit process often say it’s much harder to leave a company than to start one.

Finish Big, like its predecessor, is a how-to book wrapped up in a storybook. Each chapter reveals the narrative of several real- life entrepreneurs’ trials, tribulations, successes and failures as they moved from being business owners to outside observers. None of the stories are about financial advisors; yet, there are many universal truths and lessons that translate easily to our sector.

Some of the direct comments I found particularly applicable:

– Exits are the best part of being an entrepreneur or investor. It’s when we get paid for all of our hard work and risk capital.

– If my only purpose in life is my business and I leave my business, I have no purpose.

– Once you’ve sold and left the company, you suddenly find yourself in a place where quantifiable objectives are much less relevant. The most pressing questions you face are existential ones. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?

– The hardest part of the exit is seldom the sale itself. It’s usually what comes afterward, in the transition stage, when you enter the next phase of your life and have to live with the consequences of the decisions you’ve made.

– A business owner’s journey can end in any number of ways, and many of them leave little, if any, time for preparation. Some owners get tired. Some get bored. Some are hit by personal tragedy. Some receive an unexpected offer they feel they can’t refuse. Some are blindsided by changes in their industry or the economy. The list is almost endless.

– Hastily planned exits seldom turn out to be happy ones. By the time you come up with the answers you need, you will no longer have all the options you would have had if you had started asking the questions while you still had a vibrant business.

– A good deal is about more than money. It’s also about having as much control as possible over the timing of the deal and the choice of whom to do the deal with. No amount of money is enough if you’re forced to sell to a buyer you don’t like or trust and to do it when you don’t want to – because you’ve run out of other options.

– Whatever led you to become an entrepreneur in the first place probably won’t go away just because you no longer own a business. You’ll have an itch that you will feel a need to scratch – exactly how, only you can determine.

Finish Big is easy to read, with a variety of stories and real-life quotes from entrepreneurs who have made the transition out of their businesses.

I like that the author included some failures. He also emphasized how things can go terribly wrong – as a result of poor decision-making, inadequate due diligence, unrealistic expectations or simply bad fortune.

Regardless of whether your exit is coming soon or well down the path, the insights and experiences portrayed in this book will be relevant and valuable.

Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top

by Bo Burlingham,

Penguin Publishing Group;

254 pages,



© 2015 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.