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Chris Younger_Business Purpose For Growth And Impact

Business Purpose For Growth And Impact with Chris Younger, Class VI Partners

August 16, 2023

Running a business is not just about making money; it’s also about creating long-term value for your customers. That’s why it’s critical to focus on your business purpose and be deliberate about your growth. In today’s episode, Chris Younger explains why it’s never too early to start planning for exit, how to use your WHY to build a scalable company, and the importance of finding the right talent.

About Chris Younger:

Chris is the CEO and Co-Founder of Class VI Partners, a company that provides investment banking and financial advisory services to middle-market businesses and entrepreneurs. He founded the company with a grounding mission to empower and celebrate entrepreneurs he believes are essential to our communities. With over 25 years of growing, acquiring, and selling businesses, Chris brings a wealth of expertise and understands the rocky entrepreneur’s journey well. He is passionate about helping business owners match their personal goals to their business planning and build a business that serves them.

He also co-authored “Harvest: The Definitive Guide to Selling Your Company“, a step-by-step resource he crafted with David C. Tolson. This book offers crucial insights for business owners to achieve maximum value and create effective exit strategies, highlighting the immense rewards of thoughtful business planning.

For a comprehensive book review, check out this page.

The importance of knowing your business purpose

Financial success is obviously an important factor in business, but it’s not the most important thing. While a healthy and successful company should make much profit, it shouldn’t be just about money. There should be a deeper purpose behind it, especially for entrepreneurs looking to create a legacy that matters.

Running a business is all about providing long-term value and helping the community. If you want to create that profound value for your customers and connect with them on a deeper level, you should be focused on your business purpose and be deliberate about your growth. 

Moreover, knowing your WHY can help you be more thoughtful about your business. Your business purpose should be ingrained in everything you do, from your company culture to your brand messaging. Your business WHY is ultimately the main driving force for the success of your business, helping you be more intentional about your growth focus and long-term planning.

Episode highlights:

  • Team building is one of the most important investments that a business can make. Not only does building a team help you scale faster, but it also improves your life as an entrepreneur as it allows you to focus on your area of expertise and maintain a more healthy work-life balance. (02:02)
  • Identifying talent gaps in your organization is critical to the success of your business because when you do it, you’ll able to bring the right people on board and match them to the right roles. Having the right operating talent by your side is the recipe for success in driving the business forward and making sure it runs smoothly. (04:25)
  • Running a business is not just about making money; it’s about creating long-term value for your customers. That’s why it’s critical to focus on your WHY and the deeper purpose behind your business while you scale it. (10:32)
  • It’s never too early to start planning your business exit. Being intentional and deliberate about your business from the start is an effective growth strategy that will help you build a healthy business with a clear purpose. (14:38)
  • For some business owners, selling a business is not the best idea. There could still be enormous growth and profitability potential in their company, so in those cases, it might be a better idea not to sell and instead continue building wealth within the business. (26:21)
  • Artificial intelligence is transforming every industry. That’s why businesses need to learn to use it to their benefit instead of turning a blind eye. Depending on the nature of your business, AI can be a practical and cost-effective tool for improving efficiencies, saving significant costs, and speeding up operations. (31:05)

Chris’ best advice for entrepreneurs:

“I think most entrepreneurs will recognize and appreciate that if you’re just doing it for the money, that makes it really difficult to get through some of the really stressful periods that every business owner goes through. Every business has a near-death experience. And if you don’t have something deeper that’s driving you, it’s really difficult to get through those times.” (10:32) 


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Transcript

[00:00:49] A.J. Lawrence: I was going through your background. You have this long entrepreneurial background, you’ve been through so much. Now with Class VI Partners, and now you have this new book, Harvest, as I was joking trying not to call it farming, Harvest: The Definitive Guide to Selling Your Company.

[00:01:05] And just a little bit I was going through, I was laughing because I completely did not do any of the things you suggest to prepare in selling for the last company I sold. And I was like, yeah, I got lucky that I was able to sell. But I think I probably, with a little more advice and following your guidelines, I would have done much, much better. So I’m really interested and diving into this a bit.

[00:01:30] But before we talk about the book and sort of your guidance of helping people prepare, given where you are, where do you see yourself as an entrepreneur these days?

[00:01:39] Chris Younger: Yeah, it’s a great question. We started our business, we have an investment bank, we have a family office, and then we have a consulting group. And I started that with my business partner, David Tolson, about 16 years ago, 17 years ago.

[00:01:56] In your podcast, you talk about this transition from 7 figures to 8 figures. We started to bump up against that probably four or five years ago and really recognize the need to bring on, quite frankly, folks that were better and smarter than we were to be able to scale.

[00:02:15] We knew that we weren’t going to be able to do it on our own, and we see this happened time and time and time again with our clients. So we were taking a little bit of our own medicine, which is you have to be willing to take that hit in profitability to build the team because a business that doesn’t make that investment in the team, they’ll continue to bump up against maybe it’s 10 million or 11 million.

[00:02:38] Hey, an entrepreneur who’s super talented and is willing to give up everything maybe they get to 12 or 13 million, but at some point, that’s going to break. And so I feel like where we are, where I am in this journey is, we’ve assembled just a terrific team. We have people that run each of those businesses for us. We’ve got really, really talented, smart, hardworking folks that a lot of levels just make my job so much easier.

[00:03:04] And it’s nice to be able to have that experience because it’s easy then to communicate that to other business owners of, hey, this is a really good spot for you to go to, and understand that it’s uncomfortable to make the investment in the team because it might depress profitability for a year or two.

[00:03:21] And I’ve watched this time and time again. Once you make that investment, you can scale so much faster and your life as an entrepreneur just gets so much better.

[00:03:29] A.J. Lawrence: Well, one thing and I know going through your background, I think you’ve had more than a few, I call them reps, but a few times to try and figure out what is the right type of person at different points to bring on. But that usually is the biggest question because I have a good friend, $2.5M SaaS, but he has been not finding the right talent to be able to help them go to the next level. And some of it is his own fears of losing control and we can go into all that. But what is your approach to, okay, you’ve reached that scale point and you know you need to put the investment into the future. Not just saying the talent needs to be there, but how do you go about finding that and bringing them in?

[00:04:17] Chris Younger: Yeah, I think a lot of it depends on the nature of the business, right? And we like to say businesses have a DNA, and typically that DNA is going to be the founder’s DNA. If the founder has come from a sales background and is really good at marketing and getting the product out to market, it’s fairly predictable the ways that that business will break as it scales.

[00:04:42] And so identifying the right operating talent to make sure that the business can run smoothly and develop processes and systems and everything else, that helps identify who is the right person to bring in. And to your point, that’s even more uncomfortable for that founder because it’s not in their strike zone.

[00:05:01] It’s not something that they’re necessarily familiar with, comfortable with. And so making that hire, you want to take your time and be disciplined about it. And you probably want to get some help from folks that do that for a living and can help you identify the candidates, hopefully screen them.

[00:05:17] And likewise, if the business has been started by somebody who comes from the product side or from the operations side, it’s fairly predictable. They’re going to have decent processes, which is great because that makes the business more scalable, but they also typically start to top out in terms of their sales and marketing ability.

[00:05:38] And one level, those are easier businesses to scale because those systems and processes are already in place. And all we’re doing is solving a sales and marketing problem, which at one level, I think is a little bit easier to resolve than problems with, hey, we don’t have systems in place. Because most times it’s not until the system breaks that the entrepreneur starts to recognize, oh, hey, I’ve got this issue.

[00:06:00] And I think the final piece that we recommend for anyone starting to get to that level is, get a really competent finance professional in. I think a lot of entrepreneurs resist that because it’s not revenue generating. But in our experience, just having watched that movie a thousand times, having a really talented finance person will not only free the owner up or the CEO up to do stuff that they’re probably better at and can add more value to the business, but a good one, they’ll pay for themselves with good analytics.

[00:06:31] And they’ll keep an eye on the business for that CEO and hopefully give them a different set of eyes and a different perspective, which we think is really critical to running a good business.

[00:06:42] A.J. Lawrence: I like how you break it down because there’s the completely buttoned down entrepreneurs I meet who just cannot grow, but everything runs so beautifully. And then there’s- which I tend to be more in this camp- the growing, figuring everything out, but everything breaks every 3 seconds. It’s an interesting world when you live in that.

[00:07:08] 16 years ago, when you decided to do this and to help other people, why did you kind of get into that position of helping other people sell the business? Because I did everything wrong in my exits. It would have been really nice to just have more insight. So I’m just very curious how you came about into this.

[00:07:26] Chris Younger: Yeah, well, in my prior life, I used to be an attorney. Don’t hold that against me. Been through the 12 steps. I’ve been through the 12 steps, I’m pretty sure I’m fully recovered but I’d worked in Silicon Valley and all of our clients were entrepreneurs.

[00:07:39] And then I left the law after a couple years of doing that and helped found a roll up in the communication space. And I started out as the deal guy. We did 27 acquisitions over a couple year period of time, and I’m fairly confident I’ve made most of the mistakes you can make buying a company after doing that many of them.

[00:07:57] But the one thing that I loved was working with the entrepreneurs. And so we built that business, I ultimately ended up running that business, became the president, and then we sold that to Avaya in 2003. I did take some time off. I tried to retire. I was way too young. I joked that I was reorganizing my wife’s, Mary Beth’s, spice store and she decided that I needed to find a hobby. I won’t use the exact words that she used. We’ll keep it clean.

[00:08:23] A.J. Lawrence: Yes, there was some color.

[00:08:25] Chris Younger: Yeah, there was some color. And I met David, my business partner, and he was running an evaluation practice working with entrepreneurs. And we thought we could just do better.

[00:08:34] And for me, one of the things that I’ve learned, just having done this for a long time, I think your ultimate happiness in life is dependent on the relationships that you have. Certainly your family, but also the folks that you work with, both internally and externally. And what I have learned is, entrepreneurs are some of the most fun people to work with. They’re always quirky, right? They’ve always got funny idiosyncrasies.

[00:09:02] But in general, I found them to be smart, passionate, driven, usually have a pretty good sense of humor. And the ones at least that we’ve worked with for the most part, I think, are just incredibly humble. I think they recognize the role of fortuity in business.

[00:09:17] So that part is just unbelievably gratifying, right? When you’re able to help someone. Our whole why as a business is oriented around helping entrepreneurs because of what they mean to our community, Colorado, which is where a lot of our business happens. We do business nationwide, but small to medium-sized businesses, they’re the primary driver for economic growth.

[00:09:40] They’re doing most of the hiring and we get to see on the back end just how generous they are. We’ve calculated that our clients have given over a quarter of a billion dollars back to their communities. And so that’s an easy why for us. There’s just so many positive elements to what we do every day that it’s just a lot of fun.

[00:09:59] A.J. Lawrence: Actually, that why is interesting because you have The Why Project. And I think this is interesting because we have a lot of entrepreneurs come in and the difficulty of defining a why, both for the company but also for themselves, and realizing that you can have a personal why that isn’t exactly the company. Maybe talk a little bit about that and what you see the value for entrepreneurs that do dive into this why.

[00:10:31] Chris Younger: For sure. And I think most entrepreneurs will recognize and appreciate that if you’re just doing it for the money, that makes it really, really difficult to get through some of the really, really stressful periods that every business owner goes through. Every business has the near death experience, and if you don’t have something deeper that’s driving you, it’s really difficult to get through those times.

[00:10:54] And so I’m a huge believer, you know the Simon Sinek book? The find out your why. And for us, it was really easy. We do this just because we have such high respect and regard for what entrepreneurs do and what they mean to the community, that for us, it’s a labor of love to be able to help them not only realize their dreams, but we know in turn they’re going to make a lot of other people realize their dreams or help a lot of other people. And I also think that as an organization, if your only motive is profit, I think you’re going to attract a certain kind of person to work with you.

[00:11:31] Whereas I think if you’ve got deeper meaning and deeper purpose in your business, you’re going to attract much higher quality people that are going to be there for more than just a paycheck. They’re going to be there to do something meaningful. And I think if we’ve learned anything during COVID, it’s that importance of community and it’s an importance of purpose. So I’m big, big, big believer in understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing. And it’s gotta be more than just the money.

[00:11:59] A.J. Lawrence: I agree. I look back now, it’s still the idea of the work we did pro bono for some amazing not for profits. We had some for profit clients that were probably pro bono equivalent.

[00:12:11] Chris Younger: Yep. Been there, done that. Yeah.

[00:12:13] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. Looking at that, but also just the growth of the team a lot of times because I was able to get junior people into more senior types of experience with pro bono work that we did than I would on a pay client. I agree. I think the benefit of what you’re talking about is developing the structure for it and how to use that as part of the entrepreneurial journey, as I call it, entrepreneurial journey here.

[00:12:39] Chris Younger: And that’s one of the reasons why we developed The Why Project. We wanted to really celebrate what entrepreneurs are doing and help others understand there are ways that I can be helpful in my community.

[00:12:54] I think most of our clients, I guess, said they’ve got enough humility that they recognize the role of luck in business. And I also think most of our clients feel this need to pay it forward, which is, hey, I’ve been very fortunate. Now it’s my turn to hopefully give others a leg up so they can be fortunate.

[00:13:14] And I think having that as a grounding purpose, I like to say we try to get our young folks introduced to our clients as early as humanly possible because I know once they get to know them, they’re going to love them. We’ve done a pretty good job of picking really good people to work for, and they’re going to work harder for that person than they ever would for me or their boss.

[00:13:37] And that’s because you get to see and hear the story of how that person built that business and what they’ve gone through and all the challenges that they had and their commitment to taking care of their team and the company, it’s just really inspiring.

[00:13:51] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, that’s great.

[00:13:53] Looking at sort of the value of just to kind of change now from sort of like the value you can create to talk more about the actual value generation and preparing for the exit, I think what I found very interesting going through Harvest a bit was this idea of the long term planning. I like [that] your approach is more of like way before you even need to think about selling, start preparing.

[00:14:18] Obviously, we build these things because we want to create value for ourselves and outsize economic value. That is one of the inherent, even with otherwise, it’s still this idea of, look, we’re here to make money. But when do you suggest going from hoping to planning? Where’s that kind of transition point for you?

[00:14:37] Chris Younger: Look, in general, I don’t think it can ever be too early to really be thoughtful around what makes for a good business. And the way we like to approach this is, we’re not necessarily giving you advice to sell your business at this point. It’s how do we build a great business that serves you as the owner really, really well.

[00:14:58] If we do that, right, if we can get that business to serve the owner really well and they have the life that they want as an entrepreneur, meaning they get to focus on things that they’re good at and that they enjoy and that add value to the business, and they’ve got a team that’s supporting them and making their life manageable, then at some level, the entrepreneur starts to get indifferent to whether they sell the business or not because hopefully, they’ve got the life that they want.

[00:15:23] One of the questions that I always ask a business owner when they come to us and are ready to sell is, hey, help me understand what a sale is going to make possible that’s not possible today. And let’s talk through that. Let’s really understand what drives that.

[00:15:37] A.J. Lawrence: I like that.

[00:15:39] Chris Younger: And if we can get to the root of that, sometimes our advice is pay a sales. It’s a really blunt instrument, right? An M&A transaction is a blunt instrument, and it may not be the right tool for you. The right tool for you might be, how do I deepen my team?

[00:15:57] And again, start to get more of that life that I want as a business owner. And if you can do that, what I will tell you is if you do end up selling the business, it’s going to have to be a phenomenal deal because otherwise the option of owning the business is just much more attractive.

[00:16:12] You mentioned getting burned out and we see this movie too many times where the business owner, they’re fried. And it’s understandable, right? The amount of work and stress that running a business takes, I don’t think most people recognize. And unfortunately, if the business owner is already burnt out, if they were to go sell their business, as much as they would love to hide that body language, it’s going to be apparent to a buyer and that will hurt value.

[00:16:43] And at some level, you might relieve the stress for the business owner. But I would say that in those cases, they’ve left too much on the table. And so in terms of timing, again, I don’t think it’s ever too early to be thoughtful around. I mean, the way we look at businesses and value, it’s really two components.

[00:17:02] One is what’s the level of risk in this business? And two is how credible is its growth plan? And hey, if we can start to address and resolve risks in the business, that’s good for your business regardless of whether you’re going to sell or not. And likewise, if we can plan a more predictable, scalable growth plan that is believable, that’s also going to make the business not only more valuable, but it will also help the team execute because we’ve got something that’s clear, that’s credible.

[00:17:33] And so all that work, again, I would be doing that today even if I wasn’t going to sell for 10 years. Now, the actual work of, hey, I’ve made the decision that I want to go to market, we generally recommend two or three years ahead of time, let’s start to put that plan in motion. We’ve estimated that between our firm and our clients, there’s about 1500 to 2000 hours that are required to get a business to market.

[00:17:59] A.J. Lawrence: Okay.

[00:18:00] Chris Younger: And the traditional process is they show up at the investment bank and in two months that business is out being marketed. Well, what’s predictable is if you’re trying to cram all those hours into that two or three month period, they’re going to take their eye off the business ball.

[00:18:16] It’s predictable. I’ve watched it happen dozens and dozens of times. And usually the results of that don’t show up until three or four months later, which is when that business is going to be in due diligence with a buyer. And that’s usually what causes deals to fall apart.

[00:18:31] Conversely, if you can take that 1500 to 2000 hours and just spread that out over a year, two years, three years, you’re going to be so far ahead of the game. In our business, we can see the premium that that generates. Just running a normal competitive process, you might get a 20% premium to a median value. If you actually do that planning ahead of time, we see premiums more like 40% to a median value, which is pretty significant.

[00:18:57] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. I mean, when you’re looking at 40% bump it’s significant, especially on a half a million, 2 million of SDE. That’s a very nice increase in long term value there for you. And I know from the buyer side, my willingness to look at a higher multiple is definitely around the systems, the professionalism of the organization. When someone throws me something that is just a force of will and it’s like, oh, we want four and a half X. I’m like, yeah, thank you, keep going. And I’m not the only seller that does that. So there’s wishes.

[00:19:36] But if someone really has a system and that system is working, definitely there’s value that it’s worth because it’s so much easier to then take it to the next level, whatever that may be. So I like that approach.

[00:19:51] I do like that. And I like that you have given the thought, because talking with another friend I know that is going through the consideration, starting to get inbound. Larger competitive strategic people in the industry are starting to knock on his door. And he knows generally where the valuation and values are, but like it’s left, right, and center, and he’s scared. He’s heard too many horror stories of people going down the rabbit hole of trying to sell, and then all of a sudden the business going the wrong way.

[00:20:21] And knowing his logic, if he had like, oh, it’s that 1500. Okay, I could allocate X amount. I could have this many people helping me do this. I could plan this. That would help very much in his plan.

[00:20:39] Chris Younger: It’s like, if you’re going to run a marathon, and I would argue transaction processes are sometimes more challenging than a marathon. If you wait to train until the two or three weeks before you’re going to run, you’re going to get a predictably poor result and it’s going to hurt.

[00:20:57] If you’ve trained for a year or two years, you’re going to have a much different experience. And we see this time and time again. The best way to do this is within being super intentional. Hey, this is what we’re going to go do. Being very thoughtful around, hey, what are the things that we should be addressing today? What’s going to drive the most value? And then executing on those things. I found that most entrepreneurs, if you can give them the roadmap, they’ll execute. It’s just more giving them that roadmap and helping them understand, hey, here are the things that I’ve got to go get done. And generally, they go get them done and it creates a ton of value for them.

[00:21:31] A.J. Lawrence: I think that is a very good approach because yes, I think from my own experience and I know talking to others, a lot of times it’s what we avoid in this process is being told what to do without sort of insights to the value.

[00:21:46] Because there’s a gazillion people telling you everything you need to do. Even sometimes, there’s so much advice out there. But the reality is, advice from people who’ve done the process and can align their understanding of the environment to your environment is the hard part.

[00:22:06] Chris Younger: Oh, for sure.

[00:22:06] A.J. Lawrence: And then, yes, we should steal things left, right, and center. Steal and then make your own or steal like an artist. I love that term. But it is understanding how to use what you steal, utilizing that process in place for you.

[00:22:22] Okay, so an entrepreneur should be considering this. I know you have a valuation offer off the site for a company to kind of get that understanding of where they are for the value. How can an entrepreneur that is considering like it’s time to put a two to three year roadmap in place. How can they best prepare to then even work with someone like yourself?

[00:22:46] Chris Younger: All of that really starts with understanding where their business is today. How do I as a business owner get a sense for where my business is today? And that’s that health assessment that we make available to entrepreneurs, where basically what we did is we went through the last couple hundred deals that we had done and identified everything that went wrong in those deals. Diligence issues, potential problems, things that hurt valuation, things that ended up hurting the prospects of the deal even occurring. And then we developed an assessment where we had 125-130 questions to basically tee up, is that an issue for this particular company?

[00:23:27] And then at that point, once I know of issue spotted, then I can start to work on prioritizing those and getting a sense for, all right, what should I work on first? And that’s the work that we do as part of that Pathfinder, the consulting business, is how do you get a business, number one, just to objectively understand where it is. If you think about that value equation of risk and growth, most business owners dramatically underestimate the level of risk in their business, which means that they will dramatically overestimate the value of the business.

[00:23:59] And so getting an entrepreneur to have a pretty objective view of their business is the first challenge, is just, hey, get in there and really understand where’s the business today. Cause yep, we’re going to set some goals, but unless we know where we are today, it’s pretty difficult to put that map together.

[00:24:15] A.J. Lawrence: It is very interesting because we look at a lot of times at profits or milestones or different things, but looking at the sellability as sort of a different type of a milestone, of looking at sort of the metrics around that and putting those into concept.

[00:24:34] I was just spending some time this morning. I’m re-evaluating my acquisition score sheet, like how I’m scoring opportunities and was spending some more time working with my team. Like, oh, how do we look at professionalism of the organization? Especially since brokers try to give you so little.

[00:24:54] Chris Younger: Yeah, right.

[00:24:56] A.J. Lawrence: It’s like, it’s the best thing ever. It floats, it walks on water, it does everything. You’re like, okay. We’re going to evaluate this, look at LinkedIn, pull these data points, try and get that feeling. But having the flip side in preparing, yeah, that value and the ability to measure and track because it helps you consistently stay at mind and helps your team move towards achieving those goals.

[00:25:23] Chris Younger: For sure.

[00:25:23] A.J. Lawrence: You don’t have to tell your team you’re selling, but just preparing for that.

[00:25:27] All right, so when someone is prepared, how often do you see clients in the way you would like it to be running smoothly, running the way you would like to see it? How often do you see entrepreneurs decide to then not sell or not at least enter in directly into the sales process?

[00:25:46] Chris Younger: If they’re coming to us, typically they’re pretty focused on ultimately wanting to exit. But we have a lot of clients within our Pathfinder program that may have had a desire to sell in five years but maybe that becomes 10 or 15 years because now that business is serving them so much better. And that’s great because we know again, when they go to market and they want to do their deal, it’s going to be a fantastic deal because they’ve just done such a great job building a scalable, predictable, less risky business.

[00:26:16] And that’s, again, we’re genuine when we say it even though we’re transaction people, right? If somebody is getting what they want out of the business and selling the business is not going to make anything else possible, then our strong recommendation is don’t sell, continue to build it. Because if the business is scalable and it’s growing and it’s doing well, as a business owner, you’ll never have a better investment than that ever. The best return on your time and money is still going to be in that business.

[00:26:45] Now, at some point, the level of asset concentration that business owners have in their business starts to get sometimes uncomfortable, where it’s just, hey, it’s maybe at a certain scale and it’s too big. And so therefore they need to start to adjust their expectations on, all right, what is it that I need to get done? And maybe that’s diversifying a little bit, right? Maybe that’s, I need to diversify my personal balance sheet a little bit such that I don’t have such heavy concentration.

[00:27:14] And that’s totally understandable, right? I always tell business owners, you’re already wealthy. It’s just that all your wealth is in one business that’s highly illiquid that is very difficult to extract and trade. We can solve part of that for you. We can go find you capital and find you money and all that.

[00:27:29] But for them as an individual, that just comes down to is that financial security that much more important to me than continuing to build wealth and probably what will be the best investment they’ve ever made?

[00:27:40] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. Looking in hindsight, what I’m seeing a big push is the company- and you run a family office also- is some of the approach of building holdco type style companies. There’s some interesting ones that started literally with someone professionalizing their business and using the cash flow from that to then acquire and build the capability and to build then up into the family office range. Is your family of business office around your own investments or do you ever help some of your clients take that step up? It’s a further down the road, obviously.

[00:28:20] Chris Younger: Yeah, we started the family office almost seven years ago. And the reason why we started it was we were not happy with how the traditional wealth management industry treated our clients. They didn’t necessarily give them the time of day when they were wealthy, but all their assets were tied up into the business. But that’s actually when you can derive the most value in terms of tax optimization and planning.

[00:28:44] And then obviously, once the business sold and that became public, our clients would be propositioned by every one of the big wealth managers.

[00:28:51] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah.

[00:28:52] Chris Younger: And we looked at what they were charging and we looked at what the level of service, and that industry, unfortunately, is kind of rife with conflict.

[00:28:59] There are lots of incentives for folks to be selling certain products. And we just felt like that’s not in alignment with our clients interests, and so that’s why we started our family office. So we have about 80 families we advise on about two and a half billion. We’ve got a billion that’s actively managed right now.

[00:29:19] And what we’ve learned is, yes, the investment management is a really important piece, but an entrepreneur’s lives, their lives are very complex. And so giving them good tools for how to think about whether it’s, hey, how do you think about your own diversification of your asset mix? How do you think about your kids and wealth? And how do you plan for that and make sure that you do a good job migrating wealth to your kids in a way that’s responsible? How do you think about charitable giving? All of these things that while the entrepreneur wasn’t cash rich, but was rich anyway, they probably didn’t need to think that much about.

[00:29:57] One of our three core values is relationships. And so one of the things we love about that business is, even after a deal’s done, we get to maintain that relationship for years with the entrepreneur and his/her family, which is, that’s just been so much fun.

[00:30:10] A.J. Lawrence: I like that approach. And I do think having once again, ad hocly gone through that process, there is a big transition from cashflow rich liquid asset poor to assets or a much decreased cashflow where you’re like, oh, wait, I actually have to track relative. It is a difficult transition and I’m trying to still figure that out now.

[00:30:38] Well, everyone talks about AI and I am fascinated. I find my days, AI rabbit hole after AI rabbit hole and trying to create structure, how are we integrating it into our efforts right now and how we can create longer term, more flexible value from it.

[00:30:55] What are you finding really into? Or what are you thinking is very interesting that’s going to have a bigger impact that most people aren’t thinking about?

[00:31:04] Chris Younger: That’s a great question. We spend a fair amount of our time, in fact, one of the folks on our team, one of her primary focuses is understanding and researching what’s going on with AI. What are the different tools that are coming down the pipe?

[00:31:18] We’re very anxious to see the Microsoft’s Copilot product and we’re using it to help us with content. We’re using it to help us kind of think differently about our financial analytics tools that we use. I mean, we’re expecting some fairly significant changes in the day-to-day work that we do, whether that is how we put a story together for one of our clients to take to market, or how do we present that information, or how do we gather and analyze that information?

[00:31:49] Our guess is, over the next 2 to 3 years, that whole process flow is going to change and we’ll get better as a result of having some of those tools. I still think that, at least for our business, the role of being an advisor, of being a counselor and really helping people navigate, I don’t know that that piece of it changes, but certainly the analytics, the financial modeling, the writing.

[00:32:16] And in our business, we value the high touch. And as we’ve talked to our team, I’ve emphasized, we never want to lose that piece because that’s what makes everything special. But in terms of how the work gets done, we should absolutely be looking at tools because it’s coming. I mean, some of it’s already here.

[00:32:33] I know that there are limits to the large language models that businesses like ChatGPT they’re using today, but those limits seem to be getting shorter and shorter and shorter as those tools continue to evolve.

[00:32:46] I remember I was practicing law in Silicon Valley when Netscape went public and my law firm worked on that deal. And I remember at the time, not truly understanding kind of what all that meant. I mean that wasn’t that long ago, 30 years ago, 25 years ago. And so if you think about what has changed since then to now, and we didn’t have the computing power back then that we have now, and we certainly didn’t have the AI that we have now.

[00:33:14] So my guess is over the next 25 years, those changes are going to be dramatic. And I know there’s a lot of hyperbole around new technologies when they come out, but this one seems to be fairly significant in terms of how fast it can evolve and develop.

[00:33:28] A.J. Lawrence: I completely agree. I think the best line I’ve heard from a lot of people is that 90% of what we do or we get paid for, especially in this informational services type space, is going to disappear. Or at least the value of that service is going to, even though it was digital.

[00:33:48] From the agency background, that piece of trying to get as much low level work with then a high level advisory account services, that’s going to disappear. The turn and burn or the overpaying for junior people is going to disappear.

[00:34:06] But then, that advisory level stuff, that is going to be all the more valuable because it’s not X, Y or Z. It is, oh, you want this. It has to be how to frame things into the desires of the customer or the person looking for it. So that is going to be fascinating. Looking forward to surfing this.

[00:34:33] Chris Younger: Oh, for sure. And I think our business, when you boil it down, 85% of it’s just information flow. Ingesting information, analyzing it, spitting out information, and that work, I think will fundamentally change.

[00:34:46] A.J. Lawrence: No, I definitely agree. I think the question is how, when, and how quick, because it’s going to be fast slow.

[00:34:56] Chris Younger: For sure.

[00:34:59] A.J. Lawrence: I just saw some stats that I found really interesting. As much as being as over the past three, four months has been trumpeting their Bing AI, their search even though it was already small has actually decreased. They’re like, oh, we’re going up. It’s like Google actually increased during this period of three months, and who knows why it could have been other things than this, but it’s like, we’re so much in the bubble of watching it.

[00:35:28] But other people, it’s going to be the same where I believe a lot of people are going to be sitting there thinking, okay, yeah, yeah, it’s nothing. Until all of a sudden it just sort of happens and they’re not realizing it. And then it’s too late or it will be everywhere.

[00:35:43] Chris Younger: No, I think if you’re smart, you ought to be looking at what the capabilities are today, where it’s headed. The woman, Nicole, who helps us with our kind of AI research, she said there were more than 50, 000 applications that have been developed just in the last month that utilize some aspect of ChatGPT to produce something different. And so with that level of innovation and attention, there’s going to be changes and you better be prepared for it.

[00:36:10] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, and I’ve been working with a lot of organizations in like developing an agile approach because just this week, Google announced the barred API access. So almost anything you’ve built on ChatGPT can now be built upon Google.

[00:36:25] Someone’s going to actually, and I love some of the agent software where they’re literally just creating different agents from different AIs and having them talk to each other to get your outcome. It’s like, okay, yes, this is going to be fun. Problem is it’s going to be a lot of mistakes early, but then some big stuff early.

[00:36:50] Okay, when someone realizes it is time to get a little more serious about this, how best should they check out Class VI? What should they do?

[00:36:59] Chris Younger: Sure. They can certainly go to the website, classvipartners.com. I’m happy to have them email me on chris@classvipartners.com. You can also reach me through LinkedIn as well, and happy to chat with them.

[00:37:12] We’re in the process of building a platform we call Copilot that entrepreneurs will be able to use that will have several assessments as well as lots and lots of content that we’ll make available to anybody that wants to have access to it, where they can get an assessment of their business along multiple different fronts.

[00:37:31] They can get some personal assessments done as well as get a bunch of content. It’s a lot of the lessons that we’ve learned, just haven’t done this for years, on how to do this the right way.

[00:37:41] A.J. Lawrence: That sounds great. We’ll have all that in the show notes. But Chris, I’ve had people from the audience beta test different, so this sounds fascinating.

[00:37:48] Chris Younger: Yeah, we’re excited about it.

[00:37:50] A.J. Lawrence: If you need beta testers, let me know.

[00:37:52] Chris Younger: For sure. We’re super excited about it.

[00:37:56] A.J. Lawrence: All right, great. Let’s talk about that, I’ll follow up. And then obviously Harvest, we’ll put the link in the show notes, in the email, and in our social. We’ll have the Amazon listing and everything. So please go check it out, everyone.

[00:38:10] And Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show today. I really appreciate it.

[00:38:13] Chris Younger: Oh, thank you. Thank you, A.J. It’s been a pleasure. And thanks for doing what you’re doing for entrepreneurs.

[00:38:18] A.J. Lawrence: I would be doing this at a bar somewhere if I wasn’t doing it on a podcast.

[00:38:23] Chris Younger: That’s probably healthier for you here. Yeah.

[00:38:25] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, just a little.

[00:38:26] Everyone, thank you so much for listening to today’s episode. Really appreciate it. If you’re thinking about your own podcast, please go check out our partners, makethecut.fm, they do amazing production work. They’ve been doing the production for the show and I can’t be happier with how easy they make my life as a podcaster. So please go check out, Make The Cut.

[00:38:47] All right, everyone. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye-bye.

[00:38:57] This episode of Beyond 8 Figures is over, but your journey as an entrepreneur continues. So if we can help you with anything, please just let us know. And if you liked this episode, please share it with someone who might learn from it. Until next time, keep growing and find the joy in your journey. This is A.J., and I’ll be talking to you soon. Bye-bye.

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