By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

Every year, young talent leaves the BV profession altogether. This exodus is commonly attributed to the desire to “try something new”, or to the conclusion that business valuation is somehow not the right place. A larger percentage than you might think could be due to inadequate training, however. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and examine your own approach.

That’s what makes Practice Builder Academy a welcome forum for its participants. Mel Abraham and Rod Burkert created PBA in response to the practitioners they spoke to who were struggling to figure out how to create a lucrative practice.

At the mid-year point, we talked to three participants to get a feel for the value of the course so far. Paul Hajek runs his own valuation and transition planning practice in the Pacific Northwest. Ed Mysogland operates a business and equipment appraisal practice in Indianapolis. Carli Lehr is developing a BV/LS practice inside a CPA firm in Hanover, PA.

When you first heard about Practice Builder Academy, what was it that made you decide to participate?

Lehr: I had talked about how I wanted to do this work full-time. When I went to a NACVA Conference for the first time it struck me that BV was what I really wanted to do, and I picked up a flyer advertising a webinar that mentioned practice building. I was eager for everything I could get my hands on, and the practice building aspect was attractive.

Hajek: For me it was the right thing at the right time. For ten years I’ve been a business coach for small to mid-size businesses, but never felt I had a sharp enough focus in my business. About two years ago I saw that lots of my clients were baby boomers who needed advice to exit their businesses. I decided to develop the skills to help them do that. That led me to Mel and Rod. When they announced the PBA course, it was clear that it was how I could go deep into the niche I wanted to work in.

Mysogland: Two things, really. One was Rod Burkert. The guy travels around in an RV! For a guy that has to have all his ducks in a row for a practice to be able to operate in that environment, he had to be a good source to learn from. The other was Mel Abraham, who is someone I’ve known for as long as I’ve been in the valuation community.

Lehr: Mel and Rod were a big drawing point for me, as well.

What has surprised you about the content or your participation so far?

Mysogland: The amount of good information is overwhelming. I feel like there’s almost no way to deploy all the ideas they’ve laid out. It’s an enormous undertaking. My problem is carving out the time to do it.

Hajek: What has surprised me in a positive way is how together these guys have this process. Marketing yourself always looked to me like a nebulous thing. They have a process they teach in the course; a step-by-step process I can always refer to. Their system orientation is a very positive thing.

Mysogland: As far as content, it really is some high-end stuff that has paid for itself a couple times over. When it comes to thinking about the tuition, I’ve paid more for less in the past.

Lehr: The surprising part is not that it’s going to be easy work – which it’s not – but the logical way it’s laid out. It’s almost like a head-slap. Why couldn’t I have thought of this before? The course has a module each month so you’re learning about something every time. It’s such a logical path. It just took them to lay things out for me. So, it was both surprising and not surprising.

Is there anything you can point to in your practice, or the way you’re running it, that you would say is different as a result of the first six months of Practice Builder Academy?

Lehr: For me, definitely the social media awareness is different. I’ve started to pay more attention to that. I’ve been beefing up my LinkedIn profile, joining groups, having discussions within groups. There’s a lot more I could be doing, I know.

Mysogland: I think the whole … I think it’s how you view yourself as a practitioner. That you are a brand. Everyone talks about how you are your own brand. There is a lot of empirical evidence that that’s true. We all talk about this stuff, but I don’t think we apply it.

Hajek: My value proposition is better. I’m much better at formulating this and talking to someone in a networking situation. Before, it was not very good. But, I feel much more comfortable.

Mysogland: I am in the process of implementing the web strategies that have been discussed in PBA. Rod introduced us to an MS Office Plug-in called Grammarly. That has worked unbelievably well for me.

In that same six months, is there something you were doing that you gave up doing because you saw that it wouldn’t get you where you wanted to go?

Mysogland: I think I’m a bit more selective in some of the engagements I’m participating in, or looking for. I didn’t realize how ‘not-as-difficult’ it was to promote yourself as a higher end provider. Yes, there is the question of how your differentiate yourself. But, there are ways to do that. I have given up competing on price and instead am competing on value. It’s a shift in mindset.

Hajek: The best example of that for me is leaving the firm I was with to go out on my own. I had been thinking that I needed to move on. I just saw it a little more clearly after Practice Builder Academy.

Lehr: In my case, I don’t think so. We knew that referral sources would be a great source of work, and we were already trying to connect with them. It was more about doing things we weren’t doing rather than changing things we were doing.

If someone were to say to you, “This sounds interesting, but I don’t know if it’s for me”, what would you say that might let them see Practice Builder Academy in a different light?

Hajek: From the point of view of a business coach, I might just say to the person that they might be right, and then invite them to share what they’re doing. That gives me the opportunity to open up a conversation about what they’re doing, what I’m doing, and how PBA might be something that would have value to them.

Mysogland: I have spent more money on less value, in terms of web consultants, SEO consultants, and so forth. All these consultants deal with the same components that PBA gives me. The difference is that Rod and Mel seem to have made these components work. They have personally test-driven what they’re recommending. I would tell somebody if it does nothing else, it helps you ask better questions when you do hire consultants, because you have a different 360 degree view of your practice.

Lehr: If someone’s thinking “that’s not for me”, I have to say this is the stuff that’s working for people all over the place. If you can’t buy in to what’s being taught in the course, you might be lagging behind where things are moving. When it comes to the online presence and social media, I might have said that’s not for me. I’m more of a private person. For me to get involved is a challenge, but I see that it’s necessary for me to establish myself as an expert in my field. Being challenged and stretched like that outside your comfort zone is the only way you’re going to grow.

For more information about Practice Builder Academy, go to www.PracticeBuilderAcademy.com and watch the free introductory webinar.

John Borrowman