Building a Business That Can Run Without You


Building a business that can run without  you while you maintain control  is something most entrepreneurs and financial advisors should strive for – but it can oftentimes feel like a daunting task. There is no one-size-fits-all formula and the journey towards having a self-sustaining business often comes with plenty of bumps in the road. However, it’s possible.

In this episode, host, Rob Brown, and guest, Casey Lang, talk about how you can start making progress towards building an independent, profitable business that doesn’t rely solely on your day-to-day involvement. In fact businesses are stronger when you have the right team in place to serve your clients and keep things running smoothly. You, as the owner, get to spend your time where it matters most.

According to Casey, building a business that can run without you requires hard work and dedication, but it doesn’t have to be a cumbersome process. He believes the key to success lies in having the right systems in place and investing the necessary time to make it happen. And these decisions are important whether you’re thinking about selling your business now or plan to stick around for years to come.


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Podcast Transcript

Rob Brown  00:05

One of my favorite topics when talking to entrepreneurs and financial advisors is building a business that can run without you. A business that doesn’t rely on you to do everything, so that you can be at your best. And your team can be at their best in accomplishing your goals in fulfilling your purpose and having impact. And during today’s podcast, you’re going to be reintroduced to Casey Lang, someone who as a financial advisor, and works with business owners talks about this topic regularly. And I talk with Casey about it regularly, because that is one of his goals as a client of mine. So tune in, buckle your seats, and learn how to build a business that can run without you. And as Casey likes to add, you still have control, listening. You’re listening to the truest fan podcast. And now here’s your host, Rob Brown. Welcome back to the truest fan podcast. And it’s the first, this is the first time that one of my original guests is making a repeat appearance. So it’s great to have Casey Lang of Lang financial back on the podcast. Welcome, Casey. Thanks, Rob. Good to be here. So we came up with the idea for this podcast based on a coaching session that Casey I had, a month or so ago had a great conversation around the idea of building your business. So that can run without you. But maintaining control, which maybe sounds a little bit like a big order, like maybe something that doesn’t is impossible to do. But I really think in the work that I do with my clients that it’s important that they think about their business is not something within which they have to be involved in everything and increasingly find the right ways to fill all of the seats on their bus. So they have the right people on their team to take care of their clients, no matter what’s going on a case. He’s been a big proponent of that in his practice, but also in the work that he does with business owners, because a lot of Casey’s clients are business owners. So we thought we just kind of spent a little bit of time talking about this idea of building a business that can run without you but maintaining control. And then thinking about it in terms of both the financial side of maybe prepping a business for sale, but also the emotional side of that, because it’s not as easy as it is it might sound so so Casey, give me a little lead here. When you think about this topic, what kind of jumps out to you first?

Casey Lang 03:03

You know, Rob, it’s a big question. And I think too, it ties into the work we do every day, whether it be a business owner, you know, or an employee that’s thinking about retiring. Right? So there’s a lot of, you know, a lot of things to think about. And, you know, one of which is are they ready financially? And you know, the others? Are they ready emotionally, but when it comes to business owners, and I think you know, the big thing we talked about, you know, is are they really ready, emotionally, and financially. But are they ready to relinquish that control that they’ve had kind of on the things that they want to do on a day to day basis? So I know, You’ve had some clients that have had some experiences lately, and so have an eye and, you know, I look forward to, you know, kind of digging into that to see if we can maybe add some perspective that can help others today.

Rob Brown  03:58

Yeah, in fact, I think a great story to start with, as you mentioned, a client that you worked with, who went through the process of selling his business, and then eight months later came back and said, You know, I wasn’t ready.

Casey Lang 04:14

Yeah. Yeah. So it’s funny, you know, I’ve sat across the table from many clients that are either either thinking about selling their business or already have and that one client definitely comes to mind. They came in, they said, Casey, I’m excited. They’re young, close to 50. And said, I’m ready to retire. And, you know, we worked on it and put together the financial plan. And, you know, they were in a position maybe not quite at the level they were when they were working in the business but close enough. And about eight months later, they came in my office and I could just tell they were frustrated, and they said this isn’t working. And I said why and in their situation, you know, they did want a little bit more financial stability, but ultimately The it was the emotional side of things, you know, they couldn’t keep themselves busy, they wanted the, you know, satisfaction or gratification of doing good in the world. And really, they were surprised that how much, you know, they missed their friends and missed the social side of things that happened throughout their business. So, you know, I’ve seen a lot of different stories, but that one definitely, you know, comes to mind when it wasn’t as much the financial side, but with some of the other components that made them say, you know, this isn’t working, and we’ve got to, you know, go back to, you know, doing some of the things we were doing before.

Rob Brown  05:35

Yeah, and that’s, that’s a great example, because something that I have seen both way back in the dark ages when I was a financial advisor. But now, as I’m working with and coaching financial advisors is, you know, that next thing that you want to do, you know, you want to make a difference in the world, you’ve got a cause that you want to put some time into, that’s a startup business, if it’s not something that you’ve really been active in, day in and day out the way that you were in your business. And so, you know, finding the right way to get connected to get involved, you know, how you can carve your path to give your gifts to whatever that might be, that can be hard to discover. And again, kind of like starting a business, you got to figure out how you’re how you’re going to do. And if you’re not ready to go from running a successful business to working in the startup of your adventures. After you’re done. You might find some some empty time and want to fall back on what you had.

Casey Lang 06:39

Yeah. Yeah, there’s no doubt. And I think, too, you’ve mentioned in the past some examples that you’ve seen, too, not only there, from the emotional side, I think, which is what you’re alluding to, as well. But then the control, I don’t know, if you want to share, you know, an example that we kind of talked about on how all the sudden, now that you don’t have as much control as you did, how that makes people feel, and how that can also cause some unforeseen challenges that people didn’t think about, you know, before they went ahead and sold the business. Yeah, in fact,

Rob Brown  07:13

it’s an ongoing situation that I’m working with right now, where I have a two partners who are great partners, they’ve done a wonderful job of working through a succession plan for the last five ish years. And they’re now about two years away from when the senior partner wants to be able to step away from the business, no longer be involved in running the business, they’ll probably still continue to take care of some of his favorite clients we’ve worked with for a lot of years, but really just doesn’t want to have anything to do with running the business is ready to relinquish his ownership in the business. So the junior partner and is ready to step up and to step in. But as we’re now making these final decisions that need to happen over the next couple of years, what I’m seeing is kind of that clash of emotions where the senior advisors like, the two years is going to happen so fast, that we’ve got to have everything done, you know, all the i’s dotted all the T’s cross all the bows tied now. And the succeeding advisors like that, yeah, I understand that we need to do all that stuff. But we’re on pace, and it doesn’t have the same level of energy behind speed. And so it’s interesting watching them adjust. And we’ve been really working on figuring out how to how to create the right momentum. So the next couple of years goes just as smoothly as the last couple, and anticipating that, as you alluded to Casey, that when the senior adviser does step away, and is no longer in charge, no longer owns the business, what’s that kind of feel? Like? It’s gonna be a very different thing.

Casey Lang 09:04

Yeah, it’s hard to let go of that control. It sounds like you’re, you’re living that with a client right now.

Rob Brown  09:12

So what are some things that you would advise in that situation, to those advisors to, to keep an eye on again, when we’re not, you know, kind of digging into the financial side of things, just the financial side is going to be just fine.

Casey Lang 09:25

Ya know, so I think you’re right. I mean, I think just emotionally ready, and then are you ready to relinquish control? So I agree with you, you know, those are the big pieces. And like I said to when it comes to retirees, it’s funny, you know, when we when we walk down that path with them, and we continually work on it and work on the financial side of things, that we just ask questions and dig in about, about those types of things. You know, when are you really ready to not have this? Are you really ready to have this and And you know, I think it allows them to kind of get there and think about it before they actually let go of it, which is, you know, really important.

Rob Brown  10:07

Yeah, I love that point, too, but getting them to think about it, you know, because you, you have to, we talked about this a lot on the podcast about the idea of dreaming big and thinking about what the future will look like. And this is one of those cases where it really makes sense to stop and think about and put yourself in that situation where you wake up one day, and you don’t have to set the alarm clock, you don’t have to go in to the office, you’re not going to see the same people, whether they’re your team members, or your employees or the or the people that you serve through your business.

Casey Lang 10:43

Yeah, yep. And then I think to rob, now, when we start thinking about, you know, more of the financial side, that’s what prompted a lot of this conversation was was the lifestyle expense that so often people forget to take into consideration when they think about what is the that I actually spend on an annual basis? And without that business? What does my lifestyle look like?

Rob Brown  11:10

Yeah, it’s a huge question that I thought you did. And I want to dig in some more there. Because I think thinking about lifestyle expenses is huge. There’s a sort of a tax piece to it, right? From a pure financial standpoint. But, you know, if you’re a business owner, and you’re listening to this podcast, you probably do some things because you are a business owner with your expenses that you cannot do if you’re not a business owner.

Casey Lang 11:38

Yeah, no doubt this isn’t tax or legal advice, right?

Rob Brown  11:42

No, no, no, no, we’re not giving any tax or legal advice on the podcast. I’m joking. We’re talking about scenarios and things that we just see people in our businesses as we work with business owners run into, alright.

Casey Lang 12:03

Are you ready to discover your true purpose, live with impact and build an ever greater legacy than you need to make time for what truly matters most go to truest To begin the free, truest fan seven day Quickstart.

Casey Lang 12:26

So, so often on that topic, and I think this is really so important, but hard to quantify, without really digging in, you know, so often my clients, for example, their, you know, their vehicles are tax deductible. And at the end of the year, they might purchase a vehicle because of the tax deduction. And then I talked to him about, okay, let’s say the business is sold, and now we have this nest egg. And every dollar that we spend from that nest egg is after tax, not pre tax, you know, how is that going to feel? Would you purchase that same vehicle? In Are you okay, no longer, you know, purchasing the more expensive vehicle. So often, too, there’s travel expenses. So there’s travel expenses, that people, you know, there’s industry meetings and trips, and things that people go on that are, you know, where that that travel is tax deductible, meals and entertainment so often, especially in our business, but in other businesses, you know, people are, are doing things where they’re with their customers. And all of those things are on a pre tax basis. And so often when I dig in to, you know, business owners lifestyles, and I say, hey, look, if we have to add all that stuff that’s encompassed in your business, that is a tax deduction. And now we have to add it on to the other side, what do your expenses really look like? And what is that number? And I do think that that’s something that is really, really missed. I mean, there’s so much on the emotional side, like you mentioned, and just having the control and letting go, that’s a big deal. But then when we start thinking about the financial side of things, it’s amazing how much lifestyle expense is built into the businesses of the business owners I work with.

Rob Brown  14:11

Yeah, and I think that’s a really great thing to point out when you’re thinking about this whole transition, that’s going to happen because it’s, it’s so much more intricate than saying, you know, what’s my number, you know, because that’s become somewhat popularized, you know, when people are thinking about retirement has nothing to do with being a business owner, but you know, what’s that number, but so what’s that number? And then thinking, Okay, I’ve got a number in mind now, how do I really back into that number and make it make sense? And then at the same time, realize that some of the choices, you know, because you’re, I think one of the things that’s that’s inside of what you were talking about with some of those expenses is what choices Are you making today? And will you make the same ones later? Or will they change? And if they’re not going to change? Are you really ready to continue the way that you are? And have the requirements that you that you have? You know, it’s? Yeah, it’s like comfort?

Casey Lang 15:18

Yeah. Are you really willing to give those things up that you’re accustomed to? Or is there enough there to not give those things up? And will you still do those things, when you’re paying the full, full price with after tax dollars? You know, and what I have seen is I have seen people’s, you know, through business owner clients of mine that have sold their business they have, you know, some have said, Okay, I don’t need those things. But a lot of others who said, Wow, I enjoyed those, when I did have my business, I still enjoy those today. And I’d like to find a way to either one, get back to doing those or to just make sure that financially, you know, I’m in a position to continue that lifestyle. If we add up both what am I spending inside of the business? And outside of the business?

Rob Brown  16:04

Yeah, yeah. Again, just I think that a whole idea of lifestyle expenses, and figuring that out is a huge part of this. And, and you do it in retirement planning for non business owners, too. But the calculus is different, because the scenario that they’re in as an employee of a business is very different than it might be as, as an owner, yeah,

Casey Lang 16:27

typically there, we can get the after tax income number and work off of that pretty quickly. I mean, it just takes more digging. One other thing to all add there, Rob, is, is the entrepreneurial itch. Right. So as a business owner, that sells their business, a lot of times we you know, people don’t think about is there still fire in their belly? Is this it? Can they really sell their business? And I think you alluded to this on the front end? And do they have other things that are going to be able to satisfy them and satisfy their time? Or will they be somebody that just is what we call a serial entrepreneur, that will always be doing deals. And I think one thing there too, that that happens when I see my clients sell their businesses is okay, not only do I potentially need enough lifestyle expense inside the business and money to take care of me, but I want to have enough money to go back to doing other types of deals. So all of the dollars that they net on an after tax basis, aren’t necessarily used just to produce income. You know, they also say, I want to build a tank over here, so that I could fund this other startup so that I could, you know, do some other types of investments, you know, that are on my own? And I think that’s another piece too. Is it just really identifying with those business owners? is, you know, is that entrepreneurial itch, you know, still going to be there? And so often, you know, they might say that now it’s not, no, it’s not. But then two months later, I get a call and they say, Hey, look, I saw this business was for sale, or I saw this piece of property was for sale, or whatever it might be. So that’s something else that we see a lot that I think is important to take into consideration.

Rob Brown  18:10

Yeah, absolutely. And when I was speaking before, and kind of attaching that potential feeling of emptiness, I was thinking about, you know, good causes. But your point about entrepreneurial itch is, you know, is really important, because there are still going to be 24 hours in a day, when somebody retires, and how they choose to fill that time is going to change, if they sell that business is gonna change. If you retire from working as an employee, somebody’s got to think about how am I going to fill that time in a way that really allows me to live the life that I want to live and serve the people or take care of the family, whatever it is you want to do, and you got to think about how you’re going to fill that time. And if one of those things is, you know, funding another business, you know, being your own little, you know, launchpad for a local entrepreneur, maybe some of you’ve met through your business, then then you want to create the runway for that before you make the decision to sell because you don’t want that to infringe on some of those other things that you may have been done just to set your lifestyle the way that you want to set it.

Casey Lang 19:28

Yeah, and I think too, I don’t want to make this sound like I don’t have any clients that have sold their businesses and are absolutely having a blast and in doing, you know, living the life that they want to live. I just think that I do have a few clients that maybe if they would have thought it through, you know, prior to getting to us if they would have thought through these things a little bit differently. Maybe it wouldn’t change the outcome. And don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of business owners that you know, once the we do talk about this things are like That’s okay, I’m ready. And I’m like, Okay, I agree. You You know, you’re ready. And so, you know, but I do have, I would say probably as many or more clients, you know, that ultimately ended up doing what you, you know, mentioned on the front end of this podcast, which was basically getting their business in a position to run as much as possible without them, and continuing to own and operate that business, you know, through, especially the early years of their retirement, so that it can still do for them all the things that they want it to do, you know, give them the emotional attachment, still have the social piece of it, and then ultimately, the income and some of the tax flexibility that allows them to really do the things that they want to do, especially in those early years of retirement. But as you know, Rob, that’s much easier said than done.

Rob Brown  20:47

Yeah, for sure. And I think as we’re coming to the end of this podcast, that was good that you put that other dynamic on for a couple of different reasons. One, it doesn’t have to be all or none, you don’t have to retire and sell your business, there are many different angles to take, which leads to the other really important point that you that you brought up is we’re not trying to scare anybody, you know, if you’re in a position to be able to think about selling your business, and be able to retire successfully, or just be able to retire successfully, it’s a great position to be in. But it’s going to be even greater, when you can make it everything that you want it to be, because you’ve taken the time to think about it ahead of time case, I’ve joked with you about this before I live in Williamsburg, Virginia, home to lots of golf courses, lots of Northeast sinners who want to come south in their retirements, and I get to have conversations with them. And in church and lots of other places. And the most happy ones are the ones that are really busy doing stuff that they care about, maybe they’re doing some consulting, maybe they’re playing up, they are playing a bunch of golf, but to travel, not to spend time with their grandkids are really actively involved in the community. They’re the my poster, chosen a poster children, my poster grandparents for a great retirement, but then I meet some people that will say, you know, I came down here, I live in a golf community. And I thought I could play golf, you know, seven days a week or five days a week. But golf is really frustrating, and I’m really not getting any better. And it’s not enough, and then they have to stop and figure it out. And it works out. Okay. It’s not like a disaster. But I think thinking about these things ahead of time, which all goes back to why we started this podcast talking about building your business in a way that can run without you, but you’re still in control, so that you have time to really think about all the things that you want to do.

Casey Lang 23:00

Yeah, and I think, Rob, what I heard you say and, and the way I think about it is is what we like to do here at length financial, with our business owners, is helped put them in a position, you know, depending upon their age, but at some point in the future, to where they have the flexibility to choose either path we discussed, whether it be continue to own and operate their business, enjoy the lifestyle expense, have all the emotional, you know, pieces and things that it gives you or it’s in a position, you know, to sell. And the combination of the value that is derived from it, and the savings that they have, still has them financially independent at the level that they desire, or at their current level of when they’re running the business. So, you know, once again, I’m not advocating for one or the other necessarily, I just think that it’s important for, you know, your clients and my clients alike, to think about these things on both sides. And just be careful not to make a knee jerk decision that ultimately they’re going to look back and say, oh, man, I didn’t think about that prior to selling my business, or I didn’t think about that. And so yeah, no doubt that it’s hard to let go of all the relationships you have within your work and, and especially the feeling of doing good on a daily basis. And, and I know you and I both, you know, sharing that passion.

Rob Brown  24:21

Yeah, absolutely. So Casey, I think that’s a great place to wrap up the conversation. Obviously, folks listen to this podcast. We’re financial advisors and have questions around stuff like this, you know how to reach out to me, but case there might be some other folks and business owners out there the folks that you serve through Lang financial that may want to talk to you what’s the best way to do that?

Casey Lang 24:43

Yeah, for them to give us a call 304973 Plan 30497375 to six. And we would love to talk to anybody that you know, has thought about these topics and just wanted to dig in a little more. So appreciate the time today, Rob.

Rob Brown  24:59

Yeah, no, it’s Absolutely. My pleasure, Casey, thank you for spending time with me once again on the truest fan, podcast. And for those of you listening thanks for listening in. Don’t forget to give us a five star rating on whatever that podcast platform is that you’re listening to take care

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