John Warillow’s Built To Sell [A Review]

It seems like a lot of people are talking about the re-release of John Warillows book Built To Sell.

I only heard about the orignal about 6 weeks ago from my good buddy Mike Rhodes during a mastermind meet-up a few Melbourne marketing nerds and I do every few weeks… as it turned out John was in the process of re-releasing the book and everywhere I looked the book seemed to be.

It was probably just good marketing, but I put it down to serendipity and tracked down a copy of the original book that Mike had recommended; as I couldn’t wait for the new one to be released on Amazon.

John’s borrowed from the great parable or fable style of business books, such as The Richest Man in Babylon, Fish! and The Goal.- which makes it such an enjoyable and easy read.

In Built To Sell, he tells the story of a hypothetical business owner, Alex Stapleton, owner of the Stapleton Marketing Agency – a graphics design house.

Alex is just like most service based business, struggling for leverage, passive income (in the corporate sense) and a potential buyer; because the business can’t run without him.

For guidance, Alex turns to an entrepreneur and old family friend, Ted, who through a series of quasi-coaching sessions, lays out an easy-to-follow plan that enables Alex to transform his business.

The three lessons or take-aways that Warillow teaches through Ted and Alex are that any sellable business needs to be:

1. Teachable: A built-to-sell business offers products and services that you can teach employees to do, or program technology to deliver, while you sleep
And it’s hear that you, the business owner, get’s leverage – and why I personally, am such as advocate of structuring, implementing and outsourcing a lot of the process as soon as possible.

2.Valuable: A built-to-sell business avoids price wars by specializing in doing one thing better than anyone else.
It’s all about specialization and positioning. Think about some of the best businesses of today (and history) – they stand for one thing… or at least their foundation was one clear focus; that staff and customers to identify and evangelise.

3.Repeatable: A built-to-sell business creates a stream of recurring revenue where customers have to re-purchase often
It’s all about residual income baby… and John does a fantastic job of clearly raming the point home that businesses that have an annuity stream sell for much higher multiples.

Even if you don’t want to sell you business, don’t get mislead by the title.

“Built To Sell” is about creating business value, whether you’re going to sell or not.

The 3 key principles above, if taken onboard and applied, will help you build a business that is bigger then you.

There are a tonne of other points that I highlighted and noted while reading including; the importance of tracking your conversion rate and stats; language matters1; you need to show that your business can be a system for growth (read: leveragable system); people love to buy-into systems (whether they are a customer or acquirer)

So do yourself a favour, no matter where you are in your business cycle; you really should head over to Amazon and grab a copy of Built To Sell


  1. “Service firms refer to their customers as clients and product businesses refer to them as customers … Using words like clients subtly communicated to a potential buyer that you still think of yourself as a service business … and an acquiring company will be trying to put you in a box … and they have a corresponding process for acquiring each type of business.” 

about-pete
Pete Williams is an entrepreneur, author, and marketer from Melbourne, Australia.

Before being honored “Australia’s Richard Branson” in media publications all over the continent, Pete was just 21 years old when he sold Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground For Under $500! Don’t believe it? You will! Check out the story in the FAQ section (it really is our most asked question).

Since then, he’s done some cool stuff like write the international smash hit ‘How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality’ (+ the upcoming ‘It’s Not About the Product‘) and he’s created a bunch of companies including Infiniti Telecommunications, On Hold Advertising, Simply Headsets and Preneur Group.

Lots of other people think he’s pretty good too! He’s been announced as the Global Runner-Up in the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2009, the Southern Region Finalist in the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a member of SmartCompany’s Top 30 Under 30.

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