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The Inside Story Behind Sage’s 8 Figure Acquisition of a 12 Employee Company

May 6, 2022 |  

About this episode

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In 2016, Ashford took what little was left after his business failed and invested £ 4,000 in developing proposal software for accountants which he named GoProposal. By 2020, GoProposal was a slick application with £1.5 million in revenue and hundreds of accountants using it. That’s when Ashford agreed to be acquired for a healthy 8-figure sum.

In this, the second in a two-part episode (here’s part one in case you missed it), you will discover how to:

  • Impress during a Management presentation.
  • Create excitement for your team about the idea of selling.
  • Grow your company despite your attention being on the sale of your company.
  • Maximize the value of your company during the negotiation process.
  • Survive diligence

About Our Guest

James Ashford

James helps accountants and bookkeepers to price more profitably, sell more confidently, and to give significantly more value to their clients.

He has achieved this in his own firm – MAP. – where along with Founder Paul Barnes, they first developed GoProposal and implemented a sales culture to ensure they were maximizing the value of their clients.

 

Connect with James:
James website

Order Your Copy Of James Book Here:
Selling To Serve

Watch the interview

Transcript

James Ashford:

And Daisy, the lady from the M&A company rang me and said, “Get ready for what’s coming next with the due diligence.” And I laughed. I’m like, “You’re joking,” I said, “we’ve done it. We’ve got everything prepared.” She says, “Get ready for what’s coming next.” So that was in May. The deal closed in at the end of September. So May, June, July, August, September, five months. The intensity of that period, I’ve never experienced anything like in my life. I woke up at 4:30 AM every day with no alarm clock for the first part. And then I started waking up at 3:30 AM with no alarm clock. In that time, over a thousand questions were asked of the business bearing in mind, we were in such incredible shape. And of those 1000 questions, some of them warranted for… And a thousand is not exaggeration. I’m not saying that as hyper, but there was over a thousand questions, some of them warranted 40 page answers.

John Warrillow:

Welcome back to another edition of Built to Sell Radio. The podcast designed to help you punch above your weight and negotiation to sell your company. My name is John Warrillow, I’ll be your host for today’s activities. The interview you’re about to hear is actually part two of a two part interview with James Ashford. If you haven’t had a chance to go back to listen to part one, I’d encourage you to start there because he talks about how he built GoProposal based on initial 4000 pound investment, up to an eight figure exit, and particularly talks about the value building process of building a company. So what he did to build his company without ruining his marriage, how he shortened sales cycles, how he actually stimulated the creativity of his employees by using systems, which maybe sounds counterintuitive, but he’ll explain it to you, how to leverage social media without making your company dependent on you.

John Warrillow:

So lots of great stuff in part one of this interview. Today, we’re going to turn the page and talk about how James went and sold his company in a spectacular eight figure exit. Before we get there though, I just want to remind you of a couple things. Number one, go to builttosell.com and you’ll find the show notes for today’s episode. So all of the links to the things James references in the show, the definitions, the M&A, lingo that we use is all housed on James Ashford’s show notes page, which you’ll find at builttosell.com. Number two, you may want to subscribe to us on YouTube. If you’re a video lover, we’re making some significant investments in the improvements of our video. So without giving away too much of the detail, head over to YouTube, type in the search box, Built To Sell Radio, I think you’ll start to enjoy what we produce there on YouTube.

John Warrillow:

All right, let’s get into part two of this interview with James Ashford. Again, the focus in this second part of the interview, is how James went and sold GoProposal. So we’ll talk about how to impress the perspective acquirer in a management presentation, one of the key steps in the process of selling your company. He’ll talk about how to create excitement about your deal, both among acquirers, but also among your team, which can often get a little bit nervous around the prospective selling your company. So your team members need to be engaged at the right time. So we’ll talk about how to do that.

John Warrillow:

How to grow your company, despite all of the energy you’re putting into selling your business. How to maximize your negotiation leverage, and ultimately punch above your weight in a negotiation to sell your company. Here to tell you how he did it, is James Ashford. Got it. That’s super helpful. What was your reaction? I know you didn’t actually say anything, but I’d be curious to know what thoughts went through your mind, when the acquirer said, “We all know how this works, what will your wife accept?” Just take me through the stream of consciousness inside James’ mind when he uttered those words to you.

James Ashford:

These are good questions, John. Really good questions. I’ve not actually thought about before. I think I knew the amount, so I knew the answer to the question, but then my ego came in as well and thought, “But what could we get?” And although that was the number that we agreed, how big could the number become? So all of a sudden now, did it matter what my wife would accept? Did it matter what I’d agreed with her all those years ago? Or is there something else at play now? So your ego starts to fire up and to start to think, “Well, is now the right time? Should we scale even more? Should we not have this conversation?” And so I think perhaps firing on lots of different things, I’ve learned since that people have said he shouldn’t never have asked that question. That was a naughty question for him to have asked in the first place. But I didn’t take it as that.

John Warrillow:

Was there any part of you that said, “Well, hang on a second, I’m my own person. I started this company, I’ll decide what I want for it in concert with my spouse, but it’s not her decision. It’s our decision collectively.” It sounded you could have taken it, and I think I would personally have taken it. I would’ve been offended by that question because it suggests that I don’t have my own opinion. My wife is actually just running my company for me. And I’m just a shadow employer. Did that go through your mind at all?

James Ashford:

No. I tend not to take offense at many things, to be honest.

John Warrillow:

You’re a better man than I.

James Ashford:

Probably not, probably naiver, John. I just laughed it off, I think. And I was on a webinar and I’ve got three people staring at me and I’ve never been… I’ve gone on to give them what for, because they’re trying to do a deal that I wasn’t in agreement with. So I’ve gone on with one thing, they flip the whole conversation to me and now I’m caught on the back foot. So I just, my only thought was get off this call as fast as you can and don’t give anything away because I’m now in territory that I have no idea. I thought I was winging it to that point. I was certainly going to be winging it if I’d said anything to them.

John Warrillow:

Got it. So you get three inbound inquiries, one of which got pretty serious pretty quickly, it sounds like. Where does it go from there?

James Ashford:

So this was coming up to the end of the year, December time, a lot of excitement, three companies interested in us, “Where could this go? Is now the right time? Or this dream that I had since I was young, could this be realized? Et cetera, Can I finally prove to myself, I know how to build and sell a business?” All these questions, right? And then another part of you thinking, “Should we do it? Should we keep going?” And then they all just fizzled out. They all just… One of them wasn’t the right time. One of them, they had another business they were interested in and they weren’t buying with conversations. And the other one, they were going through a round of funding themselves. And so it wasn’t… So it just all petered out. And so I went, I think I found out in early January. So I was licking my wounds in January.

John Warrillow:

And what did that do to your motivation and your confidence?

James Ashford:

I think it boosted it. I think it was very flattering to think that maybe we’re here in the right ballparks so lots of thoughts going on in my head. And then I saw another company in the space that was similar ish size to us [inaudible 00:07:51] They’d been going a little bit longer than us, sell. And I thought, “Wow, they’ve just sold.” And then it made me think, “Maybe we could sell. Maybe now is the right.”

John Warrillow:

What did they sell for, did you get a sense of [inaudible 00:08:04] revenue?

James Ashford:

I never got to know. No, but I knew it was good, and I felt it was a healthy amount. I didn’t know what though. And so I just had a word with myself and I don’t know where this analogy came from, John, but I thought it was like, we don’t have problems here, but it’s like a girl has looked at you and maybe given you a suggestion that she would go to the prom with you, but it’s not coming to anything. I thought, “You know what? Let’s just get our best suit on. Let’s do our hair. Let’s get dressed up and let’s go and ask the girl to the prom. We are here. Let’s just go and do it. And you know what? If now is not the right time. We’ll learn a hell of a lot through the process. And we’ll just crack on again in a couple of years time and try again, but let’s go for it.”

James Ashford:

So I found the M&A company that had done the deal on the other business. And I said, “Do you think you could do something with us?” And they immediately said, “Send me over three years of monthly management accounts. Let’s see what’s going on.” Had a look, and they were like, “Yeah, we think… ” “So, can you get me over the five million goal that we’re going for?” “Yeah, we can get you over that.” So I’m like, “Let’s go for it.”

John Warrillow:

What did the M&A company ask for? You mentioned they wanted to see revenue. What else, what other numbers were important to them?

James Ashford:

So they wanted to know what our… And we’ve been thankfully tracking all of the numbers, they wanted to know what our churn was? They wanted to know-

John Warrillow:

What was your churn at the time?

James Ashford:

That’s a good one. I think it was around bubbling around one and a half, 2% a month, which we thought was good. We learned it could be better, but one and a half, 2% a month. Yeah. We had a really high… Our marketing, we had such an automated marketing system with two years worth of nurturing emails. It was just a machine, so we just bring people in. It was a fully digitized journey. We had no sales people, John. We didn’t have one salesperson in the company.

John Warrillow:

How much did you charge for the product?

James Ashford:

120 quid a month, 120 pounds a month.

John Warrillow:

Got it. SaaS model.

James Ashford:

Yeah. When we got to one and half million pound revenue, we had 12 members of staff. They were very efficient team. We were profitable. We had money in the bank. Good churn. Our conversion rate from someone signing up, am I forgetting these numbers now, but it was like 30 to 40% conversion rate. And that was… They didn’t have to put the car details in and we would convert them. And I think the industry sounds like 5% or something-

John Warrillow:

[inaudible 00:10:43] so let me be clear. So 30% of people who take a free trial ended up converting into a paid customer.

James Ashford:

Correct, yeah.

John Warrillow:

Wow.

James Ashford:

Yeah-

John Warrillow:

So that enabled your M&A guy and your company to basically run some spreadsheets and say, “Well, if we stick this number of people in the top of the funnel, it’s going to generate a big [inaudible 00:11:02].”

James Ashford:

There you go. There you go. And our net promoter score was like 81, I think, world class. Just creating incredible experiences was the whole thing. So all of the numbers look good and healthy and we had all of the data immediately. I think, one thing that I think helped with that, when I look back on it, was when someone requests the information, how fast you can give it to them. So, “Can we have access to the M&A reports for the last three years?” “Yep,” within five minutes, “there’s the link. What else do you want?” Just because we were connected to the accounting firm, because it was in the accounting industry. And because of my pain that I’d experienced before, we invested so heavily into the finance function of GoProposal, 3% of our revenue was invested back into the finance function of that company. I have my handwriting [inaudible 00:11:54]

John Warrillow:

This is such an important point for our listeners to hear, because in particular, the speed with which you get back to potential acquirers just bolsters their confidence. Equally, if you are dragging your feet, it takes you a week to respond to a simple data request, it can really, really shake the foundation of the deal, so this is great. This is great stuff. So you hire this M&A firm and what happens next?

James Ashford:

So that, we hired them in the February, and then the first thing they did was… And they were just really good. And they got us into shape effectively, like financially into shape. And they wanted a narrative for everything that had happened since day dot. So if there were any anomalies in the numbers from day dot, sticking points where the revenue hadn’t grown or where things had dipped, whatever, they wanted to understand the narrative behind that. And we had to be able to supply that again, fairly promptly. And Whilst we were in very good shape financially and with our numbers that we had there and with the data that we had, what they explained was, “Yeah but we are preparing you to be bought by a PLC, a Fortune 100 company.”

John Warrillow:

Explain PLC for folks who don’t know [inaudible 00:13:07]

James Ashford:

I think it’s a public limited company. Yeah.

John Warrillow:

Public listed.

James Ashford:

Yeah, listed company.

John Warrillow:

Yeah. So for American listeners, it would be a public company effectively, which would have disclosure, it would have all sorts of regulations around initial reporting, and just the bar to sell to a company like that is much higher than a private transaction.

James Ashford:

Yeah. So the standards we’ve got to get things to is at a whole other level. And you may have a one year, two year, three year cash flow forecast. We need a 10 year discount cash flow forecast model. I still don’t know what one of those is, but we had to have one and we have to build that out. And the other thing they said is, “Look, we’re about to unleash or if we’re able to sell, they’re going to unleash top four accountancy firms into your business that are going to ask so many questions.”

James Ashford:

And just for clarity, they set up a data room, and when we got to exclusivity, there was like a hundred people from a top four accounting firms in the business. And they were preparing us for that. So that when they come and ask the questions, it’s already answered. So between… So it was a very intense period of getting the business in shape. It was already in very good order. There were no skeletons in the cupboard, which they were very thankful for. There was nothing that we had to come up with a story for why did we have… Why did this happen? It was all logical. So that was very encouraging for them.

John Warrillow:

James, a lot of people listening to this are hearing you describe the depth of diligence and the depth of reporting that’s required and they’re getting nervous and they’re saying, “Oh, well, I could never report at that level.” And in your own admission, correct me if I’m wrong. I mean, you don’t have a… You’re not a trained accountant-

James Ashford:

Not at all.

John Warrillow:

… you can go to study… You didn’t go to the London School of Economics to get a business degree.

James Ashford:

Not at all.

John Warrillow:

How did you deal with and get the business and deal with this narrative, requests for the narrative around your dips? How did you prepare it all? Did that fall to Paul, your partner, or how did…

James Ashford:

A friend of mine told me a story once about the… I’m just going to tell you this story, then we’ll go into that, about the difference between the American table tennis team and the Chinese table tennis team and the American table tennis team would always get beat by the Chinese. And for years, they couldn’t understand why they invested in coach and in training. And eventually the American coach went to the Chinese coach and said, “Look, I know we’re fierce competitors, but can you tell me where we’re going wrong, why we just always get beat by you?” And they said, “Yeah, it’s down to one thing. You keep trying to strengthen your weaknesses. We just strengthen our strengths.” If you’ve got a weak backend, you are always going to lose on your backend against someone with a good backend, stop doing it, just focus on your strengths.

James Ashford:

And I became early on within GoProposal, focused on what my strengths were. I brought Paul in to help with the financial rigor that was required from day one. And he kept me to account and to those numbers, I would glaze over in management meetings and things. I knew they were important. I knew we had to do them and he kept the level of diligence that was required. And we made sure we were investing, like I said, the right levels that our accounts were reconciled on a weekly basis. That my team were reporting all of these numbers. John, every single week, so different team members would be responsible for reporting on all the sub metrics beneath those higher metrics as to what was feeding those numbers. They were accountable for those. So I empowered other people to do that.

James Ashford:

And I was aware of the direction of the business on what we needed to do to strategically steer it. If you’re not in that position now, if you don’t have a set of management accounts in reality, it’s going to take you three years to get them in shape. Now, that might seem like a long time, but it’s better than never, and you need to get started with it now, invest, invest in that finance function, is all I could really encourage. Now, we are talking about the worst case scenario here for [inaudible 00:17:15] small company. And because we’d never taken investment, if we had taken investment, that would’ve forced that diligence to have been done earlier on to have got the investment, because we’d never done that. We’d never been through that process. And so, yeah I think I’ve lost my train of thought there, John.

John Warrillow:

No, I think you’re… I mean, I think that the essence of what you’re saying is invest in finance. You have certain strengths and you know what those are, they’re not finance. So you brought in Paul as an investor and he brought rigor to the business on those measures. And that’s super helpful. So the M&A firm basically creates the book and the story and the narrative and what happens next? They shop this. I mean, there are some specific your natural strategic acquirers, right? Obviously Intuit, Sage, Xero, Microsoft. I mean, there’s some big companies. Was it just an exercise of going to them or did you create a much longer list? Did you include private equity in that list? How did you guys-

James Ashford:

Sure. So they managed the process and they were brilliant. So they built out a list of quite potential acquirers and they-

John Warrillow:

Give me a plug. What’s the name of the firm?

James Ashford:

They’re called Shaw & Co, S H-A-W & Co based in Bristol in the UK. So we created a list of A, B’s and C’s like, who are As? Who are our dream partners in the industry? Have the money with who we could benefit from, who we like, et cetera. And then we have the B’s and then going down into C’s, which is more of private equity and whereby… I love serving the industry, the accounting industry. I wanted to bring about change in the accounting industry, not just for the accountants benefit, but I want to help them. I wanted to help them and still do to get their, the businesses that they serve to invest more in the finance function. Right? So I didn’t just care about the accountants.

James Ashford:

I care about their clients as well. So we were looking for acquirers that could really help us to scale this and help us to continue with that impact. We’ve done a good work. We’ve done good work. We had huge fans in the space. So this wasn’t just, I say a case. It wasn’t just a case of cashing out because it absolutely wasn’t. We wanted to find the right acquirer as well. So we broke it down into A, B’s and C’s, we produced them an IM, which is an information memorandum, which is effectively a brochure, sales brochure of the business outline and it doesn’t identify us by name, but anyone in the space would be able to guess who we are very easily. And then that was put out to these businesses. And then off the back of that, it was then who wanted a management presentation from us. And so-

John Warrillow:

Got it, James, I think people get who would be on your A list. Again, those would be strategic acquirers Intuit, Sage, whatever. C, I mean, there’s an entire ocean of private equity companies and many of which would focus on software businesses, so I get a sense of who those players might be. Who is in the B bucket?

James Ashford:

I think it was more peripheral companies that could have an interest, let’s say for a project management tool, like an Asana or something like that, perhaps that has an interest in businesses, that it could connect to them in some way. So it was much more broader. They may serve the accounting space, but they’re also serving other customers as well. So the A’s were very intentionally focused on our specific industry. And then as we moved into the B’s, still software companies, I would say, but a broader client base.

John Warrillow:

Got it, got it.

James Ashford:

So they may have a vested interest of wanting to get into the accounting industry, potentially, you see.

John Warrillow:

As a gateway into it. Got it. So, James, how many companies on the long list got the IM. Do you recall it proper.

James Ashford:

I don’t recall. I would say probably 20 or so. They maybe got a list of 20 to start with, and then maybe 10, 12 of those got the IM something like that.

John Warrillow:

Got it. So 10 signed a confidentiality agreement and got the confidential information memorandum. Of the 10, how many requested management presentations?

James Ashford:

Six.

John Warrillow:

Six management presentations. What were they like?

James Ashford:

So it was in COVID. So, were they all done online? Some were overseas, some were done online but they were done in-person as well, sorry. Now we’ve got, it was what I wanted to do here with the management presentations is to start showing because this was a fear of ours, and we knew it would be a fear of theirs that how dependent is the business on me because of my outward projection of the business. So the management presentations, other than me just making a brief introduction were deliberately delivered by Heather to prove that operationally, this business is not dependent on me. And it really wasn’t. I would be involved in annual planning sessions and quarterly planning sessions and brought in as I was needed, but I was actually a… I would hold business… I hold the business back because I would… What’s the phrase they called me? An accidental diminisher. I would accidentally diminish the team if I was involved in meetings, because I’d be quick to come with answers and step in and new ideas and all this stuff. Right?

James Ashford:

So they actively, I wasn’t involved in the business. Heather drove those management presentations. They were very daunting, I guess, to start, but we’ve done lots of presentations. And I knew that the structure of them was solid. I know how to construct a presentation. I know how to construct an argument. I know how to present it and sell a good vision of the future. When we did it to one company, and this was very intimidating, there was like 20 members of staff, board members there, senior board members, CEO, everybody was there. At the end of it, the main guy said, “That is how management presentations are done. You have just set the new standard for a management presentation.”

John Warrillow:

Why, what did she do that was so impressive?

James Ashford:

It was just a very thorough argument as to how we’d got to where we had. It was very, very rich. It was something very different that these software companies weren’t thinking about in terms of the education, we had a completely digital digitized sales journey. So we weren’t just selling the software, we were selling our digitized journey as well, that these software companies that are reliant upon assisted sales journeys, they could see the benefit in all these stuff. None of these software companies had the concept of a book, but they now understood the importance of education.

James Ashford:

And so there was so… We have such a rich product, I think, and a rich offering, John, in the first place. They could see the passion, they could see everything that we’ve talked about, the playbooks that we have in place, how everything’s fully systemized and documented, how we’re able to achieve net promoter scores, that not one of the companies that we presented to could get close to. Our staff retention rate is enviable. So, and obviously these bigger companies have much more pressures than us. We are able to operate in a little incubator, but we had many things that were strong and it was just water tight, John, we didn’t have to make anything up. Our numbers were what they were. We could report on them with great confidence and everything was solid, I think really.

John Warrillow:

Fantastic. So you had these management presentations of which they were six, Heather nails them, it sounds like. What happens next?

James Ashford:

So in one of the management presentations, was something that happened that I didn’t pick up on during the meeting. So we came out, so Heather is a young female. She’s an absolute, she reads books on stoicism for fun. You just would… She’s just a monster, right? Just brilliant, just such empathy and really understands how to nurture the team. Brilliant leader of GoProposal. We came out of one of the management presentations and said, “How do you think that went?” I said, “It was great.” But I gave all the feedback, she said, “Well, I didn’t think so.” And I said, “Why?” She said, “Well, because every time you ask the question… ” Sorry, every time she asked the question, they answered me. So she is a female in an all male meeting effectively, with maybe an odd female in there. She was asking these questions and they were just bypassing her with the answers. And she said-

John Warrillow:

I want to make sure I’m clear on what happens. So Heather in the management meeting would ask a question of a potential acquirer.

James Ashford:

Yes.

John Warrillow:

The potential acquirer would answer it. But instead of looking at Heather, they looked at you.

James Ashford:

Yes. Correct.

John Warrillow:

Got it. Thanks. That’s helpful.

James Ashford:

And Heather’s key thing was that if this is how they’re talking to me, how will they talk to the team if they acquired us? Now we have brought the entire team on the journey up until this point, the team know we’re going into these conversations. They don’t know who we’re talking to, but they know we’re going to these meetings. And every… And this is very unusual, and they found this unusual like, “Why are you telling the team?” I’m like, “Well, because we are very transparent. They know the journey we’re going on. They know why we’re doing this. They know how they’re going to benefit.” Right? Before we went into the management presentations, we consulted with our team. We said to them, “This is what’s the next stage of the process. Do any of you have any concerns? Are there any questions that you would like us to be asking during these meetings? So you have a voice.”

John Warrillow:

So what did they know? What did they assume they would get out of the sale? What was in it for the 12 employees minus Heather that…

James Ashford:

Well, we paid an okay salary, but we weren’t at the top-end of the market. So they know that they would be getting a more competitive wage, for sure. There’s greater security that are… We were very solid and we have money in the bank and everything else, but as a small business, there’s all vulnerabilities attached to you. Things that come up that you don’t expect, so far greater securities that would come with a larger business and more benefits as well, that they can offer that we can’t necessarily offer.

James Ashford:

But also it’s about, to my mind, because we were achieving such great things in terms of our metrics, in terms of our retention rate, our client, our net promoter score, like to say to Jack, who is the head of client success, “Jack, all of a sudden, you become a very valuable person in the world when you’ve been able to help to scale a SaaS business from, ” because he was with us from the first few months, “from here to here and to successfully sell the business. All of a sudden you’ll become a more valuable person in the new world that we’re going into. And if that world didn’t serve you, your services, to be able to go to any SaaS business and say, ‘I can help you to scale, I can help you to get these numbers and I can help you to exit.’ You become a very valuable person in the world.” So what they all got was a story. That was all, the only thing I ever told them. I never made a promise beyond that.

John Warrillow:

Got it. That’s super helpful. So Heather’s says, “Look, I didn’t love that meeting. I’d ask a question, instead of answering me, they gestured towards you.” Where does it go from there? I assume that one acquirer was not Heather’s choice.

James Ashford:

Not the choice, but that got fed back to them. And we got to have another conversation and we got to help to calm everything down and to balance it all. But we were in a strong-

John Warrillow:

How did you get back to the acquirer that, that was [inaudible 00:29:06]

James Ashford:

Through the M&A company. Through the M&A. Yeah and because we weren’t desperate to sell, we didn’t need to sell, we didn’t… People use all these phrases, we didn’t have a burning runway or whatever people call these things. We have money, we have ideas, great team, great client base, growing at a really healthy rate. It was just because it was the right time for everybody. One of the other reasons I also knew it was the right time was because my team, the likes of Jack were asking me questions and I no longer had the answers. I was having to say, “Look, you’re going to have to go and find someone in this role in this company and ask them, we’re beyond anything that I know anymore.” So I knew that we were getting to… And I had start to build mentorship around my team from external sources, all the senior team, external mentors. But I knew that we were getting to a point where ideally we needed a brotherly arm around us to help us, you see.

John Warrillow:

What was the treatment of your book in the offering? You were going to the market for sale effectively in the [inaudible 00:30:17] or you’d had these six meetings with management presentations. Was it at this point you had said that you would be prepared to sell the copyright to the book along with the company, or was that something somebody specifically asked for?

James Ashford:

No, it was always in my mind to sell all of this lock, stock, that’s why-

John Warrillow:

And James, were you ever squeamish about selling something so personal as a book? All of a sudden, I mean, that’s part of you, right? That’s, you own the copyright, it’s you who’ve written it, it’s your opinion and all of a sudden you are effectively selling it to a third party who may bastardize it, make it say, they then own it and can do whatever they want with it. Did you ever contemplate how comfortable you were with that?

James Ashford:

No. It was a very… I always had that, I think a healthy distance from things. These were tools. These are devices. If you see my LinkedIn profile, John, we’re very active on LinkedIn, it’s not me posting on LinkedIn. My team are using my LinkedIn profile to post. Now, if you start to watch my LinkedIn profile, you’ll spot the ones that are me, because they’ll be much more personal, but anything that’s related more to sales of… There’ll be one going out soon.

James Ashford:

I went to an accounting firm a couple of weeks ago. I went and helped them free, just gave a session to their team. That got filmed. They’ll get posted in a week or two on LinkedIn. Right? So everything was up for grabs. These are all tools to drive the growth of the business. My LinkedIn profile for the duration that I’m with the acquirer, the Instagram profile, everything, the book, all the content. And it was from, again, it was all designed that way from the start. So I very much, as I was writing it, I knew what I was creating and what I’ll be handing over. This book is the number one best selling book for practice management for accountants in the world.

John Warrillow:

Wow. That’s incredible.

James Ashford:

And that’s, again, just giving everything away, sharing everything that we possibly… All of the learnings have gone into that to genuinely try and make a difference in people’s lives. You can’t go into this 99% and thinking, but it only really makes a difference if you then buy my product. It’s all in. Firms don’t… We’ve had firms sign up for GoProposal and they’ve messaged me personally because they’ve left us, for whatever reason, it’s not right or whatever, and said, “James, I’m really sorry. It’s just not right. We’re going to go with the competitor.” I’m like, “Dude, I don’t give a shit. I’m just trying to help you and what’s right for you.” When people used to come to us, events and things, and they’d say, “Right, why should we use your product over your competitor?”

James Ashford:

My response and the response from my team is, “Maybe you shouldn’t. I don’t know, what’s going on. Let me help you out.” If you’re just in the genuine service of others, if you’re just… So people would leave and I’d be like, “Look, I like you. I want you to do well. Let’s keep in conversation. Let’s keep in touch.” So the there’s an accountant, he posted, I did post today and said, “My new book’s coming out.” And he messaged and said, “Can’t wait to get it. I’m going to get my entire team to use it. They love your last book.” I’m like, “Cool. Once they’ve all read it as a book club, I’ll come and join you on the last session.” I know he uses our competitor’s product and I couldn’t care less, couldn’t care less.

John Warrillow:

That’s incredible.

James Ashford:

I’m able to help him.

John Warrillow:

Let’s get back to the acquisition.

James Ashford:

Sorry.

John Warrillow:

So you had six management presentations, what happens next?

James Ashford:

So they then contacted afterwards and said, “Who wants to make an offer?” Three of them didn’t want to make an offer. They were very complimentary. They knew… Some of them knew where they’d have to be ballpark wise and they knew they weren’t going to get there. One of them was the investment company.

John Warrillow:

How did they know that?

James Ashford:

Because my M&A company are very good and they explained where it would need to be for them to be.

John Warrillow:

Was the M&A company still using your four times revenue number?

James Ashford:

No.

John Warrillow:

How did they go from originally when you did these conservative [inaudible 00:34:36] you’re like, “Oh, if we can get four times.” At what point did you start to say it needed to be more? Did the M&A firm say, “You’re really shooting low here.” Did you evolve over time? How did it go from four to something more.

James Ashford:

So that was just our conservative thinking… naive and conservative thinking from a long time ago. So once we started to get closer to this and started to work with the M&A company, we started to understand where this could actually be, what the mark-

John Warrillow:

How did you come to understand that? Because the reason I’m asking this, James is, I think a lot of people listening would be curious to know how do they find out what is market for a business like theirs? Did the M&A firm say, “James, I think we can get X for the business.” Or did you see in a conference someone got more than four time? How did that come about?

James Ashford:

So they went and did their discount cash flow forecasting model. They know the space, they know the industry, they know what they’ve sold other businesses for and what they’ve helped other businesses to achieve. And then they… I don’t know what their other sources… Now I do know what the other sources are actually. There was something that it was some report or some magical report. I feel [inaudible 00:35:57] somewhere. I can’t remember what it is, but I know the informed part of their decision. And-

John Warrillow:

What did the report says was realistic or possible?

James Ashford:

I can’t remember. I can’t remember, but they came up with three numbers and I can’t reveal them because one of them was actually very close to the number we got. So in terms of the numbers they shared with me, there was this level here and then there were two crazy bigger numbers, but it was that the number that we were going for was very close to what we actually got. So they-

John Warrillow:

So there was, and I know we can’t reveal that because it’s under NDA and so forth. So the M&A firm, if I’m understanding, came back and said, “James, I think it’s somewhere [inaudible 00:36:39] I think we can get X. Maybe we can get X plus X [inaudible 00:36:46] and then into if we hit it right out of the park, then we could get this third, potentially this third number.” Which of the three did they get, the first, the second or the third?

James Ashford:

It was the first one. The other two were pie in the sky. And they were based on features that we were going to be developing in the future. And if they were to consider those features, then-

John Warrillow:

Got it.

James Ashford:

… there was a massive [inaudible 00:37:08].

John Warrillow:

And what was your reaction to the number they thought they could get for?

James Ashford:

Oh brilliant. We hit and more everything we wanted to do, we were going to do what we came here to do.

John Warrillow:

Got it, got it. So you get three offers.

James Ashford:

The third one wanted to wait a year. They wanted to come back to us within a year, because they just didn’t know us well enough. They wanted to monitor us. And that wasn’t what we were going to do. So we went to the other two and we said, “Right, we need an offer.” And we did an offer by 5:00 PM on this Friday. So me and my wife had planned to go out for a meal that night and stay away for the night as well. So we were going to either celebrate or commiserate depending on what these offers were. Right? So it was 5:00 PM, I’m pacing around the garden outside waiting for these offers to come in and nothing came in. There were no offers got for the deadline. So now I’m like, “Are they going to come in?” So I’m like call M&A, “What’s going on?”

James Ashford:

They’re like, “Well, sometimes it’s happen. Sometimes they play games. Sometimes they just got more meetings that some of them are overseas meetings and stuff, so don’t stress. It’s cool.” “Okay. Okay. No worries. No worries.” So I went out for the meal, checking my phone like two minute intervals. Checking it, right. And then I got a message saying, “Got the first offering.” I’m like, [inaudible 00:38:25] And looked am I like, “Wow.” It’s a lot more than we had set out to do. Very encouraging, it was great. We had a nice time, but there was still no second offer. And we wanted to get-

John Warrillow:

What was Becky’s reaction to the first offer.

James Ashford:

Well see, she’s a nurse. She’s a trained nurse, worked for a large institution. So this is all just completely magical and mythical and just not real, none of this makes any sense, so crazy and excited and proud and all these things. Right? So we had the meal, stayed out the night, because that was the Friday, came back on a Saturday, checked my phone, nothing in from the other company, went to bed on Sunday night, woke up on Sunday morning with a text message saying, “You need to check your email.” Check my email and there was another offering from this company that was quite a bit more than the offer from the other company. And I was like-

John Warrillow:

On a percentage basis, how much more?

James Ashford:

[inaudible 00:39:26] math now. 30%, 40%. 40% more.

John Warrillow:

Wow.

James Ashford:

So it was like, this is it. This is amazing, great company as well. Great values. This company, we really got a sense of their culture. Heather had loved them. A great male to female ratio in the company. This is Sage we’re talking about. Great company and we just felt very much aligned with them and that they made a great offer and it just felt real. It felt this could be it but obviously there’s still a long way to go. We went back to the other company and said, “You need to increase your offer.” They increased their offer and we then set a deadline of, we’re going to have final offers in by a date. I think it was, whenever it was going to be, but by Tuesday at 9:00 PM or whatever it was. Right? Sorry, I missed a step out.

James Ashford:

They gave us the offers. They gave us offers. They then got to… Once we got the offers, they got another week of digging into more information. So they got to go into a much deeper level now. So they got access to more information and then they had another, then I think there was another week where they had to then firm up their offer, firm and finalize their offer. And then we got the offers in and one of the other one said, they made a bigger offer. They made a higher offer, but they said only if you… So we set a deadline of Tuesday at 5:00 PM, whatever it was, they came in on the Monday and said, “We’re going to a bigger offer, but you have to accept by dinner time today or it’s off the table.” And we said-

John Warrillow:

How much bigger was it than the Sage [inaudible 00:41:18]

James Ashford:

No, it wasn’t much bigger, but it was bigger, it was a bigger offer. And we said, “We’re not going to change our process.” And then this is really important, the M&A company kept us solid, kept us true and said, “We can’t have people dictating. We have a process. We can’t have people dictating to us.” And they calmed down and they actually backed off a little bit and stopped being quite as aggressive. And we went back to our process and they stuck to that.

John Warrillow:

How did Sage structure the deal? Most of these types of arrangements for early stage would have a payment upfront and then an earn-out component where you’d make certain goals in the future and you’d get additional. How did you guys get structured, that sort of thing?

James Ashford:

Yes, I can’t go into too much detail, John, but just safe to say there was a chunk paid up front, a good amount paid up front, and then two much smaller amounts as deferred payments. So they weren’t contingent. They were just… They’re not contingent on any goals. They’re deferred and reliant upon me remaining employed by Sage.

John Warrillow:

Got it. Okay, so they’re strictly tied to your tenure as an employee, as opposed to a certain target, a sales target or whatever.

James Ashford:

Yeah. And I can’t go into details on this other part as well, but it was the most beautiful part of the deal that just made me realize what a great company this was and what great values they had, which was, there was an element of the deal that looked after the staff with a retention bonus for the team as well. So I can’t go into details about that, but safe to say, they were deeply… Excuse me, deeply considered and looked after and their salaries increased. And out of the entire process, and I’m included in this, when the money hit my bank, as part of the process, out of the entire process, sitting with the team one after another, and being able to tell them what their new salary was, what their bonus was going to be, et cetera, was the most, since… I’ve got chills just saying it, John, it was the most thrilling and rewarding part of the entire process.

James Ashford:

Like I say, more so when the digits hit my bank account, genuinely, it meant the biggest difference. These people that had backed me and believed me on the journey, for them to be rewarded, was brilliant. And one of them had just had a child. One of them was about to get married. You’ve been with them on these key life events. And to know that as part of the decision that you’ve made, their lives are going to be firmer and stronger, and they’re going to be able to achieve more things in their lives now as well, was wonderful.

John Warrillow:

Can you describe the moment you told Becky that it was real? Up until this point, it’s all just theoretical and it’s all an offer, but they could take it away. You’ve got due diligence, they could take it away. But can you describe the moment that you told her that in fact it was actually real, that it wasn’t going to be taken away?

James Ashford:

Well, that was only when it had actually happened and the money hit, John. So I was very clear, you have… Just to explain just a bit. I’m not avoiding your question. I will answer your question, but just to explain a bit before that. So we granted exclusivity to them and it had been a hectic, stressful, intense period up until that. And Daisy, the lady from the M&A company, he rang me and said, “Get ready for what’s coming next with the due diligence.” And I laughed. I’m like, “You’re joking,” I said, “we’ve done it. We’ve got everything prepared.” She says, “Get ready for what’s coming next.” So that was in May. The deal closed in at the end of September. So May, June, July, August, September, five months. The intensity of that period, I’ve never experienced anything like in my life, I woke up at 4:30 AM every day with no alarm clock for the first part.

James Ashford:

And then I started waking up at 3:30 AM with no alarm clock. In that time, over a thousand questions were asked of the business, bearing in mind, we were in such incredible shape and of those 1000 questions, some of them warranted for… And a thousand is not exaggeration. I’m not saying that as hyper, but there was over a thousand questions. Some of them warranted 40 page answers. The intensity was crazy. And the beauty, the only thing, the saving grace in this, because the team knew of the journey that we were going on, I was able to bring the team on board and they were able to get involved with things. And I had on my whiteboard here in my office, these, I think they’re about six milestones with dates next to them. And these were all hurdles I knew we had to get over before we got to the end.

James Ashford:

And every single one of these hurdles is either at this hurdle here, it all ends, or it’s allowed to continue to the next hurdle. And it only completes when that last hurdle is hit and you hit refresh on your bank and the money is there. I was very mindful of that. So I have never been through a period like it in my life. And bearing in mind, the business has to continue running throughout this process. Not just continue running, continue growing. I am completely removed from the business. Heather, the OPs director can only spend 50% of the time on the business so that everything that we put into the foundations up onto that point kept it growing. We closed in at September. They wanted to see the sales figures from August to make sure they were still going up. Right? So all of this stuff was in place.

James Ashford:

It was crazy. And one of the milestones I want to tell you about was, it was the most unknown element to me, and it was the security of the app and the quality of the coding. It was two reviews that had to be done on this milestone. I knew what the finances were. I knew what the team was like. I knew the… I knew everything else. Right? I just didn’t know how good the coding was. I trusted my developers. I didn’t know. I knew how secure the site was because we had integrations with Intuit and various things, and we had to achieve certain standard, but I didn’t fully know. And they bring in external companies whose job is to find everything that’s wrong, right? So we’ve got this report and to coin a phrase, they ripped us a new one.

James Ashford:

They just go to town, because that’s what they’re paid to do. They’re paid to find everything that’s wrong. So they told us everything that was wrong with the code, everything that was wrong with the security, there’s an amber light system, red, amber, green. You got the report and then we went into a meeting the following week, right? To go and to actually now have it presented to us, but I had a trick up my sleeve. So I played my trick, not told them. And we went into the meeting and we sat in the meeting. And for an hour I had to listen to these two companies in front of all of Sage, everyone who’s making this decision, tell us everything that was wrong, the vulnerabilities, the failings in the coding.

James Ashford:

And I go up at the end of the process and I just said to him, “Thank you so much for everything you have shared with us here, whether this deal goes ahead or not, you have just pointed out all the ways that we can now strengthen our product. I’m so grateful for your expertise. And I thank you for it, first and foremost.” Right? There’s no point in being defensive. Yeah. And do you know what? One of the feedbacks that we got was our response to it was so important, more so than any issues they came up with. It’s the fact that we were demonstrating that we could work with them. They could work with us, that we were open to change, that we could be challenged. Right?

James Ashford:

But what they weren’t expecting was my next line, which was, “Thank you so much for all that. And by the way, we’ve fixed everything.” And they said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, you gave us the report last week, my devs have sorted it with the exception of these two or three minor things here which we need to talk to you about, we’ve fixed everything else.” And they said, “Well, how have you fixed this one?” And I had my dev on the call. He said, “Well, we’ve done this and this.” “Yeah. Yeah, that works.” “And how about this one?” “Boy, I’ve done this.” “Yeah. That’s a really smart solution. Wow.” And so went through it and then at the end of it said, “Well, do you know what?” He said, “No one would ever get full marks in this. And it’s actually not that bad really what you’ve got. And the fact that you’ve responded in this way is amazing.” And so I just gave us the best chance I possibly could, of smashing down these hurdles.

John Warrillow:

Amazing, amazing, and great response to what is oftentimes a very delicate process of diligence and being scrutinized in that way. Back to my question, so it’s September the deal closes, how did you tell Becky?

James Ashford:

So it was the most… After the intensity of it all and on the final day I woke up at 2:30 AM. I just wanted-

John Warrillow:

It’s going backwards, James, 4:30, 3:30, now you have a 2:30.

James Ashford:

I’m telling you. I’m telling you. And it was really intense because what we did was because we had such a strong following, we’d produced… I’m still not avoiding your question. We’d produced-

John Warrillow:

You are, I’m starting to wonder.

James Ashford:

We’d produced a launch video of how we were going to announce this to the market. So we developed an announcement strategy. It was really beautiful. And we were filming right up until that day was… Even on the closing deal day, we were still filming and getting people’s footage and stuff. So it was very, very intense. And then all this crazy period, it was meant to close, I think at 5:00 PM on that Friday and they pushed it back and said, “No, it needs to be till 6:00 PM.” I’m like, “Jesus.” And then, “No, no, it’s going to be 7:00 PM.” And we’re like, “Oh, please just get this done. Is it ever going to happen? Are they going to find something.” Still at this stage. Right?

James Ashford:

And then we all jump on a call, all of that Sage team, my M&A team, their legal team, the top four accounting firms that were brought in, everyone sits there and says, “Right, because everything’s been signed at this point. You’ve signed all the… We’ve got all the signature in. Is everyone happy with that? Everyone happy with the signatures? Yeah. Well, that’s that then. That’s the deal done.” And it was the most uneventful anti-climatic moment. And I put the lid down and I went to Becky who was my childhood sweetheart, like [inaudible 00:52:04] in school. And then we got to go out with each other in later life.

James Ashford:

I was living in London at the time, actually, John, it’s a nice story. And she invited me and I was living there. We were just friends and she says, “James, will you please move back home to Doncaster.” And I said, “[inaudible 00:52:18] I’d only move back if you’d married me.” She says, “You’re the only person I’d ever marry.” So I came back and we got married before we even started going out with each… We agreed to marry before we started going out with each other. So very, very close. And I went and hugged and my kids knew what was going on as well. So we all hugged and I cracked open the bottle of champagne in the garden, sprayed it over everyone. And that was that.

John Warrillow:

Amazing. Amazing. Are you up for a quick lightning round before I let you go?

James Ashford:

Yeah man, hit me.

John Warrillow:

Couple quick questions. All right. I’m going to ask… I’ll only ask you for a short answer. I won’t follow up but I’ll just be curious to know as the last final parting shots here.

James Ashford:

Let me get some more water just in case I run out. One second.

John Warrillow:

More water is fine. Go hydrate. Hydrate.

James Ashford:

Right. So the third bottle, John, we’re doing good. We’re doing good. Right? I’ll do fast if I can. Fast answers, hit me.

John Warrillow:

The slimiest trick, a perspective acquirer try to pull over on you.

James Ashford:

There wasn’t one. I’ve heard all these horror stories before of what they might do and what they might not do. There was none of that. Everyone was very respectful.

John Warrillow:

Awesome. Biggest mistake you made in the selling process.

James Ashford:

Biggest mistake we made.

John Warrillow:

Another way to ask this question is what do you wish you had known before you started the process?

James Ashford:

Do you know, I think we were led very expertly with the M&A company. I’m so grateful that we brought them on board. They really upgraded the business on the journey. So I don’t think particularly we made any mistake. I’m trying to think personally, we went and viewed a house that was a few million pounds house with the swimming pool and various things. And I think that might have been a mistake because you then are starting to dream, it feels a little bit more real once you’ve literally dipped your toe in the water. One thing I got right is I kept my group of friends very tight. I only told people very close to me and just blocked out everything else and kept my [inaudible 00:54:24] around me very, very tight.

John Warrillow:

Lowest emotional point you reached during the selling process.

James Ashford:

I’ve probably not got many bleak answers for you here. It was… Oh, I’ve got it. I’ve got it. We were going away. The family were on the drive in the car, ready to go away. I think we were going away for the weekend. They were packed. I’d answered, I’d had 40 questions in from the law firm and we’d… And one of those questions, what was one of the 40 page answers once it was very intense. I had all of my team done and I was literally standing up from this computer here, the kids are there in the car saying, “Come on, come on.” I say, “I’m coming. I’m coming.” So I sent that email off with all of the answers in a massive spreadsheet with all of the answers, “I’m coming now.” And I made a mistake. I pressed refresh on my inbox and I saw an email come in that says, “We need these answers.”

James Ashford:

And the next one come in, they said, “And we need these.” And I opened them up and I scrolled through the sheet and I saw over a hundred questions and I just literally screamed out, “No.” And I just sat with my head in my hands. And I went out, I said, “I cannot believe how many questions that [inaudible 00:55:38] asking. I cannot believe I’ve never experienced anything like it.” And my son who is 11 years old, 10 at the time, and I’d confided in certain details of the deal, he said, “But the thing is daddy, they are wanting to pay you a lot of money for this. So why don’t you just answer the questions?” And I said, “Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough.”

John Warrillow:

Sage wisdom from an 11 year old, I love it. You’ve been very generous mentioning Built To Sell and so I’m grateful for that. But what other resources did you turn to for educating yourself about the exit process? Was there a conference you went to, or a course you took, or another book you read? What did you find helpful?

James Ashford:

Tony Robbins Business Mastery course, I found very helpful. And that gave me some really good foundational understandings from the start. E-Myth Revisited is a very good book and I’ve always held that and your book in similar framing. It is talking about building a franchise, remodel of a business built a sell. And I’m not just saying this because I’m on a call with you, but I found that yours was much more practical and applicable. And I agreed with it whereas there’s parts of E-Myth that I don’t necessarily agree with, but I found that to be useful. I love Daniel Priestley stuff. And it is helping to understand business models.

John Warrillow:

Key Person of Influence. We’ll put [inaudible 00:57:05]

James Ashford:

Key Person of Influence. But there’s another book which is here, which is called 24 Assets, which he talks about how do you build assets in your business, IP assets and various things. And we’ve done that from the start. So all of the digital assets, the playbooks, we’d protected everything that we could protect. And one of the things with software, you can’t necessarily protect patent of the software, but you can protect the processes. And one of the easiest and best ways to protect the processes, is to write a book on it. If you are a published author on that subject, you own on that. People can’t take that away from you. So yeah, that was really good. And then there’s some other books there about the culture. So Brave New Work by Aaron Dignan was a very good book around the culture.

James Ashford:

The Netflix book, which is No Rules Rules was very good around our culture as well. And then I love stuff by Steven Pressfield. I don’t know if you’ve come across this stuff, Do the Work, The War of Art and Helping You to Overcome Resistance and to Power Through. So I think they’re my main books. One other one as well, actually, she’s very interested and quite obscure, not a lot of people get onto this one is called The Starfish and the Spider, which is about creating a starfish organization versus a spider one whereby a spider organization, all of the knowledge sits in the head. And if the head gets cut off, the organism dies, whereas with a starfish, the information for how the organism lives runs through every part of it. So if you chop in half, each half grows a new half. So it’s about how do you create a starfish organization?

John Warrillow:

Love that. And we’ll put all that in the show notes. Last question, what did you do to commemorate this win? Please tell me you bought something. Did you end up buying a car, the house with the pool? Tell me the trophy you purchased to commemorate the success.

James Ashford:

Do you know what I said to my wife today? We’re the crappiest millionaires in the world, right? We’re absolutely rubbish. Let me tell you this true story, right, John, the next day I took the kids to watch the… What’s the… The new James Bond film, whatever it was, the latest James Bond film. Right? So went to the cinema and went to the [inaudible 00:59:09]. And I took them to Five Guys afterwards, bearing in mind, I have got an eight figure sum sat in my bank account at this point. I took them to Five Guys afterwards. They ordered what they wanted and they said, “Can we get a refillable drink?” I said, “You’re not having one each.” And I made them share a refillable drink. Yeah? So I think I need to catch up. I need to… I still need my brain to catch up with where I am.

James Ashford:

We’re not trained how to spend money. But I bought a cliche Rolex watch, which is a tool watch, a deep dive watch, but it’s a Sea-Dweller. And it was a 2017, which was the year that GoProposal was born. So I got this, I paid a grand extra because it had all the stickers on it, just so I could sit and peel the stickers up. I didn’t want it to be on anyone’s else’s hand. So I got that. I bought my wife a Range Rover. We helped a lot of family out. We helped a lot of family members, which was again, one of the most heartwarming and most exhilarating parts of it to be able to ring family members up and say, “We just want to send you some money over so you can get a takeaway tonight to celebrate with us.”

James Ashford:

And then, “Can you just check the monies in the bank?” “Oh yes.” “We send a hundred quid.” “oh, thank you. That’s great. Yeah, [inaudible 01:00:28] brilliant.” And then I say, “Right, just refresh again.” And they refresh again and a bigger digit has just hit and they’re sobbing on the phone. And so to be able… And these people, John, these are hard working. People who worked far harder than me in my life and I just happened to be in an industry and a sector where I’m able to do something that has generated this generational wealth. And so that was great for us. We’ve done some charitable stuff, which was cool, but we’re still in the same house. We’re six months on. I only just get around to getting the bathrooms sorted out. Do you know what? No matter how much money you’ve got, I still can’t get a tiler or a plumber. I don’t care how rich you are.

James Ashford:

So we’re still making decisions like that, but I did buy a car. So I went to the… I’d ordered a Porsche Panamera, and it was a long waiting list because this is the other thing as well, right? The house price is through the roof in the UK, you can’t get a house anywhere. And this microchip problem, there’s no cars about. So I can’t even get a car. So it’s the worst time or probably the best time to hit the cash. Right? And so I went to the car garage and I said, “Look, I want to go over the spec again.” And they said, “Well, we just have this one brought in from a Chelsea footballer. They’ve just… A premiership league player, he just brought this Panamera in.” And I’m like, “I’ll take it.” And it’s a turbo. So I went and I got that and had all the cover taken off the car. And that was a very exciting moment. Yeah.

John Warrillow:

I’d say you’re doing pretty well as a millionaire. I’m just saying, I think you’re figuring it out. Maybe a slow learner, but I think you’re figuring it out. My favorite is you’re making the one kid get the refillable cup. I think [inaudible 01:02:08].

James Ashford:

Yeah, [inaudible 01:02:08] one each, I’m not mental.

John Warrillow:

Oh man, I’ve enjoyed this conversation. I could do it again and again. James, the book, your book is called Selling to Serve.

James Ashford:

My first book is Selling to Serve and I have just launched a new… I’ve hit publish about two hours ago, but it takes Amazon just a few hours to approve. So the next book is called Untapped. And this is a piece of work I did last year with a hundred accounting firms to show them, and it’s applicable to any… Both books are applicable to any industry. If you just control left and replaced accountant with your industry, they both work. And this was a piece of work I did last year with a hundred accounting firms to prove to them that they’re sat on a diamond mind of clients. Your greatest opportunity you have now, is with a current client base that you’ve got. I’m a firm believer of that. And I show these 100 firms how to grow their revenue within 30 days. From existing clients alone, they grew their collective revenue by over a million pounds, from existing clients. And the book outlines that journey and how I switch them from being in a scarcity mode.

James Ashford:

And if I can just leave people with this thought, John, there’s so much negativity and doom and gloom in the world, on the back end of a pandemic, there’s rising fuel prices. There’s rising energy prices here in the UK. There’s so much skepticism and negativity and uncertainty, but if we can block that out and we can stop thinking in this scarcity mindset, there is great abundance as well. You are enough, you have enough, you deserve to get more and we have to fundamentally… You don’t even have to be positive, you just have to block out the negative. If you just do that, switch off the news, stop talking to those loser mates that you’ve got. And just start speaking with positivity and belief and with abundance, get around. I love what you’re doing here, John. I love the work that you do.

James Ashford:

I love the community that you’re building and the work that you do with them to create that positivity, to create that belief and to show people. And this is why I’ve loved being on this here. And thank you so much for this opportunity to show people it’s possible. As entrepreneurs, no one’s figured this out. We’re all on a journey. We’re all learning. We’re all work in progress. And if we can throw a hand up and reach a hand up and ask for help when we need it. And I have asked for it many, many times and have the courage to do that, as well as having the generosity to throw a hand back down and to grab the people behind you as well. If we can all do that, we’re all trying to do this for the right reasons. We’re all trying to make our lives a bit better, our family’s a little bit better, our communities, the world a bit of a better place because of what you are trying to do with your entrepreneurial business. And if we can all help each other to achieve that, then that’s a wonderful thing.

John Warrillow:

Well said, and I’m going to put a pin it in there. I think you did an amazing job of finishing up. So the book is called Untapped.

James Ashford:

Untapped.

John Warrillow:

Literally available, as when this goes live, it’ll be available. And if you want to get a two for grabs Selling to Serve as well, Untapped is available where you buy books. James, thanks for doing this.

James Ashford:

Thanks, John. Thank you.

John Warrillow:

Hey, I hope you enjoyed that interview with James Ashford. For all the show notes including links and resources that we referenced on the show, please head over to builttosell.com and search out James Ashford show notes page. There you’ll find everything you need to process and act on some of the things that James talked about today. While you’re there, consider nominating a guest. Our best episodes come from people like you. Our audience who nominate entrepreneurs with an interesting exit story. So just go to builttosell.com/nominate. As a reminder, we’re making some investments in our YouTube channel. So throw Built To Sell Radio into a YouTube search bar, hit subscribe. And I think you’ll enjoy the video content you’re about to get over the coming months.

John Warrillow:

James also reference creating systems in both part one and part two of his interview, if that’s something that’s of interest to you, we put together an ebook on creating standard operating procedures. It’s free. Just go to builttosell.com/SOP, for standard operating procedures, builttosell.com/SOP. Today’s show as always was produced by Colin Morgan. Special thanks to Denis Labattaglia for doing the audio and video engineering. And a great big thank you to our community of certified value builders who bring our message to you. Until next time, we’ll talk to you again.

 

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