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The Unspoken Downside of Building to Sell

When you’re building to sell, being a solo founder comes with incredible rewards. You get to hold on to all the equity—why give it away to co-founders or sell it for peanuts to early-stage investors? With 100% ownership, the whole pie is yours. 

But so is all the stress. So are all the big decisions. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely ride, and that loneliness is all too often left unspoken. 

This week’s Built to Sell Radio guest, Amman Ahmed, opened up about the loneliness factor. In 2017, he launched a company called MusicForPets to help dogs and cats alleviate anxiety—like when fireworks explode on holidays or their owners are away. By posting original music each week, Ahmed grew his YouTube channels Relax My Dog and Relax My Cat to 1.5 million hours of streaming every 28 days. That’s 1,700 years of content consumed each month. Thanks to this popularity, Ahmed grew the business to a 7-figure profit.  

But as 100% owner of the business, the weight of his responsibilities led to loneliness, and this was one of the reasons Ahmed decided to sell. When California-based hip hop label Create Music Group came knocking with an offer that exceeded the number in his head, he couldn’t say no. Listen to this week’s episode for details behind the negotiation, and learn how he was able to build so much value into his business. 

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Ahmed is part of a larger team now and has solved the loneliness problem for himself. What about you? Do you ever feel the weight of building a business alone?  

Even if you have a co-founder or an executive team, it can still be lonely at the top. There are many things you take on solo as an owner of your business, and they may impact you more than you realize. 

Here are 7 tested methods to conquer the loneliness of entrepreneurship: 

  1. Find your go-to technical experts: As a solo founder, you’re used to having to figure out all the hard stuff on your own. But guess what? You don’t need to learn the ins and outs of taxes, for example. Find a tax expert who will do that for you. Find an accountant, a lawyer, an SEO consultant, and take those essential-but-doesn’t-have-to-be-you roles off your plate. 
  2. Find a Mastermind: Surround yourself with other founders. Learn from their experiences, gain fresh perspectives on your own challenges, and hold yourself accountable to other high-performers who won’t let you off the hook. Choose an industry-agnostic group to learn from disciplines outside your own, or an industry-specific group so you can connect with experts in your field who know exactly what you’re going through. 
  3. Find a mentor: If you could spend an hour in a room with a titan in your industry, who would it be? More humbly, who has accomplished something you aspire to? These may be good mentor candidates. When you narrow down the list, be strategic in your reach out. Make it clear why they are on your radar. People are often willing to pay it forward, passing along hard-earned wisdom they wish they’d had when they started. 
  4. Find a coach: Different than a mentor, a coach won’t tell you what they’ve done. Instead, they’ll ask questions to help you find answers within yourself. Like a sports coach, they’ll pump you up and help you develop strategic plays—but you’re the one in the arena. Done well, business coaching can help you locate your blind spots and expand your perspective. 
  5. Surround yourself with other people: Not everyone you cross paths with needs to be an expert or a fellow entrepreneur. Sometimes, you just need humans. Periodically work from a coffee shop to soak up the hum of human activity; book a desk in a coworking space; enjoy a daily walk in a well-loved park. 
  6. Take up a social sport: Because you don’t have enough going on already, right? Try setting aside time each week for a non-business-related activity. This week’s guest Ahmed said he shakes off a frustrating day by playing soccer with friends. Join a sports league; sign up for a fitness class; train for a race in a group program. If athletics aren’t your thing, consider a social club, hobby, or weekly outing that will bring you joy and let you disconnect from the day. 
  7. Find a psychologist: Entrepreneurs are up to 30% more likely to develop depression compared to the general population, according to a study by Small Business Economics. Finding a trusted professional who can help you process stress, disappointment, and even the positive emotions that come with entrepreneurship could be the difference between burnout and resilience. 

For more on the topic, listen to our interview with Dr. Sherry Walling who specializes in the psychology of entrepreneurs. 

Listen to Dr. Walling’s Episode

No matter how good your coping strategies are, entrepreneurship is inevitably a lonely ride sometimes—especially when you own all the equity on your path to an eventual exit. We hope you can employ these strategies to conquer that loneliness. 

  • Built to Sell Editorial Board 

📣 Quote of the Week

“There are benefits to being a solo founder: having profits, you can move quick, you can do whatever you want with that money. But the negative is, it can become lonely. And also, all the responsibility lies on you.”

–  Amman Ahmed

📽️ Clip of the Week

In this clip, Ahmed walks us through his decision to sell, even when the option of growing his business to a greater valuation was still on the table. 

🏆 A Hatchback Trophy for the Road Ahead

Sometimes, the “spend the company’s money like it’s your own” mantra is hard to kick, even post-exit. So far, to celebrate his sale, Ahmed has only traded in his old, dented car for a small hatchback Peugeot. Hey, trophies come in all shapes and sizes—and hopefully he’ll find time for some holidays soon to continue to ring in his victory. 

🎒 Want Your Employees to Carry More of the Load

Loneliness as a business owner often stems from the feeling that everything rests on your shoulders. A truly valuable company, however, is one that can thrive even in your absence. VidGuide is the tool you need to empower your employees to carry more of the load. Sign up for a free 30-day trial today.

📈 Recent Deals

  • Three years after selling Barstool Sports to Penn for $550M, Dave Portnoy has repurchased the company for a buck. The unexpected move comes after Penn recorded a loss of ~$850M from the deal. Penn has struck an agreement with ESPN to rename Barstool Sportsbook to ESPN Bet for $1.5B and $500M in stock warrants. Portnoy will owe Penn half of any future liquidity events involving Barstool Sports.
  • Skypass Travel, Inc., a Dallas-based travel company, has been acquired by Mondee Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: MOND) for ~$15M (3.75x EBITDA), including cash and Mondee stock at $10/share, with a potential future earnout in additional stock. In 2022, Skypass reported gross revenue of $45 million with an adjusted EBITDA of $4 million, and a net revenue margin of ~60%.

If you know a founder who has successfully exited their business and has valuable insights to share, we encourage you to nominate them. 

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This Week’s Contributors

Courtney Symons, Editor-in-Chief, Colin Morgan, Executive Producer of Built to Sell Radio, John Warrillow, Host of Built to Sell Radio, Daphne Parsekian, Copy Editor, and Denis Labataglia, Audio Engineer.

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