You know the intersection between wealth and happiness is fascinating to me.
I love talking with passionate entrepreneurs about what they love to do. I also love talking to them about how they’re making their money and growing their wealth.
Business isn’t only about money, but money is always part of it.
One of my recent podcast guests talked candidly with me about making strategic decisions when faced with investment opportunities.
We don’t all share the same decision-making approach, nor should we… but it’s always valuable, I think, to peek inside how savvy entrepreneurs make important decisions.
Roxanne Tate is the owner of Tate Engineering Inc., an engineering firm that just marked its 10th anniversary, during which time it’s grown from one to 20 employees. At its core, the firm solves complex problems for building owners and operators, providing support from concept, through design, construction and operation. Tate Engineering also focuses on net zero energy and zero carbon buildings, educating clients to help them make better decisions for their bottom line.
Recently the firm expanded to add a new business and service - Air Tight Spaces with Aerobarrier, which adds an automated envelope sealing system to construction projects, allowing builders to measure and seal building envelope air leaks, improving energy efficiency. It’s a significant addition to Tate Engineering’s offering.
Choosing the right opportunity
Now I know as a business owner, we need to be able to discern between promising opportunities and shiny distractions. So I asked a few questions to assess how Roxanne assesses a business opportunity. With so many opportunities turning up, how do you choose where and when to invest? ,
“The first thing I look at is whether it's aligned with our strategy as a business. Is it related to buildings? Is it related to high performance buildings, construction and improving that whole process for our clients? That's the first step: alignment.”
That’s so important! You can always spot the business that doesn’t know what it wants to be, that starts offering products or services farther and farther away from its core business. Those tangents always end up diluting a company’s focus, the message, brand and ultimately, performance.
Also important (but not more important) is the financial opportunity. I was curious about Roxanne’s expectation for returns.
“I would be looking for a certain return in a certain period of time. And I evaluate every opportunity differently because I know each has a different potential to create revenue. So I don't have a fixed ‘this is my number I need to pay back in two years’. I have flexibility because it’s also based on the value of the opportunity we can then bring to our clients as well.”
Once you do figure out the return you expect, It’s smart to decide how long you’re willing to wait to realize that amount.
“Five years is my comfort level. I'm not going beyond that. A month here or there is not a big deal, but I'm not going to invest in something at this point in time that's going to push out to 10 years before I start to see a return.”
I know Roxanne is extremely deliberate about her company’s growth, which means being disciplined enough not to grow too fast, but also seizing the right opportunity when it appears. She admitted you can’t necessarily wait until everything is perfect.
“Sometimes we will take an opportunity and we'll go with it, and we'll catch up to it. Maybe we don't have all the resources in place to be able to deliver it when we say yes,, and then we're building the team to get up to it. And I think that's part of growth and being in a high growth period of time -- there's a lot of uncertainty. Getting comfortable with uncertainty quickly is pretty important, although it’s hard on the head too.”
I mentioned earlier that we all have our own ways of evaluating new opportunities, but if you do suffer from “shiny object syndrome’, it helps to assess every opportunity in terms of fit: fit with your values, fit with your core business, fit with your clients and fit with your expectations in terms of financials.