How To Break Free From the Owner’s Trap

Breaking Free from The Business Owner’s Trap: Why It Pays Off to Do It 


BUSINESS OWNER BREAKTHROUGHS:  Meet Cesar Quintero

As a business owner, it's a norm to wear many hats.  

Not one, two, or three—sometimes it's all of the above. Whether you need to be the cook of the day, delivery guy, or even someone who takes orders from phone calls—it's been a tradition for entrepreneurs to be the go-to guy for everything. But the truth is, being a business owner doesn't always mean you have to be hands-on 24/7. Cesar Quintero realised this firsthand—that just because you're a business owner, doesn't mean you need to roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work. You don't need to juggle being your business' financer, marketer, and owner all at the same time—you need people around you to scale.  

Cesar is the founder of The Profit Recipe. He coaches Entrepreneurs to help them with one thing: to work ON their business instead of IN their business. Though he was experienced in the production engineer industry, his career shapeshifted to the food field—founding Fit2Go's original concept of a Local Healthy Café with pros of delivery services. Starting the business at 24 with no knowledge about food, Cesar was in for a wild ride during the company's first years: learning the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, investing in people over profit, and having his employees knock at his doors to acquire the business.  

Experience has taught Cesar that as a business owner, you need to acknowledge that sometimes, you're not the best person for the job. "As leaders, we need to start being vulnerable by understanding our strengths and weaknesses," Cesar says. Just because I started a business, doesn't mean I have a job in it. The thing is, business owners think that we need to have a job in our business—and that's not the case. Somebody else is better positioned for this—not us." That's when he started building a team.  

In his appearance on the Buy Grow Sell podcast, Cesar discussed the importance of letting your ego down and aligning your passion with business. Doing these things enabled him to become a better leader and of course, a better business owner. 

Rookie mistakes at 24 

When Cesar decided to make all the biggest decisions in his life at 24: get married, move to Miami, and start a business—it didn’t sail smoothly as he thought it was. Aside from having no knowledge about food, he was completely new in the country. To add, he thought he’ll make his mum as his business partner as finance manager to make things better—but unexpectedly, it went down the hill.  

“She was very corporate all her life, and this business seemed to be too entrepreneurial for her,” Cesar says. Because entrepreneurship includes highs and lows and inevitable uncertainties in between, Cesar’s mother opted out of the business—allowing him to handle the business finances himself.  

82% of businesses fail because of finance and cash flow problems.

- Fundera

Though 40% of small business owners claim to be financially illiterate, 81% of them are still handling it themselves. Because having a strong financial rudder is crucial for every company, managing business finances should be done by an expert.  

As a self-proclaimed worst cash manager, it dawned on Cesar that he didn’t only need a finance manager—he needed other smarter people around him to guide his business. “I realised I don’t need to be doing everything myself”, Cesar says. “As a leader, you need to start being vulnerable. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to let go”.  

Startup 101: Testing the markets 

Like every startup, hiring someone isn't easy as selling hotcakes. Because you can't afford people at the earliest years of your business, you have to learn everything from scratch—and do everything yourself. It was the you-have-to-learn-everything-fast phase, as Cesar calls it.

Realising that Fit2Go's earlier years were all about testing the market, Cesar went through what works and what doesn't phase by testing his capabilities for the business. Having 37 employees in the seventh year of his business, he became used to switching roles in his business: He delivered meals, cooked desserts, and answered the phone. Doing this daily, Cesar realised that he was only focused on making a profit for the company. He lost sight of what he truly cared about—not as a business owner, but as a person.

Most of my entrepreneurial life I realised, I was only focusing on making profit. I wasn’t focusing on my people—I wasn’t focusing on the life that I really wanted to live. I wasn’t focusing on what I cared about, which is my people.

Cesar had a look back on what it was like to go out there and test the market. Recognising that he thought his company was a part of his identity, he talked about the ego that was built in himself and how it got in his way when making decisions.

When you’re not the best person in the job (anymore) 

Cesar recalled feeling the need to prove something in his twenties. He felt like he had to rush everything to be successful in his business—thinking that this could validate his existence in the world. At a certain point in time, he felt resentment towards his business. "It wasn't aligned with my purpose," Cesar says. "It wasn't what I wanted to do in my life."   

This was when he started not spending much time in this business. Soon after, his employees saw it—it just became apparent to everyone that he wasn't into it anymore. This became clearer for Cesar the moment his chef knocked on his door, telling him he was not as focused on the business as he thought he was. He recalled him saying, "You don't want to be in this business. You're rarely here. Let me just buy 50% of this".   

Having his chef as the company's managing partner after the buyout, this opened more doors for Cesar to spend time on what he wanted to do—he started speaking, teaching, and facilitating coaching sessions. At that point, he just knew he loved it. "I decided to do those things in my time, while I'm still in the business (but on the quieter side). I was out there walking, and my partner focused on the operations side." 

Shareholders, partners, and operating agreements  

Having a partner in the business isn't as easy as it's usually portrayed in the movies—in fact, many company founders break up with their business partners for many reasons. Cesar and his team decided to have a shareholder's, partnership, and operating agreement to avoid this. This streamlined everyone's understanding of their roles and responsibilities in the company—who's accountable, who has the final say, and who will visualize.   

Getting third-party help from advisors, Cesar and his team had a complete visualisation of the company’s valuation. After bringing on his business partner, the company grew 36% of its profitability in that first year. Just when he thought everything was going according to plan, the second year was a bit drastic to Cesar and the business. “There was a big roll-up happening at that time in our industry, [due to COVID], where many companies were rolling out. With all these ups and downs, we came to the decision of them buying me out in the company”.  

For Cesar, he knew it was coming—he was an absentee owner. “I had no time to dedicate to Fit2Go anymore,” he says. “My heart wasn’t in the business anyway”. Cesar ended up structuring a sale of his remaining equity at a lower valuation. 

Why it’s important to get out of the owner’s trap 

Unfortunately, there are many business owners who are stuck in the owner’s trap. This doesn’t only blind you to planning for a successful exit; it also limits the potential of your business. Cesar’s take on selling his business? He should have sold it the first time around.  

I should have sold it all the first time, but I think my ego got in the way of selling it all. Maybe because I felt that if I sold it, I wouldn't be an entrepreneur anymore. Or maybe, I would be giving up my business. Worse, I didn't even know what I wanted to do next.

This allowed Cesar to have his greatest learning experience in his entrepreneurial years: 

  • Do not let your ego drive your decisions. 
  • Determine your own formula to grow a business. 
  • Plan on what the end game will look like. 

Oh, and align your passion to your business—it will allow you to know what you really want to do in life more than earning profit.   


This article is based on an episode of Buy Grow Sell podcast by Exit Advisory Group — the Australian podcast on acquiring, growing & exiting a business where you'll hear stories of business owners. The show is hosted by Simon Bedard, CEO of Exit Advisory Group. Subscribe via Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts to hear discussions with business owners about all aspects of buying, growing, and selling a business.  


Tags


Related Posts

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Would You Like To Talk To Someone?

We'd love to hear from you! Speak to one of our friendly team members.