A Journey of Business Succession & Professional Reinvention With Dawn Abbott

Episode Description:

In this episode, host Elizabeth Ledoux is joined by Dawn Abbott who after decades as a business owner of an event and party rentals company became a professional EOS implementer and successfully transitioned into coaching. Tap or click the play button below to listen to: A Journey of Business Succession & Professional Reinvention With Dawn Abbott.

In this episode, Elizabeth and Dawn talk about the importance of financial planning, building successful businesses, and transitioning out of them. They also explore the impact of mismanagement and failed financial planning in businesses, the benefits of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) for business owners, and the importance of looking at the positives and celebrating successes rather than overfocusing on gaps and challenges. 

Connect with Dawn Abbott: 
Learn more about Dawn’s coaching consultancy, Abbott Coaching: https://abbottcoach.com/ 
Learn more about how to plan a fun, stress-free event for people over 25 years old by visiting Dawn’s Fun Productions website: https://funproductions.com/  
Dawn on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dawnabbott 

Connect with Elizabeth Ledoux and the Transition Strategists:
Website: https://transitionstrategists.com/ 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thetransitionstrategists 
Elizabeth on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethledoux/ 
Transition Strategists on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/transitionstrategists/ 

Subscribe to “The Business Transition Roadmap with Elizabeth Ledoux” on your favorite podcast player: 
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3MxSYA2 
Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3IhMMux 
Google Podcasts: https://bit.ly/BTR-Google-Podcasts 

Get Elizabeth Ledoux and Laura Chiesman latest book, “It’s A Journey: The MUST-HAVE Roadmap to Successful Succession Planning”: https://amzn.to/3oq2LQv 

This episode was produced by Story On Media & Marketing: https://www.successwithstories.com

A Journey of Business Succession & Professional Reinvention With Dawn Abbott Transcript

Dawn Abbott: When we began sort of starts with crystallizing the vision, right. And so, as I mentioned earlier, that was important to make sure that he knew what his vision was. He wasn’t just taking over, where I had stopped having vision. So the company was in a place of not really having vision because I didn’t have the energy or the excitement, just like I was just like, hey, can we just not rock the boat?

Elizabeth Ledoux: Welcome to the business transition roadmap. My name is Elizabeth Ledoux. And through my years, I have seen how communities thrive. When business succession and transition are done. Well, me and my team at the transition strategists have been helping business owners develop and implement transition strategies for over 30 years. And on this show, we want to help you by giving you the roadmap to a healthy business transition. Let’s get started. Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the business transition roadmap. I am so excited today to have Dawn Abbott with us, she is the owner of a company called Fun productions in Denver, Colorado. And she has had that for many, many years, I met done, gosh, probably could be 10 or 15 years ago, we’ve known each other for quite some time, and just watched her build and grow that company watched her walk through a transition with that company. And I’ll let her tell you more about that in a minute. And one of the things that I love about Don is she had a passion for doing some work in her life that was very meaningful for her. And so part of her transition was really going for it and building this new consulting practice that she has just flourished inside of. So Don, welcome and how tell us a little bit about your background and what you’ve been up to.

Dawn Abbott: Sure, yeah. So as you mentioned, I started some productions with my husband when I was 21 years old. So that was a long time ago, 32 years, I didn’t want to go back to work after I had my first son. And so we started this amusement rental company. So it’s sort of large special events for corporate college and high school, where we bring in fun games, entertainment, and things like that. And just built that made all the mistakes you could possibly make in business ran on the treadmill sacrificed way more to business than you should, and all those things because we didn’t know what we were doing. And at some point, you know, realize that this was too hard. And why was it that some businesses, you know, succeed and flourish while others hobble along, and, you know, put a lot of processes and, and mindset changes and things like that into place to really get some more life balance. And so fast forward to 2012, we had three businesses at that point, because that’s what visionary entrepreneurs do, right is like see shiny things, and hey, this would be a good revenue stream. And our sons were 18 and 21, at that point, and I found out I was pregnant, which was not at all the plan. So that in itself was a giant transition to think I had just gotten to finishing that marathon of raising children, it was going to start all over again. And then three months after my daughter was born, my husband and business partner passed away in an accident. And so here I was in the space of having a newborn and these two teen boys in college, and, and, and a three month old without kind of a life partner and business partner and all of that. And so the the gift of that trauma was that, you know, sort of a forced letting go in terms of the business. You know, I was in it, like most entrepreneurs are like control and fear and ego kept me go, you know, in, in the middle of all the processes had to be involved in all the decisions for let things go. And all of a sudden, I had no capacity to care what was going on in the business. And the team picked up the ball and ran with it. And so I was given this opportunity to realize that, you know, I could engage and empower my team in a new way and didn’t have to work quite so much. And so during that time kind of went on this, you know, took full time job and self Discovery kind of really sure, plug into what I wanted my life to look like, because it certainly wasn’t, this wasn’t the plan. And so really found out, you know, kind of who I was and what my passions were and, and really discovered that I did want to be a business coach and coach entrepreneurs through some of these 30 years of processes that we had gone through. And during that time, is when my oldest son decided he really wanted to have a go at potentially taking over and running the company. So in over the last five or so years, we’ve been working on that transition. And working on kind of, you know, getting the business to a place where the vision and the traction and the healthy team are his and not mine. So just understanding who he is and who they are and where they want to go, and how they’re going to get there. And not giving them a bunch of handmade down inherited core processes and systems and scorecards and things like that, but, you know, them creating their own and making sure that the healthy team was was his and not mine, because I’m sure people know all leaders go through that, you know, in change of leadership, you have that shake up of a team, and we sort of wanted to try to get that shake up prior to me exiting. So, so we went through the EOS Entrepreneurial Operating system implementation process over two years and just saw amazing, amazing results, both from a financial and the and the way things were run, and had a ton of fun. And during that process was really when I was sort of put into the owner’s box and no longer had day to day operational tasks. Yeah.

Elizabeth Ledoux: So how did it feel to be in that owners box for you?

Dawn Abbott: For me, it felt great, right, like I understand, and I’ve talked to other owners who are it’s like, well, you know, like, what do I do now I don’t have, you know, I’m used to working 80 hours a week. And now I have all of this time. For me, I was really already working on the next phase. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And I felt confident that the team was okay. And I you know, I still were at I was at their l 10 meetings. So I was, you know, in their meeting for one and a half hours a week. So I got to see what was going on. So to make sure that I can feel that confidence. But I had lots of extra things. And, you know, to use my time, that was the filling, and they gave me significant, so I didn’t feel lost or put out to pasture. It’s been it’s been great.

Elizabeth Ledoux: Right. And, and you’ve had so two things on that one, you had your next adventure already figured out. And you wanted to do it so much that you were striving to get there, in a way. Right, you were striving to get there, which is fun, because it gave you something else to go for.

Dawn Abbott: Right. Right. Yeah. You know, wasn’t 100%, you know, easy. And, you know, there was always there was struggles throughout the process. But for the most part, I didn’t want to let myself get sucked back in because I was looking forward and excited about where I was going. Yes.

Elizabeth Ledoux: And just how long, just so the audience knows, how long did you have the vision of your next adventure and that desire to want to go do that? How long has that been in place for you? Because the transition has been relatively recent. Right? You worked on that. But how long have you wanted to and now that you have this other next adventure.

Dawn Abbott: Um, I think I knew almost a decade ago that I wasn’t cut out for special events any longer, what I saw, you know, hashing and going to events and seeing the trends and that head that had dimmed the only thing that was giving me passion in the business was running the business and like building culture and creating processes and that’s the only thing I was loving and so I knew even back then that that’s really what I wanted my future to be something in that realm. And knowing all the mistakes I could help some people not maybe make all of those mistakes that I made along the way Um, but really knowing that I wanted to be an EOS implementer and start abit coaching that didn’t happen until like, 2019, when we had implemented that process from 2017 to 2019. And then it was like, Oh, this is what I wanted to do, why recreate the wheel? I found what works. And because I was able to experience it and experience the success of it in my own company, it was sort of a no brainer have I found that I have found where the puzzle pieces of my life fit? Right, I could use all the things that I’ve been doing for, you know, 30 something years?

Elizabeth Ledoux: Yeah, yeah. And I think things things come along, and the different puzzle pieces come together, when you’re sort of ready for them. Because before that time, you and I had had some conversations, and you didn’t have that crystal clear vision, it wasn’t quite all together. And the EOS system, the other thing I was going to ask you is that EOS actually helped to provide a structure inside of the company that gave it was a structure of operations in a structure in a way of governance to at that level inside of the company. And so, talk a little bit about what EOS gave the company and gave you and your son in this transition. How did it really help you?

Dawn Abbott: Sure. So yeah, US Entrepreneurial Operating System. When we began, it sort of starts with crystallizing the vision. Right. And so, as I mentioned earlier, that was important to make sure that he knew what his vision was, he wasn’t just taking over, where I had stopped having vision, right. So the company was in a place of not really having vision, because I didn’t have the energy or the excitement to like, I was just like, hey, can we just not rock the boat, we have to have new go home.

Dawn Abbott: Because of that burnout fade, but what was important is starting with, okay, this is brand new for him. So this team and him need a vision. So helping them get crystal clear on on that, like who they were with their core values and what the core focus of the company was going to become under his, you know, leadership, and where they were going and how they were going to get there. So that was the first part of Eos. And then like I mentioned this, the traction piece is the systems and having a scorecard what numbers were important to them? What numbers and, and key performance indicators and target market and all of those things were important to where they were going, where before I was just like, are we making money? Are we profitable? That’s all I care about. Right? And they had so much more to care about. So really building those, those, you know, first of all, what’s important to know, what information do they need? And then what are the goals that we could set up for not only the leadership team, but everyone in the company to make sure that everyone was held accountable to reaching those goals and, and benefiting from those goals being hit and things like that. And so, you know, all the processes had to be changed to meet new goals, or a lot of them right. And then lastly, as I mentioned earlier, the through the process, you create cohesive, healthy team. And there were definitely people who were there working for me because they wanted to work for me. Right. Yeah. And so we had to be real about, you know, is this leadership change, gonna lose some great people. And there were definitely some shuffling, right, just because Josh, my son had to build a team that thought of him as their leader, not, you know, he was handed the company kind of attitude. Right. And so there were people, several people that are still there that have been there for years and years and years. And you know, and in there was some changes. But it was just important that they stopped looking to me as a leader. So,

Elizabeth Ledoux: yeah. Yeah, and the cool thing about it is the big shift that you were able to make, because it’s so hard for people who have kept the business running for so many years and been through all of the ups and the downs to actually not only let go, but also become the mentor teacher, to help the new people come in and create that foundation that is actually theirs. And I think that that’s such an important point that you’re making for Have listeners and our viewers is that this really is a very large shift. It’s not just hey, I’m going to bring in a right hand person. This is I’m leaving. And this company needs to go on with their vision, new team potentially. And the big recognition that the person who’s taking over for you is not you. It’s they’re a different person. Requiring potentially, again, different people around them. Absolutely. As a leader. Yeah. So big deal.

Dawn Abbott: Right? Yeah. My strength. We’re not his and vice versa. Right. So he needed to shore up different weaknesses. Yeah,

Elizabeth Ledoux: yeah. And, you know, just to reinforce it’s a, it’s a huge journey to be able to do that. Because the it’s basically learning on the job search just in time training. Because, yeah, they’re coming in. And it’s the businesses your case study that your guys he’s in the midst of, and trying to figure it out along the way. How did it just talk a little bit about relationship between you and your son? Because I’m sure there were some ups and some downs and a difference in the business relationships that you have versus the mother son relationship that you have?

Dawn Abbott: Yeah, and I think that is what took the most sort of strategy in struggle, you know, getting the business and the team ready. Through the process that we took, worked well, the relationship. You know, we’re, like I just said, We’re two very different people. I avoid conflict. I don’t like it. I don’t like to stir the pot. Joe, and Josh, could have been a litigator, right? Like, he loves to argue, and he loves to, you know, and he loves to get defensive. And that fires him up. And I like, freak out. So that was like, we had to set a lot of ground rules, just in the way we interacted, because we need to have have some hard conversations, right, like, stuff needed to be brought up that I was seeing. And my number one goal was, above all, we have to maintain this relationship, nothing is worse, worth losing this relationship. So you know, and that looks different for me. I don’t like fighting, you know, well, I would bring up something and he would get defensive. And so then I would back down. And so we had to really navigate, like, let’s have some ground rules around how you can speak to me and what know what the tone of voice have to be down to the like the, you can’t say that sentence. You can’t say those words or whatever, just to make sure that we could, we could be really open and honest, and give negative feedback without hurting each other. And then also, I think that there’s just, you know, there’s just this weird dynamic with a parent and a child, right, you just see them as your children. And I don’t think that I, there’s so many times that I don’t think I really gave him maybe the trust, or the respect that he deserved. Because what passionate or engaged or working hard looked like, to me isn’t the same for him. Right. And, and there was this piece of like, he’d never had any of the heart, like we had to work our butt off and work 100 hours a week and sacrifice everything and, and he’s just sailing in like working this 50 hour weeks being a leader, you know, so I want him to have some heart and I had to really have a come to Jesus about like, do I really want him to have art? Isn’t that why I work hard to grow something that was working well, that you didn’t have to work so harder. So there was a lot of those moments of relation relationship and yeah, navigating what this is supposed to look like, when we had no idea.

Elizabeth Ledoux: We had no idea. Well, and to that point, I mean, you know, him coming in, and he if you have built a business that’s working well and has the pieces in place, and you also have done a reasonable job of working yourself out of the, you know, day to day, which is a good thing to do as an owner. Alright, in preparation for transition. You take that part of the journey too and say, okay, you know, I’m gonna work my way out a little bit. And you get there. So you’ve got this business that’s operating well, it has cashflow it it’s working He’s the successors entering in a completely different place and time than you did when you built and grew it. So growing and building is much different. And they’re, even though working hard, may look different, they’re still hard. It’s still hard there, they are dealing with integrity, you know, being terrified, even of Oh, my gosh, I’m in charge.

Dawn Abbott: Right? Yeah, there was a lot of pressure, you know, I mean, he had those moments of, oh, my gosh, they my parents built this for 30 years, I could take it down into year, right, that kind of the stress of, if I ruin this, this is their legacy. Right. And, you know, and I hope that having lost his dad, there was a big part of that, you know, I owe this to my dad kind of things. So, so that kind of pressure was definitely huge. And I think the, the one place that I was worried is him not having had the opportunity to wear all the hats, right? Like, because all the hats are like, all the roles are filled. So he doesn’t understand as much about this part of the business and that and, and, again, the the we went through a huge transition with the pandemic, in an event business, we were literally shut down and lost our whole team for about a year. And so in, she really, I again, the silver lining, the blessing of that trauma was that, that I let him completely rebuild, like rebuilding was not like, I already lost it, I guess. So you know, I’ve already grieved it and I was out, I’m not coming back in. So if you want to rebuild. And so he really got that opportunity in a big way. That’s sort of not probably a natural part of a normal transition, of completely rebuilding it. And he had to learn to like pay the bills and do payroll and hire people and all these things that he didn’t have to do before because we had people doing that. Yeah. And so I think that’s been a huge benefit, and maybe something for other listeners too, like, maybe he should sit in all the seats for a little while just to never be in that place. And I don’t know how, if somebody, you know,

Elizabeth Ledoux: now, that brings back a long time ago, when I first graduated from mines, Colorado School of Mines, and I was a new petroleum engineer. And union oil at the time had a program that they would take new engineers through, and we go into different divisions for a month, or two or three, depending on what was happening. And so, but the idea of just kind of doing an orientation of seeing, you know, as a part of coming in as a part of the journey, even the timeline, that it isn’t bad for them to go and one get to know the team that way, so that they can respect the people and understand their job, but also just be exposed. Just be exposed.

Dawn Abbott: Right? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I was I was really worried about, you know, what if this one employee who who’s been here for 62 years, or whatever, right, what if they left? These are all the things that he has to do until they find someone or somebody has to do and does he, you know, you just don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t survive without someone, right, that there’s enough cross training and, and all of those things. coming in later, he didn’t Josh didn’t have those opportunities. And so I think he got it in a in a big Firehose kind of way during the shutdown. Like you better learn it all. But, um, but I think if we hadn’t had that happened, it would have been an important kind of activity are part of the process of really sitting in each of those seeds, learning at all, understanding and habit, empathy, for those that work in those seats. And, you know, understanding what they go through and what they what stress they have, so that you can lead them well, as well as understand how to do it and understand, you know, those roles which are important in you know, so yeah,

Elizabeth Ledoux: yeah, and I think, you know, realistically, just, I think it’s great, that new successor is exposed to all of those things, and whether they ever figure out how to actually do them all because hopefully the business is big enough that they won’t have to do that and they can rely on those As people to do it, but I do think that the empathy is important. And I think that the understanding of how the business functions is important, because that goes back to decision making and risk and how much pressure do you put on somebody or a department? And also, if you decide to make a strategic shift in a department or in the company, what’s the implication? Implication? Right, because those that future momentum really, you know, puts pressure on the business, and the different people and yeah, I think sometimes successors have a very big vision of what’s possible. And then that kind of brings it down to more of a reality of the smaller businesses can move quicker because they have less baggage, the bigger the business that the successor is taking over. Usually, the slower the changes, are, they just aren’t the little speedboat. You know, yeah, right. It’s

Dawn Abbott: canoe versus a, you know, cruise ship. You just can’t turn it off quickly. And yeah, that’s, I mean, you bring up a good point, I think one of the things that I the other things that I’m worried about with Josh is, you know, he’s not a great money manager, and I’m like, Oh, he’s gonna see this account with a lot of money in it. And he’s got these big visions, too. I want five offices across the country in five years, or whatever. And, and so I had to teach him a lot about cash flow, and understanding your your, you know, wanting $30,000, you know, decision today, what is that going to cost you in five months? Or what is?

Dawn Abbott: Will you still have money in the account, then, you know, like, teach, you know, it’s just,

Dawn Abbott: they’ve never had to learn, you know, running their own home budgets. And things like that is is so critical. And, and he’s, like you said, they have that, you know, he’s got this giant vision, it’s definitely tapered down. You know, now that he’s been in the seat and in the trenches, he’s like, Alright, I think we just want to open one location. And we’ll

Elizabeth Ledoux: try, let’s go prototype one. See if we like it. Huge. Project. It’s

Dawn Abbott: not like, hey, buy some stuff and open an office?

Elizabeth Ledoux: Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of moving parts. Well, gosh, so one of the things that I love about you, Don is always I’ve been reading a book called the gain in the gap by Dan Sullivan. Yep. And, yeah, some books, I read other books I study. And I’ve been, you know, a part of strategic coach in my past, and have known about the game and the gap. Yeah, for a long time. But one of the things I love about you, is you tend to live in the game most of the time. So when you end up in a challenge, or whatever. So interesting, throughout this entire podcast that we’ve been talking, you see the silver lining, you see the game. And one thing that, in reading that book that hit me differently this time, is that as people who are transitioning out, sometimes we’re looking at our successor in seeing the gap, or seeing all the stuff they’re not doing, and the things that they’re not doing, right, the thinking, you know, five stores, that’s the gap, judging that, and not really seeing the gain. And I think that then we lose confidence in our successor at those times. So I just Yeah, I just appreciate so much how you how much you live in that game. And I would like to encourage our listeners to think about that.

Dawn Abbott: Well, thank you. I mean, I do I think I have optimism, and I do understand that our struggles are all just as much gifts as our, you know, blessings, our wins. Because we’re gonna come out not maybe when you’re in the middle of it, right? It doesn’t feel like it’s a gift when you’re in the middle of the struggle, but you get to the other side. And definitely, if you appreciate it and learn from it, you will have gained so much from the struggle. And I just like everyone, there’s certainly times where I’m looking at where I want to be. I’m doing that with you know, building a new practice right now, right? I’m looking at how many clients I want to have and where I want to be. And it’s easy sometimes to focus on what I don’t have, rather than looking at okay, but I have built it to this and I have clients who have graduated and I have clients were having success. So if I focus on that I’m a much better coach to new clients, rather than you know, striving to build this practice. So we all get in that place of gap for sure. It doesn’t serve us, right. Absolutely. Much more, you know, look at the positive

Elizabeth Ledoux: tests. So Dan had said,

Dawn Abbott: Oh, look at how far we’ve come instead of how far we have to go.

Elizabeth Ledoux: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. Which Yeah, celebrate those, celebrate the wins, for sure. So done, I would love to thank you for being here. And Don, in her shift she’s got, she’s an amazing person has some amazing experience and background. And if anybody’s even interested in the Entrepreneurial Operating System, the EOS program, her contact information is here. And I just want you to encourage, I just want to encourage you to take a look at some kind of a program or system that might help you in your transition. Because putting that system in place is a big deal. And I think it served you well. I haven’t talked to any other owners that have done that similar type of program. But yeah, in reflecting back, I think that could have been a great foundation for you to leave, leave the business whole unhealthy and have a program in place that you could watch. And he could learn from. So absolutely, yeah. Anyway, nice job.

Dawn Abbott: Happy to answer questions or

Elizabeth Ledoux: book. Now. All right, thank you, Dawn. You’re welcome.

Dawn Abbott: My pleasure. Thanks for having

Elizabeth Ledoux: Thank you for listening to this episode of the business transition roadmap. If you are listening to this and you find yourself wanting to go deeper into these topics and start the process of putting together your transition strategy. I’d love to offer you a free initial strategy session with my team, where we’ll help you to explore the future transition of your business, head over to www dot transition strategist.com To schedule a call. Thank you again for listening, and I’ll see you on the next episode of the business transition roadmap.


The Business Transition Roadmap with Elizabeth Ledoux

How do communities thrive? When businesses experience healthy growth and transition. Join CEO of The Transition Strategists, Elizabeth Ledoux as she and her guests identify what makes a successful business transition roadmap. If you know you want to transition or exit your business “one day”, today is the right day to start planning. This show will give you the roadmap.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, you can check out other episodes here: Podcasts – The Transition Strategists
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