6 Ways You Are Devaluing Your Business and How to Fix it—Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor, Christine Nicholson Business Mentor

Did you know that 70% of owner-managed businesses are planning to rely on their business to fund their retirement? And, that just 2% of business owners know their value? This means that 7 out of 10 listeners to this show are planning to use their business as retirement and most have no idea what their business value is and that is not good. That’s why I am excited to have our guest today.

Our guest today is Christine Nicholson, who is a professional business mentor. She recently won the prestigious business mentor of the year award and is the author of 4 books, including her most recent book, “Sell It: How to Sell Your Business for a Richer Happier Future.”  Along her journey, she has worked for 2 royal families, run a zoo, rescued a charity, and dug up the biggest unexploded WW2 bomb found in the UK! 

Her interview is jam-packed with practical suggestions you can implement immediately into your business. You are going to want to listen all the way through this one.


I am Christine Nicholson, award-winning Professional Business Mentor, author and speaker. Working with +£2m turnover business founders who still work in the day to day management of their technology, engineering or product services businesses. I am proud that my clients have made me UK Business Mentor of the Year 2020. I was a finalist in the National Entrepreneur Awards 2017 – and my client actually won the award – and I’ve appeared on BBC talking about business! I have received the highest Professional Accreditation as a Business Mentor from the Association of Business Mentors and I am a Court Assistant and Freeman the Company of Entrepreneurs of the City of London. I’ve been helping businesses for over 30 years – experiencing success and failures, making mistakes along the way and discovering how to avoid them. I built my first business from £0 to £4.5m t/o in less than 15 months. I then helped a client rescue their high-tech engineering company from bankruptcy to an 8-figure exit in 18 months. Along the way I’ve worked with every type of business from software companies to taking over the running of a zoo. Walking in the founder’s shoes and living to tell the tale enables me to help other business owners become the heroes in their businesses. My clients have always increased turnover, profitability and cash – they’ve made millions and saved themselves thousands in the process. Better businesses lead to a better world not just for now but for our future. Currently, over 50% of businesses do not get sold, leaving business owners closing their doors on a lifetime of work – making just 1% difference to that number could have a huge positive impact on those businesses, communities and society as a whole.


This episode is powered by Big Sky Franchise Team. If you are ready to talk about franchising your business you can schedule your free, no-obligation, franchise consultation online at: https://bigskyfranchiseteam.com/ or by calling Big Sky Franchise Team at: 855-824-4759. 

f you are interested in being a guest on our podcast, please complete this request form or email podcast@bigskyfranchise.com and a team member will be in touch.


Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:00):

Welcome to the Multiply Your Success Podcast, where each week we help growth minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DeFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team. And as we open today, I’m wondering if you realize that 70% of owner managed businesses are planning to rely on their business to fund their retirement, and that just 2% of business owners actually know their value. So that means approximately seven out of 10 listeners to this show are planning to use your business as retirement. And most of you have no idea what the value of your business is. And that’s not good.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:43):

And that’s why I’m excited to have our guest today. And our guest is Christine Nicholson and she’s a professional business mentor. And in fact, she recently won the prestigious Business Mentor of the Year Award. And she’s the author of four books, including her most recent book, Sell It: How to Sell Your Business for a Richer, Happier Future. Along her journey, she’s worked for two royal families, she’s run a zoo, she’s rescued a charity and dug up the biggest unexploded World War II bomb found in the UK.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:15):

Her interview’s jam packed with practical suggestions that you can implement immediately into your business. You’re going to want to listen to this episode all the way through. Let’s go ahead and jump into my interview with Christine Nicholson.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (01:30):

Thanks for having me, Tom. My name’s Christine Nicholson. I am a multi-award winning professional business mentor and my business Nicholson Hall Advisory specializes in exit and succession planning for business owners who are still working in their business.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:50):

Excellent. Well, and I love the award winning there, and it’s actually one of the things that I wanted to open up about. And you recently won award as the business mentor of the year. Talk about that. I’d love to learn more about what that is and what happened.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (02:08):

So actually a lot of awards are where you actually apply for the awards. But all of the awards that I’ve got so far, I’ve been nominated by my clients. And it was the craziest thing where I always tell my clients, “Go and get some awards. Go and apply for them, put your hat in the ring.” And because I did that, some of my clients went and looked for some awards, actually saw a couple of awards that they thought, “Hmm, that would be a good award for Christine.” So they just nominated me without me knowing.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (02:43):

And so I got my first award and then did I sing it from the rooftops. I was like that little bird first thing in the morning, tweeting away. And as a result, my other clients who hadn’t nominated me for the ward were then aware of other awards that they then nominated me for. And all of a sudden, I went from nothing to six awards in less than two years. It’s one piece of advice, if you see an award, put your hat in the ring. You’ll be amazed at how many people go “Oh, I’m never going to win that.” So you’ve got such a much greater chance. And isn’t it better to say to clients or potential clients or your prospects, or even better, your competitors, “Hey, I’m a multi-award winning” because it will attract more clients with you doing absolutely nothing.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (03:41):

Yeah. Absolutely. And that’s great advice and congratulations by the way on the awards that you didn’t apply for. So that’s always such a, it’s always a Testament to the quality of work you’re doing when those you’re serving feel compelled to take that extra step to recognize you and your efforts.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (04:02):

Yeah. Yeah. And again, it’s one of the things I say to clients, “If you are applying for awards yourself and you need support, make it really easy for your customers to support you.” It’s a bit like reviews, Google reviews and reviews on your website. And if you’re in the industry Trip Advisor and those kind of things, don’t expect your customers to go and do it, make it really easy for them by asking them. I ask all my clients for Google reviews and they’re always overjoyed to give them.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:42):

You’re absolutely right. And I put myself in the shoes of a customer or client getting asked. Whenever I get asked, I’m always happy to do it. So why would I not ask my clients? Because they probably would be happy to do it as well, or most of them will take the time. And usually these forms don’t take very long, maybe five minutes or less to complete and send in and do that.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (05:08):


Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:09):

Well, I’d love for you to talk about, one of the things you mentioned in the onboarding form is you said there’s one single thing that a business can do to make the biggest impact on their business value and what they’re doing. I’m going to ask that early because it just intrigued me because I wanted to know what that one thing was. So would you start with that if you don’t mind?

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (05:32):

Oh yes. It’s my favorite two word answer and it’s called let’s go. Because the biggest challenge with most businesses in terms of their value, and the biggest challenge for most business owners is letting go. And the more that you as a business owner are working in your business, the less your business is worth.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (06:00):

If you want to make it worth more, you can literally start right now by spending less time in your business. And you can do that tomorrow. You can absolutely do that tomorrow. It’s really easy. Now the hard bit is this bit here, and the hardest part of the entire journey is the seven inches or thereabouts between your ears. Because letting go is a mentality and it’s often the thing that I have to work the hardest with clients on.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (06:34):

Well, that’s a great point and I know I see that in myself. It is very hard, especially when you start a business and you love what you do. It’s very hard to want to pull back when you enjoy serving your customers and your clients and helping them with whatever product or service that you might be offering. Do you have any kind of steps or suggestions to maybe get someone started on that letting go or recommendation to start with?

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (07:06):

Absolutely. I think the first thing is actually recognizing that when you’ve started or founded something, in the early days, you were doing three jobs. You were the owner, you were kind of directing it and looking at the strategic objectives along how long horizon, and you were looking right down at your feet in terms of you were doing, you were the technician and if I think about [inaudible 00:07:35] terms. And those three roles kind of stack on top of each other. And as you get bigger and you start to employ people, those roles should start to separate out, but they never do. They’re going to stay stacked and they get closer and closer together. And separating them almost becomes like separating Velcro, like you have to start at the edges. You can’t separate Velcro from the middle. You have to start at the edge.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (08:06):

The first thing is actually recognizing that you’ve got three jobs, or three roles, and understanding what the difference between those three roles is. Then the second thing is, if you are employing people, it’s about actually letting them do the job that they are capable of doing. And yet some people are going to do it differently to you and they might not do it in as well as you, but you never know, they might actually do it better. But until you give them a chance, then you’re never going to know. And just those two things alone are the first two steps of letting go. And there’s a whole raft of other stuff, but for most people just thinking about those first two things is probably enough for today.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (08:57):

Well, that’s some phenomenal advice and recommendations for someone who’s going to listen into this, even for myself to start implementing. It’s always great to hear that as a reminder, just let go and start to relinquish part of the… Start just to relinquish some control, ultimately over the business so that it can really flourish and get you out of the mix. As an entrepreneur when you start your business, in the beginning, it can’t run without you. And later on is what you’re describing here is it can’t continue to run with you, it’s got to move past. The business eventually reaches that point where it’s outgrown you as the owner or the founder of the institution. Yeah.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:46):

Well, you talk about six ways you’re devaluing your business. And you talk about six ways companies or owners devalue their business and how to fix it and are there a few you’d like to highlight out of that? Or maybe you’ve already shared some, but I thought that was an interesting conversation to talk about.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (10:13):

Yeah, sure. I’ve kind of covered the first, the biggie. It’s like the gorilla in the room is owner reliance. Because that is absolutely, if you are working in your business and you can’t even take a day off or you can’t leave your phone behind, then you are literally throttling the value of your business. And I don’t mean throttling it up, I mean strangling it down.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (10:35):

The second thing is not actually having clear goals about what you want your business to achieve, because 100% of business owners leave their business one way or another, like 100%. There’s no exception. If you don’t have any clear goals to where your business is going and it completely relies on you and you are really going to hold back the value of your business.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (11:07):

So then apart from not having any clear goals, the third thing is actually having no clear plan to get to those goals. The fourth thing, and I’m not doing these, apart from owner reliance, these aren’t in any particular order. The fourth thing is people. It’s about having the right people doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. And which brings me onto the fifth thing, which is having systems and processes. And when I’m talking about systems, I’m not talking about technology, I’m actually talking about step by step, this is how we do things around here. That kind of allows you to hand over to anybody. If somebody got in your business, got hit by a bus, somebody else could step in, pick up that process and go, “Okay, there’s a bit of learning curve, but they’ll still be able to do it.”

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (11:58):

And then the final thing is a bit of a biggie. It’s actually having no idea what an exit journey is going to look like. And if you know what the journey is going to look like for whether you’re going to sell your business, whether you’re going to hand it over to your employees or the next generation, or what’s going to happen to your business should anything drastically happen to you, then if you understand that journey, then you can be better prepared. And most business owners have, I mean, it’s about 70% of business owners, their retirement fund is tied up in their business and they have no understanding about how to get that money out of the business and into their retirement fund when they give up work or when they stop working. And that’s leaving huge assets literally at the whim of whatever might happen to that business owner.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (13:01):

Interesting. Well, and as I’m listening to you describe some of these steps that you’re talking through, especially when you talked about systems, as soon as you said that word, I immediately think franchising. Most of the people we work with are thinking about franchising or they are in franchising. So system is a very popular phrase or word to be talking about. And so I’d love for you to talk about maybe this idea of franchisors and franchisees, and maybe how franchisors, because certainly franchisees are business owners. They’re running their own business and they’re probably thinking at some point maybe they’re going to use this as an asset or they’re going to sell it or they’re going to pass it down to their kids or whatever it might be. Are there any suggestions you might have for maybe a franchisor that they could implement or use to help support the franchisees in their network?

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (13:57):

Well, the great thing about franchisors is they’ve generally already thought about the system side of things because it’s the actual antithesis of, sorry, not the antithesis, the actual thesis of franchising is here’s a kind of business and it’s already set up. All you need to do is put the manpower resource in and turn the handle, which I know is simplifying it some somewhat. But just thinking about the, what I call the technician processes is probably not enough.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (14:33):

And I already work with a group of people who, it’s a franchisor with their franchisees. And they’re already thinking, the franchisors are already thinking about not only securing their own asset of their franchise, but also helping their franchisees build the franchise, make it resilient so that they can protect the asset value. Because most of these guys have paid quite a lot of money to get into these things. And so it’s not about buying a job, it’s about actually allowing that little asset to kind of mushroom up and really grow, and also allowing the franchisee to recognize how they can extract the value that they’ve taken this little seed into this almost like fully grown plant and how they get that value that they’ve added through their own sweat and tears out of the business.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (15:33):

So actually having that as a franchisor, having that as part of your franchisee process, wow, I’d sign up for that. And it would make selling your franchises a lot easier because this is a cradle to grave. You are coming in at the beginning, you’re taking the seed, you are growing it and I’m going to help you make sure you get the best value out of it right at the very end. And actually from a franchisor perspective, one of the things you’re doing is you are pulling that franchisee closer and you are also protecting the future reputation of your own asset because all these franchisees, they can ruin your reputation in a heartbeat.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:19):

Yeah. Brilliant, brilliant. I really appreciate that feedback. And one of the things I was thinking about where you mentioned, let’s say somebody wins a lottery and disappears the next day. But there’s this concept of continuity planning. And I’d love for you to talk a little bit about that and how you maybe work with clients or customers with that or how you’ve seen some of your clients do that successfully.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (16:51):

Great. So certainly continuity and succession planning is really the heart of what I do with the business owners because if you are working in your business as a business owner, you need to find a way out of that day to day really quickly. And the only way you can do that is by elevating yourself out of it so that you’re operating at 30,000 feet, but also bringing up the people underneath you. And so one of the key things is having the right people. And the second thing is actually telling those people what the goal is, where you’re going. And don’t be afraid to tell your staff that the ultimate end game is that you are not going to be the owner anymore. The first step is “I’m not going to be in the day to day, I don’t have a job here.”

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (17:46):

The second step is “I’m no longer directing it because I’m actually getting someone else to direct it” preferably from within. And then ultimately at some point “I’m not going to own this anymore,” because I’m going to divest my investment in this and go and do something else. Actually being clear with your staff, the earlier you do it, the better. Sharing information with them to enable them to do their jobs better and understand the goals and understand what needs to happen to get there and who has the responsibility.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (18:22):

I always talk about responsibility, accountability, and authority. Responsibility is who’s doing it and are doing the doing as Michael Gerber says [inaudible 00:18:34]. And then there’s the accountability, which is who’s making sure the doing gets done? Now, when you’ve got accountability, you’re generally doing some doing, but you’re also making sure you’re delegating and making sure that the doing gets done and gets done to at the right time, for the right reason, by the right people. And then of course you’ve got the authority approach, which is setting the strategic direction, communicating that to the people who’ve got the accountability and then breaking it down into those smaller tasks. Do you know what? I’ve already forgotten what the question is because I feel so passionate about this stuff that I get on one of those tracks and it’s like, whoa, where did this start?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:21):

Absolutely. Yeah, so we were just talking about continuity planning is kind of where we started the conversation there.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (19:29):

Yeah, yeah. If I could give anybody one piece of advice it’s, always recruit someone better than you who is going to push you up, who’s going to elevate you to a higher position because they’ll be ambitious to get to the next seat. And then when you’re in the next seat, they’ll be ambitious to get to that next seat and they should be pushing you up. Do not recruit people who need you because they’re going to pull you down and you’re going to stay in the weeds. And if you are ambitious, you are going to be wanting to be at the top of that elevator. You’re not going to be wanting to be in that ditch.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:14):

Phenomenal advice. Phenomenal. Well, Christine, this is a great time for us just to transition here where we ask every guest the same four questions before they go. And the first question we ask everyone is, have you had a miss or two in your career and something you’ve learned from it?

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (20:30):

Oh, hell yes. One of the things that kind of annoys me mostly about entrepreneurial interviews is that they’re always going on about the success. And actually failure is a fundamental part of most people’s success. Most people actually fail more than they succeed. It’s just that when they do succeed, it’s because of all the lessons they’ve learned from the failures.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (20:56):

I have had some massive ones. I started an e-commerce and it took a lot of time to get over my ego to close that down because I recognized that I had got the wrong product, I was in the wrong market and I was working for a minimum wage and it was boring. So once I got over my ego, I did that. But I know that’s one obvious failure, but there’s been a million others.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:26):

Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And candidly, it’s one of the reasons we like asking that question is we very often learn so much from those missteps or maybe something we thought was the best decision or a great choice at the time, but later learned, well, in fact it was not. Well, let’s talk about a make. We’ve talked about several. Are there any others you’d like to highlight?

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (21:54):

In terms of make, mm. A couple of years ago I was approached by someone who asked me if I’d join a pilot program to professionalize business mentoring and I was a bit skeptical about it. I am so glad I did it because this single step of going through this accreditation process is what ultimately helped me define what I do as a business mentor and it’s made everything in my business so much easier ever since. And it was just a lucky break in terms of a very casual conversation that went off in a direction that I couldn’t have imagined. And it did genuinely change my life.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:48):

Wow. Wow. What an opportunity. What a story. Well, let’s talk about a multiplier. I would venture to guess you are probably a multiplier for your clients that are working with you and going through that. But how about your story? What’s been a multiplier for you?

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (23:07):

So way back when I was, I’m an accountant by profession, and way back when I was a baby accountant, I took a job that on the surface of it didn’t look like it was ideal for me. I was dragged kicking and screaming to the interview by my recruiter who said “This is the job for you.” And I’m going, “No, it ain’t.” What I didn’t realize was on the other side of things that they were saying they’d rejected my CV three times. And the recruiter was saying, “No, no, she’s the right person for you.” And the interviews were terrible. I don’t know how I got the job. And the job had two lines, keep us legal, add value to the business. And it turned out to be the apprenticeship of how to exit multiple businesses over a four year period. And it was everything.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (24:00):

It taught me everything that I do with clients. And it’s allowed me to then use that as an absolute multiplier. I don’t work with clients unless I can multiply, add at least one multiple to the sale value of their business. But it was that, again, kind of a lucky break. I was very fortunate to have a recruiter who just knew that we were made for each other. It’s a bit like blind dating. Sometimes you think “Really? Do my friends really know me?” And then you’ve been introduced to the love of your life. And that job absolutely made me.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:43):

Wow. Wow. Well, and the final question we like to ask every guest, Christina, is what does success mean to you?

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (24:51):

Well, if you saw me about two hours ago, I was up to my ears in well rotted organic compost, digging my garden. And for me, success is being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. The sun was shining. I knew it was only going to be out for an hour. I got to dig my garden. And it was a real joy. So doing what I do at the moment means that I can serve my clients when it suits them, means I can get out and dig my garden and actually seeing the positive impact that you have knowing that you can see someone in pain, you work with them for a period of time, you see their pain significantly reduced or eliminate. And then you can sit back and go, “Hey, do you know what? I did a really good job there.” So mostly that is success. And it’s really nice to be paid to do something that I absolutely love doing.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (25:54):

And Christine, what I’d love for you to share here is how someone can get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about what you’re doing and how they can get a copy of your book. And I’d love for you to share a little overview on that as well.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (26:08):

Great. My website is businessmentoruk.com, and you can find out pretty much everything about me on there. I’m pretty open about my background and I’ve written four books, and my latest book is Sell It. And it is the ultimate guide for business owners to understand the exit journey, whether they’re selling or any other exit, most of it is pretty common. And it will actually stop them, hopefully, making some mistakes and add some serious value to their business. You can definitely download a copy. It’s on Amazon as all my other books are. But if someone contacts me directly through my website, I’m really happy to send them a print copy.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:57):

Well, thank you very much. And as we bring this to a close, is there anything you were hoping to share or say that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (27:06):

Well, frankly, some people can get a bit sniffy about franchisees and all I can say to franchisors are absolute heroes because they’re generating businesses for people who think that they can’t do it themselves. And for franchisees there’s no… For me, you are already brave because whilst you might be paying some money for something that’s already been set up and proven elsewhere, it’s not been proven where you are. So never, ever, ever think that you are not an entrepreneur, that you are not worthy of the title of business owner because you’re generating jobs and the backbone of the UK and pretty much the USA as well is small and medium sized businesses. So just be proud to wear your little medal of, I am working for the greater good here. I just think it’s not said very often, if at all, and anybody who steps out into the open and runs their own business is a hero and they should be recognized as such. So keep on going.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (28:31):

Oh, well, that’s phenomenal. Thank you. And I completely agree. Extremely, extremely well said. Franchisees are out there doing their thing. They’re running their own business. It’s part of a system and a model that has had a track record of success elsewhere. But to your point, not where they are in most cases when they open. They’re very often the first right in that location or right in that territory that they’re opening up. Well, I really appreciate your time here, Christine. Thanks so much for being a guest and for being so gracious with your time and answers.

Christine Nicholson, Business Mentor (29:09):

No, thank you so much for having me on. And I hope everybody who was listening got at least one thing that they can do immediately to improve their lives and the value of their business.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (29:24):

Christine, thank you so much again for a fantastic interview and for sharing your wisdom and practical, applicable pieces of information. And let’s jump into our three key takeaways today. And takeaway number one is really the title of the episode, and it’s about the six ways owners devalue their business that she talked about. We’ll go through them. We’ll recap them really quickly.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (29:50):

Number one is owner reliance. Number two, not having clear goals about what you want your business to achieve. Number three, having no clear plan on how to get those goals. Number four, people, and needing to have the right people at the right time doing the right thing. Number five, have the systems and processes in place. And number six, having an exit journey in place and what it looks like.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (30:15):

I thought that was a brilliant summary. I thought if there’s anything you take away from this episode today, it’s those six things. Takeaway number two is continuity planning, where she talked about three things to make sure you’re building value in your company. Number one, having the right people. Number two, telling your people where you’re going. And number three, sharing information to tell them where you’re going. Take away number three, I loved this one, it’s super clear, super simple, always recruit someone better than you. They push you up. Do not recruit people that need you because they’ll keep you where you’re at or pull you down. I thought that was a great little nugget.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (31:04):

And now it’s time for today’s win, win. So today’s win, win is when Christine said the one single thing that she gives for her greatest piece of advice is to let go. Let go. As she described, the more you’re doing in your business, the less it’s worth. The more you’re doing in your business, the less it’s worth. And I think that summarizes it for itself.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (31:36):

That’s the episode today folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. And remember, if you or anyone you know might be ready to franchise their business or take their franchise company for the next level, please connect with us at bigskyfranchiseteam.com. Thanks for tuning in and we look forward to having you back next week.

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