April 18, 2022

3 Strategies to Protect your Mental Health During Your SMB / ETA Search

3 Strategies to Protect your Mental Health During Your SMB / ETA Search

Welcome to the Kumo Origin Series, where our founders share stories and lessons learned from buying, operating, and selling businesses — and how it all comes together into their vision for building Kumo.

Six months ago, we closed on our first acquisition. From start to finish, our search process was a grueling 20 months, and there were long stretches of self-doubt, anxiety, stress, and exhaustion.

Since then, we have had several conversations about the many pain points in the searching process, and how we wish there were better tools and structures out there to help alleviate that friction.

(Read about our first SaaS acquisitions and lessons learned here.)

Here are three strategies that helped us keep moving forward when searching full-time, and ultimately got us to a successful acquisition:

1. Create a structured environment and schedule to help you focus

Protect your deep, focused work. There are two layers of boundaries you can set to protect this:

(a) Physical boundaries: Separating your workspace from other parts of your home, or non-work things

We’ve found that there was a great mental & emotional benefit to creating some separation from search and non-search life. Previously, we mixed the two quite a bit while bootstrapping a SaaS business (and along with the rest of the world during the pandemic). There’s something energizing about getting out of the house to a quiet place to get productive work done — whether at an office, co-working space, library, or cafe. There’s also a relaxation that comes from walking away from a productive day, and creating space for life to happen.

Get out of the house. Or, if possible, create a physically separate work area that allows you to replicate some of that sense of being “at work” and “at home.”

(b) Mental boundaries: Setting aside time slots each day for deep, focused work on the big blocks that really move the needle

Even with physical boundaries with work, it can be helpful to try to block out portions of your day for deep thinking or planning. We try to be productive and still leave some room for flexibility with this schedule:

  • When possible, we protect our mornings from any calls or meetings. We leave calls and meetings for the afternoons, so we can start each day with focused deep work.
  • We regularly schedule 1-2 hour blocks of time on our calendar, at least once a day. These are protected time blocks reserved for deep work to focus on one high priority project or objective.
  • That focused time block is our big “win” for the day. If we got nothing done other than the 2-3 hours of high priority work done, we’d consider it a pretty good day. Of course, we’re still clocking 8-9 hours of solid work each day, but this is really just looking at what is the MOST important thing to get done that day. What moves the needle the most today?

Some tools we love to help organize this:

Calendly with availability set to protect “deep work” sessions throughout the week. Here’s our Kumo Calendly link that protects deep work in the mornings for our team.

Notion with a Kanban board for setting daily tasks/goals. Here’s example template of a Kanban board to project manage your search.

2. Set small, clear, and attainable goals

We’ve learned a few things about ourselves when setting daily, weekly, monthly goals over the last 5 years of building and operating businesses:

  • It feels great to cross off everything on your list for the day
  • It’s really easy to be overly ambitious about your day, and overcommit to things you can’t reasonably accomplish in 8 hours of work
  • Though it may seem insignificant on day 1, the mental wear and tear of constantly underachieving on your lofty goals eventually is miserable

As a team, we try to keep each other accountable in two ways:

(a) Set clear, measurable goals that help drive your end goal: buying a business.

It’s key to remember both ends of this statement. It’s easy to commit your time, with a bad goal like: “Spend 2 hours gathering leads on BizBuySell.” While this is clear and measurable, it can lead to a really wild variance in actual end results. Some better goals: “Schedule 2 calls with business owners this week” or “Reach out to 20 brokers today with intro”

(b) Document your goals privately and/or publicly.

Keep a log of your daily, weekly, and monthly goals. This way, you can keep yourself accountable to the goals you’ve constantly missed or pushed back. Find a cadence that works for you in order to do a retrospective on whether you may need to reprioritize, or archive goals that don’t match your current needs.

As a team, we have daily stand ups and spend 5 minutes just sharing a high level view of our day. This serves as a quick way to publicly announce our commitments for our day, and keep each other accountable to meeting our goals.

Some tools we love to help organize this:

Notion database of daily tasks and goals

Standuply, a Slack app for automated daily prompts on what we’re working on

3. Network to share progress, celebrate wins

Find a trusted friend, colleague, or partner to check in regularly to share your progress and celebrate your wins. This is a long and taxing process, and it can get lonely very quickly. It’s easy to find yourself in an echo chamber of folks on Twitter, LinkedIn, and elsewhere talking about their successful acquisitions and exits — but you have to remember that even your daily progress refining your search and due diligence are also daily victories.

Find a community of like-minded folks who are also searching for businesses. You’ll find a goldmine of resources that may help supercharge your own processes, or even find that someone passes on a deal that works well for you.

Some communities we found really helpful, and made meaningful connections to others doing the actual work:

#SMBTwit on Twitter
ETA Private Community
/r/entrepreneur on Reddit
▸ Anyone on @SMB_Attorney’s SMB/ETA rolodex

So… where are we now? Let our pain be your gain

When we were searching, one of our biggest pain points was keeping a steady flow of volume in our deals funnel. One of the main pain points here, was that we were constantly monitoring several hundred sources: marketplace listings, aggregators, brokerage sites, email lists, and direct relationships with brokers. We spend an inordinate amount of time just organizing a system to keep the system running, and left us with a realization that there’s an opportunity to build something better here.

At Kumo, we’re building software to help optimize the search for your next business acquisition. Kumo aggregates thousands of sources into one easy-to-use platform so that you can spend less time sourcing, and more time closing deals. Sign up for our private beta at withkumo.com!