Ep. #985 - Balancing Entrepreneurship with Family
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, let’s learn about balancing entrepreneurship with family. Andrew Morgans and Mac Lackey, founder of his namesake company Mac Lackey, are excited to share their insights. Find out their tips on how to have time for both entrepreneurship and valuable relationships.
Covered In This Episode
What does life look like after an exit? Is there advice for entrepreneurs thinking of selling their businesses? What is the first step to balancing entrepreneurship with family?
Make time to listen to Andrew and Mac’s conversation. They can teach you a thing or two about work-life balance and planning a successful exit.
Hop into the conversation. Tune in to this Startup Hustle episode today.
- The Mac Lackey story (02:41)
- Mac’s first idea for a startup (07:57)
- Life after selling his first business (12:50)
- Deciding to have a work-life balance (16:10)
- The challenge of setting boundaries (19:53)
- Leading with action about work-life balance (22:32)
- Owning up to your story (24:21)
- The current state of an entrepreneur’s life and family life (26:26)
- Andrew’s work-life balance (29:41)
- What is Exit DNA? (34:24)
- Why do you need to know how to do an exit? (38:18)
- A piece of advice for founders who are considering an exit (42:14)
- What happens to founders who go the path of least resistance? (44:26)
- How Andrew’s business scaled in the Amazon space (46:34)
I think that’s something that all of us could not only appreciate but desire for ourselves—talking about balancing entrepreneurship and family today. And I am someone that works with my family. I kind of did that on purpose.– Andrew Morgans
I made a million mistakes like all of us do. I wish I had done certain things differently, but I am so thankful that I prioritized my time with them. Because when you get to this point, it is gone. I mean, there is no looking back.– Mac Lackey
One of the scariest things for entrepreneurs is the path of least resistance when it comes time to sell your business. And most entrepreneurs get to the point where they need or want to sell. They’re not being overly strategic about timing.– Mac Lackey
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Andrew Morgans 00:00
Hey, what’s up, Hustlers? Welcome back. This is Andrew Morgans, founder of Marknology, here as today’s host of Startup Hustle. We’re covering all things e-commerce, Amazon, startups, exit life, you name it. Today we’re going to discuss balancing entrepreneurship with family and a whole bunch of other things. Today’s guest is absolutely a prize. I’m super excited to introduce you guys and get to know him a little bit better. Before I introduce him, let’s shout out to today’s episode sponsor, Double. A flexible assistant service for busy executives that matches you with an experienced assistant. Today, it’s easier than ever to hire a virtual assistant online. And no solution is better than Double. Double is a flexible assistant service built for busy founders, executives, or anyone looking to save time and focus on what matters most. Want to take control of your business and unlock a much more productive version of yourself? Go to withdouble.com today and get $300 off your first month when you use the code HUSTLE22. That is withdouble.com, use code HUSTLE22 and save $300. Today’s guests Mac, welcome to the show.
Mac Lackey 01:06
Thanks for having me. Yeah, excited to be here.
Andrew Morgans 01:06
Mac and I connected through a mutual colleague for his company exit, DNA, which we’ll talk about a little bit. But he works with founders to help them get prepared, get ready, get confident about, you know, preparing their business for exit and doing all those things. And we have yet to engage, but I have no doubt we will be working. You know we will be together in the future. It’s definitely something on my list to be as just absolutely prepared as I can be for when that time comes. Mac, I know you have an incredible story. You know, your bio is impressive. What we were talking about before the show started was impressive. I won’t even get into all of that. Just a super great guy and was referred to me by someone that I also respect, Yoni, and I know you helped Yoni and Scaler, who I’ve personally used in the show. Let’s get behind that and talk a little bit about who Mac was like in the early days. You know, how did you become an entrepreneur? Is that something you have always wanted to do? Did you go to school for business? Was it in the family? Go as far back as you’d like?
Mac Lackey 02:12
Yeah, great. Well, I guess the backstory, a couple things really sort of shaped my life. Number one, most of my life as a kid growing up was soccer. You know, that was really my passion in life. All of my goals and dreams could be sort of defined as the level at which I wanted to play soccer. I wanted to play in college. I wanted to be a professional. I wanted to really sort of shape my life around this sport that I loved. And so, seven days a week, for most of my childhood, that was really my passion. In a lot of ways, I know I actually didn’t even think about what I was going to do other than play soccer. As a matter of fact, in college, you know, I was very fortunate. I got a scholarship to a top 10 college program. I was a collegiate, All American, but all the way through college, my focus was playing soccer and having fun. And I just didn’t really think beyond that. So that was a huge part of my life. And I’m sure we’ll talk about it more later. I mean, I’ve been able to weave that into, you know, my business career quite a bit as well. The other thing that sort of shaped childhood for me is I’m an only child, awesome parents. My father was a third-shift engineer when I was young and didn’t go to college. And he was just a super hardworking, work-ethic guy, and worked super hard to take our family from, you know, kind of a middle class, I guess you would say, up to a much better position primarily out of hard work. I mean, he really did an amazing job for our family. But at the dinner table, almost every night, he would just say, he would just talk about the frustrations of corporate America and the boss, the schedule, and all those things. And he was, again, a very hard worker naturally. But I just kind of grew up thinking I just don’t want to, you know, work hard because he needed to, and he did it for our family. But he wasn’t super happy about it. And so, you know, later, as I stopped playing soccer, I played professionally after college. Briefly, I realized that life was going to come to an end. Thankfully, I met someone that I played soccer with that was a part of a startup and gave me an opportunity to join their kind of marketing group. And they were so small that every day I was doing something different. From day one, it’s cold calls. Day two, taking out the trash and licking stamps. On day three, I was learning to write code, and I fell in love with the entrepreneurial kind of startup vibe. So that was kind of how I got started. I convinced an engineer with that company to resign with me about six months later. And we started our first company. So I worked for about six months in a really small startup before I started my own first company.
Andrew Morgans 05:20
Okay, and let’s talk about that first company. First of all, thank you for sharing that you just dropped it and that you’re like, I played professional for a little bit, no big deal. That alone is, you know, you just don’t get into the majors in any professional sport in the US, like, you know, it’s a very hard thing to do. But I can also understand. I’ve been around a few people where that was their life. And then after that, they really, really struggled to find something that they cared about as much. You know, for me, I was never a pro in regards to being a musician in regards to getting paid, and I was touring full-time. Not at the same level as professional sports, but my entire passion through school. I was doing school as an afterthought. And I was just 100 people into playing music to me, it was curating products and brands and vibe, and it was my chance to travel. I had so much I needed to learn and explore outside of my upbringing. And so it was just like, it was only music, that’s, that’s I was all in, you know, I had a line in the sand that was like, I don’t want to be 30 Still trying to play music and not getting paid. Like at that time, you know, because I was in college. And, but I just remember being like, I’m gonna give it 150% Until I like to make it. And afterward, it was a hard transition for me as well into, like, Okay, now I’m going to use this computer science degree, and I’m going to hide in a closet with no lights. And you know, like, it’s kind of how they put you back in the dark back room. And I was just like, This is not like traveling and being on stage and getting a chance to perform. And it was a really hard adjustment. But I will say, like, when I found e-commerce, which was like, also a startup for me, that was like my first startup, it was absolutely, like, I found it. I was like, this is pretty intoxicating. The competitive nature of it, I think. And then also, just like, I hate saying add ADHD, but it was kind of like that in the startup world. It was like I was doing all these things not alone enough to keep me interested. What was that first idea? What was the first idea for your first startup?
Mac Lackey 07:19
Yeah, so a couple things are really important. You know, if you read enough studies, you realize the importance of timing in a startup or an entrepreneur’s life. And I had a couple of really interesting things happen timing-wise. The first was, you know, this company I was working with was doing what, back then, we called multimedia software. So it was, you know, sound and animations. And it was really in the educational space. I had no passion for that. In particular, I just loved the startup vibe that it had. But we, this engineer, and I really felt like all of the things we were doing in education were going to drive business where people were going to be using the same tools, they were going to be thinking the same way. And we went to the president of that company and said we wanted to basically start a business division, and there was no interest. So we resigned in the first quarter of 1995. And started what we called an internet company. We literally were launching an internet business right after Netscape launched the commercial web browser. So we were really, really early. And the reason I say that is that was one of the best things that ever happened in my life is being so early in web one that we were ahead of the curve, you know, I found myself in my early to mid-20s, standing in the front of boardrooms with you know, fortune 500 companies explaining to them about the internet and the future. And really, you know, fell in love with that. And just, we built a lot of value really quickly. We had a $10,000 loan to start the business and sold it three years later for a figure. So we were trapped, you know, a ton of value really fast because we were early. And we were taking risks. And we were moving and, of course, after that, you know, a liquidity event selling my first company. You know, I literally checked off just about every life goal. I mean, because when you’re young, all my life goals were like, I want the red 911, I want the beach house, I want you know, and so I didn’t really think about life beyond material possessions. And I checked those off, you know, really, really early in life. And so it was a pretty pivotal moment in terms of what I was going to do with the rest of my life. And so yeah, an early internet company started in 95. I love it.
Andrew Morgans 09:47
Thank you for sharing that. I can relate a little bit to the Amazon industry. You know, I’ve been doing it for 11 years in front of a lot of people with a lot more money than me all the time. You know, educating them on what it is to be successful here. Amazon and within e-commerce and how to think holistically, and for me, it was very challenging in that it was hard to find a path to revenue early. There weren’t a lot of people paying us for what we did. And I didn’t go the route of like, you know, having capital, go buy products and sell those on Amazon, there are so many millionaires that were like, you know, had capital, even some of them put on credit cards, I’m not saying everyone had a bunch of capital, but it just wasn’t something that crossed my mind at that time, I was just on the services side doing it for others. Even in 95, as a kid, I was like, I was playing with the web. I was in Africa, and how can the satellite dish be able to get faster speeds, and getting in the backend of websites, and, you know, just having a lot of fun. And as a kid, there wasn’t really, you know, now they’re streamers and all these ways to make money, but back then, it was for fun. A lot of it was for fun. And then, you know, I definitely feel an advantage, like, where I was super difficult at the beginning, now that is in high demand. Being like a first mover and having like these years of experience, because you were on something early, has definitely given me a different appreciation for like, you know, a success rate of doing something that’s, that’s new and early. Okay, so sort of number one, you exit it, and I can relate to that, too. I, although I haven’t been excited and that I, as you know, took care of my mom and my dad, and have you know, I have a jeep, Jeep Wrangler that was like I always wanted this Jeep. You know, and I don’t need a lot of, like, materialistic things personally, like that’s, you know, I’m very minimalistic in that way. And so I had checked these boxes for a minute and had lost my motivation. Just because I don’t just chase money. For me, it’s been just like, Well, my quality of life is really high. And this is really why I set the bar. The second round has been what can I do for others while I chase bigger goals, you know, but I definitely like 2018, even though it isn’t that long ago, I started hitting some of these goals and was just like, well, these don’t motivate me to get out of bed, like to chase more money doesn’t motivate me to get out of bed. And it is something that I think entrepreneurs never think about till they’re there. And then you’re just like, why isn’t my motivation as great as it’s always been? And you’re just like, well, if money is the only thing, it doesn’t really drive me. So what, like, what age? Were you when you sold your first business? Can I ask? I think I was in 2026. Okay, I’m just wanting six. Yeah, that’s pretty young to have, like, checked all the boxes, you know? What came after that? Walk me through it?
Mac Lackey 12:33
Yeah. So probably because I checked, you know, some of the boxes, but also, I was having so much fun. It was still really early. We sold that business in 98. And so, basically, you know, we’re still really early as it relates to what’s now called the kind of the.com phase. And so I immediately started another company, which was a kind of fusion of everything I loved and learned from that early internet space with my passion for soccer, which we talked about. I started a business cleverly named internet soccer.com Sign of the Times. And, really, I mean, that first business was interesting. I learned a ton. The second business we started scaled, and it became the largest producer of non-televised soccer content in the world very quickly. We sold it 14 months later for $15 million dollars. And so I had this, like, the crazy experience of flying around and doing deals and hiring really smart people. And it was an area I was so passionate about. I love sports. And so, of course, that was really peak. The one thing I didn’t mention is in March of 2000, we had a term sheet from a group out in New York for a big venture investment. And about a week after we got the term sheet, the NASDAQ crash, you know, the.com bubble burst. And in so many ways. I’m thankful we didn’t take the term sheet because the business I’m positive about would have gone under. And so instead of, you know, raising $15 million, we sold the company for $15 million, and we split the money. And so I learned a really, really valuable lesson there about, you know, again, this exit process and raising capital and the impact that all of those things have because if I would have raised that money, even if it weren’t for the.com Bubble crashing, I would have had to build that company to probably 75 to $100 million in value for me to get the same exact amount of money that I got the day I sold it for 15 million. And a lot of entrepreneurs don’t understand that. So I learned that really early in life, which again affected a lot of my future kind of endeavors, but you know what that business was, and I still look back on it as one of the most interesting and fun times in my life because it happened so quickly. The other thing I’ll mention, and I’m happy to go as deep as you want into this, but I sold that business in July of 2030. Days later, my first daughter was born. So August of 2000. And that moment literally changed everything I thought about business life and the world. And I made a really interesting decision. Because at that time, my whole persona, like everything I thought about myself, as I’m this high-flying entrepreneur, I’m a tech guy, I’m flying all over the world, I’m doing deals. And I, you know, my wife, thankfully, was understanding, but she would call me some days at the office and say, You need to come home. You haven’t been home in two days that fall asleep on the floor in the office and get up and keep going. I just didn’t stop. And so I said, You know what, I don’t want to be the kind of dad that’s not there for my daughter. I made a decision and a commitment to this little girl who honestly, of course, you know, didn’t know what I was saying to her when she arrived in the world, that I wasn’t going to miss anything. I was absolutely committed to being home at dinner, coaching the soccer team carving pumpkins, and going to the play at two o’clock in the afternoon. I was going to be the dad that was always there. And everyone around me at the time was telling me, Mac, you know, you can’t, you can’t be an entrepreneur, like you’re you want to do, and be home all the time with your daughter. And you know, other people were like, well, you know, you’re gonna have to pick, you’re gonna have to choose. And I just said, I’m not willing. I want to continue to build companies that I love and that I’m passionate about. And I’m not going to miss a moment for my daughter. And the reason it’s relevant was in 2019. When I dropped that little girl off for her freshman year at NYU, I could look back and say, You know what, I just didn’t miss anything. But I also built and sold for more companies over those 19 years. So I know that you can do both. And I literally had everyone telling me I couldn’t at the time. So it’s a, it’s one of those moments, if you look back over your life, it’s like, man, that decision was one of the single best things I ever did. For not only my family, which was my top priority, but also it really helped my business life.
Andrew Morgans 17:31
So yeah, I love that. Thank you for sharing that. I think that’s something that all of us could, you know, not only appreciate, but desire for ourselves, you know, talking about balancing entrepreneurship and family today, you know, and I’m someone that works with my family, I kind of did that on purpose, to be near them. I’m glad that they said yes, but like I’ve built my life very intentionally, like a life by design, to be able to live the life I want the quality of life with the people I want to build with, because I am absolutely all in on what I’m doing. And if I wasn’t doing it with them, or beside them, I would really struggle and I might have to change the way that I’m all in. But what I did instead was to build, you know, companies around people that I wanted to do life with, and it’s kind of like, by default, we get a win, win together. That’s not it’s not easily done. And some people can’t work with family and some people, you know, can’t create those boundaries for me to like, in a relationship. I put relationships on hold, I wasn’t previously married, but I put them on hold. So I built the business to a certain level. And really the last two or three years, outside of bringing the family and having had to work really hard and be able to like get myself prepared to have relationships, you know, outside of the business. Because when you’re obsessive about something when you’re truly trying to pioneer like, I feel like I’m trying to pioneer the Amazon industry from nothing. And then you know, just a long way to climb as a person from my own skills and opportunity and background and upbringing and opportunities and network. They were at zero. So it was like, you know, everyone starts somewhere differently. Like even thinking about your second business, you already had had an eight figure exit you know, and I what I’ve realized too, is that like, when you’re in fight or flight mode, there isn’t really any ability to step back and really look at like, Okay, this is how I want my life to be or these are the boundaries I want. Or this is the father I want to be you’re just like trying to eat, you’re just you know, like, like your dad, you know, for example, he was just working super, super, super hard. Didn’t see any other options at that time. And not to mention that like, some of the way we’re living our lives today is it wasn’t even possible that like you know, you couldn’t work and take meetings virtually and like still be at home like so you get that hour commute back and like you know some of the things that we can do and just not possible so amazing. Okay, so and I also like, not as an entrepreneur, but I’ve 100% seen Baby Girls turn men around, you know, my son and my close friends are amazing single dads actually. And their daughters saved their lives, you know. So I witnessed that, and saw the impact of that. And then also, I personally have a belief as if you make a promise like you made that day. I think you said 99 or 2000. When you make a promise with the universe with God with yourself, like you make this problem as you speak it out, you say it when you honor that, I believe you keep your promise either to yourself or the universe, or God, whatever you want to insert here. I 100% believe that there is a blessing attached to that, regardless of what that promises, like if you say it, and you keep it. It’s like a Karma thing. And the universe has a way of like, really like respecting that promise. So super amazing that you lasted, was she 19?
Mac Lackey 20:57
Now she’s 22. She’s a senior and I have two girls. My oldest is a senior in college; my youngest just started her freshman year in college. So yeah, that both girls had a huge impact on my life and in so many ways. But But yeah, that decision, mainly because even though I had some financial resources, for sure, you know, when you look in the mirror, and like you see yourself as like an entrepreneur, and everyone was telling me like, well, you that’s gotta go away, like, yeah, you could you could semi-retire and be a stay at home dad. Sure. But you can’t like to run companies that are going to be successful and be home for dinner at five o’clock. And I was like, I’m going to do it. I’m gonna figure it out. I don’t know how yet, but I’m going to do it and, and so many things to your point, which I completely agree with conspire to help me. Because I vision and I just, you know, one of the biggest, which I talk about a lot when I’m mentoring entrepreneurs these days is the first couple of times that I got up in, or I was running a meeting for a startup that I was building, the first couple times I stood up at 445 in the afternoon, and got up and literally started walking towards the door, you could see everyone being like, What is he doing? And I was like, I have dinner with my daughter. And like no one understood what I was doing. One to me, it was a commitment. But the most important thing that happened there was all of a sudden, the company started changing where people were like, alright, well, we got to be able to run these meetings in Max absence, because Max can stand up and leave, who’s going to run the meetings, who’s going to prepare who’s going to, so all of a sudden the tide, you know, all these people that got kind of thrown in the deep end, were rising to the occasion, they learn quicker, they were more valuable as employees and teammates. And it freed me up even more, because the faster they grew and learned in the organization, the more freedom I had. So it was this great cycle that I you know, almost an unintended consequence of the commitment of like, I’m gonna stand up and leave even if I’m in the middle of a presentation, because I’m going home at five o’clock, you know.
Andrew Morgans 23:05
That’s leading with action and not just words, I think in like, you know, whenever you’re able to do that for yourself, allows them to do it for them, and very much believe so like, in that empowering process, like, did you have? Where was that business? Where were you located in the world at that time? I’m just curious.
Mac Lackey 23:22
Charlotte, North Carolina.
Andrew Morgans 23:24
I do think the culture matters, like if you’re around people that are, you know, they travel a lot or versus you’re around blue-collar guys, you’re around, like, you know, Kansas City is, is Bible Belt, in some ways. Like, it’s just a different culture, for what’s allowed and what’s not. And I don’t think, you know, I definitely had some, I was a little intimidated to put out my own story. Like, if you go on Marknology.com, you can see my story there. Because I talk about working with family, and I just give the real wrongness of it and, you know, kind of my path and there was a part of me that was like, I just don’t know how this is going to come across with a Fortune 500 company or yada, yada, you know, to see us as a family business. But what I really learned is that it attracted the companies that I wanted to work with ones that had the same values. And that was the hidden thing I didn’t know, you know, I didn’t think of originally, but there’s a lot of companies that really, really appreciate, you know, that and that those boundaries and that mission, so, have a few more questions before I jump in and shout out to our sponsor. When people ask me what my best advice for building a business most of the time it involves the team and knowing when to delegate. Today, I’d like to add that knowing when to hire an assistant is key too. It’s usually the hardest thing for a startup founder to do, because they want to feel so close to everything. Plus finding assistants is too hard to do, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be when you connect with our friends over a Double the experts in pairing founders with remote executive assistants you can trust. Double match you with experienced US based assistants, and arm them with tools and training to ensure you’re getting the best of the best Startup Hustle listeners can go to withdouble.com us kind of hustle to wanting to say 300, right off the bat, that was withdouble.com, use code HUSTLE22 and save 300. Okay, so that was, that was a perfect timing to bring that up, you know, considering you were relying on your team to kind of take over for you and be able to scale and handle some of that stuff off. And I’m sure exit DNA, as we kind of alluded to before, is really your company that helps mentor and coach, you know, other founders to figure out how to scale and how to get themselves out of some of those jobs and like something I’m very much living. Talk to me now about life. After your daughters have gone to college, and what it looks like balancing family time with them, maybe when they’re not at the dinner table. And you know, it’s evolved a little bit, talk to me about, like, today, what that looks like for you.
Mac Lackey 25:49
Yeah, it’s, you know, it’s kind of, I guess, like a bittersweet process. You know, I’m so thankful looking back, that I spent the time that I did with them, because I think for a lot of people, myself included, when your kids go to college, you know, when your oldest goes, it’s a weird, it’s a weird feeling, you know, that they’re leaving, but you still have one, if you have multiple kids, you still have a child at home, perhaps. And so it’s not quite as dramatic. And you have the sense that, well, it’s just for the semester, then there’ll be back for Christmas, or just for the year, and then there’ll be back for the summer. But you know, just in the past few years, you know, I’ve kind of gone through this full cycle of like my older daughter, you know, she’s at NYU, she’s doing great. She’s, you know, did an internship this summer in New York, and it’s like, wow, you know, she may never actually live at home again, and like that sinks in, and you’re like, wow, did I? Did I teach her the right things? Did I spend enough time with her because I don’t have that chance anymore. Because the relationship is, is great, is very different. Now. It’s like text messages, and maybe a quick call on a, you know, FaceTime on a Sunday, because she’s busy, you know, she’s working hard and doing really well and kind of moving into her life. And then when my youngest daughter went to school about a month and a half ago, I guess it was for her freshman year, then all of a sudden, it was like, wow, you know, the house is quiet. Things have definitely changed. And luckily, I feel very blessed in that, you know, my wife and I, we’ve been married 26 years now. And I still want to spend time with my wife. You know, we, we have several friends who literally have been planning over the past couple years, for as soon as the kids leave their divorce proceeds, you know, and like, they’re just waiting to yours. And I mean, obviously I feel very, very fortunate that my wife and I miss our girls, and I want to spend every chance I can with them during the holidays. I’ll travel to visit them. Hopefully, they will continue to see us, but I’m also excited about the next chapter with my wife, which is, it’s been a long time that we can make decisions. Just we want to know, where do we want to go?
Andrew Morgans 28:12
Like, let’s go to Spain four times in the last month or something like that? Yeah, I like that. I like that.
Mac Lackey 28:18
Yeah, she’s gonna be with me again, this coming week. So yeah, it’s been a change. I, I do feel like I said, very fortunate that I, I mean, I made mistakes, I made a million mistakes like all of us do, I wish I would have done certain things differently. But I am so thankful that I prioritize the time within because when you get to this point, it is gone. I mean, there is no looking back and being like, Oh, maybe just one more month, we could do more together. It’s like, Oh, you missed that boat. So. So I would encourage anyone that’s in that earlier phase with them, with their kids and their family, like, really take that seriously, because I know it’s possible to prioritize family and still be successful. And however you define that. And you don’t want to regret that one.
Andrew Morgans 29:03
No. And I think something that’s kind of interesting is like, I’m kind of coming at this from the other perspective, which is, you know, I had just a very interesting upbringing. I grew up in Africa with my family in Congo and Cameroon, like some very remote unique places, and it really bonded us together. I came back to the US, and we had a lot of religious differences. And so, you know, around 18, I went after the music thing in college and was like doing my own thing and really spent about seven or eight years away from my sisters and my family. Not like we weren’t fighting or anything like that. It was just like I needed to be myself and you know, needed to be away. And I didn’t really realize how much I missed that dynamic. And I know that not everyone has the best families and you know, I’m speaking in generalities, but for me, I had a great family. And, you know, it was I went through relationships, heartbreak and things like that, and different things in life, you know, brought up different challenges, but my sister has actually, both degrees in engineering and equestrian science gave those up to come build Marknology with me. And for the first time, maybe seven or eight years, all of a sudden, I felt super empowered, you know, I had this unconditional love aspect back around me. And if you don’t think that that matters when it comes to business, and it comes to like, you know, the stress and the different things that happened like that, I wasn’t married, right? So I didn’t have that significant other with that kind of love. And, you know, getting my sister’s background, I just didn’t know how much I missed that, that element and that support element. And, you know, I’ve been, we’ve been absolutely blessed the last few years, even being able to take care of my parents, which was the second step they had split up about five years ago. And so we’re just like figuring life out on their own quite a bit older in life. And you know, the company didn’t see it this way, because we had our differences early, but the company was actually able to help me pull my family back together, in regards to just, you know, being able to get spend time together and get to know them and be able to take care of them. And so I’m the kid that went away to college, or whatever, that’s now going the opposite direction. And I just really appreciate the value of family and I saw some stats. In regards to just like, you know, the beginning of your life, you spend this much amount of time with your parents. And after that, it’s like a very small percentage of like, actual hours, you know, with family. And so if you’re not living with them, if you’re not doing live like that, it’s just like, a Sunday dinner or a call, or you know, it becomes very, very minimal. But this is the first time in my life where we haven’t been in fight or flight mode as a family, for the most part. And so, being able to, like, you know, for me a big thing I did last year, the goal of mine, and I took each of my parents on a solo trip, we had never done anything like that, you know, so I took my mom to California, and we hung out on the beach, and you know, did some stuff and I took my dad to Alaska, and we went on Sunday is the only state he hadn’t been to. And that for me like setting aside a week, for each of them, when I like, don’t feel like I have a week, you know, it was like a really big thing that I will always look back and appreciate, you know, and it’s something I’m trying to do as a kid to the parent going forward to be able to be like, I’m trying to set it aside time for us. So just a little bit different way, it’s not my kids leaving the nest, it’s more so like I’ve left the nest, and I want to try to figure out how to design my life to have that element in as I get older, so just just some food for thought just trying to think about, you know, what balance looks like for me as someone who doesn’t have kids. But that as a kid is trying to make time for my siblings and my parents and things like that. It’s not easy, you know, and I think that as an entrepreneur, if you’re super competitive, which I know, most professional athletes are, like, have the most elite, you know, just drive and competitiveness, like you see success with athletes, so leave like professional sports all the time, because it’s the same elements that you need to be successful in almost anything, you know. And you see, like, whenever you’re a super competitive person, you just fill those gaps you fill all that time, you’re trying to be successful. You’re trying to win, and when you’re an entrepreneur, you can literally work 24/7 So it becomes like, you just, you know, I wasn’t really taught balance. Like I was taught absolutism, you know, so like, for me finding balance looks differently. But something that I’m very, very, I read a lot and trying to figure out answers, there’s not really a path that just says like, Hey, this is what balance looks like for you, you know, talk to me about, you know, exit DNA, and you know, some of the things you’re working with there. I know, we don’t have an exact agenda. For this, we’re really talking about balancing with family, but talking about trying to get help and trying to get like, you know, strategies and methods and ways of thinking around that. I know you help with other topics as well. Talk to me how exit DNA came about what you do.
Mac Lackey 33:55
Yeah, it’s so that DNA really happened almost by accident. So you know, back in 2018, I sold my last company. And at that point, I one thing I had never done is between, you know, after I sell a business for 25 years, I always had the next one either ready to go or in my mind or in process and I’d really never taken the time to sort of step back and say, What did I do well, what did i what mistakes that I made, you know, what would I like to do in the future? And I did that actually took some time and really thought about kind of backwards looking you know, all the things that I felt like I had, you know, made mistakes and I would do differently because it clearly I wanted to spend my future trying to optimize for things that I did well and I want to do more of and about that time as I was kind of going through this, you know, mental analysis. I got invited to speak to a mastermind and the gentleman that invited me, I think he thought I was kidding. I was like, I don’t know what a mastermind ad is. And he was like, You gotta be kidding me. And I was like, I was like, look for 25 years, there were two things in my life. There was whatever business I was running. And my family, I didn’t go to events I didn’t speak. The day before the Super Bowl, I couldn’t tell you who was playing at it like I was heads down focused. So I don’t know what a mastermind is. So long story short, they convinced me to come out and speak to this entrepreneurial group as a mastermind. And I said, Look, I’m not a good speaker, I’ve never done it. And they said, well just Just share your stories of your exit journey, you’ve had six exits. That’s pretty unusual. This is a whole audience full of entrepreneurs, many of which will probably want to exit in the future. So tell your story. And so that’s what I did, I got up and I kind of talked about mistakes, I made a few things that I thought I’d done, well, just tried to add value as much as I could. As soon as I walked off the stage, a group of entrepreneurs kind of came in like jogging up to me and said, I need your help. You know, everything you just said, I have never heard before. Like, I’ve got an investment banker, I’ve got CPAs and attorneys, and they’re all helping me think about do I sell? Do I raise money? And in what you just said, I’ve never heard from any of them. And I was thinking, I don’t know what I said, because I don’t think I said anything impressive. But what really resonated. And it makes sense, in hindsight, if I made a comment that of my six companies, I had never sold for a financial multiple, I’d never sold for an EBIT on multiple or a revenue multiple. All those metrics, to me, were a fraction of what I felt the value of my companies were. They were strategically important to the people that bought them. And they were like, how do you do that? How do you build a company that way? And so I realized in that moment, you know, again, I’d been heads down for so long, that what I had learned, I was very fortunate, I mean, six exits is unique. And what I didn’t realize is, you know, if I look back, I talked about my first exit. Again, it was eight figures, it was great. Second, you know, business eight figure exit. But I also left millions of dollars on the table, just by not knowing how to structure the deal, and not knowing how to negotiate. And what dawned on me that day, when this group came up to me, is for all of these people, that statistically, they may, if they’re really lucky, have one exit in their entrepreneurial life. And it is the biggest financial opportunity of their lives. And most people are not going to maximize that because it’s going to be this their first time, right? They’re building an e-commerce company, they’re Amazon experts, they’re engineers, they’re not, you know, guys that know how to exit or girls that know how to sell a company. So I created exit DNA is a framework to really help people set their companies up so that if and when they want to sell, they’re going to be confident that they’re going to do that at maximum value. And it’s been really, really rewarding for me, because I really didn’t want to start another company, I wanted to help I wanted to mentor invest a little bit and, and now I’m getting to kind of help founders and entrepreneurs on this really important part of the journey. And watch how, when I open their eyes to different ways to think about if you should sell or not, or when you should sell or who you should sell to, that has been super rewarding. And the results have been, you know, great. I mean, it’s people, we had a lot of really nice exits from our members last year. Even in the middle of really rough market conditions, we had, you know, one company almost almost a nine figure exit all cash, not to take credit for that, but just just the fact that these companies all come in with the same mindset of either I don’t know how to exit, I certainly don’t know how to maximize value. And what everyone is telling me is I’m probably going to get five times EBIT da or eight times EBITDA, or whatever the metrics are, and I’m like, Don’t even talk about that. Right. Yeah, that’s kind of what I’ve been working on. It’s, it’s been really fun.
Andrew Morgans 39:17
I think it’s super refreshing. And before meeting you, you know, I haven’t heard much of that being said, I’ll be honest with you, Mark, and I’m definitely really obsessing about the m&a space like I’ve got equity in 15 companies. You know, I’ve had to arrange those deals and like, figure it out on the fly. I’ve yet to exit those but I’ve just gotten the equity and then you know, and so trying to position myself and really learn about this Amazon space and agency space, which is a whole nother thing. And you know, you get a lot of legal advice around you and legal things completely different from an entrepreneur, right like so. They just, you know, and you start thinking like, there’s a part of you that’s like, well, I feel like my team is the ultimate Secret Sauce, like the team that I’ve built, someone else can build, like, you know, doesn’t matter what money you have, you can’t build this, that’s an intangible. And if there hasn’t been someone ahead of you kind of like selling in a house market, like if there’s no one in your zip code that’s like selling a house at this certain price point, it’s super difficult. But you’re like, but my house I don’t carry my house has this, this, this, you know, and it takes almost like someone that is an entrepreneur that’s done it to then advise backwards versus like your counsel team or CPA team. You know, they’re all risk assessors like, or, or whatever. And it’s like, you know, for me, I’ve been building a company to be the best agency in space, not to hit him an EBIT on multiple, at least on my first like, you know, I’ve been a part of 12 exits. And I’m not saying I take credit for those I was there to help build them similar to you like helping coach someone probably to exit. There’s a reward system built in, and I appreciate it. That’s why I value what I do; I feel like we help not just help people to help brands and, and make them look better and get better valuations and all kinds of things. It’s a rewarding thing. I don’t think it’s taking credit at all, I wanted to kind of fix that if you’ve had a part in it, you know, you’re involved, it would be to say, like, hey, we built these brands, we have nothing to do with the Mexican. That’s not true. That’s not true. You know, we’ll build them. So super, super amazing, and just refreshing. You know, where can people like we’re coming up on time a little bit, because I could just keep picking your brain and promise you all day long. But you know, where can people find more about exit DNA? And you know, and what, what’s a piece of advice, you would give a founder, that’s just starting to begin to look into like, you know, what it might be to exit.
Mac Lackey 41:39
So yeah, exit DNA, you know, the, I guess the simplest way to look into it is the website, exit dna.com, or kind of a personal website, Mac lackey.com, that talks about a little bit of my background and philosophy and then talks about exit DNA as well. But I think they’re, you know, one of the scariest things to me, for entrepreneurs is that the path of least resistance when it comes time to sell your business, and most entrepreneurs get to the point where they need or want to sell, they’re not really being overly strategic about timing, you know, I do this whole session on the five factors that you have to consider to optimize your exit. And so people usually optimize for one. And that could be that you personally need money, you need to buy a house or pay off debt, or you need to fund your kids’ college. And that’s one driver. But if you ignore all of these other things, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re not going to maximize what’s going on in your industry, what’s going on in the macroeconomic environment, you know, all these things that come into play. So a lot of the philosophy of exit DNA is you don’t wait until you’re ready to sell in six months or even one year. You start right now doing little things that compound over time. And it’s like Einstein’s, you know, Eighth Wonder of the World compounding interest. If you do little things that we share and exit DNA to prepare, it could be 15 minutes a week, and over the course of two years, that 15 minutes can compound into another million dollars in your exit. It’s like a little compound, right. And so one big thing that I always recommend is starting a lot earlier than you think you need to because if you need to sell, and the markets are not great, like, unfortunately, that’s the market you have, you better have done every other thing you can to maximize value. And so starting early is a big one. And the other is the path of least resistance. We talked about financial multiples. Everybody you go to is going to say they’re going to do comps, just like they do for houses. Companies like yours sell for five to eight times EBIT, da, or 1.2 times the last 12 months’ revenue, whatever the metrics are unique to your industry. And what they never tell you because it’s not what they’re good at is the people that are in your industry that are likely to pay those kinds of multiples, the larger version of who you are. So if you personally decided to sell your agency, the path of least resistance is to find a bigger agency, one that’s two to three to 10 times bigger. That tends to be the worst buyer, not the worst in terms of culture and obvious stuff. But the one least likely to pay you a premium. The people that pay premiums are the ones who can do what you do. Yeah, they’re in different industries, and they want to do what you do. They’re trying to figure out how to get into what you do, and they have to buy their way in. Those are the ones that know, typical investment banker or m&a advisor or attorney, transaction attorney. They always go to the path of least resistance, and I’m always saying okay, add those to the list. Let’s go way over here and find people that want to be in your space where the strategic value is Ohai that it doesn’t matter, and there are so many examples. And why does Facebook buy, you know, WhatsApp for $19 billion? It’s not because of an EBIT, ah, multiple. They weren’t making money yet. They needed to be in that space. Do you know why it is? Google by a division of Motorola?
Andrew Morgans 45:18
By Oppo foods?
Mac Lackey 45:22
Yeah, they, for that’s a great example to do that because they need the strategic value that someone else has created. So as an entrepreneur, you have to be focused on that stuff, or it doesn’t mean it’s awful, but you’re just gonna end up kind of with that path of least resistance. And I know the difference, you know, adding another million or 2 million to your exit, depending on the size of your company, could be the difference between you retiring your parents and doing what you Thresh your life or being like, hey, that was great. Now I gotta go get another job.
Andrew Morgans 45:54
No, Mac, I love that. And something I can relate to a little bit granular level because I think it’s so relatable is like, for me, as I’ve scaled my agency in the Amazon space, I don’t like working with Amazon, what they call Amazon FBA sellers. So basically, like private label sellers, that is my community, that’s where we’ve gotten our start, that’s who I like, you know, has helped build this industry. At the same time. There’s someone that did it themselves at one point, and they don’t value the services of a full-service agency when it comes to content branding and these types of things. Versus you pair up with like a fortune 500 company that has no one inside of their company with any kind of experience like this and they’re open they’re just so thankful for the learnings you know, they’re willing to pay for this because this is something they don’t have completely different experience doing the same work really, you know, so it’s not just about the revenue it’s about like being appreciated as a consultant and you know, and as a team and then those services being valued so not not on the exit side but even in the in the business of what I do day to day working with someone does what we do not valued as much harder relationship working with someone that’s like not they have their experience in retail or something like that, for example, and then they bolt us on as a team and it’s just like wow, the relationship piece goes so much better as feel like they value us very well said and then amazing tip we have to go because we’re at time, but it’s been a pleasure having you on the show Mac and I can’t wait to connect again. I know we’ll be working together soon. Exit DNA is on the roadmap for me, at least. You know, I’ve been doing a lot of work the last few years. As you said, those 15 minutes a week, even like, you know, just getting stuff prepared and building for it, and it has been paying off. I’m the longest game, probably the young person you’ll ever meet. Just marked as the things I’ve wanted in life have been far ahead of me. And so it took a long game kind of strategy to get them. So it’s just a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time. Shout out again to our sponsor. Today’s episode of Startup Hustle was sponsored by Double. Double is remote executive assistants can help you with everything from email and calendar organization to expense reporting and database management. Find your perfect assistant today. Head over to withdouble.com. Use cut HUSTLE22 to get 300 off even easier. Click on the link in the show notes. While you’re there, make sure you hit that subscribe button so you can always be sure to find your daily dose of Startup Hustle. I’m gonna have a MAX website and links as well in the bio, everyone, so you can find that if you’re listening in the car. Just look over the episode. You can find his links. We’ll see you next time, guys Mac. Thanks again.
Mac Lackey 48:32
Thanks for having me.