For my entire life, I have enjoyed a local restaurant named The Good Steer. And I do mean entire — dining there with my mom, dad, and siblings as a child; hanging out after movies and shows with my teenage/young adult friends; and going full circle by being the dad who would take his family there on a regular basis.
The ambience was rustic, wood cabin-like in a suburban setting where that wasn’t common. Its décor hadn’t changed too much over the past few decades, but that was part of the charm — it was easy to feel comfortable there. The staff was always welcoming and great, too, but the real reason to visit was the food. Burgers were the mainstay, each coming with its own “Cheese Dream” sauce and a mountain of ultra-thin, crispy fried onions. The combination was amazing, and even after age made me give up the onions, the rest still worked.
Sadly, after more than 65 years of serving the area, the family-owned business decided to close its doors for good on a recent Saturday. There was no warning that the end was near — it was business as usual on Saturday, and Sunday morning there was a Facebook post from the business’ account saying they were done.
That post drew more than 3000 comments from fans of the place, with many saying had they known it was closing they would have come in for one last mound of onion rings.
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A few days later there was an article in the newspaper about the closing and it included an interview with the owner, Robert McCarroll, who inherited the business from his father, who took over from his father before him. McCarroll said the hard decision to close was based on the rising costs of doing business. “It just gets to the point that you can’t raise the prices any more to cover the costs,” he said. “If it costs you $125 to fill up your car, you run out of money for a cheeseburger very quickly.”
It seems that there could have been a better way to say goodbye that would let the fans show their love and maybe give the retirement fund a boost, but I have no real insights into the realities and thought process of the McCarrolls and thank them for the great memories and wish them all the best.
This story did, however, remind me of a column Henry Clifford wrote a couple of years ago about having an exit plan for your company. All right, at first all it did was make me want a burger there, but once that passed, I thought of Henry’s column…
In that article, “The Finish Line: Ways to Increase Value,” Henry opened with: If you’re like most custom installation business owners, you started out with a passion for the industry and learned the rest along the way. The thought of defining a succession plan or exit strategy probably never occurred early on (maybe it still hasn’t). Rest assured you’ll need to get off the bus at some point, and it’s well worth beginning the planning process several years out from any big changes.
He then went on to offer tips from his friend Steve Zacharias at Transact Capital on how to structure your company now so that you are in a better position to sell it when/if the time comes. The suggestions are divided into three parts: Depth and Breadth of Management Team; Well Developed, Documented Business Systems; and Diversified Customer Base Delivering Recurring Revenues. It’s an excellent article and is available on residentialsystems.com.
You may not need an exit plan any time soon, but no one lives forever — although my lifespan may have gotten a boost now that I no longer have access to Cheese Dream sauce and tumbleweeds of fried onions.