“True Wealth” is Being Home For Dinner Every Night
Mac Lackey is a serial entrepreneur who has launched and scaled 6 companies to meaningful exits. Now he is all about helping entrepreneurs think about, prepare for, and be ready to exit through his company exitdna.com
Mac’s early life was all about soccer. His family moved while he was in middle school to a district where he could play soccer more competitively. He played through college and played professionally after. It obviously had to end at some point, but he had no plans when it did. He joined a startup in marketing and fell in love with the energy of the startup world.
The second part of his life started when he left that company to launch an internet startup of his own in 1995. In just a few years (still in his 20s) he exited with 8 figures.
It was never about the money. It was always about the drive to prove he could build something, prove that he could land big clients, and prove that he could attract and retain great teams.
He LOVED the idea that people were leaving “steady, secure” jobs to join their startups. Seeing people take a risk on their venture with them and then seeing those people reap big rewards was its own reward.
“Being an entrepreneur is, I think, a lot safer than working for a large corporation. Period.”
July 2000 – He had just sold 2nd company. He was expecting his daughter to be born in August of 2000. Mac had memories of his father – who was a 3rd shift engineer (worked hard, wasn’t always there). He realized that working 80 hours a week and sleeping on a couch in his office would never work for him.
“In that moment, I decided that I was not going to accept the trade-off that everyone around me said that you can either be that kind of great dad or you can be an entrepreneur that scales companies… you just can’t do both. Something’s got to give.”
All through her life before college. He never missed her events and he was always at home at 5 for dinner, AND still scaled up and sold 4 more companies before she turned 19???
How is that possible? What is secret sauce?
DECIDE & COMMIT
I decided that I would be there for her – that I would be home for dinner every night – and I committed to that decision.
- The boss’s presence can keep people from stepping up and trying on difficult roles. By leaving at 4:50, people step up. And,
- By leading with balance, you attract people who want to fill the gap.
Sold the last company in 2018. Had an office, but the team had no idea when or if he would show up. It did not depend on him. He hired really great people and they took it on. Talented people embrace that opportunity. Empower people. We throw you in the deep end and if you swim, you will get lots of opportunity.
Made the decision to be part time. Had conviction. Even if it meant business suffers. Have to be strong about limits.
Success isn’t only financial. In today’s hustle culture, the idea that if you work really hard it will eventually be worth it is the wrong way to think about it.
Don’t make the trade-off. Don’t give up the important for the money.
Mac went from 8 figure exit to almost bankrupt back to a few thousand back to a new exit. WHILE – maintaining once and a lifetime experiences with his family on a regular basis.
Risk taking. Life can’t wait. Kids are young one time. Health isn’t guaranteed.
Doing, and going and being…
Mac is the entrepreneurial version of Alex Honnold’s Free Solo. Big risk = big reward.
What would have happened if you didn’t get that 5th exit? Does it all come down to luck?
Certainly – Luck matters. Timing matters. GOOD JUDGEMENT matters. Awareness of opportunity matters. WHen its working, Lean in. When it’s not working, manage risk. What’s your plan B? C? What then?
Opportunistic, Curious, Ready to switch gears when necessary (not holding on too tightly).
Are entrepreneurs “Special” in some way
1. Domain expertise. World Class. Sole focus is their business. They know ONE THING really well. This is not a slight. These types of entrepreneurs are brilliant in one dimension.
2. Open and looking for things – aware but without domain expertise (EVERYTHING looks like an opportunity).
Mac is the second type. He was never building to flip it. But he isn’t the type to build it for 15 years (when there is all this other opportunity all around). Always thoughtful of exit potential. Not seeking to flip, but always looking at potential opportunities and buyers and partners.
OPEN to exit. Want to find people willing to give you a premium, but always want to be in the drivers seat.
WEALTH’s BAD MOMENT:
Is the pursuit of Wealth inherently selfish? Is there a way to pursue wealth that makes everyone’s life better?
Of course. Doesn’t have to be non-profit. Business and capital ventures can be great tools for good work. Social enterprise creates wealth for owners, but also for employees. And upon an exit, that capital gets recycled into new startups and philanthropy.
Two types of founders:
1. Smart, problem oriented, let’s build the thing.
2. Opportunistic, profit motivated, markets share, revenue opportunity.
The first are the kind of folks we love to work with. The second seems purely “scale and exit” motivated; purely desirous of the Gold Star for biggest exit. If there is a problem with wealth it is the too-heavy tilt towards the profit motivation.
Great founders have to have a little of both. See the problem, but also know that investors require a return on their capital.