The Growing Professional

Part 1

I was asked to prepare a short talk for the celebration of the 500th webinar event of Business Valuation Resources.  I chose the topic, “Expectations of a Growing Professional.”  This is a topic I’ve addressed before in a few outside talks and internally at Mercer Capital.  In this post and two more in the near future, I’ll share the gist of my thoughts on the webinar yesterday.

The Beginning

It was almost exactly 34 years ago, late in June of 1982.  I remember as if it were yesterday.  I had just left a high exposure and great job with Morgan, Keegan & Co., a regional investment bank (since acquired by Raymond James) to start my new business valuation (and whatever honest work I could sell) firm, Mercer Capital.

It took a few days to lease a two room office, acquire my Osborne 1 computer (with a five-inch screen), a Smith-Corona TP-1 printer which printed at the meteoric rate of one page per five minutes, telephones in the office and sitting room, and a thermal copier.  It was my first day in the office, and I was sitting at my desk, ALONE.

I could see the sun shining on the grass outside my office window, and I stared at it.  I guess I was hoping to watch it grow.  I continued to stare, feeling so ALONE.  After a while, in a moment of conviction, I realized that I would have to grow if my new enterprise was to succeed.  I had gone from high exposure to no exposure.  My biggest risk was in not growing.  I reached for the telephone on the desk and dialed Mercer Capital’s first outbound call.  I have been both a growing professional and outbound ever since.

Let’s begin with three thoughts pertaining to you and me as growing professionals:

  1. Growing professionals are made, not born. You will make yourself – or not. That is your challenge.
  2. You have to invest in yourself and your career to grow.
  3. You are responsible for your own growth as a professional. You are responsible for the business of you.

I’ll add a fourth thought to this list, because without it, your growth as a professional will be limited.

You have to bring passion and persistence to your life and career to be the best professional you can be.  Your passion provides the drive and your persistence make you keep on keeping on even when you may be discouraged.

Earl Nightingale was an early success and motivational speaker and host of a long-running radio show.  In 1956, he published a record album titled The Strangest Secret in the World.  This album became the first spoken word recording to achieve Gold Record status, selling more than one million records.  The “secret” in the album was in six words:

“We become what we think about.”

I listened to Nightingale’s radio show in the 1950s growing up because of my mother’s influence.  She was a real fan.  I’ve added to Nightingale’s six words:

“We become what we think about if we do what we think about.”

Becoming a growing professional is all about what we think about and what we do about what we are thinking.

Business vs. You

The value of a business is the present value of all expected future benefits to be derived from the business discounted to the present at a discount rate appropriate for the risks associated with the projection.  We note three important concepts related to this definition.

  1. Value today is informed by the past, but it is clearly expectational.
  2. Value is a function of expected cash flow, risk and growth.
  3. Business growth requires reinvestment of cash flow into the business.

The definition of business value and the three related concepts are without dispute.  If we look at the value of a professional in this light, what can we say?  The  value of a professional is the perceived present value of our current and past performance based on everything we have done to date.  We can note three concepts here, as well.

  1. Individual professionals are not paid based on what they are expected to do in the future. They are paid because of the current expectations created by their past performance.
  2. The value of an individual is based on the risks taken and the growth achieved in the past, which combined, create value in the minds of clients and colleagues and expectations for current and future performance.
  3. Personal professional growth requires current investment of a portion of time, effort, and energy to create future value.

The difference between a professional and a business is important to understand.  We capitalize expected future benefits to get the present value of a business today.  You can’t capitalize your expected future benefits.  You cannot sell yourself.  You can’t sell future efforts to get value today.  You work today and reap the benefits of what you’ve done in the past.  In other words, rather than capitalizing expected future work, you can capitalize on what you’ve done in the past today.

There’s a Chinese proverb that says:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The next best time is now.

The growing professional is always tilling the proverbial soil and planting proverbial seeds.

We will further explore the concept of the growing professional in future posts.

Be well,



My two most recent books are available in an Ownership Transition Bundle.  The bundle, priced at $35 plus s/h, has been attractive for many business owners, appraisers and attorneys.


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