Article as seen on Inc.com

After several days of testing at a medical facility in Boston, three lab-coat-clad clinicians explained to 11-year-old Matt Curry and his parents that Matt suffered from a learning disability, some dyslexia and severe attention deficit disorder (ADD).  36 years later, he sold his business for $16.4 million in cash.

How He Handled The Diagnosis

Whereas most people would have been devastated or felt defeated, Matt recalls accepting that he would simply have to work harder than others to pay attention and accomplish his goals. “I see ADD not as a limitation, but instead I see it as my superpower,” Curry said during my interview with him.

The physicians prescribed Ritalin. His first year on the medication turned him into a straight-A student. Dealing with the drug early in its history, the physicians were unsure about long-term exposure, so they took him off the drug after a year. Unmedicated, he struggled to maintain focus. But his struggles only emboldened his resolve.

Matt’s handling of his condition prompted him to write the WSJ Bestseller, The A.D.D. Entrepreneur.

Background and Success

Matt and his wife, Judy, started Curry’s Auto Service in Northern Virginia in 1997. When the recession hit in 2008 and others retracted, Curry decided to grow aggressively.  Quickly, they had ten locations.

They landed on the INC 5000 three years in a row. They won many awards, and earned a reputation and related honors as the best woman-friendly auto repair facility in the region.

Attention Deficit Disorder: Blessing and Curse

Suffering from severe ADD can be a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, Matt shares that he thrives in chaos. When several priorities are presented at once, the ADD mind copes capably. However, without structure and processes, one can easily overlook or fail to complete important tasks.

Repeatable Processes Built Value

Matt and Judy turned everything into a repeatable process. The customer experience and operational procedures were identical at each of their locations. They would test the business by taking extended vacations to ensure that everything could run without them. When they sold the company, their planning had set them up to be able to cash-out and walk away – something few entrepreneurs can do.

In August 2013, they sold the company to a $1 billion, public company for $16.4 million cash. When asked how long he had to stay around after the sale, Curry said, “Exactly one second – long enough for the wire transfer.” After spending a year filled with celebrations and experiences (including a cool trip with Richard Branson), Matt has some regrets.

Not Without Regrets

It might seem like after collecting a payday of more than $16 million, everything would be easy. Having just turned fifty years old, Curry admitted: “We had one-hundred fifty employees. On average, they were married with at least one child. I had a purpose and responsibility to take care of our 450-plus-person family.”

Curry added, “There is a certain sense of belonging and pride when you walk into one of your stores and employees and customers see you as The Man. I miss that feeling.”

Though nobody is going to feel sorry for Matt or Judy after experiencing a multi-million dollar cash-out, one can tell that Matt took great pride in his daily involvement with his business and its employees and customers.

“I miss that association and seeing the direct impact on so many lives. I might have to do something similar again,” Matt shared.

Lessons For Your Business

Nearly every CEO has a dream of selling or having their children sell their business with no strings attached. Follow these lessons to maximize your chance of achieving that goal.

  • See Speed Bumps, not Barriers. Top performers compensate for and remain optimistic about their shortcomings instead of using them as an excuse. Matt saw his severe ADD as an advantage, not a limitation.
  • Build Repeatable Processes.  Matt and Judy delivered consistent results and something easily acquired by turning every task into a documented procedure.
  • Make Yourself Obsolete. If you are essential to the business, then an acquiring company will require you to stay involved. If you set up and can prove that the business can run without you, then you can cash-out and walk away.
  • Have a Plan.  Matt suggests that when planning for an exit, know what you want to do next. Otherwise, even with success, you might feel lost.

It’s Your Turn

What other lessons do you take away from Matt Curry and his battle with severe ADD, his successful exit, and his regrets? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Business Cast Interview With Matt Curry

Tune-In