Today we cover another exit planning mistake that you need to avoid when pursuing buyers for your business: Not being fully dedicated to the process.
For many entrepreneurs, selling the family business can be a tough emotional decision. We recognize this since many of us have been involved in lower middle-market M&A transactions for several decades. For many business owners, the idea of finding a buyer and moving on to the next stage in life is very appealing. After years of owning and operating a company, and assuming 100% of the risk associated with it (not to mention the hours, months, and years of sweat equity poured into the venture), the concept of monetizing one’s largest asset is extremely attractive. Even so, the idea of leaving the “baby” you created can be tough to do at the 11th hour if not fully committed.
For many sellers there really is no option in this decision to sell. One of the “Big D’s” has reared its ugly head and made the exit inevitable no matter what emotions become paramount as the final close approaches (for those of you unfamiliar with the term, the “Big D’s” refers to Death, Disability, Divorce, Disinterest a.k.a. burnout, and Disagreement among partners/family members). When one or more of these is the primary motivator, then typically sellers are very committed.
Unfortunately, buyers know this and naturally drive a hard bargain when negotiating. That is why we have suggested several times over the past few years that you sell when the market tells you it is time not when external circumstances force you to. See Exit Planning Mistake No. 5 – Selling at the Wrong Time for further details.
Getting back to our theme here in Mistake No. 7, you might be wondering, “Why does this matter? Lots of people change their minds and pull out of business transactions with little or no consequences. So why can’t I test the waters with my business and just see what kind of offers I get?”
And certainly you could do that. However, a business sale is not like the sale of your house or a car. Either of these you could cancel with little recrimination (other than hurt feelings) and face little financial loss. However, selling a business and reneging at the 11th hour carries with it some serious potential consequences:
The first point is critical. Once you sign a letter of intent with a buyer, you will begin the due diligence process. This 60- to 90-day timeframe requires that you disclose literally EVERYTHING about your business to the buyer. Most business owners have a vague notion about the definition of due diligence. But until you experience it first hand, you have no idea of the level of detail required. To help you grasp the concept of the due diligence process, we asked a few of our clients to describe it:
The point of these discussions is simply this: Entering due diligence is a march that you don’t want to decide to back out of; testing the waters opens your business up to all sorts of confidentiality issues. Most frequently, it is the employees who first begin to suspect something is up when all sorts of strangers begin showing up, touring the facility, asking questions, and holding long, closed-door meetings with management. Rumors often are created to fill information gaps and the last thing you want to do is have several key employees exit once you decide not to sell because you are personally not ready.
So be ready to do so!
Buyers Want to Talk to Committed Sellers
The second point above is just as important: Professional buyers (the kind you want to attract to your business) simply do not have the time available to waste 6-8 weeks negotiating with you only to have you determine that you are not emotionally ready to depart. These folks look at an estimated 500-1,000 opportunities annually and don’t have the bandwidth available to lose significant time working with a less-than-committed seller.
Then, if you do pull out of the deal at the last minute due to cold feet (even if the deal is a good one) and decide a year later to re-enter, buyers, many of whom you will have approached before, will be very concerned about you changing your mind again. You will need to make great strides in convincing them that this time you are serious. This can be very challenging process and again, if buyers sense that you are now more desperate to sell than a year earlier, they will most likely negotiate a hard bargain.
This is a key reason that buyers like to look at Generational Equity clients: Our process ensures that business owners are committed to the goal because of two steps we put them through:
From a buyer’s perspective, both of these are equally important. The commitment fee does exactly what the name implies: It eliminates those testing the waters and ensures that the seller has some skin in the game. As you can imagine, buyers, knowing that a committed business owner is in our system, move our deals to the top of the 500+ opportunity pile!
Just as important, every client we accept goes through a 30- to 90-day business evaluation with us. This allows us to analyze the business to not only determine the current Business Enterprises Value but we also provide recommendations to sellers on steps they can take to make the business more sale-able and enhance its value going forward. Again, for buyers, knowing that a seller not only knows the value of the business before engaging with buyers AND is working on improvements makes our clients far more attractive than others.
Time and space do not allow me to drill into this seventh mistake further; if you would like to learn more I recommend attending a Generational Equity exit planning symposium soon. While there you will be able to meet one on one with our M&A professionals and get further details on all seven mistakes to avoid and more!
To find out if your business qualifies you to attend (we have strict size and industry standards for attendees to meet), please call me at 972-232-1125 or email me at email@example.com. Please also feel free to visit our website and drill into these links for further information about us:
By Carl Doerksen, Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity.
© 2016 Generational Equity, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Your wisdom and experience were invaluable to me during this once-in-a-lifetime transaction.Ralph Noblin, President of Noblin & Associates
I wanted to write you a quick letter to express our appreciation and our delight on the outcome of helping us through the process of our recent sale. We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
Tom Staszak is one of the most professional people I have dealt with in my last forty years of business. You’ve got a great group of people and you have built a truly professional organization.Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
Greetings Mike. Thank you for the captivating and compelling presentation you made at the Phoenix presentation last week. Over many years in business yours was the most informative and well-presented presentation, on any subject, that I have ever attended! Your energy and enthusiasm combined with your concise and captivating support of your positions with easily understood examples and data was compelling.Pete L.
Thank you again for all your guidance and support. Any company will achieve what they intend, if they have you on their team!Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
Generational Equity’s assistance was invaluable in compiling and marketing our business.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
We knew it would be a difficult task to have someone really understand our business and our market, prior to researching a possible buyer, so it was imperative that we found someone of your caliber, with definite proven experience in this area.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
We will highly recommend Generational Equity and Musa Jagne to any business owner about to embark on the same process.Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
We thank you Eric and Generational Equity making our dream come true.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
Bruce and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Generational Equity for assigning Musa Jagne to our transaction. In Bruce’s words, “Musa did one hell of a job for us!”Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
Generational Equity educated and informed us – so that we could be on the upside of a good decision (to sell).Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
We were happy to see the interest in our company and what we cherished has not just a valuable company but an important company to the communities we served in.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
The process was much more involved than I expected and your help, experience and advice was a big factor in making the negotiations go as smoothly as possible.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
I must say that I have never worked with a more driven, competent and focused individual as Don Ho.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
The help you provided us during each step of this process made us feel very comfortable and confident we were selecting the right approach to transition our Company.Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
Michael worked tirelessly, He followed every lead meticulously and urgently to make sure nothing was missed.Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
I quickly recognized that Don was working for Sharpe Mixers above all else, and held our interests above others.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
Thanks again Phil and feel free to have a future client call me if they would like a referral. You are a true professional!Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
We are extremely pleased with the way Generational Equity handled the sale of our company. Your associates, Tom and Chris, did an outstanding job of getting us (me) through the process.Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
I would like to thank you and your firm, Generational Equity, for being our valued advisors in our journey.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
I couldn’t have asked for a better team than Michael and Deborah. We couldn’t have done it without them.Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
The information we learn from customers helps us personalize and continually improve your experience. Here are the types of information we gather.
We receive and store any information you enter on our Web site or give us in any other way. We do not sell or rent your personal information to others without your consent. We use the information we collect only for the purposes sending promotional information, enhancing the operation of our site, serving advertisements, for statistical purposes and to administer our systems. We DO NOT use third parties to provide customer service, to serve site content, to serve the advertisements you see on our site, to conduct surveys, to help administer promotional emails, or to administer drawings or contests, but reserve the right to do so in the future without advance notice.
By submitting my name electronically and clicking the “submit” button, I understand that I am providing Generational Group, Inc., Generational Equity, LLC, Generational Capital Markets, LLC, DealForce LLC, their affiliates, representatives, contractors, etc. (“Generational Group”) my telephone number, which may include a number that is wireless and/or a number that is on a national, state, or other Do Not Call registry or list. I hereby consent and agree to receive telephone calls including any autodialed and/or pre-recorded telemarketing calls and/or text messages (telemarketing) from or on behalf of Generational Group at the telephone number provided. I further consent and agree that telephone calls may be made using automated technology such as an automatic telephone dialing system, artificial or prerecorded voice, or SMS text messaging. Consent is not a condition of purchase. I further warrant and represent that any telephone number provided is not on any state or national Do Not Call Registry and that by agreeing to these terms and conditions that if any number provided is on any such registry, I hereby consent and agree to receive telemarking calls and/or communications including any phone calls, text messages, URLs, links, emails, etc. to the telephone number(s) and/or any e-mail addresses provided. I understand that by entering my name in the electronic form provided, that I am signing my name as equally as if it was my handwritten signature and that it is my intent to provide an “electronic signature” as that term is defined in state and federal law, as well as industry practices for e-commerce.
For reasons such as improving personalization of our service, we might receive information about you from other sources and add it to our account information.
Generational Group may license the use of its intellectual property including but not limited to its name, likeness, and logo for the use of affiliated offices. Such affiliated offices may not be owned, controlled, managed, supervised or staffed by employees, officers, or agents of Generational Group. Affiliated offices may be independently owned and operated. For more information about a particular office, please contact Generational Group at its office in Dallas, Texas.
This page may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information, the terms of which must be observed and followed.
Information on this web site may contain technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Information may be changed or updated without notice. Generational Group may also make improvements and/or changes in the products and/or the programs described in this information at any time without notice.
Generational Group does not want to receive confidential or proprietary information from you through our web site. Please note that any information or material sent to Generational Group will be deemed NOT to be confidential. By sending Generational Group any information or material, you grant Generational Group an unrestricted, irrevocable license to use, reproduce, display, perform, modify, transmit and distribute those materials or information, and you also agree that Generational Group is free to use any ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques that you send us for any purpose.
Our computer system protects personal information using advanced firewall technology.
Information Generational Group publishes on the World Wide Web may contain references or cross references to other products, programs and services that are not announced or available in your country. Such references do not imply that Generational Group intends to announce such products, programs or services in your country. Consult a Generational Group representative for information regarding the products, programs and services which may be available to you.
Generational Group makes no representations whatsoever about any other web site which you may access through this one. When you access a non-Generational Group web site, please understand that it is independent from Generational Group, and that Generational Group has no control over the content on that web site. In addition, a link to a non-Generational Group web site does not mean that Generational Group endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content, or the use, of such web site. It is up to you to take precautions to ensure that whatever you select for your use is free of such items as viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other items of a destructive nature.
IN NO EVENT WILL Generational Group BE LIABLE TO ANY PARTY OR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL OR OTHER CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES FOR ANY USE OF THIS WEBSITE, OR ON ANY OTHER HYPERLINKED WEBSITE, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY LOST PROFITS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION, LOSS OF PROGRAMS OR OTHER DATA ON YOUR INFORMATION HANDLING SYSTEM OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF WE ARE EXPRESSLY ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
Furthermore, all information contained within this website is the property of Generational Group.
Honored to win Investment Banking Firm of the Year 3 years running.
Over 50 awards and counting.
Sign up to receive regular email updates, industry-leading insights and details on complimentary M&A executive conferences in your area from our award-winning team
Success, you have been added to our list.