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The Importance of Professional Guidance When Exiting a Business

By Generational Equity

Professional Guidance When Exiting a Business

Recently the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) in conjunction with Fifth Third Bank released a report on a survey they conducted earlier this year. The study is entitled “Owner Transitions in the Middle Market - When Business Gets Personal: A Business Owner’s Perspective on Selling a Middle Market Company.

The report is extremely comprehensive and I would recommend that everyone who is considering an exit from their company download and read it as it is full of key thought leadership for entrepreneurs regarding the exit process.

I thought I would share a few segments of the report with our subscribers; key concepts such as this:

When a business owner sells all or part of the organization into which he or she has poured blood, sweat, and tears, it is no surprise the transition is much more than a business transaction. It is an extremely personal event in the business owner’s life. Indeed, personal considerations impact every aspect of the sale, from key drivers to how owners prepare for the transaction to the concerns and challenges along the way. In many cases, these personal factors bear more weight and affect the sales process to a greater degree than purely business or economic factors do.

As we have said many times in past Insight Posts the final decision to actually exit can be quite emotional and requires lots of input from friends, family members, and trusted advisors. Based on our combined decades of deal making experience, we have found that although “money” is often the initial motivation in an exit plan, in the end, emotional items such as professional legacy, employee well-being, relationships with clients and community often become paramount. This is why our deal teams are so successful: We take the time to truly get to know the client before (and during) the exit journey and in many cases, become more of a family counselor than a financial engineer!

Another key point the NCMM makes in the study is this:

EXTERNAL ADVISORS ARE CRITICAL TO THE SALES PROCESS AND TO ADDRESSING KEY AREAS OF CONCERN.

Most middle market business owners who sell do not attempt to address all exit planning issues on their own. They build teams of advisors around them and report the critical importance of having access to the right advice during the process. Ultimately, most sellers with an experienced advisory team express a high degree of satisfaction and success with the transition. They are pleased with the price received and the ease of the process itself, and are often eager to put the funds to work in new ways.

Middle market business owners do not attempt to go it alone when it comes to selling all or part of their businesses. Rather, they work to build the right advisory team who can help them with navigating key concerns and ensuring the objectives for the sale are met.

These owners are likely to include external consultants in their inner circle as they contemplate the various aspects of the sale process. On average, advisory teams typically include four resources representing a mix of high-level business leaders and trusted external consultants. Lawyers and investment bankers are the most popular choices from outside the business. Many owners also involve other external consultants, such as their corporate banker and/or their tax advisor, in the process. 

Again, we have discussed the “value” of professional guidance during the exit journey several times over the years. The long-term success of our firm is driven by our Core Values and how we approach every engagement with the same goal: to help the client find the optimal buyer at the optimal price and optimal deal structure. Unless you have sold a number of companies in the past, most entrepreneurs do not clearly value the “value” of a professional middle market investment bank being at their side. Here is what a few of our clients have told us about the importance of our participation in their journey:

The theme in these videos is very similar: You really only get one opportunity to exit optimally and having an M&A advisory firm with you along the way makes a huge difference.

Finally, one really important issue worth considering:

OWNERS LACK A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF EXACTLY HOW FAR EXIT PROCEEDS WILL GO (or I would add = need to go)

This key component of the financial planning process is often not explored in enough detail. It’s one thing to consider the lump sum of the cash-out, but it’s another matter when that sum begins to be allocated to a long list of personal goals and objectives. Because many owners have plans to invest a portion of the proceeds in other businesses, this process involves a full risk analysis and an understanding of how investment risk can impact other priorities.

When owners take the time to consider the big picture, they often find they are not as confident as they would like to be in how their finances will ultimately look, both for themselves as well as for the next generation. To be the best possible stewards of their wealth, it is critical for owners to be proactive in optimizing their financial planning and to invest as much (if not more) time in preparing themselves as they do their companies.

Given the importance and complexity of personal preparation for a business transition, excluding wealth advisors is often a particularly costly oversight. Survey’s find that owners who surround themselves with expert advisors in all areas of a transition—including the personal side—are much more confident and overall better prepared for their futures. A sale of a business is probably one of the most important times for great advice. Bringing in trusted personal financial and wealth advisors who are most in tune with the owners’ individual objectives and concerns is key to a transition that works on every level.

Generational is rather unique in the middle market investment banking industry: We provide a full range of services designed to both prepare the company for sale (Generational Consulting Group - GCG) but also an award-winning wealth management team (Generational Wealth Advisors - GWA) to help you protect and grow your newly found liquidity.

We have found that the sooner we get GWA involved with our clients, the smoother the deal typically will go. One major issue: most business owners do not have qualified financial advisors working with them (why would they, they are non-liquid) so GWA can get involved early in our process to help the client determine just how much capital he/she will need post close for the next phase of their lives. This is so very critical and can’t be overstated. If you are considering your exit, you need to find a wealth management firm that can work with your investment bank to ensure a smooth (and safe) transition.

Again, special thanks to NCMM and Fifth Third Bank for conducting this valuable, insightful survey on business owner exits. We too offer educational services like this at our Generational Growth and Exit Executive Conferences. These are of tremendous value, are complimentary, and will provide you with a wealth of information about what you can do to maximize your exit today, tomorrow, or even five years from now. To find one near you, use this link.

The Study’s Research Process:

To better understand how owners’ personal considerations, feelings and perceptions impact every aspect of middle market business transitions, the National Center for the Middle Market, in partnership with Fifth Third Bank, surveyed a group of 300 middle market executives. The sample included 75 owners of privately held middle market businesses, who benefited from the sale of all or part of their companies in the past 24 months. Of these 75 organizations, more than half are family-owned, with more than three-quarters of these family-owned organizations in their second, third, or fourth generation of ownership at the time of the sale.

Carl Doerksen is the Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity.

© 2022 Generational Equity, LLC All Rights Reserved

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We thank you Eric and Generational Equity making our dream come true.
Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
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.
I decided to attend the conference and hopefully receive some guidance on how to structure an exit plan of my business. Upon arriving at the conference, I was so impressed with the presentation given by Generational Equity that I set a future appointment that week to discuss the possibility of selling my business with their Senior Managing Director David Robinson.
JoAnn Ellis, Owner of Fondren 5 Star Kennels
Thanks to you, the entire GE team and especially Michael Goss for driving a great valuation, coaching me and driving the process across the finish line. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to support GE going forward. P.S. Given my experience with GE I felt comfortable enough to sign up with Generation Wealth Advisors!
Tom Currier, Former President & CEO, Rackmount Solutions
Through the sale process, Generational brought in several interested buyers and we closed in about 6 months. I am so glad I accepted that invitation to the conference and could not be happier with the whole process. The team at Generational coupled with their knowledge and guidance was so valuable that in the end, I know I could never have done this on my own!
JoAnn Ellis, Owner of Fondren 5 Star Kennels
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.
I need to say an immense thank you to Don Ho for his stellar work ethic, attention to detail, and tireless effort. Also thank you to the whole crew at GE! Without you, Don could not do such a phenomenal job. We were shooting for closing and funding before the end of 2020, due to the uncertainty of the political landscape and taxes. I am happy to report we closed last week and will be funding tomorrow.
Dr. Caty J. Catron PhD, RN, VA-BC – Owner, Vic The Picc, LLC
I would like to thank you and your firm, Generational Equity, for being our valued advisors in our journey.
Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
The professionals at Generational Equity then helped develop a roadmap for enhancing the value of the firm and an evaluation report. This was completed by June 14, 2021. We then developed the Confidential Information Memorandum and put Taylor Studios, Inc. on the market by July.
Generational Equity’s professional staff helped me every step of the way. Their network and professionals are the only reason I sold my company this quickly. For me this is a once in a lifetime sale and I was unfamiliar with the process. I was able to lean on them with questions and concerns.
Betty L. Brennan, President, Taylor Studios
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
I am pleased that I was able to work with Andrew Byrd throughout this experience. From the first meeting we had in Minneapolis I felt that I was in good hands. His knowledge and expertise is second to none. He guided the process consistently throughout. I feel lucky that I was pared with Andrew and could not be happier that I chose Generational Equity to handle this major life event. Thank you Andrew and GenEq for everything!
Eric Erlandson, Owner, Action Fastenings, Inc.
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all that you have done for us. Not only did you take care of all the aspects of the sale but took extra care to make sure we knew what it looked like every step of the way. I will definitely recommend your company to anyone that is in a position to or looking to exit their business.
Shane and Johanna Kline, Owners of Vision Upfitters
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
After attending a conference with GE, I decided that the value they bring would be worth the expense and as soon as I started working with them, I realized that was the right decision. When we started to get LOIs, Fred Zweifel took the lead on the communication and supported negotiations throughout the process, which got tricky as we moved forward. I learned that it can be common for companies to make a great offer then work to erode that price with their discoveries, but Fred and the GE team kept that from happening.
Caroline Connelly, CEO, OptoTest
T.D., thank you so much! You are a great leader! I love how you are using your gifts and talents to better others. You are clearly a GREAT COACH! This 3 day session undoubtedly changed the future of our business, and very well may have been the sole catalyst to save my company, my health and my marriage! A genuine “thank you” from the bottom of my heart.
Bryan D. Horn, Owner, Over Under Clothing
Generational Equity educated and informed us – so that we could be on the upside of a good decision (to sell).
Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
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.
Your wisdom and experience were invaluable to me during this once-in-a-lifetime transaction.
Ralph Noblin, President of Noblin & Associates
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
The most important contribution I think Ahmad made was with his personality and work ethic. He is sincere, efficient, and very hard working. He was available to me at all times, whether it was for specific detail of the negotiation or just to talk through the bigger picture. He listened, advised, and recommended, but never forced his idea or opinions. In the time we worked together, he became a valued colleague and also a friend.
Salvo Stoch, Founder and CEO of Sleeping Partners
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
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.
Generational Equity’s assistance was invaluable in compiling and marketing our business.
Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
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
We had the pleasure of working with Mr. Ahmad Behjati Managing Director, M&A, for Generational Equity during our acquisition of Papa's Dodge in late 2021. Generational Equity and Mr. Behjati represented and marketed Papa’s Dodge. As our primary contact, Mr. Behjati was professional in every facet of this acquisition process, conveying valuable advice most times and assisting us in every step of the process.
Rick Greene of Dobbs Equity Partners LLC
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
We were represented by Michael Goss with Generational. The due diligence was grueling and exhausting, but Michael propped us up and kept us motivated throughout the process. Debi and I continued to ask each other how we could possibly make it through this process without the assistance of Michael. Michael's professionalism and knowledge is absolutely amazing, and we are so blessed to have had him by our side as we made our future dreams come true.
Bob and Debi Lee, Owners of BL Technology, Inc and BL Tl Services, LLC
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
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