It’s everything you’ve worked for and everything you thought you wanted—but now that it’s in front of you for the taking, something doesn’t feel right.
As your exit finally comes into focus, you’re unsure of whether you want to sell your business after all. And if that’s the case, we need to bring the transaction to a full stop, now. More than your business, this is your life. Your family. Your future. There are many reasons why business owners freeze up at the finish line. While those reasons are certainly valid, they often tie back to a single, common root cause.
Is It Deal Fatigue? …
Selling your business takes time and energy, including months or even years to prepare and position the business before ever listing it on the market, followed by possibly many more months of talking to potential buyers until we find the right fit. Then, the stretch from negotiating to a letter of intent through due diligence can be especially grueling while you’re simultaneously continuing to run your company. By the time we get to legal documents, you may find yourself drained and overwhelmed. All that legalese is even more intimidating to a tired mind.
…Deal Terms? …
Maybe you’re not fatigued, but rather, activated and engaged to the point where you’re picking apart that final contract. How long will you stay onboard during the transition? Who will you report to? What will you secure the note against? Why did the net working capital change?
Soon, you’ve homed in on a term that doesn’t sit well with you, even if you don’t fully understand it. That one line evolves into seemingly a deal-breaker, despite the sale price and general outcome of the transaction aligning with your ideal exit.
Your employees helped you build a salable business. You owe it to them to keep their livelihoods in mind, and the fact that you’re doing so shows your integrity and character as a leader. However, your loyalty to them is now venturing into the unknown things you can’t and shouldn’t try to control—like whether they’ll like their new boss or what will happen if the new owner lays them off.
Hesitancy doesn’t always stem from the deal itself. What if you just don’t like the buyer? Your spider sense kicks in, along with pride, dedication, and everything that made you successful. The deal looks right but the decision suddenly feels wrong. The business needs you. Your employees need you. Your customers need you. You cannot and will not leave your company to a buyer you don’t trust.
…Or Is It Fear?
In any, all or a combination of the concerns above, we need to be sensitive to the owner’s wishes, wants and needs. That entails digging deeper to understand and navigate the emotions at play. In many cases, we uncover a sense of fear.
Just like parents struggle with empty nest syndrome when their kids go off to college, business owners get cold feet when they realize that their life is about to change and the business will no longer be at the center of it. They’re scared of what comes next and defense mechanisms kick in to help them cope.
Selling is a big decision with even bigger implications. We expect any exiting owner to grapple with fear of change, fear of free time, fear of “winding down,” and the sum of it all, fear of letting go.
We’re not going to force your hand. By all means, let’s pause the sale and talk about it. There are reasons to kill the deal at the last minute, but fear isn’t one of them.
By John Ovrom, President & CEO, Exit Consulting Group