A hands-on owner who has “lived the business” 60 and 70 hours a week for decades often has a very difficult time letting go, even though, in his or her mind, it’s time to sell the company.
I am currently working with an owner who I’ve been in contact with for over four years. During that time, we’ve talked about “exit strategies” that include gathering the financials, getting the paperwork in order, cleaning up the facility, so that when the time comes to sell, everything is ready to go. It’s a process, a list of things to do. But, for the owner, it doesn’t resolve the emotional part of saying good-bye to a major part of his or her life.
Now, he says he’s ready and eager to sell. But words don’t always match actions. In more than a four-month period, it has been a challenge to meet with him to 1) tour the company, 2) talk about financials, and 3) present the valuation. The business is booming, and this owner is totally consumed with every aspect of the day-to-day activity. From early morning to late at night, he says there is no time to meet, and he can’t find even one hour to review and sign the listing contract!
Hm-m-m. I wonder, “Does he really WANT to sell?” or “Is he AFRAID to sell?”
Having owned my own business for 25-years, I understand the fear of jumping off the merry-go-round. It’s very hard to leave something that’s so comfortable and engaging, even though you want to slow down and back away from the overload.
Sometimes business brokers become quasi-counselors as they talk through some of these fears and even present “after the sale” options. In this case, I might suggest to the owner that on the first day after the sale, he jumps on a plane to Tahiti to de-stress for a week or two. At the same time, I’ll show him some possible smaller business options that he might want to look at to keep his fingers in the industry without stealing all of his waking hours.
For me, becoming a business broker gave me that second career to keep me active and engaged. Most owners who have been on the merry-go-round for a long time don’t simply want to jump off and walk away…they want to jump onto the next ride.