Selling the Business…It’s Not Just Economics
There was a battle going on inside me last year that took more than enough energy. It wasn’t an illness it was the emotional battle that follows the sale of a business.
While the battle roared inside me there were times when I could stand outside myself, examine the emotions that occupied me and realize what an invaluable lesson I was learning as someone who works in the business succession and family wealth marketplace.
I was experiencing the emotional side of leaving the business. It was hard and fascinating, painful and instructive at the same time.
I had a nice business, a financial planning business. I had 300 plus clients, many I had known for years. I had watched their children grow, complete college, and start down their own paths. I had great staff and a great location. Business was good, cash flow excellent.
So why did I sell? Well the money offered was good and I could see the business changing as the cancer of regulation was removing the opportunity to apply professional judgment, the business was slowly becoming less fun. But perhaps the main reason I listened when the buyer called was because I knew that in a few years time (within 5), when I would be really ready to sell, so would many other baby boomers, all looking at the value of their business as part, or all of their retirement package and the economics would change. In a business valued on a multiple of revenue I could see the time coming when it would change from a sellers market to a buyers market and the valuation multiple would decrease; by selling a little sooner than a little later I was making a sound economic decision, a strategic decision.
I also had other things to do, my study and work in the family business and family wealth field would absorb my time, of that I was confident. I just had to make time for the 2 year transition when I would introduce my clients to the buyer.
Shortly after the change of control a key person announced she was leaving, after that the buyer decided to leave our “great location” and consolidate “our” office with his and my clients gradually stopped calling for me and started calling him, it was working exactly as planned, except I wasn’t ready for my redundancy. My people, my office, my baby; it was all out of my control and my energy was used fighting remorse over a good economic decision. It’s a lesson learned, how will it help in the future? Well I can warn the business owners that their battle is coming too. I can’t stop it. It’s a battle that all business owners must face unless they intend to die at their desks. The best advice I can give is have family and friends close, have something to go to and let time heal.