Walk Away With More Than Just Liquidity
I suspect I am not entirely alone when I admit to being tight with money. “Frugal” would be the word I prefer, but “selectively miserly” is perhaps a more truthful description. Thankfully, when it came to selling the business I was blessed to get some things right. One of those was signing a check to retain a professional advisor for the sale. While the cost was not insignificant it proved to be a great investment rather than merely an expenditure. Here are a few lessons and unforeseen benefits I gleaned from that journey.
The Off-Channel Surprise
When I considered who might purchase the business, my vision of likely acquirers was limited to our industry and direct competitors. Working with Arbor taught me the value of off-channel buyers; that is, companies well outside my experience, contacts, and our industry. I heavily discounted the notion. How could someone without an understanding of a business respect and understand it? Remarkably, all the offers that were eventually received came from off-channel suitors. In the end, the acquirer had little experience in our sector yet proved to be an ideal partner. Arbor provided great value by creating this connection. Not-so-obvious connections have significant potential.
The Ease of Looking Good
I have a sense of what good should look like, but sometimes getting there can be painful. This seems to apply even to tasks I am reasonably gifted at, let alone those which are unfamiliar. Creating a comprehensive document with purpose-appropriate content that would form the basis for selling the business was definitely outside my skill set. Thus, it was a pleasure to discover the wonder of working with someone who is capable of doing just that: taking conversations, e-mails, and haphazard documents and producing a highly professional business summary. Skilled help in preparation is both convenient and of value.
The Usefulness of a Sounding Board
Transactions can be brutal. Ours took many years with twists and turns along the way, including the dismal financial climate of 2008. Having external resources to identify potential risks and pitfalls, receive knowledgeable advice, and help put matters in perspective can be invaluable. Coaching and feedback from presentations was also a benefit, giving me the opportunity to permanently improve and grow my skills. External perspective is valuable.
The Value of a Skilled Advocate
Transactions get messy. Letters of intent may look clean, but along the way stuff comes up. Having someone in my corner with a broad perspective, significant transactional experience, and the ability to negotiate gave me the opportunity to have some distance from the fray and helped prevent me from mucking things up. Pick the non-negotiable and let skilled third parties hammer out the tough details. Retain the ability to remain the business guy.
The Gift of Ongoing Relationships
Over the course of our transaction there was ample opportunity to meet and work with many new people from varied spheres of life. Should I wish to undertake future transactions, immediate resources are now only a phone call away. Most importantly, I continue to enjoy a number of personal and professional friendships that came out of the transaction journey. Look for relationships along the way.
The Privilege of a New Chapter
On the last day of the transaction I sat at my desk wondering if I would make it through without a heart attack. Then with the strokes of a pen, it was done. God provided blessing from years of effort, and gave the company new wings of opportunity. This is a trust I hope to steward wisely with gratitude and generosity. I am grateful for the many lessons of the journey and to Arbor Advisors for playing their vital role so well.
If you are considering a “new chapter” of your own, it is my sincere hope that these observations will be of service and that your journey will be a successful one.