Posts Tagged ‘business sale’

A Vulnerable Seller

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Here is something counter-intuitive for a great many sellers of high-growth and mid-market privately-held businesses. If you want to maximise the price on exit, you need to maximise your vulnerability. Yet most sellers have spent years doing the exact opposite.

Vulnerability is largely a function of a seller’s self-worth (“I won’t allow the sale outcome to influence how I think about myself”), giving yourself permission to be vulnerable and the quality of your support system (friends, family, advisers and acquaintances). Hence any transition plan in the lead up to the start of the exit process, needs to address all three aspects, in advance, alongside:

  • Any fractured personal relationships (spouse/partner/family members)
  • Any past, present or future “private promises” made by the business to fellow shareholders, managers and family members (financial or no-financial)
  • Any private grievances (key clients, key business partners, key suppliers) or events (disputes, potential regulatory breaches etc.) that might reasonably give the buyer cause for alarm in due diligence or god forbid, post-sale.

You are rightly proud of the business that you have built. You have had proprietary control of the reins (people, capital, resources). Your control has given you power (discretionary authority) and protection (preeing eyes). The “4 P’s”. Now a buyer (strategic or financial) is being asked to make an informed judgement on the value of your business to their ideal future. What is the sum of your pride, your proprietary control, your power and your protection worth to them?

A buyer can rarely understand it (quality of your people and management, quantum of uncertainty, competitive threats) clearly without you being voluntarily vulnerable (trust). You cannot negotiate successfully without putting yourself in a position of vulnerability (willing at any point to walk away from a proposed deal), irrespective of the  consequences (financial, non-financial, business or personal). That requires a mix of internal and external attention as early as possible in the transition process. If appropriate, hiring someone, who has successfully dealt with those issues in their own business and who can help navigate you through the process. Almost certainly, not an internal figure, nor your corporate finance adviser. Someone, whose skills, behaviours and expertise are strongly aligned to your discrete personal and business needs.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

The Entrepreneur’s Uncommon Legacy

Friday, June 30th, 2017

90% of entrepreneurs want to leave a powerful and lasting legacy upon the successful transition of their business, yet most fail. I define “legacy”, in a business context, as a framework within which decisions are made today about sustaining the beliefs that will enable the business to thrive in the future.

Failure is not in my experience down to the most obvious reason (renouncing control) rather it is the absence of people, long before the sale of the business is concluded, with the skills and volition to implement the entrepreneur’s desired legacy in the real world, and constant procrastination. Here is a simple checklist for the Entrepreneur:

  1. What would a successful legacy look, feel, touch, smell, taste like to those who are important to you and in what realistic timeframe?
  2. Whose support must you command upfront (exemplars, key influencers) to sustain it?
  3. What specific goals are you trying to accomplish internally and externally (e.g. improve succession planning, more impressive innovation, heighten customer awareness of societal issues etc.)?
  4. What elements need tackling first (e.g. strengthen career development, prioritise resource to performance improvements not fixing problems, identify exemplars etc.)?
  5. What must be done tomorrow and the day after?
  6. By whom and by what deadline?
  7. Do it.

If you need additional expertise, hire it. One of the biggest mistakes is the assumption that the content knowledge your coterie of existing advisers and top managers have about the inner workings of the business is sufficient to succeed. Here is the litmus test for the Entrepreneur:

  1. Do my key people possess a high, moderate or low level of familiarity with my legacy?
  2. Do my key people possess a high, moderate or low level of clarity about my legacy?
  3. Do my key people possess a high, moderate or low level of skills to implement my legacy?

Better to have started early, tried and failed than for the entrepreneur to look back with regrets about the mistakes that were made by not being bold enough or making it your priority, before the business was sold.

© James Berkeley 2017.

What Is Your Story

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

 

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Every week I get smart, intelligent entrepreneurs coming to me for “help” with strategy and tactics to grow their business, raise capital, partner or even exit. I decline the overwhelming majority not because they don’t have a smart proposition but because I don’t have confidence that they can create and communicate a compelling story.

If they cannot convince me that they can get over the line, why would I invest my time and energy in convincing others? Of course, there are people I overlook who go on to prove me wrong.

The problem I find is that Founders, who may have been hugely successful in a big organisation or a different environment automatically assume their past performance and credibility confers a compelling story to others. Much as the celebrity dropping the “do you know who I am” line at the overbooked airline desk or the nightclub hostess. It rarely works.

It is about today’s story, today’s investment decision, and today’s health of your business.

Who are you today? What do you actually represent to a high potential investor, buyer or partner? How are they better off or personally better supported in investing in your success?

Knowing the answers to those questions doesn’t confer success but it sure gets your head and story into the appropriate context.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.