For most owners of a privately held company, when the time is right they want to sell their business for the highest price possible in the quickest time possible and live happily ever after. There is nothing too complicated in that and at a basic level, that’s perfectly fine. However, a question to ask is whether the business owner wants to sell the business or is their preference to transition the business?
The difference between selling the business and transitioning the business is as different as night and day. Selling the business simply means looking for the buyer at that moment in time who will pay the highest price possible. Transitioning the business requires the owner to step back, systematically review all the options available to the business then creating a plan to arrive at that outcome.
For example, the business owner may have other options other than selling the business and taking the highest or best price. If the business owner has immediate family working in the business the preference may be to continue the legacy of the current owner by transitioning the business to the immediate family members. If this is the case, this brings into play a number of actions that need to be carefully and fully researched. Answering questions such as tax implications, legal questions such as what liabilities and responsibilities move from the current owner to the new owner, finance questions such as how any current loans need to be handled and indeed, how much and where is any money coming from to pay the current owner for the value they have created in the business that will fund their retirement or next journey in life.
Before spending time working through the above scenario, the question of transitioning the business goes back to a simpler level. And this is the point of this article. It requires the current business owner to look at their own needs and either make decisions or arrive at conclusions that make sense to them. A list of the items to consider can be long and obviously vary with the individual but could include asking questions about what to do with the business and how any decisions impact the owner’s family needs. Other less self evident areas include the owner themselves and what they want from their legacy. It also touches who they are as well as their attainment of goals, self esteem, need for recognition, appreciation and self respect.
Owning and operating a business often provides many emotional and life sustaining needs such as job security, retirement, business colleagues, group affiliations, status, recognition, self respect, success and creative energy to name a few. If owning and operating a business provides these, then selling the business requires the business letting these things go and moving to more or equally rewarding opportunities. If you are a business owner planning on selling your business, recognize these areas so you get answers before you start the process of trying to sell and perhaps end up changing your mind. If you are planning on becoming a business owner, recognize these areas will be part of your decision making process as you look for the right opportunity.