Declaring Defeat, or Just Time to Retreat?

“We’ve reached out to as wide a swath of potential buyers I can think of, yet no meaningful interest. It might be time to take the business off the market.” I was talking with Linda (not her real name) about the business she and her husband started in 1988. He passed away in 2014, and she had stepped in to keep the business not only running but profitable, most years. Her net income was about $300,000 the prior Read More

The Well-Intentioned, Yet Flimsy Buyer

“Why do people try to buy a business before they have money to buy a business?” Randy (not his real name) was asking a painfully logical question. After having spent almost 90 days with a “buyer” of his business, Randy came to realize the buyer never really had the money to buy the business. “I lost a lot of time and energy thinking we had a deal, dumb of me for not asking if he actually had the money.” Randy Read More

The Cash Flow Purchase

“I'll be ready to sell in three or four years, and he's the only guy I trust to buy it. Problem is, he doesn't have enough money, what do I do?” Gabe (not his real name) owned an impressive assemblage of businesses, one of which was a hobbyist magazine that served a loyal subscriber base. Gabe had a deep commitment to the magazine’s readership and felt his long-time editor was the right guy to handle the magazine’s Read More

When to Ignore the Market Value for Your Company

“I call you for help selling my business, but you tell me I shouldn’t sell it now. What kind of business broker does that?” Ricardo (not his real name) retained me to help him evaluate an unsolicited offer he had received from one of his top suppliers. During our first call, he said, “I am not looking to sell the company, we’re growing, I love what we’re doing for our customers, and the team I have around me is Read More

What Works for Navy Seals Might Kill Your Business

Navy Seals know a thing or two about building productive teams. A key principle of their productivity is the “buddy system”. But what works for our Navy Seals can cause problems in a business setting. Mike (not his real name) and I had been buddies for about ten years. Close friends. He graduated from pharmacy school the same year I graduated from law school. Though we were taking different career paths, we wanted Read More

The Paradox That Blocks Escape From Corporate Prison

“I’m tired of my corporate job at ______, I want to be an entrepreneur, be my own boss, how do I buy a business?” I get this question about once a week. The ensuing conversation often feels more like a counseling session than a business conversation. In most cases, the individual doesn't really want to be an entrepreneur; they are unhappy with their job and just want to fantasize about doing something different. I Read More

She Has Potential, A Dangerous Way to Find a Date or Sell a Business

Though happily married for 32 years, I have distant memories of my dating experiences.  I’d occasionally have friends tell me, “I have somebody you should meet.” To which I’d always say, “Well, tell me about her.”  If the response was “she has potential,” I’d politely decline the opportunity – run for the hills, actually. Potential is a dangerous word to use when describing a potential date, and it’s a terrible Read More

The Horror of Selling a Business

John (not his real name) called me the day before Christmas to tell me he was interested in selling his manufacturing company. We met a few days later and he gave me a tour of his plant. His company produced a high-margin product that provided a mission-critical function for the customers they supplied. As I walked through the plant I thought about several private equity firms that would love to buy the company. Read More

Friends Don’t Let Friends Go Into Business Together

“Good grief, I’m an attorney, I should have known better.” Paul (not his real name) is a successful mid-40s year old lawyer with one of Knoxville’s preeminent law firms. Based on what I’m about to tell you, your first instinct will be to agree with Paul, he should have known better. Thirty years of handling business transactions have taught me a lot about human behavior. There are some mistakes I see over and Read More

Lessons Learned in 2017 and How They Signal a Fantastic 2018

2018 is going to be a fantastic year for those of us in the business of helping others buy and sell businesses. In fact, I expect activity levels and valuations to be through the roof. Why do I speak with such confidence you ask? Simple, the lessons of 2017 tell me exactly what to expect going into 2018. Lesson #1 - Owners of strong businesses were reluctant to put their business on the market in 2017. I think Read More