Selling to Private Equity … Losing Control

“Please, Jim, you have to help me unwind this disaster. The private equity firm’s pitch was so convincing, but those guys don’t know what they’re doing.” I had never met Geoff (not his real name), but he was referred to me by his cousin who is a family friend. Geoff described his dilemma during our first call. “I sold my company four years ago. This PE group from Chicago made me an offer that was too good to be Read More

Is It OK to Pay Too Much for a Business? (hint: yes, and it might even be a smart thing)

When he walked into Starbucks with a big red notebook under his arm, I figured the meeting might not go as planned. I had worked with Robert (not his real name) for almost four months. We had met through a mutual friend who knew Robert and his wife were looking to leave corporate life and buy a business they could run together. Robert had contacted me to see if I had any companies he might be interested in Read More

The Laws of Supply & Demand Not Applicable to the Market for Privately Owned Business?

Professor Bentley (not his real name) was one of the most revered yet feared professors at Harvard Business School. Every time he entered the classroom, you knew you were in the presence of genius. But with one question, he could make you look or feel like the village dunce. I didn't learn the principle of supply and demand at Harvard, I knew that a long time before I got there. However, in the rigorous case study Read More

Are You Guilty of The Wimpy Effect?

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” If you are 60 or older, you probably recognize that comment frequently spoken by J. Wellington Wimpy. This character from the Popeye cartoon series seemed to be a successful businessman (after all, he wore a suit and tie). But curiously, Wimpy never had money in his pocket to buy his favorite lunch. He seemed to always be saying “you can trust me, I’ll have it in Read More

One Dumb Comment Cost Him $35 Million

Don (not his real name) was smart, but his dumb comment cost him $35 million. In just 12 years, he had built his company to be the largest in his industry. Don was a rock star, and his company’s future was bright. But Don had taken the company as far as he wanted to take it. Though just 44 years old, he was ready to sell the company and realize his life’s ambition to play golf on all six continents (since there are Read More

Earn Your Way to a Better Exit

When Mayor Johnson (not his real name or title) asked me to meet, I assumed he wanted me to sponsor a table at his next fundraiser. He ushered me into his office, and after looking at pictures on the wall of him with nationally prominent politicians, he got to the point. “I’m not here to talk politics, Jim, I want to talk about selling my business. I know you can help me.” Mayor Johnson has lived in his community Read More

The A of Valuation ABCs

It’s no fun telling a songwriter his song is bad. Telling an author her novel won't sell takes nerves of steel. Telling a business owner his business is overvalued is no way to make a friend, much less gain a client. Marvin (not his real name) was flat P-O’ed at me. When I told him how a buyer would look at his business, he told me in no uncertain terms he was not going to hire me because I didn’t know the market Read More

It’s Worth Pennies and You Expected Dollars

“I’m glad I’m not a doctor, I hate delivering bad news.” I said this to Larry (not his real name) as we met to discuss his interest in selling his business. I was about to deliver some bad news. Larry had been in the business for 15 years. Though it was technically owned by his father, Larry was the main man in making things happen. But when it came time to make a decision about the future of the business, well, Read More

The Danger of an LOI

“Let's have a celebration dinner, I want to thank the team for getting us here.” Hugh (not his real name) was rightfully excited. He had just signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to sell his company for enough cash to take care of his children's children. But I put a stop to the idea of celebrating too soon. I said, “Hugh, signing the LOI is great, and I know it’s taken you a long time to get to this point, but the next Read More

When Buying a Business is Like Being Taken to the Cleaners

“My boss wants to sell the business unit I run. He says he’ll give me a good deal if I can pull the capital together.” Cal (not his real name) was confident as we talked over an expensive lunch at one of Nashville’s finest restaurants. Cal had run the business unit for six years, but his boss, the company’s CEO, decided to exit that vertical. He had approached Cal on the idea of selling it to him. “He tells me he’ll Read More