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

“H___ No!” or Just Ignore Them?

“These guys made a ridiculously low offer for our company. Should we say ‘h— no’, counter, or just ignore it altogether?” Rob and Sally (not their real names) have been in business together for almost 20 years, even before they were married. Now in their mid-60s, they want to move to Texas to be near Sally’s grandchildren. Rob is excited about the move, too. He has his eye on building a home on one of the area’s Read More

The Syndrome Known as “This Is How We Do It In Our Industry”

“You have to understand, Jim, people in this industry have a real attachment to their business. It might just be a thing to you, but for us, it’s our life.” Randy (not his real name) and I recently met at a conference. He came up to me after the session I led on preparing to sell a business and told me he had just started to think about the process. He didn’t tell me his age but I assumed he was past 70, though he Read More

Who Makes the Decision Might Determine If It’s a Home Run or Strikeout

“Dad expects me to run the company, except he won’t let me run the company.” Clay (not his real name) was one of the most interesting businessmen I’d ever met. Prior to taking over his Dad’s cement manufacturing business, Clay ran a large coffee harvesting company in Central America, and before that he was in the US Army Special Forces. Clay got a degree in economics from an Ivy League college expecting to become Read More

The Truth Can Hurt

“They offered $8.5 million for my company, and now you’re telling me it’s only worth $5 million. What did they know that you don’t?” Sandra (not her real name) was not happy with me. After reviewing her company's financial history and her forecast for 2018, I told her that her company could be sold for $5 million, maybe $6 million, if a couple of things fell in our favor. I could see her obvious frustration as she Read More

Let It Go! An Awesome Song and Great Business Advice

Elsa just had a big fight with her sister, Anna. She decides to run away and live her life in exile. As she enters her icy mountain palace, she sings the now well-known song, Let It Go.* It’s one of those memorable songs …once you hear it, it’s hard to get it out of your head. I find myself singing that song in my head when I talk with business owners who have waited too long to sell their company. It breaks my Read More

Perfect Logic for Picking a Spouse, Bad Logic for Picking a Business

“Buying a business because you love it is a terrible reason to buy a business.” Jeff (not his real name) seemed surprised by my comment. “Why’s that?” he asked, “I’ve heard it said if you find your passion you’ll never work a day in your life. Are you telling me that’s not true?”  I frequently meet with folks who say they want to leave corporate life and become an entrepreneur. The desire to do your own thing and Read More

Selling Under Duress: Don’t Be a Harvey Weinstein

“My doctor told me yesterday this cancer will likely take me in 6 to 8 months. I need to sell my company now before my crazy ex-wives and kids have a full-blown food fight over my assets.” Andrew (not his real name) wasn’t kidding when he first told me this story. At the time of our first call, I kind of assumed he was exaggerating, but once we started working together I realized he was serious about two things: 1) Read More