Four Syndromes Every Business Owner Should Fear

“Everybody knows it’s time he should sell, but he can’t seem to let go.” Bruce (not his real name) is the head of marketing for a company owned by Philip (not his real name). Bruce called for my advice on structuring an employee-led buyout. He admitted it was a long shot even though Philip is in his late-70s. It seems Philip had heretofore not been willing to even entertain the idea of selling. But Bruce and his Read More

The Taxman Doesn’t Always Win, and That’s Not Always Good

“I just wrote the biggest check I’ve ever written. I don’t ever want to do that again. I guess I’ll die and let my family deal with it.” Nobody likes paying taxes, especially Allen (not his real name). Though in his mid-70s and dealing with health issues, Allen isn’t ready to sell his company. He met with me, reluctantly, at the request of his son-in-law who I know from church. Allen’s family wanted him to Read More

What I Had to Unlearn From Harvard Business School

A few weeks ago I was visiting the campus of Harvard Business School. I was there to participate in the second-year MBA class, Entrepreneurship through Acquisition. I had written the case study being discussed that day. Incidentally, the case study was about an actual client of mine, and he was even brave enough to come to the class with me. Though I graduated from HBS over three decades ago, I still feel at home Read More

Are You the van Gogh of Your Business?

“Wait, you are saying you can’t sell my business even though I consistently make $1 million a year? I don’t know how you do things in Tennessee, but here in Florida, I think my business would be considered quite sellable.” Brian (not his real name) is a third-generation orange grove owner. His family has owned hundreds of acres of productive groveland in south Florida since before World War II. The orange business Read More

When Pressure to Sell Becomes an Advantage

“I told them I could start on August 1, which means I need to move by July 15. So, we’ll have the company sold by then, right?” I was shocked when Allison (not her real name) told me her plan. Several months earlier, she retained me to sell the company she and her late husband started in 1994. Having successfully led the company for 14 years, she was now the definition of a motivated seller. I knew she was ready Read More

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

When I first saw the picture, I didn’t understand the meaning. But then my friend Kirk (not his real name) sent me a text that said, “Today is my business’ 30th birthday. Here’s what my staff had on my desk when I came in this morning.” That’s when I connected the dots, 30 cupcakes with icing that said “30.” Kirk and I text each other several times a week. Football, family and politics seem to be the bulk of our Read More

Commitment to Customer Service Almost Killed Us

“'The customer is always right’ isn’t always right. Listening to my customer almost ruined me.” Patrick (not his real name) is a brilliant guy. He and I have been friends for almost 35 years. I’ve watched him start, grow and sell one company, and he’s about to exit from his second business. It’s going to be a monstrous event, well into nine figures. Since he lives in a different state, I am not going to have an Read More

Grandma Was Right, You Can’t Pull the String

I don’t mind telling you, just two months into 2019 and it’s already been a weird year. I was at my desk a couple of days ago writing an email to a business owner trying to explain why I couldn’t help him sell his business. I was having to choose my words carefully because his adjusted EBITDA is close to $1 million, and he had been told by a reputable accounting firm his company could be sold for $4 million or more. Read More

Do As I Say, Not As I Did

Linda (not her real name) told me she wanted to sell her business in 2020, but was confused about the process. She said, “I get unsolicited letters all the time, is that where my buyer is going to come from or should I just throw them in the trash?” I told Linda I get this question a lot. If you own a business, you know what I’m talking about. You probably get letters from business brokers stating, “I have a Read More

The Private Equity Thesis

“My wife wrote a thesis in the early 90s when she got her Master’s at Duke. So now I need one, too?” Perry (not his real name) was 53 years old and ready to sell his company. He had built his business over 20 years to be worth close to $40 million. He loved going to work every day, but recent private equity consolidation in his industry got him thinking 2019 was the right year to exit. Perry and I did a Read More