Goodbye to Goodwill

“Back in the day, our EBITDA was about one million a year, and we had blue-chip clients. But a couple of years ago, we lost some key clients and it killed our cash flow. We still have a great reputation, so a buyer could take the goodwill we’ve built and really grow with it.” Norm (not his real name) called me on the advice of his personal financial planner who I knew through the Nashville chapter of the Exit Read More

How Selling a Business is Like Flying a Skywriting Biplane

“We have two lines of business, one has been making money for fourteen years, the other has been losing money since we started it three years ago. We’re certain this new line will be profitable next year, but we want to sell the business this year. Should we jettison the money-losing line now, or will a buyer see that we are close to turning the corner as a good thing?” Carl (not his real name) brought his Read More

Things Can Go Wrong in the Wild West

“I researched these guys before the first call. They seemed legit, and I could tell they weren’t on a fishing expedition. They knew a ton about my industry, the players, and opportunities. You think they might be a real buyer for my company?” I felt sorry for Angie. She looked tired, and running this company was nothing she had bargained for. But when her husband went AWOL on the family and business, she had no Read More

Perry Mason Had the Right Approach

I used to love watching the TV lawyer, Perry Mason. He solved every case with a combination of smarts, luck, and guile. Each episode concluded with a shocking surprise that revealed the real criminal. Perry won every case. Each episode had a cast of characters from which the guilty party would always emerge. If there was ever a theme to how you figured out who was guilty, you’d look for motive. Which character Read More

You Can’t Sell Your Job, Even if You Own It

“Can we stop in here? I was talking with the owner the other day, and he told me he wanted to talk with you about selling his business.” My wife, Emily (her real name), and I were out for dinner one evening. As we walked into one of our favorite restaurants in Brentwood, she told me she had visited a nearby boutique just a few days earlier. She said she started talking with the proprietor of the boutique, and he told Read More

Follow the Money, Sometimes Bad Advice

“At this pace, we’ll double revenue in four years. I’m just not sure I can maintain this pace.” Katie (not her real name) owns a very successful services company. She serves a niche that is fueling fast growth, and every new dollar of revenue is more profitable than the last. She has the essence of what’s called a scalable business. In her mid-40s, Katie seems nowhere near the age to slow down, much less retire. Read More

Does Your Company Need an Advisory Board?

“My advisory board is encouraging me to take a serious look at this offer. I need your help to do that, when can we meet?” So began my relationship with Mark (not his real name). When we met face-to-face, I learned Mark’s story of taking over the business upon his father's passing in 2006. “We’ve been more successful than I ever imagined, I know Dad would be proud of what we’ve done. But selling what he started, Read More

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