Business Brokers often hear phrases like, “Sell my business but I don’t want anyone to know it’s for sale.” or “Don’t Market my company locally so my employees, customers and suppliers won’t panic and bolt.” Or the BIG one: “How do I keep it a secret from my office manager?”
Gloria’s company is a second-generation Bellevue business with national distribution and a strong foothold in a niche market. She enjoys a rock star reputation within her realm. Her business depends on a long list of big name designers and a handful of Pacific-Rim producers. Gloria imports and wholesales ultra-high quality fabric to hundreds of retailers in the US and Canada.
She was hitting the big 60 and wanted to retire within a few years.
I’ll share Gloria’s comments to me on keeping the sale a secret, “My designers and suppliers can’t know I’m retiring.” “No one can know I’m selling.” “Keep it a secret or I’ll kill you!” or strong words to that effect.
Sell my company but don’t tell anyone it’s for sale!!
Gloria’s concerns were fueled by horror stories of competitors telling customers a company that was for sale was going broke and suppliers putting the business on COD and designers jumping ship based on distressed sale rumors. Some stories are true but most are myths.
Gloria has sold lots of fabric but not her life’s work. It is common that caution takes the form of secrecy.
Actually many businesses benefit from telling the world they are for Sale. But, just like any trade secret the levels of secrecy in a business sale are best assessed and managed by assuming the secret will get out. So how do you decide when to show your face or have your Broker wear the bag of secrecy?
A quick “Getmeoutahhere!” sale is one thing. But, maximizing value and applying an exit strategy can take some time. The more you prepare the better it gets. But, it’s very difficult to execute the planning and sale process from inside the cone of silence.
Ask yourself what could the downside be if you applied truth and honesty and told employees, customers, suppliers, landlord and loan shark that you were planning to retire in a few years? Make a list. Be realistic. How do you feel things would change?
Gloria’s fears were countered with truth, reality, logic and process. The process included information management, fecal unification, a pre-emptive presentation, damage protection and creative marketing.
It’s all in the presentation. At the proper time before entering the market she selectively presented a simple and truthful statement to preempt or defuse rumors of a sale and got everyone on board in a positive direction. “The company is strong and we all want it to grow stronger. But, I’m starting to look at retirement so, over the next couple of years I need your help in looking for ways to expand, bring in a new leader, blend with another company or find another way to get to the next level.”
I solved Gloria’s concern about the designer’s reaction: “Lets ask the designers to help you retire.” WOW!! Problem Resolved. Numerous suggestions came flooding in and I’m still alive.
IT IS ALL IN THE PRESENTATION…