16 Nov Quiet Is PART of the Plan, Not THE Plan
When a battle must be waged, a battle plan is developed. Experts are brought in and together settle on the plan that has the best chance of securing victory at the lowest possible risk and cost. The plan is always confidential, and almost always includes an element of surprise.
“Quiet” is not THE plan but an element of the plan. Same goes for the sale of a company.
The sale of a company is a sizable endeavor, at least when done right, when the goal is to win and win big. Of course, just as a battle can be waged by simply pulling out a gun and firing, lack of enlightened strategic planning almost always results in little more than a big mess: unintended consequences, undesirable results.
Business owners desperately need to understand this. We’ve written about this before. Many business owners tend to think their big payday, their ideal exit, will just “arrive” one day on the wings of a phone call or letter. Business owners read in the paper about great “sales” made by others and think there’s an element of chance. They don’t see the hard work that was put forth. There is no mention of a battle plan. The ship just sailed in one day and delivered its payload.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything good comes from a tremendous amount of hard work. Do smarts, experience, luck and some savvy play a role? You bet, but it all begins with willingness, ability, dedication to inspired planning, hunger to win and a work ethic that makes it all possible.
Our experience has taught us that when business owners think of selling, they tend to think of two things:
- Do it quietly (i.e., confidentially).
- Find a buyer
In an effort to be quiet, they don’t tell anyone (or very few), and they begin a do-it-yourself effort. Or they begin a “do it halfway” effort and entrust the task to one of their trusted advisors, such as an accountant. Of course, the CPA is in no way equipped with the specialized knowledge, skill, resources, contacts and labor force necessary to get the job done right. In the best case, the accountant declines. In the worst case, his/her ego, desire to please and interest in working on an exciting, interesting project leads him/her to accept the job (not to mention the opportunity to make some fees). To be sure, the project strokes all of these things for the business owner’s established, trusted advisor, but it definitely won’t do anything for the seller. It’s probably even unethical for the advisor to accept the task, which lies well outside his/her area of expertise.
The business seller’s desire for “quiet” also often morphs into “make a few calls.” The business owner is now a peddler. “Must be something really wrong over there,” thinks the recipient, and the seller is completely unprepared to work a process that maximizes the odds of a top-shelf outcome.
If you are a business owner who wants to sell one day, I hope you will heed this one piece of advice. Selling a business is a time-consuming, complex and risky endeavor. Your job is to run your business, be a nice guy, and let skilled experts tout you and your company. The M&A experts can say, “He’s happy running and owning his company, but if the right buyer and deal can be found, he would be willing to let go of this gem.”
This is the polar opposite of the business owner picking up the phone and actively peddling.
Moreover, when a big, important and complex job needs to be done, and done right, it just makes sense to pull the experts in and develop a winning plan, then to have proven experts execute the plan.
It’s more like a battle than hoping for the arrival of a gift basket. It’s more like a four-quarter ball game than peddling four seats together on Row 12, Section 32.
The need for quiet does not mean that planning is not necessary. It just means that quiet is a part of the plan.