The Emotional Side of a Business Transition

business transition

“For Sale… One of The Two Biggest Decisions of Your Life”

Selling or transitioning a business can be as emotional as sending your youngest child off to college. Hundreds of thousands of baby boomers are about to be forced to make a transition decision for the legacy of their business…and they are not prepared. Your business has been an important part of your life for quite some time. And if you built your business from the ground up, you’ll immediately notice the similarity to raising a child. Think about it. You’ve nurtured your company through countless sleepless nights and you’ve protected it from danger or threats. Now you’ve decided to sell the business and are second-guessing your decision throughout the process. Sounds like a parent, doesn’t it?

Questions like “Have I made the right decision?” and “What will I do without it?” may torment you, create a high level of stress and worse yet, cause abrupt behavioral changes. It’s a known fact that calm people can become volatile; confident people become defensive and meek people become awkwardly bold. It’s a roller coaster ride of separation anxiety. You’re not alone. Both sellers and buyers are experiencing the same or similar emotions and uncertainties.

Deciding to sell or transition your company is a huge decision that will affect your employees and your family. In essence, you’re selling a dream that your employees helped you build and that your family supported from the beginning. Selling may feel like a betrayal.

When you transition a business, you’re selling a concept, a dream and in a best-case scenario, a community of employees that includes those with whom you have longstanding relationships. For entrepreneurs who are truly invested in their businesses and employees, selling may feel a bit like they’re selling their own family. Emotions will run high.

Here’s where proper planning comes in. It is so important to have all the information you need to prepare for a sale long before you actually begin the process. That’s where a professional advisor can streamline the process and pave the way for a successful sale. He will know how to prepare your employees and will coach you in the process of “letting go.”

The decision to sell is like parenting and the action of selling is similar to a courtship. First the buyer and seller meet and discover some common ground establishing some level of comfort while coming to terms on the initial agreement of price and terms.

Next emotions may run high as both parties negotiate the details of the transaction. First it’s bliss and infatuation that may continue or turn into suspicion and resentment. Questions like “Why do they want that?” and “Why don’t they appreciate what they’re buying?” may arise. The anticipation of this stage of the sale can be crippling.

What should you do? Ignoring the emotions of a sale can have a detrimental effect. It’s best to directly address the emotions and fears. Sellers need to emotionally prepare themselves starting before the sale and following through the entire process including after the sale. An advisor will help you understand the entire process and erase many of the fears.

Transitioning your business can be emotional and frightening… but it doesn’t have to be. Please solicit expert assistance.

John Lankford

John Lankford was recognized as the 2007-2010 Associate Business Advisor of the Year in North America and brings proven executive experience and best practices to select companies every year. He served 18 years at the Executive Education Center at Ford Motor Company and is former Senior Director of Ascension Health Learning Institute. John has developed top leaders around the world in partnership with the University of Michigan Business School, the Center for Creative Leadership, Comcast University and GE University, to name a few. His business expertise has been tapped by prominent business media such as the New York Times, CBS and Dbusiness magazine and has been a syndicated business columnist. He is the author of The Answer is Leadership and Superstar for life…Career Transitions. John’s keynote speaking has landed him on the elite team that trains and certifies the new Executive Coaches joining the worldwide coaching community. John is also former Chief Executive Officer of the Innisbrook Leadership Institute. Lankford can be reached at john@premierexecutiveforums.com or call (888) 730-1950

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