Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 24: selling-off and buying out an already established business 4

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 11, 2016

This is my 24th installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-23.) And this is also my fourth posting to this series on buying or selling a small business or professional practice as a next step career move.

I have been developing and presenting this segment of this series, discussing buying and selling small businesses and business practices, from a buyer’s perspective. And in that, I have looked into and discussed both financial and non-financial considerations that would enter into any meaningful decision as to whether such a career move would make sense from a buyer’s perspective. And I have done so both in general and when considering the specific business opportunity.

That, of course, only presents one side to what of necessity has to be a two-sided story. My goal here is to at least begin to discuss the seller’s side to all of this. And in that, I will consider a set of distinct but functionally connected issues that among other details include:

• The question of what would be sold off and what this means to the person who built this enterprise, who would now be stepping away from it.
• The question of what it is worth and what can realistically be asked for.
• The question of timing, and of whether a seller would simply walk away in one step, or stay on through a transition period.
• And there, it is important that both the buyer and seller come to mutual agreement as to what anything like “transition period” means here, as well as reaching mutual agreement as to what is actually going to be sold and bought. Both “what” and “under what terms” are important here, and if there are disagreements or misunderstandings for either of them, the issues of “for how much” can almost become moot by comparison.
• And I will add the issues of seller disclosures here, and the need to come to agreement with buyers on them. What has to be disclosed? What ethically should be disclosed? And preparing for and dealing with these issues during negotiations with potential buyers, is an area of discussion that has to be included here too.

And I will discuss the issues and the sometimes challenges of seller ambivalence here, and particularly when this means selling off and walking away from a small business or business practice that has been more than just a source of work life income. We all tend to define ourselves at least in part, in terms of what we do for a living. So selling off a business can mean selling off more than just the site of a career step or of an overall career. It can mean divesting oneself of what a seller has come to see as a part of themselves too, and a divesting themselves of meaningful connections with long-known members of their community – their customers, their suppliers, and fellow professionals of all sorts who they have dealt with and build interpersonal relationships with.

That is not always easy, and to highlight that I will at least briefly retell a story based on real-world experience of how seller resistance to this loss can express itself.

Buying a small business or professional practice can be a good and even best move. Selling one can be a good and even best move too. My goal for this entire portion of this series is to offer at least a few tools that might improve the odds that both sides of these transactions be able to complete them and move on from them, seeing themselves as having come out on that winning side.

My goal for this series installment has simply been to outline the discussion to come, and its issues. I am going to begin delving into the details of all of this in my next series installment, where I will begin with my first bullet point as offered above:

• The question of what would be sold off and what this means to the person who built this enterprise, who would now be stepping away from it.

And after that I will systematically work through the rest of the to-address list that I have briefly outlined here. And then, as already indicated in earlier postings, I will move on in this series to at least briefly consider retirement as a stay or go scenario, where that increasingly means tapering off employment and making career changes rather than simply moving from being fully employed to no longer working.

But to return here to the issues of this segment of this series and to cite one possible sell/buy scenario in anticipation of discussion to come, this might mean selling off a wholly owned and run small business to work as a seasoned employee for the remainder of a work life, where need and desire to remain employed and professionally active still prevail, but where doing everything yourself in running all aspects of a business or practice have become overly onerous. Or this might mean selling off a small business or professional practice as a direct step into retirement. Those are only two possibilities here, where others can and do arise too. I will frame this segment of this series in terms of both here-and-now, and longer-term goals, and in terms of better knowing and understanding them and their priorities.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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