Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 28: selling-off and buying out an already established business 8

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 28, 2016

This is my 28th 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 1-27.) And this is also my eighth posting to this series on buying or selling a small business or professional practice as a next step career move.

I began discussing the buying and selling of a small established business or professional practice from the seller’s perspective in Part 24, where I offered a checklist of five basic issues that would need to be addressed. I began doing so there with the issue of what would be sold, and the issue of how its monetary value would be determined and agreed to. And I then turned in Part 27 to at least briefly consider transition periods where a selling business owner is turning over their now-former enterprise to a new owner. I addressed the fourth to-address point of my Part 24 list while at least briefly sketching out responses to the first three points raised there, and particularly in Part 27. And that brings me to the fifth of my initial Part 24 topic points, that I repeat here as the topic of this posting:

• The issues of seller disclosures, 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.

There are issues and details that a seller is going to be legally required to divulge, and proactively so. Even when a seller is not explicitly required to go out of their way to divulge specific information without being asked first, there is a larger range of issues and details where a seller would be ill-advised not to disclose if specifically asked. I refer here to situations and details that a buyer specifically asks about, where a failure on the seller’s part to answer accurately and without deception might land them in court, facing charges of fraud. Beyond that, is a large and admittedly less clearly defined realm of issues where a more caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, approach might meet legal requirements on the seller’s part but where strict adherence to that might come into conflict with business ethics at the very least. Consider there, details that no reasonably prudent buyer could be expected to know to ask about, but that a seller has positive reason to know, would seriously impact upon the value and viability of what they are selling. Yes, as just stated I include circumstances where an honest seller would be willing to accept less than they might in principle be able to get for their business, if they know their initial asking price is high enough so a buyer would not be able to succeed as a new owner if they were to pay it – because they are withholding crucial information from that buyer.

• From a seller’s perspective this means asking yourself what type of a person you are, and what your values are as a person – not just as a business professional selling off a business holding, but as someone who has to look at themselves in the mirror every day too.
• From a buyer’s perspective, this means keeping that old Latinate dictate: caveat emptor firmly in mind, and walking into any possible business acquisition here with eyes as open as possible. Walk the streets of the community you would work in if you take on this venture and meet and talk with some of its clients, its suppliers if possible and appropriate, its neighbors. And really listen and ask questions and listen again, and for the unexpected as much as to address questions that you arrive with that you already know to ask. Do your caveat emptor due diligence to at least minimize risk of the unexpected that could at least potentially blindside you.

I have seen people buy homes with essentially no real due diligence checking before signing the contractual paperwork on a piece of property. This happens when people buy businesses too, where investments made there can be even bigger. Both buyer and seller in a business sale context need to do their homework, and approach this and its details with open eyes.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider the end of career stay or go option of retirement – which can mean simply retiring and fully and all at once, or transitioning into no longer working. I add in this context that I am planning on writing a more complete series for this blog and for this Guide within it, on retirement and phasing into it as a whole, and will focus here on this as an end-stage, and approaching-end, stay or go career move. 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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