Starting down a path to sell your business can be unsettling. After years of putting their all into building a sustainable operation, founders and CEOs often worry about losing control of the company they love, diminishing their legacy, and that selling out is akin to saying they’re done — they have nothing left to give. They also worry that people may see the sale as them giving up and walking away, disregarding their employees and their customers.
And then there is the general misconception about what it means to be acquired. While a purchaser may be focused on short-term revenue rather than sustainable business health, there are also buyers that want to support the health of the businesses they acquire to ensure long-term success for all parties.
A good buyer will provide capital for growth — a great one will work with you to ensure that both the business and its unique culture thrive.
Set Your Team Up for Success with Information
Something I’ve learned from both our experience of being acquired, and by working with other business leader’s who’ve been through the same thing, is that the success of an acquisition largely depends on preparation.
Here are some tips if you’re considering the option to sell your distillery:
- Know who you’re dealing with. If you’re talking to an investor, speak to people at other businesses they’ve acquired. This step is a must! Ask these folks a lot of questions.
- Keep expectations real. Be pragmatic about the expected outcome. There is usually a trade-off between long-term stability and short-term cash. If you want a stable foundation for the business, make sure you fully evaluate the various scenarios — both as the seller and for employees post-acquisition.
- Be clear about what you want. What are your expectations for your own future, short- and long-term? Do you have a successor in place? What is the acquirer’s commitment to internal development and promotion? If the acquiring company expects to bring in an external candidate, what is their commitment to hiring someone who is a good fit for the existing company culture?
- Ask about plans for the future. It can be scary to let go of something you built, but it helps to understand the intent of the acquiring entity. Ask why they want to acquire your business. Will they rebrand and re-culture? Are their plans good for the company? Do their ambitions align with your long-term hopes for the team, organization, and legacy you’ve built?
- Remember that if you had all the tools you needed, you wouldn’t be selling. There’s at least one reason you are selling or considering selling the business, and that reason should be top-of-mind as you evaluate options. Whether it’s monetizing what you’ve built, improving profitability or sustainability over the long term, or developing tools, programs, and processes that will allow your company to scale and your team to grow, your reasons are valid. Just remember that if you had the knowledge and resources to achieve those goals, you wouldn’t need help.
Talk to People Who Have Been There and Done That
When making a decision as big as who to sell your distillery to, you need to find people who understand your business and have been through the process. This isn’t something you need to evaluate in isolation, and there’s plenty of valuable experience to leverage. You can start with me.
I’ve been through the acquisition process from both sides, and I’ve learned some things (both good and bad) that I love sharing with other business leaders. Connecting with people who have been in your shoes and get it can make the whole process less nerve-wracking and leave you in a position to make a confident decision that’s right for you.
Being acquired can seem a scary proposition, but may provide your team, your business, your culture, and your customers future growth and stability not otherwise available – that was certainly the case for us. If I can help another leader decide if acquisition is right for them, or help prepare them for the process of being acquired, I want to have that conversation. If that’s you, reach out! I can’t wait to talk.