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Forget The “I” In Team When Selling Your Business

Business Sales and M&A Specialists

We just had a management meeting with one of our clients yesterday. It did not go well.

In the M&A world, a management meeting is like a first date. It’s the first time the sellers and would-be buyers meet face-to-face. It’s an opportunity to showcase your business, get to know each other, and ensure there’s a good fit between both parties.

A management meeting is your first chance to make a good impression. And while we want you to A) be honest, and B) be proud of what you’ve built, we also need you to be mindful of the story you’re presenting.

We, we, we – all the way home

This is not the time for “I” statements. It’s time to talk about “we.”

Imagine the buyer asks, “Who designed this process?” Your quick, immediate response is to say, “I did that.” But later in the conversation, you talk about how you worked on that with John and Jennifer and they executed on your ideas.

In this case, you could have honestly told the buyer you worked on that project as a team. Even if an idea originated with you, look for ways to highlight your team’s contribution: “We worked on that as a leadership team. I had an idea we workshopped together. John and Jennifer ran with the rollout and oversee that now.”

The first version of the story sounds like you’re the mastermind telling people what to do. The second version sounds more like a collaboration and indicates your management team is truly value-add.

Unfortunately, despite our coaching, our seller told the “I did” story over and over again. Then, to top it off, he talked about working 12 to 16-hour days, often seven days a week.

No trophy for your hours

I’ve fallen into the same camp. I wore my hours like a badge of honor because I loved my work and I thought that’s what you did to get ahead. But when a buyer hears, “Last year was the first time I took a five-day vacation in over a decade” they aren’t hearing “But I have a really good management team that can run the company.”

What’s more, now they’re adjusting their estimates for what they’ll need to replace you. Instead of one executive salary, they might need to double it – because only an owner is going to put in those kinds of hours. Higher expenses mean less cash flow which means a lower purchase price for your business. The more you can say “we” versus “I” the better chance you have of selling your company and maximizing value. It may seem ironic, but the less your company needs you, the more it’s worth. Because if you truly are the only one with all the magic dust, your company is going to be fairly hard to sell.