Buying a Business Takes Persistence, a Lot of it!

Most buyers inquiring information about my businesses for sale think that buying a business is like buying a car. You just need money. With more money, you buy a better car. Unfortunately buying a good business is not so easy.

Two years ago, a serious buyer came to my office inquiring about one of my businesses for sale. He seemed such a good fit for that business, so I arranged a meeting for him with the owner. The meeting was excellent and the seller liked him.  We received a reasonable offer from this buyer and after multiple meetings involving the seller’s accountant, lawyer and tax expert as well as the buyer’s lawyer and myself, we agreed on most issues. After the due diligence was satisfactory and the buyer had spent more than $12,000 in legal fees and a few months of negotiation, the seller decided that he would be better-off giving his business to his son instead of selling it, which son he hadn’t seen for the last 10 years because of a family conflict. I asked to talk to the son and learned from the son that he was obliged by his father to take the business over even if he had no interest in it. He even told me that his father said he would disinherit him if he refuses to take over the business. it was an obvious case of seller’s remorse situation that I hoped would be resolved by giving the seller some more time to think about it. I suggested that the seller tests his son for at least 3 months before giving him the business.

As I expected, the son could not manage a business he disliked and the seller contacted me back to sell the business again. Fortunately, the buyer had not purchased a business yet and was still interested in the purchase. A few months down the road the seller got another episode of seller’s remorse and decided to hire a manager for the business instead of selling it. This was a 70 years old seller who had been working his business for the past 40 years and simply could not let go. This was the second time this was happening to the buyer whose legal bill was becoming very high with no result. What amazed me the most in this unique situation is how the buyer was sticking to his desire to purchase this particular business. The buyer didn’t have any particular knowledge of this industry or any special technical skills that could help him in this business but he was incredibly enthusiastic about it. This same buyer kept calling me every other week asking if the seller would reconsider selling again. After a few months, the seller again decided to sell and as expected the buyer was there still trying to purchase the business. Needless to say that the few following months were not easy for the buyer because the seller’s right mind was looking for new reasons not to sell but finally the buyer’s determination ended up winning. The whole process took 18 months and the deal closed. I am still in contact with both the seller and buyer and both seem very happy with this deal.

This story might seem very unusual but it’s not. Most sellers experience some kind of seller’s remorse at some point of the transaction and many deals fall through because of that. Buyers have to keep that in mind when purchasing a business. Unfortunately, buying a business is much more complicated than buying a car!

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Omar Kettani

I am a business broker in Toronto. I am specialized in selling businesses with less than $10 million in value. I have a master of Engineering from a top-notch French Engineering school and an MBA from the prestigious Richard Ivey Business school in the University of Western Ontario where I specialized in entrepreneurial finance. I have a long experience in banking, business ownership, marketing and finance. I dedicate my career to helping small and middle size business owners sell their businesses to the right buyers.

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