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!

Seller’s Remorse – Hesitations When Receiving a Good Offer

A large number of business sellers experience a period of indecision right after receiving an excellent offer for their businesses. When the dream of selling the business is so close to come through, sellers struggle with their emotions. Their businesses are their babies. Separation is very painful.

How to recognize seller’s remorse?

In most cases, sellers start wondering if the price they are getting is too low. The whole idea of selling the business becomes questionable. Maybe I should hang on to the business for a few additional years. I will make this same money in my business without having to sell it. Some sellers start asking for higher prices than those agreed upon or renegotiate terms and other matters already settled.

What is the effect of the seller’s remorse on deals?

It can be devastating. Buyers get very upset and get a sense that they have wasted a huge amount of time on an impossible deal. The tension between buyers and sellers increase and deals dye in most cases.

How to deal with the seller’s remorse?

From the seller’s perspective:

  1. Sellers must understand their true motives before putting the business in the market. The reason for sale has to be genuinely stated and understood.
  2. Sellers should recognize that they might experience the seller’s remorse at some point when they are close to making a deal. Recognizing it in advance will help to overcome it and all the fear that it entails.
  3. Sellers must be involved in the sale process before receiving any offer. Some spending in business valuation, business brokers’ retainer fees or other costs related to selling the business increase the sellers’ commitment.

From the buyer’s perspective:

  1. In your first interview with the business seller, ask for the reasons for the sale. If the reasons don’t seem to be clear and genuinely stated, walk away from the business.
  2. Test the seller during the negotiation period. Are they constantly coming back to previously negotiated points? If this happen frequently, the seller is probably hesitating about the sale.
  3. Have the seller pay some transaction costs early on in the process. Sellers who refuse to incur any costs before the closing are probably uncertain about selling.

Powered by Omar Kettani