Selling a business is never easy, especially when you’ve spent several years, or even decades building it. This is not only due to the huge amount of preparation required to get it on the market, but also the personal connection you’ve developed with it over the years. For many business owners, their company becomes their identity. It’s the most important part of their daily life, so when it comes time to sell, they experience a wide range of emotions. If you’re trying to sell a business it is critical to know how to manage these emotions, or they can cost you financially. While it is normal to feel sentimental, feelings such as anger or defensiveness can alienate buyers and cause a deal to fall apart. Here are some tips on how to remain objective and compartmentalize your emotions and your ability to make wise decisions throughout the process of selling your business.

Emotional Preparation Before the Sale

One of the best ways to prepare yourself for selling a business is to put together a formal exit strategy. Ideally, your exit plan should be in place long before you’ve made the decision to sell. If this is not the case, creating one needs to be the next step you take.

When you create an exit strategy, you will systematically go through every step of leaving the business on your terms, without actually doing it. You should include close family members in the planning process, since the business is likely a big part of their lives as well and they will be directly affected by its sale. Decide how much you want to sell for, what type of buyer you want to sell to and the terms of the sale. Setting these goals in advance will help you to make wise decisions during the sale process.

During exit planning, take time to seriously consider what you will do with your time after the sale. This will make you more emotionally prepared for transitioning away from your company when the day actually comes. Sellers who do not take the time to do this find it harder to let go of their business and are more likely to allow their emotions to hijack the sale process. An M&A advisor, such as an experienced business broker can help you to create a formal exit plan that you can realistically stick with.

Keeping Yourself in Check During the Sale

During the sale process, it is important to focus on continuing to run your business as you normally would. Even the most promising deal can fall apart during due diligence or at other points of the process. You really don’t know how long it will take to find a buyer and close on the sale, so you cannot allow selling the company to affect your ability to run it. By working with a business broker, you can effectively operate the business without dividing your time.

If you decide to work with a broker, you will have access to expert advice from someone who can help coach you and remain objective. They can act as a buffer between you and the buyer, manage negotiations, protect sensitive information about the business and maintain confidentiality. This allows you to keep doing what you do best without getting distracted or overburdened. If you feel stuck or still have trouble making decisions during the process, you can also consult with peers to get an outsider’s perspective. If there is another business owner or someone who has sold a business that you trust, they could have valuable advice to offer you.

Another thing to consider during the sale process is the role you would be willing to play during the transition period. Buyers often ask for the seller to stay on as a consultant for a specific period of time after the sale to help ease the transition and reduce growing pains. You must also prepare emotionally for this role, if you plan on assuming it. As a consultant, you must act professionally and to understand that key decisions about the business will no longer be yours. You may not always agree with the new owner’s decisions and you need to be able to cope with that and keep your emotions in check.

Moving on After the Sale

Once the sale has been finalized, many sellers experience a flood of emotions. This could include seller’s remorse, or a feeling of loss. This is especially true if they have developed strong personal relationships that are tied to the business. Even though you may miss your old company, employees and daily routine, it’s important to avoid checking on the business after the sale. It could be difficult to see changes that you do not approve of, and this will make it harder for you to move on. Similarly, avoid talking about the business with former employees. Here is where having a plan for your post-sale life is so important. Having a new hobby or passion, or spending more time with the people you love the most can help ease the transition.

While the emotional impact of a business sale can be a difficult thing to deal with, it is a normal part of being an entrepreneur. Preparing yourself in advance, getting the right people to support you during the process, and embracing the next stage of life will allow you to get ahead of these emotions and manage their impact.

If you own a business in the Sarasota, Fort Myers or Naples areas and are thinking about selling it soon, consider working with an advisor to help you prepare emotionally, logistically and financially. Corporate Investment Business Brokers (CIBB) in Southwest Florida has been working with local business owners for nearly 40 years to formulate their exit strategies, produce accurate valuations and sell profitably. Our free, no-obligation consultation includes a business valuation estimate. Contact us to find out what your business is worth and create a strategy for moving forward.

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