Negotiating & Structuring The Deal

I have heard it a thousand times from sellers: “if word gets out that my business is for sale I am doomed”. True? Not necessarily. Sure there are some highly sensitive industries where it can cause a problem but it’s usually not the case. Or, sellers worry that if word gets out their employees will immediately start looking for a job elsewhere. True? Not really.

Keeping a proposed sale secret is preferable, but not always practical.

Word can get out or employees may become suspicious so what should an owner do if ever confronted about their business being for sale by clients or suppliers for example? There is one standard answer: “My business is always for sale. If someone walks in here tomorrow and gives me a ton of money of course I am going to sell it. Wouldn’t you?”

This reply always defuses the situation.

Now, let’s get to the employees.

It is normal for staff members to be concerned for their jobs in the event of a sale but in reality, their jobs are almost always safer under the new owner because they (the new boss) is completely reliant upon them.

A current owner knows the employees strengths and weaknesses. They know who can be easily replaced.

A new owner has no idea yet, and the last thing they want is people leaving before they really know what their individual job roles are all about.

While this may not necessarily pacify scared staff members, it is very important to explain it this way when the times comes close to a final sale.

Regardless, it is always best to avert the issue and while I loathe the idea of not being completely upfront with anyone, this is one situation where a seller may need to be less than truthful in order to avoid chaos. I must admit, if an employee ever asked me about a sale when I was in the midst of one, I always responded with an emphatic “NO”. I also made it a point to tell them first once it did happen and of course I prefaced it with being terribly sorry that I could not be totally upfront and that is why I wanted them to be the first person to know.


it is in everyone’s best interests that word never leaks out if your business is on the market, but sometimes these things do surface so have the answers suggested above ready.


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