Category Archives: Musings

Thoughts on business, business owners and what makes them tick, including this one.

Who Are You

Not really a hard question. Unless you consider that we are all being different people depending on the situation that presents itself. If you are a business owner, the answer to that question may be as complex as it is hard to answer. The negotiator is not the same person as the manager, who is not the same person as the father, or lover. An employee may define himself in part as a Vice President of Sales, no matter where he works. But a business owner, by the nature of that relationship is more narrowly defined by her unique business. This leads to what I call the business-owner continuum; it’s hard to determine where the business ends and the owner begins. How many times, have you made a decision based, in part (large part perhaps), as to what was going on in your business? Stay with me, I am going somewhere with this.

There’s a process by which we humans get conditioned to reality. We might say, that that’s the way it is, or that these are the sacrifices we make for the benefits of owning a business. This is fine until it’s time to transfer out of the business. That’s when the business owner is confronted with the separation of the parts. The challenge for this person is not that the mechanics of a business sale are confounding, it is that a part of him will be cut away. While it’s an intellectual exercise to understand this, the process of transferring the people, relationships, acknowledgement . . . the part of the person who is the business owner, is an emotional one. It can’t be valued on a spreadsheet, nor will it succumb to negotiation.

I have a client who couldn’t see himself as separate from his manufacturing business. We worked together so that he could see where he and his business were connected. We spent some hours in conversation, exploring what the business meant to his life. What roles would he lose in a business sale, and what roles would he gain? As he became more aware of his relationship with the business and his life, he had a different way of listening to the options I could propose for the transfer of his business. He now leaves the management of that business to his capable team, and chairs meetings using Skype from his house in Florida. He appreciates the different roles, the different people he is. With this perspective, there is room for making thoughtful decisions about the transfer, free from the “noise” that all those roles were causing.



Over ten years ago I started this firm with my first client.  In the intervening period, I’ve helped a few companies get a handle on what they are trying to accomplish, how they are trying to grow or exit their businesses and, most importantly, why.  The tools of the acquisition and sale process, my chosen context for this endeavor, are exactly that . . . tools.  The word context is important in this conversation.  There are myriad professionals assisting business owners with the challenges of growing an organization, managing people, streamlining operations and many more.  In my experience, there were few (maybe none) who handle merger and acquisition activity with a simple context in mind, that is the need to satisfy more than purely financial motives with a business transition.  The context for a business sale is many times a complicated subject tied up in an abundance of emotional and mental flotsam.  But try to find a professional well-versed in the practice of business transition that will treat the subject with respect, both for the transaction and the individuals.  You’ll find plenty of intermediaries whose client will ultimately become the transaction, meaning the focus of their efforts will ultimately become a closed deal, in spite of the impact on the owner, his or her wishes and the ecosystem that they’ve built through the years.  It’s into this environment that business owners pinch their collective noses and hope things work out for the best.  I’m grateful to the marketplace for acknowledging ThirdSide Capital’s effort to bring some light into this dark place for business owners.  It’s in this context that those owners who refuse to “go quietly into the night” have a real choice.