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THE INC. LIFE

3 Ways to Beat the Stress of Selling a Business

Selling a company can be stressful. See here how you can alleviate some of that stress.

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BY Serhat Pala - 30 Aug 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Selling a business can be a wonderful experience. It's akin to raising a child and seeing that child go forth and take on the world on his or her own. (Or, alternately, become someone else's responsibility.)

However, selling a business is not easy. Even selling something as complicated as a house is incredibly simple when compared to selling a business.

Recently, the Sydney Morning Herald ran an article detailing some people's experiences with selling businesses, ranging from a nervous breakdown to elation to mournfulness.

Here are three issues that people don't tell you about selling a company--and what you can do to alleviate them.

1. You still have to run the company.

You can stop driving a car before you sell it and you can move out of a house before you sell it, but you can't just stop running a business while you are in the selling process. In fact, not only do you have to keep running it, you have to keep it running well enough to maintain or increase revenue throughout the sale process so the buyer doesn't get cold feet.

In a larger company with an established management system, this isn't so difficult, but in a small company that is run by just one or a few people, it can get exhausting.

Mandi Gunsberger, founder of the Babyology website, said she had a nervous breakdown as she was trying to grow the site's revenue in preparation of selling it to children's radio station Kinderling.

I've had a similar experience. Running a business at the same time you are trying to sell means extra workload, but the real stress comes from making decisions that you know will affect the future of the company even though you may not be there to reap the rewards.

Decisions like:

  • Should I hire this new person?3 Ways to Beat the Stress of Selling a Business

  • Should I invest in this item when I know I might not benefit from it if I sell?

  • Should I try to make this process change or not?

  • Should I fire this person?

So many decisions you make for your business are about the future and when you are trying to sell, that adds stress to each decision.

What you can do: In addition to having well trained staff who can help out with your increased workload, I suggest running the business as if you're not going to sell it because sales do fall through at the last minute. If that happens, you want your company's priorities to remain intact throughout the process so it is set up to succeed regardless of whether you sell it or not.

2. There are "marathon meetings" during a sale.

Amika Mobile founder Sue Abu-Hakima says she never had panic attacks before selling her first business, but she experienced them during the sale process because of what she described as marathon meetings.

Fortunately, I never experienced anything like this during a business sale, but I do know what she is talking about. Nobody likes long meetings, but they're an unfortunate necessity during a sale.

What you can do: Look at the process as an educational tool, like getting a new certificate in mergers and acquisitions. Use these meetings to understand the people you're selling to because if you choose to stay, they will be your new bosses and they may want to run things differently. Always tell yourself that you're learning to make these meetings more palatable.

3. You'll miss it.

I wasn't exaggerating when I said selling a business is akin to saying goodbye to a child who is moving out. You'll miss it. For as busy as you are during the selling process, emptiness can come rushing in once the sale is done, especially if you decide to leave the company.

That's what happened to Kim Holstein, co-founder of Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels, after she and her husband sold the business after 17 years.

I sold a smaller company once because I wanted to focus on another growing one. Since I wasn't spending much time on that small company, I thought it would be easy to sell it and forget about it, but like someone checking up on an old girlfriend, I still find myself looking at their social media.

What you can do: When you really love someone, you hope that the next person they find will be good to them and the same goes for a business. To help alleviate any anxiety about selling your business, make sure you are selling it to people you like and respect.

Even if you get a higher bid from someone else, it may not be worth it if you don't think they're going to give your company the respect it deserves. Money isn't the only thing to consider when selling.

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