Emotionally Compromised Business sales
27 Apr 2017 - Simon Palmer - Brokerage

Most people would acknowledge that it is inappropriate for a judge to preside over a case involving a family member. If they did, their decision could be influenced by their personal relationship with the person involved in case, rather than the facts. Any ruling would not be deemed fair and just to those who sought judgement (and it probably wouldn’t be).

Most people would also recognise the need for a level of emotional separation between a doctor and his patient. A surgeon operating on a family member or loved one is under extreme stress, which could lead to a substandard or even life-threatening outcome. A doctor treating a family member may under or over treat them as a result of their relationship, putting the patient’s health (and their license to practice medicine) at risk.

As a business owner, selling your business is often not simply a financial transaction and the sum of price and terms. There is also a significant emotional component, as it often involves:

  • Letting go of a piece of your identity that defines you
  • Letting go of control of a business you have been directing for a long time
  • Saying goodbye to valued relationships with your staff and patients/clients
  • Financial (and aesthetic) scrutiny of your life’s work
  • Considering being an employee or retired, after a career of owning a business

An owner-operator who is going through these emotions will find it difficult (if not impossible) to be objective in the decision-making process and, as a result, many vendors will:

  • Feel insulted and have their ego bruised when a buyer points out  negative aspects of the business
  • Put off selling until the practice is worth a fraction of its former value, because they are not emotionally ready to let go.
  • Jeopardise the sale of their practice, by mistaking their emotional value with its real value, and putting it to market with an unattainable price.
  • Sell cheap to a buyer who strokes their ego, with flattery and talk of continuing their proud legacy, rather than a buyer who offers the right price and terms.
  • Sell cheap to a buyer because they are fatigued and too time-poor to go through the selling process, rather than because they have offered the right price and terms.

Across the board in professional services, whether it is as a judge, a surgeon, a doctor, a scientist, a journalist, a policeman or a real estate valuer, objectivity - being able to see things without emotion and “at-arms-length” - is seen as integral to achieving an optimal outcome.

This logic extends clearly to representing yourself when you are selling a business that you have spent decades of your professional life working in and building. It takes an independent, arms-length approach from a qualified agent to cut through the emotion, to get the best outcome for the vendor in Price and Terms. Selling your own practice is akin to a policeman assessing the crime of a loved one, or a real estate valuer passing judgement on a property they own….it can’t help but be seen as biased, emotionally compromised, and possibly lacking credibility. 

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