An Emotional Walk on the Beach

Selling a printing or a packaging company is complex. Deciding to sell a printing or a packaging company is complicated. The difference? Selling is a straightforward business process with clear-cut steps and rules. Deciding to sell, on the other hand, is a deep dive into the psyche of the seller. For first-time sellers, it can be uncharted territory.

That’s why the first piece of counsel I offer my selling clients is to “take an emotional walk on the beach” before plunging in. As an owner, you need to be certain not only that you want to sell but also that the moment to sell truly has arrived. You also must come to terms with the fact that selling your company will be a bittersweet experience: gratifying in the rewards you’ll gain in compensation, but poignant in the control you’ll hand over to a new owner who may also be your new boss.

It takes reflection and self-analysis—mental exercises that busy owners can’t devote much time to in the daily press of running a business. But understanding who you are and what you want will be crucial to the success of the deal. Why? Because if your motives aren’t clear to you, they won’t be clear to the buyer, either. When a company is being marketed for sale, buyers always want to know why. In my experience, they probe for the answer with as much determination as their M&A advisors do.

Every seller has his or her own way of taking that walk on the beach. An owner I’m representing recently told me, “I think that the time is right, but first I want you to come to my house and have dinner with me and my wife. She’s a great judge of character, and I want her to be happy with what we’re doing.” The interesting thing is that the couple are planning to have the same kind of up-close-and-personal meeting with the prospective buyer and his wife—a friendly get-together that should bring everyone on board with the deal emotionally, as well as business-wise.

Peter Schaefer, partner at New Direction Partners, is an experienced dealmaker with more than 25 years of investment banking and valuation experience, 20 of which has been focused exclusively on the printing and packaging industries. He has closed more than one hundred transactions in virtually every segment of the printing and packaging industries. In addition, he has performed hundreds of valuations for ESOPs, estate and gift tax planning and strategic planning purposes. Contact him at (610) 230-0635, ext. 701.
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