When it comes time to sell your HVAC company, it can be an emotional experience. After maybe 20 or more years of pouring all of your emotional and physical energy into your business, it becomes a part of you. Many times, families are involved, with spouses and children depending on it for their livelihood.
Over time, longtime customers become friends and your good name is tied forever to your business. From sponsoring holiday parades to softball teams, you have spent a career not only branding a business but building a personal reputation.
So when it comes time to sell your business, it’s understandable that the seller would want to have a comfort level with the buyer. In most cases, the seller still lives in the community and will hear about poor service or customers being disappointed.
While there is much discussion about how much you can sell your business for, there is less conversation about choosing who buys your business.
When you enter into a listing agreement with a business broker to sell your business, they will start a process that includes paid marketing and actively working their network to generate interest. If successful, they will locate a potential buyer. Most business brokers will avoid communication contact between the buyer and seller for fear of a personality clash, or anything else that might put the broker commission in jeopardy. The broker expects you to follow through and proceed with the sale with any qualified buyer they bring per the listing agreement.
But shouldn’t you have a choice in who buys your company?
I encourage the buyer and seller to meet early in the process, either in person if possible, or at least over the phone. As a broker, after this meeting I debrief with each party and asks how they think it went. Based on the outcome of this conversation, the deal may or may not move forward.
Do you have a choice in who buys your company? Yes. I don’t think it is right to force a seller to sell to just anyone with a fist full of cash. Building a business takes dedication and relationships that span years. Putting that in danger for the sake of a cash grab is just wrong. I want to respect the seller’s wishes and find the buyer that they feel comfortable turning over the keys to.
As part of my process as a broker, I ask sellers if there is someone they would not consider selling to, as in the case of a private equity company or competitor.
Looking back at the deals I’ve done in my career, the companies that have gone on and had success after the sale are the same ones that have a relationship with the previous owner. I want the two of them to talk about challenges that have come up, and even ask about individual customers and their history.
It’s customary that the seller will remain with the business for two weeks or longer to ensure a successful transition, but some have ongoing consulting agreements. Even if something formal isn’t in place, I have found that the previous owner is always willing to help if they can answer a question over the phone.
The fact is, the seller has an emotional attachment to the business that doesn’t go away after a financial transaction. Selling a business is about more than just money. It’s about legacy and how it’s preserved. You certainly have a choice in who continues it.