Mark Zuckerberg has had a rough couple of weeks. The lack of trust in his business practices landed him in the hot seat before Congress, and that’s never a good place to be.
While the leader of a gargantuan company like Facebook might not have much in common with a small business owner who is looking to sell – there is a major lesson that can be learned from the recent Facebook debacle that can help a seller get to a closing table successfully.
The major lesson? Trust and honesty are key.
A business buyer is going to write you a very big check, and for that check they are expecting to get exactly what you told them they were buying.
All small businesses are complex, and as such those businesses have issues – big and small. There is never a perfect business, but it certainly would be easy to sell if it was – so many sellers make the mistake of trying to create an illusion that their business is perfect.
We get it, issues feel like failures and might decrease the amount of money a buyer is willing to give you. Hiding flaws, however, is a big mistake for a couple of reasons. First, if you had been honest and upfront with issues, buyers may have accepted those issues as part of the deal. If the issues come out later, then you’ve lost the trust of those buyers – and your chances of making it to closing will be slim to none.
Think you can hide those skeletons in the closet? Think again. A major part of any small business transaction is due diligence, where a buyer gets to go through every aspect of your business with a fine toothed comb. If there’s a problem, they’re going to find it, so it’s a far better strategy to be open and upfront. Maintaining trust in a business transaction is key simply because it’s a complicated process with a lot of money changing hands.
The same goes for things you might be slightly embarrassed about and so you gloss over them or don’t mention them in discussions and negotiations. You need to clearly communicate what your business is, how it makes it’s money, how it works day-to-day and what any problems might be. Omitting information or choosing to make light of things a buyer really needs to know is both unethical and a deal killer.
Transparency is crucial to your ability to sell. Trying to hide skeletons or not clearly communicating the aspects of your business a future owner needs to know will surely kill your deal – so play it smarter than Facebook and keep your buyer’s trust.
Are you considering selling your business, but are worried about the skeletons in the closet? Would you like to know what types of issues buyers are usually willing to overlook? Please feel free to leave any questions or comments here.
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