Selling/Buying Businesses: Watch Out for These Jokers!

This is a continuation in the series started a couple months back here in The Fordyce Letter about buying/selling businesses. The first article was called “Thinking about Selling Your Recruiting Business?” and the author was pelted with calls to write more regarding this subject. Reluctantly, she agreed to. This segment is called Watch Out for These Jokers!

There was an article over on LinkedIn recently that caught my eye:

Anyone considering alternative employment opportunities for 2008? Buying a Business or a Franchise? A lot of folks have been telling me that they would love to build their own business as a hedge against future downsizing and workplace frustrations. Can this be an alternative?

As I began what I thought would be a witty and mostly casual comment, I began to feel the blood course into my fingers, circulating quickly in my body and flushing my cheeks. I had to do a push-away before I really got myself into trouble, but I thought I’d share my response with you here.

This is one of my pet peeves. Individuals who profess they “always wanted to/want to own their own business.” The only person I concluded most of these people were kidding after dealing with these “suspects” for 22 years was themselves. They’d call me about a business I was representing for sale and they’d want to know the most particular of information! Like they had a right to ask. They’d get all huffy when I’d slow them down and ask for their name. Their temperaments would reveal themselves when I insisted upon a telephone number so I could “call them back”. When I did call them back, and got through to the ones who had not lied to me about their names/telephone numbers, some of them would want to know why I wanted to know how much money they had. Imagine that. Me asking them how much money they had and if they passed this qualifier the next thing I’d demand to know was what did their spouse think of this hare-brained scheme of theirs?

By this time, the savvy among them understood where I was coming from but you’d be surprised how many flaked off up to this point. For those remaining, I’d invite them to my office and place a “Nondisclosure Form” in front of them to sign. “What’s this?” a few would blink.

“It’s a Nondisclosure Form. It says that anything you learn about this particular business in your inspection of it will not be disclosed to any third parties unless they have a need to know.”

“And it better be a really good need-to-know,” I’d think caustically to myself as the majority of them signed on the dotted line. Occasionally, though, one wouldn’t, for some or other tawdry reason and out my gilded doors they’d go, unrequited and unceremoniously. I always imagined them going to some other broker, or worse yet, some owner without representation, who wasn’t nearly as hard-boiled as I was.

I didn’t have time to sit and listen to their air-ball fantasies as they kidded themselves about being a “business owner.” I’d paid my dues – been there and had plenty of them waste my time before I learned this hard lesson. I had good businesses to sell and I owed it to my sellers to represent them in the most professional manner I could. I tried. I’m quite sure in the trying I made some enemies. Oh well.

Before I trotted out the business information and most importantly and always of interest to them, “the financials,” I’d “interview” them as to what their motivations were in buying a business. See, even at this point I had bozos to deal with. I had a philosophy at that time – you needed three things to own a business and run it successfully – money, knowledge and guts. You could get by with two of these things but one of them always had to be guts. I hold this same philosophy in my name sourcing business today.

There’d be clues as to their motivational misalignments. One would be that they would want to come into my office “at night” (after-work) or on weekends (off-work). I went along with these silly game plans early in my career but as the years wore on I learned that these “Lookie-Lous” were part-time aficionados looking for interesting cocktail party conversation. I imagined them sloshing back scotch-and-waters and blabbering on to their buddy how they’d just “looked at a manufacturing company grossing $25 million” and the wide-eyed impressed gaze of their companion back upon their puffed-out chests. “Banty roosters” I came to derisively refer to them and immediately dismissed their overtures as undedicated.

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You see, finding a business is much like finding a job. You must dedicate yourself to the process for best results. Few people get this, and it may be one reason there is so much turnover in companies today, especially with new hires.

I maintain that if more companies could elicit proactive engagement with their interviewees, there would be more success in the hiring process. The more “engaged” a potential buyer was with my process, the more likely s/he was to become a successful purchaser of that business. By the time s/he had jumped through all the hoops and vaulted all the roadblocks I’d put in the path there was a steely determination soldered in the bone that can only be used to describe a true entrepreneur.

True business owners (those who have made a go at it for more than five years) are FEW AND FAR BETWEEN. In my estimate, I’d put them at (and this will surprise you) a fraction of 1% of the general population. That’s right – a miniscule number, and it’s a shame and a product of 50 years of corporate cradle-to-grave stewardship and an education system that does not value entrepreneurship.

I’m suggesting if more “employees” treated their jobs as their own businesses, there’d be far less attrition in the workplace. If more “employees” thought like entrepreneurs, many problems could be solved far more efficiently than what exists in business today. If more “employees” were more “invested” in their jobs, there would be more job satisfaction today.

What do you think?

COMING SOON: More tell-tale “banty rooster” signals.

Maureen Sharib (maureen at techtrak.com) is a telephone name sourcer, names sourcing since 1997. She and her husband Bob own the names-sourcing firm TechTrak.com, Inc. (www.techtrak.com) which helps companies fill their hard-to-place positions at a fraction of the cost of traditional recruiting venues. Maureen is the 2007-2008 Guild Guide for the newly formed Sourcers Guild, a professional organization for sourcers. Sourcers Guild: http:// finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/sourcersguild/ She is also the author of the only of its kind and very popular “Magic in the Method” telephone name sourcing training course and a continuous contributor to many online recruiting related sites. Maureen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Cincinnati and lives in Morrow, Ohio, on a 12-acre paradise with her husband Bob, dog Buster and three barn cats that won’t stay out of her house. She is most grateful to be able to do what she does.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!

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