Senior sitting on a bench in the dunes of the Baltic Sea, the KERN logo in the top right-hand corner.

Profes­sio­nal support for emotio­nal compa­ny successions

Compa­ny succes­si­ons are highly emotio­nal proces­ses. For all persons invol­ved. In most cases, a business succes­si­on is a once-in-a-lifetime affair for both the trans­fer­or and the trans­fe­ree. No matter whether it is due to old age, serious illness or other reasons: Almost always, entire life’s work is at the centre of business successions.

The process of giving up or trans­fer­ring a compa­ny to an inter­nal or exter­nal person or insti­tu­ti­on does not begin with the awarding of the contract or the manda­te. The entre­pre­neur concer­ned deals with the issue himself much earlier. Many full-blooded entre­pre­neurs find it diffi­cult to take the first step becau­se they fear for their life’s work. After all, they often spend most of their life building up their own business. If you look at it from the entrepreneur’s point of view, it quick­ly becomes clear why this process does not call for a pure broker or advisor. Rather, a compa­n­ion must be at the entrepreneur’s side. A compa­n­ion who can think his way into the situa­ti­on and, in the best case, has experi­en­ced it himself.

Channe­ling emotions

Emoti­ons quick­ly boil up at many points in the succes­si­on process. At an early stage of the process, the trans­fer­or is confron­ted with the profes­sio­nal compa­ny valua­ti­on. Here the expec­ta­ti­on and the calcu­la­ted value someti­mes drift far apart. The disap­point­ment has to be absor­bed. The client now expects options and a concre­te perspec­ti­ve. In negotia­ti­ons with prospec­ti­ve buyers, it is the task of the facili­ta­tor to channel the emoti­ons. A good examp­le is the buyer’s demand for a good hando­ver. Here it is advan­ta­ge­ous if the trans­fer­or clear­ly shows that it is in his interest to preser­ve his life’s work. Emotio­nal outbursts must be taken serious­ly. Through various techni­ques and methods, an experi­en­ced succes­si­on specia­list can have a calming and construc­ti­ve effect.

Accom­pa­ny, advise and protect

Of course, profes­sio­nal and well-founded advice is also part of an accom­p­animent. The trans­fer­or wants to benefit from expert knowledge. They want the best possi­ble outco­me at the end of the process. This is not always the moneta­ry reward for the hando­ver, but often also the knowledge about the conti­nui­ty of the compa­ny and the jobs. A buyer is likely to bring his own ideas into the compa­ny. That can mean restruc­tu­ring. It can be struc­tu­ral changes. It can also mean restruc­tu­ring the company’s portfo­lio. For many trans­fer­ors, the plans that a buyer brings up in the negotia­ti­ons are a nuisance. Something is to be changed that the trans­fer­or had previous­ly shied away from. Emoti­ons can quick­ly boil over and the table becomes noisy. This is where the facili­ta­tor has to inter­ve­ne in a calming way and bring the negotia­ti­on back down to earth. Too quick­ly, state­ments are made that are not relevant to the sale or even harm the seller.

What makes a good compa­n­ion for business succession?

There are a few crite­ria that you should clari­fy before hiring a consultant.

  1. Has the consul­tant had any experi­ence of his own?
  2. Can the consul­tant provi­de “real” references?
  3. Are there additio­nal quali­fi­ca­ti­ons of the counsell­or in, for examp­le, media­ti­on or coaching?
  4. Very important: Is the chemis­try between entre­pre­neur and consul­tant right?

A good advisor is both a compa­n­ion and a protec­ti­ve shield for the trans­fer­or. In all phases of the process and also the ancil­la­ry proces­ses. He coordi­na­tes tax advisors, auditors, lawyers and interes­ted parties. The develo­p­ment of a hando­ver story is part of his portfo­lio and he is always ready with an open ear when emoti­ons demand it. Even after the trans­fer of the compa­ny, in the post-merger integra­ti­on phase, he is at the side of the seller with advice and action.

Tips for further reading:

Comment: Unresol­ved compa­ny succes­si­ons endan­ger our prosperity

Advice traps in the process of business succession

The costs of a business succes­si­on or an M&A project

Selling a business: Why a pure success fee makes it diffi­cult to provi­de serious advice

Selling a compa­ny in the IT industry

The 5 most important points after buying a company