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Ground Rules There are ways to improve the likelihood you will achieve a successful sale of your company if you take the time to develop ground rules with your business partners. The sooner you do so in the process of selling a company, the better.

Typically most Cross Purchase or Buy Sell Agreements do not address the special circumstances surrounding the sale of a company. This is why we have developed what we consider best practices before business partners undertake such an endeavor:

Ground Rules for Selling a Business with Partners

Initiate a Schedule for Regular Communication Sessions with your Business Partners

You are about to sell the most valuable asset you own—your business. Without diligent attention to this matter, business partners may find themselves disappointed with the outcome. Make the communications with your partners a priority. How? Pick a day of the week and set 45 to 90 minutes aside on your calendar for these communications. It is now an appointment—which should not be canceled. Consider it sacred. As the actual business transaction progresses, this appointment to speak with your business partners about the sale may be necessary every couple of days or even more frequently.

Decide between Multiple Business Partners Who is in Charge

When business partners are considering the sale of their company, more decisions need to be made. And they need to do so frequently. I recommend that all parties be given an opportunity to meet regarding the various decisions, offer their opinions, and vote. If a tie results, one partner should be designated IN ADVANCE to make the final decision. So, the first agenda item in the partner’s meeting is to decide which person will be designated as the Business Partner in Charge.

Designate a Spokesperson and Liaison for Outside Parties

As you work through the sale of a business, you will need to carefully communicate with many outside parties. These parties may include various Attorneys, Accountants, Buyers, Brokers, Intermediaries, Bankers, etc. Such communications can be exhausting and confusing if not planned and executed carefully. By designating one partner to communicate on behalf of the company, it improves your chances of not improperly sharing information prematurely or inaccurately.

Share the Ground Rules with Other Parties to the Sale

Once the Meeting Calendar is set by you and your business partners and you have designated the Partner in Charge and the Spokesperson/Liaison, communicating this to your outside advisors and other parties will simplify the process. And don’t hesitate letting any of them know if they have gone outside the boundaries you and your partners have established.

Executing the Successful Exit Strategy Should Include Designation of the Post-Closing To- Do List

It is natural for business partners to want to celebrate once the business has been sold. However, the post celebration reality is such that much work will be necessary by the selling partners to properly transfer the business to the new owners. It is wise to decide in advance which business partner will lead this effort. It also is advisable and equitable to compensate this business partner for his or her extra effort and accountability.

Whether multiple business partners get along well or not, establishing the ground rules in advance of selling a company should at a minimum mitigate frustrations and reduce mistakes. It’s been our experience as we work with multiple business partners that by doing so, the outcome improves.

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Holly Magister, CPA, CFP

Holly A. Magister, CPA, CFP®, is the founder of Enterprise Transitions, LP, an Emerging Business and Exit Planning firm. She helps entrepreneurs assess, re-align, and accelerate their business with the intent of ultimately executing its top-dollar sale.
Holly also founded ExitPromise.com and to date has answered more than 2,000 questions asked by business owners about starting, growing and selling a business.
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