Outside Consultant: Selling a family business

  • Updated: August 10, 2014 - 2:00 PM

question

I am the 66-year-old owner of my family’s business. I recently had some health problems, which resulted in family and friends asking if I had intentions of selling the business. I love this business, but that said, would like some general advice if I were to sell.

Bob Shirilla,

Keepsakes Etc.

answer

Many family business owners are confronted with your situation. While on one hand people love their business that they have so carefully managed and want to continue growing it, on the other hand, aging, health concerns and the general toll running a small business can take on a person leads them to consider retirement.

There are a couple of things you can do right now to ease the process. First, begin conversations with family members, friends and trusted sources to let them know that, even if not in the immediate future, you are interested in eventually selling the business. By just putting the idea in people’s mind, you may very well be surprised by the positive interest you receive.

Also, consider speaking with a consultant. For example, in the Twin Cities, we have had several owners approach our University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business Family Business Center for help in transitions when they unexpectedly find that their children or some other family members were interested in the business. Whether you sell the business to family, friends or some other party, it is advisable to have a business valuation done and to get a good lawyer. For a business valuation, the hiring of expert advisers will ensure reliable input on what the business is worth. And to hire a good lawyer, a good route to take is asking for recommendations from trusted sources.

Finally, talk with other family business owners to find what they have done. You can meet owners at chambers of commerce and other business associations. At St. Thomas, we offer a breakfast series where family business owners are speakers and you can network with them and other owners in the audience.

About the author

Ritch L. Sorenson, Opus Endowed Chair in Family Business, Academic Director, Family Business Center, University of St. Thomas

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