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Dec 28, 201710:22 AMExit Stage Right

with Martha Sullivan

What business owners want from advisers

(page 1 of 2)

Year-end is the time of year when people come together and want to get transactions done. Recently, as a CPA and value-growth advisor, I’ve been working with two different individuals looking to buy a business. In one instance, the buyer, “George,” has a target and wants guidance on many aspects of the deal. In the other instance, “Gina” is looking for potential new targets after a recent opportunity fell through. They’re assembling their team of advisors up front before they invest one dollar in a new company. George and Gina want different consulting support. However, they also want the same important trait in their next adviser — someone who is a connector and collaborator.

George has a cool opportunity to buy a struggling business that has the very type of capacity he needs to jump-start a compatible startup he’s involved with. This platform would then be the foundation for future bolt-ons. George wants support from accounting, business growth, legal, capital, and financing advisers now. Within 18 to 24 months, he’ll expand the circle to include investment banking.

Gina, on the other hand, is in a different position. She’s bought and sold companies as a member of corporate and private equity teams. She’s solid operationally. With an outstanding relationship with her bank, conventional financing is already lined up. Gina’s connections are vast, so she can pull together other investors if additional capital is needed. Gina also has solid relationships with her attorney and wealth manager, and she knows they work well together. What she needs is access to sellers and support with the transaction. To that end, she wants her new accounting and advisory firm to embrace a collaborative approach to get the deal done and provide ongoing services.

In short, George and Gina want their advisers to:

  • Embrace an approach that is collaborative. Egos are in check and there is willingness to work well in a group.
  • Collectively understand their goals and challenges to build the better mousetrap to meet those needs together.
  • To serve them for the long term, well after a transaction is complete, and:
    • Advise them on the business integration/launch, ongoing operations, and new projects for the foreseeable future;
    • Watch for and introduce them to new opportunities that might fit their long-term vision;
    • Be a sounding board for new business ideas related to their long-term plan;
    • Connect them with other resources as needs arise; and
    • Provide external accountability to stay on track toward their goals.

These expectations are reasonable. They are also not new needs or expectations from a business owner. What’s different is the fact that these two prospects specifically asked about it and made it clear that collaboration was a critical element in their decision making. It would be demanded from all the advisers they brought on to their team.

Collaboration has been a concept and topic of discussion within some advisory circles for years. The conversations with George and Gina drive a key point home. It’s moved beyond concept — business owners are requiring it.


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About This Blog

Spending half her career as an advisor to privately-held and family businesses and the other half in CFO/COO roles, Martha Sullivan is a partner and the succession planning practice leader in the business transition strategies group at Honkamp, Krueger & Co., P.C. She and her team have extensive experience assisting business owners achieve their personal, business, and transition goals. “Don’t think of the 'exit' from your business like it’s a four-letter word. Make it your next adventure!”



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