Contacting Owners and First Meetings

How do you convince an owner to sell? Tips and tricks for contacting owners of privately held not-for-sale companies

“I’m not interested in selling my business right now.” “We already have a strategic plan in place.” “We are already talking to another buyer.” “Why should I listen to you? I get asked to sell all the time.” “I may sell in a few years when my company has a higher value.” “Who are you????” […]

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Owners are usually skeptical or defensive when asked about selling their “not-for-sale” company. In fact, many will hang up or refuse to consider your offer. If you do manage to break through and get the owner to agree to a first meeting, your job is to put them at ease, dissuade fears and communicate the […]

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“Why should I let you buy my company?” Chances are an owner will ask you this question during the course of your acquisition and you must have a convincing answer. While the strategic fit and benefits of an acquisition may be abundantly clear to you, an owner may not share your perspective. As a leader, […]

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For an owner of a privately-held company, the business is their baby and using hard-nosed tactics to negotiate for the lowest price is ill-advised. The human factor cannot be overlooked when pursuing M&A and establishing trust with an owner is critical. Buying a privately-held business is not like buying a car where you can negotiate the […]

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We recently had a situation where our client, the buyer, was pursuing the acquisition of one of their suppliers. The buyer expected the process to be relatively easy because he and the seller had known each other for years. However, when he tried to speak to the owner about possibly selling his company, he was […]

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When meeting an owner for the first time, your goal is not to instantly sign a deal. You first want to get to know them and make them feel comfortable about selling their business to you. In order to do this, there are some important questions to ask and subjects to broach, which I’ve covered […]

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When contacting an owner about acquisitions, don’t be surprised to hear “no.” Most owners, when asked about selling their “not-for-sale” business will automatically refuse simply because it’s unexpected. Remember, for an owner focused on running the day-to-day operations of his business, this offer is coming out of the blue. There are, of course, a number of […]

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Think about the last time that you met somebody for the first time: a coworker, a friend, a romantic interest, or even a new barista at the coffee shop. When you first met this person, whether you consciously thought about it or not, you formed an impression of them, even though you didn’t really know […]

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When you’re pursuing an acquisition, making meaningful connections with the right people at the right companies can be challenging. Who is the right person to contact? How can you go about contacting them? And once you do get in contact, what do you talk about to capture their interest? These questions are I frequently hear […]

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Time your negotiations by understanding owner psychology. Everyone wants to talk about price in mergers and acquisitions. It’s often the number one focus of buyers and sellers…but for opposite reasons. Both are likely to say they are looking for a “good deal,” but this can have a completely different meaning depending on the perspective. Buyers […]

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“I felt so vulnerable. I didn’t know what to do or what to talk about,” Dan told me. As the CEO of a food manufacturer who was pursuing acquisitions, he had a first meeting with an owner of a packaging facility before he engaged Capstone. When we met he expressed feelings of uncertainty and how […]

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How do you begin your courtship of a not-for-sale company? Sending a letter is fairly common practice for contacting owners, but it’s not the most effective way to communicate. A letter will not attract the owner’s attention and likely will go into the trash without being read. There’s a better way to stand out from the […]

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Successfully executing a deal can be tricky, even if you already know the acquisition prospect. In fact, your existing relationship may complicate the deal. Acquiring a company that you’ve worked with can make it difficult to objectively evaluate the opportunity. Bonnie Ciuffo, President of South Carolina Financial Solutions (SCFS), and John Dearing, Capstone Managing Director, […]

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When do you let an owner of a privately-held not-for-sale company know you are interested in acquisition? While, I’ve mentioned that an owner will not sell their company over the phone, this doesn’t mean you should hide your interest in acquisition. You should introduce acquisition at the beginning of the process. In your first call […]

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“Hello, I’d like to buy your company.” If this were the way I began my phone calls with owners, none of our deals would be successful. Speaking with owners, particularly of privately held, not-for-sale companies, requires the right strategy and approach. After all, you only have one chance to make a first impression and your goal in […]

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As an M&A consultant, I’m often asked exactly how we persuade the owners of not-for-sale companies to sell.  My years of experience speaking with owners and facilitating acquisitions makes the process easier, but the real secret is understanding owner psychology. In contacting an owner, you can’t lay out a detailed acquisition plan. The key is […]

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Here is a thought that many miss when they embark on an acquisition process: There is an inherent asymmetry in acquisition that puts the buyer and seller on different planes. You can buy companies over and over again, but the owner can sell his company only once. Though you, the buyer, may be taking significant […]

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Making first contact with an owner and important step in the acquisition process. It is your opportunity to get your foot in the door and start a positive relationship that could lead to acquisition. So, how do you go about contacting owners? In my post for the ACG National Capital Blog I outline how to initiate […]

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Personal connection matters, especially when it comes to the first connection with an owner of an acquisition prospect. This first connection is a decisive step.  Handled correctly, it can initiate a positive relationship that may eventually lead to union. Handled poorly, that one phone call can terminate your opportunity to buy. When initiating contact with […]

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I have rarely found an owner who, when asked if he would consider selling his business, immediately says, ‘‘Yes, I want to sell, and I want to sell now.’’ If you did actually get an immediate yes, this might well indicate weakness on the part of the prospect. Most often, though, the responses you will […]

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