Exit: John Warrillow

The spouse's role in selling a business

Special to The Globe and Mail

Photos of CAW members meeting at General Motors Centre where members were being briefed on the close-out settlement at the GM Oshawa truck plant. (Tibor Kolley)

In the old days, when General Motors offered retirement packages to its workers, managers would summon both the affected workers and their spouses into the office to hear the details and make a decision.

The spouses would usually see the advantages of retirement and remind the GM employees of the things they could do with more time on their hands.

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Those days are clearly over for GM, but if you're selling your business, your advisers may recommend you use your spouse to help you through the emotional roller coaster of it all.

When you reach the final stages of negotiation, the buyer, realizing you're emotionally committed to selling, may ask for new concessions or clauses or even reduce the offering price at the last minute. Your broker, wanting to get the deal done, may suggest you accept the new terms. If you don't have a trusted person to turn to, your fighting instincts could kick in, and you could blow the deal.

Michael Henry, a partner with business law firm Houser, Henry & Syron in Toronto, explains: “We often suggest the seller consult with his or her spouse about whether to sell and then at key milestones in the selling process. The spouse typically helps the seller remain focused on their longer-term goals, such as moving on with their life and starting to enjoy other things. The spouse often provides the nudge the business owner needs to make a decision, and if the business is to be sold, then to close a deal.”

As long as you know why your advisers are asking your spouse to be involved, you can make your own decisions about how much to let his or her input sway your decision making.

Special to the Globe and Mail

John Warrillow is the author of Built To Sell: Turn Your Business Into One You Can Sell . Throughout his career as an entrepreneur, Mr. Warrillow has started and exited four companies. Most recently he transformed Warrillow & Co. from a boutique consultancy into a recurring revenue model subscription business, which he sold to The Corporate Executive Board in 2008. He is the author of Drilling for Gold and in 2008 was recognized by BtoB Magazine's “Who's Who” list as one of America's most influential business-to-business marketers.

Follow on Twitter: @JohnWarrillow

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