To be honest with you, the first time I sold a business, it felt like my heart had been ripped out of my body! Selling a business for the first time is never easy and can leave you emotionally devastated. However, the important lesson of this series is this: The capacity to sell a business is a “rite of passage” to maturity as an entrepreneur! If you’re unwilling to consider selling, let alone actually sell when you have to, then you’re not cut out for the big leagues…
Now let’s talk:
It took me about five years to build my first business. I started building it before I was married and had children. It was everything to me. It was not unusual for me to spend 48 hours at the business non-stop. I was young and bursting with energy, drive, ambition, passion… and I poured it all into my little business. It grew quickly, and soon people heard about me. I had what they call in Africa “a name,” and it was because of my business.
Over the last 20 years, there’s been a lot said and written about my high-profile dispute with the government of Zimbabwe in those years, as I tried to convince them to let me set up the first mobile phone business.
Today is not the time for me to go over that ground again. However, my decision to take the matter to court resulted in the government refusing to do any business with me whatsoever. And my business at the time relied on a lot of government contracts…
Whilst I thought that the government’s decision was unfair, it was what it was. I had either to wait until the business collapsed, or sell it. I had no option, so I moved quickly to find a buyer.
I wasted no time, and I did not procrastinate about it. Don’t ever procrastinate when the facts are obvious!
I sat with my accountant and my lawyer, and advised them of my decision. We drew up a list of potential buyers. The buyers knew the challenges I was facing. I also made sure I disclosed everything, so that I did not mislead them.
A few weeks after starting the process, it had been sold and I was out. I said goodbye to my staff and went on my way. It was tough, very tough, particularly as I had sold as a “distressed seller,” which meant I had little room in the negotiations. I did my best to get the best deal.
From that day forward, I was never the same again. I had acquired a tough inner core: I had become a better entrepreneur!
Today, I have sold many businesses, for any number of reasons. And I shall talk about some of them in this series. I did the right thing, each time.
Selling a business is not always because of a crisis; it’s just part of good business. It’s like selling soccer players to other teams is part of the business side of owning a soccer team. A soccer team that won’t sell any of its players is not a serious team. An entrepreneur who will not sell a business or assets to deal with a problem they face, is also not serious.
I know investors who won’t put a cent into your business unless you assure them that you’re willing to sell, if that’s the best option for the business!
In this discussion, I’ll examine a number of issues relating to when to sell, and how to sell.
To be continued. .
Author: Strive Masiyiwa || Executive Chairman & Founder of the Econet Group.