Business development · 14 November 2018

Entrepreneurs struggle to say goodbye to their business after selling it

exit strategy
Have you found it hard to let go?

Entrepreneurs find it hard to say goodbye to their businesses, with most wanting to stay on after a sale.

New research from M&A firm Livingstone Partners revealed that 75% of business founders want to remain with their business after selling up, with 44% keen to stick around for up to three years after the event.

Younger owners were the most attached with 9 in 10 of those aged between 16 and 24 wanting to remain with a sold business for at least a year. This compared to 30% of 45 to 54-year olds.

There were differences across industries as well with business founders in the tech sector more likely to want to stay, with just 19% saying they want a clean break after selling. This compared to 26% in the consumer sector, and 33% in the business services sector.

“Running and eventually selling a business come with a mix of both practical and emotional considerations that touch entrepreneurs each day.”

Livingstone’s Heart of the Deal report found that nearly half of owners were worried about whether a buyer would take care of the business they founded. For 23% the chief concern was whether the new owner would enable the business to grow, and for 16% it was a question of what would happen to their staff.

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Livingstone said the energy that founders put into their business also explained their difficulty in letting go. It found that 83% of all entrepreneurs said they sometimes or always have problems letting go of a business with 77% often putting the needs of their business above anything else in life.  Of the 200 founders surveyed, 14% said they are constantly lonely, and a further 44% admitted to feeling isolated at points. 

“There’s often a perception of entrepreneurs that are exploring a company sale that they want to bank the cash and head for the hills,” said Jeremy Furniss, partner at Livingstone.

“Our research points to a very different entrepreneurial psyche. Perhaps unsurprisingly, running and eventually selling a business come with a mix of both practical and emotional considerations that touch entrepreneurs each day. Founders’ attachments to their businesses goes deeper than simply monetary value

“It’s interesting as well to see that this mindset is especially prevalent amongst younger entrepreneurs. We have a group of young business men and women who are motivated to build, sell and stay the distance with their companies for the long term.”  

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