Sunday, September 11, 2005

This is a page from my book, “How I Sold My Business: A Personal Diary”

Okay ... the process of selling the business took a very unexpected turn today. David emailed me to see if we could meet somewhere, so we picked a lousy coffee shop that most people don't normally go to. When I got there David was joined by George and Cooper, our LLC Class B business partners.

I have no idea what the look on my face was when I saw them all, other than confusion. They apologized for ambushing me like this, but in short, Jack had already written David to say he wasn't interested in buying my shares, so David, assuming the next step for me being to talk to the Class B partners, made that arrangement for me, and in fact the three of them have been talking to each other since some time yesterday. David said that he told Jack about this last night, and Jack was fine with it.

After catching up to speed with all of that, and some jokes about this being an intervention, I got a fairly lousy cup of coffee, and the four of us began to talk. First, I told them that without Jack and David officially signing any paperwork, all we could talk about were "what if" scenarios. David said he would sign his paperwork after Jack signed his, and added that Jack had been "acting weird", so David wouldn't sign his until then. The three of them also told me this situation was causing them great personal stress, and the situation between Jack and I was making things worse.

History with a business partner

At that point I told them most of the details of my entire history with Jack, how I had tried to buy his shares twice at very reasonable rates, the details of his interaction with our last attorney, and his "counter offer" to me. I skipped some of my feeling about Jack that might make him seem like more of a liability; I was still in sales mode, and if they were happy with Jack as he was, so be it.

I told them that from my standpoint my relationship with Jack was over, and that if I was going to stay with the company, he would have to go. However, because I wanted to leave the company and return to my own hometown, I suggested they focus on Jack's strengths, and that if the three of them bought my shares they'd be in a strong position to deal with him. I told them I missed the old Jack, the one I started the company with. That was true, I did miss that person, but he wasn't around any more.

I told them that if the three of them were really interested in buying my shares, I thought we had to work through this legal process as fast as possible. The Class A partners needed to reject my offer, and then the Class B partners had to reject it, and after that I could talk to anyone I wanted to. I told them they'd have to trust me that I wasn't doing this just to talk to people outside the company, that what I really wanted to do was to sell to them, but my lawyer told me I had to take these steps.

I skippd telling them that I knew my asking price was too high. I still needed Jack out of the picture, so I was keeping that to myself.

By the end of the meeting I again asked them to trust me, and that after Jack and David turned me down, and then the Class B partners turned me down, I'd be glad to talk to them again, but legally we had to go through those steps. Finally, I added that I wasn't going to change my mind, I really wanted to leave by next summer, and I thought this would be a "chance of a lifetime" opportunity for them to own their own business, a small business that was already established and successful.

We all left at the same time, so I know they didn't have any further discussions at the coffee shop, though I can only guess what happened after that. I have to say, there was some serious stress involved, but I also feel like I'm suddenly much closer to getting what I want, or at least what I think I want.

books i’ve written