Great Leaders Keep People, Not Things, at the Center

What started as a small project that my wife, Jamie, and I worked on in our spare time quickly turned into a viable business. We both quit our jobs and went all in on the new venture. Eleven years later, we had offices in three states, amazing team members, and an enviable list of loyal clients.

Things were going very well. Then, it happened.

Now, don’t go all doom and gloom on me. What happened was actually a wonderful thing. Someone offered to buy our business. That was a thrilling moment. To some extent, every entrepreneur dreams of building a business, launching a product, or creating a service that others value, but if you have ever sold a business, you know that a great amount of effort goes into closing the deal.

We hired legal and financial advisors to help us navigate the intricacies of the sale, to determine what the firm was worth, and to manage the complexity of the transaction. We also engaged with business consultants to address employee and client communication. At one point, it seemed like we had someone doing something for us on every front.

Then, things slowed down – way down. Every issue became a point of contention. Quick decisions turned into a series of conference calls.  The transaction we were working to strike started to unravel.

Somewhere along the way, we had lost sight of what the sale of the business was really all about. It was not about a one-time transaction; it was about the organization’s transformation. It was about people. It was about our team members and what would happen to them after the sale closed. It was about our clients and honoring the commitment we had made to them over the years. It was about the buyers and what terms would work for them. And, it was about us and how we would handle honoring all of those relationships.

The attorneys, accountants, and consultants all had their roles to play, but, as leaders, we had to ensure that the people were kept at the center of the discussion.

Oh, by the way, here’s how the sale turned out…

Jamie and I picked up the phone and called the buyer – no attorneys, accountants, or consultants, just us. We had a candid conversation. We put our concerns on the table about our clients, team members, and financial needs. He reciprocated with his issues and limitations. That night, we struck a deal.  Real people, talking about real people, got us to a real answer.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash