by Cristian Anastasiu, Excendio Advisors

It was a Friday late afternoon in December, a cold and snowy day in the Midwest. We were all in my client’s office getting ready to close a deal on which everybody worked hard for almost one year. A deal with lots of stops and go’s, ups and downs, twists and turns and several near-death experiences. The strategic fit between the two companies was obvious, but the personalities of the buyer and seller could not have been more different, very far from what someone would describe as a “match made in heaven”. Quite the opposite.

But here we were, the day we all worked for was here; my client, the buyer, their respective attorneys, and I had everything in place, and we were finally getting ready to sign. We were all anxious to have the deal closed and move on after all this time. But also, eager to start our journey back home since a major blizzard was forecasted within a few hours, just in time for the Holidays….

Then out of nowhere the buyer told my client who was sitting behind his desk: “during all our negotiations and meetings here in your office over the last months, I came to love your desk”. It was indeed a one-of-a-kind desk, beautifully crafted, a piece of art you usually see in the movies. And then he continued “I can’t wait for Monday to come and start my work behind that desk, it will be a privilege and I will enjoy every minute of it; I pictured myself behind that desk for a while now”.

Excuse me?” came the prompt reply from my client. “I got this desk from my grandfather, and he got it from his father. This is a family treasure, and it goes with me.”

“But the desk was included in the fixed assets list, which is part of the agreement”, said the buyer. “I expect it to stay here, we bought it”. The fixed assets list usually includes furniture and depreciated computer equipment, which has a very low or no value compared to the rest of the deal, and most parties do not pay any attention to it.

Then there is no deal” said my client without hesitation.

It became quiet, quickly. The next seconds felt like minutes, the minutes like hours. Is this what will kill the deal? A desk? Knowing my client, a thought crossed my mind that he might rather keep his desk, and the company, and kill what was a very good deal for him overall. I believe the buyer might have had the same thought…. because after 30 minutes I was able to convince the buyer to “give up” the family desk.

My point is this:

If you are a business owner and prepare for the sale of your business: What is your “desk”? What is that “something” that you will have a hard time to let go of? And I am not necessarily talking about a material “thing”, but working with your team and clients, mentoring, the power your position gives you, the recognition among your peers and in the community, the dreams, the vision, the memories? How will you replace them or learn to live without them?

Knowing your “desk” is the most important part of “preparing to sell your business”!