Family businesses are special. They afford families the opportunity to work together with a shared vision and common values. They knit together business interests and family interests, creating a bond not otherwise easily forged. The rewards of a family business can go well beyond financial returns. And the financial returns themselves can be significant, and enduring.
Yet as with other things in life, circumstances for family businesses may change over time. The drive and vision of the founders may wane. Their passion for the business may not be shared by their offspring. Dreams of a legacy that once had been a family beacon may fade and even become burdensome. And the lucrative financial return available from suitors anxious to buy the business may outshine the stress and risk of continuing to run it.
Reaching a decision to sell a family business can be painful. There can be feelings of guilt and a sense of failure. There can be feelings of resentment. Doubt and uncertainty, and even fear, about what a future without the family business will look like are not uncommon. But these feelings can be addressed, and the family brought closer together in the process.
The place to start is with being honest with yourself and candid within the family. Good, open communication works wonders. The existence of differing views among family members should be seen as okay. It’s not a betrayal of the family’s values to support a sale when the time is right. A sale decision is not about winning or losing in the family but about doing what’s necessary and desirable for the family as a whole.
Families able to put aside their differences, acknowledge that the time has come to sell, and together work their way through the challenges of doing so, find themselves happy with the decision. The reality is that most family businesses, like other businesses, end up being sold. And receipt of a generous sale price from the right buyer will benefit the family’s members for many years to come.