Emotions from the Process of Selling a Company

Yesterday I wrote the post ExactTarget and Pardot Join Forces detailing how we had just sold our company and were super excited about the future. Today, I want to talk a bit about the human side of selling a business — it’s incredibly emotional. With Pardot, we never set out to build a company and sell it. In fact, I believe the best companies are bought and not sold (e.g. a buyer approaches you). Our goal for years now has been to work hard at being the best place to work and the best place to be a customer.

Looking back over the past several months, here are some of the emotions from the process of selling a company:

  • Excitement – an email out of the blue saying that a large, public company is interested in talking about “partnerships” (look at the person’s title and if it says “Corporate Development” that’s code for mergers and acquisitions).
  • Frustration – the initial conversations went well but there’s little activity and visibility as things usually don’t move very fast while the potential acquirer is reaching out to a number of different companies.
  • Intrigue – the potential acquirer reaches out again and wants you to come on site and meet their executive team (I hope they like us!).
  • Anxiety – the potential acquirer says they want to make an offer. What will it look like? Will it be a good valuation?
  • Anxiety – the offer is good but we can do better. How many times do we get to say ‘no’ before we cross the line and are no longer desirable?
  • Anxiety – negotiations continue for a couple weeks (high quality sleep at night is no more as the mind is racing with tossing and turning becoming the norm).
  • Anticipation – a deal is struck! Now, for the hard part: due diligence.
  • Anxiety – due diligence means incredibly detailed audits of all aspects of the business, not just accounting, and it isn’t the most fun.
  • Relief – due diligence is almost done and there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the deal to close.
  • Worry – now that the deal is going to close, what will the employees think?
  • Panic – what happens if the press finds out about the deal and publishes reports on it before it closes? That will make conversations with employees, partners, customers, etc. very awkward.
  • Excitement – the deal has closed and it’s done. Time to party? Not quite yet.
  • Anxiety – it’s big announcement time for the employees and other constituents.
  • Relief – the announcement went well and the secrecy of everything is finally gone.
  • Anticipation – it’s time to get to work integrating the teams, products, and companies.
  • Sadness – like a child going off to college, it’s sad knowing that chapter one is done and it’s time for chapter two to begin.
  • Nostalgia – what we did was pretty special and we’re super proud of it.

Selling a company is a very emotional process. As much glamor and excitement is presented in press articles, behind the scenes it’s an emotional roller coaster.

What else? What are your thoughts on the emotions from the process of selling a company?

9 thoughts on “Emotions from the Process of Selling a Company

  1. The process can be very bittersweet. Reaching a huge accomplishment and milestone means moving on from the company you’ve poured your soul into. Looking back, it’s a sense of awe and pride in what a small team was able to accomplish and how each individual grew.

  2. Emotion: Regret. Felt by staff who had a long term vision for the brand. Followed by acceptance after plans are made to move on to a company that has long term ownership as a core value.

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