Management Visits are Critical

Steps to Selling your Business Part 24.

The management visit – the meeting between you and the shortlist of qualified buyers – is the highlight of the Market Outreach phase. A lot is riding on your success here. If you have done it properly, you should have confidence in every name on that shortlist of prospects. Now your Advisor needs to make sure you are prepared and confident entering these meetings.

Being unprepared for the management visit is almost always disastrous. Your Advisor should be playing a key role in coaching you in advance to help craft your messaging, rehearse your presentation, and practice your answers to typically posed questions. Do not worry; you should not feel like you are alone in this – your Advisor should be there in every meeting with you to step in if needed. 

We call this “in your corner … on your side”.

These management meetings are typically set up in an offsite conference room and, depending how many are on the shortlist, run over 4 or 5 days. They are essentially an identical, well-rehearsed, multi-hour meeting over and over and over again.

Something funny can happen during this marathon week of management visits. 

You can imagine how on day one of management meetings, the questions are answered in perfect detail. Every question they ask, you answer. Your executives are charming and perform perfectly. You take 20 minutes to thoughtfully summarize the value drivers and possibilities in your company.
Everything is perfect.

Then comes the second meeting, a new prospective buyer. Then the next day, the following day, and the one after that. The proceedings can take on a kind of Groundhog Day effect.

Cut to 2 o’clock on the final afternoon of visits, the very last management meeting. It is easy now to run out of gas. The same questions are asked for the 10th time. You can’t remember if you’ve already talked about your Western expansion or if that was with the previous group. Your carefully crafted 20-minute summary is now 35 seconds long. You forget the name of your VP of Marketing. You are talked out.

These first conversations have a lasting impact on our path to the final sale. A minor misread of a situation at the start could spiral into negative consequences later on. 

Wrong moves in these meetings can cost you dollars in the end. We work closely with our clients to guard against this type of loss. 

If an outside observer watched the Stillwater team at a management visit, they might not think we did much. 

90% of what we do at these meetings is listen.

We don’t weigh in on every question; often, we are more of a silent observer. I expect my team to be a subtle engine rather than a bulldozer. 

All eyes are on you here, and they should be. Your job is to communicate the value of the business you’ve built convincingly. Your job is to showcase your business and let your passion shine through.

Your Advisor should have prepared you well. Their place is in the huddle, listening and calling audibles on plays. They should become actively involved before things start to head in the wrong direction. At Stillwater, we nudge the conversation back on course and then step out of the way. We don’t pull the focus away from you.

On the topic of listening, take note of your conversations with your Advisors. Do they listen to you? You can bet that if they make you feel unheard, they’ll do the same with potential buyers.

At Stillwater, we only hire people with demonstrably exceptional listening skills. That’s the truth: it’s near the top of our list of necessary qualities. 

While navigating the management visit, you need intelligent people who know how to listen and coach you.

In the next post, I’m going to list some of the mistakes that can easily occur during a management visit, how to avoid them, and the practical ways your M&A Advisors manage these mistakes.

If you are planning to divest your business or have questions for one of our Advisors, please contact our team today.

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Written by: Douglas Nix