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Selling your business? Raising capital? You need to ask questions. Specifically these.

Jess Blackstock
Jun 28, 2018 · 4 min read

Satori Capital is an investment firm in Dallas, Texas that currently has $1 billion in assets under management. What makes Satori different from many investment firms is it embraces the tenets of Conscious Capitalism — unabashedly. For Satori, that includes considering everyone who will be affected when making major business decisions — including the decision to sell.

Satori co-founder Sunny Vanderbeck’s background includes building and selling his own company — twice — a process that didn’t always go well. He learned some invaluable lessons along the way.

As Sunny says, “Life has very few irrevocable, irreversible decisions — selling your business or taking on a capital partner is one of them. So the head-in-the-sand plan won’t work. You can’t fix it later — it will be too late. You have to ask the right questions and deal with the answers before you sign your business away.”

I asked Sunny for some essential questions (and wisdom) for anyone looking to sell their company or take on a capital partner.

Even if an agreement seems simple and straightforward, it’s worth asking probing questions. And keep in mind one of my favorite pieces of Sunny advice: “Don’t accept throwaway answers.” Pretty essential if you are selling your life’s work, but also pretty solid advice for anything you invest in.

Six Questions to Ask a Buyer or Capital Partner:

  1. What is your strategy and how do you see us fitting into it?

It might seem a bit obvious, but this also points back to the piece of advice I just referenced. No throwaway answers. The response shouldn’t be vague. And getting a clear answer to the second half of that question is important because you will know pretty quickly if this feels like a potential fit.

2. What do you like and not like about your business?

You should have your own answers to this question and then see how the buyer’s answers align. Can they help you fix the parts of the business you don’t like? Or do you fundamentally disagree on the strengths and weaknesses?

3. What are you going to do with the business after closing?

It seems straightforward, but this is where you may get an answer you don’t want to hear. And once you hear an ugly truth — that a plant will be closed or a department eliminated, for instance — you can no longer close your eyes and pretend everything will be fine. That’s exactly why this question is so critical to make a truly informed decision.

4. Describe what a successful outcome would look like to you, both financially and day-to-day.

The first part might seem easy to answer — we’re making a lot of money! But if you care about more than the bottom line — and if you’re reading this, chances are you do — this is the time to drill down to the details. Who’s running marketing? What’s the plan for sales? How is finance operating? The answer will reveal a lot about the values and priorities of your buyer or potential partner.

5. What are you concerned about?

This is a big opportunity to see what topics the buyer spends their energy and attention on. Do they look at your business problems in the same way you do? More importantly — do they think about problems at all? Or are they strictly “spreadsheet enthusiasts” who focus only on the numbers? You probably want a buyer or a partner who looks at the big picture of your business and how to improve it.

6. If it goes poorly, what will have caused it to fail?

This is a great litmus test question! It can help you see how your buyer identifies and handles problems, how they approach leadership, and what the “blame game” might look like if things go south.

I would be remiss to not acknowledge that in many industries and deals this dialogue does not occur or better yet is received with surprise. I was having a conversation with a friend recently who is in an industry that rarely considers much beyond the bottom line. It is true in some industries you will be the outlier, but you are not alone. There are more and more leaders and entrepreneurs asking these types of questions and proving that their approach to business just works better.

Satori is successful not because their approach to business is a “nice idea” but because they are proving that a conscious approach can produce better results than a narrow focus on the balance sheet.

To learn more about Sunny and Satori Capital visit:

Sunny’s book, Selling Without Selling Out: How to Sell Your Business Without Selling Your Soul, will be available this fall. To receive a notification when the book is published, please click here.

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