In about the ninth grade, a valuable lesson is learned by just about every pubescent teen. This knowledge in many ways shapes our adult world: “The other person is more attractive when seen on someone else’s arm.”

Kids quickly learn that to be invited to sit at the cool kids’ table, theymust be considered cool. Teens also instinctively understand that to get that special someone interested in them, first they must appear desirable to someone else.

This early life lesson applies to deals as well. Before you can think about a transaction, you must get on a buyer’s or seller’s radar. There are many effective ways to do this, but one of the easiest initial steps is to attract attention to what your business is doing or might do in the future. The more unique, the better and the less they initially know, the greater the intrigue. It gets down to standing still and letting them come to you.

Fear and envy are also motivators, especially if the other guys think you’re on to something that might eat into their top and bottom lines.

Get your act together

However, before you shine the spotlight on your business, you must get your act together and begin packaging your message. It’s all about creating visibility that garners attention. This can be achieved by being seen at trade shows, having media interviews with industry publications and serving on panel discussions.

It’s important to remember that what you’re talking about must be perceived as newsworthy, not rehashing assertions about what already is. It is critical to emphasize that less is more as a teaser or catalyst for others to make contact. Give them the who and the why, but not the what, where and when of the message. If your targets are on their game, they’ll find a way to come to you. Sometimes they may need a nudge and that requires having an intermediary whisper in their ears. This can be a banker, independent accountant or respected industry pundit who is well known, but no longer in the fray.

Basic human instincts

It all gets down to the most basic human instinct: everybody thinks the other guy always has something they don't.

Once you have someone who is willing to sit down, listen and learn, then it’s time to make your case as either the buyer or the seller by adding the missing ingredients of the what, where and when. Investment bankers are particularly adept at getting you through these final stages that could lead to an offer. If you’re the seller and what you have is good enough, you may attract multiple interests, providing a confluence of multiple suitors and a higher price.

The best deals are well thought-through and interwoven with several plausible “what if” scenarios. Once you’ve made your case to yourself, you are then ready to make it to somebody else. Just like in school, beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder. Attracting a potential partner takes putting on your best party clothes and then going to the dance to see and be seen.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax and in 16-years as CEO, grew the retailer to sales of $5 billion in 1,000 stores worldwide. Today, as founder/CEO of Max-Ventures, his firm invests in and consults for retail businesses. Feuer serves on a number of boards, is a frequent national speaker and author of the business books “The Benevolent Dictator” and ”Tips from the Top.” 

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