Working for Capital Plus, a business her father founded in 1992, Renee Tyack was there when a sale of the family business was on the table.
"It was not easy," Tyack says. "It was a long, hard road. We had many disagreements."
There we many possible plans, she says, and she considered many strategic approaches. For instance, at one point she thought she'd drive one portion of the business and sell another portion — a plan she worked on for a very long time. Another approach was for her to buy the whole business, in which case she says she would have needed to recapitalize because some of the company's investors were aging out.
"We had a lot of moving parts that had to be considered," she says. "But at the very core (what) we were focused on really centered around preserving what we've built with this group of clients, this group of — I could call them employees but they're more family they've been with us so long. We've really built a wonderful thing and what was important to both my father and I was how do we continue this? How do we continue to serve the clients who've been with us so long as well as honor the effort and work that our staff and team have put in?"
As they looked for a solution, she says they considered a couple private equity groups as well as bringing on a new investor.
"None of it felt right," she says.
There were also difference between her and her father that led to disagreements. She says her father considered bringing in a group that she felt she wouldn't have gelled with — that the culture wouldn't fit.
Then, when her father left for a trip to Africa, which gave her a window of time to find a plan she preferred. Tyack called a friend, one she trusted and respected for what they'd done in the industry. She asked if there was a way they could continue doing what they love with the friend's support, which set up a sale of the business.
"It took a lot of time," she says. "It took two or three different strategic plans, two of which I threw out the window. But the whole process was very valuable. When my dad went to Africa, I knew exactly what I wanted. And the only reason I knew what I wanted was because I had created two or three strategic plans that failed, that didn't take shape. So, give yourself grace. Give yourself time and run those scenarios in order to make a decision when you know that you have the right one in front of you."
Going through several possible outcomes for a business in transition is a valuable exercise, says Roetzel & Andress Shareholder in Charge Erika Haupt. That's in part because i's important for business leaders to understand where they fit in after a transaction — either with the newly acquired company or with the investors.
"Are you working as an employee or do you continue on as a consultant?" she says. "What about protections for your key employees? Those are all things that you need to have thought about honestly before you even enter into a letter of intent."
It's also important, she says, to keep the company prepared for a sale in the event that someone comes inquiring about the business.
"What I would recommend to current business owners is if somebody knocks on your door right now, is everything in order? Do you know what your business is worth?" Haupt says. "You always have to be ready for that potential sale. The more informed and prepared you are, the smoother the transaction will be and the more leveraged your negotiating power."
Tyack and Haupt, along with Matesich Distributing Co.'s Sarah Schwab and AB Bernstein's Kara Lewis spoke at the Columbus Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about how they navigated the most difficult questions regarding what to do with the family business. Hit play to catch the full panel discussion.