The company sold and so …? ‘I got into a grieving process’

Will the merger and acquisition market stall due to the great economic turmoil? Anonymous bankers reported that this month in Financial Times. “One hundred percent nonsense,” says Tom Beltman. At Marktlink, he has for twenty years supervised the purchase and sale of small and medium-sized companies. Last year, the consulting firm was involved in more than a hundred transactions in companies with a value between 5 and 100 million euros. “Of course, current inflation has an impact. But in the last six months, 538 companies with a value of more than 5 million euros have been sold. That is 150 fewer than a year earlier, but it is above the long-term average. “

According to data collector M &, up to 100 million 470 merger and acquisition agreements have been entered into with companies this year, compared with 1,150 in the whole of 2021. The market seems reasonably stable.

According to Beltman, something always happens around business acquisition processes. “Covid has also had an impact on the enthusiasm of tourism and catering companies over the past two years. But companies in the field of face masks increased in value and were actually attractive. There are quarterly fluctuations, but that does not mean that the M&A environment is unfavorable. We already have 80 percent more sales mandates than in 2021, and there is an incredible amount of capital available. Despite rising interest rates, we anticipate a lot of market movements. “

In about half of all acquisitions, the buyer is an investor. He usually steps in to develop the business along with the selling entrepreneur. “Investors are business and rational,” says Beltman. “By bringing them together with founders who operate with passion, a lot more potential can be extracted from a business.”

It is against this background that many ‘pre-exit agreements’ are concluded: founders remain in place for some years after the acquisition to bring the company forward. After they are gone, some even become buyers and investors. In 40 percent of acquisitions, another company is a buyer. It usually aims to achieve further growth in this way.

Beltman notes that entrepreneurs are more willing to sell in times of greater economic uncertainty, such as war or inflation. By selling their business, the owners limit their risks.

According to Beltman, what matters is at least as important a role “lifetime entrepreneurship ”by the current generation of owners. “When they hit the ceiling personally and with their business, they sell it to start making something new – unlike baby boomers and their predecessors who pick up their identity from the business and want to keep it in the family. Where sales used to be seen as a failure, the following now applies: Anyone who has built a large business would rather sell it instead of continuing until you fall. ” This is also reflected in the figures: Three quarters of entrepreneurs want to sell the company within ten years.

What is it like to sell everything you have built up? Two entrepreneurs talk about the process and their lives after the takeover.

Monique Delsink (45), entrepreneur
‘Niksen does not give satisfaction’

Photo Dieuwertje Bravenboer

company: Bedrijfspoli, the working environment service in Nijmegen

Start: 2005

Sales: in 2017, to 4D Invest & Management

Now: coach, consultant, lecturer, project manager – paid and volunteer.

“After the sale, I was home with a bag of money, but for birthdays I had no answer to the question: what are you doing? Yes, run. After a wonderful farewell party, I lost my entrepreneurial status. I expected to find peace and time, I went into a grieving process. “

Five years after the sale of her business, Monique Delsink has found herself again. Meanwhile, she has learned to let go.

For ten years she had experienced the excitement of entrepreneurship: “Continuous growth, innovation and working more efficiently.” What her husband, a self-employed company doctor, had started, the couple developed into a successful work environment service with fifty employees. Even after the decision to sell was made, she continued to work hard. The business they had built was to survive under the new owner.

“We fantasized about all the space we would get and the attention we could give each other and our two children. But when the time came, we found that our relationship was based too much on the company. We broke up a year after the sale. “

The sale was well prepared, partly because the auditor had asked them a few years earlier: what if one of you runs into a tree, or if one day a buyer shows up on the doorstep? “It made us get the business ready for sale at a time when we were not involved in the sale at all yet. We mapped accounting, administration and other processes and took steps to make ourselves redundant. It gave an incredible amount of peace of mind, and the business value also increased. ”

When the sale came up, seventeen parties signed up. Everyone was the first to ask: what is your role in the company? In other words: How dependent is the company on you?

Well, so little. The right people were already in the right place. For Delsink, it was especially important to find the suitable acquisition candidate, more than the highest price. “After ten years of construction, I wanted to be able to switch with confidence.”

Changes in exchange rates followed the acquisition. “We worked primarily regionally, and the new owner chose nationally. I was able to get rid of it pretty quickly. But the six months that I was still walking around when I was no longer leading myself, I had a hard time. Committing to a role without a future was strange, setting the course and making decisions after so many years. ”

Her idea was to create a new company right away. It turned out differently. “The thought of taking up my old marketing profession again turned out to be too vague in practice and gave me no energy.”

Step by step she had to figure out what she wanted. “Things were coming along that I had not noticed before. I started sharing my experiences as a speaker for other entrepreneurs. My story caught on and I thought it was surprisingly fun to inspire people that way. Then I started interviewing other entrepreneurs about similar experiences. This is how my book was born Sales happiness. ”

Talking to people who have also sold their business has been therapeutic. Many experiences turned out to be identical, such as the loss of ties to people who had been colleagues for years. Other experiences were also recognizable. “An entrepreneur told how she had been looking forward to helping with crafts at her children’s school. When she sat there, she became very unhappy. “

Freedom and leisure seem enticing, but if you have entrepreneurship in you, doing nothing is not satisfying. It is comfortable to have assets in your bank account, but you need a goal to stand up to every day, Delsink will say.

“Stories about people who want to contribute to a better world inspire me. I even started advising unpaid young entrepreneurs at StartUp Nijmegen. The young canine energy that I find in them, I lost at the end of my company. Their ideas and enthusiasm give me the energy to do business again. ”

Delsink now limits that entrepreneurship to a life as a small self-employed person. “I do not need to run a large company. Now I can see and contribute all sorts of places. I have developed a business transfer program with a bank, I coach start-ups and established entrepreneurs, and I sit on the board of directors of companies. I make sure I have enough people around me because I can only function if I work together.

Now she is proud of her choices. “Not the safe way, but the adventure. You can keep doing what you are successful at, but for me it works better to push boundaries and make new plans. My life is now in balance and I live much more consciously. ”

Aniel Mahabier (49), entrepreneur
‘I want to be a market leader again’

Photo Dieuwertje Bravenboer

company: CGLytics, active in corporate governance data analytics

Start: 2014

Sales: 2018, to American Diligent

Now: create new technology company

“It’s really strange that you’re sitting here at home, Dad.” It was not until his daughter’s comment that Aniel Mahabier realized how little he had been at home. A few years after the sale of the business he had built, he left it altogether.

For years, he flew weekly to New York, San Francisco or London. Making his sales history again somewhere, bringing in another customer, building a new team. So CGLytics, a technology company in data management for business management, could grow. There were times when he did not know if it was day or night. “I was always on,” Mahabier says. “That rush is pretty addictive.”

He had imagined that he would find peace again after the sale of his company. “But when I got home, I completely lost my rhythm and I lay awake at night. The withdrawal lasted four months. It was also a lot to change for my wife and our three daughters, they thought I was grumpy. I even thought something else. I played golf, boxed, went to the gym and cleaned up the house like crazy. ”

Mahabier started his software company in 2014 on a loft in Amsterdam. It was exciting, after twenty years of working for a boss, to generate pay for himself and his first employees. “I had great finances companies sitting where it all propels you forward. Now it was hard work together. But where everyone else closed the door behind them at the end of the day, I kept going. Bringing customers in, keeping focus in my team – all those challenges constantly ran through my head. It gave me excitement, but also so much energy. We saw many peaks and we celebrated them together. There were probably just as many valleys, but I experienced them mostly alone.

“I sometimes expressed my concern to my wife that it would not work. Looking back, it was the things that seemed impossible and yet seemed that gave me the most energy.

“My endurance was partly shaped by my parents. They came to Holland in 1978 to offer my brothers and me good education and more opportunities than was possible in Suriname. In my youth, I saw in the homes of others and in the media how success in business offered an opportunity to get out of the working class and the migrant environment. I think that’s where my urge to prove comes from: studying hard, working hard, and putting myself on the map.

“My parents have always been a great support to me. My father has proudly witnessed the construction of my company. Unfortunately, he died in 2018. ”

That year, various parties approached Mahabier with an interest in taking over his business. “A bunch of cowboys who dared to take risks appealed to me. Because we had the same drive and the same ambitions, I was not afraid that my company would break into their hands. ”

Following an agreement on the sale in May 2018, Mahabier’s stress continued. He would continue to lead the company for another three years and drive further growth and integration into the parent company. That responsibility existed. He was given a management team that could perform tasks that he had always performed himself. The company grew strongly during that time, from 19 to 62 employees. “After I realized the integration, I noticed that I was starting to feel distance.”

When he left the company altogether in early 2021, Mahabier envisioned early retirement. “My first concern was to make sure the wealth goes to our children, no matter what happened to them, my wife or me. It was more complicated than I thought. I started investing in real estate and we bought a cottage in Spain.When it was all settled, sports just got boring and something started to itch.I have often been contacted to become CEO of start-ups, but getting into something that already exists is less interesting to me than to build something yourself again. ”

Now Mahabier is working on a new software company. The goal is to create a networking app that connects people in the international business community based on values ​​such as sustainability, diversity and social employment. “I want to become a market leader again, especially to have more social impact. My goal is to create more transparency and equal opportunities in the labor market. It is still poorly organized for minorities around the world. “

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