“You’re selling your business! Are you nuts?” I heard this a lot when I announced to friends and family that I was considering the sale of my moving company, Rent-a-Son.
Was I nuts? Maybe I was, but my gut was telling me something that I couldn’t ignore and the existential frustrations manifesting from my day-to-day life at work were growing. I have a lot of pragmatic people surrounding me in my life and their sounding of the alarm was just their way of making sure I knew what I was doing.
The truth is, I didn’t fully know what I was doing but I did know that my romantic fantasies about a career steeped in something more personally fulfilling had to be realized. I had this burning feeling that my real strengths and curiosities were not being utilized in my position as the president of my company.
My own uncertainty paralyzed me at times as I pondered whether or not there was a way to move forward without selling a business I had devoted the last 14 years of my life to. I took solace from a quote taken from Steve Jobs’ commencement speech to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
With each passing day, as I mulled over my options, I grew more and more comfortable with the idea of moving on. So I put up the for sale sign discreetly and I started courting potential buyers.
I met with many different buyers including guys running search funds, strategic buyers in the industry and individuals looking to delve into the wonderful world of small business for the first time. The options started to pile up which made decisions complicated at times. Economically, most of the offers came in within a tight band which helped me grow comfortable with my valuation. But as I learned, there were many other factors that carried close to or as much weight as the price tag.
How were my employees going to feel about the new owner? Would the company I built be torn apart by some overzealous and inexperienced rookie? Would the back-end commitments be fulfilled? It seemed that I naturally gravitated towards certain buyers over others and after countless meetings, phone calls and my own diligence, I committed myself to an exclusive exploration with the new owners of my company.
My goals for the sale were simple: Make a deal with someone that I trusted and, more importantly, put my business and employees in a position to succeed.
An extremely intensive due diligence phase began immediately and lasted 55 days. The process was labour intensive. I was prodded from every direction for documents, reports and statements. It felt like no stone was left unturned and now, as I reflect, I realize how incredible a learning process it was.
If entrepreneurship came with a manual, there would probably be 20 pages of warnings before any instructions began. It would say things like, ‘no guarantee this will work’ and ‘improper use could severely damage your confidence and ego.’ A good manual would also add footnotes to every step, advising that the recommended procedures were only suggestions and that experimentation would likely be required.
That’s why it’s important to have an idea or model that you can really get behind because there is no turning back. That will be one thing I will be able to say about the next chapters of my working life. And like any other business owner, I will have even more conviction as I will my way through another business.
I know that having the ability to create, build, innovate and design will be paramount to anything I commit myself to moving forward. I have picked up some valuable skills along the way and graduated with an 'SMBA' (S for Street) years ago. While the huge void ahead of me may scare some people, I find myself enthralled by it. I can only hope that the open road ahead of me will be paved with more challenges, successes, failures and most importantly passion.
Dustin Kroft is currently passing on the torch to the new owners of his first startup Rent-a-Son. He is offering consultation in the areas of marketing, technology and startups until he begins his next venture. When he isn’t dreaming about furniture and design, he is busy fathering his two children. You can learn more about him at www.dustinkroft.com or @d__kroft