“Make sure you have a good deal team,” notes Andrews. This will likely include a finance team (some combination of an accountant, CFO, and/or wealth manager), legal representation, an M&A advisor, and a board of advisors or directors.
Selecting the right professionals requires an understanding of a company’s objectives for the transaction and each member of the deal team’s responsibilities.
In addition to traditional members of the deal team, a CEO coach plays a crucial role in helping sellers balance multiple demands and roles. “There’s so much anticipation from the CEO before a transaction. Most of them are going through this experience for the first time. The opportunity for CEOs to make extremely expensive mistakes is huge if they don’t have the right kinds of advice,” says Tom Leonard, a Vistage Chair in Seattle, WA.
A CEO coach can help mitigate these risks. “The role of a CEO coach plays is vastly different than a deal negotiator, advisor, lawyer, or accountant. The coach doesn’t have skin in the game, so he can provide an objective sounding board to business owners to make better decisions when circumstances are confusing. This leads the CEO to greater confident in their decision making,” says Leonard.
Coaches may give you feedback no one else has the guts to share. “Sometimes [coaches] tell owners what they don’t want to hear,” says Steve McFarland, a Vistage Chair in Indianapolis, Indiana. “As they’re going through the process, we help them through the challenges. We always ask them, ‘are you sure you want to do that?’ and we’re always honest. Most of the time they find value because they know that they are going to get the complete truth. Everyone needs to be accountable to someone.”
“Business owners have a mask on when they’re talking to their employees, colleagues, even family,” says McFarland. “When they talk to a [coach], they take off the mask and reveal many of the challenges that exist in their life. Sometimes they really need to talk to someone who will tell them things that no one else will.”
Asks Proctor, “Who do you have in your life that gives you agenda-free advice? A coach is not judgmental — their only agenda is to get you to the next level.”