Keep an open mind but know your non-negotiables.
This topic always stimulates an interesting debate. It is critical that you know what is really important to you, and that you drive the best possible process to deliver exactly that. However, be careful not to allow your assumptions about what your non-negotiables are to scare off acquirers who may have got very close to meeting them but believed that you would not budge. Keeping an open mind allows you to find out who is really interested in your business, and to what value. Once you know this (it may only be three of the 10 parties you had approached), you know where to put your negotiating energy and what the key drivers of value are likely to be. Another interesting observation I have made in this regard is how few sellers of businesses actually know their non-negotiables at the start of the process, and how important it is to actually engage a potential acquirer before you are likely to know what your key drivers are. I am often told one thing by a client, but am struck by how differently that seller behaves in front of different acquirers compared to our original discussions. An interesting example of this occurred when one of our clients originally said they were only interested in a 100% sale or nothing. Then they met an acquirer they were very excited about working with and decided to retain a sizeable stake in their business. The reality is that every acquirer is different, and each will prompt a different approach from you. Keep an open mind and be flexible, and you might just get exactly what you want!