Growth is the primary reason why most PR agency owners engage The Stevens Group. They come to us for M&A consultation and for help finding them a buyer who has the resources they need to take their firm to a new level, both financially and for gaining access to new vertical markets they’ve tried to break into with no success.
We also work with many PR agency owners whose primary focus for wanting to sell their firm is to exit their agency with a healthy payday for themselves and a satisfying financial and cultural fit for their team.
After years of working with PR agency owners whose eye is on an exit, we know that selling the firm they founded and built can be a bittersweet experience. Sure, while the monetary rewards can be significant, relinquishing ownership of their pride and joy can be a disorienting and emotionally taxing experience.
Fortunately, with well-thought-out planning and a smart pre-and-post sales strategy, agency owners can make ceding control of their firm a satisfying and rewarding experience both for themselves and for the team they leave behind. Equally important, selling their business means monetizing one of the owner’s most valuable assets, if not the most. The price they get from a buyer for their firm can set the stage for the owner’s quality of life after she or he has walked out the door of the new owner’s firm for the last time.
Reflect and plan, then reflect and plan some more
Perhaps the most essential rule I urge any PR agency owner who decides it’s time to sell and call it quits is to take all the time they need to seriously reflect on what she or he wants to do with their life post sale.
To that end, what follows are some considerations for exit sellers to ponder:
Outline your vision: Before the sales process starts, carefully take the time to define your vision for what life will look like after the ink dries on the contract. Be sure to factor in both your professional and personal goals. Do you want to start a new venture? Or just take the time you need to relax and enjoy the well-deserved time off? Having a well-considered vision of your post-sale future will help immensely during what can be a disquieting, often drawn-out sales process.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jan. '24 Crisis Communications & PR Buyer's Guide Magazine
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Ensure your financial stability: Consider hiring a professional advisor you trust to help you sensibly handle the earnings from the sale of your firm. Some people use the money from the sale to diversify their investment portfolios. Others develop a financial safety net and set a budget that aligns with their intended post-sale lifestyle. Having a prudent budgeting strategy post-sale helps provide direction and peace of mind as you head down the anxiety-ridden path of selling your firm.
Stay involved: Work together with the acquiring agency’s management team. Get to know them. Swap ideas, insights and experiences. Share your future perspective on the direction in which you would like to see the firm go if you were to continue running it. After all, who knows more about your firm and your team than you? Ask the buyer’s team to share their thoughts with you. This step can help facilitate a smooth transition process.
Prioritize ‘you’: Take this rare opportunity to rediscover or find hobbies and interests you may have put on the back burner during your long run as a busy agency owner. Perhaps you would like to spend more time with family and friends, travel the world, buy a villa in Italy, take up a hobby, exercise more, learn a new language … you get the idea. Planning to dedicate time to the things you enjoy most in life will help shift the focus away from the tedium of the deal process to the reasons why you chose to sell your firm and exit in the first place.
Explore new professional opportunities: If you still have that entrepreneurial itch, consider delving into new business ventures. Your experience running a PR firm has taught you many lessons you can apply to a wide range of other business ventures. Or maybe you can work out an arrangement with the new owner to continue providing of-counsel services to the new owners … for a fee.
Network and build relationships: Take the time you now have to use your professional connections and network to foster new relationships and explore opportunities that bubble up serendipitously. Attend relevant industry events, join advisory boards or serve in mentorship roles. You can also consider dedicating volunteer hours to support peers or non-profit organizations. This approach can help you stay connected to the business world and maybe even lead to new doors opening.
The bottom line
Indeed, we’ve worked with dozens of PR agency owners who had already taken many of the steps outlined here before contacting The Stevens Group. But we also know many agency owners who hadn’t taken the time necessary to think through this pivotal life-changing move in their life quite enough.
I don’t think we have to tell you that selling your PR firm is a significant milestone in a PR agency owner’s life. It’s a period filled with mixed emotions. But when done thoughtfully, selling your firm as an exit strategy can open the door to a brand-new chapter in your life. With careful planning, you can find your way through the M&A process and the aftermath of your post-sale life with a smile on your face.
Rich Jachetti is Partner at The Stevens Group, PR agency mergers and acquisitions consultants and facilitators.