Middle Market Business Owners Remain Inextricably Tied to Their Companies— Even When It’s Time to Sell

When a business owner sells all or part of the organization into which he or she has poured blood, sweat and tears, it is no surprise the transition is much more than a business transaction. It is an extremely personal event in the business owner’s life. Indeed, personal considerations impact every aspect of the sale, from key drivers to how owners prepare for the transaction to the concerns and challenges along the way. In many cases, these personal factors bear more weight and affect the sales process to a greater degree than purely business or economic factors do.

To better understand how owners’ personal considerations, feelings and perceptions impact every aspect of middle market business transitions, the National Center for the Middle Market, in partnership with Fifth Third Private Bank’s Business Transition Advisory Team, surveyed a group of 300 middle market executives. The sample included 75 owners of privately held middle market businesses, who benefited from the sale of all or part of their companies in the past 24 months. Of these 75 organizations, more than half are family-owned, with more than three-quarters of these family-owned organizations in their second, third, or fourth generation of
ownership at the time of the sale.

We asked these owners about their reasons for selling, the length and the activities involved in the preparation phase, the challenges faced, advisors consulted and the range of emotions experienced. We asked for the sellers’ perceptions of their transactions’ overall success. The center fielded the survey in April 2022; all transactions occurred during or in the aftermath of the pandemic.



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