I have found myself today emailing the same information across to at least three different law firms in relation to potential acquisitions and meeting the sellers for the first time.
Buyers seem to want to go straight into the sellers’ offices and meet them, as well as expecting the seller to want to arrange this immediately without delay.
Buyers almost seem surprised that sellers may not want to instantly meet them at their offices, and I have found myself advising various buyers and sellers today of the merits of meeting in a remote location rather than in the sellers’ offices.
There is very good reason for this, and that is that you should never meet potential buyers in your offices if you are a seller in the first instance because a) you really have no idea who the buyers are in most circumstances, and b) you do not want your staff or clients finding out that you are in discussions with another firm to take over your practice.
If you allow buyers to come to your practice then there is a very good chance that someone on your staff is going to find out, and if someone in your staff finds out there is a very good chance that most of your staff will know pretty quickly that you are planning a sale of your business.
If you are planning a sale of your business and your staff find out, then it is very likely your staff will immediately start looking round for other work because they may not want to be in your practice at the time it transfers.
It is a fairly well known rule of thumb that if the staff find out you are seeking to sell your practice without a deal being concluded there is a strong likelihood that the staff will seek to move to another firm. Employees hate uncertainty and it’s partly why people like employed work, because it gives them more certainty than if they worked for themselves. If you take that certainty away from them then you almost pull the rug from underneath their feet and leave them facing an uncertain future. This is the main reason why you should not allow buyers to come and meet you on your premises for a first meeting, but instead seek to meet them in a hotel lobby or quiet cafe in a neutral venue, where there is much less likelihood of anyone finding out about the meeting and holding it against you.
Of course finding a decent hotel lobby or cafe that is convenient for both parties is another matter entirely, but if both parties know this from the outset, that they are not going to have a meeting at the sellers’ offices then it does make things a bit easier when it comes to arranging an external meeting…