Have you ever sold a house and then driven by to see what the new owners decided to do with it? I have. Sometimes the new owners take good care of what was once ours, and sometimes they totally trash it. It's easy to become disappointed and even angered when someone doesn't take care of our own hard work, but it's theirs to do with as they please. They bought it. They own it.
So once we've been burned like this, we try to avoid being burned again by carefully selecting the criteria that a potential buyer must meet. It's a slippery slope: We usually arrive at a place where we've prequalified ourselves out of any and all potential buyers.
It would be even worse if we had built the house ourselves - which is very much like what we've done when we've built a business. This adds an entirely new level of emotional difficulty. When it comes to selling a business, sellers sometimes try to dictate not only WHO should buy it, but HOW the buyers should structure the ownership, and WHAT they can do with the business once they own it.
This kind of seller usually tells us something like this: "I only want you to sell my business to someone with a marketing background with at least 20 years of experience in the industry, is a Capricorn born on a Tuesday, and is willing to keep all of my employees in their current roles." Finding a buyer isn't an easy chore to begin with and now it's impossible.
Now, before you think we don't care: YES, of course we want the business to transfer into good hands. YES, we want your employees to be comfortable and secure. But, NO -- we cannot always screen out buyers who do not fit the criteria of what the seller thinks is best. We will find a good buyer, we will sell at a good price, and we will work to make sure that they will take care of your business...but at the end of the day, the buyer will do what they think is best because THEY own the business. You don't get to choose the paint color on your former house, and you don't get to decide how your buyer runs their show.
Be sure that you are comfortable with the business broker you choose to represent you. When they know what is important to you (your people, culture, legacy, etc.) then they will work to find you the right buyer and the right price. But, take care not to provide too much direction...be ready to let it go. Please accept our apologies for getting that song stuck in your head.
Approach the sale of your business with an open mind; the buyer may actually have some pretty good ideas that will dazzle you down the road.