Taking a step back to recalibrate can be the key to a successful sale.
Taking a step back to recalibrate can be the key to a successful sale Constance Anderson went from living on a cattle ranch in a tiny town in Western Nebraska to starting her own company, MemberXP, in 1996. Her company ultimately became the largest provider of solutions that credit unions use to collect and analyze customer feedback and member experiences.
After more than 20 years as the CEO of MemberXP, and longing for better a life balance, Anderson sold her company to CU Solutions Group, a credit union service organization majority-owned by the Michigan Credit Union League.But the time taken to do the deal was rather lengthy, with some bumps along the way. Anderson recalls that it took about two years from the time she got serious about selling ‒ a point at which she found the Corum Group as an M&A advisor ‒ to the final sale. By comparison, most M&A deals that involve Corum take nine to twelve months. But there was a good reason for that extended timespan, and it had to do with taking a step back to recalibrate.
Anderson recalls, "About nine to ten months into the process, I did get a serious offer and really felt that my company would sell. But at the last moment, before we got to the contract stage, they withdrew the offer. And maybe a month later, I got a low ball offer. I felt at that time that I wanted to take a step back. So there was a hiatus of eight months in which I recalibrated."
That hiatus proved extremely valuable. Anderson ultimately wound up with several buyers extending offers, including offers from the people who backed out of the original deal as well as the low-ball bidder. Getting multiple bids resulted in a very attractive offer that Anderson accepted. In fact, the previous low-ball bidder wound up offering twice as much for the company as they'd offered the year before.
Even though the M&A path was a bit bumpy, the hiatus period allowed Anderson the time to assess the situation and resolve issues before moving forward. Her advice to prospective sellers is to be patient. "Rather than saying, 'Oh my gosh, this is never going to work,' we just took all of the feedback we had gotten, particularly from the LOI that fell through, and saw what their fears were. And I said, 'Well, let's just solve for that.' And we did. So I would say, never get discouraged, just listen to the feedback and recalibrate if you need to."
Another piece of advice from Anderson to tech sellers: prepare early for your exit. "I think the biggest mistake I made was not preparing much, much sooner for that day when I would sell the business. I found myself having to do a lot of work to create things that should have been done years before. For instance, we didn't have a written strategic plan. I think once your company starts to show market potential, you probably should start planning your exit."
And of course, having the right advisor in your corner is extremely important too. Initially, Anderson wasn't sure if an industry leader like Corum would take her on as a client. "I thought maybe we were too small. And I do think our company was probably on the smaller side for Corum Group. But my primary advisor there and everyone else at Corum was very, very helpful in assisting me. So I would say to women CEOs, go to the very best from the beginning. You deserve it, don't sell yourself short."
With the successful sale of her company, Anderson wants to take another step back and relax. "I've been so goal-oriented most of my life that I've kind of gotten into a place where I'm just more interested in being. I think that if I were going to do something else though, I don't think it would be for profit. But if there was something not for profit that I could get involved in, maybe working with women entrepreneurs, I think I would find that really fulfilling."