How it Feels to Sell Your Startup

It’s every startup founder’s dream: to exit. To hand somebody the keys to the kingdom, turn around and do a little heel-click while walking off (or sprinting away) into the sunset. To be done. To move on. To throw your life-ruining iPhone 40 feet in the air and watch it crash into a million little pieces — one piece for every painful email that you endured. To hear the words “Wires have been sent.” To be able to look your spouse in the eye and say, “We did it. Thanks for sticking it out with me all these years. I can start helping with the laundry now.”

I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in the messiah, but, like every startup founder, I used to pray for the day when the clouds would split and an angel from heaven would descend unto the earth to announce: “You did good, kid; we’d like to buy you.”

And then, about a month ago, it happened (the acquisition, not the Clint Eastwood-like Acquisition Angel).

But there were no trumpets. No parades. No I-told-you-so’s. No glamorous vacations or funny out of office notifications. Exhausted and worn from the years of constant blood, sweat and tears, I didn’t even take toll (at least, emotionally) of our accomplishment before receiving my new email address and being told to show up to the acquirer’s New Hire Orientation.

It felt like just another day, with all the ups and downs to which I’d grown so numb.

Earlier this week, I went back to our old offices to clean them out. It was my first time ever being there alone. The walls were covered with Post-Its and diagrams drawn in dry-erase ink. Desktops were ornamented with little self-motivating notes and reminders. Everywhere I looked there were artifacts of life, of team-work, of excitement. And maybe I’m the first person to ever become sentimental about 30-somethings doodling stick-figure diagrams explaining how to properly flush the toilet, but for the first time, I realized that I actually miss the playful startup days — the days when every idea could lead to a world of possibilities.

The acquisition process, by comparison, is a startup’s puberty phase. It’s scary, it’s permanent and, to a first-time entrepreneur, it’s unlike anything you’ve dealt with while growing your startup.

1. The process is clinical.

An acquisition involves many people. Your management team. Your lawyers. Your accountants. Your board. Your shareholders. The acquirer’s management team. Its analysts, and lawyers, and accountants, and consultants. And while you’d like to believe that everyone cared about all the great things you’d done, the truth is, once the Term Sheet is signed, momentum does the rest of the work. Things just happen and no one has time to invest personally in the outcome. Except you, of course. You’ll be an emotional wreck — thinking and re-thinking the deal while everybody else involved is just trying to do his/her job.

2. The process will threaten the health of everything you’ve built.

Unless you’re a large company that simply wears the “startup” tag, the acquisition process will severely overwhelm your resources. It will feel like things are falling apart as you begin to necessarily drop the ball on day-to-day items. The culture you’ve built will begin to crack as employees begin to internalize their own fears. There’s no surviving a failed acquisition. So the CEO’s job, once acquisition discussions have begun, is to finish the job.

3. The money matters, and then it doesn’t.

As a founder or CEO, the day an acquisition closes should be a pretty good day, financially. But I’ve been surprised how little the money matters, post-close. If anything, it’s an empty feeling because you’re no longer thinking about future potential; instead, you’re just left wondering if you would do it all again. And the answer is: Yes. You would. Because you don’t start a startup to be rich. You do it because it’s an avenue for a normal person like yourself to take a turn at being wildly creative. Money is good, but it’s not the reason to do anything.

The only job of a startup CEO, is to steer the ship through a successful voyage and back into port safely. Which is not to say that getting acquired is anti-climactic — it’s just different than first-time entrepreneurs expect it to be. Merely surviving doesn’t sound exciting, but where else does one have the freedom to do anything necessary to survive? That’s living! And I already miss it all. The camaraderie, the stress, the creative output. The tiny, rare victories, which outweigh thousands of losses. The pace, dis-order and chaos of it all. It was fun.

As I finished cleaning out the office, I thought about lingering for a while. Maybe I’d just sit down on the floor and try to inhale a bit more of the life seeping out through the walls. But it was all gone. The people, the notes, the drawings — all of it gone, having matured beyond this exciting mini world we created for ourselves.

And maybe that’s the lesson: Enjoy it. It’s better to live the startup experience than it is to look back on it. And who knows if you’ll ever have a chance to experience those playful days again.

Instead, now I’m stuck helping with the laundry.


Robbie Friedman

Linkedin #NextWave Top Disrupter Under 35, Visionary and Founder and CEO of Viewabill (recently exited)

Why Your Organization Needs an Advisory Board

John Francis Post

A word from the wise…

J.FrancisJohn Francis

Note: Although an advisory board can be very beneficial to your business, it’s important to understand that the board isn’t there for the business’ benefit – it’s there to help you, the business owner, achieve greater levels of success.

If after reading this piece you want to proceed to the next step, I welcome you to contact me by clicking on the “Contact John Francis” link in the upper left corner of the page.  During this free call, we’ll have a judgement-free discussion about the benefits that are most critical to you.


If you want to play the bigger game, and are serious about building your business, you need an advisory board.

From giving objective advice to scouting the marketplace, an advisory board can give your organization the edge it needs to compete at a higher level.  This is particularly true if you have a business with over $1 million in revenue and either a business partner or ambitions of passing the business to your children someday.

Not to be confused with a Board of Directors, an advisory board is an informal gathering of well-respected individuals from the community whose primary purpose is to help your business succeed – not for their financial benefit, but for the mentoring, networking and social opportunities the experience provides.

It’s always a good idea to provide some compensation for your advisory board members; at a minimum this means paying for their meals during meetings, though many business owners provide a financial stipend, as well.  Typically, this small financial investment is well worth the benefits the advisory board provides.

The 8 Benefits of Having an Advisory Board

  1. The discipline of preparation – Prior to each board meeting, you’ll need to create an agenda with all the appropriate attachments such as financial statements, operations updates, marketing updates and current business issues. The process of preparing for each meeting in advance is incredibly valuable, as it allows for critical information about the organization to be evaluated on a regular basis.
  2. Increased credibility – Although an advisory board is strictly there to help you, the business owner, its presence can go a long way towards giving your organization increased legitimacy in the marketplace. In the long term, this legitimacy can actually improve your business’ chance of survival.

  3. Disaster planning/relief – If you’re suddenly unavailable to run your business, do you have someone who is knowledgeable enough to take over? An established advisory board understands your business and will be able to help keep the wheels moving in your absence. This can be a huge relief to your family members and employees if they’re forced to continue the operation without you.

  4. A bigger network – Your network increases dramatically through your advisory board – after all, your board isn’t JUST the board, it’s everyone the board knows. This makes your board a valuable resource when you need a new employee, for example. Through their own professional networks, they may know of the perfect vendor or management professional to join your team.

  5. A focus on the future – While you’re busy managing the day-to-day operations of your business, your advisory board can remain focused on the future. This allows you to rest more easily, knowing that you have a team of professionals out there who are looking out for your best interests while not in the day-to-day grind.

  6. Someone to blame – If you have a big decision to make, using the excuse that you need to “run the idea by your board” is a great way to buy yourself some more time (and make yourself sound more impressive). The “blaming the board” strategy can also work when you have a difficult decision to make. Need to replace a beloved employee (or family member)? Just saying, “the board made me do it…”(whether it’s true or not), can help remove some pressure or hard feelings and deflect blame to a third party they’ll never meet.

  7. More efficient – Instead of scheduling five different phone calls at five different times, your advisory board allows you to gather all of your most trusted resources in one room for a focused and collaborative discussion about your organization. This gives you the most leverage and value for your time – while still leaving plenty of time for the actual running of your business.

  8. Develop your staff – Asking key employees to make presentations to the board can be a great way to develop your staff and see who is ready for leadership. These presentations can be about anything they want – budgets, projects, results – the key is how well the information is delivered. Make sure your board is ready to ask questions and scrutinize the information being presented to them – it will show you how well your staff performs under pressure and help set expectations with accountability.

Additional Considerations for the Franchise Industry

If you are a franchisor or franchisee, an advisory board can add some additional benefits to your organization:

As a franchisor, an advisory board can add credibility to your organization and create confidence in the eyes of your franchisees.  It can also prepare you for growth, whether you’re seeking private equity funding, a merger and acquisition or brand development. Also keep in mind that if this board of advisors transitions into a more formal Board of Directors with fiduciary responsibility, you can add it (and the experience of its members) to the Franchise Disclosure Document for a further confidence boost.

As a franchisee, an advisory board can help you better see what your brand is providing – as well as where it’s falling short. Board members can also provide a great deal of experience to your organization when buying another location, selling a store or preparing for a merger and acquisition.

With so many benefits, it’s important to highlight that there truly should be no downsides to establishing an advisory board.  If you’re not seeing the benefits of your board members, or a member isn’t working out, simply make some changes or shut it down.  As the business owner, it’s up to you to set the expectations and manage the board in a way that serves your needs. When used effectively, an advisory board can become a great asset, adding an important contribution to the success of your business.

via Why Your Organization Needs an Advisory Board | John Francis.


John Francis is a consultant, strategic advisor and keynote speaker who helps franchise organizations  “see what they don’t see” and achieve their highest levels of success.  In his 25+ year career, John has worked as a franchisee, franchisor, investor and Board Member for brands and organizations such as Cost Cutters, PostNet, Sports Clips, Office Pride and the International Franchise Association (IFA). To learn more about John, visit

Copyright © 2015 by John Francis. All rights reserved.

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