If you’re a business broker, it helps to be naturally circumspect and tight-lipped. Luckily, that’s easy for both of us. You probably thought that “Don’t ask, don’t tell” referred to gays in the military, but I’m convinced it first applied to taciturn Midwesterners of Scandinavian and German descent who were born and raised in the forties and fifties. Widely broadcasting family secrets or bragging about accomplishments was frowned upon. Our tendency to play it close to the vest serves us well, because business owners don’t need rumors about upcoming company transitions running rampant while we’re trying to attract a buyer. If word gets out, employees might decide it’s a good time to look for a new home, ditto long-term customers. We keep these things strictly to ourselves, not even letting family members know the names of our clients until a deal is done, although we were once shocked when we mentioned we had a “remodeling company” on the market, and our daughter’s significant other blurted out their name, only because they’d just remodeled his mother’s home and it was the only remodeler he knew. It was impossible to keep our jaws from dropping to our chests when he said it.
Anyone interested in even knowing the name of a company we have listed on BizBuySell and on this website first needs to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement – aka an NDA – and every few years, we send that form to our long-time business lawyer to make sure the verbiage is still viable.
But sometimes secrets are impossible to keep, no matter how hard you try. We’re well-known in the printing industry because that’s our background. Fred once walked into a print shop during the workday and had a sales rep clutch his arm and whisper, “Oh, my God, tell me we’re not for sale! We’re buying somebody else, right? Not selling!” So in the print world, he’s learned that after hours and weekends are best for in-person visits. But we take great care even where’s he’s not a known entity, because here’s someone employees have never been seen before, and suddenly he’s there all the time, taking tours, having close-door meetings with the boss, etc., so in those cases Fred’s been introduced as an insurance agent, or Uncle Louie from out of town who’s thinking about opening a business like it, or a risk-assessment manager looking for fire hazards.
It may sound paranoid, but keeping the sale of a business a secret is a serious job.
And our daughter’s boyfriend? Unfortunately, we had to kill him.
March 1, 2023