Everybody likes to feel important, but when you're selling your company one of theworst mistakes you can make is to emphasize how essential you are to the business. "If the buyer thinks that the company can't be run without you, itbecomes less attractive," points out Stan Sanderson, who's spent much of his career in the mergers and acquisitions business.

That may seem obvious, but Sanderson, now CEO of Jostens Learning Corp., an educational software company, in San Diego, says it's common for ownersto undermine their own sales pitches by taking too much credit for a company's successes and by exhibiting too much hands-on control. Often they do itunconsciously ? stopping during a plant tour, for example, to instruct employees on some detail of their work. A shrewd buyer, says Sanderson, will lower anoffer accordingly. His advice: downplay your role as CEO and stress the abilities of the entire staff and management team.