This week, our team at Likeable Media announced the sale of our 14-year-old social media agency to 10Pearls, a global digital transformation technology company with 750 employees. While I can't share details of the deal, I can say that this exit is one that will both supercharge the Likeable's growth and allow us to invest in things that matter to us. Today, we are excited to launch Kerpen Ventures, an investment vehicle focused on women founders, BIPOC founders, and social impact entrepreneurs. I am also going to focus on two more businesses of mine, Apprentice and Remembering.Live. Carrie Kerpen will continue running Likeable, now a part of the 10Pearls family.
In the meantime, here are five key lessons I've learned over the past four months, since we decided to sell our company in December:
1. Know Your Goals.
Like anything in life or business, having a clear understanding of goals is essential before taking on the Herculean task of selling a company. We were looking for a strong valuation, a global team that would value and help grow the brand, and for my wife and partner Carrie to have autonomy moving forward. Trying to sell a company without clear goals is like trying to navigate a map without a compass. But once your goals are clear, it becomes a lot easier to find what you are looking for.
2. Put Together a Great Deal Team.
Five months ago, I never would have guessed how much time I'd be spending with attorneys over a deal. As in, late night, early morning, and everything-in-between time. The truth is, your deal team matters a lot. For us, our broker at We Are Barney, our attorneys at Reitler, and our accountants at Bernstein Rosen all made a significant difference in both optimizing our deal and in minimizing our stress over the negotiation period. I am grateful for the professionals we hired, and they were worth every penny.
3. Know Your Non-Negotiables.
In any deal, you're not going to get everything you want, that's the essence of negotiation. But it's essential to go in knowing what your non-negotiables are. In other words, what you can or can't live without. For example, for us, we required an acquirer that would give Carrie the ability to keep 100 percent of her current team, and one that would allow me to act as a brand ambassador while personally moving on from the company. As with goals, clarity about your non-negotiables will allow you to quickly eliminate would-be acquirers that don't fit the bill of what you want and need.
4. Be Able to Walk Away.
It's terrifying to consider actually walking away at the last hour, especially after all the work put into planning a deal. But in order to get the best deal for yourself, your team, your investors and your family, you need to be able to do just that if your non-negotiables aren't met. There were a couple of times in this recent deal that we were willing to walk away if needed. Fortunately, we didn't have to, but I remain convinced that our willingness to walk away if needed was part of what kept us in the deal, and ultimately helped us get the deal we wanted.
5. Prepare to Let Go.
Today, I feel a tremendous sense of pride, accomplishment, and excitement. But I also feel a sense of loss and sadness. For me, Likeable has been a big part of my identity over the last 14 years, and surely I will have some grieving to do. The biggest lesson of my life and career has been learning to let go of what I can't control, and this situation is no different: It's time for me to let go and move on from Likeable. As you think about selling your company, please make sure you consider the emotional challenges of letting go.
Bonus: Gratitude Is the Way.
Today and everyday, I am grateful: Grateful to the deal team I mentioned above; to the entire Likeable team, past and present; to our customers and partners; and most of all, to my wife and business partner Carrie. Gratitude helps shape our attitude, and keeps us positive. And I can think of no better time to lead with gratitude and keep positive than during the stress-inducing time of when you are negotiating a deal.