As leaders, you can be faced with a situation from time to time where your people might hear a rumor that your business is for sale. Usually this is the product of an over active imagination, but those people are asking is because they are concerned about the long-term stability of their job. Any change in the ownership of a business could pose a risk to their employment.
It can be somewhat tricky to answer this question with full transparency because the truth is that you can't ever say that a business is not for sale - even if you have no earthly desire to sell that business. And there's a key lesson you can apply from real estate to better understand this point, which gives you a way to answer honestly and maintain integrity.
I was running a company based near Boston several years ago and we were growing revenue and profits like gangbusters - knocking it out of the park. And we had no interest in selling to anyone. Our plan was to continue growing for the foreseeable future and dominating our segment of the market.
That didn't stop people from coming and knocking on our door. In fact, we had one interested party offer up $12 million to buy the business a year or so earlier and after a lot of deliberation, we turned them down.
But guess what happened? A similar company came back a year later with a new offer. They had been watching us; they knew how well we were doing. There were also quite a few strategic benefits that would result from a merger.
Yet, as soon as we began to utter the word, "thanks but no thanks," they threw out a number. This time they were offering $22 million for the business; which was a spectacular offer that showed how much they valued our company. That wasn't something we could ignore - especially if we were going to act as good stewards for the shareholders in the business.
Now, when we told our team about the pending sale, they started asking why we decided to sell. "You told us you weren't looking for a buyer," one person told me, which was true.
I responded by explaining that I was telling the truth; we weren't looking to sell. But there is always a price at which you have to listen and potentially sell.
As a way to help him understand, I asked him about how much his own house was worth. He told me it was worth about $300,000. "OK," I said, "so are you interested in selling your house?"
"No way," he said. "My wife and kids love the place. We intend to stay there for some time."
"That's great," I told him. "So your house isn't for sale for $300,000. But what would you say if I offered you $500,000 for your house? Would you sell then?"
"You bet," he said, nodding his head, "where do I sign?"
"And if someone paid that much for your home, would they treat it well?"
"They would", he replied.
"That's exactly the same as the business"
He got the analogy.
So, the next time someone asks you if your business is for sale, you can tell them no, but use the analogy of their home, because its exactly the same as the sale of the company. Hopefully, they get the position that even when you aren't for sale there is always a price that could change your mind.