Tag Archives: Negotiation

How Do You Communicate a Company Sale? Six Guidelines

Situation: A closely-held, non-public company is in negotiation for a possible sale. The CEO seeks guidance on when and how to communicate this to employees. What event would demand communication? The CEO is concerned that if the sale falls through this may significantly damage employee morale. How do you communicate a company sale?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The trigger point for any employee communication will be due diligence. At this point, you may have a serious buyer.
    • Going into due diligence, limit updates to those who will be involved in the process.
    • Most acquisitions do not go through, so a broader communication risks disrupting the company – unless you are very confident that the sale will proceed.
    • Prior to due diligence, there is no benefit to communicating any possible sale to employees.
  • What message do you deliver to those who will be involved in due diligence?
    • We are entering a due diligence. This is an exercise that we’re doing for our own education so that we understand the value of the company. This is just a drill.
  • Keep your eye on the business and don’t be distracted by the offer.
  • Have a good idea of an acceptable sale price.
    • For a company with intellectual property or significant assets, three to five times EBITDA is a good starting point – unless the sale is a strategic buy to the buyer.
  • A possible deal is often spoiled by terms and conditions that the buyer attaches to the deal.
  • One buyer (at any one time) is the same as no buyer. When owners get serious about selling the company they will need a broker to develop multiple buyers, to advise them through the sale process and to defend their interests.

How Do You Introduce New Information into a Negotiation? Five Thoughts

Situation: A company is negotiating an agreement to resell another company’s software. In due diligence the company encountered a customer who was offered a single user license for the same software at one-third the price that they have been asked to pay upfront. What is the best way to approach the vendor for additional information without divulging the source of his intelligence? Does this change the negotiation?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There is no need to divulge your information source. Just say that you have done some research and quote the price that you found. Ask them to explain this to you. See how they respond. This may tell you a lot about how they operate.
  • What rights do you receive under the arrangement that has been offered by the firm? What exclusivity and guarantees will they offer? Will they write these into the agreement? How will they handle direct inquiries?
  • Perform a careful financial analysis of the opportunity. Model the market and the full cost of sales that you will encounter. What is customer purchase behavior? Is it changing?
  • Counter the vendor’s offer to you with a pay-down option that pays the vendor more over time, but allows you access to the software without a substantial up-front payment. This limits your exposure if sales do not ramp as you anticipate.
  • Visit the vendor and sit down with the President. See how this individual responds to your questions. You may get a much better deal through this approach than through the sales team. You also may develop other partnership options that can benefit you long-term.

Key Words: Reseller, Agreement, Price, Software, Due Diligence, Negotiation, Research, Exclusivity, Guarantees, Direct Inquiry, Analysis, Customer, Behavior, Counter, Visit

What Are The Key Factors to Negotiating an IP Acquisition? Six Considerations

Situation:  The Company is interested in acquiring either the intellectual property (IP) of another company or the company itself. The target is a minor division of a larger parent company. The CEO contacted the parent and confirmed their interest in a deal. What are the key factors to negotiating an IP acquisition?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • You need to assure your rights to both current IP and future enhancements. This applies whether you or the parent is the final holder of the IP.
    • Look for clear language as to what constitutes base IP, derivative IP and extensions of the IP. You want to preserve your interest in future derivatives and extensions that you create.
  • There is a material difference between your position and the parent’s.
    • If the parent retains the IP, they also gain certain rights to IP extensions based on the current IP. If you own the IP, their potential rights to future IP are lost.
    • If the parent feels that the IP has strategic value – whether or not they are currently taking advantage of it – this will be one of the more difficult aspects to the negotiation.
  • What options are there besides acquiring the company?
    • The parent can grant a fully paid license to the technology, with access to the people and assets, waiving residual rights to future IP extensions, and no restrictions on transfer.
    • Another option could be a one-time royalty fee that is a perpetual license.
  • Within your due diligence, try to get a sense of the parent’s motivations and concerns for entertaining your interest in the acquisition. This will help you to frame a deal that works for both parties.
  • If the parent has been an active licensor or seller of IP, look for lawyers who know the company. Try to secure one of these as counsel for your negotiation.
  • From a liability standpoint, it is better to buy or license the IP and technology than the company. Liability travels with the company. Part of your negotiation will be who inherits any carry-over liability.

Key Words: Intellectual Property, IP, Acquisition, Rights, Enhancement, Derivative, Negotiation, License, Royalty, Legal Counsel, Liability

Gee, I Like Your IP! Let’s Talk: 3 Steps to the Dance

Situation:  The Company is moving from a specialty solution to a complete solution. They have identified a partner with intellectual property (IP) that will help them fulfill this vision. How should the CEO approach this company to access their IP?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are two aspects of any deal: technical feasibility that will produce value; and the emotional needs of the principals.
    • The technical aspects are the most straightforward and easiest to value.
    • Frequently, a favorable deal hinges not on technical feasibility, but on the desires of the principals and their ability to trust one-another.
  • If you are convinced of the value, you must convince the other party that their best option is to work with you. Then you can negotiate the specifics.
    • Sell your vision: the technologies together are much more valuable than they are alone: 1 + 1 = 5!
    • If control of the technology is an issue, you must negotiate an arrangement where they are comfortable with your control.
      • Do you and the other party have a trusted advisor in common or is there an individual who is respected by both of you? This person can help communicate your good intentions.
  • If your best efforts do not produce an appealing arrangement, your fall-back position may be a partnership. If the partnership is backed by modest investment with options for future purchase, this may be another way to for you to eventually gain control of the technology.

Key Words: IP, Intellectual Property, Negotiation, Emotional Needs, Feasibility, Deal, Partnership 

My Worst Nightmare – Sell or Downsize? Fifteen Considerations (Part 1)

Situation: The Company is losing money and has been approached about a merger. The CEO’s ideal outcome would be to get cash on the table, integrate with the merger partner and continue business. The other alternative – downsizing – may hurt company morale. What are the best options available?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The realities of mergers:
    • 70% of mergers fail, and the merger process often leaves founders with a minority stake in the company.
    • Experience of others with partners has been disappointing – better to control your own destiny.
    • Look at all alternatives before you jump into a merger. You founded the company and have brought it this far. The company will be a different company following a merger, and not the company that you founded or have led to date.
  • Message to your potential merger partner:
    • Be a reluctant bride.
    • “We are making improvements to return to profitability and I’ve joined a board of CEOs who are consulting me through the process.”
    • If the partner sweetens the offer to keep the merger on the table, make sure that you get 51% of the merged company and retain control of your own fate.
  • Reconsider downsizing – Others have found the downsizing experience wrenching, but with far more positive results than they expected.
    • More on this in the next ceo2ceos blog.
  • Summary: look more closely at your situation before your jump into a merger. If you can save expenses, return to profitability and stay independent you will be happier.

Key Words: Merger, Negotiation, Ownership, Downsizing, Mitigation, Layoffs, Profitability 

Partnership Agreement for a New Venture: Seven Points to the Negotiation

Situation: We are negotiating a partnership venture. We would fund the entity, and the partner will earn ownership through sweat equity. How do we draft a fair partnership agreement?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The most important factor is the ability of the two partners to drive a successful venture: proof of ability to contribute needs to be a prerequisite to allocating ownership.
  • How does the sweat equity partner prove their capability?
    • Create a schedule of milestones for the partner to earn ownership, based on mutually agreed objectives or revenue generation.
      • The beauty here is that you retain control until the partner has proven their value by delivering results.
      • The potential downside is long-term liability of the venture.
        • The longer that you retain majority ownership, the longer you retain majority liability.
        • Insure yourself against this liability.
    • Buyout clauses are important to retain your interest if the partner fails to deliver.
    • Include a liquidation clause in case the venture fails.
  • Negotiating the agreement:
    • Draw up a 6-month letter of intent. Specify what each side brings to the table and what each commits to deliver. Set clear, measurable, time-bound objectives.
    • Negotiate fair protections desired by each party.
    • Consider a consultant to facilitate settlement of areas of contention.
    • Theoretically, each party needs their own legal counsel. This adds expense but provides protections for each in the final agreement.
    • Factor the cost of legal advice as well as consultant facilitation into your planning model.

Key Words: Partnership, Joint-Venture, Sweat Equity, Agreement, Negotiation, Buy-Out Clause, Liquidation Clause, Letter of Intent (LOI)