When Business is NOT Just Business

Editor’s note: This article is republished with permission – here is the original source. We decided to publish this article because the insights offered by is simply invaluable and rare. It’s a life-changing experience selling a business for a dying client, as it has become more than just business – and this is exactly what Mr. Messinger was doing; this is his experience with the business sale.

I think most that have been operating in the business world have heard the expression “It’s just Business”, like “sorry I have to use another vendor- you know Its just business”. Or I hate to let you go… “It’s just business”. It falls into a similar category of the discussion small business owners have about their employees and are constantly advised to not worry so much about employees and the difficult policies, pay cuts, benefit cuts are “just business”. I recognize the truth to that matter, but when you talk to most business owners with long term employees you see that is easier said than done.

its not just business

Emotions are a part of a business. Sometimes the business relationship can turn into something much stronger, friendships are developed and suddenly it becomes more than “just business”.

I am a Business Broker Based in Jacksonville Florida. I lost a dear person last week to cancer. It was more sudden, unfair, and painful to me than I expected. This person was a client- which is such an inappropriate word in this case. This husband and wife had hired me to sell their business. It took a long time. We are under contract (and have had other potential buyers) her, her husband and I did expect this transaction to happen but the Cancer happened faster.

I’m not a dinosaur but I’ve been in the business world long enough to gain a perspective where I look for more out of my business activities that wins/losses. We all know there is a lot of “the same old same old” in our business activities and sprinkled among the day to day are special people and special situations that stand out.

I am involved with business brokerage as I recognize Buying or selling a business as a life changing event – it was for me. Marriage, children, Buying a business, Selling a business are life events that can shape a life- but death trumps them all. She incentivized me by being so nice to me throughout this process. We all have favorite clients or customers- and she fit the bill. They both are wonderful people. I recognize that it is easy as a business broker to “get in the way” of a small business owner. They are trying to run their business while you are trying to sell their business and it’s easy for some overlap or conflict to occur. She made me welcome every time I walked into their business. She would encourage my efforts with a hug or offering some take out lunch as we strategized the sale of their business. She is watching from above to make sure I help her husband complete her request to have their business sold so that he can enjoy life after the sale of the business. Even though it’s painfully obvious it won’t be the same. And yes we still have a way to go in the process, but I do say to myself, what if I could have sold it a few months earlier…

I don’t know if I ever want to get good at selling a business for a dying client. I don’t know if I am doing everything right this time. Her husband and I had discussed and had a Power of Attorney to be signed by his attorney representing him in the sale… just in case. He called just hours after she passed away. I didn’t know how soon was too soon to go see him. I went over to his business just days after her passing- unannounced with the hope of catching him at the office. Over the years I had always made an appointment- but fortunately he was there. I brought flowers, gave him a hug, and offered any support I could. Behind closed doors we balanced our talk between life, and what we need to do going forward to accomplish what she wanted done- selling off the family business. First he had to take care of the services and family. Sometimes it is very much more than Just Business.

Note: April 2014 – this article was written just days after a dear client passed away. The business sale closed approx. 2 months after. We experienced further difficulties in the closing process which made matters even more difficult for the Seller (husband of the deceased wife). After numerous delays, we closed on the sale of the business. This post touches on some personal matters, and it was only until recently that I asked Seller to read and give his approval for me to post and share these events