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It’s not who you know it’s what you know…

That’s right, I said it. While the common version of the phrase (it’s who you know, not what you know) may help you get into a suite for a Bengals game, it’s not necessarily accurate when selling your business. Also, what does it matter if you know WHO can get you into a suite, it’s still the Bengals…  

This month, we continue our series on the typical sell-side engagement process by exploring buyer selection.

Through years of experience and transactions, RKCA has cultivated a wide buyer network. It is my opinion that a strong sale process is a core value driver for selling a business. However, that doesn’t stop potential clients from asking “but wait, WHO do you know that will buy my business?”

This question always surprises me. A business owner’s company is his/her baby. It is the culmination of a life’s work. Similarly, that question, “WHO do you know”, reminds me of my toddler. At age three we found out she would need to undergo major surgery on both of her eyes. While I was grateful to her pediatrician for his recommendation of WHO he knew, I didn’t place much emphasis on it. He’s a great pediatrician, but this is my kid. My baby. I want the best outcome, not who her doctor knew. I was focused on my kid and the best treatment for her from the BEST physician. I didn’t care if the surgeon was local to where we lived, or if the doctor had availability in his/her calendar to do the surgery immediately, and I certainly didn’t care if my toddler’s pediatrician knew the surgeon. My wife and I ran an exhaustive process to learn WHAT was needed to maximize the outcome (ensure her long-term sight, reduce the need for additional surgeries, etc.). From there, we met with several surgeons all over the country. Once we found the one that fit our needs, we setup the surgery (my kid is doing great by the way).

At RKCA, to realize your life’s work, we start with the process. The WHAT. We begin every transaction with an independent review of the best potential buyers for each specific client’s business. Yes, sometimes we have a preexisting relationship with them, other times we don’t.   We leverage our proprietary data, which includes a list of private equity firms, family offices, and search companies. Our list has been built over time from deal outreach, networking initiatives, our history of doing transactions going back to 1986, and data collected via our intake forms on our website. Furthermore, every time we run our process we conduct additional detailed research and add new, niche, industry-specific buyers tailored to our client’s business. The output of this process often culminates in many new financial or strategic buyers. We still grow our WHO but it’s a result of doing our WHAT.

Columbia Professor and author Joel Brocker said it well: “We live in a results-oriented society; you hear expressions like the bottom line…my basic argument is that if you want your organization to be sustainably successful you have to care about outcomes but you also have to care about the process through which you arrive at that outcome. In the long term we need to get there and we need to get there in the right way.1

Having run my own business and had an exit, I get it. I can empathize with the seller who has put the blood, sweat, tears into his/her business and has come to the conclusion that now is the time to sell. That is an admirable decision, and I know that it is a tough conclusion to reach. That’s why we exist at RKCA; to help you realize your life’s work. To leverage our process refined over decades of experience so that our WHAT can help you find the best WHO for your organization.

1. Work and Life radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton, interview with Joel Brockner.

If you, or someone in your network wants to learn more about our WHAT, email me at


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