A few weeks ago, Mika Haavisto, who manages a project facilitating business ownership transfers, wrote in the Ownership Transfer Forum’s blog (in Finnish):
“The best way to prepare for a transfer of ownership is to keep your business healthy at all times: ensuring that it is profitable, that your solutions meet customer needs, and that you have satisfied customers and competent, enthusiastic employees.”
I think Mika hit the nail on the head. A transfer of ownership, like any other major change, should not be seen as a separate episode in the business lifecycle, but as part of the company’s normal activities and something every entrepreneur should think about as times and circumstances change. So it makes sense to constantly evaluate and develop your business, remain open to new opportunities and identify and further develop your strengths.
Ownership transfers are part of the company’s normal activities and something every entrepreneur should think about as times and circumstances change
The owner knows their business best, but often an external expert may be able to identify the right development opportunities and suggest areas for improvement. Not because an outsider should come and tell you what to do, but because this could give rise to new perspectives or insights that you might otherwise miss, possibly resulting in squandered opportunities.
That external sparring partner and person asking good questions may be your client, someone you share a leisure activity with, or even your friend’s preschool-aged kid. However, there are also good reasons for getting in touch with a business expert.
In Finland, we have high-quality business services that people should tap into. These services, and the “ecosystem” they create, are able to evolve and remain up-to-date if people make use of them and, in that way, keep challenging them.
So when preparing for a potential transfer or encountering challenges and opportunities, whether big or small, what should an SME look for in business services if it wants to make the best use them?
A professional expert services provider must show commitment
Since the situations companies face are unique, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. I believe, however, that a professional expert services provider must show commitment to the business or the owner. They should be able to listen, ask the right questions, give feedback and spot the strengths and the areas ready for development among the everyday activities. Such professionals should also be able to highlight important issues that, for one reason or another, have not attracted enough attention.
Businesses need the abilities to make full use of their knowledge and skills. But often businesses would also benefit from coaching, motivating, sparring and encouraging, as well as from a challenging and questioning approach. It’s not so much about who’s asking the questions or answering them, or about who’s offering the services or receiving them: it’s really about seeking answers and routes together and making use of the experience, vision and understanding on both sides. Transparency, integrity and professional ethics are the cornerstones of such partnerships.
In this case, the service received is worth the time and the money invested in it – sometimes even more.
Kari Alanko, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
The aim of the Ownership Transfer Forum is to facilitate acquisitions and succession planning. These areas are also the focus of a project involving the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Confederation of Finnish Industries, Federation of Finnish Enterprises, Finnvera, Business Finland, Family Business Federation, Nordea, Danske Bank, Deloitte, Finnish Enterprise Agencies, Finnish Company Acquisition, SEKES, Business Mentors Finland, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and Lappeenranta University of Technology.