A Letter from Ron West

A Letter from Ron West

To Industry Professionals and My Colleagues,

The last five years have been some of the most active and profitable years I have seen in my 20 years serving this industry. In the past two weeks, it has come to a standstill. It goes without saying that these are challenging times for our world and the economy.  I am praying for everyone impacted by the COVID-19 virus; we are all going to be affected by this situation one way or another.

I see the Business Brokerage Industry as far more than just a profession – it’s like family to me.  I come from folks who have known and loved Business Brokerage for nearly 100 years now.  I am encouraged that my great grandfather, as a broker, made it through the Great Depression in the 1930s. My grandfather saw the industry survive two world wars.  My father brokered through difficult economic times and counseled multiple industry professionals through the impact of September 11th.  I, personally, experienced the resiliency of business brokerage during and after the recession of 2008/2009.  I know that our industry will survive this period of turmoil and economic downturn as well.  The soul of American entrepreneurship is our ability to adjust, adapt, and change.

In the coming weeks and months, I plan to work closely with a few colleagues in an effort to help our industry through the change and adjustments needed during this time.  For now, I want to offer just a few thoughts:

  1. Call your sellers

    Your sellers need to hear from you. Some will just need to talk and be heard.  Others may need to hear that it is wise to take their business off the market for a time.  Some, who are not in a position to take their business off the market, will require your counsel.  Do not avoid calling clients because you are afraid to hear hard news.  You won’t be able to change their reality, but you can listen and provide more guidance than you may realize.

  2. Contact your buyers and keep following up

    Keeping up with quality buyers is also essential.  Many buyers are going to pull back for a time.  Buyers, just like sellers, are going to have extensive concerns.  Be patient with everyone’s frustrations right now.  When buyers make an inquiry on a listing, follow up quickly. Deal with them honestly, while also representing your seller in the optimal manner.  Remember that some of these buyers will be your future seller prospects.

  3. Adjust your marketing

    Stop posting anything on social media, your blog, or in your email marketing that would come across as “tone deaf.”  Your content needs to be focused on the current COVID-19 news and related economic crisis. Anything unrelated may come across as disconnected.  Instead, write blog posts, run webinars, and encourage support of local businesses.  Communicate now more than ever.  Add a page to your website with current information on what the SBA and others are announcing, encouraging, and offering business owners right now.  Except in extreme situations, now is not the time to solicit business owners to list their businesses for sale… that time will come later.  Review your online ads for current listings and make sure they are not “tone deaf” given the current circumstances and economic environment.

  4. Educate yourself and educate others

    Be students of all that SBA and other industry experts are providing right now. Read, research, and read some more – most importantly, “fact check” before you speak or post.  View a panel discussion on how valuations will be viewed, adjusted, and approached going forward by clicking here.  Join our free webinars every Friday at 1 p.m. EST to keep up to date. (You can register for tomorrow’s webinar by clicking here.)  View a past webinar on how to use Zoom and Calendly by clicking here.  Call your bankers, attorneys, lenders, wealth advisors, CPA’s and business consultants to gain insights.  Become an expert and make all helpful information available to your sellers, business owners, and buyers via webinars, meetings, social media, and blog posts.

  5. Making money is not the most important thing right now

    The time to sell and make money will come, but now is the time to help and to educate.  Be a servant leader.  The more you help and educate, opportunities to sell will naturally emerge.  Helping business owners is something we should do simply because it’s the right thing. As a side benefit, you will be positioned with the business owner and their circle of influence for the future.  If you are going to offer alternative paid services right now, be cautious in your approach so that the optics of your service are not seen as self-serving.

  6. Support local businesses

    Find ways to support the local businesses in your community. Businesses are adjusting fast. It is exciting to see the entrepreneurial leadership of our business leaders right now!  For example, in addition their regular products, a distillery in our area has been producing and distributing hand sanitizer, free to medical workers and for just a small suggested donation of $2 to the larger community.  Promote these kinds of  newly adjusted business offerings. Become their customers and clients if you are able.  Restaurants are selling curbside take out dinners; all kinds of online gift cards are available for purchase; craft breweries are offering home delivery; and local farms are still farming, producing local food available at farm stands.  In the same way, adjust your business offerings and help other businesses adjust.

  7. Adjust (but don’t adjust too much)

    Remember who you are and what you’re good at. Most of you are skilled at managing the transaction and getting deals done, and there will certainly still be a need for this.  If you are an industry expert, focus on that.  Start conversations within your own business network.  Consider a partnering model.  Some of you have the ability to enter into business consultation, valuation, or exit strategy counseling.  If that’s the case, put a plan in place to expand your business into these areas, but don’t abandon your core business.

At Business Brokerage Press, we are going to lean in and not fear during this time.  Industry leaders, please email me directly at ron@bbpinc.com with all helpful articles, events, news, and expertise in any medium, and we will make it available to our industry.  We will also be sending out a survey asking seasoned experts for their advice on how to handle this economic downturn and how they have survived in the past. We will continue with panel discussions every Friday at 1pm Eastern to keep you updated with the latest information and discuss your questions.  You can also email me directly in advance of any questions you would like the panel to address.

This will not be an easy time, but I sincerely believe that our industry is essential in these economic times.  What we do matters, and BBP is here to help you.


Ron West
Business Brokerage Press