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BDO’s Bob Littman

Managing partner talks about finding the right partner

December 15, 2017

By: Mark Scott

As one of the founders of SS&G and now managing partner of BDO’s Akron office, Bob Littman has seen a lot of changes in the dealmaking landscape across Northeast Ohio. “With the advent of the access of capital with private equity, there is just so many more ways now to exit businesses,” he notes.

We sat down with Littman to talk about being ready to act, finding the right partner and how options have changed for dealmakers over the years. What follows is a transcript of the above video, edited for readability.

 

Be ready to act

One of the things that’s interesting through my years of experience is that timing is everything they say in life, but timing doesn’t always correlate with best value or highest price for some of these privately held business owners. They’re so attached to the businesses that it’s a difficult decision to make. And I always say one day, they wake up and they say it’s time to sell the business and it may or may not be the time when they’re going to generate the greatest value or the most dollars from a transaction. But it’s important, very important, for them to understand the process so when they are ready, they know what steps it’s going to take — and they know what steps and how it’s going to go.

Find the right partner

I think it’s very, very important to research and understand the different options you have. I mean, finding the right partner is imperative. It’s very, very important. It’s important for the success of the business going forward. It’s important for the stability of the workforce. You want the right partner. Making sure that you have the right advisers and the right resources to help you find the right partner is very important to business owners.

An abundance of options

I look back at my career — I’ve been doing this for 30 years plus. Thirty years ago, in these privately held businesses, the succession planning was all about the next generation. So from my perspective the succession planning was, well we need to find a young accountant that can deal with the succession plan of the business owner passing it down to a child. It was just known that the business — normally succession planning was to go down the generation. Fast-forward to today and I almost call it like the death of the family business. With the advent of the access of capital with private equity, there is just so many more ways now to exit businesses. The whole concept of passing the business down to the next generation is no longer the first option anymore because there’s so much access to capital and so many more buyers out there. Twenty-five years ago, 30 years ago, you just didn’t have the different options to sell your business.