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Managing Emotions in an M&A Deal

by | February 2, 2023 | Industry Insights, Managing Risk, Education, M&A, M&A Education & Market

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When you’re gearing up for—or are in the middle of—the sale or merger of your private company, you are putting yourself into an elite group of entrepreneurs who are achieving what many others have failed to do.

Pursuing an exit is hard. It’s even harder when you are still running said business at the same time.

It’s downright stressful.

There exists a scale of life stressors called the “Holmes and Rahe Scale” that attempts to rank various stressful events in a person’s life.

Below, we have turned the ones that could potentially happen in an M&A deal red for your review and perspective.  What we think you will find is that, while most folks can handle one or two stressors, and several can handle many (typical of most entrepreneurs), the weight of handling many multiples of stressors at the same time—if not mitigated—could prove overwhelming.


Unless, of course, you are prepared in advance, and can mitigate certain stressors before they occur, as well as gain a proper perspective.

While M&A is not for the faint of heart, the rewards are many. Managing yourself and your team, aided by a professional Investment Banker, can make the journey much less stressful. And, in the long run, when the process goes well, you will find it will be well worth it in the end.

Most Common Stressors and Relative Point Value

Death of a Spouse100
Marital Separation65
Jail term63
Death of close family member63
Personal Injury or Illness53
Fired at work 47
Marital reconciliation45
Change in health of family member44
Pregnancy 40
Sex difficulties 39
Gain of a new family member39
Business readjustments39
Change in financial state38
Death of a close friend37
Change to a different line of work 36
Change in # of arguments with spouse35
Mortgage over $50,00031
Foreclosure of mortgage30
Change in work responsibilities29
Son or daughter leaving home29
Trouble with in-laws29
Outstanding personal achievements28
Spouse begins or stops work26
Begin or end school26
Change in living conditions25
Revision of personal habits24
Trouble with boss23
Change in work hours or conditions20
Change in residence20
Change in school20
Change in recreation (Golf 24/7?) 19
Change in religious activities19
Change in social activities18
Loan less than $50,00017
Change in sleeping habits16
Change in number of family member get-togethers15
Change in eating habits15
Single person living alone14
—–Added by JD Merit—–
Reps and warrantee concerns / liabilities ?
Becoming a lender – seller note/earnout stress?

So, what is a seller to do to manage these stressors? Here are 10 tips for keeping your cool:

Stay calm. Remember this is a process, not an event.​

Lean on your advisors. Their objectivity is your number one sanity check or voice of reason / de-stressor.​

Self-soothe / reinvigorate in healthy ways. This skill is key to developing and increasing your capacity to handle the up and downs of a deal. Its importance is often tied to getting a deal done. Deal fatigue is real!​

Communicate often and acknowledge how tough this can be.

Give yourself grace. You don’t have to have all the answers—let them unfold.​

When making decisions, take them one at a time—don’t overcomplicate things. And avoid rushing to a “closing” mentally.​

Don’t panic when things appear to fall apart (M&A Axiom: every deal dies,  three times). Try not to “horrible-ize” or demonize the buyer, and see items 1-6 above.​ Rinse and repeat.

Be confident. Remember what you have here—a great company worthy of a sale! And, ultimately, you are always in control! It’s your baby!​

Maintain a positivity ratio of 3:1. Even if under duress, fake it until you make it! Despite its emotional rigors, there is much to be thankful for that you are in this position.​

Re-examine your wants. Getting caught up in the process is part of the process; however, at the end of the day you know yourself and what your dream state or goal state is.  Take time to reflect and go back to what that list was, often. Perspective is crucial!

Finally, to put it in the ultimate perspective, examine an entrepreneur’s top five deathbed regrets:

  1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, and spent more time with family or loved ones.
  2. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends more or at a deeper level.
  3. I wish I had let myself be happier.
  4. I wish I’d had the courage to express my true self more.
  5. I wish I’d lived a life truer to my dreams versus what others expected of me.

While M&A can feel like a full-contact sport, when done well, beautiful and life-changing outcomes can emerge from it that perhaps eclipse the dreams of most entrepreneurs.  And, like anything worthwhile, some blood, sweat, and tears are often shed in the pursuit.

 JD Merit is here to help you achieve your goals with as little stress as possible and to emerge with clear eyes, a full heart, and a successful transaction in your rearview mirror.

Exit well!

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Reach out to discuss the best path for your company to grow and for you to build generational wealth through the recapitalization or sale of your private company. 253-370-8893 | Craig.Dickens@JDMerit.com

As CEO of JD Merit, Craig Dickens is a cutting-edge visionary and a lead banker and principal investor—responsible for charting the firm’s course, creating a dynamic culture of personalized service, and recruiting highly qualified professionals to serve JDM’s national and international clientele. Craig and JDM’s reach and access to world-class buyers and capital partners are imperative in serving all JDM clients in pursuing outlier outcomes.Craig has advised many leading companies and participates in and chairs several middle-market company boards. Known for being a trailblazer, he sets an example for the JD Merit team by being an enthusiastic deal marketer, rigorous client advocate, strong negotiator, and creative deal maker. Craig serves JD Merit’s clients by skillfully guiding them toward a strategic path to rapid growth, true business value creation and optimization, and exceptional liquidity events and exits.As a successful entrepreneur, certified M&A advisor, investment banker, and angel investor, he has participated in virtually every business dynamic from start-up to IPO, merger to acquisition. Craig also serves on the management committee for CDI Global, JD Merit’s sister organization, for cross-border Mergers & Acquisitions represented in over 30 countries globally. JD Merit is a leading boutique investment bank focused on entrepreneurial middle-market companies. JD Merit executes sell-side M&A, buy-side M&A, capital advisory services, debt and equity capital raises, corporate finance, and valuation, services.

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