Restraint agreements

PYBFS018

Sometimes you need to look at the end effect of what you’re trying to achieve, at the start of, rather than during the process. So, let’s jump ahead to a time when you actually sell your business, or (as I like to remind you) have it sold for you.

He said, she said

There will be an agreement of sale, which should be in writing. Even though verbal agreements are binding, my experience is that verbal agreements are worth the paper they are written on. There is too much of the “he said, I said” for verbal agreements to make sense.

At the time of reaching that agreement, the question of restraints will be raised twice.

In the first instance, and most obviously, you will be restrained from competing against the purchaser and your old business for a period, in a region. Give some thought to the consequences and start planning accordingly. Think about what you are or not prepared to accept, and if there are a whole lot of reasonable conditions you are not prepared to accept, ask yourself why you are selling this business in the first place.

It is reasonable for a purchaser of a business to expect to not have to compete with the guy who knows all his customers really well. Allowing the seller to market himself to these same customers could put any new owner out of business really quickly.

What have you been up to?

The second, less obvious instance of restraints, refers to the restraints that your business itself may be subject to. Many buyers’ attorneys ignore this very important element for some reason, I suppose because it is not so obvious.

But can you imagine the problems which would precipitate out of this situation: A buyer, makes a careful study of the target business and is satisfied with the cash flow issues discussed with a seller, and decides to buy. He then satisfies himself that together with his plan to acquire the rights to several other lines, the value of this investment warrants him taking out a second bond on his home, and borrowing some money from his elderly parents. Six months after the deal has been consummated, his biggest and most important supplier pulls the plug because the seller never told the buyer that this major supplier had only agreed to supply him on condition that he did not represent the supplier’s biggest competitor, which the buyer now does, albeit without being aware that he has breached an agreement.

When Suitegum is involved in the transfer of a business it does so, generally on behalf of the seller, but in good faith for the purchaser as well. One of the elements which we interrogate through our valuation process is the integrity of, and the exposure to suppliers.

So…

Think about what restraints you will be prepared to subject yourself to, once the business is sold, and have another think about what promises you have made to suppliers with respect to giving them special prominence in your business. The latter should be listed in your PYBFS files, both electronic and hardcopy.

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