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Paula Fargo

Why I Sold My Print and Sign Company

“I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello.”

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PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

I SOLD MY PRINTING and signshop last month.

Jealous? Wish you could do that too?

Scornful? Wonder why I’m still here sharing my opinions and experiences?

Not interested? I don’t blame you. Not everyone who reads this excellent periodical is an owner, so you might not care to read on.

Unless…

Maybe you are not an owner, but have considered buying out your current boss?

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Bottom line: As always, read if you’d like; otherwise, I’ll just check my text messages while you leave.

Even though I am no longer a signshop owner, I thought it might be useful to share my journey of what led me to that unfathomable opening statement.

As the youngest possible member of the cohort known as the Baby Boomer generation, I believe I am in good company with other signshop owners who may be reading this. Many print and signshops opened in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, and are still being operated by the same owners.

Perhaps, like me, you wanted to “create a career” for yourself and did such a good job at it that you never wanted to leave. I had always envisioned keeping and running my business until I was physically or mentally unable to do so, and why not? I made this job and if there’s something I don’t like, I can just change it, right? So if I’m not happy doing it, the only person I have to blame is myself.

That was, until the pandemic. Then, all bets were off. During this time, businesses like ours went into survival mode. And if you are in my age group, while we’ve seen bad situations that negatively impacted our businesses before (think 9/11 and the 2008 recession), we’ve never experienced what we did with the worldwide shut down.

Many of us undoubtedly pivoted, got through it, and perhaps even became stronger because of it. That happened with my company, too. However, I suddenly found myself with considerably less taste for risk and uncertainty. Living through those two years, with all of my employees’ livelihoods depending on me making the right decisions, left me feeling like I wanted to take my toys and go home.

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My team did a great job of cross training and bringing outsourced work in house during the pandemic, and basically became a self-sufficient operating unit. And a couple of years later, our company was larger and more profitable than it ever had been.

At that point, I made the decision to consider selling my company.

You may wonder how that felt, to decide to sell what you’ve spent literally your entire adult life building and nurturing. I experienced the gamut of feelings and emotions one would anticipate: excitement, sadness, guilt, worry, anxiety, relief, all rolled into one ginormous ball of confusion.

Once the decision was made, though, that’s when the true journey began. In coming columns, I will share the steps I took, the people I spoke with, what my options were, how I got a fair price for my business, what “due diligence” looks like when it’s at home in its slippers, what are some pitfalls to avoid if you are smarter than I was, how I prepared for the actual sale, and finally, how to have a successful transition to a new owner.

Right now, you probably have a fire that needs putting out, so I’ll keep working on the NYT Spelling Bee without rushing like I used to. See you next month.

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