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Duke Roheln knows how to sell a business.
It's not just because he has started and sold four companies for over $1 billion. That doesn't hurt, of course. What really sets him apart is his approach. It was enough to catch the attention of Forbes, which revealed Roheln's secrets. It's like a recipe for success in three steps.
Then you get the big one.
Step One - Create a Deal
Roheln, a techpreneur, says the merger and acquisition process is "as much art as it is science." It's a lot of work to create a transaction, but it's a creative process. His philosophy is, you don't sell companies. You create relationships between the buyer and seller. He's been there and done that.
"I know when I start a company who the buyer is and why that buyer needs our technology," he said. "I engage with that buyer consistently over the lifespan of our company."
Step Two - Establish Trust
Building trust takes time, of course. Roheln says you have to demonstrate integrity and confidence to earn trust. That means trusting relationships with co-workers, with financial backers, and ultimately with the people who will acquire the company. It is perhaps most important during the courtship. Alejandro Cremades, author of The Art of Startup Fundraising, says it's about optionality. It's like dating more than one person, and being truthful about it.
Step Three - Try Inverted Success
According Cremedes, Roheln has flipped the recipe for a successful business upside down. Instead of starting with an idea, Roheln does it this way:
It's an unusual approach, and requires more than three simple steps. A good general counsel will have to adapt. But that's why building and selling a business is partly an art form, and in the final step can be worth more than even the most expensive art.