How do I know this? It happened when I sold my company TriNet. Sure, constant miracles guided my hand throughout the nearly four year life of TriNet (and my entire life for that matter) so of course I knew I wouldn’t be deserted, but haven’t you ever just sometimes forgotten who is driving the ship? I would love to tell you about the wonder of surviving a predatory lawsuit or how my marriage was saved when I had to confront my husband with, “you can be my colleague OR my husband, not both.” But the title says, “God is a CPA” so I’d better stick to that.
I was nine months pregnant with our third child who was due at Thanksgiving. That November I was approached by an investment banker named Bill asking if I wanted to buy a 20 year old competitor with revenues 7 times ours. “The deal must close by December 31st” he states matter-of-factly. At my company, we could barely make payroll, sales were sluggish, profits non-existent, and mountains of debt from the lawsuit still lingered. Imagine my shock when out of my mouth came, “Sure!” And it wasn’t just a slip of the tongue. I put a bid together, lined up investors, and prepared a strategic plan. At home, my 5 and 3 year olds were expecting Christmas carols, cookies, Santa---the works. Somewhere in the middle of all this (December 1st at 7:42 a.m. to be exact) I gave birth.
No, it wasn’t logic or overzealousness fueling the bid. It was faith. I have always loved the passage that all things are possible through faith. It is not a mandate to over busy my life, quite the opposite. I realize that if I feel overwhelmed and can’t “be still,” something I am doing is not meant to be. Out it goes. One might imagine “overwhelmed” would have defined that holiday season. But in reality it was an incredibly blessed time with my husband, three children and extended family.
The business plan came together with ease. TriNet had everything the seller did not (brand recognition, experienced team, extensive marketing, and rapid growth). They had profit. And with their marketing machine virtually turned off, the profit flowed in at nearly ninety percent. The strategic fit was impeccable. Combining the two companies would translate into growth. But I told you I SOLD my company, not that I BOUGHT one. I lost the bid.
An overseas firm entered and out bid all three contenders by nearly double. And guess what they needed to make their investment grow? You got it: TriNet! Within a month, Bill called again inquiring whether I would sell.
Do you love it? How often have you been led down an absurd path to find the miracle solution at its end? Buying a company when the one I have can barely survive = absurd. Selling a company with an infant and two other children 5 and under = miracle solution. Often we follow along blindly. Other times, we get a glimpse that we are on a path. Standing in the preschool parking lot I received just such a glimpse. On a Thursday morning Bill lobs out a price. Quickly and quietly my husband and I ran plenty of numbers while dreams of decreasing debt danced in our heads. Naturally, the numbers changed a dozen times from that first estimate. But even back then, we had a target for our tithe. For years we had talked about giving to our children’s pre-school. This house of love held our family together as we battled mental illness, financial devastation, and typical stresses leading us into two marital separations. Return to the parking lot. That same Thursday afternoon a school board member whispers to me the decision that the school will close. “Close”… The word twisted like a sword wrenching my heart yet floating in circles around my head. She provided a long list of reasons but it sounded like Charlie Brown’s school teacher saying, “ “wa wha wha….” Then I heard, “budget shortfall…” and she gave THE same number that was sitting in my spreadsheet column entitled “tithe.”
Negotiations, contracts, and due diligence begin a sleepless six week rally between 1 of me and 8 of their legal, accounting, and corporate team. Bill navigates each step. I continue to toil with tax implications and investor return but generally things are positive. Emotionally, I struggled with letting go of my “baby” company while being thankful for the real baby nursing in my arms every few hours.
Then the deal hit a wall. Buyer wants hold back money in escrow decreasing the first year payoff substantially. How will the investors approve the sale with this new wrinkle? Even Bill worried it was a deal killer. Why was I led so far down a path to a dead end? I worried, I prayed, I thought of the school. I jump out of bed. It is 3 a.m. yet I want to research tax implications of escrowed money, so down to the computer I trot. Wouldn’t you know it? The buyer’s requirement is the ANSWER to my tax and investor return issues! Holding back money in escrow allows us to defer large tax bill until the final payoff in subsequent years. Thus, investors get their return immediately. To Bill, I explain, “You know I am not smart enough to have figured that on my own, it had to be God.” He could only agree.
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