It seems like every week we’re hearing more news about another WordPress company being acquired. Why is this happening at such breakneck speed? Is this a watershed moment, or just the a current trend?
Earlier this year, my company for the last 6+ years was acquired by Liquid Web. We weren’t actively seeking a buyer and the business continued to steadily grow at a respectable pace.
So why sell?
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown
In King Henry IV of the William Shakespeare play, the title character says:
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down! Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
This phrase has come to mean that those charged with major responsibility, such as a business leader, carry a heavy burden that keeps them from ever feeling truly content, relaxed, and worry free.
As business owners, we’ve all felt this way before. My friend Justin puts in plainly:
The truth is, it can be very hard to take your mind off your business. As the captain of the ship, your job is to always be at the helm to help your crew battle the ever-changing tides of support requests, bug reports, all the things Justin mentioned above, and lots more.
It’s all fun in the beginning…
Starting a company is an exciting time. Motivation is high, work gets done, and products get built at a seemingly breakneck speed. Overtime, with a right product-market fit and a good team you start seeing your hard work pay off. Life is good.
Fast forward five years.
You’re now fully entrenched. This business isn’t your career, it’s your life. This is the reality for many business owners. And the outcome? You’re exhausted.
What you don’t realize is that building a successful company can often mean:
- Immense pressure
- Less time with family
- Unfortunate sacrifices
- Intense highs and lows
- Unhealthy coping mechanism
What’s obvious, yet true, is that running a company is hard work and no matter what: it takes a toll on you.
Knowing yourself and your options
Don’t get me wrong, being an entrepreneur can be incredibly rewarding. I’m incredibly proud of what me and my partners have built and still have motivation to continue growing GiveWP well into the future.
Disclaimer aside, before we sold we had been approached by multiple parties over the years to talk about everything from investment to acquisition. We were always be willing to listen, however the time never seemed right.
We always said no. Why? Multiple reasons:
- Our team wasn’t placed as a first priority
- It wasn’t a right fit culturally
- We were still playing the long game
Then something happened I didn’t expect: A Pandemic.
2020: Good for business, bad for mental health
We all had a really tough 2020. For me, it was a trying time mentally. Business-wise, things were great! Just like a lot of software companies, our year-over-year results were very impressive. However, outside of business I wasn’t in a good place.
During the start of the pandemic, like a lot of folks, I coped with the stress largely by working (and drinking). This didn’t help me mentally and I reached a near burnout stage. The numbers stopped mattering, the product didn’t make me happy anymore, and no matter what I found myself leaving the day more frustrated than the previous.
Fast-forward a few months and I realized I couldn’t keep up the status quo. A change was needed, but I wasn’t sure what it was… the first thing I did though was take some time off work to clear my head and de-stress from the pandemic.
I came back from vacation knowing that I had at least a couple of good years ahead of me working with my partner Matt, on GiveWP. He and I work very well together and I’m incredibly thankful for that. However, what happens after that?
That’s when, a few weeks later, we received an inquiry from Liquid Web about talking about opportunities to work together. Eventually, that conversation shifted into talks of acquisition and the everything lined up from there.
I have no regrets about this decision and my mental health has never been better. Now I’m re-motivated in the business and have tons of help that was previously out of reach before.
Changing of the tide
Businesses, just like the world, work in phases. As time progresses motivations change, partnerships evolve, businesses boom and fizzle, and eventually big fish eat little fish.
The reasons to sell vary greatly from business to business. I gave my personal account above, however it’s not that cut and dry.
Many folks sell due to:
- Declining sales
- Cashing out
- Broken partnerships
- … and more.
If you’ve grown a business, first and foremost be proud of yourself. You’re already a success. The future is what you make of it.
Bottomline, selling is a personal decision. Make it wisely.