People – The Most Overlooked Asset of a Privately Held Company

Sep 7, 2021

Yesterday, the United States operated at reduced capacity in observation of the federal Labor Day holiday.  Unfortunately, this important holiday does not receive the national recognition it deserves in terms of importance. It is a holiday that should feature public speeches and events, assemblies in schools, and documentaries and programs on television. In my opinion, Labor Day recognizes the backbone of America, its talented, hardworking, innovative work force drawn from the most diverse demographic group in the world encompassing people of all ethnic heritages, national origins, religions, ages from 16 – 75, and sexual orientations.  No nation in close proximity in population size in the world offers the opportunities for professional development, financial achievement, and personal fulfillment available in the United States to those wanting to work.

A couple of metrics supporting this statement include the fact that Median Annual Income in the United States is presently $65,760, a figure that only trails Norway, $82,500, and Luxembourg, $73,910, in the world (  From a numbers perspective the population served with economic opportunity in Norway is 5,470,581 and Luxembourg is 637,785, citizen groups that significantly dwarf the number of people supported in the United States, a country with a population of 333,222,763.  A second interesting metric is the achievement of women in a nation.  17 of the richest women in the world live the United States (Mapped: Who Are The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021? (  Strong evidence that the ladder of opportunity exists for hard working, talented people of both genders in America.  A final figure for consideration is the percentage of children ages seven to fourteen who need to work to help support their families.  My research was not able to find a tracked percentage for America conveying by its omission that our children are rightfully provided an opportunity to mentally & socially develop well past the age of fourteen without the pressure of contributing to putting food on the table for their families. The following is a list of the top 99 countries where child labor is a significant component of the work force in the nation.    Countries ranked by Children in employment, total (% of children ages 7-14) (

Acknowledging that we have one of the best trained, educated, working populations in the world with a reputation for work ethic, intelligence, and innovation exceeding virtually every other country in the world it is easy to see why as a mergers & acquisitions intermediary I identify company staffs as the most overlooked asset in most companies.  Any company can lease space and buy equipment and inventory, but it takes ability to manufacture, distribute, market, sell, account, and manage. Retention of this talent in a business sale transaction is a fundamental component to a smooth transition of ownership and the foundation to successor success.

Many strategies exist in terms of when to announce a business sale to the employees and how to create an environment for their retention.  An experienced business broker with many successful transactions under their belt can serve as a trusted guide and resource through this stressful and important process.  I often say, “there is no slavery in America”, so there is no way to force an employee to stay when a business is sold.  Instead, a picture needs to be painted collaboratively of stability, appreciation, and opportunity by the buyer and seller which results in trust and confidence in the vision created for a smooth transfer of ownership.

If you are interested in discussing the strategies IBA has developed for entrepreneurs selling privately held companies and family businesses for smoothly transitioning staff in a business sale, we would welcome the opportunity to share them with you.  Telling valued employees that a business is going on the market or selling can be one of the most difficult conversations of an entrepreneur’s life.  However, it is often not detrimental to company value, if a strong, positive corporate culture has been built.  Employees commonly know before ownership that it is time for a founder to retire or that executive leadership needs to change in the best interest of the company.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Labor Day, the following is a good introductory article,, as a boy who grew up in Oregon, it is a proud element of the state’s history to me that Oregon was the first state to officially designate a holiday for working people.  A state government action that occurred in 1887, seven years before the United States did it on a federal level.  Another example from our nation’s history of leadership coming first from the states before Congress took action in Washington DC in our federalist form of government.  I also encourage anyone who has not seen it to watch Sally Field’s Academy Award winning performance in Norma Rae, a movie that shows how far we have come as a nation in terms of employee treatment  (  For my team at IBA, thank you for your effort, integrity, and skill.  I appreciate and value each and every one of you very much.  I hope you focused on family, friends, and the activities you enjoy yesterday.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, and mergers & acquisitions community on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.