Several years ago, I became a certified mediator with the County of Santa Clara. As a volunteer mediator, I was enlisted to mediate disputes between neighbors – commonly known between mediators as “barking dog disputes.”  This term came about because, while the neighbors might be disputing the proverbial barking dog, there were almost always underlying issues between the neighbors which evolved over years – and the mundane issue of the barking dog was simply the last straw resulting in a mediation.

Déjà vu

As a certified business broker, it’s common to see barking dog disputes between Sellers and Buyers.  However, in a business sale transaction, the barking dog might be disguised as a last minute inventory adjustment request by the Buyer; or a nominal decrease in purchase price resulting from an unforeseen rent increase to the Buyer.

Often times, a Seller becomes inflexible on last minute, nominal fluctuations to the deal.  Emotions and feelings are often behind the 11th hour psychological roadblocks that Sellers erect.  In cases like this, a simple $200 unforeseen expense can potentially put a significant deal at risk – simply because the Seller has reached an emotional saturation point.  The $200 expense is the barking dog; but peeling back the onion would reveal layers of issues, post-closing anxiety, and emotional detachment.

The core of the Onion

When mediating barking dog disputes, neighbors almost always resolve their dispute about the dog. In fact, they learn that the dispute was never about the dog in the first place.  The issues often arise from a single-minded perspective, and the inability to assess a situation from the vantage point of the other party.  Once neighbors understand one another’s deeper concerns below the surface, the barking dog magically transforms into a friendly neighborhood pet.

Even the most level-headed and rational Sellers are easily consumed by the stress and emotions which are inherent in the final weeks leading up to the close of a transaction. For this reason, it’s important to check your emotions at the door; understand that the process of selling a business requires some deep internal introspection to make sure your knee-jerk reaction does not negatively impact a deal.  In addition, it’s important to keep in mind the perspective of the other party, and approach issues on the path to closing with the spirit of compromise in mind.

Mind over Matter

Finally, it’s important to note that, in most deals, Buyers and Sellers will need to work together for some amount of time after the deal is closed. It’s critically important to emerge on the other side of the transaction with a conciliatory relationship with the Buyer. For this reason, it’s helpful to evaluate whether to fight that incidental last-minute expense, as compared to establishing a positive rapport with the Buyer.

A qualified business broker can help to peel back complex layers of the onion, and to identify and resolve the underlying issues which lie beyond the proverbial barking dog.

Jordan Zweigoron is a Senior Advisor with Sunbelt Business Brokers. He can be reached at (408) 436-1900 or at [email protected]. Or connect with Jordan on LinkedIn.

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