Take the money and run

For about 20 minutes yesterday I had some serious qualms about selling the shop. It’s not remorse at the prospect of it. I’ve come to terms with the fact. If anything it was related to the moral dimension of selling the shop to naive purchasers.

Yesterday was the beginning of a trial by a potential buyer. Quite sensibly he asked if his business partner could sit in and watch for a few days to see how things work, and if they measure up to our claims. I gather that if she, the partner, returns with a positive report then it’s thumbs up for a deal. All good then, maybe.

She promptly turned up about an hour into work yesterday and began her thing. Right from the first minute I had misgivings.

I should make it clear my misgivings are nothing to do with what she reports back. Almost the opposite really. In any case after staying for a couple of hours she left expressing delight at the place. She’ll be back today.

My reservation comes in two parts. The first relates to selling the business to people who, while being very pleasant, might be out of their depth. That flows on to the second reservation: what will come of this business I’ve so carefully nurtured?

Ultimately, I know, I can’t worry what will come of the business. When I sell it it’s not mine anymore, move on. I’ll manage that.

What about the first concern then?

The woman who came in yesterday will effectively manage the shop. She’ll be the face of the business, here every day meeting and greeting. She was a very pleasant, but – how shall I put this? – not a good fit for the shop as it is at present.

We have positioned ourselves as the upmarket option in an area of well-educated, upper-middle class professionals. We’ve cultivated an ambience that is warm and embracing, which is one reason we have so many female clients. We’re approaching the spa vibe.

The woman we met has experience working in the massage industry, which is a positive, but in a different environment as she describes. She herself is a bit rough around the edges, and not a natural fit with the area.

Of more concern were some of their plans she let slip. The sensible thing is when taking over a business like this is not to make too many changes too quickly. It’s tempting to put your imprint on things, but in an industry as sensitive as this, and with a business that is trending up you’re much better off letting it run initially.

That doesn’t seem to be her plan.

I think it’s essential that the present staff, upon whom the business is based, should be retained. They’re what make people come back. Critical to that is J, who is the heart and soul of the place. She works tirelessly, and manages rostering and employment. Because she’s Thai she can tap into the Thai sub-culture here, has links to the Thai hubs, and can manage the staff in their own language. I couldn’t possibly manage without her.

In the new world order it seems there’s no place for J. They seem unfussed also about retaining staff. I feel for them a little, but know that they’ll find work easily enough elsewhere (though maybe not in a place they like so much). J get’s the wrong end of the pineapple. Seems like poor reward for all her efforts, though I’ve told her that I would look after her.

In light of all this I have serious doubts that they could make a go of this, and for about 20 minutes it worried me. I’ve already given them the benefit of my experience, and offered to guide them post-sale. For that 20 minutes I felt as if by selling the business to these people I might be selling them into financial catastrophe. I felt responsible for that.

Ultimately that passed. I’m not responsible. When it’s their business they can do what they like. And what do I know? Maybe they’ll prove me wrong and improve the business. I can only do what I’ve done already – given them my honest opinion.

That’s life in the real world. I like the guy looking to buy, but I’m not his keeper. Shit happens, move on.

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