When your customers think of your business, what do they think of? It is your products; your service or a person at the company? When they buy from you, do they buy because you have better pricing, product breadth or because they like Mary their account rep?
Buyers worry that the relationships your customers have with the business are really a relationship between Frank in your customer’s purchasing department and Sarah in customer support. If there is a change – if Sarah leaves when the owner does, some of the customers may leave too. Not immediately, Sarah is not that important, but rather over time the customer feels differently, loyalty ebbs and the relationship is ripe for being poached by a competitor. This is especially true when the customer relationship is with you, the owner. That relationship is definitely going to change the day you sell and walk out the door.
Business owners considering a sale should work on making sure that each customer has contact with multiple people in the business, preferably not all members of the owner’s family. While having a primary contact has value, having your customer familiar with many of the team members lessens the importance of one of them leaving the business. This multi-contact approach also forces each member of the team to be more diligent in recording notes, transactions, order and contact data in the corporate records, which also has value to the buyers.