In 2017, I entered into what would turn out to be the worst business deal of my life. In short, we were trying to merge two companies in order to gain market share, create value for our customers, and increase the valuation of our company.

All very respectable goals.

Unfortunately, for a number of reasons that I am going to list below, the partnership blew up in our faces. It has ended up in a court case that is still going until this very day, but we will talk about that later.

Now, it might sound all doom and gloom, but the truth of it is, I learned a lot from this. For lack of a better word, it’s been a shit show, but I want to share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly, so you can try and avoid doing the same. 

Negotiate like it’s your mom?

The old saying ‘hindsight is 20/20’ is absolutely true. Looking back on this, we made so many mistakes that it is no surprise that the deal fell apart. We had the bulk of our meetings over the phone. There were way too many cooks in the kitchen. We argued over stupid things like names and titles. We went tit-for-tat over equity distribution, and no one on either side of the deal seemed to be the final decision maker.

All of this created a really toxic environment for both parties from the outset.


The main things I took away from this were:

Relationships are EVERYTHING 

It was clear from the beginning that we were two VERY different companies, from the way we looked and spoke to the way we ran our businesses. We had expectations about ourselves and each other, and in the beginning that was part of why we wanted to do the deal. Their back office and admin were stronger than ours, while our operations, marketing, and tech systems were better than theirs. It should have been a match made in heaven… but it was far from that.

Lessons

Don’t start until you are FINISHED! 

Without a doubt, the single biggest mistake we made when doing this deal was charging forward at 1,000mph before the contract was even signed. I know this sounds f**cking crazy, and looking back on it, it was, but we all got caught up in the heat of the moment. The excitement and the possibilities created unintended consequences for both sides before we even began. Now you might be asking yourself, “What does Edmund mean?” well let me explain to you in plain English how ridiculously, incredibly, dare I say recklessly stupid we all were: 

Even to this day, I look back on this and wonder how three reasonably intelligent people on our side of the deal ever allowed this to happen… but I can’t change the past.


Lessons:

It won’t always be nice, so plan for it

Things won’t always be unicorns and rainbows. There will be disagreements, and it’s best to decide the arena, format, and process for settling such disputes when you are not in a disagreement. Also, just putting yourself in this mindset will have you both negotiating and thinking about what happens during disagreements. It will give you a bit of insight into what life in the future might look like when there’s a disagreement with your partner. Here are a few things to plan for:

End it Nicely

If your deal does start to fall apart and you decide it’s time to call it quits END IT NICELY. If you have already gotten to the point where things aren’t working, the worst thing you can do is make it worse. Keep the BIG PICTURE in mind and don’t get caught up in positional arguing and winning little battles when there is a much greater war ahead of you. Further, if the relationship has gotten to the point where communication is damaged and every conversation turns into an argument, HIRE A MEDIATOR. You DO NOT want to go to court, trust me. No matter how right you think you are, the way the judge and lawyers see it is often very different, and it’s very rarely a matter of right and wrong. Courts aren’t designed to solve moral and ethical dilemmas. They are designed to enforce contracts and award financial damages for breaches of them.


My Advice:

But what we always kept in mind was:

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