Is It Too Good to Be True

A takeover is probably the last thing you were anticipating when you first considered writing a program. Yet any successful software house is several times more likely to receive a takeover offer out of the blue than it is to float its parent on the stock exchange. If you ever get an offer be courteous and business-like but be very, very guarded.

The offer may come in an unexpected telephone call, be dropped in the course of a social drink or business lunch, or be made by a stranger turning up unannounced at your office. Stand by to repel flattery. Your reactions may give away more than you mean to. Your body or voice may signal that you are desperate to sell at any price. Your proposer, no matter how disinterested he strives to appear, will be watching closely for unconscious signals that will tell him how to act next. It's often prudent to make some excuse to withdraw as soon as you can, if only to collect your thoughts. As soon as you are alone congratulate yourself. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Then wipe the gloat off your face and recognize the offer for what it is: acknowledgment in someone else's eyes that you have succeeded.

Are you going to tell them to get lost (rarely wise), play them along (potentially dangerous), or are you going to display some mild interest? When you've decided, go back in and pick up the conversation. You have a much better chance of displaying the required come-on coldness if you know in advance that takeovers, like dating, have their own rituals. First there's the initial pass. Then there is a line to see if you are likely to be receptive. Then both sides go for a clinch to see if there is any basis for a deal. Next both sides check out the merchandise to ensure that they are really going to get what they want. Finally, there's a short ceremony at which titles and presents are irrevocably exchanged.

The only thing you can be sure of at the start of any negotiation is that your reactions will be reported in every detail to the prospective buyer. The right or wrong conclusions he comes to will frame all his next moves.

Don't pass up the opportunity to open up communications at the highest level with another company. It is the perfect opportunity to make a dummy run. You never know what the future will bring. Do the hi-tech equivalent of putting on a clean shirt. Take pains to make a good impression.

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