Why optics matter when you sell your business?

When it comes to the value of your business, optics matter. How your business is perceived in the marketplace can drastically affect how your company is valued.  

Let’s look at the story of Kiran Merchant. Merchant was the Chief of Aviation Planning for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey when he was passed over for an $8,000 promotion. The snub was the motivation he needed to start MAv, an aviation consulting business.  

  • How Merchant Made MAv Appear Bigger Than It Was:

To begin, Merchant recruited seven retired aviation experts to work with him on an hourly basis. They were not salaried employees and would only work when required, but Merchant positioned them as part of his senior team in talks with customers, characterizing the MAv team as having 250 years of collective experience.  

Characterizing hourly workers as members of his senior team may have been spin, but it made MAv look much larger than it was in the early days. In other words, optics—the intentional manipulation of how people perceive your company—helped Merchant get his start.  

Optics also helped Merchant get his first acquisition offer. Within two years of starting MAv, Merchant was approached by Aeroport de Paris (ADP), one of the largest aviation companies in the world, about a possible partnership. One thing led to the next, and the partnership talks turned into an acquisition offer from ADP.

As an owner, you’re ready for almost anything. But recent data shows that even the most affluent and successful business owners struggle with one common problem: the regret of how they handled leaving their company 75% of owners regret how they approached their exit.  Only 5% of owners are happy with their exit’s net proceeds.

Are you personally ready for what should be the happiest day of your life? 12 simple questions can prepare you for an Exit with No Regrets


  • How Merchant Got ADP to Increase Their Offer

ADP’s original offer was probably reasonable for an eighteen-month-old consultancy, but Merchant demurred. Instead, he laid out his vision of the future of the aviation infrastructure market as a $105 billion opportunity. He positioned MAv as ADP’s on-ramp to the largest aviation market in the world as well as their combined, unique value-added proposition for the U.S. aviation market. Eventually, ADP increased their offer.

The business hadn’t changed. It was how Merchant positioned the company for ADP—in other words, optics. 

As a condition of its acquisition offer, ADP insisted Merchant get his clients’ agreement not to use the acquisition by ADP as an excuse to nullify their contracts with MAv. Merchant approached his clients and changed an important word in his positioning of the deal: Instead of using the word “acquisition,” which to some meant that Merchant would be riding off into the sunset with his pockets stuffed with cash, he characterized the acquisition as a “merger” for his clients. The word “merger” implies a coming together of two companies to create a great force—a more appealing message to clients that had a lot riding on their contracts with MAv, creating a win–win–win for everyone involved, including MAv clients. 

When building the value of your company in the eyes of a potential acquirer, it’s often the story you weave and the optics you create that sets you apart. It’s about seeing beyond the immediate and painting a vision that others want to be a part of. Let the story of MAv inspire you to redefine the narrative of your business and unlock its true potential.


Find out how you score on the 4 drivers of a satisfying exit and ensure that when the time comes, you can exit your business with no regrets.

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Ashley Brimacombe
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