David Tyldesley and Mark Stephenson, co-founders of Cube Business Media

David Tyldesley and Mark Stephenson, co-founders of Cube Business Media

You’ve spent years and shed sweat and tears building up your business, but now it’s time to either sell the business or transition away from it.

How to pull it off?

It’s one of the biggest issues facing entrepreneurs but the process can be riddled with potholes and pitfalls, not to mention emotions.

Help is on the way in the form of the Business Transitions Forum, an exclusive two-day conference at Vancouver’s Westin Bayshore Nov. 25-26.

The new conference is a single destination where business owners can tap into expertise, demystify the selling and transition process, and obtain an edge on getting the right price, said organizer Mark Stephenson.

There will also be legal and taxation experts speaking as well as wealth managers specializing in business transitions.

“It’s an opportunity to educate yourself and meet the right people who can help you get to the right stage when you’re ready to sell your business,” Stephenson said. “Whether you’re planning to sell your business in a year or a decade, you need to know what your options are years in advance.”

It’s an exclusive event – there’s free valet parking – with plenty of industry heavyweights and experts to provide perspective.

Related: 10 Must-Dos to Facilitate a Strong Business Transition

Demographics is one reason the issue has come to the fore. The baby boom generation is hitting retirement age and eyeing life beyond work, whether that means relaxing, travel, spending time with the grandchildren – or just cutting back from 80 hours a week to 30.

Managing emotions is a key component of business transitions.

“There’s a whole bunch of emotional stuff that comes into play when you’re selling your business,” Stephenson said.

He should know – the 48-year-old has co-founded and sold two conference and trade show businesses.

Firsthand experiences early in his career helped shape Stephenson’s perspective on business transitions and taught valuable lessons on strategy and negotiation. As a 24-year-old, the Simon Fraser University grad was working for a large company running a computer trade show in Vancouver when conference giant COMDEX came calling.

“They said, ‘Let’s have a discussion about you selling your show to us or we’re just going to steamroll you.’ ”

Stephenson was at the table as the executive team brainstormed the situation, and eventually decided to sell. A similar group with a Toronto show went head-to-head with COMDEX and didn’t last a year.

“Toronto blinked, we didn’t,” he said. “Following the gut of what was the right thing to do, and that was ultimately to sell.

“That gave me the taste of understanding the selling process that ultimately led to us selling a bigger business that I was a partner in.”

That business was Canadian Real Estate Forums and the Buildex events, which focused on organizing real estate conferences and trade shows. He and his partners sold it to Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. (MMPI) – a large U.S. public company – in late 2006 for more than $20 million.

MMPI’s parent company was Vornado REIT, which was headed by Robert Kennedy’s son Chris Kennedy. The timing was right: MMPI owned some elite properties in the U.S. and was looking for a Canadian footprint at a time when Canada’s economy was booming.

“We worked hard, played hard, loved the business, learned a lot, grew a great business that ultimately we sold to the big American public company.”

Stephenson then joined MMPI Canada as a vice-president and was on the senior executive team when MMPI Canada’s exclusive event portfolio was sold again, this time to global industry leader Informa, in 2012.

Stephenson stayed with Informa Canada until August, when he launched Cube Business Media Inc. with a partner, David Tyldesley. Cube Business Media is the organizer of the Business Transitions Forum, which is also organizing events in Calgary and Toronto.

The Business Transition Forum on November 25/26 is designed for serious business owners and their advisors. To keep the event exclusive, tickets range from $500-1600 for admission to the one- or two-day program. CEO.CA subscribers can get 20% off using the promo code CEO20 before Oct. 28.

We hope to see many of you at the http://businesstransitionsforum.com