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Key success factors for business owners

Thierry Lamarque


Doctor DBA, Business Science Institute

(DBA thesis supervised by Pr. Deschamps)



The purchase of a company involves several phases that are important to know in order to successfully complete the negotiations. Buyers and sellers have various strategies where emotions have their place, without forgetting the major role of the buyer's advisor during this process.

Impact(s) of the research

Our recommendations are aimed at high-level managers who wish to leave the workforce for entrepreneurship, by successfully leading an SME acquisition project. In order to do so, our work opens the "black box" of seller-takeover negotiations, and allows them to

  • To identify the five phases that articulate this particular negotiation process,

  • To highlight three sub-processes at work during the exchanges between the protagonists,

  • To bring out the emotions and strategies that drive the buyers and sellers,

  • To observe in an ecosystemic way the setting up of five negotiation tables around the transfer-acquisition project,

  • To understand the ten key factors of success of these complex negotiations.

In addition, our research highlights the role of the experts mandated by the buyer, and defines in an unprecedented way the major role of the buyer's advisor during SME acquisition projects.

Foundations of the research

Our research topic is part of the disciplinary field of entrepreneurship, in a context of takeover.

More precisely, our work concerns negotiations during external transfers of unlisted SMEs, generally with a turnover between 1 and 10 M€. These operations bring face to face individual buyers, former high level executives, and owner managers, often founders of their company.

This thesis calls upon the game theory of Von Neumann and Morgenstern (1944), which constitutes a founding model in the field of negotiations through a scientific analysis of the interactions between the actors. The mobilized literature is related to the works on negotiation as a strategy of the actors, its process and the emotions met by the actors.


Our methodological approach is qualitative. It is based on semi-structured interviews with ten individual buyers who have been involved in external business transfer negotiations for less than two years. We proceeded to triangulate the points of view of the actors in the negotiations by meeting with the members of the buyers' coalition: accountant, lawyer, buyer's counsel. Finally, we recorded in a negotiation diary the notes relating to the participant observation of 35 business transfer negotiations. All of this material was coded using the SPHINXTM iQ 2 statistical analysis tool, and a content and lexical analysis was performed.

The professors' opinion

Prof. Helfer said that he was seduced by the thesis and that he was very satisfied to find many elements that are very present in real cases of recovery. The model provides managerial implications that will be very useful in practice. Many of the analyses in the thesis can be fruitfully generalized (Prof. Helfer, chairman of the jury)

This is probably an exemplary DBA thesis: a perfect illustration of the capitalization of the professional experience of an expert offering an academic perspective (Pr. Boissin, rapporteur)

To go further

  • "Roles of the buyer's counsel in the negotiation of an external transfer of an SME", article co-authored with Bérangère Deschamps in the Revue française de gestion (January 2020).

  • " Les émotions du repreneur lors des négociations de transfert externe d'entreprise ", article co-authored with Bérangère Deschamps in the journal Finance Contrôle Stratégie (September 2020).

  • Deschamps, B. & Lamarque, T. (2021). The strategy of the buyer during the negotiation of an external takeover of a company. Management international-Mi, 25(special), 228-240.

  • Reprendre une entreprise, book co-authored with Martine Story, Editions Maxima, 2018.

  • Reprise d'entreprise - Tout pour réussir votre négociation, book co-authored with Martine Story Editions Maxima, 2013.

Article translated from French with


See also...

The interview of Bérangère Deschamps & Thierry Lamarque, on Xerfi Canal and The Conversation France.

Altheo's website


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