“Be prepared to share the details of your business openly and honestly and to answer any questions. Have the numbers and other data ready. Good financials are critical. Don’t try to hide anything because it will come back to bite you,” advises Darlene Lawver to printers who are thinking about or are in the midst of selling their businesses.

Darlene and her husband, Doug, opened their printing franchise in 1993 in Rockville, Maryland, and converted it to the Allegra Marketing Print and Mail brand in 2001. “With each transition, from the original brand called Insty-Prints and finally to Allegra, it’s gotten better each time,” said Doug. “At first we were small without many resources, but when the Allegra Network, LLC acquired Insty-Prints and we converted to an Allegra, we were viewed by our clients and prospects as a next-level-up organization.”

For most of the 26 years owning their own printing business Darlene was responsible for the customer service and administrative functions, human resources, and payroll and accounting. Doug managed the sales side, production and “big picture stuff.”

“About three years ago we started the thought process of exiting the business,” said Doug, “and became serious about a year before putting it up for sale. We worked through the Allegra development department. They were fantastic: communicative, responsive and really good about providing background information on the potential buyers. We really appreciated their support.”

Doug and Darlene had several potential buyers, but ultimately sold the business “to a couple we felt were very much like us—potential replacements as mini me’s,” said Darlene. “They had done their research and were prepared. They knew that we weren’t just selling the business, but we were providing the Allegra franchise model to them, which they wanted. They wanted the marketing support and the branding. They understood there was a purpose to the royalties.”

It took about three months to close the deal, but near the end the SBA caught a clerical error and delayed the signing process for another three weeks. “The new owner had quit his job, and we knew the sale was going to go through, so we invited him to come in and start his training,” said Doug. “It went very well and gave the staff an opportunity to get to know him before handing over the reins.”

After the sale closed, Doug and Darlene remained involved in the business for several months to smooth the transition. “I think the most important thing we did after about two weeks in, was having the new owner lead our morning meetings,” said Darlene. “It gave him a feel for what we were working on, who the customers were and their expectations, and how to manage the staff workload.”

The new owner is now on his own, with his professionally trained staff, the support of the Allegra Home-Office, and a network of franchise members across the country. And, Doug and Darlene are officially retired. Anne Nemer, VP of franchise development, invited the Lawvers to attend this year’s national convention in Grapevine, Texas, to share their succession planning with other Alliance Franchise Brands members. “Darlene loved going to the conventions, being with all the people, and learning new things. We really enjoyed it,” said Doug. “One of the benefits of being a part of Allegra is the many friendships you make. In fact, on our drive home (to the Washington, DC, area), we made three side trips to visit with other Allegra members.”

“Although running a print business is not the easiest thing in the world and the ups and downs can be very challenging,” said Darlene, “we will always fondly remember many people at Home-Office, Performance Group members, facilitators and regional directors who made this journey so enjoyable and fruitful for us.”