Tom Metz, MBA 79

Founder, T.V. Metz & Co.

Tom Metz’s forte is helping to sell technology and service
companies at the highest price for their owners. His challenge: The companies’ values cannot be calculated by analyzing financial statements.

“I sell companies where the value is strategic — based on their technology, products, and customers,” says Metz, MBA 79, who founded his own merchant banking firm, T.V. Metz & Co., in 1983. “It’s not a function of the earnings.”

He likens his work to a high-stakes poker game. “The key skill that I employ is reading people. How badly do they need this technology? Are they low-balling us? What are their alternatives? Will they walk away if we ask for another $1 million?”

Learning how to “read” people is just one of the skills Metz has mastered since going into business for himself with two credit cards and a determination to be his own boss. Based in Seattle, Metz has worked with clients as far away as Paris and Australia on deals ranging from $3 million to $30 million. In 2008, he published his first book — Selling the Intangible Company: How to Negotiate and Capture the Value of a Growth Firm (Wiley) — for CEOs and entrepreneurs.

Before starting his own business, Metz sold computers for IBM, was a financial analyst with the DeLorean Motor Co., and raised capital for a small investment bank — all of which taught him that he was tired of working for other people. “That’s the heart of an entrepreneur,” Metz says. “They just do not want to work for anybody else.”

Working for yourself can be challenging, though. Metz closed his first deal within six months of starting his business, then waited more than two years before closing his second one. “It takes some strength of character to cope with the risk and uncertainty,” says Metz, who now typically helps sell two to three companies per year.

In his free time, Metz learned to fly and owns a four-seat Cessna. Flying offers Metz the same reward as being his own boss, he says. “I like the freedom.”

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