Kansas City-based Merrigan & Co. recently went through a process that is inevitable for many successful companies: It got new ownership.

Bob Merrigan, who founded the marketing company in 1990, sold it to two longtime employees, Merritt Engel and Monica Tiffany, who set up a 50-50 partnership structure. Merrigan agreed to an employment contract, allowing him to continue managing longtime accounts and serving as a mentor to the new owners for several years.

Like most businesses sales, the deal was designed to fit the players’ personalities and goals. Engel and Tiffany shared a few lessons they learned through the process, which played out over a period of about five years.

Seek advice and counsel

They sought out a wide variety of advice from many different peers.

“We heard lots of views on everything,” Engel said. “What we learned is that we had to take all of that information and apply it to our own situation.”

A mentor from the SCORE Association also helped keep them on track.

“We found people we trusted and who had experience,” Tiffany said. “So by the time it got real, we already felt like we knew what we were doing. We were coming from a foundation of knowledge.”

Separate friendship from business

Engel, Tiffany and Merrigan are not only business associates, but they consider themselves close friends. That said, it was still important to have attorneys involved to protect everyone.

“Being such good friends, we knew that there would be moments where it could get really weird if we didn’t have some type of separation of church and state,” Tiffany said. “If there is a lesson, it’s to know when you’re entering those spots and then leave the nest to find someone else to help.”