Psychological barriers in business transfer

Business meeting

Besides a number of practical issues, a business owner who is selling his company will encounter a number of psychological challenges too. A fear of letting go, difficult decisions and a lack of confidence may stand in the way of the successful transfer of the company.


This research sheds light on the psychological factors involved when transferring ownership of an SME.

Not all ownership transfers are successful. Is this because of the emotional attachment that owners have to their businesses? How do business owners cope with the stress and fear they experience during the acquisition process? We sought to gain answers to these questions by studying a number of business owners who were selling their businesses in the Netherlands.


We found that the owners studied were experiencing a number of psychological barriers:

  • A fear of emptiness;
  • Difficulty letting go;
  • Having to choose which children were to take over the company;
  • A lack of confidence in the successor, combined with an underestimation of the acquisition process;
  • Transferring leadership and taking a step back.

We also saw that business owners respond quite passively to the stress that they experience. It was also striking that psychological barriers seemed to influence the expectation that owners had of the sale price.

Read the dissertation online


01 September 2011 - 01 December 2017


It is difficult to reach the group of business owners who are in the process of a business transfer. Given this fact, we worked with the Chamber of Commerce, retail trade associations, acquisition advisers and SME owners. We monitored and described a number of business acquisitions. We also conducted quantitative research on 1,900 business owners and organised in-depth interviews with 15 business owners.

HU researchers involved in the research

  • Edwin Weesie | Researcher | Financial-Economic Advice in Innovation
    Edwin Weesie
    • Teacher-researcher
    • Research groups: Financial-Economic Advice in Innovation

Collaboration with knowledge partners

We worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce too.

Would you like to collaborate or do you have any questions?

Edwin Weesie | Researcher | Financial-Economic Advice in Innovation

Edwin Weesie

  • Teacher-researcher
  • Research group: Financial-Economic Advice in Innovation