How To Maximise The Success Of Your Business Sale

The Bigger Picture In Selling Your Business

Selling your business is one of the most important transactions of your life – and it’s essential that you get it right.

Whether you’re thinking of selling your business now or in the future, this guide is for you.

When considering the sale of your business you’ll have lots of questions such as:

  • How much is my business worth?
  • Is now the right time to sell?
  • What documents do I need to prepare?
  • What are buyers looking for?
  • How long will it take?
  • What help is available to me?

This guide will answer all these questions and more, to help you maximise the success of your business sale.You deserve financial freedom, and as entrepreneurs and business owners (just like you) we understand just how daunting selling your business can be, which is why we want to help guide you through this complex and challenging journey.

A Step By Step Guide

The idea of selling your business may seem like a daunting task which is why we are here to walk you through the process one step at a time.

By the time you have finished reading this guide you will have

a good understanding of the issues surrounding business sales, how to valuate your business, how to prepare your business for sale, and what help is available along the way.

Understanding how the selling process works and how you can best position your business for the sale is vital to getting the desired outcome. We have been through the process many times before and can guide you past any potential problems as well as giving you some key tips on how to increase the value of your business.

We start by focussing on when to sell your business so that you can be sure that you are selling your business at the right time for you and the business. Then we move onto understanding how to determine the price of your business and what buyers will be looking for.

These sections will allow you to gain an insight into the complexities of valuing a business, and looking at the sale from a buyer’s perspective, both of which are key considerations for you as a business seller.

Once you have gained a better understanding of the background issues of the sale, we move onto the practicalities of preparing your business for sale. This is a systematic review of the different aspects of the sale which you will need to address, ensuring that everything is in order before you put it on the market.

After this we share the best techniques for presenting your business to potential buyers. These two sections can boost the potential value your business by helping to build trust with buyers and improving the overall business proposition.

The last section in the guide is about who can help you with the sale of your business. Getting professional help along the way is essential if you want to maximise the value of your business, avoid common mistakes, and save lots of time and energy along the way. We give you a rundown of who can help and what they can do for you.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

From navigating your way through the business sale process to avoiding common pitfalls along the way, this guide contains expert information that will ensure you end up with the best possible result.

1. How To Know It’s Time to Sell

It is only in our decisions that we are important. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Your business is your baby. 

Taking the plunge and deciding to sell your business is more than just a financial matter, it’s also an emotional decision. The real question is: Are you ready to walk away?

Walking away from your life’s work is a giant leap to make. Determining your readiness comes down to two main factors:

1. Your financial readiness.

2. Your emotional readiness.

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1.1 Your Financial Readiness

Assessing your financial readiness to sell your business is often one of the most overlooked aspects by sellers. When attempting to figure out if now is the right time to sell the key focus should be on whether the money you will receive from the sale will give you the financial means to leave the business.

When you sell your business you will cut off your access to the money which you have been drawing out each year. Ideally, the proceeds from the sale of your business will be able to sufficiently cover your obligations moving forward. This means taking an honest look at your financial needs and understanding whether the sale price will be able to offer you that or at least anything close to it. If the answer is no, then now may not be the time to start selling.

To best assess the financial readiness of selling your business, it’s a good idea to work with a professional that can analyse your entire business portfolio and help to calculate your post sale needs.

If you don’t plan on using the proceeds from your business sale to fund your retirement or wholly sustain your future lifestyle (as you have other avenues to supplement your income and bridge the gap), then you are financially ready to put the wheels into motion and kickstart the process.

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1.2 Your Emotional Readiness

Emotional readiness isn’t something that is given much consideration when it comes to selling your business, but it is something to be viewed seriously.

Are you really ready to walk away from the business that you have dedicated a huge portion of your life to? How will you feel after the transition period when you are no longer involved in the business that was once your baby?

Having a clear idea of exactly how you are going to spend your time after the sale is crucial to understanding whether you are ready to sell or not. Perhaps you have a hobby that you hope to pursue? Maybe you want to make plans to go on holiday with your family? Or it could be you are already hatching an idea for your next big business venture and are eager to get stuck in? Whatever you are planning, being able to describe and envision your post sale life will allow you to gain insight on whether you are emotionally ready to let go.

The motivation behind why you want to sell your business will make the world of difference when the time comes to actually sell. Your motives will serve as an indication to buyers of how you are likely to handle the business negotiations, along with your willingness to help manage the transaction. If you are not emotionally ready to sell, you will keep putting up subconscious roadblocks that will ultimately only waste the time, energy and capital of everyone involved.

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1.3 Be Honest and Upfront With Yourself

One of the most important pieces of advice to heed when selling your business is making sure you are selling for the right reason. Don’t make impulsive decisions in response to a temporary setback.

Peter Shankman, founder of HARO, who sold his prolific web based business in 2010 says

“If you’re having a crappy day, that’s not a reason. If you wake up one morning and don’t love what you’re doing, that’s a reason. If you want to get your company to the next level and don’t have what it takes to do it on your own, that’s a reason.”

Asking yourself these difficult questions before beginning the process of selling your business is essential. Ready or not, you need to be fully aware of your financial and emotional situation so you can pursue the task with confidence and clarity.

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2. Determining the Price

“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.” – Warren Buffet

As with everything in business, determining the correct price point is an essential stage in
the sale. You need to establish a realistic expectation of what you’re looking for, what the market considers a fair price, and other market factors that are affecting the sale price.

Once you have these three things figured out, you’ll be able to pitch your business at the right price to potential buyers, and this will increase your chance of ending up with a sum you’re happy with.

Too many business owners create unrealistic valuations of their business, based on a limited number of facts and figures which they have to hand, plus a perceived value for the blood sweat and tears you’ve put into it over the years, and that’s understandable.

You’ve invested a portion of your life into creating and developing a business, and you want to see a good return on that when you sell it on. The problem with this is that it leads to inflated expectations when you reach the bargaining table.

Getting an independent valuation from an accredited firm is essential if you want to approach the sale in the most effective way. By getting an outside source to conduct a thorough valuation you will be equipped to negotiate the best price for your business, based on facts and not fantasy.

You don’t want to undervalue your business and lose out on potential sale earnings, you don’t want to lose credibility by greatly overvaluing the business, and you don’t want to get caught short by not understanding current market factors.

Go into a negotiation armed with a fair price point which is grounded in statistics, stock, sales figures, and realistic projections, and you’re likely to get a price that you’re happy with. Pick out a dream figure of what you think your years of hard work have been worth and you’re likely to come crashing down to earth with a bang.

“Business owners always think their companies are the greatest in the world”

“Business owners always think their companies are the greatest in the world,” says Rick Rickertsen, managing partner of Pine Creek Partners, a private equity firm based in Washington, D.C. “They feel they are loved in their community and, therefore, they should get a seven multiple. Bear in mind that you have to let math—rather than emotion—drive your price.”

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2.1 Self-Valuations

When you decide it’s time to sell your business, creating a quick self-valuation of the company is a good starting point on which to work on. Tools such as our free valuation calculator enable you to get an estimated price of your business’ worth which can be extremely useful when working out:

  • If the business is potentially worth as much as you imagined
  • What figure you’d be looking to reach with the sale
  • An insight into industry sales figures
  • What you might be able to do to increase the value of your business

It’s important to stress that this type of self-valuation is key step in the process, but should only ever be used as a very basic guide for you to work from. In order to get to a realistic and meaningful asking price, you need to enlist in the services of an independent financial consultant with industry experience in order to get an objective price.

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2.2 Understanding the True Value of Your Business

The task of working out a realistic business value is a complex and sometimes very confusing process. This is why you need expert advice and guidance at this stage.

Whilst it may be easy to conjure up a list of company assets, sales figures, and market trends to give your business a perceived value, a knowledgeable buyer will know what to look for, and if the figures they require are not there, you could be at risk of losing out on the sale, or devaluing the offer.

It works both ways however, and you may be surprised to find that when an external adviser evaluates your business, there are many factors which you hadn’t taken into account which actually increase the value of your business considerably.

These are the main factors which make up a business valuation:
  • Financials
  • Assets
  • Intellectual Property
  • Market Share
  • Brand Reputation
  • Customer and Client Lists
  • Supply Chains
  • Employees
  • Location
  • Scale
  • Current Market Factors

Let’s drill down into each of these sections a little closer so that you can fully understand what it is that we’re talking about.

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2.2.1 Financials

One of the very first things anyone will be interested in is whether your business is turning a profit or not.

If the answer is yes, then they can look at how much, and what the potential return on investment might be. A wise buyer will look into surrounding factors and take into consideration what it is that is making the business model so successful and what impact the sale could have on this.

A business which is making a fortune based on the value its owner brings to the table (usually in smaller businesses where they are directly involved in consultancy, training, or direct client relationships) may suffer greatly when one of its largest assets is no longer a part of the business.

If the answer is no, it does not automatically mean that there is no deal to be made, it simply means that the buyer will need to identify the problem areas and create a bulletproof strategy to turn things around before they are willing to make an investment.

The financials are only a starting point for the overall valuation, as even a business operating at a loss can be worth a lot of money depending on its assets and other key statistics.

2.2.2 Assets

The physical assets a company owns plays a big role in the valuation as these make up a large amount of the financials. A profit and loss account offers a useful insight into the business, but doesn’t give the full picture. If your business owns large amounts of stock, vehicles, premises, and other assets, they hold a value, and this is taken into account in the value of the sale. This is another reason why a business running at a loss can still be sold at a good price.

2.2.3 Intellectual Property

Non-physical assets also hold value when it comes time to sell you business, and depending on your industry and the type of intellectual property you own, this could be worth a huge sum of money. The most obvious forms of intellectual property include patents, trademarks, and inventions, however there are other types of IP which could increase your value such as software, programs, courses, educational documents, media recordings, and just about anything else your business owns the rights to.

This is a complex area to value as intellectual ideas and patents which have yet to be proven profitable, only hold as much value as the current marketplace perceives. There are many determining factors which could cause this to rise or drop and this is something to be mindful of.

Intellectual property issues connected with technology are a good example of this in action. A piece of software may be considered high value at the time of its invention, but due to the lightning quick speed that the industry develops, if this is not sold within a certain timeframe, it will quickly de-value as similar, more advanced software packages are created. If you scare potential buyers off by putting an incredibly high price on the value of IP, you run the risk of losing out in the long run.

Obviously these things can swing both ways, and some forms of IP can become infinitely more valuable over time. A recording studio with unreleased recordings of an artist could increase in value immensely if the artist hits the big time, highlighting the way in which IP has the ability to dramatically rise and drop in its value depending on current market situations.

2.2.4 Market Share

Everyone is fighting for a share of the marketplace, and if you’ve worked hard to control a slice of the action your business value will increase for two main reasons.

Firstly when someone buys your company, they will automatically be gaining your market share, and this is something which is worth a huge amount of time, effort, and money to them.

Secondly, if one of your competitors purchases your business, they will not only be directly gaining your market share, they’ll be eliminating some of their direct competition from the equation, making them a much larger overall stakeholder in the market.

2.2.5 Brand Reputation

Closely tied into the market share, brand reputation is worth a huge amount when it comes to assessing how much your business is worth. If you’ve built an amazing brand which is considered to be innovative, trustworthy, exciting, reliable, and groundbreaking, this can be worth a fair price. Reputation is not something which can be created overnight, and some buyers looking to break into a new market may be especially interested in purchasing an industry-respected brand.

2.2.6 Customer and Client Lists

If you’ve worked hard to build a following of loyal customers and clients, this is worth financial reward when it comes to time to sell your business. If you have a set of figures showing how much repeat traffic and sales you are getting from your customers and clients, what they’re buying, and how often they are spending money with you, this could add a huge amount of value to your offering.

A relatively small business operation with a very dedicated set of customers and clients can sometimes ‘punch above its weight’ when sold as these committed repeat customers are extremely valuable to a business. In just the same way, a law firm which boasts a high-profile client list is worth more to a buyer than a similar sized company with less prestigious affiliates.

2.2.7 Supply Chains

In the same way that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to build a good list of customers and clients for your business, it can be extremely difficult to develop a good supply chain. In some industries, having the right connections and working relationships with key suppliers can be like gold dust. This means that if you have exclusive contracts with suppliers, your business valuation should reflect that.

There are two main reasons that the value of your business can increase dramatically depending on your supply chains. Firstly, exclusive rights to a premium supplier is something which another business owner will need to pay a lot of money to acquire, and secondly, someone looking to break into the industry can cut out a lot of time and effort on trying to establish a reliable and highly valued supply chain by purchasing a business which already has this in place.

2.2.8 Employees

A team of well trained, loyal, hard working, and motivated employees is worth a lot of money. It can take years to assemble a great team of employees, and when you add in the cost of training and development which you’ve spent in getting them to the level they are at now, this is a valuable asset to a potential buyer.

If the core members of staff in your business have been together for a number of years, and are effective at their jobs, the true value of this is difficult to gauge, but it is definitely one aspect which you want to highlight during the negotiation process.

2.2.9 Location

The location of your business will certainly play a role in the valuation. If you own a large office complex in a downtown area of a thriving city, you’re a much better proposition than a business in a dwindling economic zone.

The location of your business could also be a key issue to prospective buyers who are looking to expand to a new region, as your existing presence in the community or district will be an asset to their plans of expansion.

The physical location is not the only issue to consider, but also your location in comparison to other competitive businesses. Depending on your circumstances, this can work for or against you.

2.2.10 Scale

The scalability of your business will affect the potential earnings it has further down the line. If you have created a structure for continued growth and expansion, this might be more attractive for a buyer with big ideas for expansion, as opposed to a business which is limited by its set up and limitations.

Some buyers are not looking for a company with huge growth potential, but for a well organised and profitable business which they can purchase to merge with their existing business. This is a quick and effective way of expanding without necessarily needing to alter the working structure of their current operation. It’s like purchasing another branch or department to their business.

2.2.11 Current Market Factors

The business world is a constantly evolving system in which the value of a business, its assets, reputation, and other variables can change depending on numerous factors. You have to take into account market trends, future predictions, and your current market positioning into account when working out the value of your business to potential buyers.

Many start-up businesses which are deemed to be the next big thing in the industry are sold for a huge amount more than the current business model would ordinarily be worth, and this is because the market factors indicate that it’s a great investment for the future.

You need to decide whether the current market factors are favourable or not for your business. If you are in a declining market position, over-valuing your business could leave you with a difficult time finding any buyers at all.

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3. What Buyers Are looking For?

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. – Henry Ford

The obvious answer to what buyers are looking for when purchasing a new business is one that makes a lot of money, but the real answers may surprise you.

Here are some of the most common factors:

  • Pride of ownership
  • Financial records that make sense
  • Good growth prospects
  • Happy employees
  • Fun to own and operate
  • Well known or popular business
  • Good track record
  • Great location
  • Reasonable price

Yes, a buyer wants to make money, but there is a lot more involved. If you are thinking of selling, seeking professional advice will pay big dividends in terms of finding out what business buyers are really looking for and how you can utilise that to your advantage as you prepare to sell.

Start by talking with a knowledgeable business broker or exit planner. Through consultations with experts, you’ll learn what buyers want and you can work diligently to make sure your business has the hallmarks of a sellable business.”Curtis Kroeker, general manager of BizBuySell.com

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3.1 Three Questions Every Buyer Will Ask

Taking into consideration what questions a buyer will ask to both you and themselves before acquiring your business, will help you to prepare bulletproof answers that might just be the key to making a sale.

3 Questions Every Potential Buyer Will Ask Themselves
  1. Can they build what you have created?
  2. How long would it take and how much money would it cost them to build what you have created?
  3. Why do you want to sell your business?

In this day and age almost anything can be copied. Your business may have a patented product or unique piece of technology, and if so then congratulations, but most companies don’t enjoy such protection. If competitors are willing to put the time, money and dedication into replicating your business they can likely provide you with stiff competition, so why do people look to buy existing businesses rather than simply build their own?

If a buyer wants what you have, and they can purchase your business for less money than it would cost to build it themselves, then you are an attractive target. Time is also a major factor as when a buyer acquires your business they will have instant access to whatever it is that drew them to you in the first place.

The why behind wanting to sell your business is hugely important. In reality if you were asked this question and you answered honestly the response would go something along the lines of “I’m burnt out and need a break” or “I’m worried about the future of the business and industry”.

However true the above may be, nobody wants to buy a business that the owners no longer believe in, which is why it goes without saying that you will need to prepare a much better response that is going to resonate with the buyer if you want to maximise your business sale success.

The best approach is to come at the question with these four key messages in mind:
  • You have built a valuable business
  • You predict a good future for your business
  • You’ve reached a stage where you are ready to create liquidity
  • You’re willing to stay on and help with the transition

There is no need to go deep into why you are ready to cash in, or how long you are willing to stay on, that comes later when negotiating the deal.

When asked why you want to sell, how you respond can be enough to completely undo all your efforts thus far.

Potential acquirers will use this opportunity to look for any sign of weakness. A clear, confident and crisp response can make all the difference.

John Warrillow, author of Built to Sell: Turn Your Business Into One You Can Sell, offers this advice to sellers

“Nail the why question, and you’ll cruise through an important gate on the road to selling your business”.

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4. How To Evaluate Buyers

It’s easy to make good decisions when there are no bad options. – Robert Half

There is nothing worse than wasting weeks of your time on a deal that will never come to fruition, either because the buyer is not serious or they don’t have the funds to complete the purchase. Spending a little time getting to know your potential buyer will help you to avoid any nasty surprises.

“It’s essential to weed out the unqualified buyers when trying to sell your business,” says Mike Handelsman, general manager for BizBuySell.com.

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4.1 Researching Your Buyer

Before you dive into any negotiations you’ll want to make sure you are prepared. Firstly, you’ll need to do your homework and research your buyer. Find out everything you can about them.

The way in which potential buyers respond the the questions you have for them will act as a sign of their enthusiasm and willingness to acquire your business. Those that are open and honest about their intentions are much more likely to be serious about purchasing as opposed to those who are reluctant to reveal their true motives behind the buy.

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4.2 10 Questions to Ask Potential Buyers

The following 10 questions will help you develop a much clearer view of who the buyer is and why they want to acquire your particular business.

1. Full contact information – This may seem obvious, but make sure you have the full name and all accompanying contact information for all parties involved in the deal.

2. Basic history – The buyer won’t be the only one asking questions. Find out where potential buyers have worked previously and what businesses they currently own or have owned in the past.

3. How long have they been looking to buy a business? – Perhaps they have been waiting for the right business to come along, or maybe this is a new idea that they haven’t really given much thought to, either way this question will allow you to understand exactly where they are and how serious they might be.

4. Where are their funds coming from? – This may seem like an awkward question to ask, but you are entitled to know how much cash they have available and where it is coming from.

5. What are their immediate financial needs from your business? – To get an idea of whether your business is able to meet their needs, you need to be aware of what the minimum monthly income requirement will be.

6. What is their timeframe for completion? – If your buyer isn’t serious then this question will be the key as they won’t be able to answer in concrete terms.

7. Why your business? – Just as buyers will want to know why you want to sell, you’ll want to know why they want to buy your particular business. If you aren’t happy with their answer then you probably won’t want to go any further.

8. What expectations do they have for the handover? – Although all these details will be discussed further down the line during the negotiation process, getting a rough outline of what they have in mind enables you to see if you can realistically meet their expectations.

9. What changes do they plan to make? – If they want to drastically change your company you might not be comfortable with this notion. Being clear about any changes they plan to make will help you to see if they are right person to take your business where you would like it to go.

10. Would they be looking to keep existing staff and clients? – This is an extremely important question, especially if you feel uneasy about letting your current staff go.

As well as asking all the questions above, you will also want to dig deeper into whether your potential buyer has ever bought a business before. If they have, then make sure to ask them how much they paid for it, what was the deal structure, and was the process successful. Take a look at their company records and note any directors and key staff in case you want to get in touch with them to serve as a character reference.

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5. How To Prepare for Sale

“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” – Bobby Unser

To ensure a smooth and hitch free sale, it’s essential that you take the time to collect all of the relevant figures, paperwork, legal documentation, contracts and other essential information ready for perspective buyers to look at.

Any serious potential buyer will want to see your accounts and legals, and when you prove that they have been kept in a organised manner and that everything is quick and easy to find, they will have a lot more confidence in what you’re showing them.

Alarm bells will start to ring instantly if people ask to see your documentation and it’s missing or impossible to find in a stack of paper. This looks unprofessional, it brings up questions about how well the business is being run if general office housekeeping is poor. You create a positive perception of your business by being well prepared with the documents detailed below.

Any lack of foresight unfortunately leads to money being left on the table. Ryan Guthrie, Director of the Private Equity Practice, BDO USA, said, “The majority of business owners who sell their business don’t plan ahead in preparation of a sale. In most cases, a lot of things that could have increased the value of the business and decreased the risk for buyers was not done.”

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5.1 What Kind of Documents do You Need?

This list is a guide to some of the most important documents you will need to prepare. You will need to provide supporting documentation to back up any claims you have made to prospective buyers about your business. If you are stating the value of your business based on profit and loss figures, assets, long term contracts and other details, you need to provide paper evidence of them so that they can be verified.

5.1.1 Financials

The first thing anyone is going to want to see are your financial figures including profit and loss accounts from the last three years and up to date balance sheets. This is a basis from which anyone is able to gauge the level you are operating at, how profitable the existing business is, and whether or not there are debts to take on.

5.1.2 Assets

You will need a comprehensive written list of all of the assets which the business owns as this is an important part of the valuation process. These include properties, vehicles, equipment, IT systems and immaterial property.

5.1.3 Contracts

You must be able to provide a complete list of contracts for your suppliers, clients, employees, and contractors. In certain industries these contracts could make up a large portion of the valuation as these contracts form the basis of the entire business, especially when they are long term tie ins and exclusive deals which your business has worked extremely hard to secure.

5.1.4 Key Personnel or Processes

If the success of your business can be attributed to some of the key personnel or systems you have in place, then make sure you explain this to potential buyers. Some companies pride themselves on their groundbreaking work systems and this can be a unique selling point which adds value to your business when it comes time to sell. A company who has an innovative work process and some key personnel working for them can be more valuable to an investor than the figures might suggest.

5.1.5 Information Memorandum

An information memorandum is a comprehensive document which is created to highlight ALL of the vital information required for the sale of your business. This document is to be shown to prospective buyers after they have reviewed a summary sheet and have signed a confidentiality agreement.

Depending on the size of your business, you may need to assemble a small team of managers and executives to oversee the process, covering finance, legal, sales, and personnel. The document needs to be factually accurate, appealing to potential buyers, and without hype and exaggeration. Serious investors will base a huge part of their decision on this document, so make sure it’s clear and concise.

Robert Kibby, section head of the corporate and securities group at Dallas-based Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr Attorneys and Counselors, says

“The buyer is typically going to have a good team to go over your business, so you should, too.”

The more information you can include in the information memorandum the better, as this will give potential buyers a great insight into the business, fill them with confidence about what type of operation they are going to be inheriting, and will also reduce the need for written questions to be submitted to you.

Information Memorandum is effectively a CV for your business and will be your big chance to make a great first impression on investors.

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5.2 What if Some of the Documents are Missing?

Missing documents can play a crucial role in delaying and even collapsing business sales, so its vital that you collect all of your paperwork together at the earliest opportunity. If you discover that you are missing a contract, statement, certificate or other integral document, you must immediately contact the organisation or governing body responsible for issuing and find out what the procedure is, how long it will take, and how much it will cost.

If you deal with the situation swiftly, and you can get written confirmation from the organisation you’re dealing with, potential buyers may still be willing to go ahead with the deal on the premise that your new paperwork will arrive before the final contracts are signed over.

Dylan Shrader, general manager for BizQuest.com, a Los Angeles-based online marketplace for buying and selling businesses, agrees.

“Selling a business successfully boils down to one word: preparationDylan Shrader

“Has the seller done everything possible to prepare the business for sale? Is the business strong financially and showing signs of growth? Does the seller have all the financial documentation ready that will be required in the due diligence process?”

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5.3 How to Present Your Business to Potential Buyers

Valuing your business and preparing all the paperwork, contracts and legal documents, is the necessary groundwork you must complete before trying to sell your business. Once you have everything in place, it’s time to consider how you will present your business to potential clients.

The presentation of your business can be as important as any other aspect of the process, as a passionate and persuasive pitch can add perceived value to your business, whilst on the flip side, an amateur lackluster presentation will leave prospective buyers feeling underwhelmed at the prospect.

Being passionate and persuasive does not mean lying or leaving out uncomfortable truths about the current state of your business, as it’s imperative that you fully disclose all the key information which buyers will need.

Revealing any weaknesses in your business when you first present it to potential clients is always a good idea as it builds trust and transparency, which is what you need if you’re going to secure a deal.

Any serious buyer will dig deep enough to uncover these problems before they purchase, and if you have tried to hide or cover them up, you will instantly lose credibility as buyers will suspect further lies and coverups in the proposal.

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5.4 Protecting Yourself from the Competition

It’s commonplace for some of your major competitors to be interested in the sale of your business, either because they are looking to buy out the competition and expand their reach, or they want to take the opportunity to do a little spying on your business operations.

It can be tricky to determine the true intentions of the interested parties, which is why you need to protect the sensitive information you’ll be making available to buyers.

Sensitive information includes things such as customer and client contracts, financial statements, and other related info which could damage your reputation or future potential earnings if they were to get into the wrong hands.

For example, if word got out that you were in financial difficulty, clients and customers could lose confidence in your business, or if a rival company was to see that your exclusive supplier or client contracts were due to end they could potentially poach the business from you.

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5.5 Screening Potential Buyers

There are a number of different ways of protecting your confidential business details from landing up in the wrong hands, and it’s advisable that you create a strategy for dealing with prospective buyers so that you can screen who gets to see what.

The first stage would be releasing an overview sheet which serves to spike interest in the sale by promoting the basic facts of the sale. This would be available to anyone and everyone who wanted to see it, and is vital for gaining further interest from people.

The next step would be to run a simple questionnaire for those interested in seeing more privileged information. This will allow you to determine the intentions of the interested parties and it will give you an idea of who is a serious potential buyer and who is just fishing around for information on your business operations. Based on this knowledge you can decide who to give access to what information.

The last stage of the screening process would be getting potential buyers to sign a confidentiality agreement before allowing them to access the information memorandum. This is a key part of the process as it ensures that prospective buyers are legally restrained from releasing or sharing any information which you are sharing with them.

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6. The Presentation Process

“I passionately believe that’s it’s not just what you say that counts, it’s also how you say it – that the success of your argument critically depends on your manner of presenting it.” – Alain de Botton

In short, the process of presenting the business for sale usually involves the following:

  • Single page overview detailing main points
  • Information memorandum
  • An open presentation to prospective buyers followed by a question and answers session

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6.1 Single Page Overview

A short, concise document which details the basic outline of your business. This is to draw attention and get people excited about the prospect of buying your business.

The following points may be included:
  • Company name
  • Business sector
  • Unique selling point / market differentiator
  • Year founded
  • Brief description of your company, its values, achievements, market placement etc.
  • Business structure
  • Asking price
  • Anything else you think is important to draw interest

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6.2 Information Memorandum

As previously discussed the information memorandum is a detailed look into your business structure, processes, and finances, and it is a marketing tool as well as an official representation of your business’ current standing.

Here are some of the points which may be included:

  • Financial overview
  • Sales figures
  • Previous three years’ accounts
  • Realistic financial projections
  • Company history
  • Staff members
  • Client types
  • Products and services
  • Market niche
  • Current opportunity and reason for sale
  • Price and terms
  • Certifications and licenses
  • Physical assets and intellectual property
  • Organisational chart
  • New products or services in the pipeline
  • Any other relevant information which buyers would benefit from knowing

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6.3 Open Presentation and Q&A Session

Once you have created your single page company overview and your information memorandum, and you are ready to actually publicise the sale of your business, one of the most effective ways of generating a buzz and sparking interest in it is by hosting a presentation and Q&A session to all interested parties.

The idea is that you can send out open invites to relevant companies, individuals, and brokers, along with the single page overview. Those who are interested in a potential purchase can attend, get a feel for you and your business, and get to take part in a valuable question and answer session.

Try to approach the presentation from the point of view of the potential buyers. Address the main questions that are likely to arise from interested parties to ensure that when it comes time for the Q and A session at the end, you are not inundated with basic questions which you could have answered already. This is your opportunity to put across your passion and enthusiasm for your business and to really make it seem like an attractive offer for potential buyers.

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6.4 Tell Buyers Why You Are Selling

Buyers will want to know the real reason behind the sale as it’s a very important part of the decision making process. Sellers who are evasive on this issue can quickly lose trust and lose the sale. You need to address this issue head on and give a valid explanation as to your reasons, otherwise people will assume you are trying to sell them a failing business.

Some of the most common reasons for sale include owners retiring, wanting to start a new venture, family or health reasons, or burn out. If the reason for sale is not business related, it’s important to let buyers know as this will give them a boost in confidence that there are no hidden problems within the business.

If the reason for sale is due to the fact that the business is struggling because it is short on funding to take it to the next level, struggling to get a foothold the marketplace, or any other number of reasons, it is vital that you are honest about this right from the start.

Any savvy investors will work it out eventually and they will not be so inclined to approach with an open mind if you have been less than honest about the situation. The right buyer might see a great opportunity to inject some new money or ideas into your business to help it succeed.

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7. Who Can Help in the Process

Great advice comes from people that have been around a lot longer than you. – Zac Efron

The prospect of selling your business can be an extremely daunting task to face alone. it can be incredibly time intensive to do everything on your own, especially when you are unsure of the process, how to prioritise, who to speak to, and how to go about it in the most methodical way. This is why it is always advisable to get outside help with the process, even if only for certain tasks.

Business brokers and transfer agents can ease the pressure off you, help to ensure that your time and money are being spent in the most effective way, and prevent you from making costly mistakes in the process.

The scope and scale of the help you take on from professional brokers and agents is entirely dependant on your needs. The question is not whether or not you need professional help, but how much help you need and who are you going to get it from.

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7.1 Business Brokers

Business brokers are experts in marketing and negotiating business sales, and their specialist knowledge can help you to increase the value of your business sale considerably.

Not only do they aid you in getting the best price for your business, they also give you more time and space to continue running your business whilst the sale process is continuing. The last thing you want is to become so consumed by organising the sale that you take your eye off the ball and lose money, clients, or customers during the process.

“A business broker can help you prepare your business for sale, market your business and maintain the confidentiality of your sale,” Shrader says. “A good business broker will know the best avenues to market your business, be it through their personal network, on the Internet or in print.”

Some of the main aspects of the sale that a broker can take care of include:
  • Provide help and guidance on the documentation and paperwork required
  • Advise on any pre-sale action your business should take to improve saleability
  • Advise on business valuation based on experience and current market expertise
  • Take control of the business sale marketing procedure, attracting the right buyers
  • Deal with the initial responses from interested parties, screening appropriate potential buyers for the next stage
  • Aid in keeping your important business information confidential
  • Assist in creating a presentation event (if you decide to have one)
  • Help guide your negotiation process
  • Arrange and attend meetings with potential buyers

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7.2 Transfer Agents

Business transfer agents operate much in the same way as an estate agent whereby they list numerous businesses to a large audience of potential buyers, and do not get involved with the consultation and preparation stages too much. They are ideally suited to smaller business sales where the offering you are putting out there is much more simple and straightforward than for a large corporation.

Some transfer agents operate under a general business scope, whilst others are industry experts and can deliver a more tailored approach and target a highly relevant audience. All transfer agents will be able to assess your needs and aid you in positioning your business in the right way to achieve the highest price, and they can be an invaluable connection between you and a wide range of prospective buyers.

There are two key aspects to the relationship between you and your transfer agent:

  • Their ability to market you in the most effective way
  • Their ability to negotiate you the best deal on the table

Expertise in both of these areas can help to get you the offer that matches your expectations and valuation on your business. You might have an amazing business for sale, but if you cannot get it in front of the right people you could end up with low offers coming in from less than ideal potential buyers.

A good team of transfer agents may be able to increase the potential value of your sale by a considerable amount, as they will understand the best way to approach the sale, the right timing and location to release the sale details, and to present it in a professional and trustworthy way.

Business sale negotiations are not a simple task. Unlike with a house sale, there are many varying factors which affect the price point. A professional transfer agent or broker will be able to steer the negotiation process by introducing information, responding to concerns, and discussing the competition at the right time to ensure you have a very attractive proposition for potential buyers.

These skills can add considerable value to the end price you sell your business for, as it will ensure that the negotiations stay on track and that any resistance or concern over the valuation is met by confident and assured responses.

“The right information is not all the information – it is the best information presented in the most favourable light which can be supported or verified if called into question.”Firm Gains

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8. Why You Should Consider Selling Your Business With Firm Gains?

As experienced business owners and entrepreneurs, we have the knowledge and understanding of what is involved in selling a business. With a wealth of combined business sale experience, we know how to avoid the pitfalls and maximise the sales potential of your business.

Selling a business depends on choosing the right path to sell, as very different businesses need fundamentally different approaches. There is no ‘one size fits all’, despite what most business brokers might tell you.

Affordability (what the business is worth) is another factor in finding the right specialist. As Firm Gains are fully independent of all business sales brokers, you can be confident that we will be introducing you to a broker we believe is the best fit for your business rather than one we have a preferred relationship with.

Find out how we can help you by engaging a business sale specialist.

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