James sat across from me and told me that for the past year he had been working with a business broker to sell his business with little success. He wanted to get out of the business that he had built and run for the past 20 years. His partner in the business had died and had left him with a business that he no longer had the passion to run. “Dave” he said, “what can I do to move on with my life?”
James’s dilemma is typical of business owners who have matured beyond their businesses. While the business may have lots of life still in it, the owner doesn’t want to spend his remaining days tied to the business. James and I discussed the fact that buyers of businesses are looking for the following.
a. A Business that is Profitable
b. A Business that does not rely on the owner of the business for all day-to-day operations.
c. A Business that relies on systems and has operational processes that are documented.
d. A Business that has recurring revenue.
e. A Business that has growth potential.
f. A Business with multiple revenue streams
The great news was that James’s business had many of these things in place. He had a management team that was not always reliant on him, the business was profitable, he had operations manual, great relationships with his clients and multiple revenue streams.
We talked about the 7 different ways James could exit his business:
Liquidate: James could liquidate his business and sell the assets and shut down the operations.
Family Succession: One of the popular ways for owners to get out of their business is to sell it to the next generation. Unfortunately, the success rate of these business transactions is not as high as one might think.
Merge with a Competitor: One of the options that James was thinking about was merging with a competitor. While this had some value, there is the risk that the competitor will just use this as an opportunity to gain insight into the strategies of the business without buying the business.
Sell to Employees: Selling to Employees or the management team can be a great way to exit your business especially if the management team has the capacity to buy the business and run it successfully without the owner’s involvement.
Sell to an investor: There are many investors who are looking for profitable businesses that can be run remotely. If this is the case with your business, you might have a great exit strategy.
Sell to a Strategic Buyer: Like selling to competitors there are often business owners who are looking to buy a business to expand their sales or have access to talent. If your business might be a good addition to other businesses, you could have a greater success in selling.
Private Equity Firms: If your business is making over $1M a year in net profits, there is a chance that you can sell to a private equity firm. These companies look for businesses that will generate them a significant return on their investment.
Selling a business can be difficult. While James had a business broker involved in his business sale. The broker had not put much effort into marketing the business and as a result almost a year later James had no prospective buyers.
Preparation and Marketing are key to selling any business. A good business realtor or broker will spend days not hours in preparation of the marketing materials and researching the valuation. Unfortunately, there are some agents who believe they have done their job in simply getting the listing. Selling a business is complex and challenging. There are many factors to be aware of including.
A. Confidentiality level - In many cases the business owners do not want their customers or most of their staff to know that the business is for sale. In other - cases some owners are happy that their business is up for sale on MLS because they want maximum exposure.
B. Timelines - When does your business need to be sold by. If it is urgent there are going to need to be a much more aggressive marketing processes implemented. Everyone wants to sell their business quickly however the timeline to sell a business is typically 9-12 months after all the due diligence and buyer investigations.
C. Preparedness of the business owner. Getting your business in order can take time.
Buyers will want to drill down in your financial statements. If these are not current, there will be challenges. If your business is not as profitable as it could be your valuation is affected. Having an operation manual and processes documented for all aspects of the business speed up the process and add value to your business.
After James fired his business broker, we took on the selling process and put multiple potential buyers in front of James within a few months. Within 6 Months, James sold the business and walked away with more money than he thought possible. While this happy ending is not always the case, it worked out for James.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is a Business/ Commercial Realtor with Team PowerHouse Realty. Dave is also an Award Winning Business Coach and the Author or the book Profit Yourself Healthy. If you are looking to sell your business and would like to find out if we would be a good fit for your exit strategy. Please reach out for a confidential consultation. Dave Fuller, 250-617-7467 or email firstname.lastname@example.org