How to Begin Preparing Your Business For Sale
8 Steps to Selling Your Business
Selling your business is a once-in-a-lifetime event (for most, at least). Given the signifcance of this event and its lasting impact, it’s alarming how little time and effort many business owners spend on preparing the business for sale. Yes, buyers will want to know a lot about the business’ fnancial health with a focus on improvements that should be a top priority. But there are other factors and attributes that should be ‘polished’ up as well to obtain maximum value from your sale.
We know it can be hard to focus on these things when you’re also trying to keep the business running, all while maintaining confdentiality. This whitepaper will introduce you to the initial areas you should evaluate when preparing your business for sale, giving you a roadmap to get started. It is NOT an exhaustive list – it is a getting-started list.
Preparing Your Business For Sale
The Step by Step Process of Selling a Business in Florida
By FLORIDA BUSINESS BROKER | Published: DECEMBER 31, 2013
Florida business brokers are invaluable in guiding one through the following elements of the sale
Step 1: Know What You Want
Do you want to retire completely or continue to have a hand or profit in the business?
Do you want to move or stay where you live? Many people are not clear on even these basic goals. A Business Broker can help you refine these goals and the ways to achieve them.
Step 2: Know What You Are Offering and Why You Are Selling
Is the business growing or declining? Is the competition getting tougher? Are the facilities and equipment in good working order or are they approaching the end of their useful commercial lives. Does the business need an infusion of capital to be profitable? Are most of your customers there just because of you or will they remain with the new owner? Are you tired of the challenge or are you ready to embrace a new chapter in life? Professional business brokers know how to express each of these circumstances to your greatest benefit.
Step 3: Your Records Must Be Orderly, Understandable And Accurate
If you are trying to sell your business, you have a duty to provide honest information to your potential buyer. You make the job of your business brokers and the sale of your business easier if your financials, net worth statements, contracts, employment procedures, etc. are organized in such a way that the reviewer can discern clear information without having to conduct overly consuming research. Your professional may choose to reorganize your information to your greatest benefit. Easily discernible records vastly assist in this process.
Step 4: Price and Marketing
The biggest concern of the business seller will always be, “How much can I get?” and “How and to whom should I try to sell?” Business Brokers are the experts in these areas. They work for you. Their job is to maximize what you get out of the deal and to let you know, if you have unreasonable expectations. They know where to look for customers, how to package your deal and how to advertise. Public knowledge of a pending sale will hurt the business and the chances for a successful sale.
Step 5: Legal & Tax Housekeeping
Your goal is to eliminate, or at least minimize, red fags associated with your business. Buyers will be immediately scared off if it’s apparent that the house just isn’t in order.
Follow this checklist to see which areas are good, and which need your attention..
- Ownership documents should be current and accurate.
- Have accountant evaluate if your current legal structure is optimal for the sale of your business.
- Make sure you have clear title to any major assets you intend to sell.
- Patents or licenses should be held by the business; check on the expiration dates.
- Correct any business licensing, regulation or compliance violations to the best extent possible.
- Get current on all taxes.
- Collect debts owed to you.
- Ensure building leases are current and assignable, and extend out at least
- 5 years. Resolve any outstanding lawsuits to the extent possible.
After addressing/correcting those that you can, the next step is outlining a strategy for how to present any remaining factors to potential buyers. Issues should be fully disclosed, but there may be opportunities to show buyers how corrective strategies or other resolution solutions have been deployed. For example, if you do have liens that cannot be paid off in advance, outline how they will be paid off through escrow at closing.
Step 6: Boost the Bottom Line
The stronger the business’ bottom line, the more you can ask for it. There are really only two ways to improve the bottom line of a business in the short run: raise prices or cut expenses (or, do both).
If you’ve been on a regular schedule of executing price increases, then stick with it. If you’re seeing growing revenues over the past couple of years yet diminishing profts, your price increases may not be substantial enough and/or your expenses need evaluation. So analyze if your next price increase should be targeted to a higher rate than what was done previously. A savvy buyer can spot a price hike as a hollow scheme to improve the bottom line, so be ready to explain the logic behind your approach.
On the expense side, here is a list of activities to consider:
Reassess vendors tied to your operating costs. While it’s easiest to just keep using the same companies, they may no longer be the best deal.
Forego replenishing staff by attempting to allocate responsibilities among existing staff. Consider cloudsourcing or interns as a supplement if needed.
Evaluate the sales and marketing budget carefully. Determine the ROI of each tactic being used and cut non-performing investments.
Don’t buy in bulk — only buy what you will actually need for the time period preceding your business sale.
Get competitive quotes for your insurance policies.
Businesses that have more time to implement initiatives and show results should also see where top-line improvements can be made by focusing on sales and marketing. Its’ always best to show increasing or consistent sales when selling.
Sellers nearing retirement age or those who are burnt out in the business, often start to take the “foot off the gas”, leading to declines in revenues, focus, and energy. When selling is on the horizon, it is time to put the “pedal to the metal”.
Step 7: Final Touches
Your perceived value of a business is always heightened if it’s well wrapped up. Perception is reality, so be sure the perception of your business adds to its value, not detracts from it. Looks do matter (in business sales, anyways).
When evaluating the impression your business makes, consider the following
- Is your website professionally designed and updated?
- Are there negative online reviews regarding your company?
- Are your marketing materials current?
- Does your physical location have good curb appeal?
- Are client-facing staff adhering to customer service standards?
This is the time for spring cleaning , regardless of the actual season. Interior and exterior portions of the business should be clean and polished , and anything with your logo on it should be current and sharp. Assume that once a serious buyer signs an NDA and knows the identity of your company , they will begin evaluating how it’s represented in the market.
Step 8: What Will You Do Next
Besides just being fun to think about, outlining specifcally what you want your next phase of life to look like is actually very important for selling your business. Do you want to remain where you are located , or start traveling? Are you willing to stay involved with the business for a period of time, or do you want an immediate exit? How much time might you be willing to dedicate if you’re staying involved , for how long, and doing what activities ? What level and type of compensation would you seek? Would you be ok with someone else now having fnal decision making authority?
Many businesses need the current owner to stay around for at least a little bit, to facilitate the transition.For some sizes and types of businesses, that time frame could be extended to a couple of years. Complex businesses that are heavily relationship -dependent fall into this category, as well as those businesses that are more speculative in nature. Typically Independent Contractor Agreements , Non Compete Agreements and Earnouts are part of these scenarios , and they must be considered as part of the overall deal structuring.
You and your business broker need to work as a team to make your business look as good as possible, to get the highest sales price possible. Go section by section through your business, beginning with those elements outlined here, making a list of what needs work. Once you have the list, prioritize it then go to action. Your broker will offer objective insights along the way on how a buyer will be viewing things. While it will be hard work, it will pay off – literally.
Once you completed this getting started list, your broker will advise you of other areas that may need attention. The sooner you start ahead of your target sell-by date , the more improvements you can make, and the higher your closing price can be . The right Business Broker will optimize your benefit in terms of both asset return and expedience of a sale.
For further information on selling a business, contact
John Diaz at 561-352-3569