Like many things in life, timing can be everything when it comes to selling your company. Every day more and more baby-boomers are now reaching retirement age. Soon, the market will likely be flooded with companies looking to sell.
According to a 2016 survey of business brokers, 54% plan to exit in the next ten years. We may be on the verge of a massive wave of businesses hitting the market. Getting out in front of that wave could be in your best interests. Now very well may be the time to sell.
Are You Suffering from Burnout?
If you’ve been running your business for many years, it is quite possible that you are suffering from burnout. This issue is remarkably common with business owners and it is also very dangerous. Owners suffering from burnout don’t invest as much of themselves and their creative energy into their businesses, and that has a range of implications.
Everything from losing customers to failing to keep up with the competition are all possibilities when an owner feels ready to throw in the towel. The end result is that owners, through poor decisions and inaction, can inadvertently decrease the value of their businesses. Combine this fact with the fact that a wave of businesses may soon be hitting the market and selling may start looking more and more attractive.
Jump into a Strong Economy
Further, today’s strong economy means that new and unexpected competitors may soon enter the picture. It is difficult to predict how the marketplace may change in the coming years, but a strong economy means both more opportunities for existing businesses and the potential for greater competition.
Interest rates have remained at historic lows and that could definitely help you sell your business. Working with an experienced business broker is one way to test the waters. You may determine that now is the perfect time to sell your business. There are many factors involved in selling your business, and a skilled broker can help you look at the overall situation at hand and determine when it is the right time to sell.Read More
Many experts agree that the best time to prepare to sell your business is when you start your business. That may sound extreme. However, few business owners reach that level of preparedness. A simple fact of life and owning a business is that most sales are event-driven. Factors such as problems with a partnership, health issues, burnout or even divorce can drive a business owner to sell.
Once you’ve made the decision to sell, it is essential that you realize one key fact. Unexpected events and factors will always rise to the surface. In this article, we’ll explore four key questions that you’ll need to address before selling your business.
1. What is the Value of Your Time?
Meeting with prospective buyers can be a serious time sponge. One of the key benefits of working with a business broker is that a broker can take some of the pressure off of you. They can interact with buyers on your behalf.
A large percentage of business owners are also deeply involved in the day-to-day operation of the business. Business owners don’t have time to meet with every interested party or take the time to weed out the qualified prospects from the window shoppers.
2. What Do You Want Your Level of Involvement to Be?
Working with prospective buyers is obviously time consuming, but so is knowing every detail about a prospective buyer’s visit. A seasoned business broker can sift through what information is essential and what information is extraneous. In this way, you only hear about what is relevant and can skip the rest.
It is important for business owners to keep in mind that buyers expect that the business will continue to run successfully not just during the sales process but through closing as well. For this reason, you’ll want to stay as focused on the day-to-day operations of your business as possible; after all, if a deal falls through the last thing you want is to have a dip in revenue.
3. Are There Other Decision Makers?
Determining whether or not there are any other decision makers is a very smart move. Part-owners and silent partners will have to be addressed when it comes time to sell.
4. Just How Important is Confidentiality to You?
Confidentiality is important when it comes to selling your business. The more active your selling process, the greater the chances are that you’ll have a leak if you’re not extremely careful. Leaks unfortunately occur more than you might think.
How much will this issue negatively impact your business if it does occur? You should have a “leak plan” ready to go. In your plan, you should have in place what steps you should take to minimize the damage caused by the leak. Being ready to deal with key customers, employees and distributors is the cornerstone of dealing with any leak. Business brokers are experts at helping clients maintain confidentiality. This can save you a great deal of time and effort on many fronts.
By answering these four questions fully, you will save yourself time, stress and effort. Selling a business is a complex process. But with the right planning you can minimize your effort and maximize your results.Read More
The simple fact is that without employees, you don’t have a business. Given the tremendous importance of your employees, it is important to step back and reflect on the value associated with keeping those employees happy.
There is a direct relationship between happy employees and happy customers. A happy employee takes steps to ensure that your customers are satisfied. This approach in turn leads to a higher level of customer retention and helps in attracting new customers. On the flip side, unhappy employees can be quite dangerous to your company’s bottom line.
The hiring process is a key process for the health of your business and should never be overlooked or treated as a secondary process within your business. Cultivating happy employees begins at this point. Hiring can and will either make or break your business.
Offering great pay and benefits is only one important factor in keeping employees happy. A more overlooked important factor is to appreciate the contributions that employees make. If employees feel as though they are being overlooked or not appreciated, their overall happiness level will falter. Many owners unnaturally expect their employees to have the same dedication to their business that they do, and this can lead to problems.
Your employees realize that they don’t own the business. As a result, most are only willing to invest so much of themselves, their talents and their abilities into your business. Taking steps to keep your employees engaged, such as showcasing that their talents are appreciated, will help keep employees invested and happy. Research has also revealed feeling happy will make them more productive. A few years ago, Fortune Magazine wrote an article that cited a UK study connecting employee happiness and productivity. It’s definitely worth a look.
Being a positive owner is a gigantic step in the right direction where cultivating happy employees is concerned. Being a good role model is at the heart of having happy employees. It is vital that you reward people with praise and bonuses for jobs well done and fire employees that are consistently negative or failing to perform their respective duties. Special touches, such as giving employees their birthdays off, can go a long way towards cultivating the kind of climate that leads to increased satisfactions. And don’t forget, your team’s satisfaction will increase your bottom line.
When it comes time to sell a business, you can be sure that prospective buyers will be interested in your level of profits. In this way, the investment you make in the happiness of your employees can be returned many fold.Read More
A recent article posted on the Axial Forum entitled “What Do Buyers Look for in the Lower Middle Market?” explains how to make your business valuable to potential buyers and how to find the right buyers for your business. The buyers in the lower middle market are usually strategic buyers, financial buyers, private equity firms, and search fund advisors.
Buyers in this market are generally looking for the following characteristics:
- A strong management team who has incentive and is prevented from competing against the company if their employment is terminated
- Stability and predictability of revenue and cash flow
- Low customer concentration
- Other value drivers such as state-of-the-art operating systems
- High level of preparedness
The article warns about the biggest obstacles for owners. Business owners should consult with experienced deal attorneys and investment bankers before speaking to any buyers. They should also consult with advisors before the company goes on the market to make sure the business is properly prepared for sale. A business owner’s management team may also be subject to rigorous professional assessment and background checks if a private equity or financial buyer is interested.
Currently in the marketplace, buyers are offering amounts higher than the historical norms. This means that along with the higher sale prices, sellers are subject to more scrutiny through due diligence. This is all the more reason for a seller to be prepared and to work with experienced advisors to get their business ready for sale.
A recent article from the Axial Forum entitled “5 Ways Sell-Side Customer Diligence Can Maximize Sale Prices” explains how third-party sell-side customer diligence has become increasingly more common and why it can help sellers maximize and justify sale prices. Here are the 5 ways this due diligence can help you get the best sale price:
- Determine if it’s the right time for a sale – Positive customer feedback can help reinforce the decision to sell, and neutral or negative feedback can help improve the company so it will be better prepared for a sale.
- Attract and persuade buyers – Your confidential information memorandum (CIM) will show how strong customer relationships are, how your market share has grown, how the business has become more competitive, and more. Thorough documentation of the health of customer relationships will also help attract buyers.
- Control the message – Having the seller contact their customers reduces the risk of anyone being tipped off about the sale and also allows for the seller to provide a better interpretation of the results.
- Prove there is a clear path for future growth – Pre-sale due diligence can help justify the ways in which the company can grow in the future.
- Accelerate the timeline – Having customer diligence done ahead of time will speed up the process so the buyer doesn’t have to do it.
Sell-side due diligence gives the buyer a good overall assessment of customer relationships while also allowing the seller to control the process of the findings and substantiate their asking price.
A recent article from Inc.com entitled “The Art of Finding the Right Buyer for Your Business” gives us three essential items to consider when selling a business.
- Set goals – The first step is to set goals for the future of your business, yourself and your family. You’ll want to consider factors such as how the transaction will affect your employees, if you will continue on as a team member or transition out of the company, and what your overall goals for the company are. This will help you and your advisor customize the sale process.
- Explore options – Be sure to know the difference between a private equity group and a strategic corporate buyer, and find out how they can benefit your business. There are also “family offices,” which are investors who manage the wealth of a family or multiple families, but they hold a business forever.
- Keep an open mind – It’s especially important in the beginning to stay open to both types of buyers and find a good advisor who can help guide you towards the right buyer. Whether they are a financial buyer or a strategic buyer, you don’t know how they are going to handle the future of a company until you get to know them.
A recent article from the M&A Source entitled “Gold Rush: New Entrepreneurs Seek Search Funds to Finance Takeovers of Baby Boomer Businesses” explains how new entrepreneurs are looking for funding to take over businesses as the baby boomer generation starts to retire. There is currently an entrepreneurial generational gap with far less young entrepreneurs than there are baby boomers looking to sell. Healthy financial trends paired with recent tax reforms have contributed to making ideal conditions for the new generation of small business owners.
This new generation of entrepreneurs is coming from recent MBA graduates who are choosing to acquire a business instead of heading to Wall Street. Most notably, they are doing things differently when it comes to financing by turning to the search fund model which is seeing unprecedented growth as of late. This process known as entrepreneurship through acquisition (ETA) is also becoming increasingly popular in business schools which are now offering ETA programs.
It is believed that this trend is going to continue and that the timing is right. More schools are increasing awareness about it and the model will get easier as more baby boomers retire and sell their businesses. As more big money sources see this model gain popularity, there will be more money to support this growth as well.
A recent article posted by Divestopedia entitled “Avoiding the Biggest Deal Killer: Time” tells us that the key to a successful deal is preparation and momentum. This means that the seller should be fully ready when the business hits the marketplace, not when the first offer is made.
To keep the momentum going, there are 14 factors to consider:
- Know when it is a good time to sell your business
- Know why you want to sell
- Know the company’s strengths and weaknesses
- Know what you will do after you sell your business
- Know the value of your business
- Have a realistic asking price
- Be sure you are current on all taxes
- Make sure operational details are organized and recorded
- Know that the business can operate without you
- Know your company’s place in the market
- Be prepared with accurate financial statements, tax returns, and financial reports
- Know that your team of trusted advisors is ready
- Have a growth and marketing plan for your buyer
- Know what is most important to you so you can stay focused on the key issues and not worry too much over minor details
Owners often neglect understanding their leases and this can be problematic. If your business is location-sensitive, then the status of your lease could be of paramount importance. Restaurants and retail businesses, for example, are usually location-dependent and need to pay special attention to their leases. But with that stated, every business should understand in detail the terms of its leases.
There are many key factors involving leases that should not be ignored or overlooked. If you adhere to these guidelines, you’ll be much more likely to control your outcomes.
- At the top of the list is the factor of length. Usually, the longer your lease the better.
- Secondly, if the property does become available, then it is often in an owner’s best interest to try and buy the property or he or she may be forced to move.
- When negotiating a lease, it is best to negotiate a way out of the lease if possible; this is particularly important for new businesses where the fate of your business is still an unknown. Experts recommend opting for a one-year lease with a long option period.
- You may want to sell your business at some point, and this is why it is important to see if your landlord will allow for the transfer of the lease and what his or her requirements are for the transfer.
- Look at the big picture when signing a lease. For example, what if your business is located in a shopping center? Then attempt to have it written into your lease that you’re the only tenant that can engage in your type of business.
- If you’re located in a shopping center, then try to outline in your agreement a reduction of your rent if an anchor store closes.
- Your lease should detail what your responsibilities are and what responsibilities your landlords hold. Keep in mind that if you are a new business, it is quite possible that your landlord will likely require a personal guarantee from you, the owner.
- The dollar amount is necessarily the most important factor in determining the quality of your lease. It is important to carefully assess every aspect of the lease and understand all of its terms.
There are many other issues that should be taken into consideration when considering a lease.
- For example, what happens in the event of a natural disaster or fire? Who will pay to rebuild?
- Is there a percentage clause and, if so, is that percentage clause reasonable?
- How are real estate taxes, grounds-keeping fees and maintenance fees handled?
Investing the time to understand every aspect of your lease will not only save you headaches in the long run, but it will also help to preserve the integrity of your business.Read More
Having a letter of intent signed by both the buyer and the seller can be a very good feeling. Everything can seem as though it is moving along just fine, but the due diligence process must still be completed. It is during due diligence that a seller decides whether he or she is going to finalize the deal. Much depends on what is discovered during this important process, so remember the deal isn’t done until it is truly finalized.
In his book, The Art of M&A, Stanley Forster Reed noted that the purpose of due diligence is to “Assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present and predictable future of the business to be purchased.”
Summed up another way, due diligence is quite comprehensive. It probably comes as no surprise that this is when deals often fall apart. Before diving in, it is critically important that you meet with such key people as appraisers, accountants, lawyers, a marketing team and other key people.
Let’s take a look at some of the main items that both buyers and sellers should have on their respective checklists.
You should determine the percentage of sales by product line. Additionally, take the time to review pricing policies, product warranties and check against industry guidelines.
Review your key people and determine what kind of employee turnover is likely.
If your business is involved in manufacturing then every aspect of the manufacturing process must be evaluated. Is the facility efficient? How old is the equipment? What is the equipment worth? Who are the key suppliers? How reliable will those suppliers be in the future?
Trademarks, Patents and Copyrights
Trademarks, patents and copyrights are intangible assets and it is important to know if those assets will be transferred. Intangible assets can be the key assets of a business.
Operations is key, so you’ll want to review all current financial statements and compare those statements to the budget. You’ll also want to check all incoming sales and at the same time analyze both the backlog and the prospects for future sales.
Environmental issues are often overlooked, but they can be very problematic. Issues such as lead paint and asbestos as well as ground and water contamination can all lead to time-consuming and costly fixes.
Have a list of major customers ready. You’ll want to have a sales breakdown by region and country as well. If possible, you’ll want to compare your company’s market share with that of the competition.
The Balance Sheet
Accounts receivable will want to check for who is paying and who isn’t. If there is bad debt, it is vital to find that debt. Inventory should also be checked for work-in-progress as well as finished goods. Non-usable inventory, the policy for returns and the policy for write-offs should all be documented.
Finally, when buying or selling a business, it is vital that you understand what is for sale, what is not for sale and what is included whether it is machinery or intangible assets such as intellectual property. Understanding the barriers to entry, the company’s competitive advantage and what key agreements with employees and suppliers are already in place, will help ensure a smooth and stable transition. There are many important questions that must be answered during the due diligence process. Working closely with a business broker helps to ensure that none of these vital questions are overlooked.Read More