Not all business owners think about selling when clients are streaming through the doors and employees are working to the best of their abilities. But waiting until you’re burned out, the economy is in a slump, or the competition has cut into your niche is often not the best time to start doing all of the things that can help you get top dollar when you are ready to sell.
By constantly working to build and maintain value, you can be prepared for the eventuality of a sale even before you are ready. Below are some tips for preparing your business to be sold.
1. Don’t give up on boosting your sales revenue
It might be easy to let sales fizzle out, but even when you know your business is going up for sale, keep pushing for growth. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, by continuing to grow your business for the 12 months prior to selling, your sales will double or even triple what your cash flow was for that period.
Also, you never want to be in a position where you are ignoring new revenue streams because you have decided to get out. Valuations can be off, due diligence takes time, and deals fall through. A good rule of thumb is to go for those sales throughout the entire process right up until the papers are signed.
2. Have your post-exit goals well planned
Perhaps your biggest success in regards to your business will be when you successfully complete a profitable exit on your own terms. When the time comes to sell, you have to be willing to let go of the creative vision you had for your company.
It might sound cliche, but the mental transition of selling can be just as difficult as the sale itself. Plan ahead – are you going to take time off? Invest? Stay on? Jump into another project? It often helps to have your post-exit strategy thought out ahead of time (both financially and mentally).
3. Know where your business stands in the industry
By articulating your strengths and areas of unique interest, you can educate potential buyers as to how you have successfully made your mark in your niche. You need to be able to convincingly demonstrate that your company can grow without you at the helm.
4. Have an effective management team
Related to the previous point, when potential buyers look at your company one of the things they should walk away with is a sense that you operate like a smooth running machine – with or without you. Investing in a great management team through training and development will help make the business appear to almost run itself.
Eliminating the fear of having to completely overhaul the infrastructure from the top down will make the acquisition seem all that more appealing.
5. Understand that IP builds value and value means leverage
Leading up to a sale, you should work diligently to build value by ensuring that all of your assets are protected. This especially includes intellectual property assets. You may even be surprised at what you can protect as IP.
If you haven’t already, it is never too soon to start the process by speaking to an experienced intellectual property attorney. IP can give you leverage in countering offers and holding out for the right situation.
6. Always be open to opportunities presented to you
Opportunities don’t necessarily follow the for sale signs. There might be a time when an investor makes you an offer and you have not even considered selling up to that point. It could be tempting to brush the offer aside and move on with business as usual instead of taking a few moments to really evaluate what type of an offer you received. Opening your mind can open doors you never knew existed.
7. Make sure you are organized/protected
Obviously, you should be working with an attorney leading up to a sale. Make sure that all of the non-disclosure, confidentiality, and term clauses are in writing prior to any negotiations. An experienced commercial transaction attorney should be able to help guide you through this process.
8. Finally, be prepared for the due diligence process
Due diligence on behalf of a buyer can often be an intrusive, eye-opening, and sometimes difficult process for a seller. Be prepared for what that entails and what you might hear. A seller can help ease the process by being prepared, organized, and working with a consultant or valuation specialist who will do their own due diligence prior to the negotiations.
About the author: Gerald Berkowitz is a Pennsylvania commercial collections attorney with over 30 years of experience representing businesses and their owners in commercial matters of all types. He is also the Managing Partner of Berkowitz Klein LLP.