Separate Family and Business
If your business is a family affair, be prepared for family issues from business management to the greatest extent possible. Do not assume that your children or other family members will run your business or even work there. It’s important to also take a hard look at the value any family members bring to your business. Will a buyer see them as dead weight?
Time is your best friend. A rushed sale is one that inevitably loses value. The more time you have to prepare, the more time you have to grow value, address common challenges, and establish a marketing plan that will work. A well-prepared business is a valuable one. Moreover, when you have more time, you have more opportunities to cultivate a competitive bidding landscape—an environment that inevitably drives valuations higher.
Know Your Story and Your Culture
What makes your business tick? What truly sets it apart from other companies selling similar products and services? If you can’t distinguish your business from its competitors, your buyers won’t be able to either.
Buyers want to earn as much as they can, and will be less interested in a company with out of control costs. Find ways to reduce these costs without reducing the overall value you deliver to your clients. This can be a tough balance to strike, and a business broker or advisor may be able to help you make cost-cutting decisions.
Get a Stellar Team in Place
The company should be able to run in your absence. This goal demands an expert management team who truly understands how to operate the company. Your team will also help you navigate the transition. So trim the fat from your payroll and replace it with true experts in the field.
Understand Customer Concentration
Who are your largest and most loyal customers? What would happen if they went away? What can you do to reduce risk and to better distribute your business? Buyers are inherently risk-averse, so if you’re heavily dependent on just a few customers, your business immediately becomes less appealing.
Maintain Financial Control
Meet regularly with your CPA or accountant so that you understand the financial side of your business. Buyers will want to see financial documents that support your claims about the business. Make sure this information is up to date, and that you’ve handled common financial issues such as unpaid taxes.
Offer Realistic, Evidence-Based Forecasts
Buyers often look at future earnings and cash flow to value a business. This means you need to be able to demonstrate good growth. Forecasts can also help, but only if they are reasonable. Don’t assume your business will suddenly become more profitable than it has always been. Instead, ask your financial team to draw on your company’s history to assemble evidence-based forecasting documents.
Understand Working Capital
Working capital is a key metric that represents available liquidity. If your assets are less than your current liabilities, you may have a serious deficit in working capital. This may affect your ability to pay off debts, and can tank a sale before it gets started. Work with a financial advisor to understand your working capital. If there’s a deficit, you must fix it before you put your company on the market.
Get Professional Help
A DIY approach to a sale is almost always a recipe for disaster. You may be outmatched by a buyer who has purchased dozens of other businesses, and you may not have a clear understanding of key value drivers, buyer motivation, and other important factors. An expert advisor helps level the playing field so that you can get the most out of the sale. In fact, most research shows that hiring an advisor increases value enough to offset the costs of the advisor.