We’ve spent some time putting together a Top 10 Tips to help you, if considering whether to sell your business.
Our Top 10 Tips:
1) Have Certainty About Selling
Do you really want to sell? Why do you want to sell? This seems pretty obvious, but any serious buyer will want to know the reasons behind why you want to sell. Be honest and upfront with them, & they’ll help you reach your destination.
2) Understand The Buyer Motivations
Placing your business with a business broker will inevitably attract a lot of tyre kickers. Those people with no real desire to close a deal, but rather just looking to fill their curiosity. In fact most won't have the first clue about where to start, in closing a deal with you. Professional buyers do not buy through brokers. It’s widely known across the industry how overpriced the businesses are that a broker will list. The problem with an overpriced broker listing is, the owners of the business have set their heart & mind on this outrageous valuation, and will rarely budge to a more realistic, market driven price tag.
3) Understand How A Buyer Values A Business
Brokers will tell you it’s worth as much money as they can credibly get away with. Normally that means spouting some twaddle about the industry being buoyant at the moment, and the leading industry player recently selling for £1.2bn. They’ll always throw in high numbers. They’ll proceed to tell you, your business is worth 20-40 times its profit. Hmm, but just step back & think for a second. Does a 2.5% return sound like a good investment to you?
In truth, the business is worth what a buyer is willing to pay, and that’s it. No more! If there’s a chasm between their valuation and the brokers valuation, that you’re unwilling to bridge, they’ll simply walk away. There are plenty more deals just around the corner. We’ve written multiple articles on how to value a business from a buyers perspective.
4) Understand Your Numbers
A lot of business owners want to sell their business, but they struggle to understand the numbers in the balance sheet, and in the profit & loss.
You aren’t expected to have auditor level knowledge of the numbers, but a basic understanding of each will always be beneficial.
Also getting to grips with realistic projections helps to remove uncertainty in your buyers mind.
5) Identify What Makes You Different
Why does a Customer buy from you? Ideally it won’t be because you’re the cheapest price, although that might have been the initial incentive to hook them in. The truth is, it’s rarely based on price. If it were, they’d leave at the end of the contract, and it might be 5 years before you worked for them again. The majority of people buy based on emotion, then justify the purchase logically. Emotion is created by relationships, rapport & desire.
By understanding what makes you different, you can identify the real reason a customer is attracted to your business, and why they stick around.
6) Increase Your Audience Size
In an ideal world, you’d have handfuls of buyers knocking at your door, begging to buy your business. But the fact is that most buyers aren’t interested in a business that’s got less than £20m turnover.
A broker will advise you to always have at least 6 or 7 buyers competing with each other to buy your business. But let’s get real. Only 1.3% of businesses listed with a broker actually sell. If buyers were really queueing up to buy your business, there’d be much higher success rates for business sales.
Build your audience. You build your audience by creating the perfect deal for them - That means creating a £20m+ turnover business. Only then will you have 6 or 7 buyers fighting for your business.
7) Be Open Minded In Structuring The Deal
If you really want to sell the business, there’s always a deal to be done. The key is being open minded in how the deal is structured, to get what you want. Your focus shouldn’t be on ‘How’ the deal is done, but rather, to reach that finish line.
Remember that your business is an unknown quantity to a buyer, and it may be the first time they’ve come across the business. There’s a significant level of risk to a buyer, and this perceived level of risk increases, the smaller the business is.
8) Marketing the business
Marketing a business for sale, is really a full time role. If you’re trying to run your business, whilst also looking for buyers, then something has to suffer. It’s best if you can put a management team in place, running the business, so you can focus on pushing a deal forward. Of course, having access to buyers is the other main piece to the jigsaw. Most brokers will tell you they have access to 10,000 motivated buyers. These ‘buyers’ are generally just nosy tyre kickers, whilst others will just be your competitors fishing for information.
Apart from physically looking for buyers, you’ll need certain information to provide to them, when they show an interest. This is provided in the form of an Information Memorandum. It’s important that you have this document ready to go before you ever start approaching potential buyers.
Before providing the Information Memorandum, a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) should be signed, to protect both parties.
9) Negotiation Rules
As we’ve said already. The objective is to get the deal done. We could all argue over the smallest details, until the cows come home, but nothing is achieved, only time is wasted. The easiest way to get the deal done, is to place yourself in the buyer's shoes. From seeing things from a buyer’s perspective, you can better understand their thinking, and motivations, to get the deal done. Understand from the buyers perspective, the level of risk involved, financing the deal, and any hand over period when the deal completes.
10) Using Professional Advisors
Having a team of professional advisers around you, can save you both stress and money in the long run. There’s little point in using your normal solicitor, the same person you used to oversee your house sale, just because he’s an old family friend.
Your team is only as good as its weakest player. Get experienced players, who’ve all done it many times already. It will save you money in the long run.
We hope you’ve received some value from this article, and some information that you can use to move forward toward your vision.
If you’re confident that selling your business is the way to go, or perhaps you’re undecided, it’s important to consider the significant amount of effort and resource you’ll need to make it happen. It’s a full time job. - The time investment alone is enough to put anyone off. So imagine for just a minute, that you didn’t need to do all of this work. What if this could be done over the next 3 - 5 years (by someone else). Everything we’ve listed in this article, is what you’d need to do, if you were selling through a business broker, or direct to a buyer.
Unlike other private equity firms, our focus is on growing businesses at the smaller end of the market. We’ve worked in, and grown our own businesses in the exact same fields you work today. We’ve spent years coaching and supporting small businesses just like yours, developing their teams, and helping them to grow, but now, we’d like to help you.
We have a solution for business owners that need to sell their business immediately, or for those who want to stick around for a few years.
If you’re considering the options to grow or sell over the next five years, read more about how we're helping others just like you. Click here to read about our unique approach to helping you get what you want with the YokeFormula™ for your business.
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