The process of selling a business can be very complex. Whether you’ve sold a business in the past or are selling a business for the very first time, it is imperative that you work with an expert. A seasoned business broker can help you navigate through what can be some pretty rough waters. Let’s take a closer look at four issues any seller needs to keep in mind why selling a business.
Number One – Overreaching
If you are both simultaneously the founder, owner and operator of a business, then there is a good chance that you are involved in every single decision. And that can be a significant mistake. Business owners typically want to be involved in every aspect of selling their business, but handling the sale of your business while operating can lead to problems or even disaster.
The bottom line is that you can’t handle it all. You’ll need to delegate the day-to-day operation of your business to a sales manager. Additionally, you’ll want to consider bringing on an experienced business broker to assist with the sale of your business. Simultaneously, running a business and trying to sell has gone awry for even the most seasoned multitaskers.
Number Two – Money Related Issues
It is quite common that once a seller has decided on a price, he or she has trouble settling for anything less. The emotional ties that business owners have to their businesses are understandable, but they can also be irrational and serve as an impediment to a sale. A business broker is an essential intermediary that can keep deals on track and emotions at a minimum.
Number Three – Time
When you are selling a business, the last thing you want is to waste time. Working with a business broker ensures that you avoid “window shoppers” and instead only deal with real, vetted prospects who are serious about buying. Your time is precious, and most sellers are unaware of just how much time selling a business can entail.
Number Four – Don’t Forget the Stockholders
Stockholders simply must be included in the process whatever their shares may be. A business owner needs to obtain the approval of stock holders. Two of the best ways to achieve this is to get an attractive sales price and secondly, to achieve the best terms possible. Once again, a business broker serves as an invaluable ally in both regards.
Selling a business isn’t just complicated; it can also be stressful, confusing and overwhelming. This is especially true if you have never sold a business before. Business brokers “know the ropes” and they know what it takes to both get a deal on the table and then push that deal to the finish line.
If you are an independent business owner, you are most likely also an independent business seller–if not now, you will be somewhere down the road. The Small Business Administration reports that three to five years is a long enough stretch for many business owners and that one in every three plans to sell, many of them right from the outset. With fewer cases of a business being passed on to future generations, selling has become a fact of independent business life. No matter at what stage your own business life may be, prepare now to stay ahead in the selling game.
Perhaps one of the most important rules of the selling game is learning how not to “sell.” An apt anecdote from Cary Reich’s The Life of Nelson Rockefeller shows a pro at work doing (or not doing) just that:
When the indomitable J.P. Morgan was seeking the Rockefeller’s Mesabi iron ore properties to complete his assemblage of what was to become U.S. Steel, it was Junior [John D. Rockefeller, Jr.] who went head-to-head with the financier. “Well, what’s your price?” Morgan demanded, to which Junior coolly replied, “I think there must be some mistake. I did not come here to sell. I understand you wished to buy.” Morgan ended up with the properties, but at a steep cost.
As this anecdote shows, the best approach to succeeding at the selling game is to be less of a “seller” and more of a “player.” Take a look at these tips for keeping the score in your favor:
Let Others Do the Heavy Pitching
Selling a business is an intense emotional drain; at best, a distraction. Let professional advisors do the yeoman’s duty when selling a business. A business intermediary represents the seller and is experienced in completing the transaction in a timely manner and at a price and terms acceptable to the seller. Your business broker will also present and assess offers, and help in structuring the transaction itself. If you plan to use an attorney, engage one who is seasoned in the business selling process. A former Harvard Business Review associate editor once said, “Inexperienced lawyers are often reluctant to advise their clients to take any risks, whereas lawyers who have been through such negotiations a few times know what’s reasonable.”
Stay in the Game
With the right advisors on your side, you can do the all-important work of tending to the daily life of the business. There is a tendency for sellers to let things slip once the business is officially for sale. Keeping normal operating hours, maintaining inventory at constant levels, and attention to the appearance and general good repair of the premises are ways to make the right impression on prospective buyers. Most important of all, tending to the daily running of the business will help ward off deterioration of sales and earnings.
Keep Pricing and Evaluation in the Ballpark
Like all sellers, you will want the best possible price for your business. You have probably spent years building it and have dreamed about its worth, based on your “sweat equity.” You’ll need to keep in mind that the marketplace will determine the value of the business. Ignoring that standard by asking too high a price will drive prospective buyers away, or will at the least slow the process, and perhaps to a standstill.
Play Fair with Confidentiality
Your business broker will constantly stress confidentiality to the prospects to whom he or she shows your business. They will use nonspecific descriptions of the business, require signatures on strict confidentiality agreements, screen all prospects, and sometimes phase the release of information to match the growing evidence of buyer sincerity. As the seller you must also maintain confidentiality in your day-to-day business activities, never forgetting that a breach of confidentiality can wreck the deal.
Sell Before Striking Out
Don’t wait until you are forced to sell for any reason, whether financial or personal. Instead of selling impulsively, you should plan ahead carefully by cleaning up the balance sheet, settling any litigation, providing a list of loans against the business with amounts and payment schedule, tackling any environmental problems, and by gathering in one place all pertinent paperwork, such as franchise agreement (if applicable), the lease and any lease-related documents, and an approximation of inventory on-hand. In addition, you could increase the value of your business by up to 20 percent by providing audited financial statements for one or two years in advance of selling.
Think Twice Before Retiring Your “Number”
The trend is for sellers to assume they will retire after selling the business. But consider this: agreeing to stay on in some capacity can actually help you get a better price for your business. Many buyers will pay more to have the seller stay aboard, thus helping to reduce their risk.
Keep the Ball Rolling
You need to keep the negotiation ball rolling once an offer has been presented. Even if you don’t get your asking price, the offer may have other points that will offset that disappointment, such as higher payments or interest, a consulting agreement, more cash than you anticipated, or a buyer who seems “just right.” The right buyer may be better than a higher price, especially if there is seller financing involved, and there usually is. In many cases, the structure of the deal is more important than the price. And when the ball is rolling, allow it to pick up speed. Deals that drag are too often deals that fail to close.
By following these tips, and by working closely with your business broker, you can have confidence in being a seller who, like John D. Rockefeller, Jr., doesn’t “come here to sell.” You will play the selling game–and be a winner.
A common mistake that many make when preparing to buy or sell a business is to overlook all the various legal issues involved. A legal mistake can bring the entire process to a screeching halt or even worse case cost you a small fortune. For this reason, it is important to carefully evaluate the full slate of relevant legalities. This article will explore some of the key legal points one need to consider long before placing your business on the market.
Mistake #1 Neglecting to Have a Non-Disclosue Agreement
Having potential buyers sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, or NDA, is critically important when selling your business. One benefit to having this agreement signed and sealed is that in the event that the deal falls through, which often happens, the buyer can’t disclose the details to other parties. However, if you don’t have an NDA, the buyer could reveal important aspects of your discussions. This could impact any future sales.
Mistake #2 Failing to Get an Experienced Attorney
There are times to cut corners, and then there are times when cutting corners or trying to save a dollar is a big mistake. Prepping to sell your business is one of those occasions where investing in good and proven counsel is a must. A good attorney can give you a range of legal moves you should and should not make.
Additionally, hiring an attorney with an established experience is just what you need to create ironclad agreements. Sellers have an array of risks that they must face when selling a business. For example, the seller needs protection from a potential buyer hiring away key employees. Without ironclad agreements and a tight NDA, a buyer could pass on buying the business, yet “steal” employees or weaken business in other ways.
Mistake #3 Skipping the Letter of Intent
Another legal way to protect your interests comes in the form of a letter of intent. This letter should be one of your key tools in negotiating the deal. Included in this letter should be a termination fee for the buyer. This applies in the event that the buyer walks away for a reason that is not the seller’s fault. Inclusion of this clause means that the seller is far less impacted if the deal does not go through as planned. Further, this clause goes a long way in ensuring that only serious buyers are attracted.
Reap the Benefits of Ample Preparation
These are just a few of the many errors that sellers often make and regret later on. It is a worthwhile investment to take the legal aspects of selling your business seriously. If you prepare for the sale of your business, you will have a much more successful experience. That means you should work with a proven and competent attorney and business broker before you put your business on the market.Read More