Selling your business is a major event, no matter how big the business and no matter how long you’ve owned it. The potential benefits to you and your business are significant, but the risks associated with getting it wrong can be devastating. If you are going to do it, you want to do it right. So, here is our guide to selling your business in 2023 – everything you need to know to about selling your business for the best price and terms.
At Entrepreneurs Hub, we talk about five key areas that make the difference between success and failure when selling your business. But first, it might be useful to look at what we mean by success and what we mean by failure.
It might sound obvious, success = sale, failure = no sale, but this kind of thinking is what leads many in our industry to adopt a business broker, minimal effort approach to marketing your business. The problem with this approach is that while a sale might be achieved, it will often be on the basis of a poor offer that doesn’t maximise your value or the benefits for your staff or your customers.
To understand why, let’s look at the first key area – choice.
Establish a choice of credible acquirers – give yourself options
The principle is straightforward – if you have multiple, even just two, credible acquirers at the table the onus is placed on them to make good offers and negotiate fairly, because they know there is someone else at the table who might take the opportunity if they don’t.
Unfortunately, it is a principle that is often forgotten or overlooked when it comes to a business sale. This might be because you’ve had an approach which sounds attractive, and you don’t want to delay. It might be because a broker has adopted a minimal effort approach and simply listed the business on a website or gone to the usual suspects. Or it might be that the small list of companies you felt certain would be interested, simply aren’t – due to timing, strategic planning or other internal issues.
So, in the process of finding a buyer, how do you make sure that you end up with a credible choice at the offer negotiation end of the process? The answer is filtering. The basis of filtering is that we know there are credible acquirers out there, we suspect there are some very likely candidates, but experience tells us we don’t actually know where those acquirers will come from. So, we start with a solid research process and a wide base selected from a range of groups where we can see the potential for a good fit.
This wide base is then filtered down by looking at each potential buyer and assessing the potential fit, their financial capacity etc… This list is then further filtered by making an initial approach to present the opportunity, followed by the release of further information under a non-disclosure agreement or NDA. Further filtering takes place through a process of phone calls, meetings and invited indicative offers.
Don’t advertise a valuation – sell the future and highlight synergies
This is really two of our five key areas rolled into one because they are closely related. The value of a business is a difficult thing to establish – no one can say with absolute certainty what a business valuation should be unless they are the ones putting their hands in their pockets to buy it.
This doesn’t mean you can’t value a business – we can work with several valuation methods along with some informed assumptions and come up with a range in which there is a high degree of probability that offers will fall. Useful when you want to decide whether to sell now or if you need to make adjustments to achieve your aspirations. But this should only ever be a guide for you, not a price tag.
Of course, an acquirer will rarely make their best offer right off the bat. You have to get to know your suitor, find out what future benefits and synergies they would get from the acquisition – access to your customer base, future profitability or some valuable intangible assets – and encourage them to offer accordingly.
In summary, if you advertise a valuation on your business, you will likely place a limit on the offers that you will get – or you may well put off a potential acquirer who hasn’t yet fully appreciated the real value of your business.
Intelligent and informed preparation is essential
If there is one area that lets down many business sale processes, it’s preparation. Not that people or advisors don’t understand the need for preparation, but they often misunderstand the breadth and depth of preparation required.
All the following areas need scrutiny and expert guidance:
Due Diligence: gathering all the information required for due diligence ahead of time not only makes for a smoother process once you get to that stage but is also a valuable opportunity to identify any gaps or concerns that need to be addressed before approaching the market.
Research: this has already been discussed and is a vital part of the preparation process.
Financial Plans: a detailed look at the past performance of the company and its future potential under new ownership. This is more than the sort of planning and forecasting you probably already do; it must be done with an acquirer mindset.
Documentation: preparing the right documentation for the process that strikes the right balance between confidentiality and promotion of opportunity is essential.
Self-Preparation: are you prepared for what comes next? What to expect from the process, the emotions, the potential hiccups, how to handle yourself in meetings etc…
Let someone do the deal for you
You would, perhaps, expect us to say this, after all it’s our job. But even if you don’t decide to work with us, we would still recommend it as a course of action. The reason is twofold:
Firstly, working with an experienced team which includes role-specific experts will dramatically increase your odds of achieving a successful outcome.
Secondly, it can be a long and all-consuming process. It is all too common to hear stories of business owners who were side-lined for a year or more by trying to sell themselves and ended up with a balance sheet heading in the wrong direction and a business worth considerably less than it was at the beginning.
In conclusion, selling your business is a major event. It is important to get it right and maximise your opportunity to find an acquirer who is able to give you what you need and give the business the future it deserves. Remember, establish choice, don’t advertise a value, highlight the future opportunity, prepare well and let someone do the deal for you – having the right advisor can make all the difference in achieving the best outcome for you and your business.
If you found this guide to selling your business in 2023 helpful, you may be interested to read our eBook “How to avoid the pitfalls when selling a business”, which is available for you to download free of charge here.