Article by entrepreneurmag.co..za
Many startup founders and small businesses dream of receiving an offer to becoming the next billion dollar business. Whether its because they are ready to move onto another project, or they are ready to expand and are looking to leverage the financial power of a bigger partner, selling a business is a big move for any business. For many business owners, getting an offer from a buyer is certainly exciting, but before you jump into anything, remember that there are important steps to take before you sign the paperwork that will move a successful transaction forward.
Some entrepreneurs are ‘starters’, they like to start a business, get it off the ground and then flog it. Others are ‘growers’, they look for existing businesses and have the ability to grow them beyond their original value. Both will probably get to the same end point: Selling the business.
But entrepreneurs are often misled when it comes to the sale. They have put everything into the business and it is worth a huge amount to them because of it. But buyers are seldom willing to match the price, because what is being sold, and what is being bought, are not the same thing. Sellers see the emotional and financial investments they’ve put in; the buyer mostly looks at one thing: Profit.
Prepare for the challenges of selling
Once you get to market you will soon realise that there are, unfortunately, fewer buyers than you’d like. Unlike listed companies, you can’t sell shares easily and quickly on a public platform. Instead, you need to find an interested individual or business, many of whom just aren’t buying what you’re selling.
Some of them are, but that doesn’t guarantee a sale. Most SMEs must put their faith in a cash deal, since banks will never finance anyone wanting to buy them. In reality, this means that you may have a genuinely interested buyer for your business, who won’t be able to get finance for it from the bank. So, after a few months, you’re back to square one. After a few rounds of this cycle many entrepreneurs will just sell out of desperation, forgetting what the business could actually be worth.
Selling a business can be very emotionally draining and this will be compounded by many people who will waste your time and mess you around. You spent a large portion of your life building this, but others will not see it the same way you do. Ensure that you prepare and mitigate against all of those issues, and have the stomach for the fight.
Always keep the end in mind
If you are looking at exiting your business, it is crucial to allow enough time to prepare yourself for it. Maybe you’re simply tired of your business and you just want to get out, but, because the business is not in a great state at the moment, you’re too fed up to care, and you simply don’t have the energy to fix the issues.
You’re at risk of letting your business go for next to nothing. All the hard work for hardly any reward.
If you have the end in mind, and prepare for it, it can be a very different, more lucrative story. A successful transaction will mostly boil down to having a solid business with great systems in place that is making decent money and the starting point for these transactions will be financial information. You need to have proper financial records for your business and you need to be able to show the potential buyer how much the business is making and how it is making it. It sounds so elementary, yet most entrepreneurs don’t have financial information when they want to sell their businesses. If you think you may want to sell in the future, make sure you’re keeping solid records now.
If your business’s financials are messy, start cleaning them up at least twelve months before trying to sell your business. Remove all your personal expenses from the business and ensure that all transactions are properly recorded, and that your taxes are up to date and accurate. Work with your accountant to prepare a sales pack with all your financial information, including details of your clients, employees, suppliers, what your strong and weak points are and how the business could grow in the future. It’s at this stage that you can pick up on issues and resolve them before taking your business to the market, making it a much more attractive product.
With some (more) hard work, you will be in a great position to sell your business, you will have serious buyers and the valuation that you deserve for all your hard work.
That being said, here are 4 essential steps that will help you avoid potential setbacks and increase the chances of a fair and satisfying transaction while you are selling your business.
1. Preparation is everything
Since you’re already a business owner, you most likely already know the importance of preparation. When it comes to selling your business it’s always wise to conjure up all that you have learned along the way and apply that to the process of making a sale.
Some of the key documents that buyers expect to see are:
- Corporate records
- Records of any important contracts
- Information concerning stocks and investments that would affect the relationship with the buyer.
Preparation also entails that you are forward about any setbacks or issues you had in the past that currently affect company operations. Being open about what failed in your business model will help buyers feel confident in their decision working with you, in addition to understanding what to potentially avoid in the future.
2. Setting up the right environment for buyers
Your business may have received endless praise from the press and has made the “most up and coming list” time and time again that doesn’t mean you are ready to sell. Good press will very likely attract buyers, but if you haven’t created the right environment to continue along with a merger and acquisition, those investors and businesses that were one so eager to scoop you up may not stick around that long. To ensure a productive environment for selling your business it pays to be open to new ideas, while also maintaining a professional setting from which trust can build.
3. Make sure your finances are in order
Financial records are vital when making a sale. Not only to they provide a clear outline of your businesses progress in numbers, they are also key to making sure you get what you want out of the final sale in the end; investments and any and all financial commitments. Ensuring that both parties are satisfied.
4. Hire a merger and acquisitions advisor
Even the most experienced business owners can benefit from the expertise of a mergers and acquisitions advisor. Trained specifically to help owners assess their the value of the business by reviewing it’s strengths and weaknesses on both a macro and micro economic level.
Some of the key ways that an M&A consultant can help you streamline the selling process are as follows:
- Professional who specialise in mergers and acquisitions are highly skilled at preparing for due diligence, helping you to navigate and organise the necessary documents and information that is needed by all prospective buyers
- If you are in the unique situation that you have more than one buyer interested in acquiring your business, an M&A consultant can help you assess which one will be the right relationship for you, especially if you will still be activity participating in daily business operations.
Again, experienced business owners may know everything there is to know about running a company, but that doesn’t mean they know how to appeal to buyers. Not only do you have to be in tune with your own company’s needs, but it’s essential that you understand what buyers and investors expect from a sale.
At the end of the day, even if you think you’ve found the perfect buyer, taking a few extra steps to ensure that a potential buyout will meet both parties needs and is overall good for the business can be done by being fully prepared and and working alongside an expert that will help to point you in the right direction. Successfully taking your business won’t happen overnight, in fact most transactions take about six to twelve months to complete, so it pays to be prepared every step of the way.
Article by entrepreneurmag.co..za