Part of the reward of being a small business owner is seeing your hard work pay off over the years. The many sacrifices you made for your business can all seem worth it on the day you close a deal to sell your company. But if you are dreaming of that day, it will take some work to get you across the finish line.
Selling a business requires many of the same steps that it takes to build a business. You need to plan, execute a strategy, and in some cases, benefit from good timing. Whether you are trying to cut your losses, maximize your profits, or move on to the next phase of your life, selling your business may be an entrepreneurial challenge all its own.
The owners who build a business from scratch are often the heart and soul of the enterprise. They wear many hats and yet also manage to be more than the sum of these parts.
While this may have been a winning strategy while you were running the business, when the time comes to sell it, you should no longer be the primary selling point. After all, a potential buyer is buying your business—not you. They want a strong-performing business—not a strong-performing owner.
If your business has managed to stay up and running for years, it is probably in no small part because you were doing many things right. But you need to be able to describe what those things are to another person. In other words, the success needs to be replicable. And that means having structures, or standard operating procedures (SOPs), that answer the following questions:
While you probably have SOPs for these and other routine business tasks, they may not be in writing. Ask yourself, if you had to delegate these tasks to another person right now, could you? If the answer is “no,” then your SOPs may be lacking the step-by-step clarity that will be attractive to a buyer.
Your company’s finances will come under scrutiny during the formal due diligence process. But even before the due diligence investigation occurs, any serious buyer will want to look at your financial documents, including
This is just a short list of the documentation needed for a future business sale. You should work with professionals such as The Law Offices of Murphy & Associates and an accountant to prepare a full list of documents needed during the sale process. Because this could take a while, do not wait until the eleventh hour to get your finances in order. If you cannot back up your claims about your business with facts, figures, and statements, the buyer could walk away, or use it as leverage to lower the sales price.
You may be able to sell your business in tough economic times if what you are selling is in demand. There will always be economic uncertainties.
What you can control, however, is choosing to sell your business at a high point. It comes down to risk versus reward and how much risk you are willing to tolerate. You should also acknowledge the element of luck when timing a business sale. Economic trends are a good indicator of whether you should sell or hold, but another disruption could come along at any time, and it could work in your favor or against you.
Do not hesitate to ask for advice from a broker or a business lawyer if you are having trouble gauging the market. It is important to keep in mind that the local economy may be a better indicator than the national economy.
Once you have a seller in place and have negotiated a sales price, congratulations—you are on the verge of selling your business. But before you pop the champagne, there are a few legal hurdles to clear.
The sales agreement is the contract that governs the sale of the business. Adjustments, broker fees, and any other details relevant to the sale (such as how you will run the business until the sale is final) must be included and agreed upon. Once the agreement is signed, both parties are bound by its terms.
However, not all business transfers are conducted in this manner. Instead of selling a business, perhaps you are handing it over to family members. If that is the case, there are issues such as estate and gift tax obligations and succession planning to keep in mind. According to a recent survey from CNBC, fewer than 30 percent of small business owners who plan to sell their business have a succession plan.
In addition, state laws and governing documents such as an LLC operating agreement may have provisions about selling or transferring a business. You need to make sure that the transaction is legal and abides by the process that you established at the time of formation. Otherwise, the deal could be dead on arrival.
Selling a business is the last stage of a long and hopefully rewarding journey. The earlier you start preparing your business for sale, the better positioned you will be to close the deal when the right opportunity presents itself. This may be your first time selling a business, but The Law Offices of Murphy & Associates has advised many small business owners in Meridian, Idaho on sales and related issues. We can provide a valuable third-party perspective while advocating for your interests: call or contact our office today to set up a consultation.