At Divestopedia, we have had the privilege of interviewing some of the best and brightest on the subject of selling a mid-market business. Here are some of our favorite pieces of advice on getting ready to sell:
"Never negotiate a deal yourself. If you’re a business owner, keep running that business. Put the blinders on. Bring in a professional accountant. Bring in a professional investment banker, somebody that negotiates deals. Sometimes accountants do that, but I would bring in someone who knows what they’re doing, specifically in negotiations, and can invite in other bidders. Bring in an attorney who knows what they’re doing. We had two of those three. We should’ve had all three. Then just keep growing the business." Get the full podcast here.
"One of the things I always tell folks when I'm working with them is saying, "Hey, let's get our business ready to sell. Have it in a sell-ready position all the time. "It doesn't mean you're going to sell the business, but businesses that are sell-ready run much better than the businesses that don’t." Get the full podcast here.
Bruce Rosetto, Co-Managing Shareholder of Greenberg Traurig"I think the biggest mistake they make, honestly, is not doing it early. You should be talking with your executive management team about your succession plan and you should be transparent about it. If they actually involve a transaction, and it’s not just a succession, you should also be talking to them early about that and put it on the table. They are the stakeholders in the process, so you have to bring them into that process." Get the full podcast here.
"The day you know that you can walk out of your store and get hit by a truck and your business is viable, is the day your business is ready for sale. Because when you sell, the one major change is you are not going to be there. If the business doesn't run without you prior to sale, it's going to be harder to sell." Get the full podcast here.
"I think so many entrepreneurs just assume that one day the thing is going to be sellable and wake up and find out, as I did, that my baby was ugly. In other words, I didn’t have a company that was sellable before I made some of those gut-wrenching changes." Get the full podcast here.
"Chances are, the buyer that you’re going to have to sell to is going to be a bigger company and they’ll be spending more money on attorneys so they’re going to have really good attorneys and you want to make sure yours is just as good as well." Get the full podcast here.
"If you think you might sell down the road or maybe if you’re not even ever sure, preparing your business for a sale, you’ll probably actually make more money and put it in your pocket even if you never do sell. But having that education, having that understanding of how a financial buyer or strategic buyer might view your business, understanding what systems are required, understanding how valuation is done or what things might affect the multiple in your business, for an entrepreneur to start way before they should will pay massive, massive returns in the long run." Get the full podcast here.
"I think the biggest fault we all have when we’re selling businesses is recognizing that the buyer’s buying it for what it is tomorrow, not what it was yesterday. Quite often we end up with advisers or others who are solely focused on an EBITDA history track, probably don’t spend enough time on normalizations and really understanding maybe what was anomaly in operations and also where that business is headed - what is the growth profile, why is that really achievable, and why should the buyer pay a higher multiple based on an EBITDA projection that is substantially better than what history has been. Those are the things I would focus on." Get the full podcast here.
"There's nothing that can beat that planning process. I think oftentimes business owners who are not convinced of that will mentally replace that planning process with a story or a presentation about what a new owner could do with the business, look at all this possibility. As we say, that provides not even a penny to the valuation of your business. There's this perspective of business owners may buy the business because of all that opportunity, but they won't pay for it. What they'll pay for is your existing business, and if your existing business falls short of your expectations for valuation, exit planning is the way, and perhaps the only way, to overcome that." Get the full podcast here.
"When I’m selling the business, I try to paint different pictures of different options on ways to structure deals so that the buyer will be attracted to my deal as opposed to somebody who just says, "Here are the financials. Here’s the business plan. Here are the projections." You go figure out how you can close this deal. I want to come to them with, "Hey, I was talking to this financing company. You can get some money here. Here’s one way that I would structure it if I were buying this business. Here’s how we can limit your cash up front." Get the full podcast here.