Exits: When is the best time to sell up?

Whether that’s to start a family, take on a large mortgage to secure your dream house or sell your business.

For the owner entrepreneurs I work with, at least for a large number of them, their business is their life if not their family and contemplating selling is at once scary and exciting.

If the only trigger to sell is age – for many of my entrepreneurs they have long believed they are immortal. Ill health, dependant of course on its severity, may not even create the catalyst needed to push the owner towards an exit plan.

Boredom is however another matter, or at the other end if the scale the uncertainty on behalf of the owner in his or her belief that they possess the skills needed to run the enterprise they have created.

The M&A market has definitely picked up these last few months, there is an increasing amount of activity. However deal times are still protracted 12 months from launch of the sale process to completion is not at all unusual.

There are various reasons;

  • More choice of opportunities
  • Less cash availability
  • More onerous due diligence requirements
  • And just more and more mercurial investors
In such a market planning well in advance of a sale option will, at the very least, keep the deal on track and best provide a modicum of acceleration.

It’s the nature of many entrepreneurs to be optimistic. If things aren’t too good they will get better, and if they are good they will soon be great.

As a result, although making swift decisions is part of their physical make up, when it comes to making this particular decision they become procrastinator extraordinaire.

No one wants to sell at the so called wrong time but with a bit of judicious planning, and sound legal protections in the sale and purchase agreement, it may just turn out to be not only the right time but the best time of all.

Jo Haigh is head of FDS corporate finance services and the author of The Keys to the Boardroom – How to Get There and How to Stay There.

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