Remember, it’s your blood, it’s your sweat and it’s your tears that have gone into building the business so when it comes to selling, the moment of pay back, you owe it to yourself to GET IT RIGHT.
1. Plan the beauty parade and think of the audience
Firstly, make sure that you have a clear plan and have done your homework on how to obtain the most value from your business. It’s equally important to understand your buyer audience and know their hotspots. In addition, in the months, if not the years before, ensure that your business looks, feels and performs in the most attractive and visible way possible. Crucially, if you are planning to walk away, get your people, processes and practice running in a way that makes it easier to do so! It’s important to build a business that can run and continue to grow without you.
When targeting buyers and building your list of suitors, whether directly or through a third party, stay in control of the message and most importantly do not spread yourself too thinly. People talk, markets listen and the potential impact on your business in terms of the price you get or indeed its broader performance must never be underestimated. Like any kind of matchmaking, if you go to everyone you invariably begin to look cheap!
2. Execute quickly and listen to the advice you pay for
When you begin the process, execute its completion as quickly as possible. When the word that you are up for sale hits the streets competitors react, staff can get their heads turned and what you thought of as business as usual can change very quickly. In addition to this you will invariably need to put down some predictions and forecasts and, remember, if the deal drags and you miss any of the metrics for whatever reason….it will be used to negotiate the price down.
Additionally, it is vital to take sage advice – it is not uncommon that the deal someone signs turns out to be something completely different after the event. Get full and proper legal advice for the level of your business and listen to it rather than getting blinded by the lights of the deal.
3. Cake today or cake tomorrow
The way any business is structured is obviously vital and will define what you get in return for your years of toil but, above everything else, understand this one thing – when you sign there is no going back.
So ensure that you are 100 per cent satisfied with what you are getting on day one of the deal. A heavily weighted earn out period is fine but never guaranteed. So, in short, if you are not 100 per cent happy with your lot then hang on in there for another buyer.
4. When it’s gone it’s gone
Never underestimate how much your business is part of your life. For most entrepreneurs it is how they define themselves and who they are….and when the name comes down from above the door it will invariably leave a void and a feeling of “who am I now” and “what next”. The key to this part the journey is take time to reflect on what you have done and to do it with a smile. For you will have achieved more in building and selling a business than most will do in a hundred lifetimes.
Chris Smith is Chief Executive Officer of Opinio Group.
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