Selling a Business: Overcoming Obstacles
Selling your business: whether planned or unexpected, it’s a big deal. It’s no surprise owners face a variety of practical and emotional obstacles when they entertain the prospect. These obstacles vary widely for personal reasons.
Roughly speaking, there are two ends of the spectrum. Entrepreneurial types enter the business with notions of building a profitable company in order to sell it in the relatively near term. Passion-driven owners typically start and grow a company for long-term operation and profit. Selling the business might not be part of their plan: for example, they expect it to stay in the family. However, circumstances may change, so they should always keep the option of selling in mind.
When faced with the prospect of selling, what obstacles arise, and how can savvy owners overcome them? Here are a few which both entrepreneurial and passion-driven types should consider.
Fear of Selling at the Wrong Time
Timing is a personal matter. When a passion-driven owner says “the profits are great, why would I sell now?” an entrepreneur will say “the profits are great, so it’s the best time to sell.” Of course, either one might face family, health or financial issues which dictate an unexpected sale. So keeping your operations honed and profitable always pays, and recognize that a certain degree of uncertainty is inevitable. Just like you can never know when the perfect time has come to sell a stock or a home, you will never know the perfect time to sell a business. All you can do is keep an eye on the big picture in the context of your industry, and keep your company as lean and efficient as possible.
Fear of Under-Pricing
Most sellers react to this fear by over-pricing, which keeps a business on the market too long, which further jeopardizes its salability. It’s crucial to undertake a thoughtful valuation process before determining your asking price. Take the time and get the help you need to do this, so you’re in touch with marketplace prices and better able to defend the price you set.
Not Securing Expert Advice
Expertise at running a business doesn’t translate into expertise at selling it. While you may resist paying the brokerage fee (roughly 10 percent), a good broker typically adds at least 10-12 percent to the sales price while saving you from lots of headaches. Their services includes helping prepare the company for sale, attracting and identifying qualified buyers, showing the business, marketing and negotiation. Similarly, securing the advice of other qualified professionals such as lawyers, accountants, and financial consultants is a good and necessary investment.
Being Too Hands-Off
Hiring a broker doesn’t mean your work is done. Because you’ve got the inside knowledge of the business, long-term experience in the industry, and serious motivation to sell, you need to view the relationship as a partnership. Disengaging from the selling process will jeopardize it. Communicate with your broker that you’re willing and able to support their efforts, and find out how you can do so. Your interactions with potential buyers also plays a key role. They’ll rely on their impressions of you to inform them about whether the business has the potential they seek, and whether they can expect to manage it successfully.
The Bottom Line
Without a crystal ball, you’ll never know beyond a doubt that you’re selling at the right time and at the right price. Run your business the best way you can; keep salability in mind; stay on top of the big picture in your industry; and recognize the value of outside expertise. Ideally, your decision to sell won’t be forced by outside circumstances, but it’s smart to be prepared for anything.
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