By far, the majority of our clients start the journey of selling their business by working on a very reactive basis. Most business owners going to market say they just want to ‘see what happens’. But this means you are starting the process on the back foot.
This approach automatically takes the control of the business sale out of your hands and puts it into the hands of the market. Keeping control is a critical element in selling your business for maximum value.
Letting the market tell you what they think about your business and what they want from you means that straight away the acquirers set the hoops that you need to jump through.
They tell you what they want. Any engagement is on their terms.
You have not defined terms or standards to use as a yardstick for what the market is saying. So you are much more likely to find yourself boxed into a corner, forced into the role of price taker rather than price maker.
Taking the time to define your ‘go to market’ strategy is a critical factor in achieving success for yourself, what you want for your business and how the market aligns to this.
Be proactive not reactive by working through these six critical elements of your strategy:
1. Define your non-negotiables
We all have certain non-negotiables in our lives and you must think through those that you want to apply to the sale of your business.
Spend quality time working out what your personal and business non-negotiables are. Then make sure that they feature prominently in your deal strategy. Examples could be:
- I am prepared to stay on for only 18 months after the sale conclusion.
- My staff need to be looked after as they have been with me for 20 years and are like family.
- I want to sell 100% of my shareholding on Day 1.
- I am not prepared to warrant future profits.
When you start out on the selling journey, this list will probably be a lot longer. Usually, it will reduce as you travel further and further down this road but you may even add new non-negotiables once you climb into the trenches and take control of the process.
Don’t be shy about presenting your list of non-negotiables to prospective buyers. They will certainly be putting forward their own list as well.
2. How ready and committed are you to sell your business?
Selling your business is one of the biggest decisions that you will take in your life. It is an emotional rollercoaster. You will face more questions than answers as you progress down this road. Nobody can ever be 100% ready but you can help yourself prepare as much as possible by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do I know what my business is worth?
- Is my business ready for acquirers to see?
- Am I ready to let go of my business?
- Can my business run without me?
- What makes my business attractive and enticing to an acquirer?
- Do I have the time and skills to embark on selling my business myself?
As you work through these questions, a whole host of other questions will probably occur to you. Be decisive, objective and critical in asking and answering all these questions.
3. Put a plan together
Like any other business or strategy implementation, selling your business is a project. All projects need a plan of the objectives, timing, resources and risks required to succeed.
Selling your business is by far one of the most important projects that you will ever drive and also one with the least room for error. Your planning cannot control the biggest variable of all – how the market will react to your business. But being as well prepared as possible will help you cope with this.
4. The market wants a serious seller
The way that your business and personal brands show up in the exit process is critical. Buying or selling a business is a very time-consuming process, with both seller and acquirer committing quantities of effort, energy and resources.
The market therefore wants to deal with a committed and serious seller. Any business owner just dipping his/her toe into the water to see what happens will frustrate them and potentially damage future transactions if that toe is removed from that water.
5. Be ready for the experts
You are brilliant at running your own business, which is why you are considering selling it for maximum value. The acquirers on the other side of the table are, of course, also experts at what they do and how they do it.
Expect them to speak a different corporate language, exude negotiation and transaction skills and have mastered the ability to control the transaction. If you do not have a strategy or blueprint to default to when the heat gets too high, you will lose your way and could be blindsided into the wrong transaction.
6. Bring it all together
Work through the various steps identified above and craft your deal strategy. Let this framework be your compass during the transaction.
Always lean on it when there are too many variables being thrown at you. Having your strategy is the first step. Sticking to it will be your biggest test when the pressure is on.