The three partners at Harvest Business Advisors – Greg Caruso, Eddie Davis and Richard Stopa – have helped hundreds of business owners sell their businesses. Each business sale process is unique – but the questions we are asked by the owners remain fairly consistent.
1. When should I sell my business?
Sometimes this question is in response to changes in the economy or the stock market. Or an owner is feeling discouraged about sales or challenges in the business.
The answer is “It Depends”. We do not have any special forecasting skills to help you make a decision. But we can tell you that business sales usually take 9-18 months, so selling is not a quick fix to a downturn. While your business is on the market, you will need to continue to run your business, upgrade systems, keep an eye on profit opportunities, document processes and keep key employees engaged. It’s essential for the sale of the business.
Other times this question is in response to internal or personal changes. We hope you are not dealing with health issues, but if you are, the time to plan is now. If you are not as satisfied running your business, an exit planning session can help set goals so you know you have options, if and when you decide to sell your business.
2. How much money will I get?
This is another question without an easy answer. But realize that pricing is an art form – too high and all the buyers will be chased away, too low and you will not receive full value. It’s important to have a business valuation to establish a baseline value which will help you to determine how to price your business.
Be prepared for bargaining from buyers (that’s their role!). It’s not meant to demean your business, but it is part of the process.
3. Who would buy my business? How do I find buyers?
Usually, business owners think about competitor who might want to purchase their business. And we see that happen quite a bit. It’s an easy way for a business to expand their client base, their equipment and personnel. But that is certainly not the only option.
Business brokers try to look at complementary businesses who would grow their business in a new direction. An example would be a landscaping company who purchased an irrigation company. Or a law firm who acquired a consulting firm that could expand the services they provide their clients.
We also use professional associations to find businesses and business owners who are aligned. Sometimes there is an employee who is ready to be their own boss (sometimes that employee works for you!)
Business brokers, especially those who have been in the business for a few years, develop relationships with people looking for the “right” business and investors who are seeking profitable businesses to invest in. We also focus on finding more than one potential buyer, to develop an “auction” atmosphere (and a higher selling price).
4. What do I tell my employees? And when?
Long before you decide to sell your business, you should protect yourself by having your key employees sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (so they do not discuss the details of your business with anyone outside the business) and Non-Compete Agreements (so they cannot work for a competitor for a specified period of time). Both of these agreements can be customized to be fair and equitable to you and your employees.
We generally recommend not telling your employees the business is for sale until the sale is final, with the exception of key employees who may need to be involved in the due diligence process and meet with the prospective buyers. Guaranteed, your employees will know something is going on. The best you can do is present the business sale as a positive for them, an opportunity for growth.
5. What will I do after I sell my business?
There’s a question we cannot answer! After a transition period with the purchasers, most “former” business owners take some time getting used to their new normal. Some spend time improving their golf game or finding new places to fish. Others make up for lost time with their families. We’ve seen people buy an RV and hit the road – or discover a passion for giving back in their communities. The bottom line is, after your business is sold, you will decide what is next, what will make you fulfilled and happy.
If selling your business is on your mind, we’d be happy to talk to you about what to expect and the options and timing. We can have a relaxed conversation by phone or over coffee to answer some of your questions. Feel free to reach out to us!
Clients choose Harvest Business Advisors for our sage advice on profitably growing their business, accurate business valuations, and when the time is right, a consistent ability to deliver a high price as part of a smooth exit transaction.
Harvest Business Advisors provides business brokerage, business valuation, and business succession planning services. We have extensive experience in the information technology and professional services, manufacturing, distribution, and contracting fields. We maintain offices in Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-838-4966 to discuss selling your business, ordering a business valuation or buying a business.