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by Dale Gillmore
The average transaction takes less than a year to complete, but becoming “deal ready” takes years.
Every business owner wants to receive maximum value for their business at the time of their exit. That’s a given. Unfortunately, too many owners discover they have not put enough thought into a growth strategy to achieve that value, and they’re disappointed by the offers they receive when it’s time to sell. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can adopt sound strategies and practical techniques now that will positively position your business for transition. You just need some right information first.
70 to 80 percent of businesses put on the market don’t sell (Exit Planning Institute).
We think this failure rate is largely due to unmet owner expectations -- the surprises and disappointments they face from potential buyers at the time of transition.
No two businesses or owners are exactly alike, but many of the challenges they face as they endeavor to build maximum value – and exit on their terms – are similar. In working with business owners, we continually ask them to answer these 5 questions as we seek to build value and plan for transition.
What’s my business’ actual value right now?
Identifying value is the first step because it gives business owners a baseline measurement from which to track value over time. In other words, as they work to build (and hopefully maximize) value, this baseline number is there to gauge their success. If you cannot see increasing value, how can you know if the strategies you’re implementing are working?
But, the benefits of identifying your business value don’t stop there. Business value impacts the owner’s personal life, too, a fact often missed by business brokers. If you think your business is worth $15 million, but it’s only worth $9 million, that discrepancy will seriously impact your personal estate planning decisions and post-exit lifestyle choices. Wouldn’t it be better to know the reality of your business value far in advance of a transition, while there’s still time to do something about it?
What’s my real number?
Just as important as identifying value, it’s just as critical to understand now the approximate dollar amount needed to live the post-exit lifestyle you desire.
There are many variables that go into determining your number, but basically, we’re going to want to take stock of your future obligations, goals, and dreams. The tasks we must tackle include:
How can I eliminate risk to protect my business?
Business owners face a seemingly endless list of risks: lawsuits, regulations, technology, debt, customer concentration, human and intellectual capital, business model disruption, natural disasters, safety/compliance, embezzlement, death/disability, and cybersecurity, just to name a few.
The more risk that your business bears, the less someone will be willing to pay for it. Protecting business value, therefore, entails addressing and mitigating current and potential risk-related issues (business, financial, and personal). Have you begun that process? Do you even know where to begin?
How can I build value – in every way?
Building value is a necessary step for every business owner regardless of circumstances. Why?
When we talk about value, we’re really talking about two kinds of value: tangible and intangible. Tangible value is the “easy to see” stuff -- plant and building improvements, systems upgrades, marketing, and so on. Intangible value is everything else that matters: human capital, customer capital, structural capital, and social capital. When it comes to valuing a business, intangible value just as important as tangible value. You’re wise to focus on building both.
Which transition option is best for me?
Again, every business is different. No single transition option fits the needs of every business owner. If someone is trying to sell you an “out of the box” approach to transition, keep moving.
From family/intergenerational transfers to management buyouts, sales to existing partners, third-party sales and even liquidations, there are lots of roads to consider.
Our passion at Quest is to educate clients on the options available to them so that they make the best decision -- a decision which can only be made by weighing each transition option against individual business, financial, and personal goals. It's just what we do. Is your current transition advisor asking guiding you in this way?
If you have questions about maximizing the value of your business and/or need help aligning your personal and business goals, please reach out. While we advocate doing this years in advance of a planned transition, we can successfully navigate you through a transition when emergencies arise. Just give us a call.
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by Dave Swartzendruber
As a business owner, your business has consumed the majority -- if not all -- of your time. It’s made of your dedication, your employees, your stories, accounts won and lost, systems and process, and so much more. So, when a potential buyer comes along, who will evaluate your business through a far different lens than yours, their emotionless questions can be jarring. And, whether you work with a broker or not, your buyer must decide whether to bid based on the answers you provide to their questions. To do that, you’ll have to be prepared.
Unless you’re being rolled into a larger company or dismantling individual assets, you’re essentially selling the present value of future cash flow, an imperfect estimation based on both objective and subjective factors. A buyer must decide whether to bid after careful examination of both negative and positive aspects. Depending on structure and interests, what’s negative to one buyer may be positive to another (e.g., existing non-owner management, real estate). You won’t be a good fit for everyone, and that’s OK, but you’ll still need to be able to answer the questions. Keep in mind, these questions are not even close to the due diligence questions we’ll discuss in another blog posting.
Decades of experience tell us that, in initial calls, buyers are trying to determine the following:
Knowing what to expect is half the battle. In addition to the obvious questions surrounding financials, here are 10 questions you’re very likely to hear:
1. Why are you selling your business and why did you get into this business in the first place? What excites you about it?
2. Can you describe your management team’s strengths and weaknesses? What problem does your company solve? Why do your customers choose you over your competitors?
3. Walk me through the entire process of your service/product line. What are your company’s competitive differentiators?
4. What is your day-to-day role in the business?
5. What would your ideal transition look like? What do you want to do post-sale?
6. What are your expectations of a buyer?
7. Other than you, who are the leaders/executives in the company? What are their current and potential roles? When a problem arises, who deals with it, and how?
8. How long have your employees been with you? Why do they stay (or leave)?
9. What capital expenditures are made annually in this business, and on what?
10. What opportunities exist in this market through the next 3, 5, 10 years?
Whatever the question, be honest. The truth will come out in due diligence anyway, and little white lies have an uncanny ability to end negotiations. Plus, your business deserves the right buyer, and you deserve a peaceful exit. Honest responses to buyer questions will produce both.
Selling a business is a huge and meaningful transition, and no one article or list can do it justice. As you prepare for the journey, reach out to us for assistance. Together, we can make your transition a successful one.