Real-life reflections on selling your business

You probably spend a lot of your time building your business, your reputation and your potential wealth, so when it comes to selling your business you want it to go smoothly and successfully.

Talking recently to a business owner who went through the process revealed some useful, practical tips based on their first-hand experience. Here, we share their top dos and don’ts:

Do:

  • Be very wary of a purchaser who doesn’t carry out proper due diligence. The chances are they will be an asset-stripper.  Having worked hard to build your business, do you really want to see it stripped down like an old car?
  • Spend time to get a proper understanding of what the purchasers want from the purchase (or ‘merger’!). Understanding their real motivation for the deal makes for a smoother process.
  • Ask the purchasers to explain their integration process and how it will work in detail; for example, how do they see your role and where do they see your staff fitting in? This will indicate how committed they are to the process.
  • Understand fully the differences in your prices/fees and those of the acquiror, as future ‘fee harmonisation’ can be very painful for clients and ongoing revenues.
  • Insist the acquiror meets individually with your staff, not so much to ‘interview’ them, but to help relieve any fear or uncertainty the team may have.
  • Listen to your staff and consider their opinions. They may have only limited time talking with the purchaser before the deal but their insight can be invaluable.
  • Try to secure as much of the consideration upfront as possible. When the payment term is structured over several years, the less likely you are to receive all of it.

Don’t

  • Act on verbal promises and representations that are not committed to in writing.
  • Rely on talking to someone who has sold their business to the same acquiror; chances are they’re constrained by a ‘do not disrespect the purchaser’ enforceable order.
  • Expect that your mind-set will allow you to work for someone else, if you have never had to do so before. Not all business owners enjoy the leap to employee.
  • Blindly believe that the merger will work, without building into the agreements an exit route for yourself – particularly if you’re not set to retire and may wish to start up again if working for the acquiror doesn’t pan out.

If you’re considering an exit plan and the sale of your business, make sure you get independent advice from a business adviser and talk to other business owners who have navigated the process.  You may get excited by an adviser’s tales of previous successes but do probe and find out why some business sales don’t go so well.  After all, there are lessons to learn both from successful sales and not-so-successful sales.

To discuss the prospect of selling your business, talk to Henchards.  We can guide you through the exit planning process, guide you towards the right sale, and even support the transition process.