CAN YOUR BUSINESS BE SOLD?
Is your business a good sale prospect? In other words, will someone pay money to acquire your business, or are you better off selling its physical assets and walking away?
Too many owners assume they won’t find a buyer. Therefore, they automatically default to ending their businesses through liquidation. But while liquidating allows you to recapture the value of the physical or tangible assets of your business – often at fire-sale rates – it gives you nothing for the value of your business as a going concern.
When you sell rather than liquidate your business, a buyer pays to acquire not only the physical assets of your business – the assets listed on your balance sheet, but also to acquire the goodwill of your business, including the worth of such intangible assets as your business name, reputation, clientele, systems, and marketplace advantage.
The only way to harvest the value of business goodwill is through a business sale. So the decision to sell rather than to liquidate rests on a determination of whether the goodwill of your business – the value of your business beyond its physical assets – is of high enough value to attract the interest and prompt the purchase decision of a buyer.
The following steps will help you make your assessment: Step-by-step actions Step 1. Assess the condition of your business as a sales prospect.
The following questions help you assess factors buyers consider when evaluating the worth of your business as a going concern and a purchase prospect.
By answering the questions that appear you can assess whether your business is likely to be attractive to buyers or whether it needs improvement prior to a sale offering.
Sales and profit history
Over the past 3 years, have sales revenues consistently increased?
Have profits consistently increased?
Have costs and operating expenses increased only at a rate consistent with revenue increases?
Yes, answers indicate a recent sales and profit history that positively affects the attractiveness and sale readiness of your business. No answers indicate the need for improvement prior to a sale offer.
Do the assets of your business exceed the liabilities of your business?
Is your business able to consistently cover its costs and expenses from sales revenue?
Yes answers indicate that your business is financially solvent, which positively affects its attractiveness and sale readiness. No answers indicate solvency challenges and a need to decrease debt and increase revenues and assets prior to a sale offering.
5 DECIDING WHY, WHEN AND HOW TO SELL YOUR BUSINESS
Does your business offer products and/or services that are distinct and superior to those of your competitors?
Does your business use a proprietary production or business process that serves as a barrier to competitors?
Is your production or service delivery process one that a new owner can easily adopt and carry on?
Are your production and operations processes detailed in an operations manual or other documentation?
Does your business have staff and management to help a new owner successfully manage the transition after the sale of your business?
Yes, answers indicate that the products and services provided and the processes employed by your business positively affect its attractiveness and sale readiness.
No answers indicate a need to improve product distinction and/or production processes and systems prior to a sale offer.
If your business relies on local or regional clientele, is it located in a market area where the number of prospective customers is increasing?
Is your business located in a region with a strong and growing employee population?
If your business success is reliant on its location, is it covered by a long-term and transferable lease?
Do you foresee little or no threat of geographic or demographic changes that could threaten the long-term viability of your business location (for example, a train line coming through town, a nearby school closure, zoning changes, etc.)?
6 The BizBuySell Guide to Selling Your Small Business
Yes answers indicate that your business location positively affects its attractiveness and sale readiness.
No answers indicate a need to improve your location – through a physical move or a shift in reliance on your physical location prior to a sale offer.
Does your business have modern facilities and equipment?
If you lease your business equipment, are leases long-term and transferable?
Yes, answers indicate that your business facilities and equipment positively affect its attractiveness and sale readiness.
No answers indicate a need to consider upgrades and a lease renegotiation prior to a sale offering.
Other than yourself, does your business have a staff that customers or clients know and trust, which can provide continuity after your departure from your business?
Have key staff members signed employee contracts that will ensure a smooth transition to a new owner?
Are staffing policies outlined in an employment policy manual?
Yes, answers indicate that your staffing situation positively affects its attractiveness and sale readiness.
No answers indicate a need strengthen staffing and staffing policies prior to a sale offering.
7 DECIDING WHY, WHEN AND HOW TO SELL YOUR BUSINESS Clientele
Does your business have a long-standing and loyal clientele?
Does it have a large client roster rather than reliance on a few large clients or customers?
Have major clients signed long-term contracts with your business?
Does your business maintain a customer database that a new owner can rely upon?
Do your customers rely on the offerings of your business more than on your own personal expertise and relationship?
Yes, answers indicate that the clientele of your business positively affects its attractiveness and sale readiness.
No answers indicate a need to strengthen your clientele prior to a sale offering – by broadening your client base, maintaining a customer database, enhancing customer loyalty, and/or strengthening client relationships with your business rather than with you personally.
Does your business have a name that is well known and respected in its market area and business arena?
Does your business own its name via trademark, as a domain name, and on major social media channels?
Does your business have a strong online presence including a strong standing in search results and favorable online reviews and ratings?
Does your business have strong and effective marketing tools?
8 The BizBuySell Guide to Selling Your Small Business
Yes, answers indicate that your business brand and reputation positively affect its attractiveness and sale readiness.
No answers indicate a need to improve your name awareness, reputation, online presence, and marketing materials prior to a sale offering. After completing the assessments in the preceding chart, move on to Step 2.
Step 2. Flag areas of your business in need of improvement prior to a sale offering Based on your Step 1 assessment, use the following list to flag aspects of your business that need to be strengthened prior to a sale offering.
All areas in need of improvement
Sales and profits
Step 3. Create your pre-offering action plan and timeline To proceed with pre-sale improvements take these steps:
1. For each area of weakness checked in
Step 2, create an action plan by listing the improvements necessary to strengthen that aspect of your business. To guide your planning, refer back to Step 1. Look at 9 DECIDING WHY, WHEN, AND HOW TO SELL YOUR BUSINESS each question to which you answered No and create a list of actions that will allow you to switch your answer to Yes. 2. After creating your action plan, create a timeline for how long it will take to implement the changes you’ve listed.
Step 4. Decide whether to sell now, sell later, or liquidate After assessing the attractiveness of your business as a sale prospect (Step 1), flagging areas in need of improvement (Step 2), and creating an improvement plan and timeline (Step 3), you’re ready to decide between the following options:
1. Proceed with sale plans based on your positive assessment of the sale-readiness of your business
2. Invest the time and effort necessary to make your business more attractive to buyers, which will delay your sale offering, but which should lead to stronger buyer interest and a higher sale price.
3. Offer your business for sale in its current sub-optimal condition, with awareness that you’ll likely receive lower buyer interest and a lower sale price.
4. Liquidate your assets based on your determination that the condition of your business will not appeal to buyers or command a price worth a sale effort.