Selling A Business…The Top Seven Issues

1. I Don’t Know What My Business Is Worth.
Most owners will not commit to a sale without a realistic idea of what the business can be sold for. Do not necessarily expect to get a good answer from a business appraiser. A “fair market value” appraisal ordinarily excludes strategic buyers in determining the value of the business, yet strategic buyers are the most likely to pay a premium price if the business is actually sold. We prefer to give an owner a general idea of what he can realize from a sale before he commits to proceeding.

2. How Do I Find A Buyer or Sell the Business?
Owners often mistakenly conclude that finding a buyer is synonymous with selling the business. That is why they are easy prey for suitors who contact them expressing an interest to buy. Experience proves that the “hide and seek” approach does not produce the best results for the seller. A coordinated, systematic marketing plan to identify, approach and connect with prospective buyers yields the most appropriate buyer.

3. What Will I Do After the Sale?
You should determine your business and personal objectives before The Sale Process begins. Disengaging from the business or, at the very least, relinquishing the role of owner is perhaps the most difficult decision for an owner. Studies have shown, however, that the very traits that contribute to a business owner’s success in the business—the need to achieve, independence, desire to control results—enhance the owner’s ability to embrace change and new challenges, whether in retirement, a new role with the company or a new career

4. How Do I Keep This Confidential?
Some businesses can be damaged if employees, suppliers or customers know the business is for sale. Confidentiality can be preserved with procedures on the conduct of the sale, confidentiality agreements and discretion. In some cases it may be advisable to disclose the sale to some or all of the employees. Every owner should be prepared to handle inquiries from employees who become aware of rumors. Even owners occasionally need to be reminded that a sale is not a betrayal, but typically enables the company to grow, thereby increasing the opportunity for all employees.

5. I Don’t Have Time to Sell the Business.
Rarely will one find a successful business owner who has time to sell it. The anticipated ordeal and distraction discourages many prospective sellers. Eventually, however, owners recognize that selling is critically important to the business and to themselves, and they typically choose to initiate the process rather than simply react to inquiries they might receive.

6. I Fear That I Will Not Get Paid or I Will Have to Fight the Buyer.
Every business owner has heard a horror story of the seller who did not get paid. Truth be known, many of those sales were doomed from the start—too heavily financed, inadequate collateral or inappropriate buyer. In other cases the seller was shortchanged because he did not properly represent the company to the buyer. Understandably, owners want to significantly minimize post-sale difficulties. Here again, the process with which the sale is undertaken and the negotiating and structuring of the sale is the best protection against future anxiety.

7. Taxes Will Probably Kill Me.
Taxes on the sale of a business can be significant. Quantifying and understanding the tax impact is preferable to simply fearing the unknown. Armed with this understanding of the tax impact, one can structure the sale to minimize the tax consequences. We caution you, however, not to compare what is being extracted from the company currently on a pre-tax basis with the after-tax proceeds of the sale.