When it’s time to sell your business, there are many elements that come into play.
For example, how it is packaged, marketed and presented will affect the final price you achieve. But so too will the management of the sales process. This will influence the quality of potential buyers you attract, which will directly impact on the valuation you receive.
So, in order to generate the best offers for your business – from the right buyer at the right price – there are a number of key tips and strategies you need to be aware of:
Business as usual
We all know the purpose of any business is to satisfy client needs, so this must not be interrupted at any time. If it is, then the business you are selling will not hold its original and/or potential value.
It is essential that during any sales process the business continues to function as normal and, ideally continues to grow. You may need to look at operations and staffing to see how the allocation of your, and other relevant company members’, time may be affected. If necessary, start planning for this now.
Keep the confidentiality of an intended sale and only give information to managers and staff on a need-to-know basis. This will help maintain the status quo and ensure that the day-to-day running, output and achievements of the business are not disturbed.
Define what you are selling
What is it that you are selling? Bigger businesses may need to split up portions of the business for sale. If you are splitting a business to sell only a portion you have to work out the costs associated with the part that is being sold. Put in place costs for required external services (for example, those the company may currently source internally, but will no longer be able to do so after the split and sale). These budgeted costs need to hold up to third party scrutiny and must be in-line with current market prices.
What price can you realistically expect? If you are a listed company you need to look at the listed market valuations and sales. If you are a private company look at the sale prices from the last few years to form a benchmark price for your company type, scale and size.
You might want to engage an external adviser who may have better knowledge and access to this information.
Preparation for sale
If the business is an SME, you will need to identify shareholders’ expenses that are charged to the business and other “one off” expenses that may have been charged to the profit and loss account. These figures may need to be added back to the P&L to establish the recurring profitability of the business. Buyers like to see consistent trends and therefore a sale may need to be managed over a two to three year period taking in to account the industry, the market, managing sales and achieving a targeted growth curve.
Vendor due diligence
It’s a good idea to get external legal and accounting companies to do due diligence on your own company. This way you know what may come up when a potential acquirer looks at your records. This kind of work is commissioned by you, and the term of references are such that they can be handed over to a potential purchaser at the right time during the sales process. The genius of this is that it highlights issues that you may not have been aware of so that you can manage them in advance. Being forewarned means there will be no nasty surprises which could led to price reduction. This situation can be avoided if time is taken to ‘dig deep’ before the sales process commenced.
Checking your own business sale fitness before any due diligence from potential buyers is particularly important in the SME environment. This is because accounts are often finalised without clear explanation of the adjustments at year end and what their impact has been.
It is imperative that you understand the impact of any sale on your business’ own tax position; be that corporate and/or personal tax. Depending on the shareholders involved, it may be possible to shape the consideration to enable the tax payable to be minimized legitimately.
Warranties and Indemnities
These are important legal terms meaning that in any sale you have to warrant the information to the purchaser. You must be able to say that it has been prepared on a proper basis and gives a true and fair view of the business you are selling.
In addition, be aware that if certain items come to light a purchaser may be entitled to make a claim. The sale and purchase agreement will therefore need to have a procedure to deal with this.
You will also need to give various indemnities on the taxation position of the company. For instance, guaranteeing that the position of the company is as you say it is. Again, should any issues come to light, there will need to be a procedure to deal with this. This should include a notification process if you need to make any payments as a result.
Ensure you fully understand the “completion statements”. These deal with the cash and other assets within the business and lay-out what happens when the sale is completed. By being fully aware of these you can ensure that everything is in good order on completion.
There is an awful lot of information that needs to be prepared for a sale and it is unlikely that you/the company can handle it on your own. A project team will need to be created with a manager assembling all the information the advisers will require. This is a worthwhile investment of time and money. It will make the deal process more efficient and identify any issues that need to be worked on or that may require careful consideration on how best to present them to potential buyers.
As part of any sale an information memorandum will need to be prepared. It is usual to instruct an external party to do this. They will be able to present the information in a way that is acceptable to potential acquirers. Such a document may take six to eight weeks to prepare.
You need to allow appropriate time and resources to manage the process. Vendors are often surprised by how much time and effort the sales process can take. So, allocate the appropriate time, energy and resources to do it properly.
Finally, to achieve the maximum value from your exit, remember that the two games – running the business and running the sale – will need to be run simultaneously and successfully right through to the very end.
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