Selling a Business: FSBOs (Pt 3)
07 November 2022: Selling a Business: FSBOs (Pt 3)
This is the third installment in our 4-part series on FSBOs – “For Sale By Owner” – business owners that try to sell their business themselves.
Part 1 was a discussion of price as it’s related to value and that there’s a lot of competition out there – a lot of other businesses for sale that you’re going to be competing with. Last week, in Part 2, we discussed buyers and marketing the business for sale. The general topics of this post – Part 3 – are recognizing and acknowledging the extent of the details that go into valuing, marketing and selling a business and the need to keep your business from losing value during the selling process.
Next week, the final post in this series, will detail two real examples from our files of FSBOs. They’re not pretty.
Getting a business ready for sale is not a task for the emotionally fragile and we’ve covered that topic in many different ways in this here literary work of art. But a business owner must recognize that getting their business ready for sale is really the easy part. The process of marketing the business and negotiating the deal is where the tough work begins.
Preparing a business for bringing it to market can be done at your own measured pace. But once that business comes to market, you no longer have the luxury of time. You’re now facing the demands of buyers – demands for information, documents, lists, value justification, answers to countless questions, etc., etc. – and if you really want to sell your business, you have to respond to those demands. This will take an enormous amount of time.
Inquiries – Calls and emails will be coming in from tire kickers, competitors (in the guise of straw men), clients and even reporters if the fact that the sale of your business might be newsworthy. If your business is priced correctly, you may even get some inquiries from some actual buyers. Do you have a plan for handling them all?
We offer a comprehensive coaching program – both group coaching in our Brokers’ Roundtable community as well as one-on-one coaching – tailored to Realtors, business owners , buyers and anyone interested in valuing, buying or selling a business.
If you’d like to learn more, email me at jo*@Wo*******************.com
Vetting – Knowing who your buyer is is critical. What if it’s a competitor sending a straw man “buyer” in an attempt to get some competitive information? If your business deals with cash, what if the “buyer” is someone from the taxing authorities posing as a buyer to see if you’ve been keeping more of your hard-earned money than they want to let you keep? Tire-kickers are a perennial issue in this business. In order to keep your proprietary and intellectual property as well as your finances from appearing on the front page of your local Font of Knowledge, you’ve got be able to determine who the “real” buyers are – and how to differentiate them from all the riff-raff that is destined to show up. This takes work; and that means time.
Document delivery – Another critical aspect is controlling the dissemination of your documentation. You certainly don’t want your financial or employee data to end up on the counter of the coffee shop downtown as a result of some absent minded potential buyer or real estate agent forgetting to collect it at the end of a meeting. Will it make its way to a competitor? To your customers? To your employees?
Customers – and speaking of customers and employees, unless you can maintain some level of confidentiality during what is likely to be a 10- to 15-month process, all will realize that your business is for sale. As I’ve written often, – including in last week’s post – once confidentiality is lost, you’re presented with an entirely new set of challenges.
Deal terms – you’ve got to realize that you don’t know what you don’t know. The pitfalls when selling a business are many and varied, and if not fully considered and handled properly can result in what could ultimately turn out to be a bad deal. What are your post-closing responsibilities and liabilities? What about future restrictions? How much financing will you provide and will that be part of an earn-out? Without the right team to help you, selling a business can be an exercise in frustration and possibly result in damage to your business – damage that will lower its value.
Selling a Business vs Running that Business
But here’s the real concern.
If you’re doing all this work, who’s running the business?
If you want the highest value for it, your business has to continue functioning at the highest level of efficiency and profitability. If you take your eye off that ball, your business will begin to suffer. The result will be a lose of value. If buyers see financial metrics falling over even a 4-6 month period, they start to wonder why.
Selling a business takes a lot of time and attention to such significant considerations as confidentiality, finding “the right” buyer, structuring the deal so that your post-closing plans can be met and, not incidentally, knowing what the business is actually worth and then knowing how to set a target price.
All of this requires knowledge and expertise, of course, but it also requires time. You can acquire the knowledge – simply taking our Course on how to value and sell business should save you tens of thousands of dollars. But you can’t acquire the time. If your business needs you in the trenches on a regular basis, taking the time to try to sell it yourself is time away from running it.
Our course, “Learn How to Value and SUCCESSFULLY Sell Businesses“, teaches you how to accurately value and successfully sell businesses.
The Bottom Line
Selling a business is a process with a lot of constantly moving parts. Every buyer sees the business differently. Every buyer approaches the purchase differently. Every buyer will have their own unique questions and concerns.
In our role as business brokers, we get some of the same questions from a dozen or more buyers – and they ask them in a dozen or more ways. Each question from each potential buyer has to be answered and how those answers are formed and elaborated on will impact the chances of a successful sale.
Selling a business requires training, expertise and a lot of time to manage the process; you’ve got to know what you’re doing while also driving your business while doing it. In more than 20 years in the business brokering trenches, we’ve never met an owner who had the expertise – and certainly not the time – required to sell their own business. Those who try are generally disappointed in the results, at best, and, at worst, end up calling in the pros to try to salvage the sale of what is now a less valuable business.
Next week we’ll describe two examples from our files of business owners trying to sell their own business. Both are true stories – and one is not yet over!
I’d like to hear from you. What topics would you like me to cover? How can we tailor these posts to be more useful to you and your business. Let me know in the comments box, below, or email me at jo*@Wo*******************.com.
If you have any questions or comments on this topic – or any topic related to business – I’d like to hear from you. Put them in the comments box below. Start the conversation and I’ll get back to you with answers or my own comments. If I get enough on one topic, I’ll address them in a future post or podcast.
I’ll be back with you again next Monday. In the meantime, I hope you have a safe and profitable week.
We’ve been contacted by a U.S.-based buyer focusing on roll-ups looking to acquire residential plumbing, hvac and electrical companies nationwide.
If any of you know of something that might fit, please let me know.
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The author is the founder, in 2001, of Worldwide Business Brokers and holds a certification from the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) as a Certified Business Intermediary (CBI) of which there are fewer than 500 in the world. He can be reached at jo*@Wo*******************.com