Selling your business is like gardening
Now I never thought I’d get into gardening. Don’t get me wrong I like to see a nice garden, but I’ve never wanted to be the one to do the work. More National Trust, me.
But whether it is because I am getting a little older or perhaps, that I have been spending more time at home in the last 16 months I have found that I do enjoy weeding, planting, pruning, and tidying and come back indoors a little more chilled than when I went out. I even listen to Gardeners’ Question Time!
And that made me think; the work that I do with business owners, preparing their business for sale, is a lot like making the garden look nice so I can sit and enjoy it.
Now humour me, if you would, for a few minutes
You’ve planned; you’ve worked hard for years building up a business of which you are, rightfully, proud.
But now you feel that you’d like to take it a bit easier, to enjoy the things you may have had to sacrifice for the sake of the business. How do you attract the best buyers and get the best price?
Well, this is where the ‘gardening’ comes in.
Distance yourself from the business
The acquirer wants the business not you. This doesn’t mean that you will not be required to assist in the handover or that there may be an element of staying to achieve an “earn-out”, but the buyer needs to ensure that the business will function without you.
Remove unnecessary costs
The value of your business is likely to be determined by its profits. Remove costs that add nothing to the business. By doing so this will increase profits.
Invest in the management team that will allow you to distance yourself from the business.
Continue to invest in technology or plant new processes if this will give rise to an increase in future profits.
Get all shareholders on board.
Not everyone may be as enthusiastic as you to sell their shares. Sow the seeds now to get all shareholders enthused about a sale.
The buyer is probably going to be a bigger business than you. They may not appreciate that you have all the figures up in your head. They will expect to see management accounts, forecasts and budgets, sales order pipeline and active credit control, amongst others.
Clean up the balance sheet
Sell surplus assets, scrap obsolete stock, and make realistic provisions for doubtful debts. Buyers will not pay for valueless assets.
Allow unprofitable contracts to lapse or even cancel them leaving only the profitable ones.
Many businesses incur costs which, while legitimate, may well be influenced by the owner manager. These could be the type of car used for the business, the nature of entertaining, the employment of family members. The new owners may have other ideas and may not incur these costs giving rise to greater profits.
You should consider removing these costs going forward to reflect the true profitability of the business leading up to the sale or, at least, keep records of these costs to present to the potential buyer with a view to them being adjusted for in the purchase price.
My overriding advice though is to plan early. Speak to those that can help you get your business looking its best; your accountant or corporate advisor. Allow them to be the ‘fertiliser’ to give you the best chance of getting the deal done for the best price.
And to be fair it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been told I am full of fertiliser! Right, off to deadhead the dahlias.