For Sellers
7 min read

What To Expect When Selling Your Business

This article delves into what sellers should anticipate during this journey, offering insights into preparations, valuations, buyer interactions, negotiations, and the eventual transition. By setting realistic expectations and understanding the roadmap, business owners can position themselves for a successful, profitable, and smooth sale.

Written by
Will Pouncey
Published on
September 25, 2023

Whether prompted by retirement, new ventures, or strategic shifts, selling a business is a monumental decision for any entrepreneur. However, the process is often as complex as building the company itself. Owners need to navigate this procedure astutely, balancing emotional attachments with pragmatic decisions. Below, we unravel the critical phases and expectations in the business selling journey, illuminating the path for a strategic and rewarding exit.

Preparation and Timing

Preparation is pivotal, often commencing years before the listing. It's not merely about deciding to sell; it's about making the business sellable. Enhancing business procedures, financial records, customer diversification, and recurring revenue streams can increase attractiveness. Owners should also anticipate a rigorous due diligence process, necessitating comprehensive documentation, including tax returns, leases, contracts, and employee information, just to name a few.

Timing the sale is equally crucial. Economic conditions, industry trends, and business lifecycle stages impact valuations and buyer interest. Sellers must stay informed about market conditions and plan for an opportune window.

Business Valuation

Determining the right price is a delicate art. Overvaluation can deter potential buyers, while undervaluation leaves money on the table. Professional M&A advisors employ various methodologies, including discounted cash flows, comparable company analysis, and historical earnings evaluations, to ascertain a fair market value. Expect this phase to be collaborative, requiring transparent sharing of business performance data and future projections.

Marketing and Finding Buyers

This phase involves creating an offering memo – a document highlighting business value, operations, market position, and financials, while maintaining confidentiality. Sellers should expect their brokers to utilize an extensive network, including private buyers, competitors, and investors, and employ tools like Confidential Business Reviews (CBR) to attract and vet potential candidates. It's essential to anticipate diverse inquiries and prepare for intense scrutiny from prospects.

Negotiations and Due Diligence

Post initial interest, expect a series of negotiations. These discussions go beyond the price, encompassing terms, transition processes, future commitments, and more. Experienced advisors act as mediators, balancing seller goals with market realities.


Subsequently, the due diligence phase commences. Buyers investigate every business aspect, necessitating sellers to facilitate complete, organized access to documents and information. This stage can be arduous and emotionally charged, as it often involves rigorous examinations and renegotiations based on the findings.

Finalizing the Sale

Upon successful negotiations and due diligence, the sale enters the final stage. This phase involves drafting and signing the purchase agreement, which outlines all terms, representations, and warranties. Sellers should engage legal counsel to ensure their interests are protected. Expect a series of closing documents.

Transition

Post-sale, the business often enters a transition period, where the seller assists the new owner. The duration and involvement level vary, typically stipulated in the sale agreement. Sellers should anticipate an emotional transition, preparing mentally for handing over their life's work.

Conclusion

Selling a business is a complex, often bittersweet journey. It's a strategic chess game, requiring meticulous planning, professional guidance, and emotional preparedness. By understanding what to expect, sellers can mitigate challenges, maximize value, and ensure a legacy that endures beyond their stewardship. Engaging with a proficient M&A advisor can be the difference between a good deal and a great one, safeguarding the entrepreneur's interests at every step.

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