You may have heard the advice, “the best time to prepare to sell is when you start your business.” While this statement is far from realistic for most business owners and may even sound humorous, it does contain a certain amount of wisdom. When it comes to getting the best outcomes selling your business, preparation cannot be undervalued.
No matter where you are in the journey of running your business, we encourage you to prepare as much as you can. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some considerations and decisions that you’ll need to make when you do get ready to sell. It’s never too early to begin pondering the answers to these questions.
If you are involved in the day-to-day running of your business, logic would dictate that you’re quite busy and don’t have time to dedicate a lot of time towards the process of selling your business. The good news is that is one area where a Business Broker or M&A Advisor will make all of the difference.
Brokerage professionals will perform a variety of tasks from start to finish, including negotiating and interacting with prospective buyers on your behalf. These professionals will be able to work on many things independently and, if it is your preference, they can notify you only about the most relevant details of the transaction. On the other hand, you may want to be very involved in the process of selling. If that is the case, let your brokerage professional know.
Regardless of how involved you are with the business and the sales process, you will want to ensure that things stay as consistent as possible when you are in the sales phase. The reason for this is that buyers will want to see consistency. Any change in operations or revenue earned could turn out to be a red flag for a buyer.
Another item that is worth thinking about ahead of time is confidentiality. Professional Business Brokers and M&A Advisors will put utmost importance on confidentiality. When confidentiality isn’t taken seriously, leaks are very common. These could quickly interfere with the sale, whether it is due to a client/staff looking elsewhere or competitors taking advantage of the situation. Your brokerage professional will advise you of the policies and precautions that work best when it comes to preventing leaks and only revealing details about your business to prospective buyers who have been carefully vetted.
If you have partners in your business, it makes sense to bring up the discussion of a future sale well in advance. This will allow you to get on the same page about your plans for how things will be handled when the time comes. In the case that the date of the sale ends up being before you expect it to be, it will be very helpful to have already addressed these issues.
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Everyone knows that good employees are important for a thriving business. That’s why there has been so much emphasis on keeping employees happy. When your employees are feeling not only satisfied, but also valued, they will be more likely to keep your clients satisfied too. Your business will be more likely to thrive and grow. Of course, this works in the opposite direction as well. When your staff is frustrated and angry, their actions can drive away your customers and clients. If you are looking to sell your business for maximum revenues, it is a good idea to also maximize employee satisfaction levels.
Research from Oxford University found a link between happiness and productivity. According to their study, workers are 13% more productive when they are happy. It goes without saying that employees will be more likely to feel satisfied when they feel that their salary and benefits are fair for the work they do. If they are resentful about the compensation they are receiving for their work, this will ultimately impact their performance.
When you think about some of the most successful companies, you realize that many of them invest substantially in supporting their employees to cultivate higher levels of employee satisfaction. For example, Google is well-known for offering a wide range of perks ranging from parental leave and paid time off to free lunches and fitness facilities.
When it is feasible for employees to work remotely, many employers are finding that it makes sense to offer them this possibility. Not only will it help staff members to manage childcare, but also it can end lengthy and stressful commutes to work that could result in stress and anxiety.
Research in the journal Frontiers in Psychology showed helpful interventions that are proven to increase employee happiness levels. These included training in resiliency, mindfulness, and cognitive-behavioral techniques.
When you exhibit good leadership and act as a positive role model, your employees will likely follow suit. Employees should be acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done. In some cases, this may be a financial bonus, but in other cases it could simply be patting that employee on the back. Cultivating a positive company culture will prove to boost overall morale. This will increase success for your entire company.
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Are you selling a business that involves a lease? If so, this will be a factor that has significance to a buyer when you go to complete your deal. If your business relies heavily on its location and you don’t own property, then you’ll find the lease will be quite an important consideration for your buyer. By the same token, if you’re buying a business that involves a lease, you’ll want to carefully examine this document and consider how it might impact you and your business. Let’s take a look at some important clauses and terms you’ll want to be looking for.
What are the terms for transfer of the lease? This is something you’ll want to know before signing on the dotted line if you think you’ll be selling at some point in the near future.
How long is your lease? If your buyer can confirm that there are many more years on your lease, he or she will find that to be an advantage.
In the case of a business owner with a new endeavor, a shorter lease may actually be an advantage. That way the owner can get out of the lease if the business is not successful.
If you’re planning on a lease in a shopping center, it’s essential to get in writing that the center will not accept other tenants that do what your business does. Otherwise, you’ll be constantly faced with competing with a similar business.
It’s also important to look for clauses that address what happens in the case of an adverse event. For example, if the property was destroyed by a fire, who will pay in the interim?
There are other practical considerations to consider in leases that many business owners tend to overlook. For example, how are real estate taxes covered? Will you be charged a fee to cover maintenance of the property and, if so, what is it? Is someone in particular responsible for necessary repairs and who will pay for those?
It goes without saying that you’ll also want to check out clauses impacting rent changes. Otherwise, you may face unexpected rent increases that negatively impact your business.
If you are a new business owner, a landlord may ask you to personally guarantee the rent. This would be quite a different lease from one that accepts a well-established corporation as a tenant.
As you can see, there is much more involved in a lease than just the amount of the rent. Be sure to read your lease carefully and ask questions. A Business Broker or M&A Advisor can assist you with lease terms when you are buying a business.
If you’re selling your business, at some point you’ll likely be presented with a term sheet. As the name suggests, this document will include the “terms” of the deal including the basic economic terms and conditions of a prospective acquisition. It is a list of conditions to be met if the sale successfully takes place, yet it is not legally binding.
What is the Difference Between a Term Sheet and the LOI?
Both a term sheet and letter of intent (LOI) will include stipulations and lists for a buyer and seller to agree upon. The major difference is that the term sheet doesn’t require a signature, while the letter of intent does. In many cases, buyers are hesitant to sign before the due diligence stage. In this situation, you may find that the term sheet will precede the LOI.
How Lengthy are Term Sheets?
There is no standard model or form to a term sheet. Therefore, it may be as short as one page, or it could even be five or more pages. But no matter how many pages it may be, it should explain what is being purchased and a stated price. In some cases, the information in a basic term sheet will lead to a formal letter of intent.
What Components Should be Included?
In addition to the price and terms, a term sheet can include other considerations relating to the purchase of the business. For example, it can include employment agreements or non-compete clauses. They can also include conditions to be met upon closing. Often the term sheet will detail plans for the buyer to conduct due diligence and gain additional information. You can expect to find everything from warranties and lists of what is included in the sale to exclusivity clauses within term sheets.
One aspect of the term sheet that should not be overlooked is the method of payment. Typically, the payment sections are far more complex than just “cash at close.” Instead, they will describe a combination of elements including cash at closing, but also other forms of payments. In some situations, they will include details regarding a loan from the seller.
The term sheet is quite beneficial as it can expedite the sales process and prevent serious misunderstandings. As a result, this non-legally binding document can initiate a smooth beginning to a successful deal.
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Once you get to the stage of your deal where you have a signed letter of intent, you may already be feeling a sense of relief that your deal is near finalization. But remember that the due diligence stage is typically yet to come. This stage includes everything from financial and legal investigations to a review of specific information regarding how a business is run.
The due diligence process can be quite comprehensive and it often reveals some surprises. Because it is important for sellers to know what to prepare and for buyers to know what to look for, let’s examine some of the categories that are reviewed during this process.
Trademarks and Copyrights
Will assets like trademarks, patents and copyrights be transferred? This is a point that has certainly interfered with some deals being successful. Due to the fact that trademarks, patents, and copyrights are often essential parts of a business, they cannot be overlooked.
Products and Industry
Due diligence will likely include analysis of product lines and the respective percentage of sales that they make up. If the business in question is a manufacturing business, then all aspects of the process will be examined. For example, buyers will be looking for age and value of the equipment, information about suppliers, etc.
It goes without saying that financial statements should be poured over during due diligence. Current statements and incoming sales should be carefully reviewed. Review of financial information will also include balance sheets. Is there bad debt? Is there work in progress? These kinds of issues will be evaluated.
If you are selling a business, you should be prepared to share lists of major customers. Buyers may also want to compare your market share to that of your competitors.
Buyers should be looking for information on key personnel, as well as data on any potential employee turnover. If you are selling a business, it’s important to try to fix any staffing problems that might interfere with a buyer’s ability to properly run the business.
A key goal of the due diligence process is to find potential problems, such as liabilities and contractual issues. But on the upside, due diligence also includes investigation into assets and benefits. The end result should be that the selling price of the business is justified and both parties walk away satisfied. As stated above, it is very common for problems and issues to pop up during due diligence, so it’s important to stay proactive and be open to negotiation until the deal is finalized.
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