Last year’s “New Year’s Resolution” post was a big hit, so we decided to reprise it in 2019. Perhaps you are resolving to take better care of yourself, read more books, slow down, and spend more time with family in the coming year.
While you are in the mindset, here are six resolutions for 2019 to help steer your company toward a successful future exit:
Resolution #1: Take steps now to move your company from the lower end to the higher end of the valuation continuum.
When considering the sale of their company, owners must ask the all-important question: What is my company worth? Of course, the answer is largely subjective and can vary depending on a variety of characteristics, including the timing of the proposed transaction.
However, every industry trades in a range of multiples. That said, there are specific characteristics that pertain to companies that are valued at the higher end of the valuation continuum in their industry. Owners who are considering a sale should consider how to move their businesses to the higher end of that continuum so that they can achieve the best possible valuation and outcome when the time is right to sell the company.
Owners should consider the following key factors: Does the company offer a differentiated product or service? Is its growth outlook strong? Does the business have a solid market share in its industry? Does the company operate in a cyclical or non-cyclical market? Has the owner continued to invest in the company to keep technology and equipment up-to-date? Is the business model sustainable for the long term? What improvements can be made to areas of the business to shore it up for a successful sale? Addressing these questions thoughtfully and honestly can help owners view their business objectively so that they can take proactive steps to move their company to the higher end of the valuation continuum.
Resolution #2: “Error-proof” the sale by avoiding common seller mistakes.
Owners are great at running their companies; however, selling them can be a challenge because the skills required are often outside the owner’s wheelhouse. As such, owners can be prone to making common mistakes during the sale process including: sharing too much information before qualifying whether the buyer is “serious” or has the means to purchase the company, not entering into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or entering into one that is not in their best interests, trusting the buyer too early in the process, providing information without context or a pitch, not including all of the major deal terms in the letter of intent (“LOI”), agreeing to a lengthy exclusivity period, and not being responsive to buyer information requests. It is important for owners to understand these mistakes in order to avoid them.
Resolution #3: Hone the sales pitch, maximize buyer perception, and make sure the pitch mirrors the reality of the company.
When courting buyer candidates, the owner’s pitch needs to be spot on and reflect the reality of the company while also presenting the business in the best possible light. As such, owners who are considering a sale should resolve to direct their efforts and resources, where and when possible, to actions that will help maximize buyers’ perception.
Resolution #4: Prepare to answer tough buyer questions.
There is a lot of preparation that goes into the sale of a business, and doing so can be a lengthy and arduous process. One of the tests of an owner’s resolve to sell their company is whether or not they can answer tough buyer questions. It is important for owners to anticipate buyer questions and respond to the questions knowledgeably, thoughtfully and with conviction. How an owner responds to these questions reveals a lot to the buyer about the owner’s commitment to follow through on the transaction.
Resolution #5: Begin the sale discussion early with your shareholders to confirm that they are on board.
Few issues can derail a sale faster than a rogue shareholder. Simply put, it is more difficult, if not impossible for a company to be sold if some of the shareholders are not in agreement to sell the company and are not in agreement with respect to the range of acceptable outcomes. Prospective buyers need to know and be confident that the seller can “deliver” all of the shareholders at the closing since there is an opportunity cost to a dead deal. Owners who are considering a sale should consult with their shareholders early and often to ensure that their interests are represented and that they are prepared to bless the sale of the company.
Resolution #6: Recognize the signs of a serious buyer so that you do not waste time with “tire kickers.”
Most buyers have “tells” that give away whether or not they are serious about purchasing a company. Owners should learn to identity these tells to avoid frittering away valuable time and money on “tire kickers.” Serious buyers will be able to explain the business case for the acquisition; be genuinely engaged, interested and responsive; view due diligence as confirmatory rather than as an opportunity to renegotiate the deal; be transparent about the availability of capital and resources to consummate the purchase; accommodate the seller’s confidentiality concerns; and spend money to hire advisors such as attorneys, accountants and investment bankers to help them complete the acquisition.
Owners who are planning to sell their company in the near future should carefully consider these resolutions and take steps in the coming year (and beyond) to set themselves and their company up for a successful sale to the “right” buyer – all of which will help the owner achieve their objectives.
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