Selling Your Company: 7 Things You Need to Know

Selling you company may be the most important business decision you ever make—but it’s a very strange process. Here’s what you need to know.

Selling your company is not simple. It will take longer than you think, and it will be more complicated than you think. And if you’re not familiar with the process, you’re going to be baffled by questions you hadn’t anticipated – how many buyers am I supposed to reach out to? – And situations you don’t know how to interpret – this buyer’s offer is 20% lower than that one! Are they trying to insult me?
Here are seven scenarios that you might not be expecting–and the reasons they’re not the end of the world.

  1. You’ll get burned out, so know why you’re selling.Why are you selling now? Maybe it’s because you want to expand company operations, or join a friend in a new start-up, or walk the Great Wall of China. The sales process usually takes from nine months to a year, so it’s normal to get frustrated along the way. Staying motivated will help you remain focused on the ultimate goal – closing the transaction.
  2. Selling requires a specialist, so hire professionals. Selling is a specialized process. It’s not a good idea to hire an accounting firm just because your golf buddy recommended it, or to use your family lawyer to negotiate the sale of your business. You’ll only sell your company once, and you owe it to yourself to use expert intermediaries who have done this successfully several times before.
  3. You’ll think the deal is dead. Some investment bankers joke that, “Every deal dies three times before it successfully closes.” There’s some truth in that statement. At times, you and the buyer will slam down your phones or stalk out of the conference room, swearing on your respective grandmothers’ graves that there is no possible way to complete the transaction. Believe it or not, this is normal.
  4. Accountants need numbers to survive.You will be overwhelmed by an unending stream of demands for more and more financial information, not just from the buyer but from your investment bankers, your accountants, your CFO, and probably the neighbor’s dog. Unfortunately, this is a necessary and unavoidable part of the process.
  5. Lawyers start every sentence with, “The problem is…”This negativity naturally becomes discouraging after a few weeks or months. Remember, you’re paying them to protect you, so they’re supposed to keep finding possible problems. Your job is to stay positive and keep pushing towards the solutions.
  6. You’re not Apple or Google.If your asking price is more than the value of the best public company in the industry, you may be a little unrealistic. I know, I know, your baby is prettier and smarter and more valuable than anyone else’s. Recognize that you can’t help being biased, and seek out other, more objective opinions.
  7. Don’t forget to run your company!This is the biggest sale of your lifetime. When and how to sell your company is probably one of the most important business decisions you ever make. Once it gets rolling, the sales process will seem to suck up all your time and energy, and you’re going to want to focus on the sale. But, if profits drop, so will the value of the company and your negotiating strength. Take the time to keep the business running smoothly, so it’s the kind of growing enterprise for which buyers will pay a premium.

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