If you own a business that you plan to sell at some point, you’ll want to maximize the price you receive. Often, selling to a strategic buyer is the best way to accomplish this. Think of a strategic buyer as someone who will get more benefit from owning your business than what it will cost. The business has additional value to this prospective buyer. Therefore, a strategic buyer is more likely to be willing to pay a premium for your company. Here are three steps to identifying the right strategic buyer and getting the best price.
1. Increase the number of prospective buyers. If your business isn’t already there, grow it into a fully-evolved midsize structure. This means having a competent set of managers in place with well-documented processes and an appropriate set of metrics to let you know what is going on in the bowels of the business without you having to be there personally. Then, delegate day-to-day decisionmaking authority to these managers and hold them accountable for results. The acid test for a fully-evolved midsize business is that the principal can leave for a couple of months and nothing much changes. Obviously, strategic decisions won’t be made in your absence, but the normal work of the business will go on without a glitch.
This structure will make your business attractive to buyers who are not able or willing to make all of the day-to-day tactical decisions. The competition to buy your company both increases the probability of a successful sale and the price your company will garner.
2. Determine the right type of strategic buyer for your business. Strategic buyers will be interested in how your company will fit into their own long-term business plans. Typically, a strategic buyer will be planning:
- A vertical expansion (e.g., a customer planning backward integration or a supplier planning forward integration)
- A horizontal expansion (e.g., into new geographic markets or product lines)
- The elimination of competition
- To combine your business with theirs, eliminating redundancy and increasing profitability
- The strengthening of its own areas of weakness (e.g., technology, marketing, distribution, research and development, etc.)
Which type of strategic buyer will see the most value from your business? Once you have answered this question, you will know where to market your company.
3. Seek the help of a competent investment banker who specializes in the sale of companies of your size and type. There are two reasons. First, an experienced advisor can give you a good idea of the price you are likely to get for your business. Get this assessment while there is time to make changes that will increase the value of your business. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of believing that they can sell their businesses for much more than they actually can. It is best to face this reality while you can still do something about it.
Second, you will face a myriad of questions as you negotiate the sale of your business. Will this be an asset sale or a stock sale? Will you accept stock from the acquirer or will this be a purely cash transaction? Will you give the buyer a note for a portion of the purchase price? Will there be an earn out provision? Will you have any role in the business after the sale? If so, what will your role be and for how long? The answers to these questions are not necessarily simple and getting a deal that is right for you is paramount. A competent advisor can be invaluable.
Selling your company may be one of the most important things you will do in your business life. Take the necessary steps to maximize the price you get.
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