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Ready to Sell Your Business and Retire? Here's What to Do

After years of being the boss, it's finally time to retire.
Image: Some Americans may be in better shape financially to retire than they think, if they spend less.
Some Americans may be in better shape financially to retire than they think, if they spend less.Ebby May / Digital Vision | Getty Images
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After years of being the boss, it's finally time to retire.

Unwinding yourself from a business you've spent decades building isn't easy. After all, you want to protect your company while also ensuring you have enough to live on during retirement, which can make the process emotionally and financially complicated.

"Force yourself to define your objectives," said Douglas McCormick, author of the new book "Family Inc."

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McCormick, who is also the co-founder of HCI EquityPartners, a private equity firm, added, "Value is important, but also think about legacy, employment opportunities for current employees and making sure the product or service that you've created perpetuates in a positive way."

Figuring out the value of your company is the first — but often most difficult — step because there are many factors to consider.

The trick is to evaluate your business as if it were a public company, take stock of all your assets vs. debts. You also want to become a little bit of a detective, said Eric Schiffer, CEO of private equity firm Patriarch Equity.

"Do a study of the competition and ask yourself, 'Who are the types of likely targets or buyers in my niche?'" he advised.

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As you start doing your homework, Schiffer said, you'll see patterns of the type of profit companies like yours are making and the multiple they are selling for based on those earnings. "You'll also find several names of leading business brokers who have done deals like yours," he added.

Having a rock-solid succession plan can maximize the potential for a successful sale while also giving you piece of mind.

Get the business to run smoothly without you. Automate as many processes — such as billing or estimate policies — as you can, and make sure all your employees are on the same page.

Waiting until you have one foot out the door to groom a successor is a common mistake you'll want to avoid. So make sure to identify someone who can take your place as soon as you start thinking about retiring.

According to Schiffer, having a competent second-in-command will also help make your business more attractive to buyers. "They'll have a point person they can go to that's really well trained because you've taught them leadership and installed all the policies and procedures," he said.

Most importantly, McCormick of HCI Equity Partners advises making sure you're comfortable with the buyer you've chosen. "Good owners really spend a good amount of time assessing fit," he said. "Make sure the buyer has same philosophy of running the business."

Knowing the company you've created will continue to be successful will help you let go and retire well.