Thinking of Selling Your Business? Think Like a Marketer.
Every business owner knows all of the hard work, the sleepless nights, and the good times and bad that went into building their successful business. When it comes to selling your business it’s important to remember that regardless of how good your financial pictures is, how state-of-the-art your facility might be, or strong your client relationships are, not every buyer wants or needs the same thing and each potential buyer will value your business differently. There are some basic characteristics every business needs to realize a successful sale. To ensure your business is ready to sell, put on your marketing hat and focus on those characteristics.
To showcase the value of your business, the most important characteristic to understand is your competitive advantage in your marketplace. Buyers want a gem that they can put their own polish on and continue to grow. While buyers appreciate an owner’s hard work to build a business, they typically don’t look backwards and value the years of effort, they look forward and value the opportunity. Understanding a potential buyer’s business and their intentions helps determine what good will in your company is applicable to their needs and how it should be valued.
Before we review the components of your business that are important to buyers, I’ll ask you to stop and ask yourself, are you really ready to sell? If you’re not sure, read our blog, Are You Ready to Sell Your Business? Answer these Four Easy Questions. If the answer is yes, and don’t have an exit plan, get one in place before you take any further steps in selling your company. If you don’t have a solid exit plan, you can wind up selling your business prematurely, be emotionally unprepared, and maybe not getting the best price for your business. Check out this free exit plan resource.
Think Like A Marketer
Thinking like a marketer means you step out of the owners role and step in to a buyers role. What about your business can drive more revenue? Does your business have value differentiators like patented products, unique processes, or perhaps a big share of the market in a specific industry? Pinpoint the great characteristics that your business already has and that somebody else will want. Here are the primary characteristics a business should have in solidly place when going to market:
Growth and Market Position
Competitive advantage. As we stated above, what is your company’s competitive advantage? How does it drive revenue today and can it be sustained long-term?
A realistic, proven growth story. What are the key areas in the business where a future buyer can drive revenue. Think near-term and long-term to help buyers fully understand the upside value of the acquisition.
Understand the market are you selling to. Is it a viable growth market or one that’s dying. We all know the story of Blockbuster Video when digital streaming became available. If you’re in a non-growth industry, do you have a plan to pivot for long-term growth? It’s crucial that you think like a marketer to find a new industry that you can sell to, or revamp products and services to fit a new buyer in a different market if you’re selling to a dying industry or see headwinds of industry disruption that will greatly affect sales.
Finance and Operations
Your business should show a strong financial performance. Both recent financial success and a strong forecast for future growth. Don’t forget to get your books in good order if you’re going to market. Buyers will ask for many different types of financial reports and if a seller can’t produce them or it takes a long time to create the reports, a buyer may get impatient and move on. Work hard to keep the momentum of your deal at a good pace.
Solid customer relationships. Contractual relationships are optimum. Even if you don’t have contracts, good long-term clients, who are financially sound can add value a time of sale. Solid relationships mean the business is difficult to transfer to another supplier if the business is sold. A solid client base is critical to a positive deal structure, the long-term success of the acquisition, and if you have an earn-out as part of your sale, it can affect your pocketbook.
Operational expertise is crucial. No buyer want’s to untangle an operational mess. You may not achieve the sale price you desire if a new buyer has to invest in infrastructure. This is true for key operational employees, as well. Post-sale you’ll want operations to run smoothly so that clients aren’t underserved, become dissatisfied and post-sale revenues drop. Be sure you’re operationally sound before putting the for-sale sign in the window.
A strong management team. You want a strong team to keep operations running smoothly. More importantly, if you, as the owner are not planning to stay with the business, is there a key leader that can fill the gap when you leave? A businesses’ success is as much about the leadership team as it is the products, services and market place. The training institute, IBQMI lists nine reasons why a strong management team is good for your business. Check out their list and see how a good management team helps your business beyond the day-to-day operations.
A marketer knows that selling a good product is about more than just the product itself. For a soda it’s about taste, experience and lifestyle. For a car it’s about performance and status. For a business it’s about the value drivers and growth story. The company’s value drivers can have as much impact on valuation as financial metrics.
Think Like A Buyer
Now swap your marketing hat for the buyer’s hat. Think about ways to expand a buyer’s wallet share with your company. This could mean adding products or services. Sometimes it means acquiring or expanding your services into new markets. Presenting your business in a way that’s attractive to select buyers begins with thinking like your ideal buyers. What are they looking for? What else do they want to give their clients? What will they want that you have? What will make you more attractive to them?
Understand What The Buyer Is Looking For
To know your buyer, you need to know which areas of your business the buyer is looking at. Some buyers will look to add revenue. Others will be more concerned with your gross margin, net profits, or ROI. A public company, for example, may trade at a higher multiple of earnings than they are buying yours for. For example: If this type of buyer buys your company for one times revenue and trades at three times, they would be better off. This could essentially allow the buyer to more than double the value. Therefore, when this type of buyer looks at companies to buy, he or she may be less concerned with your valuation if they can use your revenue earnings using their higher multiple. This can work to the seller’s advantage if the seller is aware of the buyer’s situation.
If you’ve determined that you are emotionally ready to sell and your business is at a good point financially, operationally, and has good market position it may be time to begin the sales process. Start by thinking like a marketer and shine up those key characteristics that are important to a buyer. Don’t forget to develop a good, defensible growth story.
Working with a professional business advisor can provide an objective outside opinion and help you identify and showcase the areas of strength in your business you want to be in place before you go to market. Additionally, they can market your business to find buyers that are the right fit for your company.
If you need help in preparing and marketing your company for sale or need help in growing your company before you’re ready to sell contact Paradise Capital. Our team of experienced business professionals brings 50+ combined years of marketing, communications, finance, business planning and acquisition services working with a variety of brands.
Ann Smallman, Partner at Paradise Capital and co-author of GrowNOW! Your Fast Path to Growth. With a background in business marketing and relationship management, Ann has worked with some of the nation’s biggest brands and helped to drive millions of dollars in revenue.
She manages Paradise Capital sales process helps clients navigate the ins and outs of selling their company which lets her apply her marketing experience in positioning companies for sale.