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  • Writer's picturePeter O'Sullivan

Three reasons why your company is not worth selling

A Consultant's View: 3 reasons why it is not time to sell your company

Most of us understand that investors won’t pay more than they must to acquire a company. But how can a seller maximize the sale price? The first step is to understand what a buyer is really looking to purchase.

Buyers and sellers are often viewing a company from very different perspectives.

“Owners sell the past and buyers buy the future.”

When a buyer does not have confidence that past performance can continue or improve – buyers and sellers can end up stalemating at price. Therefore the only time to sell your company is when it is “ready” for a buyer. But what does that mean?

Here are three reasons why you should not attempt to sell your company now –

  1. The price is appraised too low.

  2. Company is not prepared for the transition to new owners.

  3. You need to sell because of operational pressures.

Poor Pricing: If your appraisal comes in low – don’t expect an investor to pay more. Buyers know the market. They look at literally hundreds of companies and have sophisticated financial models to help them anticipate a price today that allows them to make an acceptable return when they sell again tomorrow.

Did you see that? When they look at your company, they are already thinking about the exit price. So if you want more money for your business, you have to understand where your company needs to be in 5 to 10 years to know what it is worth today – and convince them that the company is fully prepared to deliver on expectations.

Transition Planning: Buyers need to know they can pick up and run with what you sold them. In this area, most financial buyers are the most at risk. They don’t know what is really “under the hood” and often perceive the company with much greater risk than the seller will. And they may be right. Over 50% of business acquisitions fail to meet investor expectations (Business Insider 2012). A company’s ability to mitigate transition and operating failure is crucial to maximizing value for the seller.

Conditions are not right: Selling a company under duress is a terrible way to go. It is no different than buying a used car. If the car has mechanical issues – it is very difficult to sell. Most investors really don’t want to acquire a company that is not running well. They don’t need the risk or the added time to the calendar to get the company back on track. Make sure your company is on a stable trajectory before starting the sales process.

Prepare to sell… now.

Even if you don’t plan on selling for many years – it is critical to start the sales process now. Invest in training, systems and professional management. Make sure you have a leadership staff that has been through a sale in the past. Create business processes that allow you to plug-and-play different employees into new roles. If the majority of roles require “tribal knowledge”, investors will smell it and view your people as high risk rather than valuable assets.

And only sell when the view of the past supports the buyer’s view of the future.

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