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Selling a Business


Polish the car, get it serviced; get the log book and other papers in order. Put yourself in the buyers position. If you came to view a used car and found it dirty, un-serviced and without any documentation, what would you pay for it, top or bottom price? Act accordingly for the Target.

Process - what will you disclose to the prospective buyers and when? This is critical. You can give away all the value in the business for nothing by disclosing the wrong information at the wrong time. What is the heart of your business: customer list; unprotected technology; unprotected know-how; key people; secret suppliers or deals? What ever it is, it must not be given away until the purchase price is in the bank, in cleared funds.

Accounts - you do not need to show the last 100 years of trading with all its ups and downs. Three years is normally sufficient. Look at the accounts. We are back to used cars. If you see a service book with an entry for every week of the vehicles life, what do you think? If the car salesman can give a rational explanation for each entry, might you change your view? The same is true for business accounts. Why does the cash flow drop in June and come back in October? Why do expenses rise in June and fall in October? Why was turnover so erratic? Think of all the answers because a good buyer will think of all the questions and each answer that does not satisfy is money off the price.

Other records and documents - the same principles apply here as for accounts. Ensure that the vital records are neat, legible and in some sensible order chronological or date, for example. Get written contracts with customers, if possible.

People - will all your employees leave when they hear you are selling? Will some make outrageous demands for more pay, more Ferraris, better biscuits in the tea room, because they know that they (the people) are valuable to the business? You have to deal with these things because they can make or break the deal.

Customers - will some, or all, of your customers desert you/the business when you sell? Will they tell the buyer that before the deal is done? How will you deliver the customers to the buyer?

Suppliers - as for Customers.

Post-sale organisation - if there is a business left behind, can it afford to carry the residual overhead; the overhead that supported the bigger business? If not, you may have redundancy and restructuring costs to pay out of the proceeds of sale.