Considering selling your business ? Are you confident you will get a good price?
By Michael O'Connell, AS Fisher & Co
2016 was certainly a busy year for all the print and graphic market magazines and journals. Hardly a week went past without the news of a significant sale, merger and or, the failure within the relevant industry segments of some quite well-known names.
It is likely that the festive break has simply given those reporting on events just enough time to sharpen some more pencils so as to be ready for more of the same.
It would seem there are 3 primary drivers operating within the market at this point in time, they being:
A) An increasing number of grey haired (if they still have any) owners considering their future and preference for a peaceful game of golf or, gardening, over the thrust and parry of the business they are in. ie retirement.
B) Ever rapidly advancing technology demanding significant cap-ex just to keep up with play.
C) Seemingly, more suppliers than orders, at least contributing to the perception of a race to the bottom in pricing.
I thought that over the break, it would be a great service to those considering selling to commit to paper some words of wisdom on “how to maximise my exit”. Being a little short on wisdom personally, I turned to “google” only to discover 8,530,000 search results were able to cover this topic. Of course that number would likely include some not so wise suggestions and I did notice one actually related to a question on how to minimize and maximise buttons on a Thunder bird game console – OK I admit to reading that one. Point being I am not so certain the world needs yet another article on “how” to maximise the value of your exit, if indeed you are considering doing so.
Rather than grab another beer and go back to the TV and cricket I came up with another brainwave – I asked Google to hunt up responses for the question “why didn’t I get a good price for my business”. Frankly I expected the number to be relatively small but shock horror the response was “about 615,000,000 search results”. So that is 8.5 million for how to vs 615 million for why not. Maybe on that basis there is room for another “how to” article, if only to help even up the numbers. On reasonable reflection though, the logic that any single owner operator considering selling, already has ready access to 8.5 million articles, convinced me to focus on some other aspects of the exit process.
One piece of wisdom I am able to impart relates to the “right” price of a business – it is when the buyer fears they have paid too high a price while at the same time the seller believes they have settled for too little. Unfortunately one can only learn this after the sale process however, maybe it would cull some of those 615 million “why I didn’t get a good price” articles. I guess one could be lead to ask how do I make sure the buyer feels more concerned than I do. A better question may be, how do I get a great price and have the buyer feel happy that they have not paid too much. Answer to that one is actually not too hard. Make sure you are selling a great business at your time of choosing. Best way to ensure that scenario is to take the attitude and develop a strategic plan that positions your business as always ready to be sold.
OK, so you are seriously considering selling ….. but when? Are you planning this for the future or have “things” come upon you or the business that selling now appears to be an imperative. Either way you need to set a price. It may be that you have already had the business valued, for say insurance purposes, so that without any additional cost you have a starting point. If not, you could look at some other similar businesses that have sold that again gives you at least a starting point, but let’s see what Google suggests. OOPs, 64,100,000 search results could take a while to read through. This is the point where you really do have to make a significant decision. Are you going to handle the (preparation and sale) processes personally, or seek external assistance? To paraphrase an old story, a solicitor got into some problems and had to appear in court, so he thought, knowing the law it would be best to represent himself in order to save some money however, on learning of this, the magistrate suggested he had a fool for a client. Morale of the story; Even if you have someone knocking down your door wanting to buy your business it is seriously worth considering engaging external assistance that is best able to objectively assist you formulate and implement a strategy, then represent you throughout the sale process.
How you make that choice requires a whole other Google search to which you will discover there are a mere 8,960,000 search results.