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Selling Your Business? When To Go It Alone


Are you ready to hand over the keys to the castle you’ve spent the better part of your business life building? If the idea of selling your business has grown from a passing thought to the key to achieving the future of your dreams, you’ve got a lot to think about.

Selling a business isn’t exactly like selling a house. You only get one shot at the sale, and there’s a lot more at stake. Maybe you’ve already gotten some unsolicited offers, so you figure — how hard can it be to sell my business? The truth is, getting an offer is the easy part. It’s everything that comes after that can keep you up at night.

Before getting into the weeds, let’s look at some circumstances where a DIY approach often makes the most sense.

Common Sell-it-Yourself Scenarios

Nearly all business owners consider selling the business themselves at some point. This route makes sense in the following cases:

  • Distressed Sale
    Sometimes there’s not enough money to pay off your business liabilities, so paying for an investment banker, M&A advisor, or business broker is simply out of the question.

  • Selling to Family
    Are you selling to a family member? In this case, you won’t have to pitch or market the business, find buyers, or field offers.

  • Selling to an Employee
    The same goes for selling to a current employee. Chances are they know exactly what the company is worth, and where all of the skeletons are buried — which can save you a lot of time and effort.

In any other case, here are three key questions you need to ask yourself to determine if going it alone is the best course of action.

What are your goals?

Before you do anything, it’s crucial to give some hard thought to the personal, financial and business goals that you hope to achieve by selling your business. How important is it to get the best price for your business? Are you satisfied with an offer that’s already on the table? And will you remain satisfied if that number isn’t quite as high as you hoped after the due diligence process?

Or would you be happier with a higher purchase price that’s driven up by a bidding war? Consider a recent case where a business owner was considering taking an unsolicited offer from a large strategic buyer. Once he agreed to open up the process to other qualified buyers, the offer price was driven up by more than 80%.

Consider also, are you looking for a clean sale, or do you want to keep some skin in the game? Do you know the best strategy for selling a portion of your business? And making sure that your employees are taken care of?

Once you settle on what exactly you’re after, you’ll be able to determine if you need to call in the professionals to get everything you want. How much expert advisement you really need depends on what you’re hoping to achieve.

Is it the right time to sell?

This one’s a bit loaded, but it’s the most important question you need to ask yourself. Your answer will inform whether or not a DIY sale is viable. Let’s unpack it a bit. First, are you (really) ready to sell your business – on an emotional level? You’re obviously deeply invested in the company that you’ve built, and selling it is a once-in-a-lifetime event. How is your life going to change when you step away? Have you given some thought to what your future will look like, and where you’ll find happiness and fulfillment?

On the operational side, there’s a lot to consider when determining when to sell your business. Your business should be on solid ground before you consider a sale. Do you know how to determine what your company is worth? And will this value allow you to achieve the financial and practical goals that you’ve set? Or do you need to boost your business’s sale value in order to ensure that your goals are within reach?

Believe it, or not, any investment banker worth their salt will always start by asking if you’re ready to sell — and will know exactly how to help you figure that out. If you’re not truly ready, or it’s not the best time to sell your business for any number of reasons, good advisors will never push a deal. But they will serve as consultants to help you get there.

Is your “house” in order?

Let’s say that you’re confident in your decision to sell, business is good, and all signs point to now being the right time to make a move. It’s time to open up the hood and get your business in order. Are you capable of doing this yourself, or will you need to bring in professionals who do this for a living?

That depends on a number of factors, of course, including how much time you have to dedicate to the task (not to mention marketing, pitching and fielding offers). Do you have the bandwidth to handle a buyer’s “Quality of Earnings” examination of your historical books and records, or due diligence questions regarding HR policies, environmental compliance, legal issues, etc.? And can you give the sale your complete attention while also running your business?

In addition to gathering several years’ worth of financials, you’ll need to be able to identify the red flags that can derail a deal and devalue your company. Everything from high customer concentration and outdated IT systems to unassignable contracts need to be dealt with before you put your business up for sale. Are you prepared to take care of these crucial details, or would you rather run your business and let the sellers sell?

The Bottom Line

Think you’ve got what it takes to sell your own business? If you’ve got the time, expertise and stomach to go it alone, this comprehensive guide to selling your business will walk you through every step of the process.

Not so sure? One of the biggest benefits of professional guidance may be the most surprising. Selling your business is an emotional roller coaster, and having experts on your team to help you make the right decisions goes a long way toward maintaining your sanity in an emotionally loaded “once in a lifetime” event. FourBridges has the experience and expertise to help you achieve your specific goals, financial and otherwise, so you can sleep better at night.


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