You Want to Sell Your Business Someday How to Prepare Today

Every Business Needs an Exit Strategy.  Do you want to Run Your Business Forever?  Do you Want to Sell your business?  Do you want to leave your business to your children?  Do you want to sell your business to Your Employees?  Do you Just want to close your doors and Move on?  How do you want to exit your business ?- And when?

Recently a good friend of mine that is a successful business owner contacted me about the prospect of selling his business in a few years. He asked me to contact him regarding what he may want to be doing now to prepare his business for sale.  He has a successful growing business, he has grown his number of employees from 10 to 75 over the last 18 months.  He is effective at gaining new contracts and growing revenue, but like so many  businessmen, he has never attempted to sell his business.

Devising An Exit Strategy For Selling Your Business

Normally during the startup of a new business the thought of an exit strategy is not even a consideration.  Then small business owners get so involved with the day-today operation of their businesses that again an exit strategy is either not even thought of or possibly just put on the back burner.  Taking some time to put some thought into your exit strategy can go a long way to increasing your odds of exiting your business the way you desire to.

Planning, gaining knowledge, and preparing  may be the 3 most important measures you can take when considering an effective exit strategy.

If your exit strategy involves an interest in trying to successfully sell your business in several years, what sort of measures or actions should a business owner take to make this successful:

  1. Make sure your financials are in order. Clean understandable Income Statements and Balance  Sheets will add value to your business.
  2. Systematize and document your operations and procedures.  Well documented policies, procedures and practices are a sign of a well run company and  probably would help your company run better, and add value. If you got hit by a truck tomorrow could someone use your documented practices to help continue run your business?
  3. Move your business towards a business that does not rely on you.  Do your customers do business with your company or do customers do business with you.  When you go to sell your business are you selling a business that is dependent on you the owner or a self-sustaining business based on a solid philosophy, solid customer service and reliable employees and practices. Or when you go away, does your business go away?
  4. Speak to your trusted advisers- let them know your intentions see if  they have any input suggestions that could help move you towards this goal.  Trusted advisers may include your attorney, CPA, financial advisor, business brokers.
  5. Learn by speaking to your trusted advisers what are the most important aspects that affect your business value.  How does one value your business? What is most important to business buyers?-  Your Assets, your cash flow, your sales, your number of customers, your patents, trademarks, your competitive advantage.  Learn what the real driving factors are behind raising the value of your business and work on them. Understand that not all businesses that attempt to sell actually do find a business buyer and sell.
  6. Running your business and concurrently, preparing your business for sale is a viable  approach towards business transition. It is not a” one or the other approach”.  Preparing your business for sale does not need to get in the way of running your business, and most measures improve your business. If you make needed improvements to your business and or operations and decide not to sell your business or exit your business, you still most likely will have a better business on your hands.
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For planning purposes try to learn what the potential value of your business may be. Also educate yourself on the business buying or selling marketplace.  It is not always the same.  Selling a business during the 90’s was different than selling a business in 2006, and is significantly different than selling a business in 2010… and different than 2015 or 2020.

If you think you want to sell your business in 5 years for $1M, attempt to understand what realistically your approximate value may be today.  If your business may realistically only be worth $250,000- change your expectations, change your time frame, or maybe more importantly get to work on making necessary changes to your business.

Steps Involved with Buying Selling a Business

Buying or Selling a Business is a process.   The below provides a framework to define the process and steps needed to buy or sell a business.  The size and type of business that one may be buying or selling will influences the complexity of each of these steps.

1)  INITIAL INFORMATION REVIEW–  Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreements are signed to assure confidentiality related to this  private matter.  Irreparable harm can occur if the confidential content of discussions and negotiations are improperly disclosed. Seller reserves right to approve potential buyers and may require that additional buyer information/capability be submitted before confidential information is released to the  buyer of the business.

2)  THE INITIAL MEETING: At the first meeting, the potential   buyer of the business  will want to know the seller’s motives for selling the company as well as more detailed information about the business and the seller will want to know how if  the buyer is the type of person to whom he wants to sell the company. If the results of the initial meeting warrant further consideration of the deal, the buyer will next begin to evaluate the company and develop a financial structure for the proposed business purchase.


contingencies or a letter of intent will be presented. A letter of intent may have an ” escape clause”  in it to allow one or both parties the opportunity to withdraw from the deal if certain conditions are not met.  The letter of intent will address :

  • The purchase price/ consideration – Selling price of cash, notes, equity, or some combination of these.
  • What is being purchased — Assets, liabilities, and operations that are being transferred to the buyer and those being retained by the seller should be identified.
    Buying Or Selling A Business

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  • Structure — The parties need to agree about whether the sale will be a sale of assets, a sale of stock, a merger, or some other structure. Whether the SBA, bank, or owner takes back a note, the company cash flows must be able to support that loan.
  • The definitive purchase agreement — As the buyer begins its detailed evaluation of the company, the attorneys will be preparing the purchase agreements. The Sales Purchase contract is usually drafted by the buyer’s attorney.
  • Due diligence — The seller will need to have ready his financial records, all corporate records,pertinent  contracts and all pertinent other  documents  that the buyer of the business will be requesting for review once the letter of intent or contract is signed. This will allow the buyer of the business to analyze the company in greater depth to determine whether everything has been represented properly, whether he wants to buy the company, and, if so, the appropriate price to pay. A purchase price is usually negotiated based in part on historical financial information. and future potential earnings.
  • Escrow — The buyer will establish an escrow account  into which his initial  Good Faith deposit of monies shall be deposited and handled by a 3rd party escrow agent .
  • Other significant items-  non- compete terms,  and employment contracts.   leases and long-term purchase contracts, and any other pertinent business agreements shall be addressed.
  • Professional fees – Usually the buyer and seller will bear their own costs for attorneys and accountants.
  • Conditions and Timing for closing. Usually the closing is within two weeks after all contingencies have been completed, and like most steps in the buying or selling of a business this time is negotiable.

4)  CLOSING– Once all issues have been resolved, the documents are signed, and the consideration exchanges hands, the deal is in condition to close. The actual closing marks the conclusion of the process.

Again buying or selling a business is a process and depending upon the size of the business and type of business this process from start to end can take several months or even longer.  Due diligence when buying or selling a business is a very important part of this process. Negotiations are made at most every step of the process as new information becomes available and additional analyses are performed.

In a successful negotiation, both the buyer and the seller need to be flexible and to understand which points are important  and which ones may be “deal breakers”.  Most people may buy or sell a business maybe once in his or hers life.  Following  the advise of a trusted advisor such as a business broker can help increase the likelihood of a successful business sale or business acquisition.

Internet Marketing For Dummies- By a Dummy (Business Broker/Business Owner)

I am a business broker that works with business owners with the process of buying and selling businesses.  My profession of being a business broker is my own business. I have also owned another business of 20 years.  I am a business broker that has been trying to figure out this “Internet thing” for quite some time.  I think I am figuring out that I will never figure it out.

Internet Marketing Industry

It seems that there are a lot of Internet marketing experts and this industry appears to

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still be somewhat at the early stages of a rapidly growing industry.  As a business broker and business owner, I feel a compelling need to try to “figure this Internet thing out’.  Maybe I know more about trying to maximize the Internet than some, but the question of asking a business owner (that is not in the Internet marketing business) if they understand Internet marketing is akin  to asking someone if they are a golfer.  The average golfer may have a handicap of 20-25, Some golfers shoot at professional levels- 0 handicap, some people have never golfed, some have golfed once or a few times, some golf a lot but are still a 30 handicap (the higher the handicap the worse the score).

I am about a 12 handicap.  For Internet marketing maybe I am about a 12 handicap too I dont know.  I may know  more than some, but know there are a lot more that know a lot more than me.   My job involves many discussions with business owners regarding the state of their business as it relates to a potential sale of their business or a possibly buying another business. The  questions I have as a business broker are also questions shared by the plumbing contractor, the print shop owner, the restaurant owner, the card shop owner and the small business owners scattered throughout the world.

10 Internet Marketing Observations From a Business Owner / Business Broker:

  1. The Internet today is so different than it was 10 years ago.  Ten years ago, so many businesses didn’t have websites.  Those that did had these fancy Home pages with lots of “neat stuff”. And the site just sat there.  Now-a-days it is known that a lot of that neat stuff gets in the way of search engines.    A few years ago it seemed if you didn’t show up on google – you didn’t show up, and then came, Myspace, Facebook, Titter, etc. .  I am convinced the internet 10 years from now will greatly different than it is now.  Trying to figure out where it is going is the challenge.
  2. To me , I see the value in Social Media marketing is that it decreases my reliance on Google.  With Social Media customer have another way to find you.  You don’t need to show up on page one of google to be found.  I may be wrong with this line of thinking but this is my perspective.
  3. It feels like everyhting I learned yesterday, is almost outdated tomorrow
  4. I see the question asked so often online- Is anybody making any money on Twitter.  Twitter is growing at 1,000,000 new users per minute 🙂 doesn’t it just make business sense that some are making profit on Titter- I am not yet,  are you?
  5. Is internet marketing another strong way to reach customers, market
    Internet Marketing Business

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    and advertise, or is it so much more.  As a business owner we know we need to advertise and market.  In the past and present we use the Yellow pages, direct mail, radio, maybe TV, trade shows, telemarket, direct sales.  Is it proper to view internet marketing as a very strong means of marketing and advertising or view it as so much more.  I tend to think to view it as so much more.

  6. Is it true that if you can drive mad traffic to your website you could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo?.
  7. Is blogging better than tweeting, is Facebook better than Twitter.  Do I need to post videos to Youtube?  How important is SEO, incoming links, adding more friends, social media buttons/widgets?
  8. Is email marketing dieing, improving, necessary, changing, or being somewhat replaced by social media?
  9. How do I do all that I should be doing on the Internet, without having to bear the cost of “sub contracting” that task out and still run my business.
  10. How will we be accessing the Internet down the road and how does that affect my approach.  It seems a few short years ago accessing the Internet with ones cell phone was a novelty at best.

I am just a business owner who’s profession as a business broker requires significant marketing efforts.  How do you find a business owner that is looking to sell a business.  This is a very confidential event.   How do you find a business buyer that is looking to buy a landscape company, a Towing company or a  Computer Repair shop?  My approach is of to try different things.

I Tweet the businesses I have for sale- I get some follow up questions, I blog about my business experiences- it has driven”some traffic” to my site, I am on Facebook- but pretty weak, I am on Linked-In and a few other social/business sites.  I personally feel value in writing a blog as it allows me control to provide SEO optimized current content to my site.

I certainly am not in a position to provide well grounded advise on this subject but my major point is- Are you a business owner confused about what you should be doing on the internet? – You are not alone.

We Suck Less

Currently I am a Business Broker in Florida working with business owners in the process of buying and selling businesses.  Back in 1985 I was working for (a Texas based Technology company ). We were bidding on a very large multi-million dollar computer based project for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Part of the bidding process involved all us potential vendors travelling via buses throughout the Los Angeles area viewing a dozen of the 700+ schools that would potentially buy and use our systems.

The Importance Of Smart Marketing

While driving thru the various areas of LA I had seen white billboards with 3 words on them WE SUCK LESS. I saw this billboard in several different parts of the city. After repeatedly seeing that same sign in the various communities, I asked a local contact regarding the purpose of that billboard, or rather what it meant. I was told that it was a marketing campaign of a local radio station. The premise was – We’re not the best, We’re not number one, We’re not perfect, But We Suck Less than our competitors, and therefore customers/listeners should tend our way. “Were not perfect, we may not be very good, but we suck less than your other options”…

We Suck Less

As we continued the 2 day journey throughout the city, that concept really struck a nerve. It really wasn’t a premise or concept that was even remotely familiar to me. This approach, while just in jest… I think, just hit me as so unusual, that I found myself sharing this story many times over the last 25+ years. Ironically I have also crossed paths with various businesses and business situations over the years that prompted me to recall this ” business concept”.

Is this concept completely hypothetical, or does it truly exist? Has anyone else seen this in action in certain business environments? As a business broker I get to see the inner workings of many companies and mostly I witness hard working well meaning business owners.  But, is it possible that this could be an approach of a business, or just the result of many years of apathy, poor management, or some other larger problem?

Set The Bar High

I really really think we all our wired to “set the bar very high”, we strive to be very good, we want to be the best, some seek perfection even knowing its not possible but keeping it as a goal nonetheless. But to non- chalantly say, “I just have to suck less than the next guy” and as a result of that approach my business will advance to me is somewhat mind numbing.

I recognize faults and imperfections occur in my own business practices. I’ve always felt that it is important that I remain my own toughest critic. As a business broker that helps business owners sell businesses and individuals buy businesses communication is very important. Promptly returning emails and phone calls to me is an essential, and is just mandated.

Treating business relationships with respect, honesty and effort is important to me. Is it easy for someone to fall into the trap that since my colleagues/competitors don’t return emails/phones calls for 4-5 days or never then, if I wait 2-3 days to return a call or email, that makes me better than my competitors. Is this possibly the mindset of some in business? Can one be satisfied with the approach of just not being as bad as the others?- I don’t know. As a business broker and professional, I do know I may see this play out in other businesses, but certainly not mine.

But I do know Striving to “Suck Less”, to me just sucks. I really don’t know if it is a conscious business concept by some, but I do believe I have seen some resemblance of this approach. I also know that I find myself 25 years later sharing this story again.

Can a Goat Herder Teach Banks How to Loan to Small Business

Small businesses and entrepreneurs need to be able to get loans from banks to grow and or expand their businesses.  Entrepreneurs and small businesses go to banks to get loans to make capital improvements, large  purchases,   buy a business, and generally expand their business.  Basically small business have financing needs that go beyond the immediate cash flow generated by their business.

Imagine driving to the bank in your new Lexus, dressed accordingy, meeting with a bank loan officer and discussing your 5 years old business, your college degree, ok credit score, net worth of $500k and your business generating $50k a year in cash flow and asking to borrow $10,000.  Do you think you will get that loan?

Change Of Perspective For Business Owners

Now-  For a moment pretend that you are a poor goatherder walking to town to get a loan , you don’t have any money to open a savings account with, you don’t have any normal collateral to secure a loan with,  you don’t have a credit record as you have never been formally employed and you’ve never taken out a loan before.  Also consider that  you might even be unable to complete the necessary paperwork as you are illiterate.  You earn about $1/day,  and you want a loan of $250 to buy more goats to grow your business.  Do you think you will get the loan? – Due to Micro financing the  the goatherder may get the loan before the Lexus college graduate.

Many of us Entrepreneurs and Small businessmen/women donate time and or money to various causes or needs.  I have been involved with Kiva since 2007.  Kiva provides microfinance  to Third World Entrepreneurs to help them grow their business.  Kiva was founded by 2 former 20 something year olds that were former employees of TIVO and PAYPAL.

Microfinance is the supply of loans, savings, and other basic financial services to the poor.  As the financial services of microfinance usually involve small amounts of money – small loans, small savings etc. – the term “microfinance” helps to differentiate these services from those which formal banks provide. Why are they small? Someone who doesn’t have a lot of money isn’t likely to want to take out a $5,000 loan, or be able to open a savings account with an opening balance of $1,000. Hence – “micro”.


These are small loans, multiple lenders will “pool” their loans to come up with a lump sum to provide to the Entrepreneur.  Again most of the Entrepreneurs I have loaned money to over the last 4 years earn less than $1/day.  When an entrepreneur pays off a loan, I reloan those moneys to another. So far I have loaned to 18 different entrepreneurs and repayment of loans have been 100%. Sinces 2005 Kiva as a group has loaned almost $150,000,000 to  almost 400,000 Entrepreneurs  and repayment has been 98.27%.

Why can this organization have such success in getting loans repaid from those with so little and banks in our “developed nations” loaning to those with abundant resources have problems so significant that these banks need a “bailout” from their govenment and ultimately taxpayers.  Is it the conventional  bank that is doing something wrong?  Are they loaning to the wrong people on a consistent basis?. How much of the blame falls on those that are requesting the loan?

Getting A Loan For Your Business

Currently how many good entrepreneurs and small business are not able to get loans as a result of mistakes made by conventional banks in the past.   It seems to me that banks tend to over respond to problems.     Obviously if you are a lender and  want to have no loans default and you loan no money- you can achieve your goal.

As a business broker I see the need for lending to allow buyers to finance the acquisition of  buying a business.  I also see income statements and balances sheets of reasonable small businesses that are using credit cards to help finance their businesses. It is hard for me to understand how our economy is benefitting by having small business owners take these “whatever is necessary” financing steps when traditional prudent lending to small businesses could truly be our fastest way to our economic recovery.

The banks reduce/tighten their lending, the need for small business financing continues, higher interest is being paid thru credit card financing, non-conventional means, and when does that higher expense cause employee reductions.    Small business could divert money from high interest payments to investments and  improvements that actually improve their business and create jobs.

Why can the goat herder get a loan and the Print Shop owner not?   Or maybe if I were a banker I could ask why does the goat herder pay off his loans and the Lexus driving College Graduate Default?  I understand there is a lot more that goes on between the comparison of a conventional bank and micro finance- but maybe conventional banks could  learn something from Micro finance groups such as Kiva.