Knowledge Base

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Should You Sell Your Business On Your Own?

October 4, 2019

Amongst other endeavours in my career, I have been a realtor, a business broker, and an M&A advisor. In each role, I have been fortunate enough to serve a variety of business owners, along with buying and selling businesses of my own. Concerning the topic of this article, over time, I have learned that each business situation is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution regarding representation.

For the purpose of this post, there are too many variables to write a single answer, and each reader's business will have a different profit position. To simplify, I put together six information tables, allowing readers to quickly jump to the relevant table for their business size. My hope is this material will help readers through the representation decision-making process.

In a general sense, having an experienced intermediary on your transaction team will increase your probability of sale, and (even after fees) increase your net transaction proceeds. Small businesses doing under $250,000 a year in revenue should consider selling on their own, and every other business owner should build a network of advisors around them, who are focused on distributing the workload, reducing deal risk, and increasing cash at close.

For context, please read the assumptions, and the definitions before reviewing the tables.

Table Definitions:

  • Owner Has No Free Time - The owner has no personal time to put towards business sale activities.
  • Owner Has Free Time - The owner can dedicate 10 - 20 hours per week toward business sale activities, without negatively impacting the company.
  • Command and Control Style - The owner prefers controlling all situations, being the primary decision-maker, and has difficulty taking direction from others.
  • Learning and Delegating Style - Owner is a lifelong learner, likely has a coalition of advisors, and prefers delegating to doing.

Assumptions:

  • The tables use net profit, not revenue as a designator.
  • The seller is not transferring internally to management, or family, and is not liquidating the business assets.
  • Only 20% of intermediaries are proficient practitioners.
  • 99% of realtors specialize in selling real estate. When referring to realtors, this article assumes sellers are working with the 1 in 100 who are specialized in business sales.
  • The business in question is sellable.
  • The owner's focus is on maximizing net transaction proceeds, and not minimizing intermediary fees.

Scott Duke is the owner of GatewayCapital, a business transition advisory firm, and can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/welstand

The 44 Day Challenge

October 4, 2019

In early 2018, likely a result of binge following Gary Vaynerchuk, and Tai Lopez, I thought it would be a good idea to torment myself for a month and a half by reading a new book each day on - how to sell your business. I then committed to sharing the knowledge with the world in daily YouTube videos. This article is a condensation of the lessons learned, and the top five - how to sell your business - books.

Business Transition Lessons:

  • Between 80% - 90% of businesses cannot sell. A reflection of the how difficult it is to create predictable and transferable cash flows streams.
  • Valuation methodologies are all over the map.
  • There is no standard sale process.
  • Owners who build a team around them - lawyers, accountants, intermediaries, financial planners, phycologists - increase their probability of a sale.
  • ​Having attractive discretionary earnings, stable management, low owner dependence, and standardized systems in place, is the bare minimum for selling to a sophisticated buyer.
  • ​Sellers underestimate how much of their identity is tied up in their business, and the emotional havoc a sale can create.
  • ​99% of sellers overvalue their business asset.
  • ​A business sale becomes staggeringly complex, the larger the entity.
  • ​The owners that plan two, three and five years out from their targeted sale date are generally successful. ​  

Want more detail? Check Out The - 44 day Challenge

The Top Five Books:

1)  Private Capital Markets - Rob Slee2) There's Always A Way To Sell Your Business - Doug Robbins

3) Equicapita's Little Book of What Next? - Steven Johnston

4) How To Sell Your Mid-Size Business - Ney Grant

5) Built to Sell - John Warrillow

Personal Lessons:

  • Don't be discouraged when no one watches your videos.
  • ​A reasonably functional studio (lighting, sound, set) can be built for under $2,000.
  • ScreenFlow is a great video editing software
  • The imprint of knowledge left from an exercise like this has untold unexpected benefits.
  • ​The 44-day challenges quickly morphed into a test of discipline, grit, and self-motivation - and became less about the initial intent of marketing and self-education.
  • ​Recording the videos was the most mentally exhausting part - much more than reading the books.
  • Finding 2 - 3 hours per day for a repetitive task was harder than anticipated.

Some people may be wondering, why 44 books, and why not 45, or 46? The reason was simple, the initial search on Amazon for "How to Sell My Business," came up with 44 books. I bought them all and was off to the races. I spent two hours each morning reading and pulling the best lessons out of each book, and then took 30 minutes to record the video. Later in the process, I was paying someone to do the editing. Overall, most of the books (while informative) were blatant sales pitches for broker services. Despite this fact, there were a handful of gems which I am thankful the authors shared with the world. If you are thinking about selling your company, the list above is worth investing your time and money.

A Loaded Question - What Is My Business Worth?

October 4, 2019

The question - what is my business worth? - Or similar valuation questions, are the most commonly asked by business owners contemplating a sale. Ironically, along with it being the wrong question, it is a difficult inquiry for even seasoned experts to answer correctly. Ask five valuation professionals the value of your business and guaranteed, you will receive five different answers.

In this article, I propose three questions to ponder before valuation considerations become necessary or relevant.

Let's first set the table with a few key (and hard) truths to help frame our discussion:


  • Approximately 80% of business never sell. Consequently, for 80 of 100 business owners, valuation is simple - they don't get a seat at the table - and their company is worth zero.
  • Of the twenty owners left at the table, roughly ten will liquidate or sell for book value. That is, the assets will be sold to a buyer unlikely to continue running the company. Valuation for these ten companies is also simple: Book Value = Assets - Liabilities.
  • The ten owners remaining at the table, get to carve up the feast and share the splendour. Every blog, book, YouTube video, and seminar on business transition targets these few owners. For these businesses, appraisal becomes a prediction of how the market will value future cash flows.

NOTE - so you don't think I am a pessimist out here throwing internet punches, I have had my share of companies that never came close to getting a seat at the table, faded into oblivion, or were liquidated. I have also successfully sold multiple business, and simplified the process by focusing on the questions below.

If asking - what's my business worth - is not the right question, what questions should owners actually be asking?

Question One - Will my business attract a buyer?

24% of the listings on BizBuySell.com - 8,360 businesses - sold in 2018; indicating the other 25,000 listings stagnated, not attracting any buyers. Perhaps, the pertinent question for these 25,000 owners shouldn't be - what is my business worth? Instead, asking will my business attract buyers? Or, is my business even sellable? Would be a better line of questioning. Undoubtedly, if the goal is to sell, this line of thinking would get them to their desired goals more quickly.

Source: https://www.bizbuysell.com/insight-report-data-tables

Question Two - Is my business transferable?

I often contemplate why owners so infrequently consider transferability when contemplating a sale. For example, if a company's lease is not assignable, this issue is a deal killer, and there is a low chance the business will ever sell. What about franchise agreements, regulatory constraints, owner dependency, specialized licensing, or contract assignability? Regrettably, transfer restrictions dramatically reduce the probability of a successful sale. Perhaps, the question owners should be asking is - if someone wanted to buy my business, could it easily be transferred?

Question Three - How risky is my business?

Statistically, the small business asset class is one of the riskiest investments in the world. The average business owner makes peace with this by believing their skills and leadership will mitigate the riskiness of the venture; personality traits that will walk out the door when the company sells. Buyers are notably cognizant of this truth, along with the 45 other hazards that contribute to small business risk. Accordingly, if higher risk levels demand more substantial returns, and higher expected returns drive down the price, why is it that owners aren’t asking - how risky is my business?

Question Four - What is my company worth?

It is the author's opinion, only companies able to navigate the first three "hurdle" questions, need to worry about valuation considerations; as they are the only businesses the marketplace acquires.

CAUTION - valuation experts, appraisers, accountants, and brokers will be all too happy to take your money, perform a valuation and ignore key facts rendering your business unsellable.

To sum up, don't dwell on what your company is worth today, concentrate on transferability, and creating a predictable low-risk cash flow stream for a potential buyer. Focus on the first three questions in this article will earn you a seat at the seller's table, attract more buyers, and ultimately increase your price on closing day.

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For those owners who have taken the time to implement transferability, predictability, and sustainability in corporate cash flows, here are a few great resources on business valuation which I find incredibly useful.  


• Ken Sanginario - Valuation Podcast-

https://www.gexpcollaborative.com/podcast/understanding-business-valuations-value-drivers-double-value-company/

• Business Reference Guide - https://www.businessrg.com/

• Business Valuation Resources - https://www.bvresources.com/


For those more interested in how to reduce risk, increase transferability, and attract buyer interest, you are in the right place. The answers are here and free in our blueprint document.

2019 GatewayCapital Marketing and Innovation Inc.