How to help your customers prepare their business for sale

At some point, entrepreneurs must make the difficult decision of either resigning from their position or selling the company. For many, selling their business enables them to achieve their goals for retirement or the next chapters in their lives.

There are several things you can do to help your clients prepare their business for sale while achieving their life goals in the process.

How to help clients prepare their business for sale

Preparing a business for sale is a multi-step process that should start with your client’s goals. From here, you can develop a plan to help them achieve those goals and ensure a successful sale.

What are your end goals?

The first step is to determine your client’s end goals. There are two important questions to consider here:

  • When do you want to sell? Do you want to sell in the next 3-5 years or later?
  • What’s your next chapter? After selling your company, what plans do you have for the next stage of your life and retirement? How much money will they need? Do they plan to pass the money on to their children or donate it to charity?

Understanding their end goals is an important step as it will help you better prepare the business for the sale. If your client wants to sell their business and travel the world for a few years while paying their grandchildren’s college tuition, they need to put their business in a position where the sale can afford them that luxury.

Where are you now?

Once you understand your client’s goals, you can start to see where they stand at the moment. In order to achieve their end goals, their business needs to be in the right place.

Consider:

  • The current value of the company
  • Do they already have enough?
  • If they need to catch up

Once you know where your customer is and where they want to go, you can create a plan to get them from point A to point B.

Develop a plan

Creating a plan will help your client prepare to sell their business and achieve their end goals. When developing a plan, there are a few important things to keep in mind, including:

What changes are required to meet their sales goals?

In many cases, changes need to be made to help customers reach their sales goals. Think about what changes need to be implemented.

  • Do they need to increase sales, cash flow and/or profitability?
  • Do you need more staff?
  • Do they have standard operating procedures (SOPs)? SOPs make it easier for the owner to retire without disrupting operations.
  • Do they need to invest in more marketing?

Once you determine what needs to be done to position the business for a sale, you can develop a plan to implement those changes.

If the client plans to sell the company in 10 years, it may not be necessary to be aggressive with changes. However, if the goal is to sell in the next few years, major changes may need to be made to ensure the staff is in place and the business is profitable enough to fetch the desired price.

Are you willing to fund? When Yes, how much?

Consider if the client is willing to fund, and if they are open to the idea, how much would they be willing to fund?

For example, a buyer wants to put down 20% and pay 10% per year for the next eight years. Is this an arrangement they would consider? What is your risk tolerance?

Financing can make the deal more attractive to buyers, but there’s always a risk that the deal will go under before the balance is paid.

Do you have potential buyers to target?

Does the customer have potential buyers to approach about the sale? Potential buyers can be competitors, trade organizations, suppliers or even key employees.

If you’re having trouble finding potential buyers, a real estate agent can help.

Once you have a plan, it’s important to review it regularly and make changes as needed until it’s time to put the business up for sale.

Keep a tight lid on the plan

When preparing to sell a business, it’s important to be mindful of who your client is sharing the details with. The timing has to be right. If word gets around that your customer wants to sell, a key employee can leave and take some tribal knowledge or important customers with them.

With the right plan and strategy, you can help your client prepare their business for a successful sale. When you understand their goals and the current state of the business, you can develop a plan that will get them where they want to be.

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Christopher Hayden, CPA, CMA, CGMA is the managing partner of Hayden Nelson & Yoder, a Pennsylvania-based CPA firm. You can learn more about him and/or the company on their website https://hnycpas.com/.

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