For some business owners, succession planning is a complex and delicate matter involving family members and a long, gradual transition out of the company. Others simply sell the business and move on. If you are leaning toward a business sale, here are eight ways to prepare:
1. Develop or renew your business plan. Identify the challenges and opportunities of your company and explain how and why it is ready for a sale. Address what distinguishes your business from the competition and include a viable strategy that speaks to sustainable growth.
2. Ensure you have a solid management team. You should have a management team in place who have the vision and know-how to keep the company moving forward without disruption during and after a sale.
3. Upgrade your technology. Buyers will look more favorably on a business with up-to-date, reliable and cost-effective IT systems. This may mean investing in upgrades that make your company a “plug and play” proposition for a new owner.
4. Estimate the true value of your business. Obtaining a realistic, carefully calculated business valuation will lessen the likelihood that you will leave money on the table. A professional valuator can calculate a defensible, marketable value estimate.
5. Optimize balance sheet structure. Value can be added by removing nonoperating assets that are not part of normal operations, minimizing inventory levels and evaluating the condition of capital equipment and debt-financing levels.
6. Minimize tax liability. Seek tax advice early in the sale process — before you make any major changes or investments. Recent tax law changes may significantly affect a business owner’s tax position.
7. Assemble all applicable paperwork. Gather and update all account statements and agreements such as contracts, leases, insurance policies, customer/supplier lists and tax filings. Prospective buyers will request these documents as part of their due diligence.
8. Selling in the future? Plan to use your time wisely. If you are considering selling in the short or long term, it is a good idea to have your trusted business adviser conduct a “check-up” on your company’s financial statements . From this, your adviser can help create an improvement plan designed to better position your company for sale down the road, within a time frame that meets your business needs.
Succession planning should play a role in every business owner’s long-term goals. Selling the business may be the simplest option, though there are many other ways to transition ownership.