Congratulations, you want to sell your company yourself, bypassing expensive brokers. (Who needs em?) While it’s certainly doable, there’s no need to be naïve about it. You still want to get top dollar for the business you worked so hard to build.
Take the following three steps ahead of sale time.
They will help you look professional and create the best outcome. Each one is easily doable and inexpensive. Each one will set you up to better negotiate the sale of your company.
#1: Walk Yourself through a Due Diligence Checklist
Be smart about this. Get yourself a professional grade due diligence checklist and walk through it. This checklist will help you think about and prepare for your sale, because any time a buyer comes in to look at a business, they’re going to do their due diligence and request financials and many other documents. Your preparedness sends a strong message.
These diligence lists are not that different from one another, and you shouldn’t be (or, worse, appear to be) surprised by what a buyer asks for.
You want to quickly provide an answer to an interested buyer, ideally within 24 hours.
If they say, “Hey, can you send me X, Y, and Z?” and you send X, Y, and Z the same day, that is a hell of a different message than, “Yeah, let me see if I can get my team to pull that together for you by next week.”
The latter move forces your buyer into a delay. They’re going to think, “This owner doesn’t know where their stuff is or they don’t have it. This might be a red flag.” Going through a robust due diligence list yourself on your own company is time well spent.
Drop It in a Data Room. Even better, as you go through a diligence checklist, drop your documents in a data room to share with a buyer. To keep it cheap, start with a Dropbox that you can give outside people access to.
Preparing that data room is a top priority for a good sale process.
To find a solid due diligence list, check here, or search online or ask friends. It’s not rocket science. These lists are not hard to get, but a lot of sellers aren’t disciplined enough to follow through on being deal ready. And in reality, it’s good corporate practice.
#2: Know Current Industry Trends and What Makes You Valuable
When you know your industry trends and what your buyer wants, you can be a much better negotiator. Too many entrepreneurs I’ve worked with say,
“Man, my company is worth a lot and I’ll be super psyched to get this number, then I’m out!”
Other owners or founders have talked to buyers who really don’t know their business and hear numbers that may not be realistic—or may even be low.
You can solve both of these issues by knowing what’s going on in your industry. The smarter you can get on your industry and current developments—especially in companies your size in your market—the more that will be helpful. You will know where the market is today, and who is who in your industry.
In other words, have a macro perspective on your industry and a micro perspective on your company.
Many bankers publish portions of reports online to help you see that. When you understand the deals and positioning happening in similar companies, you will be able to better position your company. “Why did ABC Company buy XYZ Company? What was it that they were buying?”
Beyond your revenue, beyond your cash flow, why would someone want to buy your company? What are buyers really looking for? What are you telling them is good about it?
Knowing your industry helps you better understand the key value elements in your business. Are they buying your customers, your sales force, or your brand? Maybe the person that buys you is selling to baby boomers and you have an amazing millennial customer base. Know why you are in demand.
#3: Take a Vacation
You want to sell your business, so it’s a good step to make sure it can run without you. Take a long vacation without any contact. When you step away from your business for two weeks, you find out two things.
1. You quickly discover what breaks in your absence.
It’s not putting undue pressure on the employees. As you sell your business it’s good to know how it operates without you.
You don’t want someone to come in and say, “Great, let’s buy this thing, but we’re going to need you the owner to stick around for another five years because this place will crash without you.”
2. If you truly want to exit, a vacation would produce the evidence that your company can fly solo.
Unless you start figuring that out ahead of time, it tends to be one of those factors that can bite you later. There’s also something in it for you; you get to go on vacation.
If you are a workaholic, what does it feel like to be away from the business you want to sell? What does it feel like to not be able to call in? How do you really know until you test it?
Get Smart, Start Now
Getting started with a diligence checklist and additional industry knowledge can be helpful as you get smarter about choosing the path you want to go down.
The real-time to start thinking and putting a plan in place is two to three years ahead of your target sale date.
Though it does not happen overnight, neither will it happen in 90 days. Get these foundations going today. You’ll have a good while to sort it all out.
And best of luck on your sale!