Exit planning should begin well before you put your business on the market. Ideally, you’ll have a few years to correct any issues with your company and position it to become an attractive acquisition. If you’re in a rush, the right M&A advisor or business broker is critical, because they can help you prioritize the things buyers think about most. No matter where you are in the exit planning journey, these five strategies can help better position your company for a successful sale.
Don’t Shy Away From Specialization
Many businesses try to expand their customer base by being as many things as possible to as many people as possible. You can’t solve every problem; you can only attempt to solve every problem and fail. Instead, focus on becoming a master of a single domain. This generates significant immediate value because it means your company can do what no other company can. Buyers want something unique, something different from the competition, and specialization gives them just that.
Be Mindful of Potential Buyers
The challenge of M&A is that you have to keep your eye on many prizes at once. So don’t focus solely on running and preparing your business to the detriment of missing potential buyers. It’s not enough to build a great company and market it well. You have to actively recruit buyers. Consider who might be a good deal partner—a competitor? PE? A strategic partner? Make a note of potential buyers, and maintain strong relationships with them.
Make Sure Processes Are Well-Managed
Your company must run like a well-oiled machine in your absence. If it’s dependent on you for daily oversight and guidance, you have a serious problem. Instead, you need well-documented processes, and a team who is prepared to continually oversee those processes when you are gone. Think about how your company would run if you and your leadership team left tomorrow. Then fix whatever you need to to ensure that the company wouldn’t collapse.
Know What You’re Selling
It’s not your company as a whole you’re selling—not the literal, actual complete entity you’ve built. The buyer’s experience of your company will be different from yours, and your company may end up looking quite different after a sale. Instead, consider what is most valuable about your company, and highlight it—brand image, valuable IP, a process no one else has, or an exceptional team. That’s what you’re really selling.
Be a Leader
While your company needs to be able to run without you, positioning yourself as a strong leader is still important. The buyer needs to believe that you’ve built something valuable, that they can benefit from your hard work and knowledge. That also means making sure your company looks like it is run by someone who cares about the big picture and the small details. Some things to focus on include: