Time to Sell Your Business?

Every business owner has dreamt of selling his or her business.  The question is:  Will the dream keep you hitting the snooze button or will it be a nightmare that you can't wake up from fast enough?

Assuming you have been grooming your business for sale for a few years, the first question to address is: "Do I hire a business broker or go it alone?"

You've probably been self-employed a long time and you've seen a thing or two in that time, but selling your own business is almost certainly the first time you haven't been in control of what happens in your business.  The thought of handing over any amount of control to a virtual stranger can be overwhelming.

There are a few things to consider in making the decision about whether or not to use a business broker:

1. If you already have a buyer lined up, perhaps a key employee who has been with the company a long time, you could go it alone.  Just keep in mind that a broker would be able to manage the purchase process separate from the employee/employer relationship, which is important if an agreement can't be worked out and you want to keep that person on your payroll.

2. There is a reason doctors don't treat their own family members. For most business owners, the company is just another one of the kids. Will you be able to remain objective in negotiations when it comes to high stress issues like the selling price? An unmeasured reaction by either party at a critical point could kill the best possible deal for you.

3. You need to be realistic about the weakness of your company and honestly ask, "What does a buyer see when he or she looks at your business?"  If you can do that, then you will likely see some things that need to be addressed in order to maximize your value.  You may need to reduce old or outdated inventory, tidy up some of your bookkeeping or get your HR records in order.

4. You will also need to do some homework on the difference between selling the shares and the assets in your business. There are significant tax implications that need to be considered before agreeing to anything.  Meeting with a Certified Professional Accountant prior to negotiations will give you the understanding you need to propose a deal that will work well for everyone.