Sell Side M&A Blog Series - Vol 1 - Preparing Your Business For Sale
Business owners, and their senior management teams, often underestimate the importance of planning for a business sale, which, when coupled with unwarranted optimism around transaction readiness, can often result in value being left on the negotiation table. The underlying principle is simple: properly planned and executed business sales lead to enhanced shareholder value.
Even in the best of economic times, the planning and implementation of a business sale will invariably place significant pressure on an organization's internal resources. Careful preparation and advanced planning can significantly increase the likelihood of a successful business sale and have a positive effect on valuation. The following are proactive steps a business owner should take prior to beginning the business sale process:
Recasting Financial Statements. To enable a potential buyer to gain a true sense of the profitability of a business, the financial statements must be "recast" or "adjusted" to reflect the real discretionary cash flow that would be available to a new owner. This recasting involves identifying owner and certain family member salaries, any fringe benefits that owners customarily make available to themselves, one-time or extraordinary expenses, non-cash expenses and other expense items not likely to recur or be applicable to future ownership.
Independent Valuation. An independent valuation enables a business owner to gain a sense of a realistically achievable value for the business and confirms in advance whether or not it makes financial sense to sell the business given current market conditions. Properly understanding valuation at the outset of a sale process will also prevent “leaving money on the table” by undervaluing the company or losing qualified acquirers by seeking an unrealistic, overvalued price.
Tax Implications. It is crucial to understand the tax implications of a sale in advance. This will provide a realistic picture of the net after-tax yield and help to determine the most advantageous way to structure the sale for tax purposes.
Growth Plan. A well thought out and realistic plan for growth can greatly enhance the value of a company. Untapped expansion opportunities equal greater perceived value for the business in the eyes of the potential acquirer.
Addressing Key Dependencies. Two key dependency areas include customers and employees. Customer dependency exists when a high percentage of the company’s revenue is derived from one or a few large customers. Employee dependency exists when the business is highly dependent or held hostage by key employees or the existing owner, whose departure could severely impair the business. With advanced planning and focus, reducing these dependencies can increase the marketability and value of a business.
Third Party Financing. It is important to ascertain the likely level of financing available to an acquirer in advance. Not being armed with this knowledge in advance can often lead to wasted time and compromises confidentiality with unqualified acquirers.
Likely Acquirers. Advance industry and market research can determine if it makes sense to approach certain companies. Strategic acquirers recognize the value and synergies from gaining additional sales, territories, capabilities or complimentary revenue centers.
Team of Professionals. Before entering the uncharted waters of selling a business, it is imperative to select the right team. This includes a qualified CPA, an attorney with a background in corporate transactional work and an experienced investment banker.
Current Sales Performance. The 12-month period during which the sales process is taking place is a critical and decisive one. If sales performance deteriorates during this period, marketability and value will be negatively impacted. Working with a qualified investment banker to manage the sale process is a vital component of the sale process because it allows the business owner to maintain focus on the business at hand.
Tackling "Deal Killers" Early On. If there are issues that may potentially jeopardize a transaction, a seller is ill served by “hiding his or her head in the sand”. Eventually, these issues will surface and it is far better to be prepared and address them at the onset of the process from a pro-active viewpoint, rather than have to take a defensive posture when they are independently discovered.