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August 2013
Should I Sell My Business Now?
By Robert Norris

Overcoming Common Objections: Part One

 

     One of the biggest obstacles in exiting your business is overcoming your objections, many of which tend to be based on misunderstanding the “facts.”

     The objections that tend to hold back owners from selling their businesses are usually based upon some combination of the following perspectives:

 

Ř      “The business isn’t worth enough to meet my financial needs.”

Ř      “The employees (or customers) will leave when they discover I’m trying to sell.”

Ř      “I will be required to work years for a new owner.”

Ř      “The sale process will take too long and cost too much.”

Ř      “Given the tax bite on sale proceeds, it makes more sense to stay, enjoy the cash  flow and get paid over time.”

Ř      “What will I do after I sell and leave the business? This business is my life!”

 

     Today, let’s look at the first two objections that can create roadblocks for your timeline of cashing out of your business today and moving on to the next stage of your life.

 

The Business Isn’t Worth Enough To Meet My Financial Needs 

     You can’t know whether your business is “worth enough” unless you know what it is worth in the current marketplace and what value is needed in order to meet your financial needs. That’s why obtaining a valuation range for your company based upon current market conditions can be very important.

     Use a transaction advisor, preferably an investment banker (for companies with a likely value of more than $5 million), or other transaction intermediary (for smaller businesses) familiar with what your business can fetch in the merger and acquisition (M&A) marketplace.

     It is important to not simply depend on the historical valuation performed by your accountant or the “rule of thumb” used in your industry, both of which tend to rely on what has happened, not on what businesses are selling for in today’s market, and tend to overlook the importance of current deal activity levels.

     To illustrate this point, let’s look at Sam Reed (not his “real” name), a business owner who was thinking about selling his business a number of years ago—near the last peak in the M&A cycle.

 

     When Sam Reed started thinking about selling his business, he asked his CPA for an estimate of value. After some investigation of “historical” valuation multiples, the CPA ventured an estimate of $16 million. The owner needed significantly more than that just to pay off business debt.

     Although inclined to give up the idea of selling, at least temporarily, Sam asked his attorney what he thought his business was worth. The attorney’s response was, “I have no idea. You need to work with someone who knows what your type of business is selling for in today’s marketplace.”

     At that point, Sam hired an investment banking firm to answer the question of what his business was worth in the current market. The firm returned with a baseline (or minimum value) sale price estimate of almost $25 million for Sam’s business.

     With that information, Sam chose to proceed with a sale and eventually sold his company for more than $34 million. The final purchase price reflected the additional “promoted value” which was the result of back and forth negotiations with three different strategic buyers.

 

     The point of this story is that to determine the value of your business, in today’s marketplace, ask an experienced professional who makes a living working in that market.

 

The Employees (Or Customers) Will Leave When They Discover I’m Trying To Sell

     While this is a legitimate concern, when properly handled, no one should find out about the sale process until you inform them, especially given the required Confidentiality Agreement. Typically, a potential buyer does not even set foot in your business until you have made a tentative decision to sell the business to that buyer.

     When conducted by experienced professionals, the sale of a business is highly confidential, and the likelihood of anyone discovering you are selling your business before you inform the public is minimal.

     If either of these common perspectives resonates with you, then it may be time to contact an experienced exit planning professional for a further explanation of how to overcome these objections. He or she can help guide you through the process of reviewing all of the factors associated with exiting your business, while addressing all of your personal and business objectives.

 

 

Article presented by Robert Norris, founder and managing partner of Wishart Norris law firm, a member of Business Enterprise Institute’s International Network of Exit Planning Professionals. © 2013 Business Enterprise Institute, Inc. Reprinted with permission. Wishart Norris law firm partners with owners of closely-held businesses to provide comprehensive legal services in all areas of business, tax, estate planning, exit planning, succession planning, purchases and sales of businesses, real estate, family law, and litigation. For more information, contact Robert Norris at 704-364-0010 or Robert.Norris@wnhplaw.com or visit www.WNHPLaw.com.

 

Robert Norris is managing partner at Wishart, Norris, Henninger & Pittman, P.A.
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