The manner in which you plan the exit from your business will have a significant impact on your post-business life. The better that you present the viability and results of your business, the greater confidence that potential buyers will have in the financial information that you present as part of the sale process. Obviously this results in positives in respect of both interest from buyers and the price they are prepared to pay.
It is therefore important to plan ahead. Make sure that your financial results truly reflect the total potential of the business. Selling a business that suddenly has a very good year after a number of less successful years can lead the buyer to question the credibility of the most recent year.
Do not pay expenses from the business that could fall into the realm of private expenses. This reduces the profit and is very difficult to explain.
Ensure that the business is well staffed, but not over-staffed. Family businesses sometimes employ family members that could be reasonably described as not essential for the business.
All businesses require good management. The ability to sell your business may well be enhanced by having the right management team to carry on to the new owner. Such staff should be adequately rewarded and locked into suitable contracts
Review all inventory lines being sold and consider whether slow moving or low margin lines are really necessary for the business. It is accepted that “loss leaders” may be needed in some limited circumstances. However, low margin lines detract from overall gross profit margins and slow moving lines inflate the volume, and cost, of inventory holdings. A buyer will not only assess what you are asking for the business but will also take into account the investment in inventory that is required.
Always have strong control over debtor collections. A business with slow paying customers is not so attractive when the time comes to sell.
Keep all essential plant and machinery in good working order by regular maintenance and servicing. Do not over capitalise by having equipment that is not necessary for the operation of the business. You may find that a buyer is put off by the investment required in plant and therefore may reduce the price for the business to compensate.
Be able to demonstrate that you have controlled and managed the business by having accurate and up to date financial records which you use for forward planning as well as monitoring of the business.
If the business is dependent upon a secure lease of business premises make sure that you negotiate a suitable long term lease with appropriate provisions for transfer to a new owner. If you are required to provide a personal guarantee for the lease ensure that such a guarantee is to be released upon an assignment of the lease.
Regularly review your borrowings to ensure that you are not locked into fixed interest rates that mature well beyond the date that you intend to exit. In many cases the early repayment of fixed interest debt can result in substantial penalties.
Conversely if the business is not dependent upon a lease of the current premises ensure that any lease terms that you agree to do not go too far beyond a date that you are expecting will be exit time.
And then there is the forward planning that may well reduce your tax bills on exit from the business. There is a raft of tax measures, particularly for small businesses that substantially reduce the impact of capital gains taxes. To be eligible for such concessions advance planning is always recommended to ensure that you have your business structured in the most advantageous manner. This inevitably requires you to keep your accounting advisors fully informed of your exit plans and intentions.
If the exit strategy is to pass the business to the next generation of the family many of the same strategies will apply. However an important difference is for you to ensure that the next generation who are taking over the business are well educated and trained. And, it may well be that the business is being passed to one or more family members, but not all. Have a plan as to how such family members are looked after in other ways.
Passing a business to the next generation often results in some or all of your investment in the business is not returned to you immediately upon the move to the next generation. It is therefore important that you have a well-researched long term plan for you to accumulate assets outside the business as you work towards your eventual exit.
Do not bury your head in the sand. Plan in advance. The eventual rewards will be substantial.