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Ready to Sell Your Business? Don’t Miss Any Steps with Our Complete Checklist

Team Acquira
-  February 28, 2024
What You’ll Learn
  • What factors set the stage for a successful business sale.
  • How to value your business accurately and attract serious buyers.
  • Why transparent financials and legal considerations are paramount.
  • Ways to optimize operations and market your business effectively.
  • Elements involved in negotiations, deal structures, and sealing the deal.

You’ve worked hard to grow your business and now that you’re ready to sell you want to make sure you get the most of it. 

This guide provides a structured roadmap to navigate this challenging process, ensuring you get what you deserve for the hard work and dedication you’ve poured into your business over the years.

You’ll learn how to understand the market value of your business and tap into professional expertise in order for a smooth sale.

Preparation is key, which means valuing your business accurately and maintaining transparent financials. 

We’ll also dive deep into legal considerations, optimizing operations, effective marketing strategies, and due diligence essentials. 

You’ll also discover how to identify the right buyers and master the art of negotiation. 

Acquira can help as you move forward with the sale of your company – from building out your leadership team to diligence support. We’ll dig into that more later.

Here’s the business seller’s ultimate checklist for a successful sale.

Setting The Stage

selling a small business checklist

Deciding to sell your small business is a monumental step. 

The initial considerations are vital to setting the right trajectory for the sale. You need to ask yourself: Why am I selling? Is the timing right? 

Understanding the market value of your business is paramount. 

Remember, it’s not just about what you believe your business is worth, but what the market perceives its value to be. This initial reflection can provide clarity and direction. 

Additionally, you’ll find immense benefit in assembling a professional team — accountants, brokers, and legal experts. They will be instrumental in guiding you through the intricacies of the selling process, ensuring you avoid common pitfalls.

Acquira itself has an experienced team of professionals who have collectively been involved in hundreds of deals.

Preparing the Business for Sale

Before showcasing your business to potential buyers, you must be prepared. 

Read more: How To Prepare Your Business For Maximum Sale Price

The foundation of this preparation lies in understanding the real value of your business. Setting a realistic asking price, based on concrete data and market trends, can attract serious buyers and expedite the sale. 

Avoid the temptation to overprice; it can deter potential buyers and prolong the selling process.

Business Value Assessment

Accurately determining the value of your business is crucial. 

You don’t want to undersell, leaving money on the table, or overshoot and deter potential buyers.

You don’t want to undersell, leaving money on the table, or overshoot and deter potential buyers. 

You should gather these types of assessment documents:

  • Professional Valuation Report: Engage a certified business appraiser to conduct a comprehensive valuation, incorporating methods like Discounted Cash Flow (DCF), or Asset-Based Valuations.
  • Market Analysis Report: Documentation of current market trends, competitor analysis, and similar business sales data to support your asking price.

Financial Preparation

preparing business for sale checklist

Prospective buyers will want to delve deep into your business’s financial health. You should be ready with organized, transparent, and updated financial documents. 

Clean financials not only bolster trust but also simplify the negotiation process. It’s a testament to your dedication and responsible management.

On the financial side, you’ll want to provide the following documents:

  • Income Statements: Detailed profit and loss statements for at least the last three fiscal years, highlighting revenue, expenses, and net income.
  • Balance Sheets: Current and past balance sheets showing assets, liabilities, and owner’s equity.
  • Cash Flow Statements: Statements that outline the cash inflows and outflows over the past few years.
  • Tax Returns: Copies of business tax returns for the last three to five years.
  • Accounts Receivable and Payable: Lists of outstanding accounts receivable and payable to understand the business’s liquidity and financial health.

Legal and Regulatory Considerations

Navigating the legal maze when selling a business can be daunting. 

You need to ensure all contracts, licenses, and permits are in order. Are there any pending litigations or unresolved disputes? 

As a seller, you should compile these documents:

  • Business Licenses and Permits: Copies of all operational licenses and permits. If you operate a home sevices business like HVAC or plumbing, be sure to include copies of specific trade licenses, such as a state HVAC contractor’s license or plumbing license, for example. 
  • Entity and Ownership Documentation: Articles of Incorporation, partnership agreements, or other documents proving business ownership and structure.
  • Contracts and Leases: All current contracts with clients, vendors, and lease agreements for property or equipment.
  • Compliance Certifications: Documents proving compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.
  • Litigation History: A summary of any past or pending litigation, including outcomes or current status.

Being transparent with potential buyers about these can build credibility. Consulting legal experts ensures you’re compliant with all regulations, safeguarding against potential post-sale disputes.

Business and Operational Optimization 

You should also be prepared to gather information on business operations, asset inventory, customer and/or vendor contracts as well as detailed information on all employees.

The following documents should be provided:

  • Operational Manuals and Processes: Documentation of business operations like standard operating procedures(SOPs), employee handbooks, and training manuals.
  • Asset Inventory: Detailed list of all business assets, including physical and intellectual property.
  • Customer and Vendor Contracts: Summaries of agreements with key customers and suppliers, highlighting terms and conditions.
  • Employee Information: Overview of employee roles, contracts, salaries and benefits, ensuring confidentiality where necessary.

Marketing and Promotion

Marketing your business for sale requires a unique approach. 

It’s not just about showcasing its value but also reaching the right audience, the potential buyers. 

Both digital and traditional marketing channels play vital roles. 

Digital channels, like business sale platforms and social media networks, can provide a wider reach, tapping into a global market. 

Traditional channels, such as industry publications or local newspapers, offer a targeted approach, especially if you’re looking to attract local or niche buyers. 

However, amidst all your marketing efforts, you must ensure confidentiality. Employees, suppliers, or customers should not be able to stumble on the sale news before you’re ready to announce it, as it may lead to unwanted speculation and disruptions.

For our part, Acquira has a stable of qualified and motivated buyers who have been trained to respect the legacy of the company while protecting its people. If your business meets our criteria, we will buy it for a fair market value without any additional fees. If you don’t meet our specific criteria, we can introduce you to our network of business brokers to ensure you get the best value for your company. This helps you avoid any marketing efforts at all. To find out if your business is eligible, simply fill out our free valuation form.

Due Diligence and Documentation

Once you’ve garnered interest, the due diligence process begins. 

This is when potential buyers closely inspect the business’s financials, operations, and other critical details. They’re trying to validate the information presented and uncover any hidden issues. 

As a seller, you need to be prepared. 

A comprehensive checklist includes financial statements, contracts, licenses, employee information, and client details. 

Transparency is essential. 

While it might be tempting to hide flaws, deceit can lead to deal breakups or legal repercussions later on.

Identifying Potential Buyers

preparing a business for sale checklist

Identifying the right buyer is more than just finding someone with the funds. 

It’s about ensuring the legacy and future success of your business. 

Networking within your industry can help, as word-of-mouth still holds tremendous value. 

Business brokers or intermediaries can be instrumental in this phase. They not only have a wide network of potential buyers but also possess the expertise to vet and shortlist serious candidates, saving you time and effort.

You might want to sit down with any potential buyers to make sure they’re a good fit for the business you’ve created. Will they be good stewards of your legacy in terms of their relationship with your employees and community? 

Selling a business is about more than just getting a payout for many entrepreneurs who have spent decades building a business. 

Negotiations and Deal Structure

Negotiations can be the most intricate phase of the selling process. 

As a seller, you need to have a clear bottom line in terms of price and terms. However, flexibility is also crucial. 

Whether you’re looking at an outright sale or phased payments, being open can help close deals faster. 

Understanding different deal structures can aid negotiations. Is it going to be an asset sale or a stock sale? Let’s look at those options:

  • Asset Sales: In this method, buyers purchase specific assets and liabilities, not the company itself. Sellers might incur higher taxes since sales of tangible assets can result in taxable gains. However, buyers benefit by selecting specific items, avoiding unwanted liabilities, and gaining potential tax deductions through asset depreciation.
  • Stock Sales: Here, buyers acquire the company’s shares, taking on all assets and liabilities. Sellers usually prefer this as proceeds are often taxed at a lower capital gains rate. But buyers bear all company liabilities, making due diligence essential. They don’t get depreciation benefits as in asset sales since there’s no “step-up” in asset basis.

Closing the Deal

Finalizing a business sale isn’t merely about signing on the dotted line; it’s a meticulous process that ensures both parties’ interests are safeguarded. 

Drafting contracts is pivotal in this phase. 

Contracts delineate terms, responsibilities, and contingencies. They lay out conditions to be met before the transaction is complete, ensuring there are no unwelcome surprises later.

Central to this phase is a robust transition plan. 

As a seller, you have an inherent responsibility to ensure the buyer is set up for success. The business is your legacy after all. You might consider helping to train the buyer, introducing them to key clients or suppliers, or even staying on for a short period post-sale(perhaps for an additional payout). 

This not only maintains the goodwill and reputation of the business but also reassures employees and stakeholders about the continuity and stability of the enterprise.

Financially speaking, escrow plays a crucial role in the deal’s security.

 An escrow service holds the buyer’s payment until all contractual conditions are met. It acts as a neutral third-party, ensuring neither side is unfairly disadvantaged.

Post-Sale Considerations

Once you’ve handed over the keys, your journey isn’t quite finished. 

The influx of funds from the sale, while exciting, comes with its own set of challenges. It’s essential to be proactive about financial planning. 

Depending on the sale’s size and your personal financial situation, the tax implications can be significant. It’s prudent to consult with a tax advisor or financial planner to understand your tax liabilities and craft strategies to minimize them.

Decide how you’ll utilize the sale’s proceeds. 

Whether you choose to reinvest in a new venture, retire, or diversify your investments, having a clear plan will ensure that the fruits of your labor serve you well.

Finally, don’t underestimate the emotional aspect of parting with a business you’ve nurtured. It’s natural to feel a mix of relief, nostalgia, and uncertainty. 

Use this time to reflect on your achievements and consider the next chapter in your life, be it another business endeavor, philanthropy, or a well-deserved break.

FAQs About Selling a Small Business

When Should I Sell My Business?

Timing is crucial when selling your business. Consider selling when it’s profitable, industry trends are favorable, and you’re not under pressure, ensuring you fetch the best price. Personal readiness and market conditions should align for an optimal sale.

How Do You Increase the Value of Your Business Before You Sell?

Enhance your business value by streamlining operations, maintaining organized financial records, reducing debts, and expanding client relationships. You can also make sure to fill out your leadership team as management-led companies will fetch a much higher multiple. Acquira’s ACE Framework can help with this. 

What is the Benefit of Selling Your Business?

Selling provides liquidity, allowing you to cash out on years – likely decades – of hard work. It offers financial freedom, the opportunity to pursue other ventures or retire, and alleviates the responsibilities and pressures of business ownership.

What Makes a Business Valuable?

A valuable business boasts consistent profitability, strong customer relationships, a dedicated workforce, scalable operations, and a reputable brand. The less dependent the business is on its owner, and the more sustainable its revenue streams, the higher its perceived value.

Conclusion

Selling a small business is a large undertaking that requires careful preparation and strategic decision-making. 

Making informed choices not only can result in a significant financial benefit but also ensures that the legacy you’ve built is preserved and continues to thrive under the new ownership.

Are you a small business owner who is thinking about selling but doesn’t want to go the traditional route of using a broker? 

Acquira streamlines this journey, connecting you with a vast network of dedicated buyers who understand the importance of preserving a company’s legacy. 

Read how Acquira can help you sell your business quickly!

We’ve trained hundreds of potential buyers, ensuring they are equipped to sustain the culture and success of your business. 

With Acquira, you can have peace of mind, knowing that your business’s future is in capable hands and its legacy will be cherished and nurtured for years to come.

If you’re interested, fill out the form below.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand your business’s market value, not just its perceived worth.
  • Assembling a professional team like Acquira can prevent common pitfalls in the selling process.
  • Clean and transparent financials are vital for building trust with potential buyers.
  • Identifying the right buyer ensures the business’s legacy and future success.
  • Post-sale financial planning is crucial to maximizing the sale’s proceeds effectively.
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