Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is Now the Time To Sell Your Business?



Have you been thinking about selling your business but just can’t decide if now is the best time?  Do you find yourself repeatedly analyzing the economic situation and wishing you had a crystal ball? There are positive signs and there are negative signs….

If you’re still up in the air and can’t quite decide whether or not to hit the eject button, here are six reasons you might want to consider getting out now.

1. You’re less interested in fighting the good fight
A lot of business owners took the Great Recession in the teeth. If you’ve got your business stabilized and the prospect of possibly having to fight through another recession leaves you panic-stricken, it could be time for you to get out.

2. The worst is behind you
Let’s say you were mentally ready to consider selling a few years ago and then 2008 hit, and in 2009 you made cuts and adjustments, and now you’re seeing some profit and revenue growth.  With your numbers going in the right direction, now might be just the right time to make your move.

3. The tax man is coming
Governments around the world are looking for money to fund the cost of an aging population. At some point this will mean increased taxes.

4. Nobody is lucky forever
If you’re lucky enough to be in a business that actually benefits from a bad economy, congratulations... you’ve probably just had the four best years of your business life. But no cycle lasts forever and right now might be a great time to take some chips off the table.

5. The coming glut
As a business owner, demographics are not on your side.  As the baby boomers start to retire in droves, we’re going to have a glut of small businesses coming on the market. That’s great if you’re buying; but if you’re a seller, you may want to avoid the flood and head for higher ground now.

6. The closing window
Since 2008, it’s been tougher for private equity companies to raise money; so many firms had their last successful round of fundraising a number of years ago. Many of these funds have a five-year window in which to invest or they have to give the money back to the people who gave it to them. Some boutique private equity firms will make investments in companies that have at least one million dollars in pre-tax profits (larger private equity firms will not go below $3 million in EBITDA); so if you’re in the seven-figure club, you could get a bidding war going for your business among private equity buyers keen to invest their money before they have to give it back.

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Wondering if you have a sellable business? Contact the MAXIMA Group for a consultation. We focus on privately held companies with annual revenues of $3 million to $60 million. We also advise larger public and private companies on buy-side engagements. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

7 things to do before signing a Letter of Intent


You may be years away from selling your business, but it’s never too early to understand what the process involves.


If you have ever promised your child a treat in return for good behaviour, you know all about negotiating leverage. When selling an attractive business, you also have leverage—but only up to the point where you sign a letter of intent (LOI), which almost always includes a “no shop” clause requiring you to terminate discussions with other potential buyers while your newfound “fiancĂ©” does due diligence. 


After you sign the LOI, however, the balance of power in the negotiation swings heavily in favour of the buyer, who can then take their time investigating your company.  At the same time, with each passing day, you will likely become more psychologically committed to selling your business. Savvy buyers know this and can drag out diligence for months, coming up with things that justify lowering their offer price or demanding better terms.


With your leverage diminished and other suitors sidelined, you are then left with the unattractive options of either accepting the inferior terms or walking away.


Here are seven things you can do—before you even put your business up for sale, and before signing an LOI—to minimize the chances of your deal dragging on for months and becoming watered down:


1. Make sure your customer contracts have “successor” clauses.

Have customers sign long-term, standardized contracts, including a clause stating that the obligations of the contract survive any change in company ownership.

2. Nurture and prepare a group of 10 to 15 “reference-able” customers.

Acquirers will want to ask your customers why they do business with you and not your competitors. Before you sign the LOI, cultivate a group of customers to act as references.

3. Ensure your management team is all on the same page.

During due diligence, acquirers will want to interview your managers without you in the room. They want to find out if everyone in your company is pulling in the same direction.

4. Consider getting audited financials.

An acquirer will have more confidence in your numbers and will perceive less risk if your books are audited by a recognized accounting firm.

5. Disclose the risks up front.

Every company has some risk factors. Disclose any legal or accounting hiccups before you sign the LOI.

6. Negotiate down the due diligence period.

Most acquirers will ask for a period of 60 or 90 days to complete their due diligence. You may be able to negotiate this down to 45 days—perhaps even 30 with some financial buyers.  If nothing else, you'll alert the acquirer to the fact that you're not willing to see the diligence drag out past the agreed-to close date.

7. Make it clear there are others at the table.

Explain that, while you think the acquirer's offer is the strongest and you intend to honour the “no shop” agreement, there are other interested parties at the table.

If you take all seven of these steps, you will protect the value of your business as the balance of power in the negotiations to sell your company swings from you to the buyer.

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Wondering if you have a sellable business? Contact the MAXIMA Group for a consultation. We focus on privately held companies with annual revenues of $3 million to $60 million. We also advise larger public and private companies on buy-side engagements.