Be Prepared!

“Be Prepared” is the Boy Scout Motto that has served young individuals and their character development in over two hundred countries since 1907. It can also be an effective mantra for a business owner who will engage in marketing and selling a business.  A well prepared business owner plays a vital role on the transaction team and helps ensure maximum value to the shareholders and a smooth transition of ownership.
Critical components of “Be Prepared” for a business owner are the following:
Sustain.  Continue to operate the business effectively.  Having made the commitment to sell, don’t allow your mind and spirit to “go on vacation”.  Maintain business as usual and meet or exceed your sales/profit projections.  Buyers want to invest in businesses that are running smoothly.
Demote.  This may seem counter-intuitive to “Be Prepared”; however, it is important that you develop a management team that can operate efficiently in your absence.  The more replaceable you become in the daily affairs of the business, the more you eliminate buyer risk.
Disclose.  Total transparency empowers the prospective buyer to make informed decisions, eliminates suspicion, and obviates potential “landmines” during negotiation and due diligence.
Diversify. “One trick ponies” are difficult to market and sell.  You don’t want to be indispensable to the future success of the business, nor do you want to be overly reliant upon one or two customers or suppliers.  Buyers will perceive less risk when they see a well-diversified portfolio of customers and suppliers.
Coordinate.  Your transaction team can include a business broker, accountant, attorney and escrow officer.  Work closely with them.  Make yourself available and responsive to their requests.
Update. Current monthly financials and any significant changes in the business must be updated and forwarded to your business broker.  Remember that during marketing and negotiations, your business continues to be dynamic:  it can’t stop.  Buyers attribute greater value to a business that can provide timely, accurate reports.
Improve and Maintain. A freshly detailed and serviced car is generally easier to market and sell.  Examine the physical attributes of your business.  Put a “fresh coat of paint” on the business: repair and replace furniture, fixtures and equipment that are integral to the business and remove those items that are inoperative or unproductive.
Organize.  Among the intangible assets of your business that bring added value and goodwill are your company’s records.  Employment records, supplier lists, customer lists, procedural documentation, handbooks, contracts, licenses and permits, et al, should be organized and updated.  It is reasonable for a buyer to expect company records to be current, accurate and complete before the change of ownership.
To paraphrase a popular quote, “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure”.  You don’t climb a mountain by starting at the top . . . you prepare, plan and perform and hopefully enjoy the trek along the way.
Don Ross is a business broker with Exit Strategies. He can be reached at or 707-778-0210.