As an M&A advisor having participated in the sale of businesses ranging in price from $500 thousand to $100 million, I enjoy watching ABC’s Shark Tank. On the show, entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to a panel of five investors (“sharks”) who then decide whether or not to invest. Today I want to pass along three key takeaways from Shark Tank for every business owner who plans to sell their business some day.
1. The business valuation has to be realistic and defensible
Many times on Shark Tank, the valuation of a company is way too high. The asking price is not based on sound valuation principles and is not defensible. The Sharks opt out because the owner is unrealistic. This is an important lesson for business owners looking to sell their company. A realistic and well-supported valuation invites serious and capable buyers who seek a reasonable return on their investment, and an unrealistic valuation chases away buyers.
2. Presentation is fundamentally important
The Sharks don’t know anything about the companies prior to the pitch, and the sellers get one shot at presenting their information in the Tank. This is the same in a business sale process. Potential buyers don’t know much about the seller’s business, and if they are familiar it, they don’t know the details of the financials, operations, personnel, markets, customer base, systems, etc. Brokers know the kind of information buyers want and need, and how to position a company for sale or investment. They prepare a Confidential Information Memorandum for use in the sale process to give qualified buyers the information they need to make their best offer, and an offer that will survive due diligence.
3. Deal negotiations – competition is key
Sharks, like all buyers, hate competing for a deal. Sellers love competition because they get to choose the best terms available in the market. Having a broker in a deal creates competition among potential investors (buyers) because brokers promote the acquisition opportunity to a broad and targeted audience. Envision a shark feeding frenzy! Even if only one buyer prospect comes along and begins the negotiation process, they know that low-balling a fairly priced business will likely not fly in a competitive open market of buyers being orchestrated by an experienced broker. In the absence of a broker, it’s anyone’s guess where things will end up, but not likely as good of a deal in the absence of a competitive environment.
Keeping these three lessons from Shark Tank in mind as you go through the exit planning and business sale process will likely lead to a better outcome for you and your stakeholders.
Not familiar with Shark Tank? Shark Tank is an Emmy Award-winning structured reality television series on ABC, now in its tenth season. Watch Shark Tank on ABC.com
For more information on buying or selling a business, Email Louis Cionci at LCionci@exitstrategiesgroup.com or call him at 707-781-8582.