With the San Francisco Bay Area building industry booming I am regularly approached by the owners of construction companies with requests to help them to sell their companies. As interest rates are low (but creeping up) and investors are still in the market for solid businesses, some construction company owners with strong financial histories and future growth prospects are looking to cash out.
However, even in the best of times construction companies are notoriously difficult to sell. Any business that requires a professional accreditation (like a California contractor’s license) to operate will logically attract fewer buyer prospects. Buyers with the requisite licenses and financial resources often prefer to start their own companies rather than buy someone else’s. Many construction companies even large ones depend heavily on their owner’s experience and contacts to attract business. When it comes to selling, the personal goodwill of the owner is tough to transfer to a new owner.
If that weren’t enough, many construction businesses have high capital equipment costs, high labor costs and because of retention are slow to receive payment for their services. Furthermore, the industry is cyclical which increases the need to maintain cash reserves. These factors increase overall working capital requirements for construction businesses and make them difficult to finance and expensive to manage.
So, what qualities in a construction company are attractive to buyers? This list is a good start:
Experienced and Dedicated Labor
Unemployment in the Bay Area hovered at just under 3% in October. The market for construction-related jobs is even tighter. For many Bay Area construction companies growth is constrained not by demand for their services but by their ability to complete the work. Some of these companies are resorting to acquisitions of other companies simply to secure talent. Owners of companies with trained and dedicated employees are well positioned to benefit from this industry wide challenge.
Committed Management Team
Businesses with multiple owners that compose the management team and want to retire at the same time are particularly challenging to sell. Business partners or spouses that both play vital roles and want to leave a business together are difficult for buyer prospects to replace. Buyers like to know that the owner can take time away from the business without it impacting performance. Ideally, a company will have a committed non-owner management team that will embrace an incoming buyer and continue to run the business after its sold.
Low Working Capital Requirements
Not all construction companies require a large working capital investment. For example, companies that provide services directly to building owners rather than general contractors often have more control over when and how they get paid. Also, companies that have regular service contracts with clients often have shorter cash flow cycles.
The buyer of a construction company that is in the same business will have the required licenses to operate. But many buyer prospects for small construction companies won’t and they will have to figure out how to run the business until they are able to qualify for the requisite licenses. A business in which the seller or one of the company employees is willing and able to serve as the license qualifier during the transition will make the business easier to sell.
Construction companies with these attributes will be more attractive to buyers.
Exit Strategies Group regularly appraises and brokers the sale of companies in the construction industry. For further information or if you own a California construction company that you’d like to sell or have appraised please contact Adam Wiskind at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 781-8744.