The old saying that “timing is everything,” usually applies to selling one’s business. Ultimately, every business owner will have to exit their business, and the sooner one prepares to sell, the better the final results will be.
With each passing year, more and more baby boomers are reaching retirement age. In many cases, this means that they have no choice but to sell their businesses. The time is now upon us where a simply massive number of businesses will be put up for sale.
Statistics and studies back up this claim. Studies show that people born between 1946 and 1964 make up 40% of small business owners, and about 10,000 baby boomers retire every single day. 1 Business owners who get out in front of this pending avalanche stand to benefit considerably.
There are many other good reasons to sell. Many business owners find that general burnout, and especially the burnout associated with operating a business during the pandemic, is prompting them to think about selling. Burnout isn’t just unpleasant for a business owner, but it can also be dangerous for the well-being and longevity of the business itself. An owner experiencing burnout is an owner who is unlikely to make the best decisions and seize on new opportunities. The results of burnout can be staggering and range from a loss of customers to getting caught off guard by new and existing competitors. In the end, burnout can dramatically decrease the value of a business or even destroy it.
The economy is bouncing back from the pandemic, and that can mean that right now is a great time to sell. If the covid pandemic reinforced any truism, it reminded us that the world and regional and global economies can change in a heartbeat. There are many complex variables on the table.
Simply stated, we are in a period of uncertainty, and that makes predicting the future of the marketplace harder than in recent decades. These facts, combined with the current strong economy, point towards now potentially being a good time to sell your business.
Most business owners have never sold a business before, but instead, they have spent a sizable chunk of their professional careers building up their business. As a result, most business owners don’t know what it takes to successfully sell a business. Working with a proven business broker, one with years of experience, is a smart way to evaluate your current situation and determine if now is the right time to sell your business.
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Your employees are the heart and soul of your business. Therefore, if you want a thriving business, you need to put their satisfaction at the top of your list. After all, if your employees are not happy, this level of negativity will eventually spread to your customers and clients. Before you know it, you may see your level of profits and success decrease. Any time you spend thinking about positive changes in your workplace will be well worth your time and energy.
Be sure to pay careful attention to your hiring processes and the ways that you evaluate candidates. When you hire a new employee, this is the start of a relationship that will ultimately impact your business in a wide variety of ways. It’s worth the time to make the job attractive and be as accurate as possible when it comes to your job descriptions. Make sure that anyone at your company who is involved in the interview or selection process is professional and thoroughly coached on best hiring practices.
Steps to Ensure Employee Satisfaction
Once your employees are on board, it’s a good idea to take active steps to ensure that they are positive about their jobs. Oftentimes, business owners make the mistake of assuming that their employees will naturally be dedicated to their jobs and the tasks at hand. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Therefore, you must take steps to ensure that your staff members feel motivated.
Here are some ideas:
- Offer competitive compensation
- Offer benefits
- Show appreciation for employee contributions
- Offer rewards such as praise and bonuses
- Offer days off for holidays, birthdays, and vacations
- Be respectful of all employees
- Ask staff members for their feedback and implement changes
- Provide opportunities for career development
- Help build relationships among staff members
When your employees are not happy, their stress and negativity will undoubtedly rub off on your customers. Further, their unhappiness will be more likely to make them miss days or work, whether it’s due to illness caused by stress or just the fact that they are unmotivated. Further, satisfied employees will be more likely to be productive and stay with your business for a long time.
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Obviously, serious buyers want to carefully look at the financials of a company under consideration and all of the other major aspects of the company. However, there are a few other areas that the serious buyer will investigate that sellers may overlook.
The Industry – The buyer will want to take a serious look at the industry itself, the customers, the suppliers, the competition, etc. This investigation will cover the strengths, weaknesses, threats from competition, and opportunities of the potential acquisition. With the growth of the “big box” retailers, much power has shifted from the manufacturer to the retailer. A manufacturer may want to increase prices, but if Wal-Mart says no, it’s a very powerful no.
Discretionary Costs – Some sellers will reduce their expenses in discretionary areas such as advertising, public relations, research and development, thus making for a higher bottom line. However, these cuts will hurt the future bottom line, and smart buyers will take notice of this.
Obsolete Inventory – This is another area that buyers take a serious look at and that can impact the purchase price. No one wants to pay for inventory that is unusable, antiquated or unsalable.
Wages and Salaries – A company may be paying minimum wages, or offering few or low-cost benefits, a limited retirement program, etc. These cost-saving devices will make the bottom line look good, but employee turnover may create expensive problems later on. If the target company is to be absorbed by another, compensation issues could be critical.
Capital Expenditures – The serious buyer will take a very close look at machinery and equipment to make sure they are up to date and on par with, or superior to, that of the competition. Replacing outdated equipment can modify projections and may affect an offering price.
Cash Flow – Serious buyers will take a long look at the cash flow statements and the areas that affect them. The buyer wants to know that the business will continue to generate positive cash flow after the acquisition (i.e.: after servicing the debt and after paying a reasonable salary to the owner or general manager).
Other areas that sellers overlook, but that the serious buyer does not are: internal controls/systems, financial agreements with lenders, governmental controls, anti-trust issues, legal matters and environmental concerns.
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Experts recommend considering adding an advisory council to your business. This informal board would provide strategic advice on business management related issues. An advisory council would be in place to provide advice to your business, but unlike a board of directors, they will not actually make the key decisions. Further, while a board of directors often has equity in the business, an advisory council does not. Of course, an advisory council is not right for every business. You will typically see them in businesses that are making between 3 and 25 million.
Consider Your Strengths and Weaknesses
There are many fundamental needs of a business and most entrepreneurs are good at one or two, but cannot excel in every area. The advisory council, as well as other outside experts, can be a great way to fill in the gaps in an entrepreneur’s abilities.
Beyond understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a company, it is also important for an advisory council to understand the goals of the business and create a business strategy. Understanding the lifetime goals of the entrepreneur, what they want to accomplish, and the work necessary to reach those goals, are all of vital importance.
Time Commitments Involved
In terms of the time commitment involved, experts say that the best approach is to limit the number of advisory council meetings to 12 per year, with 3 quarterly meetings onsite with each meeting lasting approximately 3 to 4 hours. Additionally, you may want to consider 1 lunch meeting per year and sporadic Zoom meetings.
Having an advisory council and implementing their recommendations are, of course, two different things. It is important that any plans also have reasonable time frames as well as a facilitator that can serve to motivate staff.
An advisory council can be extremely valuable in that they provide a new perspective on the business. While there is no doubt that creating and maintaining an advisory council may be a lot of work, there are ample potential benefits to consider. Additionally, the process of creating an advisory council and implementing their recommendations can dramatically increase the value and salability of your business.
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Your brand is a customer’s perception about your business. It determines how they feel about the services and product that you offer. A consistent brand message over time will shape what clients and customers think about you and what you stand for. As a business owner, you need to be able to answer the following important question: why should customers care about you?
Every business owner has to think about the art of branding in order to build a stronger and more robust organization. This should incorporate the art of storytelling and the science of strategy in order to build a dynamic and memorable brand.
Relationships with Your Clients
In creating a brand, it is vital to remember that brand creation ultimately takes place in the mind of the consumer. Each individual consumer will create their own version of the brand based on his or her perception.
At the core of the entire process is building trust. The goal, both in the short-term and the long-term, is for customers to feel safe enough that they are confident in you and the products and services that you offer. Central to building that trust is demonstrating, in a clear and coherent fashion, what you are going to deliver and how you are going to deliver it.
Learning from Branding Gurus
Seth Godin wrote, “Brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” With this in mind, you must ask yourself what you are doing to successfully cultivate and promote your brand in the marketplace.
Marty Neumeier is considered by many to be the father of modern branding. Neumeier stated that branding is centered on managing relationships between a company and people over many channels.
Allie Weaver, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Allie Weaver Productions, noted that branding is, “The act of giving people a reason to care about your business and a place to belong.”
Author Bernadette Jiwa pointed out that great companies all have something in common. Great companies win by mattering. The people who build great companies know what they stand for, and then act on those beliefs in a consistent fashion. Think for a moment about two great companies, Apple and Nike, that have been highly successful in the utilization of modern branding.
Following Your Compass
Building a great brand starts with you. You must understand your vision and be able to answer the question, “Why Me?” Think about why your company exists and matters. How are you working towards keeping a consistent brand promise? In the end, your brand needs to be your compass. If you can understand why customers should choose your business, you’ll be well on your way to utilizing modern branding in a powerful and effective way.
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