GROWTH. TRANSFER. LEGACY.
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Multiple surveys over the last decade all show exactly the same result. About 85% of small business (5 to 20 employees) owners say that their exit plan is to sell to a third party.
Let’s do the math. There are currently over 3,000,000 small business owners over 55 years old in the USA. We can assume that by the time the youngest is 75, virtually all will have exited their businesses. That means an average of 150,000 businesses a year will transfer or close.
According to the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA), their intermediaries execute about 40,000 transactions a year. It should be a bull market for intermediaries (although not for sellers.) Let’s assign them 50,000 transactions annually.
That leaves 100,000 small businesses a year who will have to find methods of transfer other than through a business broker.
Business Brokers can be cynical about their clients. They commonly complain that the best businesses sell through their accountants, bankers, attorneys or word of mouth. Their listings consist mostly of the “Dismal Ds,” (Death, Disease, Disaster, Divorce, Declining sales, Dissention among partners, Disinterest etc.) While this is an exaggeration, it’s true that the better shape your business is in, the more likely it is to sell easily.
If you’ve prepared your business well, understand your potential buyer, and are personally ready to move on, your best bet for selling is probabaly your own business network.
Brokers sell about 20% of the businesses they list. Again, that number has been consistent for decades. According to the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Report, the number one reason for an intermediarie’s failure to sell a business is “unreasonable expectations of value” by the seller.
Again, that may be self-serving, but brokers are paid for success. None would sneer at a higher valuation if he or she could get it. A realistic expectation of value is the first and most important step in a successful sale.
Some brokers will take a listing at any price. They believe that eventually the market reaction will drive their clients to a reality check. The problem with that approach is that the first buyers, and possible the most qualified, are driven off by an unreasonable price at the outset. They don’t come back later.
If you plan to sell to a third party, you will be best served by being prepared before you talk to a broker.
Reprinted from my exit planning blog Awake at 2 o'clock?
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