Building a business and maintaining it takes dedication. Understandably, the relationship between owner and company can become so close that the two are fused in some respects, which can be problematic when it comes to selling it.
To clinch a successful deal and allow a business to thrive under new ownership, it’s important to separate yourself from the day-to-day running of it.
Why is separation important?
A number of issues can arise from being too closely involved with a business you want to sell:
- You no longer notice flaws
You may have found a way of coping with a problem when you should really be working to eliminate it.
- Your relationships are indispensible
People you deal with may be making life easier because they like you or are used to you. It’s important to be able to assess whether current agreements, conditions or advantages would continue if someone else took over.
- You’re the soul of the business
The ethos of the business may be driven by your presence, rather than permeating work practices. If that ethos is what is attracting custom, will it survive after you leave?
- Your time is precious
The process of selling can last as long as two years or more, particularly if the business is large. This involves a lot of preparation and extra work, which you may not be able to do effectively if you are tied up with mundane tasks.
If a potential buyer spots the problems you’re too close to see, or anticipates the difficulties that losing your input will cause, they’re likely to attach a lower value to the business or even to walk away from the deal.
Allowing the business to be undervalued isn't fair to you or to the customers and workforce you're leaving behind.
Stepping back from the business
Ideally, you should begin to distance yourself to some extent right from the outset.
A healthy business should be capable of losing the influence of an owner or manager and the systems that allow this to happen take time to become established.
When you are trying to make your company more independent whilst preparing it for sale, the steps are the following:
- Identify areas where you are overinvolved.
This can be difficult, but you can begin by asking those around you for honest feedback.
Alternatively, you can make a clean break for a short time and evaluate any problems that arise in your absence.
- Delegate to existing staff or create new positions to assume your responsibilities.
Don’t make the mistake of passing all your duties to one employee and making them indispensable; spread the load and the company will be less vulnerable.
- Overhaul systems so that errors are less likely.
This can be through the use of Smart technology, some other form of automation, or simply through training and a process of checks and balances.
Once you have removed yourself from the direct procurement of supplies and running of operations, you will be able to view how your business functions in an objective way.
More importantly, prospective buyers will be able to picture themselves taking over without complications.
Stepping back from your business is a good idea at any time, but when you put it on the market, it’s crucial.
The decision to sell a business is never easy, particularly if you’ve built it from nothing or have owned it for a long time. Preparing it to withstand the transition won’t necessarily make parting with it any easier, but it will ensure you get the most satisfactory deal.
By Bruce Hakutizwi, USA and International Accounts Manager for BusinessesForSale.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for buying and selling small and medium size businesses. Bruce has over 7 years’ experience working within the US business transfer marketplace connecting buyers and sellers.