Could you sell your business today?

Throughout my life, I’ve been amazed at how much easier it is to buy something than to sell it.

Sailboat for saleFor example, in my life, I’ve owned seven boats. There came a time in the life of each of those boats when I said, “enough is enough.” So I cleaned up the boat, detailed it, removed our personal belongings, made sure it was in shipshape condition and posted the “for sale” sign on the bow.

Anyone can buy a boat in a day if they’re so inclined. But the reality is that boats simply don’t sell quickly.

It takes a long time to sell a home too. Typically, it’s like selling a boat only considerably more time intensive. It took me a week or two to ready our last boat for sale, but it took months to get the house ready. And invariably I always needed to spend money here and there… inside and out… to spruce up things.

And if you think it takes a long time to sell a boat or house, just wait till you see how long it takes to sell a business.

Business owners don’t’ have the luxury of waking up one morning and saying, “I think I’ll sell my business today.” While they may wish a transaction like that could happen instantly, I guarantee you it never will.

Getting a business in shipshape to sell can take a year, maybe two, and often three to five or more. It depends on where you and the business are. Regardless, there are just so many things to think about and so many things to do.

Now, I don’t want to scare you. (Well, maybe I do.) When you think about the complexity of selling a business and what it takes to get all your ducks in a row, it’s an incredible challenge to know where to start. Naturally, you need a plan… because without a plan that includes your accountant, personal financial planner, attorney, and any number of consultants and advisors, you stand to see years of work and personal sacrifice go down the tubes.

I think of all the things that present a challenge in getting a business ready to sell is the need to document every activity, task, job, process, and nuance of the business. Business buyers don’t buy what’s in your head. They buy the systems, processes, and procedures that they’ll need in order to walk into your office, sit in your chair, pilot the ship and, above all, prosper.

Just like that new boat that came with an owner’s manual, a potential buyer of your business wants and needs an owner’s manual – one that teaches him or her to be successful from day one.

That owner’s manual is vital, too, if one day you’re not able to work as usual and a family member needs to sit at the helm of your business and run it.

So I suppose my plea is that you make sure your company’s owner’s manual is current and complete. And that if you don’t have one, that you put this at the top of the list of priorities.

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2 Responses to Could you sell your business today?

  1. Karen Runtz says:

    As you’ve said, getting your business shipshape is essential to preparing your business for sale and an owner’s manual is important for whoever takes it over. Another key factor in business readiness is the state of its record keeping. Bad record keeping is the biggest roadblock to selling a business. Your books, records and financial statements need to be up-to-date–a rule of thumb is to have at least three years worth of financial history.

    • Gil Effron says:

      Karen, thanks for your comment. YES, definitely. I didn’t mean to overlook the importance of financial books, records, and financial statements. So thanks for pointing that out and adding here as a critical part of selling a business! After all, what people are buying is the current and future value of that business.

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