Selling a Business
August 16, 2019 | BY Shulem Rosenbaum
The process of selling a business or admitting an investor can be overwhelming and burdensome. However, as with any product, if the company is primed for sale, then the seller can receive a higher value. Realtors always advise homeowners to trim the hedges, update the windows, and declutter the home to maximize its value. In fact, according to a study by the National Association of Realtors, home staging can increase the dollar value of the house by 11-20%. Accordingly, a business owner would be wise to properly plan and prepare for the sale of his/her lifetime of work or a portion thereof. The level of planning will determine the timing, price, and process of the transaction.
A business owner can decide to sell his or her business for various reasons. At times, it results from a change in lifestyle. For example, a business owner may choose to retire and use the proceeds of the sale instead of a retirement plan. Sometimes, the business owner is an innovative individual with an entrepreneurial spirit but does not have the proper management skills to grow or manage a thriving enterprise. Being a business owner is also time-consuming, and some may prefer to be an employee with limited hours rather than an employer with management and financial risks and responsibilities.
A business can also be sold due to regulatory or legal issues, a partnership buyout or estate plan (i.e., when the second generation doesn’t have the passion of the founder). It is also wise for a business owner to know a business lifecycle to sell the business or a portion of the company at its optimal stage. A business lifecycle includes the following:
At the launch or establishment of a business, its revenues are increasing slowly but often not enough to generate positive net income. This stage can include startups or companies in early development. A startup is usually less than one year old, and financing may be necessary for product development, prototype testing, and test marketing. A company is considered in early development when the business established a business plan, conducted studies of market penetration, and hired a management team.
At the seed or startup stage, the business owner can be expected to provide a rate of return of between 40% and 70% to an angel investor or venture capitalist. Although it’s better to own a slice of a watermelon than an entire core of an apple, it isn’t prudent to unnecessarily give away equity too early.
During the expansion stage of a company, the company experiences rapid sales growth. Although the company may initially still be unprofitable, it eventually breaks even and generates a profit. At this time, the company may require capital for equipment and its working capital needs, which can usually be accomplished by obtaining bank financing. However, if the company cannot obtain traditional bank financing, it may be able to raise capital via asset-based or mezzanine Lenders. Conversely, an owner can be expected to provide a rate of return of between 30% and 50% to an angel investor or venture capitalist at this stage.
At maturity, a company’s revenue growth and its expenses stabilize, which reduces the risk of investment in the company. At this stage, the company reinvests some working capital but relies on debt financing over equity dilution. Nevertheless, if the company fails to innovate and introduce new services or product, then its growth will plateau and eventually decline. At this stage – often known as post-maturity – a cash infusion is necessary. This is the stage that may result in an initial public offering (IPO) or reliance on debt or additional equity investment. If the owner cannot invest more capital, then it is smart to sell the business before it declines.
Ronald Wayne co-founded Apple Inc. with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. In 1976, just 12 days after he entered into the partnership, he sold his 10% stake for approximately $2,300. A 10% stake of Apple Inc. would be worth roughly $100 billion today. In fact, the partnership contract was sold in 2011 for $1.6 million – after Wayne sold it earlier for $500.
Window-dressing a home is relatively simple, but preparing a business for sale is more involved. Don’t make the mistake of selling your business or equity interest too soon, but it is equally important not to wait until the value declines.