There are some people who own and operate the same business their entire lives, while others choose to start and then sell a variety of businesses throughout their careers. No matter which category you fall into, business sales can be hard to navigate, especially the first time around.
In an article for Entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur who has started at least three highly-successful businesses discussed what to expect from a business sale, including these helpful points:
The sale process can be long or short, depending on who buys the business. You could end up selling the business to an internal employee, whom you have been grooming over the years to take over, which could mean a quick sale. Or you could end up selling to a competitor, which could take much longer. However, most often, the sale process takes longer than you think, so plan accordingly.
You need to have financial records ready for potential buyers to examine. You never know when a surprise buyer will be interested, which is why it’s important to have important financial data at the ready. Any potential buyer who knows what they are doing will expect thorough financial data going back years before going through with a sale.
The new owner may want you to stay on to help lead the transition. In some cases, the new buyer will want you to stay on for a while to help lead the employees into the new frontier. You can choose whether or not to agree to this after fully understanding the expectations and what your compensation would be.
You will likely need to think as much about “what’s next” as the sale itself. Anyone who has sold a business will tell you that preparing for the future was just as important as preparing for the sale. You will need to decide what to do with the sale profits and your time after moving on.
Don’t try to go through a business sale on your own. The sale process can be complicated and must be handled appropriately in order to avoid serious mistakes. That’s why it’s important to work with professionals such as accountants, lawyers and bankers to make sure everything is successful.