Q&A: How Do I Market the Sale of My Business?

By Barbara Findlay SchenckFox News

For 10 years, I’ve had a successful employee benefits insurance agency. Due to illness, I’m in the process of putting my agency on the market. Other than discussing it with my local networks and colleagues, how should I go about marketing the sale?

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First, you’re wise to care for your health. I’m sorry for your circumstances. You say you’re “in the process” of putting your business on the market. If your timeline is flexible enough to allow for some pre-sale preparation, anything you can do to enhance its attractiveness will increase the likelihood of a sale at a good price.

Among the issues most buyers consider:

- Professionally prepared financial statements for the past three years - Upward revenue and profit trends - An extensive and easily transferable client base - An attractive, easy-to-transition business including transferable leases, easy-to-assume and clearly documented operating procedures, and key staff who will remain with the business to ease the transfer to a new owner - Seller’s willingness to accept some of the payment price in deferred payments through a seller-financed loan

In terms of marketing your business for sale, proceed cautiously when sharing your sale intentions with networking groups. Once word gets out that you’re leaving your business, you risk the strength of client, supplier and employee relationships, which can reduce the worth of your business at the very time its value is most important.

That’s why many owners contract with business brokers, who find and deal with buyers while maintaining confidentiality about the seller and business names until nondisclosure forms are signed.

If you choose to market your business on your own — with help from your attorney and accountant — consider using business-for-sale online brokerage sites to attract buyers. John Davies, the CEO of Sunbelt, the world’s largest business-for-sale brokerage (and my expert advisor when I wrote “Selling Your Business for Dummies”), says, “90 percent of all initial buyer inquiries for businesses priced under a million dollars come from Internet business-for-sale listings.”

The largest online brokerage sites are BizBuySell and BizQuest. On either site, listing instructions are clear-cut and easy to follow. Also, search the sites’ listings to get a feel for how similar businesses present and price their offerings.

Finally, check back to this page, as I’m sure others will share their input as well. I wish you well.

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