“FOR SALE” Doesn’t mean your business is closed.

When we sold our house five years ago, it took seven weeks! That’s a long time to keep our house extremely neat and tidy, ready for a showing at any time.

Well, I hate to break the news, but having a business for sale can be an even longer wait. If you are thinking about selling your business, you need to understand that it can take anywhere from 6-18 months to complete, if not longer.

If buying a business is like courtship, selling a business is best described as hurry up and wait. Even if you find a buyer almost immediately, the time required for due diligence, financing, and all the potential legal processes alone can take months. And, given the uniqueness of each business, and each business buyer, the time it takes to find the right buyer can be substantial.

As you are waiting, it is essential that you keep running your business as best you can. In fact, anything you can do to keep sales and profits up is even better. Just like we had to keep our house tidy for any potential buyers to drop by, you need to keep the business running in tip-top shape so a buyer can’t see a noticeable downtrend in sales or profits and maintain a good sell-ability score.

Maintaining business as status quo becomes especially important as word inevitably leaks about a potential sale of your company. We can safeguard our potential transaction all we want with confidentiality notices and holding meetings in private, but the word almost always has a way of getting out. This is when nervous clients or customers might start to look at taking their spending dollar elsewhere; but if you keep your business running smoothly, showing that there isn’t a weakening, you are likely to retain those customers, particularly once the sale is complete.

This is one of the many reasons we encourage people to plan ahead when they want to exit their business. Think in terms of a three to five-year out plan. It may not take that long to sell, but when you look at tax and organizational considerations, you will need the extra time before you go to market, as well as to prepare emotionally.

I want to take an extra moment to talk about that last point. Despite your intentions to sell, there is emotion to any business you’ve run, whether you recognize it or not off the hop. When you’ve been working as long as you have in your business, you will find an emotionality immediately; so it’s important to remember that while you are preparing your business and operating it under ‘ready to sell’ times, you have to keep checked in on your emotional standing as well so that your ability to run the operation amid this transition remains strong.

When it does come time to do a deal, the more rushed you feel, the less you will get for your business. If you are just starting to think about your exit strategy and succession planning, we encourage you to talk to us. There are many things you can do now to improve your business and, ultimately, improve your bottom line, and Beal Business Brokers and Advisors is here to help.