So You're Thinking About Selling Your Business

Gary Miller

So You’re Thinking About Selling Your Business
By Gary Miller CEO
GEM Strategy Management, Inc.
A time always comes when business owners ask themselves, “Should I begin thinking about selling my business?”  Your success depends on your strategic exit plan, team selection and timing. And, business owners today face four major threats now through 2029 that no other generation has had to face.

First, a demographic tsunami of Baby Boomer businesses is coming on the market from now – 2029. A bit of background will give you some insight into its impact. The U.S. Census Bureau defines Baby Boomers as those born between January 1946 and December 1964.  There are approximately 78,000,000 of them; around 10,000 are retiring every day. Assuming they retire at 65, they will retire at a rate of about 4,105,000 a year through 2029.

Small businesses, (500 employees or less) number 28.2 million as of 2013 (latest data).  Baby Boomers own about 43% of those businesses (12.1 million). Approximately 60% of the 12.1 million businesses will be put up for sale through 2029 (7.26 million). This averages 403,333 businesses on the market each year. Businesses put up for sale between 2008 and 2013, averaged 123,000 per year. One can readily see the tsunami impact going forward — 403,333 vs. 123,000.

Second, it is a buyer’s market over the next 16 years. Transaction volume is steadily increasing (5 quarters in a row since 2013) and transaction prices are increasing over past years (2010 – 2013). However, sales price multiples reveal that it remains a buyer’s market.  While sellers are getting much higher prices than they did just a few years ago, buyers are getting better value for their business-buying dollar.  This is shown by multiples that remain at historic lows. The average multiple of revenue for sold businesses in Q1 2014 slipped 1.2 percent year-over-year to 0.59 percent and the average multiple of cash flow fell 0.6 percent to 2.21 percent.

Third, 80% of the businesses put up for sale will not close.  Two reasons explain this high number: (1) poor strategic exit planning and (2) over estimating the value of the business. While 96% of Baby Boomers agree that planning an exit strategy is important, 88% do not have one. You would expect well thought-out plans to maximize the monetization of the business would be in place before going to market since on average 70% of the business owners net worth is tied up in illiquidable assets. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case; most owners skip the strategic exit planning and preparation phase because they are too busy managing and growing their businesses. They jump ahead into the sales process ignoring personal financial goals, management or family dynamics, market timing, value enhancements, wealth and tax planning.

Fourth, owners do not know where to turn. Owners’ trusted advisors have limited understanding of strategic exit planning. When owners do turn to these advisors they aren’t prepared or equipped to properly counsel their clients. Consequently, they refer the client to the “known” specialized resource in this space – the investment banker. While the banker provides an important role in an external exit, many aren’t equipped nor compensated to determine an owner’s long-term financial needs, exit channels, implementing value enhancements, strategic tax plans and wealth preservation. They are hired to sell the business externally at the highest price they can achieve.

Lessons learned from these threats are: (1) begin planning early; (2) prepare your company to go to market; (3) select an interdisciplinary team of experts who can work together; (4) monitor the team with a lead consultant; and, (5) execute the plan when the timing is right. Exit planning and execution are a process, not an event.

To learn more how GEM Strategy Management, Inc. can help you exit successfully, please contact us at  or 970.390.4441

The content of this post is the intellectual property of GEM Strategy Management, Inc. and cannot be copied, reproduced in any form or used without the express written consent of GEM Strategy Management.         

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