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Preparing for your business exit

Preparing a business for sale is a complex and often long-term process, which requires a lot of preparation and planning. Yet few business owners are prepared when it comes time to be sale-ready.

Exit planning involves careful preparation and consideration of the financial and business implications. Here are three tips to help business owners prepare for a successful business sale:

Prepare early

Business owners should start preparing early to minimise the risk of a failed transaction and to optimise the value of their business. Anticipation of internal and external factors, including market conditions must be anticipated and managed prior to sale.

A seller must provide key factual information for a potential buyer through the due diligence process. Due diligence is a time-consuming process requiring a lot of documentation. A business’ failure to keep adequate and accurate financial records can severely damage their sale price and slow down the sales process.

Reduce risk for buyers

Sellers must be very careful to ensure that information provided and statements made in the lead up to the sale are accurate and not open to interpretation. Be sure to provide a clear business forecast and realistic ongoing business model.

All verbal conversations with the buyer should be followed up in writing, such as email, as informal conversations can be relied upon for Court proceedings after the sale. Ensure the contract of sale is well-drafted and states in plain English what you understand to be the agreement.

Evaluate different exit options

It is not necessary to sell 100 per cent of the business immediately. A gradual exit can benefit both parties. For purchasers, it retains customer goodwill and gives new owners time to adjust to the business’ operations. For sellers, there is the advantage of keeping an interest in the business and demonstrating its worth to the new owners.

If you are passing the business on to family members, the transition may be over a number of years. A formal succession plan can help guide the business through a smooth transfer of control.


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