When deciding to sell your company, you can either choose to sell it in its current condition or prepare for a Merger and Acquisition (M&A).
A strategic M&A plan can considerably increase the sale value of your venture and should ideally be your chosen plan of action. You will make your company more attractive to potential buyers if you address your businesses weaknesses well in advance of any due diligence or negotiation processes. Here are a few simple steps that can help you maximize the value of your business.
Create a pre-M&A improvement plan
Before devising an M&A improvement plan, you must first take stock of the different aspects of your company such as:
- Identifying areas that are doing well, those that are performing below average and need your intervention, and those that need a complete overhaul.
- Creating a timeline and dedicated project to address any identified concerns and complete upgradations.
- Assigning resources that you are willing to allocate for handling the M&A process and internal performance improvement initiatives.
Remember, recognizing the needs of your company early on will help put you in a better position during negotiations. Investors are usually looking for small companies with the potential for larger projected growth in the future. Many owners often make the mistake of discontinuing investments to improve a company once they decide to exit. Instead, this is the time where you must attempt to increase the value of your company by investing in equipment and upgrading processes to lead to higher performance. Your company’s value is directly linked to how it performs in the period leading up to, and during the M&A.
Keep your plans to yourself
Avoid disclosing your plans to enter an M&A until after the deal is sealed. While consulting with your legal advisors and accounts department, emphasize the need for discretion even if their profiles are contractually bound in non disclosures.
The news of your plans to sell the company might induce panic in your staff, generating uncertainty, which in turn might devalue the business right when it needs to be performing at its peak. Instead, train your employees to be able to carry on tasks in the absence of your supervision. Develop repeatable processes and create quantifiable parameters to ensure that your business continues to grow even after your departure.
Pay close attention to managerial staff and resolve any internal conflicts. Take every measure possible to avoid high turnover before M&A. Remember a high rate of employee retention is the sign of a healthy business!
Increase your EBITDA
Your company’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will be the most likely metric used to evaluate its worth. The higher your EBITDA, the larger settlement you’re likely to receive. Thus, instead of focusing on gross revenue, attempt to push your EBITDA. Analyze your expenses to highlight funds that can be reallocated to increase your working capital, BPS, and boost EBITDA. If needed, hire extra marketing personnel and increase your top-line growth to maximize earning potential.
An investor is likely to evaluate your company’s track record of sales to estimate its projected earnings. It then makes strategic sense to expand your marketing team while preparing for an M&A. You can also choose to set up a revenue juggernaut in this phase to help realize hidden potential.
Prepare for a financial audit
A financial audit is a likely requirement before an M&A. Hire a reputable firm to conduct your own audit before entering negotiations in order to help improve the financial health of your business
A professional audit will also enable you to better understand what potential buyers might be looking for, give you a sense of what a GAAP audit constitutes, and having this data at your disposal will grant you an advantage during negotiations.
During the M&A process make it a point to highlight a history of compensation. Many entrepreneurs tend to combine their personal financial portfolios with their company’s. It is always advisable to clearly demarcate a separation early on and pay yourself a salary which adequately covers your expense and leaves behind a safety net to sustain your lifestyle.
Prepare a 3-year financial projection
A plan which includes clear financial projections is critical to garnering credibility for your company during M&A presentations. While surpassing quantifiable goals and milestones can add value to your company’s acquisition offer, failing to meet set financial targets can seriously jeopardize a sale. Hence, be certain that the projected numbers are achievable in the proposed period.
There are a couple of measures that you can put into place before framing your proposal. These must include knowing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of your business. A SWOT analysis is critical before attempting to prepare a financial projection. Setting achievable goals and highlighting your competitive sustainability attests to the business acumen of your enterprise, while a well-planned execution of the presentation puts the ball in your court during negotiations.
Identify potential buyers
Networking in the right circles is key to finding investors that best suit your agenda. Keeping up-to-date with industry trends, and potential investors’ investment portfolios can help you pitch your company for sale. Identify a list of potential buyers, establish contact, and foster their interest in your enterprise.
Treat buyers like clients, highlighting how your company can best serve their interests. Share your projected milestones with prospective buyers and highlight a potential business that might profit from partnering with your company. Paint them a larger picture of where you see your company in the years to come, focusing on how they would benefit from processes that you have already put into place and in motion for a seamless transition/integration.
Prepare for final negotiations
If you’ve successfully made it to this stage, you will now be the best judge of the value of your company. Armed with a SWOT analysis, a successful 3-year projection, and favorable EBITDA, here’s the last negotiation tactic to note so you have the upper hand, ensuring you have addressed any misdemeanors from your company’s past.
Investors will jump at the opportunity to poke holes in your company’s reputation in order to offer a lower buyout. By acknowledging any mistakes from the past, you can gain control of M&A negotiations. Remember to state things as they are, and not provide explanations or empty apologies. Set-up the circumstance that might have led to a disruption and focus on the measures you put into place to contain an unfavorable situation and prevent future occurrences. Assign a short duration to address these concerns right before commencing M&A proceedings, effectively warding off any possibilities of them being brought up later to throw you off track.
Assess the best exit option
Ultimately, while selling a business for considerable profit is the dream of many contemporary entrepreneurs, when the opportunity finally presents itself it can prove to be a surprisingly emotional decision. Before making the final leap and handing over a company that you have worked several years to build, it is important for you to consider other options that might be at your disposal. Signing over all rights to your company is only one among a plethora of alternatives to capitalize on your hard work. For example you could:
- Opt for a part liquidation, where you can either maintain control of operations or become a silent investor. This will enable you to retain a stake in the business which you can decide to sell during a larger buyout in the future.
- Open your company’s portfolio and raise capital through equity, helping your company become larger before exiting at a higher value in the future.
- Hire a CEO and play an advisor role. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the growing size of your enterprise and feel like you are not being able to contribute to its growth and take it to the next level, you can hire a CEO with relevant industry experience and take on an advisory role for yourself, focusing on the parts of the business process that catch your fancy.
With many points to consider, preparing your company for a sale is by no means an easy task and can be very emotional! However, following these aforementioned steps will at least allow you to realize the full value of your business and give you the due credit for all the years of hard work you’ve put in.