It’s one of the first questions an owner asks: How long will it take to sell my business? The best answer I can give is: As long as it takes, and probably longer than you’d hoped.
Selling a business is complicated, and every detail has to be done right. That’s why I always recommend you work with an experienced broker. It’s our job to keep the deal moving along, make sure both parties are responding to requests for information, and nudging along the other professionals (attorneys, accountants, bankers, appraisers) to take action and provide documentation. That’s a lot of effort you probably don’t have time for as you’re running your business.
A broker can also help you understand complex issues, clear up misunderstandings, and let you know what to expect as the process unfolds.
You can anticipate at least a few weeks to a few months to find qualified and serious buyers, even if your broker has a great network. We eliminate buyers who aren’t serious or don’t have the financial resources to buy a business of your size. Smaller companies
It may surprise you to learn that smaller companies can take a little longer to sell. Finding the right buyer for any business is dependent on your Seller’s Discretionary Earnings (SDE.) SDE is a calculation of the financial benefit a full-time owner and operator would derive from the business on an annual basis. The company’s SDE has to be large enough to cover the debt of the purchase and the owner’s salary (and other expenses, of course.) If your company’s SDE is much less than $250,000, the pool of qualified buyers is a little smaller these days. Higher interest rates and economic uncertainty have made some buyers at this level more cautious about how they invest and certainly about what they can afford.
Of course, you have the option to wait for better economic conditions or to grow your business so it will attract a different level of buyer. Brokers can help you with that, as well, giving advice on how to increase the value of your company and make it more marketable to a bigger pool of buyers.
Your sale timeline will also be affected by your location, your business structure, and of course, by your sale price. That’s why getting a professional opinion of value is so important; You want your price to be fair and competitive. Too high, and buyers will pass you over, too low, and you’re leaving money on the table that you need for retirement or reinvestment. Pricing and timing are both critical factors.
Whatever the size or complexity of your company, the due diligence period will take some time – realistically, at least a couple of months, although I’ve seen faster closings with cash buyers. SBA deals take longer since the bankers require documentation for the approval process, and steps like appraisal of collateral take some time.
Savvy buyers won’t be rushed; they want to make sure they understand the financials and answer any questions they have about your equipment, procedures, and customer base. You can help the process along by being prepared before you’re presented with a serious prospect. You’ll save everyone time by having all your financials in order, making copies of leases and other contracts you might need to share, and preparing to clarify any tough questions you might get about your operation.
An experienced broker can help keep paperwork moving and keep the two parties responding to each other in a timely fashion. She’ll also be able to recommend bankers, appraisers, tax, and accounting professionals who will be the right fit for your deal – and who can get the job done. Much of the delay in business sales isn’t on the part of the buyer or seller; it’s the financial intermediaries who tend to hold things up. Finding the right broker to be your partner will ensure the best and fastest result.
Bianca Evans is an experienced business broker based in Jacksonville, Florida. She is a top producer in her field and has made over 200 transactions since 2006. She is a Certified Business Intermediary (CBI), a Certified M&A Professional (CM & AP), a Board Certified Intermediary (BCI), and has her B.S. degree from the University of Florida.
In her 17 years of experience, she has sold businesses in manufacturing, wholesale/distribution, service, retail, restaurants, professional offices, and more.
She has earned the prestigious million-dollar-plus award among her many accomplishments for 16 consecutive years. She has sold the most (dollars) in North Florida for the past three years.
As part of her process to list a business for sale, she offers free business valuations.
She maintains her professional networks by participating in the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) and the Business Brokers of Florida (BBF).
One interesting fact about Bianca is that she used to be a business owner herself! She has been on both sides of the transaction when she purchased and later sold that same business. She finds that perspective invaluable when relating to her clients and balancing the many details and emotions.
She is licensed in Georgia and Florida and speaks fluent German.