Baseball is back and spring training is underway! As an M&A professional and lifelong Dodgers fan (who once had the bucket list experience of visiting all MLB stadiums and appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno), I’ve been reflecting on similarities between MLB teams preparing for the upcoming season and entrepreneurs preparing to sell their businesses.
Winning the World Series and successfully exiting your business both represent the culmination of many years of relentless focus on continuous improvements to the team, processes, and technology. Teams become World Series Champions by peaking at the right time, playing great defense, and minimizing errors, while having a deep bench and strong role players. Prepared entrepreneurs have the same elements in place. Here’s what I mean:
1. Peak at the right time (aka increasing revenue and profits)
Buyers acquire businesses based on the likelihood of future cash flows. Businesses that sell at a premium typically have increased sales and profits for 3+ years. If financial performance is declining, buyers will lowball, assuming significant time and resources will be required to turn the business around. If business owners expect top dollar, the business must demonstrate stable to increasing profits, which will expand the buyer pool and enhance buyer competition, ultimately improving price and terms for the seller.
2. Tight defense (aka mitigate risk)
When a business relies on a specific customer, supplier, product, or employee, this is referred to as “concentration.” These situations usually result in discounted offers. Before going to market, we help business owners identify potential dependencies and create mitigation plans for each.
3. Minimize errors (aka clean books)
Can detailed financials be quickly generated, with trends/variances clearly explained? Do company financials easily reconcile to tax returns? Can personal expenses be readily substantiated? Buyers closely examine financials, and low-quality financials are deal killers.
4. Deep bench (aka middle management in place)
For a company to sell at the maximum price, buyers expect middle management to be in place, or for the business to have a credible transition plan to replace owner responsibilities. Buyers gain comfort when businesses demonstrate that they can run seamlessly while the owner takes a two-week vacation.
5. Strong role players (aka advisors)
When selling, it’s imperative that you have the right team of advisors around you so you can continue to run your business while seeking the best deal. This typically includes your CPA, corporate attorney, wealth manager, and an M&A advisor, who will serve as team captain throughout this process.
Business owners looking to sell their businesses for maximum value and optimal terms must prepare themselves and their businesses by doing the following:
- Peak at the Right Time – Demonstrating that the business is performing well financially and operationally.
- Tight Defense – Guarding against overreliance on any specific customer, product, employee, or supplier.
- Minimize Errors – Presenting clean financials, with trends and personal expenses easily explained.
- Deep Bench – Ensuring business continuity so the business can thrive beyond the owner after sale.
- Strong Role Players – Having support from a strong team of aligned advisors that share a common view of success.
Let me know if you’d like us to evaluate your readiness to sell for maximum value. We’d love to connect and share our thoughts.
Kevin Berson is an M&A Advisor with Kinected Consulting, based in Los Angeles. He specializes in helping business owners maximize outcomes in selling their businesses. He is also the founder of Kinected, a Management Consulting firm that advises companies with strategic planning, exit planning, and merger and acquisition diligence. Kevin can be reached at email@example.com.