(Editor’s note: John Ovrom founder and CEO of Exit and Answers, a social community for entrepreneurs looking to sell their company. The story originally appeared on his blog.)
Entrepreneurs tend to look for one of two types of buyers when they decide to sell their business. Some search for the perfect match as defined by their personal exit goals. Others simply go after the highest sales price.
Obviously the dream is to find both – someone who will protect the employees, product or vision and still pay a boatload of money. As you might have guessed, it rarely works out that way.
Managing your own expectations is critical, as well as making it clear to potential buyers early on what you want out of the transaction. It’s all too common for a deal to fall through because the seller starts the selling process with one goal in mind and then changes the rules along the way. Recognize that every potential buyer will require some sort of choice between your goals and their offer. Most business owners I work with say they don’t care who the buyer is as long as they get the money, but the buyer can make a difficult process much easier or harder.
There are a few methods for finding a buyer for your company. You can either pay a business broker to professionally represent you and take care of the marketing and transactional work, or you can do it yourself. One of the advantages of an advisor is they have clearly organized websites that list the businesses they are representing. If you choose the do-it-yourself option, there are multiple online listings sites to use, but there’s no standard Multi Listing Service for businesses as there is for residential listings.
That makes your company harder to find. On bizbuysell.com, there are 47,000 businesses for sale right now. Standing out from that crowd is nearly impossible.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Listing online typically isn’t that expensive. It’s also, believe it or not, worth trying local listing services like Craig’s List or even the local community print newspaper. I can personally vouch there’s success to be found there.
Admittedly, though, none of these are the ideal option.
The best way to find a buyer is to go looking for them. It’s a proactive effort that requires time and effort. Start by looking at your major customer base, your largest supplier/vendor or competitor. They may not be actively looking, but if there’s a reasonable business reason to do consider the purchase, they might take a more serious look.
In the end, recognize that you’re swimming against the current when you decide to sell. It’s always a buyer’s market in the business world – and the potential buyer that’s interested in your company may not meet your definition of ideal. But through vigilant listing, networking and effort, you just might get lucky.
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