Staging Your Business For Sale (even if you don’t sell it)

Staging Your Business For Sale (even if you don’t sell it)

It’s very tempting to compare the buying and selling of houses with businesses. Be careful. For example buying another business is like buying a house but only if you include the family inside it!

Selling a business has similarities to selling a house, ignoring the large capital sum one crystallizes, and that is, preparation can make a huge difference to the price. Staging a house is about illusion, it’s the way David Copperfield would sell a house states Elizabeth Weintraub  in About.com. Well staging a business is not an illusion, it’s real, but it is preparation nevertheless. Staging a business is something that can take years and every business owner should be doing it. There is no downside and you build a much better business, a more valuable business, every year whether you sell it or not.

So here is the Road map. First give yourself a test to establish your Saleability Test Index – this will help you see the current weaknesses in your businesses. The weaknesses through the lens of a buyer. Remember it’s the buyer that perceives value in your business. All you can do is aspire to price. By the way if you need a little encouragement to do the prep, remember only 5568 businesses sold out last year for $10m or more out of 27.3 million businesses registered in the US Census Data. I’m just saying the odds aren’t great.

So here is the Road map. Start to attack in a methodical manner using a set of 100 day action plans, the following agenda items:

  1. Repositioning:
    • Revisit the fundamental business you are in.
    • Examine the competition, your unique skills, your value proposition.
    • Define the exact set of activities that will define a market that you can excel in. A market in which you can truly be a global player over time.
  2. Marketing:
    • Reconcile your positioning with all of your marketing collateral wherever it resides.
    • Define the voice of your company, that special narrative that will be remembered by prospects and compel them to take action.
  3. Sales:
    • Define a comprehensive sales process that aligns your messaging with sales scripts that deliver rich conversations with your prospects.
    • Teach sales professionals how to sound like businessman, put costs around problems, look for symptoms of live issues that have severe consequences.
    • Teach curiosity and awareness of a prospect’s world, in their language.
    •  Explain and develop Engagement Strategies to realize a far higher level of traction between you and your customers.
  4. Products:
    • Build the best products by bringing the right people together in a continuous cycle of innovation.
    • Build a culture inside your business that is always challenging itself to stay ahead of the curve.
    • And when it comes to actually developing and shipping product, use a DSMO approach, aligning Development, Sales, Marketing & Operations to ensure that the product or service is market ready at launch date.
    • Build a new approach to innovation, aligning development teams with marketing, sales and operations teams. This guarantees that the whole company is fit for every product/service launch including the post launch integration into your systems.
  5. Talent:
    • From Pepsico to Facebook to local world class players that are not household names; the problem of talent acquisition and retention is huge.
    •  Create a series of low cost actions that dramatically improves your odds in the Talent War.
    • Tactics such as the creation of internal universities to train your workforce,
    •  Create innovative incentive schemes, design new organizational structures that drive projects instead of departments.
    • Create a new approach to recruitment to capture the best talent when you need it. Always be recruiting for your bench.
  6. Metrics:
    • Today’s technology allows us to measure a plethora of key performance indicators (KPIs) with the speed and accuracy only dreamt about 10 years ago.
    • The key is to understand that, who you are, is what you measure.
    • This is one great example of the holistic nature of Staging, Grooming a business, linking the Positioning with the Metrics, you create a set of KPIs both financial and non financial that measure the right stuff.
    • Building on your existing metrics creates an enhanced reporting system that generates clear actions required.
    • This allows you to audit the signals, keeping management agile and alert.
  7. Business Models:
    • It’s really quite logical that an acquirer would want to buy a company with a reliable, long term stream of revenue and profits.
    • Therefore the psychology behind any business model designed to maximize your exit value is all about predictable sales and earnings growth.
    • Examine the various ways of bringing your product to market and the economics of various scenarios.
    • Now whether you ever plan to sell your business or raise investment money or borrow long term finance from your bank, there is no downside in building a more reliable business.
    • Review, test and evolve better ways of making money.
    • This includes everything from simple trade terms and contract improvements to radical new business models.
  8. Capital structure:
    • Examine your capital structure and ensure you have the firepower to execute your plan.
    • What is your Budget telling you that you need, to fund the business.
    • Are you funding the long term needs of the business with short term capital?
  9. Risk:
    • Finally risk assessment is about ensuring you remain agile to change.
    • It ensures you have reviewed the material risks within your business.
    • It ensures you have a strategy to mitigate those risks whether they relate to financial matters, succession issues, contract exposures, customer dependencies, internal control gaps, accounting treatment, or forecasting ability.
    • Create a new enhanced set of light, simple processes to ensure that all compliance, regulatory and control issues are dealt with as a normal part of trading.

Now on a regular basis say every 6 months, give yourself a Saleability Test. Has your index gone up? Are you making progress on your weaknesses? By measuring this index on a regular basis it will give you great insight into whether you are truly building value.

The Portfolio Partnership is actively working with great clients in software, manufacturing and the travel industry to execute long term Staging or as we call it – Fulfilling The Potential of Your Business.

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Ian,

    The advice you’ve given here is all great stuff, but I would question whether it’s actually valuable to think about this as a staging exercise. If you are lacking a clear business model, or metrics, or talent on board, or a sales strategy, or any of the rest, then chances are that your business doesn’t have a robust foundation or a bright future.

    Making decisions in order to dress up the company for sale is generally a fool’s errand and can be a tragic distraction to a management team. My advice is to focus on long term value creation, including making investments that won’t pay off during your exit window if you believe they are the right ones to make. Then rely on your communication ability to sell what you’ve built. Good buyers will understand and pay you for it.

    Thanks for all the great content.

    John

    Reply
    • John, I’m saying building a remarkable business over many years and building a business that acquirers find attractive actually leads to the same acton list.

      The Playbooks I’ve deployed over the years including in my current portfolio clients are absolutely building business value. I want owners to build value that they can crystailze into cash if they so chose.

      Dressing up a company for sale over a short time period is done by amateurs in the mistaken belief that acquirers are naive, as you state.

      My suggestions are long term execution actions that require years of dedicated hard work.

      Reply

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