By Bruce Hakutizwi
While the skill set needed to successfully build and run your own business is varied and impressive, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be able to successfully sell that business down the road.
If you’re currently a business owner and interested in the idea of selling your business–either because you’re considering retirement, or because the next big thing is percolating in the back of your mind–now is the time to compare your current skill set to this brief list of three characteristics that successful business sellers have in common:
#1: The ability to remove yourself from the day-to-day
This may seem like a given if you’re considering selling your business, but many entrepreneurs have a difficult time doing this in preparation for the sale.
For example, if you own a restaurant and are there 12+ hours every day managing everything personally, it may be very difficult for you to seek out and hire an experienced and capable restaurant manager to take over that responsibility. After all, your business is “your baby” and someone new is sure to bring along different ideas and ways of doing things that you may or may not agree with.
So why is it important for a business owner who wants to sell their business to take this difficult step? Put yourself in the place of the prospective buyer. If you’re observing a day-in-the-life of that same restaurant and the owner has not yet relinquished control, two scenarios will play out in your mind:
- There’s no way I could devote this kind of time and effort to running this restaurant—I don’t even want to.
- There’s no way this restaurant is going to succeed without the current owner.
Both of these reactions are instant turnoffs to otherwise potentially perfect buyers for the business.
If, on the other hand, you can prove through your own actions that the business can and will succeed whether you’re there or not, prospective buyers will find it much easier seeing themselves in your role without rocking the boat.
#2: The ability to stay passionate to the last minute
In some ways, this is the opposite of the previous characteristic, but the two are complementary rather than opposing.
Standard human nature leads us to begin emotionally detaching ourselves from a relationship or a project when we see the end in sight. If you’ve ever had a job and given your two weeks’ notice, you know about this first hand. No one expects the last two weeks to be as productive as the rest of the time you worked there.
However, when you’re selling your business, even if a deal is currently on the table, you can’t afford to slack off and allow your company to coast. In fact, now is the time to stay on top of things and ensure that the buyer is impressed–right up until the dotted line is signed. Otherwise, your inaction may result in the buyer losing confidence in the purchase, or it may bring to light imperfections in the business that weren’t readily apparent before.
Successful business sellers are able to mentally and emotionally prepare themselves for the end of their role as owners without slacking off in their ownership responsibilities.
#3: The ability to move on quickly and easily
You’ve likely heard of individuals who have worked hard their entire lives so they could enjoy retirement, only to end up absolutely miserable—or worse, dead—only a few weeks into retirement because they simply don’t know what to live for now that they’re no longer working.
As a business owner, this is a very real concern since your business has likely consumed a tremendous amount of your time and energy for years. Even if you want to sell, you could be the sale’s worst enemy if you haven’t given deep thought to what you’re going to do afterward and how you’re going to fill your time.
If you can’t look forward to no longer owning your business, you could easily sabotage the sale without even trying to. Your fear and sadness will shine through in every interaction, and smart prospective buyers will know you don’t really want to sell, no matter what comes out of your mouth.
So, successful business sellers have a game plan in mind for after the sale. Whether it be another entrepreneurial venture, a change of life focus, or perhaps that restful retirement so many dream about, they know what they’re going to do and they’re looking forward to it.