Sales & Profitability: Historically, you may have been setting your prices, and thus your profit margins, at levels designed to create barriers to entry for your competition. If you are planning for a business sale your focus is likely to be short term strategies. It will be time to re-examine your market and customer base to see if higher sales and turnover levels are achievable. If the proposed sale itself is a number of years away, you should consider performing a strategic review of the entire business.
Operating Costs: You should regularly review your operating expenses but this is especially so when preparing your business for sale. You need to identify avenues to reduce expenses without affecting the operational effectiveness of your business.
Profit Trends: Apart from current margins, a purchaser will be looking at profit trends. Buyers are looking to see stable and steady yearly profit trends. Therefore, risky projects should be avoided and longer-term contracts that may prove to be onerous should be fully considered before acceptance. Unprofitable contracts need to be reevaluated and, if appropriate, terminated, as it is quite possible they will be detrimental to the value of your business.
Management Team: The purchaser of your business will be looking to acquire a high caliber management team. It may be worth reviewing your corporate structure to ensure that job titles and role descriptions adequately reflect the contribution that your management team makes to your business. Any re-structure needs finalization well in advance of an anticipated sale. A purchaser may also want assurance that the management team is supportive of your decision to sell or at least that it is likely to stay with the business for a reasonable period post-transaction. You should consider talking to management - how cooperative will they be? You never know, they may be interested in buying the business themselves.
Asset Base: Are there any assets in the business that may be of little or no interest to potential purchasers- e.g. short-term investments, under-utilized property, equipment or perhaps surplus cash? Think about realizing and removing them from the business before the sale. It is also worthwhile having all your property assets valued individually.
Restructuring: If your business has more than one division, some thought should be given to restructuring it into a number of stand-alone entities and perhaps selling these separately. Any such reorganization will have potential tax implications and other complexities associated with it and it will be important to take professional advice before undertaking any such initiative.
Tax Planning: Details of the various tax factors that you need to consider are set out in section 4 of this guide. Initial points to address include making sure that all your Corporation Tax, PAYE and VAT returns and payments are up to date. In addition, any tax losses that your company may have built up over the years may now have a value to the extent that they are available for use by the potential purchaser. Personal tax planning opportunities should be discussed with your tax adviser.
Valuation Expectations: You must have realistic valuation expectations. Valuation is important but do not let it get in the way of securing the sale.
Timing: Deciding the best time to sell your business can be a difficult decision to make. Factors to be considered when making this decision include the level of corporate activity in your industry; the state of the economy; changes in sector relevant legislation; and available tax reliefs (e.g. do you have to be a certain age to avail of certain retirement reliefs or pension planning opportunities).