Written by: Bryon Morrison
Selling your business is no small feat. It’s a significant life event, much like getting married or buying a house. However, unlike other major life events, it’s something most people rarely get to do. The complexities involved are plentiful and the stakes are high. At the heart of a successful sale lies a vital process: Due Diligence. The aim of this article is to guide you through conducting due diligence when selling your business, ensuring you’re well-prepared, and mitigating potential risks.
UNDERSTANDING THE DUE DILIGENCE PROCESS IN BUSINESS SALES
Due diligence is the period of time committed to intensive examination a potential buyer undertakes before purchasing a business. So why should sellers conduct their own due diligence? Simply put, to stand in the shoes of the buyer. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your business from an outsider’s perspective, you can address any issues that could potentially derail a deal or reduce your valuation.
PREPARATION STAGE: GETTING YOUR BUSINESS READY FOR DUE DILIGENCE
Preparing for due diligence means ensuring your financials, legal documents, operational aspects, and other relevant details are in order. Let’s look at each of these elements in detail.
- Ensuring Your Financials Are in Order: Prioritize auditing financial statements and clearing up any financial discrepancies. Buyers will undoubtedly focus on your business’s financial health, and any inaccuracies can erode trust.
- Reviewing and Organizing Legal Documents: Business formation and ownership documents, contracts, agreements, licenses, and permits should all be up to date and accessible.
- Evaluating Operational Aspects: Review your operational processes, succession strategies, measurements, employee utilization, and the other variables that show an investor you are running an exceptional company. Remember, a well-run, efficient operation puts you in a power position with potential buyers.
- Assessing Assets and Liabilities: An accurate inventory of your business’s assets and liabilities is a key component of due diligence.
KEY AREAS TO FOCUS ON WHEN CONDUCTING DUE DILIGENCE
Let’s break down the due diligence process when selling your business into manageable chunks, looking at the key areas to scrutinize and what you should be cautious about during your evaluation.
- Financial Due Diligence: A cornerstone of any due diligence process, your financial assessment provides a snapshot of a company’s overall health. Here’s what you should be wary of:
- Profitability Analysis: Be on the lookout for any irregularities in revenue patterns or sudden, unexplained changes in costs or profit margins.
- Financial Projections and Risks: Be cautious of overly optimistic financial projections without substantiated assumptions.
- Legal Due Diligence: The legal landscape of a business can be fraught with potential hazards. Keep a close eye on:
- Compliance: Watch out for any signs of non-compliance with laws, regulations, or industry standards. These could be red flags pointing to potential legal troubles down the line.
- Existing or Potential Legal Issues: Be careful to identify any ongoing or potential legal disputes, claims, or litigations that may impact the company’s value or operation post-sale.
- Operational Due Diligence: Examining the business’s operational aspects can shed light on its efficiency and management quality. Be mindful of:
- Operational Quality: Watch out for inefficient or outdated processes that could hinder productivity or increase costs.
- Potential Improvements: Be aware of areas for improvement that could increase efficiency and provide a competitive advantage, but also note that these may require additional investments.
- Market Due Diligence: This stage offers insights into the business’s standing within its industry and its growth potential. Stay cautious about:
- Market Position and Competitive Landscape: Be careful about overestimating the company’s market share or underestimating the competition.
- Growth Opportunities: While identifying growth potential is great, beware of ambitious expansion plans that may not be feasible or could stretch the company’s resources thin.
In essence, conducting due diligence when selling your business is a lot like being a detective. You’re on the hunt for any potential issues that could impact the company’s value or viability. Armed with the right knowledge and a cautious approach, you can ensure that you’re making a sound and informed decision. Remember, it’s not about finding the “perfect” business—it’s about understanding the risks and opportunities that come with your potential investment.
SEEKING PROFESSIONAL HELP: WHEN AND WHY
Assembling a team of seasoned professionals, such as Certified Exit Planning Advisors (CEPA), accountants, lawyers, and business brokers, can streamline the due diligence process. They can help navigate hurdles and ensure consistency throughout what can often be a multi-year process. A CEPA, like those found at Proxxy, can also help drive the process and get the most out of the specialists on your team without impacting your day-to-day responsibilities.
HOW DUE DILIGENCE ADDS VALUE TO YOUR BUSINESS SALE
Conducting due diligence isn’t just about avoiding potential pitfalls; it also adds value to your business sale in the following ways:
- Enhancing Business Credibility: A well-conducted due diligence process can increase your business’s credibility in the eyes of potential buyers. It demonstrates your commitment to transparency and thoroughness, both of which are highly appreciated by buyers.
- Negotiation Power: Having a clear, detailed understanding of your business’s strengths and weaknesses helps you negotiate from a position of strength. You can better explain and justify your asking price and negotiate terms that are favorable to you.
- Prevention of Post-sale Disputes: A thorough due diligence process can identify potential problems that may arise after the sale, enabling you to address them proactively. This can prevent costly and time-consuming post-sale disputes.
BEST PRACTICES FOR CONDUCTING DUE DILIGENCE WHEN SELLING A BUSINESS A BUSINESS
Here are some best practices for conducting due diligence when selling your business:
- Kickstart the Process Early: As soon as you even entertain the idea of selling your business, it’s time to start your due diligence. Remember, preparation is not a sign that you must sell, but a signal that you’re ready for whatever opportunities come your way.
- Compile your Documentation: Begin by organizing all relevant business documents. This includes financial statements, contracts, legal documents, and operational protocols. Achieving this milestone indicates you’re on the right track to a transparent and efficient due diligence process.
- Conduct a Self-evaluation: Carry out a preliminary due diligence of your business. This stage entails a thorough assessment of financials, operations, legal compliances, and market position. It’ll give you an idea of what potential buyers might find during their review.
- Identify Strengths and Weaknesses: Now that you’ve critically assessed your business, it’s time to identify your strengths and areas for improvement. Remember, this isn’t just about finding potential problems; it’s also about spotlighting your business’s unique selling points!
- Address Issues: Take steps to resolve any uncovered issues that could diminish the attractiveness of your business. Be it financial discrepancies, legal problems, or operational inefficiencies, take a proactive approach to solve these problems. Completion of this step marks a significant milestone in your due diligence journey.
- Prepare for Buyer’s Due Diligence: Now, you’re prepared for the next stage: the buyer’s due diligence. You’ve got your documentation ready, and you understand your business’s ins and outs – both good and bad.
- Navigating the Buyer’s Due Diligence: During this stage, stay transparent and responsive. Address the buyer’s queries promptly and accurately. When you’ve successfully cleared this phase, you’ve reached another significant milestone.
- Seal the Deal: With the successful completion of the buyer’s due diligence, you’re on the home stretch. Now it’s all about finalizing the terms, signing the paperwork, and celebrating a successful sale!
- Be Prepared for Potential Deal-Breakers: Every business has its strengths and weaknesses. Being aware of potential deal-breakers can help you address them proactively or position them in a way that minimizes their impact on the sale.
Throughout this process, don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance. Experts like Certified Exit Planning Advisors can provide valuable insights and help you navigate potential obstacles. Remember, due diligence when selling your business is not just a precautionary step. It’s an opportunity to enhance your business’s value, streamline operations, and maximize your sale price.
Selling and buying a business is a major undertaking. Conducting due diligence is a crucial step in this process. By understanding your business from the buyer’s perspective, you can identify and address potential issues, prepare your business for scrutiny, and navigate the sale process with confidence. While it may be a challenging process, remember that firms like Proxxy specialize in supporting business owners through this complex journey. With due diligence, you’re not only ensuring a smoother sales process but also enhancing your business’s value and credibility.
Remember, preparation today means a smoother, more lucrative business sale tomorrow. Happy selling!
|Checklist for Conducting Due Diligence When Selling Your Business||Done|
|Understanding the Due Diligence Process|
|Understand the concept and purpose of due diligence||[ ]|
|Recognize the legal implications of the process||[ ]|
|Financials in Order||[ ]|
|– Audit financial statements||[ ]|
|– Clear up financial discrepancies||[ ]|
|Review and Organize Legal Documents||[ ]|
|– Update business formation and ownership documents||[ ]|
|– Check contracts and agreements||[ ]|
|– Verify licenses and permits||[ ]|
|Evaluate Operational Aspects||[ ]|
|– Review operational processes||[ ]|
|– Evaluate employee and management structure||[ ]|
|Assess Assets and Liabilities||[ ]|
|Key Areas for Due Diligence|
|Financial Due Diligence||[ ]|
|– Conduct a profitability analysis||[ ]|
|– Prepare financial projections and identify potential risks||[ ]|
|Legal Due Diligence||[ ]|
|– Ensure compliance with laws and regulations||[ ]|
|– Address existing or potential legal issues||[ ]|
|Operational Due Diligence||[ ]|
|– Evaluate quality of operations||[ ]|
|– Identify potential operational improvements||[ ]|
|Market Due Diligence||[ ]|
|– Analyze market position and competitive landscape||[ ]|
|– Identify growth opportunities||[ ]|
|Seek Professional Help||[ ]|
|Hire or consult with experts (accountants, lawyers, business brokers)||[ ]|
|Consult with a Certified Exit Planning Advisor||[ ]|
|Best Practices for Due Diligence|
|Kickstart the Process Early||[ ]|
|Compile your Documentation||[ ]|
|Conduct a Self-evaluation||[ ]|
|Identify Strengths and Weaknesses||[ ]|
|Address Issues||[ ]|
|Prepare for Buyer’s Due Diligence||[ ]|
|Navigating the Buyer’s Due Diligence||[ ]|
|Seal the Deal||[ ]|
|Be Prepared for Potential Deal-Breakers||[ ]|