Excerpt from my book.
1. The dream of many entrepreneurs and often times their spouse is to save the business for the kids. A few important questions first, before contemplating selling to your kids.
Answer All These Questions
a. Do they want to take over? Have you actually sat down with your children and asked?
b. Are they old enough right now to have the conversation?
c. Are they involved in the business today, either full or part time? Or even interested?
d. Are they qualified to run the business today? Working in the business is very different from working on the business. Are they even qualified to do the job they have now in the company?
e. Could they be qualified over time and with the right support? Can you afford to wait?
f. Can they afford to buy the business? The fastest way to kill a business is to give it to someone. You've heard the joke. How do you make a $1,000,000 business? Give your kid a $3,000,000 company. Sad but true.
g. What about the children who elect not to be involved? What do they get?
h. There are so many more questions you will need to ask them and yourself.
2. Someone still has to run the business day to day. Unfortunately you have not planned for this. If you have a larger company you may have staff to run the show for you. Typically if you have a smaller company, with under $3 million in annual sales the staff relies upon you for many of the day to day decisions and the business can stutter when you're not available.
3. You're overwhelmed by the process and don't have a qualified, experienced transition team in place. You think you have trusted advisers to help with the process but sooner than later you will discover they can't help you if they have little experience buying and selling businesses. I need to reinforce this!
4. Your partner has a different agenda and doesn't want to sell. Or at least not right now. Not for the price you think is reasonable. This is when you realize you and your partner have not had the heart to heart conversation you've been meaning to have and just how important it is. Get on it now!
5. In order to take advantage of the capital gains and other assorted exemptions, you need to have planned well in advance. In fact, there is so much wealth management planning you need to do, you should have started a few years ago. This financial planning and tax advice is about moving the proceeds from the sale of your business to your personal side. Only advisers with the proper experience can do this. We've all heard about the Owner who sold his company for $4 million and then wrote a cheque to the government for $2 million because he got the wrong tax advice. It happens all the time.
6. Your partnership agreement is out of date or nonexistent. Try getting an agreement where all partners are happy, after you've been working together for years. You will suddenly realize how different your respective views are on the business and life in general.
7. You've been taking money out of the business in various ways and that has to be normalized. In other words you have been using the business as your personal piggy bank and now you have to show your financials to prospective Buyers. They will be looking into every line of your reporting and will want to see the real story. No, you can't fool them!
8. Sales have been stagnant for too many years. Usually because you chose to stop growing. You were thinking, more sales means more work, more trouble and why bother when you're taking more than enough cash out of the business to pay for your lifestyle as it is. It may be catch up time!
9. There is no viable candidate internally to transition to. If there was, they would have raised their hand by now. Or maybe you just haven't been listening and someone terrific for the job is right in front of you. They may require some training, mentoring and management support but they do exist.
The list goes on and on. Makes you question whether selling even makes sense. Well here is one more sobering thought. Likely 80% of your wealth is wrapped up in the business. Kind of like having all your eggs in one basket. It's your move, what are you going to do?