If you’re planning to sell a business and expecting everything to go extremely smoothly, you presumably haven’t been through that process before. Selling something small through eBay can be complicated enough: offloading an entire operation is massively more awkward. There are likely to be various obstacles that come up, and you need to be ready to face them.
Why? Because opting to wing it and expecting to be able to come up with the answers on the fly is a bad idea. Depending on the obstacle in question, an ill-considered reaction could give rise to further obstacles (dragging things out) or cause the sale to fall through altogether, leaving you with the frustrating task of returning to square one. That doesn’t merely waste your time and money — it also saps your will and makes it harder for you to concentrate on future efforts.
It’s an eternal truism that exhaustive preparation is the best way to raise your likelihood of getting the outcome you want. Before you get the ball rolling on the sales process, then, you need to ensure that you’re prepared for the challenges ahead of you. In this post, we’ll set out some core tips for doing just that. Let’s get to them.
Dampen your sense of sentimentality
When you’re selling your first business, there’s a really strong likelihood that you feel somewhat sentimental about it. After all, it’s your creation. Whether you started it from scratch or bought it and overhauled it to make it yours, you’re the one responsible for making it worth whatever you’re planning to sell it for — and while that’s a good thing overall, it can also cause problems.
This is because that attachment can lead you to make bad decisions. It can push you to overvalue the business, for instance: if you accept an offer but continue to harbor a belief that it’s worth far more than that, it can cause you to overreact to delays in the process of selling it. This can lead to a breakdown in communication with the prospective buyer, or even an argument that leads to the withdrawal of their offer.
Before you can do a professional job of selling your business, you need to ensure that you’re ready to treat it as a business. Say your goodbyes (both to any remaining employees and to the company overall), withdraw any emotional attachments, and look at the situation logically. This isn’t to say that you should act as though the business is already out of your hands, because that can have the opposite effect of causing you to undervalue it. Just view it as a financial asset that you’d like to redeem for maximum value. You should find it easier to proceed.
Video: How to Separate Emotions from Business | GaryVee TV
Listen to some motivational podcasts
Selling a business is stressful at the best of times, and if you’re not in the best mental state, that stress can overwhelm you and lead you to make basic mistakes. This is where motivational podcasts become so useful. I don’t mean the variety that will focus on wide-eyed enthusiasm about living your dreams. Instead, I mean those that concentrate on personal development: making yourself a better person so you can handle things more effectively.
So how can you improve as a person? How can you get better at managing your emotions, playing to your strengths, diminishing your weaknesses, and avoiding negativity? Well, one thing that can help enormously is checking out relevant podcasts. Why podcasts in particular? Because you can listen to them while you do other things, making them easier to invest time in, and being able to hear someone’s voice (and tone) will make the content more impactful.
You should certainly try a general productivity podcast like Get Yourself Optimized (the content covers a broad range of topics involving personal improvement), and perhaps select a show about general health (such as The Habit Coach) to help you stay balanced during the sales process. Additionally, you can look for business-themed podcasts to provide tips about what you can do to get a better deal — they’ll combine well with the written resources we’ll consider next.
Read relevant blogs and guides
Precedent is invaluable. The more you read about people’s experiences, the more you’re going to feel familiar with the roadblocks you might need to overcome. Take something like potential legal issues, for instance: there will likely be various legal obligations you’ll need to meet in the course of fulfilling the terms of the sale, and you may not know how to handle them.
Thankfully, there are plenty of fantastic written resources out there for people interested in selling (or buying) businesses. Whatever issue you might encounter, there’s inevitably someone out there who’s dealt with it on numerous occasions and done you (and others in your position) the great favor of detailing their experiences at length — often with no cost involved.
Take the time to follow relevant blogs — much like this one — and keep up with industry trends that may affect your business plans. If there’s a particular question you need answered, search for it specifically: you’ll inevitably find that it’s been asked (and addressed) plenty of times. Even if the information you find doesn’t exactly match your situation, there will be enough overlap that you can extract a great deal of useful insight.
Outline every step of the process
We fear what we don’t understand, so you need to ensure that you understand the process that lies ahead of you. Write out the entire outline of every step you intend to take along the way, taking you up to the point at which you intend to have the sale completed, then look closely at the process. Does it make sense to you? Does it seem realistic? Is there anything missing?
If it looks as though you’re rushing it or leaving something important out, make those changes now. Otherwise you might end up trying to stick closely to a plan that doesn’t reflect the reality of what you can expect, pushing you to make any issues that arise worse in your panic instead of taking sensible actions to mitigate them. Even when it somehow pans out, scrambling to fix things on the fly will inevitably cause you stress and tax your resources.
The written resources we just looked at will be particularly useful for providing points of comparison. Once you have your process fully sketched out, look up some existing checklists for business sales to see what other people prioritize. Your process will need to be unique to you in the end, so don’t make the mistake of just copying what others have done — but do aggregate their decisions to form a strong idea of what the most common mistakes are.