Not too long ago, life changed dramatically throughout the world. One minute it seemed plausible that the rumblings were overblown and the COVID-19 outbreak would blow over quickly. The next, it was made abundantly clear that things were going to get much worse before they got better, and we all started to worry enormously about how bad they might get.
As I write this, lockdown measures have been in place for a few weeks in most countries, and no one knows exactly when they’ll be lifted. Even if social distancing measures succeed in arresting the spread of COVID-19, it won’t rapidly disappear. It’s going to affect our lives for a long time still, and that means we can’t just sit around and wait for life to return to normal. We need to find ways to keep going, to keep pursuing our goals, even while we’re kept apart.
This is easier said than done, of course, and it depends on what you aim to do — so what if you want to sell your business? How is that effort going to be affected by this worldwide lockdown? Even if it is sellable, here are the challenges you’ll need to overcome to get it sold:
Showcasing physical assets
When the ecommerce industry came along, early online sellers had to figure out how to handle what’s sometimes called the trust gap: the lack of certainty that stems from shoppers being unable to physically inspect the products they’re considering. The shoppers had to get used to the idea of seeing a photo, assessing it, and making a decision based on that alone.
That soon became a non-issue for many customers, of course, as the convenience (and generic nature of many products) pushed them to assume things would be fine. This is why there can be retailers that not only sell products their customers can’t inspect in person but also don’t bother inspecting the products themselves — it’s common in the dropshipping model, and very safe because the suppliers are extremely consistent (and the product costs are relatively low).
For someone looking to buy a business, though, it’s extremely important that they closely inspect the physical assets on offer (when there are any, as not all businesses own physical assets). Take computers, for instance: it’s easy to make an office setup look alright in a photo, even if the hardware is old, slow, and in poor condition. An aspiring seller needs to present as many photos as they can, and painstakingly document everything that’s on offer so potential buyers can feel safe in trying to value the business.
Finding enough interest
This may be the most fundamental problem facing those trying to sell their businesses during lockdown. With many people and companies struggling financially, stock markets everywhere tanking, and recessions lurching towards us, you can see why most wouldn’t view this as the ideal time to invest in a business asset.
There will always be entrepreneurial types willing to take risks in turbulent times, of course, and some have been affected minimally or even positively by this pandemic (in terms of revenue and profit). This means that you may well be able to find a buyer eventually — it just might take a lot longer than you would have expected it to take before the events of recent weeks.
Related: Showcase Your Business on the Marketplace
Vetting potential buyers
Not all those trying to sell their businesses care about what happens to them after they’ve been transferred to new ownership, but many do. They put a lot of time and effort into shaping them, and they want to leave them in good hands so they can have bright futures (particularly if there are employees staying with the businesses as they’re sold).
Accordingly, they want to vet potential buyers to ensure not only that they’re fully capable of paying what they’re offering (it’s a waste of time trying to sell someone on your business if they don’t have the money to buy it) but also that they have good intentions and know what they’re doing. And this vetting process is best done through in-person meetings.
Since those meetings aren’t justified during this lockdown, the vetting needs to be done through online meetings (Zoom, Hangouts, etc.) and general background research. It can still be achieved fairly capably, but it’s far from ideal, and you might find it a lot tougher to reach a strong conclusion without being able to look someone in the eye and shake their hand.
Video: Small business survival tips when in lockdown | Ranking Academy