You've invested blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of equity in your business.
But all good things must eventually come to an end and now you're realizing that the time to move on is rapidly approaching. Both you and your family members know that you're open to the possibility of an acquisition. Now the problem is letting the rest of the world in on your secret.
Spreading the word that you are willing to be acquired requires no small amount of intentionality, ingenuity, and discretion. While it's important to let the right people know that you may be open to a buy-out, it's just as important to keep that information from falling into the wrong hands. Even if you've taken the additional step of hiring a business broker, it is beneficial to stick with a discreet listing strategy.
In this game, even the smallest misstep can have disastrous consequences for your business. It's important to get it right the first time because you won't get any second chances. Keeping that in mind, here's what you should – and shouldn't do – to tell the world that you're open to offers.
What to do . . .
- Network – You may already have a relationship with the individual or firm that will ultimately acquire your business. Use your networking skills (and common sense) to drop hints in your existing business circles.
- Identify potential buyers – If you haven't done it yet, compile a list of owners and companies that are likely to acquire your business. Evaluate likely candidates on a case-by-case basis and reach out to the ones you can trust.
- Contact key allies – If you've been in business for a while, you know who your allies are. Let them know that you are open to acquisition offers, but ask them to use discretion when sharing that information with others.
What not to do . . .
- Indicate a timeline – Never include a timeline when you tell someone that you are interested in selling your business. Timelines communicate urgency, and urgency translates into lower offers.
- Disclose company details – At this stage, no one needs to know your asking price, financial position, or other sensitive company information. That will change when serious acquirer's emerge, but for now save those details for you and your broker.
- Approach competitors – As a rule, don't tell your competitors that you are willing to be acquired. Nine times out of ten, they'll use that information against you in the marketplace.