Small Companies That Can’t Afford to Sell

In many cases, the sale of a small company is “event” driven. That is, the reason for sale is health, divorce, partnership issues, even decline in business. A challenging reason is one in which the owners want to retire and live happily ever after. Here is the problem:

The owners have a very prosperous distribution business. They, unfortunately, are the embodiment of a value-enhanced business (see “12 Ways to Increase the Value of Your Company,” under Selling a Business). They each draw about $250,000 annually from the business, plus cars and other benefits. If the company sold for $2 million, after debt, taxes and closing expenses, the net proceeds would be, let’s say, $1 million. Sounds good until you realize that this sum represents only 2 years income for each (and that doesn’t include the cars, health insurance, etc.) – then what? Unfortunately, many owners of smaller companies claim they want to retire when the reality is that they just want to slow down, or eliminate the day-to-day responsibilities of running the business.

Those who want to retire, but don’t think they can afford to, may want to reconsider their decision. Perhaps they can’t afford not to sell.  These owners may have already retired, at least mentally. The owner loses focus, decides not to invest the capital necessary to continue to grow the business and ultimately loses sales and profits or loses a key manager or salesperson, etc. This lack of enthusiasm will no doubt impact their business, lowering its value to a buyer when selling becomes inevitable. In the meantime, following their decision not to sell, they could lose a major customer, a major competitor might begin to eat away at sales — and profits — or a new competitor may move into the market. All circumstances that will reduce value!

Perhaps the owners will not have the “luxury” of changing their minds and deciding not to sell. If they are eventually forced to sell the firm because it is declining, they most likely won’t receive anywhere near the $2 million they might have earlier. The time to sell is when the business is at a high point. Using the services of a professional intermediary can bring the highest price possible.   If you are thinking of selling but hesitating because “the time isn’t right,” take the step that can make all the difference. Seek expert advice, which is as close as your nearest business intermediary’s office.