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The business sale process in 6 steps

6 Steps in the business sale process

There can be many reasons behind your decision for a business sale in the UK. Selling your business might seem simple in theory, but is one of the trickiest feats to accomplish when it comes to formalities. Here’s the step-by-step process for a business sale, along with suggestions about how to make it all go smoothly and profitably.

Step 1: Your Human Resource

Human resource is the backbone of your business. It could be in the buyer’s interest to retain at least some of your human resource for the long term. A business sale gives you the opportunity to get rid of the non performers and make your business more profitable to the buyer. But you may feel that you have an obligation towards your good employees and should afford them every opportunity to continue their careers in or outside your business. Don’t forget the TUPE Regulations as it may also put you under some legal obligations when completing your business sale.

Step 2: Information Memorandum

Your business broker will prepare an “Information Memorandum” (MOI) on your behalf, outlining all relevant details about your business and your intent to sell your business. The Memorandum is like the blueprint of your business. It informs the potential buyers about all aspects of your business that might be of interest to them. We have a MOI sample table of contents on our Free Document Samples section of our website here.

Include a snapshot of your company’s finances along with projections for the coming years. The business’ financial health allows them to determine the fair price at which they should buy your business. Buyers will also like to know your key staff members and business processes —how you procure materials, how you process them, and how you sell them. They would like to know the number of people you employ, the number and locations of all the outlets or offices you have and the activities that they are used for.

A good Information Memorandum should project your business in a very good, desirable light and make it attractive for the buyer.  And if a potential buyer is the competition, you may choose to provide a different MOI or provide it to them at a later date when you are sure that they are serious contenders for buying your business.

Step 3: Offers and Due Diligence

Once an indicative offer has been received and you accept, your prospective buyer will scrutinise your documents (via a data room) for a few weeks or months before making you an offer. Remember that an offer is just an offer unless it is supported by the other party’s ability to pay. You have the right to find out and confirm that the buyer can afford to pay, this is normally done by your business broker.
Don’t be desperate for a sale, and even if you are desperate, never ever show it to the buyer. Don’t take any offer seriously until you are satisfied that they have strong intent, have the means to pay and its a good offer.
The offer you receive should be comprehensive and detail what the consideration is and when payment will be made. The buyer may also include an earn out element that ties you and/or other key staff members for a defined period after the business has been sold.

Step 4: Negotiations

Before both parties finalise all the details, you must negotiate the terms and price of the sale with your buyer. This will take place over a number of days and weeks. Negotiation is an art form and you and your business sale team must be fully prepared at all times. This is where your business broker starts to earn their money. Make sure you agree on your negotiation strategy ahead of time. Know what you want, what you are willing to give up and what’s non-negotiable.

Step 5: The Sale Purchase Agreement

Your advisors and legal experts will sit together with your buyer’s acquisition team and draft a detailed Sale Purchase Agreement (SPA) which will include all the terms and conditions that you finalised during your negotiations with the buyer. Make sure you provide accurate information, because this is a legal document, and anything that is proven wrong after the sale has take n place will be held against you.

Step 6: Completion Day and beyond

On Completion Day, expect the ‘day’ to be quite long and you may very well still be negotiating as the day progresses. Make sure that you and your business sale team are focused on getting across the finish line which is marked by having signed all the paperwork and the solicitors agreeing on both sides that the business sale is indeed ‘completed’!  Allow the moment to wash over you, it really is an amazing achievement. Then its time to get back to business and deal with how the news is going to be communicated and start earning that earn out if you’ve got one!

Joanna Miller helps business owners navigate their way through the start to finish process of selling a business.  Her specialty is helping owners understand how to prepare and make the most of their business sale process to maximise their company’s value. To understand how you can sell your business quickly for the highest sales price, purchase her book, “How To Sell A Business: The #1 guide to maximising your company value and achieving a quick business sale

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