It was nearly 20 years ago when I first approached this topic, something just about every consultant on the planet has an opinion about. While we’ve helped a fair number of privately owned companies get sold, I’m not here to tell you if or when you should sell your business. But what I can tell you is the characteristics I think your business needs to demonstrate to get the highest price possible. It’s a short but important list.

  1. Is your business producing positive cash flow? If it’s not making money, your selling price just dropped through the floor.
  2. Does the business have growth potential? Your buyer doesn’t want to pay for your past success, they want to buy a way to their own future success.
  3. Is the business “clean”? This has to do with good accounting and reporting, a clean tax record, no contingencies hiding in the closet.
  4. Is the timing right? Are you selling because it’s going downhill and you want to jump before it drops further? Fageddaboutit! Fix it first.
  5. Are your expectations reasonable? Given your answers to the first 4 questions, are you expecting a fair price or a pie-in-the-sky one?

I could write a book on each of the questions above, but you get the point. If you’re not sure, or if you’re good for 4 out of 5, get an outside opinion from someone in the business – an investment banker, a business broker, or Your CFO for Rent. We’ve been there and we’ve helped get it done. But whoever you ask, be prepared to listen. They’re going to tell you a few things you don’t want to hear, but you should hear it before some potential buyer does.


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