Selling your business

You've worked hard to build up your business and make it profitable, built up relationships with customers and suppliers and your most loyal employees are practically family.  Making the decision to sell is rarely easy but there are steps you can take to make the process less painful.

1) Decide on your reasons for selling.
Why have you decided to sell? That's one of the first questions a potential buyer will ask. Common reasons for sale are as follows:

  • Retirement
  • Partnership disputes
  • Illness and death
  • Becoming overworked
  • Boredom

2) Assess your business
 Assess the ‘strengths’ or ‘fragility’ of your sector and your business. Advisers and buyers will fire questions and take a view. Be realistic. Consider your competition, notable changes in the market and your management team. For strengths, is there something dramatic happening in your market and are you at the forefront? And for fragility, do you depend on one or two key suppliers or customers or key members of staff? Or are you dependent on something, such as technology, that could soon be out of date?  Try to be aware of anything that may boost, or indeed, threaten your price, such as outstanding litigation.

Some owners consider selling the business when it is not profitable, but this can make it harder to attract buyers. Consider the business's ability to sell, its readiness and your timing. There are many attributes that can make your business appear more attractive, including:

  • Increasing profits
  • Consistent income figures
  • A strong customer base
  • A major contract that spans several years

2) Advice
 Gather your financial statements and tax returns dating back three to four years and review them with an accountant. Ask them to put a price on your business.

3) Prepare for sale
 Make sure your company is in the best shape possible for a prospective buyer, so that you achieve the highest price possible.  Try and put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and address anything that might concern them or leave them unimpressed. Any areas of the business or equipment that are broken or run down should be fixed or replaced.

Develop a list of equipment that's being sold with the business. Also, create a list of contacts related to sales transactions and supplies, and unearth any relevant paperwork such as your current lease. Create an information packet containing copies of these documents as well as a summary describing how the business is conducted and/or an up-to-date operating manual.

4) Business Valuation
 You'll want to determine the worth of your business to make sure you don't price it too high or too low. Locate a valuer with experience in commercial sales.  Be clear with them about what you are selling and which assets are included within the sale (generally those which are essential to the business generating its current profits).

The valuer will draw up a detailed explanation of the business's worth, noting recent sales of similar businesses to provide comparative evidence to support their figures. This document will bring credibility to the asking price and can serve as a gauge for your listing price.

5) Choose an estate agent
 Selling a business is time-consuming and for many, an emotional venture and finding the right buyer can be a challenge. The services of a professional estate agent can help free up time for you to keep the business up and running, keep the sale quiet and get the highest price.

Commission fees payable to an agent upon the sale of your property are an important consideration we agree, but be careful - cheapest may definitely not be the best!   Ask the following questions to determine the true value of the service being offered by an agent for the fees they propose.

  • Experience - does the agent have solid experience of marketing business for sale Northern Ireland or commercial property for sale in Belfast which is similar to yours, and can they provide evidence of some of their recent sales?   Have they a list of potential purchasers and contacts they can approach. Can they offer you a thorough breakdown of the sale process and plans to sustain confidentiality e.g. to financially qualify potential buyers.  The last thing you want is news of the sale being leaked before you’ve had a chance to tell employees and customers.
  • Advertising - can they offer you a sales strategy tailored to your needs, what marketing tools to they plan to utilise in order to attract the most potential purchasers e.g. boards, brochures, websites newspapers, an extensive buyer database etc.
  • Commitment - do they show a genuine interest in your business?  Getting a business agreed is often the easy part of a sale.  Failure to complete, especially towards the end of the process, is devastating for a seller and expensive in terms of lost money and time.  Negotiating a sale through to completion is the hardest part of the sales process and it requires the most effort and commitment from the estate agent to maintain communications with sellers, buyers, solicitors, surveyors etc. and to push, push, push everyone across the line.  Ask for testimonials, are you happy with the quality and professionalism of service you have experienced on each call or email with them?
  • Associations - Your agent should be well connected in the local community and have strong relationships with lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and other local or regional business professionals that they can recommend to you or potential purchasers.

At Pinpoint we pride ourselves on our brand as a well known Estate Agents Belfast offering an ethical, experienced and professional estate agency service with complete transparency on our service and fees. We maintain an extensive buyer database for commercial property for sale in Belfast and across Northern Ireland, advertise widely across the leading property websites, as well as on our own, and have a whole host of other marketing tools that we can employ to achieve a sale and ensure its progression to completion.

If you are considering selling your property/business and would like to arrange a valuation or ask for some advice, please do not hesitate to contact our Commercial and Professional Services team on 02890 682 777 or by email to corporate@pinpointproperty.com