Is it time to have “the conversation?”

September 1, 2015

By Scott Bushkie, CBI, M&AMI
Cornerstone Business Services, Inc.

My kids are very young, so we haven’t had “the talk” yet.  But I do meet with a lot of business owners and have “the conversation.”

What’s “the conversation”?  Just like “the talk,” it can be emotional, eye-opening, and sometimes even a little uncomfortable.  The conversation is a discussion about the strengths and challenges of the business owner’s company, his or her future goals, and whether or not it’s time to sell now or start the planning process to sell some time in the next five years. Is it time for you to have a conversation? I’ve put together a quick, 10-question self analysis tool to help you decide if this is the right time to talk with an M&A advisor. Read the questions below and give each one a yes or no answer.

1. Is it time to do something different with my life?
2. My burning desire to compete is failing. I may be burned out.
3. My children are no longer interested or capable of running the business.
4. I’ve been approached by a competitor, or the market for companies like ours is hot and it’s a good time to sell.
5. There has been a health scare and it’s time to “stop and smell the roses.”
6. I really don’t know what my business is currently worth.
7. My company is losing market share, revenues and/or profits.
8. In order to diversify my personal assets, I want to take some chips off the table.
9. There are relationship issues within my family or partnership which are making the business emotionally draining.
10. I want to leave my business on my terms from a position of strength.

Now add up your “yes” responses.  If you have 0 to 3, you are probably not facing a transition in the near future.  If you have 4 to 6, you would benefit from having a conversation for planning purposes.  If you have 7 to 8 yeses, your business transition is coming soon and you should talk to an advisor now.  If you have 9 to 10, unfortunately, you probably should have had the conversation years ago.

There are no right or wrong answers here.  Everyone’s situation is unique.  But if you score high on this survey, don’t ignore the results. One of the biggest mistakes a seller can make is not being able to let go emotionally and holding on too long. Do that, and the business invariably starts to lose value.  It’s heartbreaking to see someone close down a business and sell the assets for pennies on the dollar when they could have sold a going operation just a few years earlier.

Have the conversation.  It doesn’t mean you have to sell right away.  But you’ll walk away better educated about your different options and current market conditions.

Scott Bushkie is President of Cornerstone Business Services . To request a book (at no cost) with advice on the exit planning process contact Scott at (920) 436.9890 or sbushkie@cornerstone-business.com. Copyright 2013.

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