Preparing your Business for Divestment

Refine the operation so it produces maximum profits and structure the business in a way that ownership can be transferred with minimum impact on operations and profitability.

You only have one chance to make a positive first impression

Here’s a checklist of what you need to do and understand to prepare your business for divestment.

Get the Records Straight

Some business owners are very diligent at keeping detailed, up-to-date accounts and records relating to contracts, customers, staff, leases, asset ownership etc. Some are not so diligent. The first step in preparing your business for exit is to get the books up to date so there is a clear picture of your operation, with supporting facts and projections. In addition to your actual accounts, ask your accountant to prepare a set of ‘normalised’ accounts to show maximum operating profits. This means adding back any expenses or purchases (sometimes personal) not directly related to the operation of your business. An explanation of any such corrections is usually required and you should be prepared to discuss this openly.

Eliminate the Perks

You will need to review how unreported cash sales (if any) and any personal items that are paid for by the company, such as travel or entertainment, are managed. Unravelling personal expenditure from that of the business can make a big difference to the selling price. For example, a $20,000 trip paid for by the company is essentially $20,000 off the bottom line and could reduce the sale price by four or five times that amount. Review leased and financed assets to see whether they are better converted into fully owned assets. In an ideal world, business owners should plan for the sale of their business from day one and work through a process of ‘grooming’ it to achieve optimum value.

Review Accounting Policies

Accounting policies vary widely. In some cases, business owners discover that their accounting policies are not the same as those currently adopted by others in their industry. Some accounting policies are tax driven, resulting in conservative profit recognition. Whereas others are earnings driven, seeking to maximise profit. Changing your accountancy policies to conform to those of your industry may increase the market value of your business.

Are You Critical to the Business?

A business is more attractive if its success is not solely dependent on the input of the owner in terms of operational know-how, technical skill or personal relationships with clients or suppliers. It is helpful to have a reliable management team to demonstrate that the business will continue to be successful once the owner has left. Most buyers expect the seller to continue working in the business for a period of two to four weeks following the sale. Others prefer a longer period, which can be negotiated and included in the Sale and Purchase Agreement. This sometimes occurs when an owner is a critical part of the business. In some cases, a business owner may wish to stay involved in the business indefinitely. The financial information must be current and accurate. If you’re selling halfway through the year, ask your accountant to prepare half-year accounts.

Should You Invest in Your Business Prior to Sale?

When looking at a business, buyers will consider the level of debt and the quality of assets, particularly in manufacturing operations. Generally the sensible advice is to continue investing in the business as if you were going to keep running it yourself. LINK can provide advice on these and other aspects as part of a structured programme covering both the grooming and marketing of the business.

Will You Offer Finance?

It is not uncommon for a business owner to be asked to leave finance in the business. This can be a good way of helping achieve maximum value for the seller. It gives the purchaser additional confidence in the business, knowing that you will continue to have an interest in maintaining its success.

Things You’ll Need

LINK assists you with the preparation of the following information, in association with your advisors, to ensure the information is presented in the appropriate manner.

Profit and loss accounts for two to four years

A schedule of abnormal and/or non-recurring costs in the accounts

Brochures or marketing information of your product(s) or service(s)

Historical background on the business

Schedule of plant, equipment and any equipment leases

Copy of franchise agreement (if applicable)

GST Returns for current trading year to date

Stock value estimate within 10-15%

Lease details including rent, term, renewals, outgoings, etc.

Staff levels, including part-timers and contractors

Staff employment contracts including EPP clauses

Details on any trademarks, patents, licences, agencies or intellectual property (IP)

Details of any major strengths and/or commercial advantages

Competitor analysis

SWOT analysis

Business organisational chart

Business plan

Interested to know how much your business is worth?

Use our confidential self-assessment tool to get a gauge of your total business’s value.