We spend years building a business to generate economy for ourselves. Mostly, we are undercapitalized and learn to do things ourselves. It becomes a habit. Then, of a day, we decide we want out. Or circumstances change and we want out. This is brand new to us despite the 10-20-30-40 years of investment work in our businesses. All your experience is in generating an income through your business, you have no experience selling it.
Understanding your exit roadmap early will serve you well. Listen to this podcast of Pavlo Phitidis’ discussion about business exit planning with Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show on 702 and CapeTalk:
Elements of an exit roadmap:
Salable vs non-salable business
94.6% of all businesses started, fail to sell. Even the well-established ones. Think of it like a share you would buy on the stock exchange – what would you want from it?
You want to earn dividends each year hope, and when you are ready to sell it, you want to be able to sell it – for a capital gain. Your business is the same, it needs to demonstrate to a potential buyer the following:
- Income growth
- Capital growth
The buyer personas
Think of your potential buyer as a customer: That buyer needs to have a problem solved and different buyers have different problems, different skills and competencies.
- The private buyer – an individual who wants to buy a business. Typically they work through a business broker to find a business that fits their own abilities and resources.
- Management buy-out – this is seen often in professional services, where you generate income and value by selling time – medical, legal, architectural firms etc.
- Family – the first generation sells to the next generation.
- A business – where a business sees value in acquiring you.
- A JSE listed business – these form the majority of buyers of private businesses. They look to acquire growth in revenue, innovation, or skill and capability, which often means they want you in it.
- A foreign owned business – a multinational looking to gain a foothold into Sub-Saharan Africa but these are few and far between until we welcome foreign investment.
Identify who the most likely kind of buyer would be for your business, and think about what they would want, and how you should build your business to suit their wants and needs.
It is very rare to get an outright cash offer for your business. Pavlo shared the story of an American business owner he worked with, who got this right. He did medical assessments for insurers and over a period of time he realized it wasn’t scalable as he had to do each patient visit. So he harnessed technology through Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, Google and used all of that data to create a risk profile for individuals, which he provided to the big insurers. When he was ready to sell he got a once-in-a-lifetime offer of $180million. But that was extremely rare. Most of us will not secure such a simple payment.
So who is buying what?
- Private money – if you are selling to a private individual, how much can they put down and how much can they borrow from the bank? The need to borrow, especially in our current economic climate, caps these buyers at around R15 million for private money.
- Business money – Between R12 million to around R30 million, a private business could leverage funds to buy you.
- Corporate money – given the compliance, risk and legislation around transactions, one that doesn’t give them a business that generates at least R50 million plus, is not going to justify the pain of acquiring you.
This leaves a no-mans land between around R25 million and R50 million where there is no-one who wants to or can buy your business. And it’s important to know that, as you grow your business towards an exit