Many have asked when is the right time to sell a business. But first I will challenge people to consider an alternative in tandem – are they sure it’s the time to sell at all or should they just step out?
Growing what you have built up, now that you have broken through the start-up ‘barrier’ and structure/process/plan/strategy is in place could be an option. Small into medium and onwards growth can be much easier than initial stages of early start-up limited funding and not being taken seriously, verses, you have a plan, you have a strategy, it is working, it is on solid footing and is it not now simply putting the right people in the right leadership roles so that you are no longer depended upon to make all the decisions?
I do not believe you can build a business to its best ability of service and promise when you have one eye on the exit all the time.
A good business will sell when the time is right IF you have a solid strategy, a good management team and marketplace potential. You do not always need to have exit plan, but you do always need to take notice of selling cycles and you will maximise profit better if you run a business with a lean approach connected to open management and a continual improvement culture throughout your team. (Easier said than done).
It would be ideal if you could always grow, develop and run your business as if you are going to sell but actually you have to speculate to accumulate value and this involves the reinvestment phases and changes that a business will need to make to stay on top of and ahead of the competition. Decisions you make should have awareness in terms of return on capital employed and making use at the right times in your company’s possibly seasonal delivery of when best to invest for the next stage of growth.
In summary, continually live the healthy paranoia of being beaten by the others in your industry, constantly study and be aware of the changing marketplace and stay close enough to your market to know when changing demands are afoot, be the best you can be – always and sell only if you cannot see another way onwards – whilst perhaps you take more holidays and the profit sustainability is in place.
Lara Morgan is best known for growing Pacific Direct, from start-up to successful exit, 23 years later. She now invests her time in fast growth companies and represents UKTI as an Export Ambassador, having previously exported to 110 countries. Her vast experience and business knowledge includes specialisms in licensing luxury brands, manufacturing toiletries and selling to the hospitality environment through complex global distribution chains. She’s also an expert in leadership and developing talent having learnt through her own experiences of employing 500 employees in an open fast growth sales culture.