Knowing when it?s time to sell your business

By Julian Harlow

The most obvious sign that you should be looking to sell is that you no longer have a passion for the business.

Any business owner who has spent years or decades building an enterprise will know that the decision to sell their business can never be a wholly logical one. Too many emotions and memories are involved to ignore their impact on your thinking. However, by asking yourself the right questions, you can avoid making a decision that you may later regret.

Do you want to move on?

The most obvious sign that you should be looking to sell is that you no longer have a passion for the business. If you don't have the drive to keep improving or growing the enterprise, it will eventually become apparent in the performance, and therefore value, of your business. However, you should ask yourself if you really have lost that passion or whether in fact you just need a break.

Small business owners can be terrible at taking time off to recharge, which can lead to disenchantment with the business in general. Also, you may find that you just want to reduce your role within the business rather than cut all ties through a sale.

Is the time right?

If you decide that you have indeed reached the point where you would like to retire or pursue a different challenge, there is still the problem of getting the timing of the sale right. Unfortunately, business owners can't control the economic cycle, so you may be forced to either accept a lower price or hang on to your business for longer if your industry is going through a dip. Try to be realistic when looking at your business and industry - poor performance can be cyclical, but it could also be an indication of longer-term changes within a sector.

What are you giving up?

The other type of situation arises when a business owner who was not looking to sell is presented with an excellent offer or favourable market conditions for its sale. This may provide the best price for a business, but owners still need to consider what they will lose in return. For example, does the offer restrict you from operating in the same area or industry for a period?

The decision to sell will never be straightforward, but looking at your reasons for selling as honestly as possible will help ensure you make the best decision for yourself and your family.


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