You were so proud when you first opened up shop that you wanted to stand on top of a roof top and announce it to the entire world; “We are open for business, come on in!!”. Now, the years have passed and you have managed to make a great living doing what you love. It is time to pass on the torch and unfortunately there is no one in the family even remotely interested or qualified to keep the legacy going. Time to find someone else to buy the business, and this is where it gets a little complicated. The last thing you want to do is jump in with the same kind of enthusiasm that you initially had, that would leave the current employees feeling like you have been secretly dying to rid of them and move on with life. All of those loyal customers that you have worked so hard to keep happy would feel betrayed, with the endless accumulated good will just getting thrown with everything else straight out the door. No, instead you need to figure out a way to discreetly sell all your assets and to attempt to put an effective plan in to place to minimize any potential issues that will inevitably pop up during the transition period.
First things first
You have to advertise to let other people know that your business is for sale. But how do you do that if you are not going to even disclose the address or name of the business? A general description will typically be enough to entice prospects into inquiring, but just make sure that you craft it in a way that will not unintentionally disclose to much information. If you are the only Asian / American sushi hamburger fusion restaurant in town, you may want to hold those details back until you have a client sign a NDA. This is always the next step that you want to take after someone has expressed interest as it will ensure that you are legally protected and the buyer has agree to keep the information that you share with them confidential.
NDA Signed, Business Information Disclosed, Now What?
Always try to set a meeting with the buyer so that they can see the property in person. A picture is worth a thousand words and often times there are many things that simply can not be explained through an email. During conversation, many things may end up disclosed that would have otherwise been left unsaid; pertinent information that could make or break a deal. Also, many people will not be comfortable sharing their concerns or true thoughts with you unless they have met you in person and built up a little trust first. If a prospect is not even willing to take the time to meet you at the location you can be fairly certain that they are not that serious about the opportunity. Needless to say, prepare yourself for a few of those types! It is important to schedule these meetings when there are no other employees present. Whether early in the morning, late at night, or on the weekends does not matter. Unless you are working the store by yourself, it is not worth the risk having a buyer snooping around with other staff around; they are not going to be all that stealthy about it and the situation can get awkward fast.
Maintaining business as usual
Keep everything operating as it always has, don’t make any sudden changes. Even if the changes are for the better, this could still throw up some red flags that tip off the staff to your intentions. These people have likely worked for you for a long time and are able to read you like a book, so be careful. Our best piece of advice is to go into it with a bit of a skeptical attitude, on some level pretending as if it is unlikely to sell in the first place. It seems that it is always the sellers that get too emotionally involved, or that are to excitable in general, that create the most issues for themselves. If you are attempting to sell the business on your own, it is still important to display the right amount of emotion so that the buyer knows how much you care, but at the right time. That means you should not be taking any “super secret” phone calls, or even worse discussing a deal out in the open. To be completely honest, this level of discretion is difficult to maintain and thus why it is often a better idea to just seek a professionals assistance from the beginning. Worst comes to worst, it always gives you a scapegoat to blame; pointing the finger at the evil business broker that is forcing you to sell!