Sell your business: how to realise the value 217
10 ways to find a buyer
Ideally you want to market your business discreetly, rather than hanging
a for sale sign on the door. Here are ten ways to sell without making it
obvious.
1 Ask the accountant some accountants specialise in matchmaking between sell-
ers and buyers of small businesses. They recruit buyers through seminars and local
knowledge, and then broker the deal.
2 Chat to suppliers if you sit between your suppliers and the marketplace, they
might be interested in buying you out. Start the chat with ‘Just suppose . . . ’.
3 Chat to big customers if you are a vital supplier to a customer, it might appeal to
them to diversify and take control of your firm. It could strengthen their position.
4 Ask the team you will know your people well. Are they likely to be able to put
together a management buyout? For many smaller firms this is the best way to sell.
5 Use box numbers you’ve seen the ads in the paper. They describe the business
vaguely and give a box number for enquiries. It’s cheap enough, so try it!
6 Alert rising stars who’s the wunderkind in your sector? More importantly, who is
backing them? Let it be known that you might be receptive to merger talks.
7 Approach the competition if you’ve grown to a size where you are annoying a far
larger competitor, they may well be willing to buy you out to regain market control.
8 Through agents as with houses and commercial property, there are agents who
specialise in selling businesses. They are good at attracting potential buyers.
9 Through an insolvency practitioner if things are not going well and you’re really
bailing out, an insolvency practitioner can often help you to plan a clean escape by
selling your business.
10
Network – put yourself about and listen to what people say. Don’t attend networking
events to promote that you want to sell, more to see what intelligence you can glean.
Working out what your business is worth has already been covered. It is
essentially all about its potential to deliver future returns to the new owner.
Your business will be worth more to someone who wants:
218 brilliant checklists for entrepreneurs
M
to buy it for emotional reasons for example, someone retiring with
plans to run a B&B;
M
to plug a gap – in their regional, national or international network;
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more control of the market or supply chain;
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your people – because they have valuable skills;
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your customers because winning them ‘in battle’ might cost more.
Selling up is not a quick process. It usually takes several months from the
time you find your buyer to the cheque arriving. The buyer will want to
delve deeply into your businesss affairs, usually accompanied by profes-
sional advisers. Make sure you have at least your accountant helping you
through the process.
After you have sold your business, you should never:
M
dwell on the deal and question your decision;
M
be envious if the business suddenly takes off;
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be smug if it consequently goes bust;
M
compete with your former company;
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speak badly of the new team.

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