In today’s competitive markets, private equity companies and their partners are being forced to pay record-high prices for investments in companies. To generate attractive returns, the private equity companies and their managers must create substantial value after closing. One effective way to create value is by running a highly prepared, efficient, and focused sales process. Here are eight best practices for preparing a company for a value-maximizing sale:
Time is the enemy of any business sale process. It gives interested buyers the opportunity to overthink diligence items, get bogged down in excessive analysis, and find reasons why they shouldn’t pay the most full and fair market price.
It also extends the opportunities for customers, suppliers, and competitors to discover that your company is in a sales process, which can lead to myriad distractions and unforeseen consequences. From the day your investment banker sends out teasers and a confidentiality agreement, your goal should be to sprint to the finish line.
Perform diligence on yourself
One of the biggest things that can bog down a sales process is when interested parties discover aspects of the business that are different than those represented in offering materials. Not only does this slow the process down, but it also gives counterparties the opportunity to re-negotiate price and terms, often late in the process when the seller’s relative power in the process can diminish.
To avoid this, it is well worth the time and money to do diligence on yourself. Hiring quality of earnings advisors, tax advisors, and even market sizing, competitive landscaping, and IT consultants to do pre-diligence will give you much more confidence going into a process that you won’t encounter a surprise that could impact time and value. Additionally, many of these pre-diligence service providers will enable you to share their findings with interested parties, which will ultimately help you run an even faster and more certain process.
Be prepared to answer key questions
Almost all interested buyers will want to know (i) revenue and gross profit by customer and product over time, and (ii) detailed statistics regarding the size of your addressable market and your related market share. It will be to your benefit to stay prepared with these detailed answers before you start a business sale process.
If you’re not prepared, it is likely that buyers will insist that you take the time to prepare such detailed analyses. Taking the time to do them in the middle of a process is often very distracting, stresses internal resources, and slows down processes at the exact time you don’t want to be slowing down.
Organize your files
Interested buyers are not going to part with substantial sums of money to buy your business without doing comprehensive due diligence. This includes very detailed reviews of nearly every financial report and contract that is relevant to your ownership period (and likely even beyond your ownership period). Take the time in advance to organize all your contracts and financial report and summarize the key terms of all meaningful contracts. Your sponsors, investment bankers, and attorneys will give you guidance on where to focus your attention.
Hire high-quality investment bankers
Investment bankers are experts at maximizing value in the marketplace. The best investment bankers not only know how to pitch an indicative valuation and run a broad process, but also have pre-established relationships with the relevant buyers for companies like yours and an understanding of how your company could or should fit into the strategies of the most likely buyers. Hiring the right investment bankers almost always pays for itself.
Hire high-quality attorneys
Just like investment bankers, hiring the right attorney can add significant value to your sale process. It is more than likely that your buyer will have a highly capable attorney that solely focuses on mergers and acquisitions transactions.
You should also have a highly capable attorney who can adeptly negotiate prevailing market terms and efficiently and effectively protect your interests from liabilities that survive after the initial closing. A good attorney should also know what’s important and not try to win every point in your favor. An M&A transaction involves a lot of give and take. The best attorneys know that intelligent compromise is needed to close a deal.
Polish your presentation
Interested buyers aren’t just buying a company; they are buying the management team. It is imperative to have strong contributions from each of the key members of the management team. Presenting canned PowerPoint presentations, however, is not necessarily the day job of your functional area leaders. Practice, practice, and more practice is critical.
Private equity sponsors and investment bankers also serve as great sounding boards and fountains of feedback and advice as they participate in these types of meetings on a regular basis. There are also professional management meeting presentation advisors that can add tremendous value by giving arms-length feedback and advice free of natural bias that occurs with your existing relationships. We know some really good, PE-tested presentation coaches if you need this type of resource.
Preparing for and managing a business sale process is an unbelievable amount of work. Your company is not staffed to manage this level of surge demand. Most of the workload typically falls on the finance staff. Hiring interim staffing to support this surge demand is tremendously valuable in terms of making sure that information requests are met in a timely manner and your company continues to run as well as possible during a trying time.
Moreover, the costs of these interim support personnel are relatively minor as it relates to the total transaction value and can typically be allocated as transaction-related add-backs and closing expenses. BluWave has this world mapped and can quickly pair you with the right group or person to support your finance staff during this critical time.
After working feverishly for years on building and growing your company, the sale process is your final opportunity to monetize the full value of your company for the benefit of you, your team, and your investors. Take every opportunity to prepare in advance, bring in strong advisors and business support resources, and run a fast, competitive sales process so you can optimize the outcome of a rarely-occurring cornerstone event.