How Long Does It Take to Sell a Company?

how to sell a business

The million-dollar question for business brokers is some variation of, "how long does it take to sell a company?" I am an expert in mergers and acquisitions, so I frequently hear this question from clients. Some are surprised to learn that there is no easy answer. Selling a company is an incredibly complex process that generally takes longer than business owners realise.

A conservative business broker will tell clients it takes from 6 to 12 months to sell a business. On average, nine months is about right for deals that don't involve significant complications. Businesses can sell in a matter of weeks, but they can also take years as well.

Start with the Right Advisers

The first question among business owners should not be "how long does it take to sell a company" but, rather, "where can I find the right advisers?" The business owner's advisers will largely determine the direction of the transaction. Business owners should be looking for competent:

1.Corporate Finance Advisers – These advisers help business owners prepare for sale and identify potential buyers.

2.Corporate Lawyers – Sellers need corporate lawyers to draft and negotiate sales agreements. Lawyers are also an integral part of making sure all contractual obligations are fulfilled.

3.Tax Experts – In addition to lawyers, sellers also need at least one tax expert involved in the sale. Selling a company almost always involves tax liabilities of some sort.

It is important to note that advisers typically charge by the hour. The more complex a sales transaction is, the more an owner will spend to sell a company. Sellers should ensure that they have written contracts in place with all advisers before agreeing to have any work done, and they should not be afraid to ask for cost estimates.

Grooming a Business for Sale

A good business broker will advise clients to prepare their businesses for sale. This is known as 'grooming'. There are a dozen different steps, as follows:

  1. Make sure shareholders are in favour of a sale.
  2. Build a management team capable of operating independently from ownership.
  3. Build a strong customer base with as many contractual agreements as possible.
  4. Find ways to emphasise the strength of current customer relationships.
  5. Plan to minimise tax liabilities after the sale.
  6. Review the company's growth plan and strategy; refocus if necessary.
  7. Secure all intellectual property that could increase company valuation.
  8. Review ownership assets and settle any conflicts.
  9. Tighten up working capital to maximise cash.
  10. Tighten up financials to improve profitability.
  11. Track financials for up to 12 months to show upward valuation.
  12. Review and update employee policies and contracts.

 

How long does it take to sell a company? Anywhere from 6 to 12 months. However, there's a lot to do before a company actually changes hands. I am an expert business broker who knows what it takes to groom your company for sale. Contact me to learn more.

Photo credit: Diana Parkhouse via Foter.com / CC BY
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Author: Tim Luscombe

Hello, I'm Tim and I'm a specialist in corporate finance for the owner managed business. If you've been approached to sell your business, or you are thinking of buying a business or you just want to know what your business ...


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