We’ve reviewed John Warrilow’s book Built to Sell in our book club series and many of our case studies are taken from accounts shared on his Built to Sell podcast. In many of those interviews John goes over the same ground with business owners as they share their stories of building, growing, and exiting. Over time, John has developed a “sellability score” that we think captures some key metrics all potential sellers should take note of.
This metric is about your history of producing revenue and profit as well as how consistently and professionally your books have been prepared. In a certain sense, every business transaction starts here and it’s something we can never say enough about: pay your taxes and keep accurate financial records.
If someone were to come into your business as a new owner, what rate of growth could he/she expect with regular effort? With nights + weekends effort? This can be gleaned not just from the trends your financials show, but products/services you have not yet implemented for various reasons. Could the business expand geographically? Could new customers be created from unused capacity?
For Switzerland to have been neutral for centuries, it has had to learn to be very self-sufficient. Neutrality may keep you out of conflicts but sometimes it isolates you as well. So too with your business and dependence on a single customer. A general rule is that no more than 15% of your company’s revenue should come from a single customer. The more diversified your revenues are, the more attractive your business is to buyers.
Can your business finance its growth from its own cash flow or does it need to rely on outside capital? A buyer will pay more for a company that has less need for outside financing, and will pay less for a company that has more need for it (hence the “teeter-totter”). Two quick ways to make adjustments here would be to reduce your collection times from your customers and increase your payment times to your vendors.
Do you have recurring revenue? Is it in the term of subscriptions or long-term contracts? What is your churn/cancel rate? The clearer your answers to these questions, the more a buyer can be assured of some “guaranteed” revenue.
How well are you differentiated from your competitors? The greater your competitive advantage, the likelier you are playing in a blue ocean, in which you define the rules your competitors play by. The more differentiated a business is, the more valuable it is to an acquirer.
In a previous article we discussed Fred Reichheld’s Net Promoter Score and how it could help you better understand how happy your customers are. In a certain sense, customer “satisfaction” is simply a baseline. You want them not just to be happy with what you’ve delivered, but happy enough to share your company with others.
Hub and Spoke
What does your management team look like? If you were incapacitated or unable to work for a period of weeks or months, how would your company perform? Employees that can be counted on are a major driver of confidence (and value) for potential buyers.
These factors are not a definitive list of key things a business owner should look at before considering a sale, but they are a very good list. And one that, if seriously attended to, will make a business incalculably better. Even if selling is not on the immediate horizon.
Unhappy about how any of these components in your business at the moment? Give us a call so we can help you improve and get on the path to a possible exit.