A good personal chemistry and the best international reach are the top things business owners should look for when choosing advisory partners to help sell their business, according to Cavendish Corporate Finance partner Peter Gray.
Gray, who is also co-author of The Definitive Guide to Selling your Business, told Growth Business entrepreneurs looking to exit should be able to demonstrate ways of working that are “outside the box” to attract the best buyers and price.
“Personal chemistry is very important when choosing an adviser,” he said. “The other thing is fantastic international reach. It’s crucial in terms of identifying buyers with a global profile – and they’re the guys who will pay the highest prices.”
Caroline Belcher, co-author of the book and head of exit planning practice at Cavendish, added that looking at “the structure of the firm” is another important consideration when picking an advisory partner.
“How incentivised people are to close your deals is key,” she said. “If your deal is just one of several potential exit streams you don’t get that killer instinct to close.”
Both Gray and Belcher agreed that starting as early as possible is the number one thing vendors can do to secure a successful outcome.
“Selling a business is more of a three year process rather than a six month one,” said Belcher. “So the sooner you start preparing the better off you are. And in that preparation really think of everything you need to be doing to put that next level in to the business.”
Entrepreneurs “very rarely” undervalue their businesses, according to Gray. And he told Growth Business part of building a successful relationship between vendor and adviser is agreeing on a price that makes sense for all parties.
“If they’re refusing to budge [on the price] we just wouldn’t take the deal on,” he said. “If their price is out of kilter with reality there’s no point – it’s wasting our time and wasting their time.
“But it’s very rare that you get to that situation where you’re miles apart on valuation. Ultimately people tend to accept reality when you show them the figures behind a textbook valuation.”
Belcher agreed that when people sell a business it’s “very rare” that people aren’t happy with the price.
“They tend to think they’ve got the best price for that business at that time and in the marketplace. Sometimes people think they could have got more one year earlier or later – but for that particular time people almost always think they’ve got the best price,” she reiterated.
There is still a difference in attitude between US and UK entrepreneurs when thinking about an exit, according to Gray and Belcher. Belcher believes many UK entrepreneurs are looking at the benchmarks for Entrepreneurs’ Relief and “how much they need to retire on”.
“In the US the figure is more likely to be based on what they want to tell their friends when playing golf,” she continued. “So there is a very different mental attitude. And you have the differing attitudes around going big and scalability.
“So you have Air B&B, as a tech start-up, looking for $1 billion in investment from Silicon Valley. That wouldn’t necessarily pass through the mind to the UK entrepreneur to go so big so soon.”