Monday, February 13, 2012

Ask Julie!
America’s Business Broker
Weekly Syndicated Column

Question: I heard that a lot of businesses never sell. Why is that?

Answer: When you finally make the tough decision to sell your business, you deserve to achieve the highest market price for your company, and to do so, you must plan your exit strategy with the same amount of thought and detail that you used to to grow the darn business in the first place!

But what if you don’t plan? What might your fate be? Instead of a smooth and painless transition out of your company, you may be forced to exit your business by one of the following unfortunate scenarios:

1) Closing the Business
This is obviously the most painful option. To be forced to close a business that you have put your heart and soul into developing is a sad misfortune and could have likely been avoided with proper planning. To receive any cash at all, the owner will probably need to have a fire sale for any remaining assets.

2) Receiving an Unsolicited Offer from a Competitor
I get called in frequently to assist a business owner after a business owner has been approached by a competitor seeking to buy them out. In this scenario, the owner rarely understands what the market value is for their company, let alone how and what to communicate (or hold back) from a buyer that is probably a close competitor.

3) Succession Without Adequate Tax Planning
So your daughter decides that she is having a midlife crisis and wants to buy your business and just before you present her with the Asset Purchase Agreement, she tells you that she was hoping that you would just give her your company (she is your daughter after all!). However, you must proceed with caution! If you are not aware of the tax consequences of a parent “gifting” a business to a child, you need to find out ASAP.

Selling to a child without adequate tax planning isn’t the only way to end up giving your business proceeds to Uncle Sam. If you are a C Corporation and you sell only the assets of your corporation and not the stock, you may be subject to paying taxes on the consideration (consideration is cash, loan payments, etc.) received for the sale at the corporate level and then again at the personal level when you take the cash. There are ways to mitigate your tax burden, so spend the time and money to review and understand your options as they relate to the tax consequences of the sale.

4) Accident, Illness, Divorce or Death
Dependence on a key employee without documented systems in place is very risky.
Equally devastating, a sudden illness, divorce or death of a key employee or partner will have the same effect or greater, so plan for the best but prepare for the worst. Treat your business as if you were planning to franchise it and document every single step just like McDonald’s. There’s a reason why every burger tastes the same no matter where you go, so take heed and write everything down.

Now that you understand what you don’t want to happen, you can now see why planning your exit is so important. Simply put, exit planning or lack of, can either make you, save you, or lose you, thousands (if not millions) of dollars!

In part two of this series, we will talk about the positive side of the equations- 6 Reasons Why Businesses DO Sell, visit again next Monday to discover how you can secure your pot of gold at the end of your entrepreneurial rainbow.

Talk to you soon and remember, your Exit Journey began the day you started your business…

Cheers and keep emailing me your questions at!
Julie Gordon White, CBB, has worked with hundreds of business sellers and buyers over the last 10 years as a Certified Business Broker, and is the bestselling author of “EXIT! 12 Steps to Sell Your Business for the Price You Deserve”. Julie is a trusted resource for Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, San Francisco Business Times, and Enterprising Women; the Current Past President of the California Association of Business Brokers; and has been a member Women Presidents’ Organization since 2007. Discover more EXIT! info + videos at policy: This column is available for re-print if used in its entirety including the author bio and contact information for non-commercial purposes without any editing whatsoever unless approved in advance by the author.

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