Selling a Business: How Long Does It Take?
A recent survey revealed the following about the length of time that selling a business requires:
Average time from putting the business on the market to time of sale:
|Time Period||% of Businesses Sold in This Time Period|
|1 to 3 Months||9.7 %|
|4 to 6 Months||28.3%|
|7 to 9 Months||38.0%|
|10 to 12 Months||15.9%|
|13 to 18 Months||7.6%|
|19 + Months||0.7%|
It took from four to 12 months to sell approximately 82 percent of businesses, with 38 percent falling into the seven- to nine-month range. Certainly some businesses sell more quickly, but at the other end of the spectrum, over eight percent are on the market for over 12 months.
Why does it take so long to sell a business? Price and terms are the biggest reasons. Not over-pricing the business at the beginning of the sales process is a big plus, as well as a transaction structured to include a reasonable down payment with the seller carrying the balance. Having all of the necessary information right from the beginning can also greatly reduce the time period. Being prepared for the information a buyer may want to review or having the answers available for the questions a buyer may want answered is the key.
Here is the basic information that a prospective acquirer will want to review:
- Copies of the financials for the past three years.
- A copy of the lease and any assignments of the lease from previous sales.
- A list of the fixtures and equipment that will be included in the sale. Note: If something is not included, it is best to remove it prior to the sale or at least have a list of items not included.
- A copy of the franchise agreement if applicable or any agreements with suppliers or vendors.
- Copies of any other documentation pertaining to the business.
- Supporting documents for patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc.
- Sales brochures, press releases, advertisements, menus or other sales materials.
In addition, here are some of the questions that buyers may have. A prepared seller should have ready answers as well as the information to support them.
- Is the seller willing to train a new owner at no charge?
- Are there any zoning or local restrictions that would impact the business?
- Is there any pending litigation?
- Are any license issues involved?
- Are there any federal or state requirements, or environmental OSHA issues that could affect the business?
- What about the employee situation? Are there key employees?
- Are there any copyrights, secret recipes, mailing lists, etc?
- What about major suppliers or vendors?
A prepared seller is a willing seller, and having the answers to the above questions can significantly reduce the time it takes to sell a business. Using the services of a professional business broker can also greatly reduce the time period. They are knowledgeable about the current market, how to market a business and they can advise a seller on price and terms. They can also recommend professional advisors, if a seller doesn’t have them already. Using advisors who are transaction-experienced can also shorten the time it takes to close the sale.