Dear Aunty B,
I run a successful catering business but I feel the time has come to move on. I’ve got a young family and the hours required to keep things running well are really tough. I work every weekend and holiday and I’d like to get into an industry that is a bit more 9 to 5. How long is it likely to take to sell my business?
Congratulations on your successful business and on being one of the lucky few who can decide exactly when to exit your business. Just be aware that a good business exit (as opposed to a bad one) will take longer than you think.
In his book The Smart Business Exit, Geoff Green says ideally you should allow up to two years to prepare for your business exit, and depending on the nature of your business, it could take even longer.
“There is usually a lot to do to get your business ready for sale, particularly if you want to lock in special value for potential buyers,” Green says.
Most importantly, Green says you can’t drop the ball on your day-to-day operations during this time.
“As you progress towards your business exit, you still have to run your business,” he says.
After all, potential buyers are going to be tempted to haggle for a lower price if there’s a decline in the performance of your business leading up to the sale.