The Point: As a small business owner, you pour your blood, sweat, and tears into your business! The day-in/day-out challenges associated with leading a business as it’s owner are supposed to be offset by the “golden” years of selling it and retiring. As the largest demographic in our society, the Baby Boomers, approach their exit it appears as though the golden years are turning to rust before our very eyes! So, in this post we’ll explore selling a small business with 5 tips for Baby Boomers approaching retirement… Enjoy! (NOTE: While the focus of this article is on Baby Boomers, it can be applied to any small business owner looking to successfully exit!)
The Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 represent an estimated 73 million people in our society (The second-largest age group after their children, the Millennials, born from 1982 to 2000). Baby Boomers represent 41% of small business owners or franchise owners (Second to Gen X’ers born between 1965 and 1980 at 44%).
This demographic rapidly approaching retirement age (generally thought of as age 62 – the age at which a person is expected or required to cease work and is usually the age at which they may be entitled to receive superannuation or other government benefits, like a state pension). As they achieve this milestone, few appear to be financially ready/able to successfully retire. The top two reasons being that (1) they were the first generation expected to establish for themselves self-retirement tools/savings as opposed to government provisions and (2) the economic recession from 2008 reducing significant savings (if any were established).
Baby Boomer Small Business Owners
Statistics reflect that almost 40% of Baby Boomer small business owners feel they don’t have the financial confidence to retire before they’re 65, let alone three years earlier at 62! What’s more, a recent study suggests a full 72% don’t even have an exit strategy. Exit strategies for small business owners typically consist of the following (in popularity order):
- Liquidation Over Time
- Keep Your Business in the Family (i.e., Succession Planning)
- Sell Your Business to Managers and/or Employees (i.e., Employee Stock Ownership Planning – ESOP)
- Sell the Business in the Open Market (i.e., Mergers)
- Sell to Another Business (i.e., Acquisitions)
- The IPO (Initial Public Offering)
Tips for Baby Boomers Selling Their Small Business for Retirement
As an active acquirer of small businesses (You can view my firms Acquisition Criteria here: https://tipofthespearventures.com/acquisitions/), I’ve compiled the following five (5) strategies or tips for successfully selling the Baby Boomer owned small business. (Note: As a somewhat conservative investor, I caution against the “all-your-eggs-in-one-basket” mentality when it comes to selling your business ahead of retirement).
Tip #1 – Diversify Your Money
One of the biggest strategies I see small business owners do is hinge their entire retirement on the sale of their business. A better strategy consists of acting well before the sale. It is important that small business owners take money out of the business from a personal standpoint and invest those funds no less than three years prior to an anticipated sale. Typically, most businesses will provide the most recent years financial statements as part of the financial packet to prospective buyers. Statements that reflect anomalies are scrutinized, leading to a sale multiple (3-5x) that will be less than or undesirable.
Tip #2 – Financial Statement Cleaning
Along those lines, the organization’s financial statements are the foundation reviewed during acquisition due diligence when selling any business. Updating the core documents like profit and loss statements can make a big difference to anyone exploring the enterprise.
Updated balance sheets and tax returns for at least the last three fiscal years is crucial in projecting the best financial position possible. The goal being to make sure everything ties together, making sense to potential acquirers and being easy to understand.
Tip #3 – Removing Yourself from the Business
Do you have staffing that’s able to run the business after your exit? As an active Owner Investor (as opposed to Owner Operator) I typically look for organizations that have depth of staff that will allow the organization under new leadership to continue on without current ownership running the entity day-in/day-out. Easing the transition here means hiring employees that will stay as the face of your business when the ownership changes. This strategy allows small business owners to potentially increase the value of their business and the likelihood it will sell.
Tip #4 – Operational Documentation
Having an Operational Guide is important for every business to successfully operate/run. These Operational Guides are critical details for manufacturing, distribution and sales. This guide that is written down and documented makes it easier for the new buyer to pick-up where the old owner left off and drive the organization forward. They also make it easier/less stressful for those employees remaining with the business.
Tip #5 – Identify Legal Barriers
Identifying if the sale of your business is an Asset (when a buyer is interested in purchasing the operating assets of a business instead of stock shares) or Stock (shareholders of the target company receive shares in the acquiring company as payment, rather than cash) sale will ease the exit process. Removing any of the legal hurdles can make the road to a sale less difficult for acquisition. For example, one that we keep coming up against is the transfer of the lease (Landlords using the sale of the business as an opportunity to renegotiate leases and up the rent can be viewed as undesirable to potential buyers).
In this post, we’ve explored selling a small business with 5 tips for Baby Boomers approaching retirement along with 5 tips. All of these strategies are desirable for potential acquirers. As such, Baby Boomers looking to sell their business should look to complete them to position their business as they look to exit into their golden years of retirement.
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