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Overview Of Steps In The M&A Process

The processes behind mergers and acquisitions can be quite complicated. Each deal is unique and has its own level of intricacies. However, all M&A transactions tend to follow a basic framework of steps. Most M&A advisory firms follow this basic framework, but bring their own methodologies to the table. This outline will give you a rudimentary view of the process.  

Target List Creation

In order to engage in the selling or buying of a business, you must have potential buyers or sellers. Suitable M&A targets can include competitors, vendors, or customers. This is also a good time to consider how much geographical factors should be taken into account.

Contact Initiated

Once the target list is established, contact is made and discussions begin to gauge the interest level of the buyer or seller.

Sending of a Teaser

A teaser is a document that sellers send to buyers. It supplies just enough information to entice the buyer into wanting to know more. It showcases topline info such as the company’s product or services, its unique selling points, industry overview, ownership structure, potential areas of growth, and high-level financials.

Confidentiality Agreement Signing

This ensures that all sides in the deal agree to keep all discussions and materials confidential.

 

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Sending of the Confidential Information Memorandum (CIM)

The CIM serves is drafted by the sell-side of a transaction and serves as a type of handbook. It provides all the information a buyer needs to ascertain whether they want to make an offer, such as company management, operations details, financial data, future projections, customer diversification, market opportunities, competition, and other relevant specifics.

Submissions of Indication of Interest (IOI)

Upon their review of the CIM, the buyer then expresses interest in moving forward by submitting a non-binding written offer. An IOI typically provides a valuation range for the sale price, transaction structure, timeframe, and other important details. It limits the buyer’s time and financial resources devoted to the deal if the proposal falls short of expectations and other bids. For the seller, an IOI helps them to measure the market appetite for the company, compare different buyers’ views on value, and perform preliminary due diligence on the buyer’s ability to complete the transaction.

Management Meetings

After the initial communications that establish interest on both sides, it is time for the buyer and seller to meet and take the conversation further. Both sides take this time to learn more about each other to get a better idea of compatibility and whether it is a good fit.

The Letter of Intent (LOI)

The buyer submits a detailed document with a price and deal structure that details items such as closing dates and conditions, an exclusivity period, any break-up fees, management compensation, escrow, and so on. These are usually non-binding, but they can be denoted as binding.

Formal Due Diligence Process

This important phase is when all documentation and records are compiled by the seller and provided to the buyer. The findings help the buyer assess their risk and improve the decision-making process. Due diligence examines an extensive level of information on the company, including all financials, intellectual property, customer base, management, talent, synergy, outstanding litigation, technology, infrastructure, stockholder issues, production, inventory, supply chains, real estate, marketing plans, and anything else that is relevant to the business.

The Purchase Agreement

A Purchase Agreement supersedes any previous IOI and LOI. This binding document lays out the final terms of the deal including the purchase price, a detailed list of definitions used in the agreement, timeframes for the delivery of final statements, executive provisions, representations, warranties, schedules, indemnifications, closing conditions, and break-up fees.

Pre-Closing Period

Sometimes there is a pre-closing period during which the seller and buyer prepare all deliverables and fulfill closing conditions such as government approvals and third-party consents. The duration of this period can vary depending on the closing conditions.

Closing

Once all of the closing conditions are met, the transaction is ready to close. Funds are exchanged and the buyer assumes possession of the business.

Post-Closing Period

After the deal closes, there are usually post-closing financial adjustments and integration topics to be addressed between the seller and buyer.

Ready to Make a Deal?

Our M&A experts at Benchmark International would love to hear from you regarding your company and its potential. Our world-renowned team offers the unparalleled transaction experience, remarkable resources, and global connections that you need in your corner to in order to get the most value possible out of your M&A deal. Learn more about our unique Benchmark Fingerprint Process here.

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What’s Unique About Selling a Government Contracting Business

Every business is unique and grammar experts will tell you that you cannot place a modifier before the word “unique”. That said, selling government contracting business is a very unique art. Here are some insights from Benchmark International’s extensive experience with these engagements. 

What makes selling a government contracting business unique?

Most importantly, there are far fewer financial buyers (e.g., private equity funds, family offices). This means the potential buyer population is both smaller and skewed toward strategic buyers, such as competitors, suppliers, and businesses in adjacent sectors. Therefore, the buyer outreach effort must be more robust, the marketing strategy, as with all writing, must focus on the proper intended audience, and each potential buyer that reaches out must be treated with extra care.

What keeps other buyers away from government contracting businesses?

The main issue is customer concentration. Many companies rely on one specific government or one specific agency for the vast majority of their revenue, for example, the Department of Defense or their state’s Department of Transportation. Knowing how to address this issue is not only key to attracting buyers on the edge of the process but also to stoking interest in all potential buyers in the process. “Customer concentration” is routinely cited in buyer surveys as the number one concern in the early stages of target selection. Thus, failing to address this issue head-on and intelligently can greatly reduce the buyer pool.

Do these businesses trade at a lower multiple than others?

No, there is no “government contractor discount.” These entities are viewed as “counter-cyclical” so when the economy is falling or expected to fall, they can demand a premium over their counterparts that only work with private sector clients. 

The business itself may have characteristics – such as customer concentration – that can impact value, but the same is true of any business with any client base. And, to the contrary, the payment history of governments is far better than that of private sector companies and the reliability of these collections gives government contractors a boost on their multiples. This reliability premium moves inversely with the number of bankruptcy filings nationwide.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

What type of government contractors get the highest multiples?

To a degree, the same factors that affect any business matter here – defendable intellectual property, long-term customer relationships, moats around the business, the strength of the management team that will stay on after the deal, the stickiness of the product or service offered, reputation, etc.

Additionally, the actual customer contracts draw an excessive amount of attention in these deals. 

The longer the contract is the better. For service businesses, a dollar of revenue from a maintenance contract tends to yield more dollars in the sale than does an implementation or repair contract. 

Some buyers place a higher value on fixed cost contracts, others on cost-plus or time and materials. Primes tend to get higher multiples than subs but not always, depending on the sub’s specialty. For smaller businesses that will likely have fewer open contracts, the length of time remaining on each contract and its rebid/extension terms are often points of high interest.

Lastly, whether or not the person who has relations with the government office is staying on or not is a big deal. If you are leaving and you have those relations, the sale process must be structured around this fact. This means customization of the type of buyers that are targeted and the story that is initially told to the market. Some buyers won’t mind so they would need to be the primary targets and those that will mind needing to be told at the right time and in the right manner.

What about preserving the set-aside nature of the business?

This is a question that all clients ask but few buyers care about it. We find that most clients don’t use their set aside status to win the majority of their work. More importantly, though, most government contracts do not require the prime to update the government in the event of a loss of status by one of their subs or even by the prime itself. The contracts tend to be “shoot and forget” in this regard. While it can affect some extensions or renewals, we often see that not being the case.

And buyers just don’t care. Today’s multiples are too high for buyers to win company sale processes just because they are looking for a set-aside business. If they aren’t paying for the brainpower, the relationships, the cash flow, or any other standard deriver of value, they aren’t making offers our clients will accept.

Is selling a government contracting business harder than selling a similar business serving the private sector? 

Yes, for all the reasons above it’s a bit smaller of a needle to thread. But with the right process, a good deal team, patience, and a motivated attitude on the part of the owner, the process is entirely doable, and these businesses sell every day of the year.

What’s the market like at this minute? 

As of the end of July 2020, the market has never been better. We are seeing multiples for all business types staying up at their pre-COVID record levels across the board. Also, we are seeing buyers that previously passed on government contractors reaching out specifically to see what government contracting companies are currently available.

 

To see a selection of our completed government contracting deals, please click here

Author
Clinton Johnston
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: Johnston@benchmarkintl.com

 

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5 Tips For Preparing Your Company For Sale

When the time comes to sell your company, you obviously want to get the most value and the highest possible price. There are several steps you can take before going to market to increase the likelihood of you cashing out for more in a merger or acquisition.

  1. Focus on Profits and Growth

You will want to increase your net revenues and profits, keeping in mind that buyers will focus on EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) for valuation. This is the number you want to boost because the higher your EBITDA, the higher your sale price will be. Your company’s growth potential will also be important to acquirers so you should put extra effort into growing your sales, even if it means hiring more sales talent (as long as it justifies the costs—adding salaries and benefits need to be worth the results).

  1. Get Your House in Order.

The M&A process will certainly include a comprehensive audit of your financial records and any other business concerns. It is key to get all of your documentation in order before embarking on a sale. The more complete and orderly your record keeping is, the more confidence it will instill in potential buyers. This also means you should address any unsavory topics, conflicts or legal issues. Getting any discrepancies resolved will prepare you to honestly answer difficult questions and demonstrate your commitment to getting a transaction done. Buyers do not want to be faced with surprises during the due diligence process.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

  1. Do a SWOT Analysis. 

Take the time to assess your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. You need to understand where your company stands in the current market, how it stacks up to competition, and how to maximize its strengths. If you have a complete understanding of your SWOT profile, you can take the necessary measures to position your company to buyers in the best light possible by uncovering growth opportunities and being proactive against any impending risks.

  1. Trim the Fat. 

Think about any areas of your business operations that could be tidied up, such as redundancies or costs that do not add any value to the company. Can you justify everyone that is on your payroll? Would outsourcing be more cost effective? Can you spend smarter when it comes to equipment? Are you carrying outdated inventory? Is there property that you are paying taxes on that you really do not need? What can you do to avoid adding new expenses? This doesn’t mean you should cheap out on anything that affects your core competencies. But sometimes simply reallocating resources can help you optimize the financial health of your company.

  1. Get an M&A Advisor. 

M&A advisors handle a significant amount of the complicated work that goes into the lengthy deal process. Their exclusive connections will get you access to quality potential buyers. They will help you prepare and market your business effectively, finding ways to make it more enticing to buyers. Another benefit of an M&A partner: not only will buyers know that you are serious about selling, but you will also know that they are serious about buying. They will also help you organize your due diligence documentation and present your financials, coordinate meetings, help with exit or succession planning, and ensure that you have peace of mind through such a momentous time in your life.

If you are ready to sell your company, please contact our M&A advisory experts at Benchmark International to get you on the path to a deal that meets all of your aspirations.

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7 Small Changes That Will Make A Big Difference When You Sell Your Business

So you have started to think about selling your business in the near future.  Will you be ready?  There are changes that you can make now that can make a big difference when the time comes to sell and help you avoid leaving money on the table.  Begin by starting to plan 18-24 months before you begin looking for a buyer.  Take a look at your business through the eyes of a buyer and ask yourself ‘What would I see as a positive about this business?’  ‘What would I see as a weakness about this business?’.  We have included 7 small changes here for you to consider implementing:

  1. Understand your business’s financials. It goes without saying that buyers are going to be delving pretty deeply into your business’ finances.  If you aren’t able to provide statements that are professionally prepared, this can be seen as a risk to buyers.  If the buyer doesn’t feel that they can rely on the numbers, they most likely will either offer a lower purchase price or pull out of the transaction all together.  You should be prepared to answer all questions and have at least 3 years of financial statements in perfect shape.
  2. Take a look at your customer concentration. Do you have too much concentration placed on a single customer?  This can cause buyers to take pause and wonder what will happen if they lost that customer after the sale.  It’s best to begin to look for ways that you can grow your other customers as well as gain new ones in order to reduce the concentration issue.  Multiple sources of revenue can lead to a higher purchase price.
  3. Can your business survive without you? Many business owners become the main point of contact with customers as they grow their business over the years.  Now is a good time to begin shifting those relationships to other members of your team.  Otherwise buyers will have the concern that when you leave, clients may leave the company as well.  In addition, you should have designated employees that can continue to drive the business forward and increase revenues after you have exited the business.
  4. In the time leading up to placing your business for sale, be sure to resolve any legal disputes that may be pending. Nothing raised red flags more for a buyer than finding out there is a legal case pending against you.
  5. Closely analyze the business practices that you are currently using and if you decide that it’s necessary, implement more efficient operating procedures before the sale. This could include reducing or adding employees, or investments in new technology or equipment.  Taking these measures before a sale can result in a higher sell price.
  6. Create a master system of how you access, store, organize and update all of your systems. In most cases, this will be a collection of enterprise software or file folders with controls that have been put into place for who can access what.  This system should become a part of your employee culture and be used on a daily basis.  A prospective buyer will see that the knowledge needed to run your company does not lie with any one employee, but instead is contained in the systems of the company and can easily be maintained after a sale.
  7. Organize your legal paperwork and make sure that it is all in order and readily available as prospective buyers will request access to these documents. Review your permits, incorporation paper, leases, licensing agreements, vendor and customer contracts, etc.  Ensure that they are current and in order.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Continue to keep your eye on the ball and run your business as if you are going to run it forever.  Benchmark International can be your partner throughout this process and help free up time for you to continue focus on running your business operations while selling at the same time.  With a team of specialists that arrange these types of deals every day, we can answer your questions and help you determine what is best for you, your business and your exit plan.  A simple phone call or email to us can start the process today.

 

Author
Amy Alonso 
Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 615 924 8522
E: alonso@benchmarkintl.com

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7 Key Considerations When Selling Your Business

You have poured your life into building your business. Selling it is not only a very emotional process, but it can also be a monumental task that involves many intricacies. Careful planning and preparation before a merger or acquisition can translate into your efforts being rewarded with a high value deal. While there is quite a bit that can go into preparation, the following seven considerations are key to arriving at a successful deal in the end.

1. Protect What’s Yours

Intellectual property can be a company’s most significant asset. It differentiates you from your competition, is an important marketing tool, and can provide revenue through licensing agreements. It is also a major driver of value in a merger or acquisition. Any intellectual property that belongs to your business (proprietary technologies, copyrights, patents, design rights, and trademarks) must be legally protected. Enlist your legal counsel to ensure that all the proper paperwork is filed and current. If you are considering a cross-border transaction, you will want to make sure the property is protected on an international level as well as a local level, as different countries have different laws and requirements.

2. Get Your Finances in Order

It’s never a good look when a prospective acquirer asks for financial documentation and you are scrambling to put it together. This can also delay the process. Before taking your company to market, you will want to compile all of the proper financial and contractual records and have them organized and ready to turn over. Having your finances in order also means that you should seek to resolve any outstanding issues where possible before trying to sell. For example, if you know you have a situation you can probably resolve, getting it straightened out ahead of time can eliminate unnecessary complications during the due diligence process. The due diligence process is also going to require an audit of your assets. A buyer is going to want a complete picture of what they are acquiring. Intellectual property is an important element of due diligence but the process also includes areas such as equipment, real estate, and inventory.

3. Maintain Business as Usual

Going through the lengthy process of selling a business can certainly provide its share of distractions. No matter how easily it can be to become sidetracked or consumed in the details of the sale, now it is more important than ever that you stay focused on the daily operations of the business and ensuring that it is running at its best possible level. This includes keeping your management team focused. Deals can take time and they can also fall through. Every aspect of an M&A transaction hinges on the health of your company at every stage of the game and you need to make sure the business does not lose any value.

4. Think Like a Buyer

As a seller, you obviously don’t want to leave money on the table. That is why it can be helpful that you look at your business from the perspective of a buyer. This will help you avoid being fixated on a sale price the whole time. Think about why they would want to buy your business and what opportunities it affords them in the future. If you can improve your business and develop it as a strategic asset before you try to sell, you can increase its value and get more money.

5. Predetermine Your Role

Sometimes after the sale of the business the original owner executes a full exit strategy and severs all involvement with the business. You need to decide up front what is right for you. To what extent do you plan to relinquish control of the company? Do you wish to remain an employee or a member of the board? How much authority do you plan to retain? You should think these options through before going to market so that you can find a buyer that supports your intentions for the business.

6. Have a Post-Sale Plan

Consider what life will look like following the sale of your company. Think about what your financial picture will look like. How will you invest the proceeds to maintain your financial health? How much cash will you take at closing? How long should the earn-out period be? What about stock options? And don’t forget about tax liability. How much will be paid immediately and how much will be deferred? These are all important questions to ask yourself when anticipating the sale of your business.

7. Retain an M&A Expert

Selling a business is a complicated process and a seller should never go it alone. You may be an expert at your business, but chances are you aren’t an expert at selling businesses. Enlisting the partnership of a M&A experts can not only help you get a deal done smoothly but can help you get the maximum value for your company. M&A advisors know what to expect, they know how to avoid common pitfalls, and they have access to resources and experience that can be game changers for your deal. They can also help you work through some of the difficult decisions mentioned above. Of course, they come at a price, but a price that is worth it when you consider how much their involvement can increase the value of your sale and the chances of the deal being closed.

Ready to Sell?

When you are ready, so are we. Reach out to our M&A advisory experts at your convenience to talk about your options and how we can help you sell for the utmost value.

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How Long Does It Take To Sell A Business

Selling a company can take several months to even years, depending on factors such as the state of the business, the industry, the market, and the economy. At Benchmark International, we have created an efficient process that we use as a framework to guide any merger or acquisition from start to finish. While not every deal will follow this timeline exactly, it is what we strive to adhere to and what you can expect from the process, keeping in mind that when several parties are involved, timing depends on when they each do their part.   

The 120 Days Prior to Going Live: Strategy Development & File Preparation

First, in order to determine the “go live” date (when we take the business to market) we carefully assess your needs and priorities as the business owner, the completion of audits and taxes, the harmonizing of the business’s external image, and the M&A market calendar. 

In the 120 days prior to “going live” with your company, we will go through a preliminary preparation period. This period begins when you and your Benchmark Deal Team sign the engagement and we deliver a data request list to you in order to obtain the relevant information we will need to facilitate a deal. The initial delivery of these documents to us usually takes about two weeks. Then, two weeks after that, we conduct a Q&A session with you regarding the financial data to resolve any outstanding topics. This is when we dig in and do an even more thorough assessment.

A few weeks later, we have our first meeting with you for the presentation of any issues that we found, we request any additional data, and we conduct a preliminary discussion of a marketing strategy. In another 20 days, we have a second meeting to verify the completion of the harmonization of the company’s public image, finalize strategy, and recap any additional data still needed.

Then, in about three weeks, our deal team delivers drafts of the company Teaser and Confidential Information Memorandum (CIM). In the week subsequent to that, we will meet to finalize materials, we prepare market intelligence, and then we are ready to go live.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Two Months After Going Live: Solicitation of Candidates & Expression of Interest

Now that we are ready to go live, we move into the next phase of the process. We start by approaching prospective buyers. We begin obtaining non-disclosure agreements and screening candidates. Within about three weeks, our deal team delivers an interim candidate report to you, classifying candidates into three categories. We then meet to determine authorized recipients of the CIM out of the candidates delivered. Following this meeting, we deliver CIMs to a second round of prospects. You can expect us to be one month into this process when we deliver a finalized candidate report to you, which again classifies the candidates into three categories. Soon after, our team will meet with you to determine the authorized recipients of the CIM out of these candidates. Following this meeting, we deliver CIMs to a second round of invitees. By day 60, expression of interest is due from these candidates.

Two to Four Months After Going Live: Evaluation of Candidates & Offers

Now that we are two months into the process of having gone live, your Benchmark team presents the expressions of interest on behalf of prospective buyers to you. Next, you instruct us as to which candidates should be invited to bid. We then confirm each invitee’s continued interest and they are provided access to a preliminary data room.

At about three months in, letters of intent are due to us from the bidders. We revert to them with any questions raised by the letters of intent. Next, our team presents the letters of intent to you and follows up on any questions you have for the bidders. At this stage, around Day 107, we work closely with you to reevaluate the top bidders, and negotiations begin with one to three bidders. By Day 120, the letter of intent is executed and the counterparty is granted access to the complete data room.

Ready to Sell?

We’re ready to help. Contact our M&A advisory experts at Benchmark International to formulate effective strategies to grow your business or plan your exit strategy and sell your company for the highest valuation possible. 

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How To Get More Results Out Of Selling Your Business

1. Improve & Grow
Investors seek to buy companies that increase cash flow year over year. Obviously, the more profitable and healthy your company is, the higher valuation it will garner. This means that retained earnings (the amount of profit left over after all costs, taxes and dividends are paid) are an important factor, including how they are reinvested in the business as working capital. It also means you should be focused on lowering expenses and increasing revenues, as the efficiency of your operations is going to be a key driver of valuation. Look at the last three years to see if cash flow is trending upward. If not, you should take measures to get the company on the right course. Companies sell for higher prices when they show that they can continue to grow. Your future growth depends on your ability to identify new markets, adapt to changing technologies, and keep your workforce trained. Buyers look for businesses that have goals and a solid plan for achieving them.

2. Value the Power of Marketing
How marketing is defined when it comes to selling a business is twofold, and both are incredibly important. 1) Effectively market your products or services to customers and 2) Effectively market your company to potential buyers.

Create and retain a diverse customer base that creates recurring profits. Evaluate your marketing plan to determine strategies to boost sales, tap into new markets, get a competitive edge, and increase customer loyalty. The more diverse your customer base is, the more protected you will be if you lose a major customer. This insulation is important to buyers.

When you do the first part correctly, you will be in a stronger position to showcase your company’s strengths to acquirers. In order to best market yourself to buyers, it is smart to work with an M&A advisory firm that has the marketing experience and resources to make your company as appealing as possible.

3. Foster a Strong Team
A large amount of value in a business lies in its people, especially if it has few tangible assets. A prospective buyer is going to want to have faith and confidence in the existing leadership team and that they will remain there after your exit. They will also be more interested in a business that is known as a great place to work. Your key talent beyond management is also critical to the success of the company. They should be motivated, informed, and feel that their futures are in good hands so they are not tempted to jump ship because they are nervous about a possible sale. This is why it is crucial that the details and confidentiality of a sale and are handled very carefully. Employees need to be informed and feel included, but they should not be told about a sale until the proper time.

4. Have Detailed Recordkeeping
In order to sell your company, you will need to have all financial records and contracts related to the business for the due diligence phase of the transaction, and this extends beyond tax returns. Shoddy recordkeeping signals to buyers that there could be problems and that the business’s financial performance may not be portrayed accurately. Being transparent and thorough indicates to buyers that you are serious and more likely to be trusted.

5. Remain Invested
Just because you are planning to sell, do not lose sight of the fact that your business still needs you. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the M&A process, but you must keep the day-to-day operations running smoothly. Continue to improve and invest wherever possible and you will not only strengthen the overall value of your business but also demonstrate your commitment to its future success. Buyers want to see that you are doing what’s in the best interest of the company all the way up until your exit. At the same time, a business should not be reliant on any one person. While you should remain engaged through a sale, the company should be able to continue to operate successfully AFTER your exit, as well.

6. Get M&A Guidance
You have worked so hard to build your business and its sale may be the most important milestone in your life. You deserve to have the transaction done right so that you get the maximum value possible for your company. Experienced M&A advisors can not only make sure that the process goes as it should, but they have specific strategies and know-how that will get you as much as possible while adhering to your goals for your future and the company’s. Additionally, savvy buyers have solid knowledge of the M&A process and what to look for. Working with an advisory team will demonstrate that you are a serious seller while protecting your interests and getting you the amount you deserve.

Talk to our Experts
If you are considering selling your company, contact the M&A advisors at Benchmark International and tap into award-winning solutions and unparalleled expertise.

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So, You’ve Decided To Sell Your Company. Now What?

After you have poured your life into your business, there comes a time when you start pondering retirement and planning an exit strategy. Whether you want to assume a smaller role in the company, transition it to a family member, or sell outright to an investor, it is not a process to be taken lightly. Readying a business for sale is a daunting task and an emotional journey. Which is why the first thing you will want to do is partner with an experienced M&A advisory team that is going to understand your goals and your needs, and have empathy throughout the process.

Ultimately, you have two high-level goals for selling your company: for the process to run smoothly, and to get the most value possible. There are many stages that go into making these two goals attainable, and at Benchmark International, we have perfected this process down to both an art and a science. This includes selling at the right time, which is why getting started as soon as possible can be critical to the results.

Our mergers and acquisitions advisors will take a deep dive into learning everything there is to know about your company. (Chances are, we already are very knowledgeable on your industry.) We will be straightforward with you regarding our assessment and what you can do to make your business more valuable and appealing to a prospective buyer. This includes third-party research that vets your company’s reputation in the public space and how to address any concerns.

We will also use our proprietary technologies and global resources to identify the types of buyers that are right for your business, and then create a plan to effectively market your company to these buyers. This gives you a huge advantage as a seller. There are many steps that go into these processes that we can later detail for you to a greater extent should you decide to sell. And don’t worry—everything is handled with the utmost confidentiality and you can rest assured that any buyer is going to be closely vetted. We will never ask you to meet with a potential acquirer that is not suitable and that we don’t believe is in your best interest.

Another important undertaking that our experts at Benchmark International will handle is the due diligence for buyers. Obviously, they are going to want to know a great deal about your company. Buyers also expect to see scrupulous recordkeeping regarding financials, legal issues, and items such as contracts. Our team is here to help you compile the proper documentation, and we can even create a Virtual Data Room to store it securely and conveniently. This includes ensuring the protection of your intellectual property such as trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and the like.

We will coordinate all meetings and discussions between you and a buyer, always protecting confidentiality. When a buyer makes an offer for your company, we will present it with honesty as to whether we feel the offer is appropriately valued. We are committed to ensuring that you get everything that you deserve.

When you decide to move forward with an offer, your dedicated deal team will handle all of the negotiations following your instructions at all times. This includes structuring the sale clearly so that all parties involved know their roles moving ahead with the transition of the business. We handle all contracts with full compliance and proper documentation. Not a single piece of paper or communication will go to a buyer without you seeing it first. You can also expect regular contact at all times until an acquisition is complete.

Selling a company is a complicated endeavor and needs to be handled with expertise in order to achieve the right results. Having the right team in place can make all the difference in the success of your exit.

So, the answer to the question, “Now what?” is quite simple: contact us.

Our award-winning M&A analysts are waiting for your call to talk about how Benchmark International can help you sell your company for its maximum value. Reach out to us today and we can embark on this exciting journey together.

 

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How To Retain Top Talent During An Acquisition

Throughout and following any M&A transaction, the retention of key staff members is critical to the long-term success of the business. When the structure and culture of a company changes, it is not uncommon for employees to feel uneasy and tempted to explore their options. Companies that practice comprehensive retention efforts are more likely to retain the majority of their senior staff. By getting employees engaged early in the process, it can help mitigate communication problems and promote a more inclusive experience. Additionally, the likelihood that your key staff will remain with the business will aid in your company valuation.

Know Your VIPs

Every company has their most valuable players, and keeping them is crucial for the business’s success. Know who they are at every level of management and how the changes to the business will impact their roles. Consider what you can do to avoid redundancy and ensure that their talent and knowledge will still be in a position to be valued. The earlier you do this, the better. A merger or acquisition can turn everything in an organization upside down. Have your best people tasked with challenges and opportunities. Give them the chance to use their talents and be part of the process in a productive way that works for their individual success as well as the success of the company. Be sure that your assessment extends beyond your leadership team. Look at all levels of the company to see where hidden gems may find an opportunity to shine.

Build Trust Though Communication

Communication is always key to running a successful operation, but it is absolutely paramount during the M&A process. Mergers and acquisitions can make people feel insecure about their jobs. While you never want to reveal information too soon, you will benefit greatly from gaining your employees’ trust by communicating with them about what is happening now and down the road, and what their role in the process will be. Key employees need to understand that their jobs are safe. Share your goals, your strategies, your vision and how you plan to go about running the show moving forward. Talking to them will go a long way in creating and maintaining loyalty to your company. If employees sense that something is afoot and feel like secrets are being kept, they are more likely to feel betrayed and even hostile about the process. 

Think Beyond the Bonus

Retention bonuses for key talent are normal during M&A transactions. They are proven to be effective in the short term, but money does not necessarily make people feel inspired, engaged, or even secure. If someone is “checked out,” they are likely to leave for any amount of pay increase, however small. People who are truly invested in their careers want to be assured that the company is making good decisions, creating a strong culture, and working towards a goal they can support. While money talks, having talent feel enthusiastic about the future can be priceless—and contagious.

Avoid Culture Clash

When a business is acquired or merges with another, there is an inevitable convergence of cultures. Whether the convergence goes good or bad lies in the due diligence process. If you assess what you are dealing with ahead of time, you can anticipate how the cultures will meld. This includes having leadership and top talent working together through the evolution. They drive the culture and should be part of any changes to it. They will also play a critical role in the hiring of any new talent post M&A, and ensuring that the new hires will be conducive to the overall culture of the organization. If they feel empowered to be part of the future, it will go a long way in giving them a deeper understanding of the business and promoting its success in the future. 

Let’s Do This

Your award-winning M&A advisory team at Benchmark International is dedicated to fulfilling your goals as a business owner. Whether you are looking to buy, sell or grow a company, we have the experience, resources, and connections that give you the upper hand and make great things happen. We look forward to speaking with you soon.   

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Businesses Are Just Like Classic Cars

Anyone who owns or has owned a classic car will attest that it’s a very special relationship and one not dissimilar to owning a business.

Classic cars and businesses are assets that relatively few have the privilege of owning, they take time to build or acquire, have personality, and generally represent a sizeable investment and very personal commitment for anyone.

At the outset of these relationships, our perceptions of what the experience will be like is dominated by excitement, passion and it is often a journey we have spent many years planning and saving for. The risks have been calculated and monetised yet despite knowing that as physical or metaphorical assets they do break, and cost money, we have an ingrained belief we’ll get through it and that value that will accumulate with time.

It is inevitable, unless one is fortunate enough to be able to pay a premium price for a pristine model, that the early stages of these ownership journeys are characterised by a series of unfortunate discoveries - usually requiring us to roll up our sleeves and invest both time and money to rectify. It’s something we readily do as this beast is now a part of us and with ownership comes responsibility.

Like classic cars, business ownership takes us on a rollercoaster ride of emotions that range from pride and joy to anger and despair. One faces a multitude of risks from accident to theft and even the collapse of a market for it. The sacrifices can be significant, yet from the outside others often perceive us as merely lucky and in viewing the finished product, do not have insight or appreciation for the all-consuming toil, sunk and personal cost that it has taken to get to this point.
 
 
Ready to explore your exit and growth options?
 
Driving the old stag was not possible without being approached by somebody wanting to acquire the car and whilst they’d all expressed an interest to buy, it was once the door to such a discussion was opened that they divert the negotiation from their motive and start to approach the transaction from a purely clinical perspective. It is at this point buyers begin quoting market-related metrics seeking to mitigate the risk of what will be their investment. Simply put, such an approach is common in business too as a seller the future value potential and emotional attachment can often outweigh the immediate cash consideration but yet we also fail to see the other side and balance the risk to a buyer. It is for this reason that the intangible benefits of a deal are often larger considerations than the price attributed.

Selling a classic car is a difficult decision. It marks the end of a very personal relationship and what has been an emotional journey - for some, it can be a process as difficult as picking a spouse for one of our kids might be. Price becomes important as it measures the worth we attribute to it, and the reward for the investment or sacrifices made. Equally, however in finding the right person who we can trust to nurture, protect, improve and care for our treasure, we’re achieving a value beyond compensation.

Central to the decision to sell a classic car is always the consideration of “what next”. If the transaction facilitates the acquisition of a more prized possession or the freedom to pursue a long-sought ambition, the decision becomes more palatable. The similarity in selling a business is that it is vital to plan for what comes next. For example, in the case of retirement, it’s key to have something to retire to, as opposed to from.

It is a commonly expressed view that anything is for sale at a price, but committing to the prospect of a sale is a fundamentally different process to being available to be bought. Knowing your asset, the buyer’s next best alternative, and the adventure you’d pursue next are all key to a successful outcome. Whilst experience, financial, analytical, and other corporate finance skills are minimum requirements for an advisor, someone who’s been there, done it, and who intimately understands the internal conflicts only a business owner experiences can certainly add value in navigating this journey.
 

Author
Andre Bresler
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +27 (0) 21 300 2055
E: bresler@benchmarkintl.com

 

 

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5 Ways To Determine It's Time To Explore Your Company's Exit Options

As a business owner, you will someday reach the point when it is time to start thinking about your exit strategy. But how do you know when that point is? Below are five key questions you can ask yourself to help determine if you are ready to begin planning your exit.

1. How is the business performing?
Typically, a good time to sell your company is when it’s performing well and it has a bright future. This is when you can garner high valuations for the business and sell for more money. At the same time, a sale can also save a business that is struggling. You need to assess the health of your company, consider the state of the market for your sector, and decide if the time is right. Keep in mind that it takes time to sell a company, so you will want to factor the timing into your decision.

2. How invested are you?
As you already know, running a business takes hard work and dedication, which can sometimes lead to feelings of being burnt out. Ask yourself honestly how much of your passion is still there. Are you willing to continue to invest in the business? Are you still dedicated to helping it grow? Is your level of commitment what is needed for the best interest of the company, or are you beginning to feel checked out? Be pragmatic about the fact that sometimes a change in ownership can be just what the business needed to reach the next level. This might require checking your emotions at the door and embracing the idea that if you love something, you should set it free.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?
3. What is your financial situation?
If you are planning to fully retire after your exit, you need to have the appropriate financial standing in order to either maintain your current lifestyle, live a little larger, or be prepared to scale back somewhat. Because the timing of a sale of a business is so important, you will want to consider how you can take advantage of the right timing to get the maximum value so that it makes for a more prosperous exit for you. Your financial standing is also important if you plan on investing in or starting another business. Do you have the means to do so? And how can selling your existing business contribute to your financial situation to make the next big thing possible? Again, this is where timing and maximum value are critical.

4. Are buyers already interested?
Some businesses are always in demand and may get approached by buyers even if the owner is not interested in selling. And sometimes your business can serve a specific need for an acquirer, such as a competitor, for example. Maybe you didn’t think you were ready to sell. But if people come sniffing around, it may be worth taking an acquisition into serious consideration. Businesses that demonstrate solid growth in recent years will sell faster and for more money. It might just be the right time and you had not realized it. Or maybe even a merger can be beneficial for both the company and your bottom line. Some transactions can be arranged so that you retain a stake in the business but do not need to be as hands on in the daily operation, giving you somewhat of a head start on your retirement without having to go all in when you are not quite ready.

5. Have you talked to an expert?
Are you struggling to answer some of these questions? Talking to an exit-planning expert like an M&A advisor can help you sort things out. Maybe you need help with growing your business, or you have no idea what your options are. Maybe you just need help with insights into the market for the timing of a sale. Reach out to the award-winning team at Benchmark International to start the conversation. Whether you just want to dip a toe in the retirement pool, or you’re ready to dive completely into a sale, we can offer you valuable and even eye-opening perspectives, along with compassion and understanding about how emotional the exit planning process can be.

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How to get the Most out of your M&A Adviser

You’re selling your business and thinking about hiring an M&A adviser, but you’re unsure of the best way to get the most out of them, and what exactly they can do for you.

The below discusses how to get the most out of your M&A adviser, ensuring the most successful exit strategy for you.

 

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

 

Communicate your goals.

Sellers each have their own goals of what they want to get out of their exit strategy, whether that be achieving maximum value, ensuring staff remain, or ensuring they remain with the company post-sale. Make sure that these are communicated with your M&A adviser to get the most out of them, as they can tailor the process to your needs.

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Benchmark International’s Myth-Busting Guide to M&A

For even the most experienced business people, selling a business can be a new phenomenon as it is something that most people do just once. From this, myths about the M&A process are created, which come to be believed as facts.

The below discusses the most common myths when selling a business, and the truth behind them.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

The asking price is what I will receive.

As with buying a home it’s unlikely the price that you put it on the market for is what you will get, whether that be when you receive the initial offer, or when the surveys have been undertaken. When selling a business, the same can happen – buyers will view the asking price as subject to negotiation. After this, the buyer may then try to negotiate again once they have performed their due diligence on the company.

At Benchmark International, offers are on a ‘Bids Invited’ basis. This prevents a buyer viewing the asking price as something that can be negotiated. When it comes to due diligence, the buyer may try to renegotiate the initial price agreed, but Benchmark International will negotiate with the buyer on your behalf with your best interests in mind.

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Key Steps For Successful Post-Merger Reorganization

Reorganization is an important part of a merger or acquisition integration process and should be done properly to ensure a shared vision and a smooth transition in the desired timeframe. Unfortunately, research shows that it is not uncommon for this process to take longer than expected because the integration plan was not appropriately focused on the culture, the people, the leadership, and the ultimate goals. Business leaders that employ a solid integration strategy during M&A are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes.

According to research:

  • A mere 16% of merger reorganizations fulfill their objectives in the planned time
  • 41% take longer than expected
  • In 10% of cases, the reorganization harms the newly-formed business

Create a Profit and Loss Statement

First, think about the benefits, costs, and timing of the reorganization. Costs will include employees, advisors, and consultants, but costs will also be incurred in the form of disruption to the business. The last thing you want is for the company’s performance to suffer and for key staff to leave. Setting detailed business targets for reorganization based on the length of the transaction process and its impacts can make a significant difference in the productivity and growth of the company.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

The due diligence process of an M&A deal will reveal a great deal about the business’s strengths and weaknesses, but it is important to make sure no stone goes unturned. You can get a more complete picture by talking to current and former employees, and simply searching the Internet for third party research to see what anyone would read about you when looking up your company. Both internal and external perspectives are important. Armed with these insights, you can then create a plan regarding which areas need your focus based on whether it is a merger or a full buyout. In the case of a merger, both sides will need to have the same informed view of strengths and weaknesses in order to address any issues, streamline the process, reduce costs if necessary, and essentially improve performance.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Create a Reorganization Team

Designate a team of representatives from various levels of management and departments to handle communication and ensure that the needs of each department are heard throughout the transition. This will help employees feel included, minimizing the risk of losing key talent. It will also help you avoid overlooking key details, will help to keep the process more orderly, and will help you address any issues quickly.

Evaluate Your Options

When creating a reorganization plan, consider all of the possibilities within both companies’ methodologies. Any solution is going to have pros and cons, so you will need to assess which alternative is best for your business and achieving your vision. In order to create synergy, you will need to examine both of the organizations’ structures, business processes, management, staff, culture, capabilities, technology, safety processes, and anything else that makes the day-to-day operations run. In a merger, you are ultimately faced with creating a shared culture, and this means ensuring that every aspect of the business is aligned to make this possible. People are people, and if they are not informed of a clear plan and their role in it, it is nearly guaranteed that it will lead to confusion. Figure out the best way to allocate tasks and processes by communicating with the new leadership team about all of the possible options and determining the best structure together.

Get the Previous Steps Right

You have worked so hard to build your business. Reorganization is complicated and you owe it to yourself, your stakeholders, and your staff to get the process right. Of course, you should anticipate hurdles to crop up along the way. Sometimes in M&A deals, certain information does not become available until late in the process. Nearing the end of a deal, you should reassess all the previous steps outlined above to verify that they are solid and decide if anything needs to be modified. This does not mean you need to turn everything on its head if you uncover an issue. By encouraging leadership to inform you of any snags in the new company and addressing them quickly, you can get ahead of major problems.

Enlist an M&A Expert

Please contact our world-class team at Benchmark International to discuss how the right merger or acquisition could benefit your business.

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2020 Global Outlook For The Marketing Sector

In a world of billions of connected smart devices, digital technology has essentially revolutionized the global marketing industry. From social media to content marketing, the market is massive and poised for continued growth.

The traditional ad agency model now includes a major focus on digital marketing, and digital marketing agencies continue to become more prevalent and provide a wider range of strategic services and specialized areas. And more and more companies outside of the advertising and marketing industry are also developing their own in-house digital marketing arms. 

In 2019, the global digital marketing market size was $300-310 billion. It is expected to grow to $360-380 billion in 2020.

On a global scale, the market size per region is:

  • $110-130 billion for North America
  • $120-130 billion for Asia Pacific
  • $48-52 billion for Europe
  • $6-10 billion for the Middle East/Asia

Online videos and mobile ad spending account for a large portion of the digital advertising space and continue to drive digital marketing spending, especially in Europe and North America. Digital out-of-home media is becoming more personalized and contextually relevant through targeted ad delivery, and location-aware and bandwidth-aware tech tools. And with the increasing emergence of 5G technology in 2020, phone streaming will reach incredible speeds and higher quality, opening up new possibilities for marketers. 

Content Marketing

2020 will be a big year for content marketing in several different forms. User-generated content will be in demand as the majority of consumers report that they find the opinion of users to be more influential than content promoted by the actual brand. This content includes anything from social media posts and blogs to web pages and testimonials.

Another huge component of content marketing is video content creation. More consumers are expecting to see video content from their favorite brands. Video also keeps audiences engaged for more time versus other types of content. Live streaming is also a growing trend, as consumers are reporting that they would prefer to watch live video than read a blog post.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Social Media

Marketers are forecasted to spend $112 billion on social media advertising in 2020. 

Globally, North America continues to dominate ad spending in this digital marketing sector, with the retail industry as the leading ad spender in the United States. While search remains a preference of retail marketers, video, social media, and other display formats are growing in demand to increase brand visibility. Digital ad spending in the Asia Pacific region has surpassed that of Europe, with growth driven by China due to increasing investments on technology and digital platforms. The automobile, consumer goods, and telecom sectors are the leading marketing spenders in the country.

Print

Digital marketing has had a large impact on the commercial print side of the industry. This is causing service providers to offer more innovative value-added services such as data management and e-publishing. The demand for print services is largely driven by the retail, financial, publishing, and food and beverage sectors, especially for on-demand print materials, packaging, and other promotional materials. Additionally, increased digitalization and eco-friendly practices (such as using soy ink vs. petroleum-based ink) have lessened the printing industry's impact on the environment. Increased digitization will continue to result in more e-versions of print, such as annual reports and catalogs, and use of more online targeting channels such as email.

Direct Mail

The size of the global direct mail market is expected to reach $94–98 billion in 2020. The use of direct mail remains high in developed regions such as North America and Europe due to comprehensive customer database maintenance. At the same time, the increased use of e-mail and mobile marketing is lessening the demand for printed direct mail materials. In smaller markets that have lower Internet penetration, such as parts of Latin America and the Middle East, the direct mail sector remains strong with demand being driven by retail, travel, and real estate. To remain competitive, direct mail providers are offering e-mail marketing and other digital marketing services at lower prices.

Loyalty Programs

The global market for loyalty programs continues to grow due to increasing e-commerce, smartphone use, and online shopping customer behavior. The retail, financial, consumer, and food and beverage industries drive the demand for loyalty services, digital rewards programs, analytics, and business intel used for customization.

Mergers & Acquisitions

M&A activity regarding digital marketing and advertising agencies has high potential due to growth and high fragmentation within the industry. Traditional ad agencies and private equity firms target companies that offer solid growth opportunities. As digital advertising revenues increase, so does the global demand for more online content in an ever-connected world. Digital capabilities and relationships are a priority for traditional agencies and their holding companies as they have a need to grow their digital revenue and expand their portfolios.

Thinking About Selling?

At Benchmark International, our award-winning team of M&A experts would love to hear from you and discuss how we can help you grow your business or sell your company for maximum value. Feel free to contact us at your convenience.

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The Value Of An M&A Advisory Firm

When selling a lower to middle-market company, enlisting the guidance of an experienced mergers and acquisitions advisory firm can make a world of difference in the transaction’s outcome for several important reasons.

  • Having an M&A advisory firm act as an intermediary in a transaction increases the chances that a deal will be closed successfully. In fact, some buyers are willing to pay more for a business when an M&A firm is involved because they know there is a higher chance of closing.

According to a large study by the University of Alabama, private sellers receive between 6% and 25% higher acquisition premiums when they retain M&A advisors.

  • When you work with an M&A firm, it demonstrates to buyers that you are truly committed to the sale process and that your valuation expectations have been properly vetted. 
  • Having an M&A team in your corner will save you a great deal of time and effort regarding complicated tasks such as due diligence, company valuation, and data management. Even simple transactions require a burdensome amount of due diligence regarding real estate, software, employment, benefits, accounting and legal issues. There are also many standard pre-closing tasks that must be completed in a timely manner and can affect the success of a transaction.
  • M&A experts already know all the possible deal breakers and how to avoid them, giving you a major advantage in the market and protecting you from pitfalls.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

  • You will attract a greater number of serious buyers because you have access to the M&A firm’s global connections. And when you have drawn the interest of several buyers, you are more likely to get more for your company. If you sell your business on your own, experienced buyers know they can get away with offering you a lower price.
  • A truly effective M&A firm will use proprietary technologies and databases to review the market for matches regarding the size, industry and geography of your company.
  • Experienced M&A advisors know how to protect your confidentiality through the entire process. Confidentiality is critical because if information is leaked, it can not only derail a sale but also have a negative effect on crafting another potential deal.
  • A quality M&A team will have the capability to build a strong marketing strategy and create materials to attract suitable and quality acquirers for your company.
  • Another important task that an M&A firm will handle is third-party research. Buyers will immediately seek out negative information on a company that is on the market. A good M&A team will create a strategy to mitigate any potential negative impacts.
  • The right M&A advisory firm will take the time to fully understand your objectives and aspirations and will be committed to making sure that the process is tailored to your needs and that you find the right fit. They will also work to keep eager buyers at arm’s length when you need more time to make decisions, understanding that selling your company is an emotional task and you deserve support and empathy along the way.

Work With the Best

Reach out to our world-renowned M&A experts at Benchmark International to discuss how we can help your business achieve its ultimate sale potential. You can trust that our objectives are aligned with yours, and that we will provide you with the most amount of information possible while protecting you from making rushed decisions. Simply put, your best interests are our best interests.

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Why You Should Spend More Time Thinking About Selling Your Company

Selling your company might be the farthest thing from your mind right now. But there are several reasons that thinking about selling now can make all the difference later, especially for lower and middle-market business owners. Proper exit planning can take years, so getting started increases your chances of selling for maximum value. It also puts you on the right track to fulfilling your aspirations and realizing your vision for the future.

1. Start Making Your Business More Valuable

Whether you want to sell this year or five years from now, you will need to take every step necessary to drive up your company valuation prior to a sale. An endeavor this important is not going to be accomplished overnight. Consider what you can do to improve the business and make it more attractive to buyers. Implement a well-defined strategy to create growth and improve profitability. Hone your marketing plan. Think about how you can make the company more efficient. An experienced M&A advisor can help you craft the right tactics to accomplish all of these goals and get your exit plan moving in the right direction.     

2. Know Your Number

Part of a smart exit plan includes knowing what your business is actually worth and at what price you will be comfortable selling it. This means you will need to know how your company stacks up in the current market in your industry and what the market conditions are expected to be in the next several years based on expert M&A knowledge and analysis.

3. Know Your Buyer

Not all buyers are the same. They can be financial, strategic, or even internal. If you take the time to figure out the right kind of investor for your company, you can spend your time and energy taking the steps to maximize the business’s value based on that type of buyer. For a financial buyer, you will need to focus on cash flow, revenues, and management. For a strategic buyer, you will want to concentrate on profits, innovation, market share, and brand strength. Finally, an internal buyer will look for things such as strong financials and balance sheets, a positive culture, and product diversity. An experienced M&A advisory firm can help you identify the right buyer for you, and give you exclusive access to prospective buyers that you will not find on your own.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

4. Get Your Records in Order

When the time comes to put your company on the market, you are going to need to have all of the proper documentation organized and accounted for. This includes all of the financial documentation, tax records, profit and loss statements, legal contracts and client records from the past few years. Buyers tend to place more value on businesses that can provide comprehensive records that paint the most accurate picture of the company’s health and future potential. You will want to be honest in this process. Do not try to fudge the numbers or hide issues. The buyer’s due diligence team is going to uncover anything that you attempt to cover up, which can lower the purchase price. Disclose the truth from the beginning and you’ll be in a better position to overcome any challenges, plus, the buyer will be more confident in acquiring your business.  

5. Keep Your Eye on the Business

Running a company is already a massive responsibility, and the process of selling a company is a significant undertaking all of its own. You need to remain focused on your daily operations without being so distracted by a sale that it has a negative impact on the business. Enlisting the help of M&A deal professionals to handle the sale can take the pressure off of you and keep your business on course. Remember, the process can take several years, and that is quite a bit of time for you to be unnecessarily preoccupied, putting the health of your company at stake. 

6. Have a Plan

You have worked so hard to build your business and you have earned the right to dream about your future. To get there, you have to ask yourself the right questions. Are you ready to retire? What is your target retirement age? Do you want to purchase or get involved with another business? What level of lifestyle will you need to maintain? Will someone in your family be taking the reins? Do you want to retain a small level of involvement? If you know what you expect from your future, you will be less likely to get cold feet at selling time. It’s also important that you appear confident about a sale so that buyers do not feel that you cannot be taken seriously. Knowing your vision for the future is a critical step in making your dreams a reality. As Warren Buffet once said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

Let’s Discuss Your Options

If you are thinking about selling your company, now is the time to start considering your options regarding timing, exit planning, and market value. Contact our M&A geniuses and let Benchmark International help you map out a future that is in the best interest of you, your family, and your company.

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Tips For Transitioning A Company's Leadership

One of the keys to creating value in lower to middle market mergers and acquisitions is the plan for successfully transitioning the leadership of the company. Maximizing value hinges largely upon a solid succession plan that empowers the new CEO to take the reigns, maintain stability, and lead the business into the future.

Finding the right person to assume leadership is important to the company in several capacities, but there are reasons that it will be personal to you as a business owner who cares greatly about the company you have worked so hard to build. The new CEO should actually care about the company and its employees. They should have a proven track record at getting things accomplished versus a history of being asleep at the wheel. And they should leave you with a high degree of confidence that they are going to do the right thing so that you are not left worrying about the fate of the company and whether you made the right call.

As a founding CEO planning your exit, there are some best practices you can follow in your process to find the right candidate and make a seamless transition in leadership and avoid a succession gone wrong.

Consider Structure and Timing
Initially, there are three important factors to determine the circumstances for the incoming CEO. Are they from inside or outside the company? Will they assume the role immediately or work alongside you for a period of time? And will you maintain a presence in the company as chairman or as an advisor? The answers to these questions will affect the transition process.

Get an Executive Search Expert
Do not underestimate the importance of enlisting the help of a quality external executive search professional. They should have proven experience that gives you the confidence that they will identify a replacement that's in the best interest of the company. They should be able to provide certain insights, find candidates that may not be currently known in the market, and prevent the costs associated with the wrong hire. An executive search firm can also save you time, take the burden off of your HR team, and ensure confidentiality through the process.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?



Consider What They Face
Think about the new CEO's first year and what it may hold from a political and cultural perspective, such as a recession. Could there be problematic circumstances that will make it difficult to make leadership decisions and are they equipped to handle them adeptly based on their experience?

Meet Face-to-Face Onsite
An important part of building trust and bolstering success is having the candidate come to the company's headquarters to meet with you and get an in-person understanding of the business and its culture from your perspective and in your own words.

Foster Relationships
The vetting process can benefit from the candidate's development of relationships with the management team to enable shared experiences. A quality candidate is going to value this effort in establishing trust.

If the new CEO is someone from within the company, think about how they will assume their new role and the responsibilities that come with it. Consider the fact that they are now going to be the leader among their former peers. How will they handle this change and how will it impact their relationships?

Look for the Obvious
You surely want a new CEO with whom you have a good relationship, but the most important relationship will be between them and the management team and the employees. So their personality is going to be a big factor in their ability to succeed. How are they under pressure? What is their vision for the future? Are they comfortable with change? Are they motivated to create growth? Are their values aligned with yours? What about their ego? A candidate may look exceptional on paper and have incredible qualifications, but if he or she does not possess the right people skills for your company's culture, it should be a deal breaker.

Are You Planning Your Exit?
If you think it's time to make a move in the best interest of your company, feel free to reach out to our M&A experts at Benchmark International at any time. Our impressive strategies can be the game-changer you are seeking for your future success.

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How Proper Exit Planning Benefits Both Seller and Buyer

Value For Sellers

Proper exit planning is critical for any business owner that intends to sell their company. When you are going to sell, you must know the amount of money that you will need to have on hand in order to make a comfortable exit, which involves assessing your cost of living. You may need to formulate a plan to decrease your annual cost of living, for example, by downsizing your living arrangements or selling unnecessary luxuries such as cars, boats, or vacation properties.

Selling a company is a complicated venture. There are complex considerations from financial, legal, tax, estate, operational, personal, family, and legacy perspectives. Having professional assistance from a reputable M&A advisor can help you navigate these matters and ensure that nothing is overlooked. They can also help to make the process less stressful and give you peace of mind that your exit plan is a sound one. They will also help you maximize the value of your business in a sale and prevent you from making costly mistakes.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Also, once you know your number, you can take steps to increase the profitability of the business and make it more attractive. The more marketable your company is, the more prospective buyers you will entice, and they will be higher quality buyers. Another reason that having a solid exit strategy in place will make your company more appealing to buyers is because it shows them that you are serious and have been smart about how you run your business.

There are several options for your exit strategy. You can sell to an outside buyer, sell to an inside buyer, do a partial sale, pass the company onto family, or liquidate the business altogether or over time. Astute exit planning can help you figure out which course of action is right for you.   

Value For Buyers

Exit planning simply primes a business for easier transfer in ownership. An acquirer wants to know what they are getting into regarding how the business will operate after the sale.

  • How involved will they need to be?
  • How much work will be required on their part to grow the business?
  • Will existing customers and clients remain in the relationship?
  • What is the state of the management team and will it remain in place?

A buyer is going to prefer to take on a business that will continue to run seamlessly through and after the transaction.

 

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

 

Smart for Everyone

When done properly, exit planning gives the seller a clear plan for their retirement and mitigates risk for the buyer so that both parties can feel good about closing a deal. The entire process is about setting concrete goals and following a timeline to keep your exit plan on track so that you can exit on your own terms. Failure to have this plan in place can result in disastrous circumstances, such as:

  • Being forced to sell at an unfavorable time by unexpected events
  • Having your business undervalued and leaving money on the table in a fire sale
  • Wasting time and money on transactions that fail
  • Failing to fulfill your retirement goals
  • Burdening family with matters they are unprepared for and undercutting your legacy
  • Paying more taxes than necessary

Is it Time to Plan Your Exit?

Even if you do not foresee retirement in the near future, it is never too soon to have a plan for the future. It is also extremely prudent and can protect you and your company from unforeseen circumstances. Take the time to do it right. Contact our experts at Benchmark International and begin the conversation about selling your company and your exit plan options. We will work at your pace to achieve your goals and lay out a blueprint for a future that you can feel wonderful about.  

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Why Cultural Synergy Is Imperative When Selling Your Business

When selling a company, of course the numbers are important. You want to obtain the most value in a sale and it can be easy to get caught up in revenue potential and expansion goals. But if you are truly concerned about the completion of a deal and the long-term success of the business, cultural fit between the converging companies is something that should never be underestimated or overlooked. 

M&A Culture Shock

The culture affects everyone in the company, from the CEO and management down to every last employee. Values matter, communication is critical, morale is extremely influential when it comes to productivity, and these topics become even more important in cross-border transactions. Synergy in this respect can directly impact the bottom line of the business. Culture clash can utterly shatter the prospects of the merger or acquisition’s success.Research shows that complementary competencies contribute significantly to the enhanced overall M&A performance.This is why cultural integration must be considered before a deal is done, and why many savvy acquirers have formulas in place to address the fusion of two organizations’ cultures.

 

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What Defines Company Culture?

The culture of a company is typically outlined by certain key factors:

  • How the company defines essential capabilities and competitive strategies
  • The normal behaviors of leadership and staff members
  • The business’s operating model including structure, accountability, supervisory systems, and day-to-day operation guidelines
  • National and regional customs, observances, language barriers, dress codes, work ethics and ideologies  

Talent Retention is Key

Talent is a major factor in the acquisition of a company, as is the retention of that talent. Cultural fit has proven to be a critical factor in the retaining key talent after a sale due to issues related to autonomy and disruption—all things that should be negotiated upon a transaction. Research demonstrates that giving decision-making autonomy to the acquired business can improve integration and overall acquisition performance. Routines, relationships, and processes that are already embedded in a target company’s culture need to be understood by a buyer to avoid potential disruptions and ensure performance that is conducive to success. This can be especially important in the acquisition of high-tech companies.

Studies have indicated that if national and corporate cultural differences are not properly addressed during pre- and post-acquisition integration, it can have disastrous consequences on the overall success of the M&A transaction.

How Cultural Differences Can Actually Help

Cultural differences in cross-border transactions are not always a bad thing. It has been demonstrated that these differences can actually enhance the competitive advantage of the combined firms when cultural integration is properly handled. These benefits include:

  • Access to distinct and valuable capabilities that may be rooted in the different cultural environment
  • Development of deeper knowledge structures
  • Lessened inactivity within the organization
  • Excellent source of learning, innovation and value creation
  • Greater manager involvement in social and cultural factors that are sometimes overlooked in domestic M&As 

“Cultural learning” can change negative stereotypes, create positive attitudes, and improve communication between the two companies. For this process to work, there should be a controlled dispersion of information between parties that enables them to obtain accurate information about each other in a constructive way. This eliminates misconceptions and shines a light on actual differences that can be seen as the best aspects of both cultures.

 

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Culture & the Due Diligence Process

Due diligence is crucial to every M&A deal, and this includes assessment of the cultural factors that may have impacts on the transaction and its success. Some questions to consider include:

  • Does the target company have the right talent to carry out the acquisition strategy?
  • Which team members are essential to continued value?
  • What are potential deficiencies within management that can hinder long-term success?
  • What is the overall cultural compatibility between the two organizations?

Cultural differences that can be deal killers need to be identified as early in the process as possible, keeping in mind that cultural differences can, in some cases, be beneficial. In any case, cultural differences should never be disregarded. Because they are so important to the success of a deal, they must always be evaluated and effectively managed.

Ready to Sell?

If you feel the time has come to sell your company, start the process off right by reaching out to the M&A experts at Benchmark International. Not only will we help you craft a winning exit strategy and use our global connections and proprietary methodologies to find the very best match for an acquirer of your business, but we can also ensure that you achieve cultural synergy before a sale. As a global company, we understand the importance of culture and know exactly what to look for in the alignment of two organizations.

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Don’t Delay Your Exit Strategy

In the latest to happen in the rollercoaster that is Brexit, another delay has been granted to the UK with EU members agreeing to an extension until the 31st January.

Meanwhile, reports from the EU are warning that economies may be falling into a recession with the potential decline in part due to Brexit, with countries particularly struggling when dependent on exports.

Despite this, M&A activity has not halted as there are still plenty of opportunities as it’s a way for companies to grow and develop and dealmakers are always on the lookout for strategic acquisitions. In fact, while dealmakers may be cautious and their timelines may be extended on deals, the uncertainty caused by Brexit has carved opportunities for dealmakers as they are ready to take advantage of factors such as the weak pound sterling making for cheap UK assets. This has resulted in the corporate mid-market remaining relatively robust with last year’s figures at record highs.

Feel like it's a good time to sell?

Therefore, if thinking of an exit strategy the time to act is now before it is too late. Potential recession could be a sign of things to come and while M&A has prospered so far despite Brexit, too many business owners are leaving their planning for Brexit until the last minute to wait for certainty from politicians. If certainty is guaranteed, this could lead to the market becoming saturated once a deal has been agreed or, if uncertainty continues to persist more and more economies could fall into recession – so it’s best to strike while the iron is hot.

Still unsure if now is the best time to sell? Read the below: 

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There is a Buyer for Every Business

“I am in a niche market space.” “Who would want to buy my business?” These are just a couple of the concerns that owners have when putting their business on the market for sale, which often leads them to limit the types of prospective buyers. However, business owners should not limit themselves to one particular type of buyer. The various buyer types often have different acquisition strategies and end goals. Receiving offers from each type enables sellers to explore the best of all options. Investment banks commonly group buyers into three main categories: Strategic, Financial, and Individual.

Strategic Buyer

Strategic buyers are typically the first group that owners will think of when deciding who will have an interest in acquiring their business. These are businesses that are similar to the seller’s and can include competitors. Within this category, horizontally-integrating strategic buyers seek to increase their market share through segment expansion, such as adding new regions, new markets, or a new customer base. This could be a buyer that is located on the opposite side of the country seeking expansion through acquisition to reach a new customer base. On the other hand, Vertically-integrating strategic buyers desire to expand their internal capabilities, such as bringing a portion of the supply chain in-house. For instance, a distributor may be seeking expansion by bringing manufacturing in-house. This allows the company to reduce costs and become less reliant on critical or high-risk suppliers. This works for all levels of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the service provider. A strategic buyer can come in many forms, each with their unique set of goals for a transaction, which will drive deal value.

 

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Financial Buyer

Financial buyers are the next main type of prospects buying businesses. The most common buyers in this category are private equity groups. Private equity buyers seek a return on the invested capital for their investors. A private equity group can bring resources that a strategic buyer may not have access to, such as growth capital, strategic management resources, and new growth opportunities. While some of these groups aim to grow the business for a period and then resell the expanded operations for a gain, others seek to buy and hold, with no plans to resell. Typically, these buyers will invest in industries where they have experience and can bring new ideas and opportunities to a business. Sellers often think that private equity groups only look at very large businesses to acquire but that is not the case. Private equity buyers often seek add-on acquisition of all sizes. The add-on can be any business that has synergies with their larger platform companies, which can expand operations, geographic coverage, or fill small gaps in the portfolio. For example, a private equity firm that has a large HVAC platform business may add on several smaller HVAC companies throughout the supply chain. The private equity buyer that is adding on to an existing platform has similar operations in place and can therefore be thought of as both a financial and strategic buyer.

Individual Buyer

The third category of buyers that play a role in the M&A community is an Individual Buyer. These buyers seek businesses to own and sometimes also to operate. Individual buyers span all industries and have various goals for the acquisition. There are many ways an individual can finance a transaction, including high net worth, commercial bank loans, SBA loans, and investment sponsors. When the individual buyer is an entrepreneur that uses funds from investors in order to search for, acquire, and personally operate one company, this is referred to as a “Search Fund” model.  Search Fund investment vehicles often have several operators, sometimes referred to an entrepreneur in residence, simultaneously seeking businesses in which they can take a day-to-day leadership role. The goals, value propositions, synergies and valuations of this buyer group varies significantly, and can often produce the best cultural fit for a departing seller.

There are companies, investors, firms, and individuals, both domestically and internationally, seeking to acquire businesses in all industries and of all sizes. Likewise, sellers have varied goals for a transaction and no single buyer type is guaranteed to align with those goals. There are countless prospective buyers and, by considering all types, a seller and his or her broker will uncover the right buyer.

 

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Contact Us

Contact Benchmark International today if you are ready to sell your company, grow your company, or explore your M&A strategies. Our team of M&A experts will guide you every step of the way and will make you feel at ease that you are going to get the best deal possible.

 

Author
Nick Woodyard
Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: woodyard@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Why You Shouldn’t Wait For The New Year To Sell Your Company

A new year always conjures up the feeling that it’s a clean slate, so that may seem like a good time to take your business to market. And, yes, timing is everything, but waiting for the new year could mean that you miss out on the opportunity to get the maximum value for your business.

Get Ahead of Economic Uncertainties

No one can say for sure what the state of the global economy will be next year. But we do know what it is NOW. These are certainties that we know, understand, and can work within. We know what M&A strategies can be advantageous today based on the level of:

  • Buyer demand
  • Bank generosity
  • Current valuations
  • Tax breaks
  • Interest rates
  • Retiring competitors
  • Inflation
  • Political unrest

It is not uncommon for business owners to want to postpone a sale with hopes that they can sell at a higher price in the future. This can be a dire mistake. 

 

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Waiting too long could mean that you end up trying to sell during a recession, a down cycle, or under other unfavorable circumstances that result in you not getting all that your company is truly worth. It can also mean that if you miss out on your ideal window of opportunity, you may have to wait five to seven years for such an opportunity to arise again.

Take Advantage of a Seller’s Market

What may be a seller’s market today, can just as easily become a buyer’s market tomorrow. If you decide to wait, you could end up losing your upper hand as a seller. There are millions of business owners that are approaching retirement age and if there is an influx of these sellers onto the market, it can result in increased competition and buyers will enjoy having their pick of the litter. That also means lower valuations for your company. You can easily get out in front of this scenario by not hesitating to start the process.

According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 Baby Boomers will celebrate their 65th birthday every day through the year 2030.

Act Early for a Patient Process

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to selling a company. Ironically, getting into the sale process sooner rather than later will afford you the ability to be patient through the process. If you wait too long and end up in a situation where you are panicking to sell your company, buyers will sense your desperation and will try to low-ball you on a deal. By demonstrating to buyers that you have been carefully considering and planning for this, rather than appearing to just “want out” without an exit or succession plan, it will likely increase your sale price. 

 

Feel like it's a good time to sell?

 

Test the Market

Maybe you are feeling too uncertain about selling now. Keep in mind that you can always test the market. Prepare your company for sale, put it out there, and see what kind of offers you get. You might find that there is interest in your company that you were not aware of, and eager buyers might come to the surface, surprising you with offers that are hard to turn down. In the case that the offers are lower than what you were hoping for, you can simply take the company of the market for the time being and wait for a better time.

Ready to Talk?

The process of selling a business can take several months. Even if you are simply considering a sale, reach out to one of our M&A advisors at Benchmark International to start the conversation. We can help you get a better understanding of the market timing, if you feel that you are ready to sell, and what exit strategy is right for you. We also understand that you have worked hard to build your business, and parting with it is going to be an emotional process. That is why we always work in the seller’s best interest, working relentlessly to arrange a deal that is the absolute very best for you and your family and with which you feel truly comfortable.

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How A Sovereign Credit Downgrade Might Impact M&A Activity

While still managing to avoid a downgrade in April, South Africa has found itself at a crossroads of uncertainty since Moody’s Investors Service’s bleak budget reaction that sparked junk status fears for the country.

The speculation about the credit downgrade has been amplified by the fact that South Africa is in the middle of an election year – a factor that has also been blamed for a decrease in foreign investors’ confidence in the South African market.

An analysis of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity pre-and-post downgrades in Brazil and Greece suggest that although foreign investment will not end, investors do adapt their investment portfolios to align to the parameters of their investment mandates. 

Government bonds and treasury securities become largely un-investable instruments post a sovereign downgrade. However, statistics suggest that while capital outflows are a reality, some funds do remain behind in these countries, and new funds do flow in. These investments will naturally seek viable and alternative high-return investment opportunities – options often presented by M&A. One theory that emerges from this analysis is that mature economies have more stable but lower growth rates. While developed economies also represent a seemingly lower risk, they do not offer sufficiently high returns.

In order to achieve the required overall return on investment in a risk-on environment following a credit downgrade, fund managers will inevitably still require some form of investment in emerging markets.

 

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In order to understand the impact a credit downgrade has on M&A activity in a country, we compared M&A activity as reported by Zephyr, a Bureau van Dyk company that offers a database of deal information.  

We compared M&A activity before and after a credit downgrade in Brazil, which has a similar economy to South Africa due to slow growth and political instability in both countries, as well as in Greece. The raw data suggests that a catastrophic capital flight is unlikely because the sums invested may be lower and the investment profiles between the countries are different. But opportunity abounds and returns remain strong as there exists a direct correlation between risk and reward.

According to Trading Economics, Moody’s was the first to downgrade Brazil in September of 2014 for political and economic reasons. Fitch Ratings followed suit with a downgrade in April 2015. In July 2015, S&P downgraded the country too.

The Bureau van Dyk / Zephyr data looked only at transactions where the targets were Brazilian companies and considered deals that were both completed and announced each year. The transactions analysed include mergers, acquisitions, institutional buy-outs as well as venture capital and private equity.

It is evident from the data that the volume of transactions was relatively flat after the first downgrade by Moody’s in 2014. The volume of transactions decreased by approximately one-third after the remaining agencies downgraded the country in 2015.

While the total value of transactions reported also decreased, it is evident that the average transaction value in 2017 was similar to 2015.  For example, the average value per transaction in 2015 was R973 million and R929 million in 2017. On a cursory view, transaction values held up well after the Moody’s downgrade.

Analysing the data for Greece, which was downgraded in 2010, the following graph illustrates the effect on both volume and values reported by Bureau van Dyk over a similar period to Brazil.

The data illustrates a clear downward trend in M&A deal values over the period of the financial crisis in 2008, 2009 and well into 2010. While there was an initial slump in volumes and a slight decrease in value immediately after the downgrade in 2010, it is only 2017 that has subsequently underperformed the deal values as they were similar to levels seen in 2010. Again, the average deal size in the period following a downgrade is shown to have increased.

In conclusion

The data analysed makes no currency or inflation-related adjustments. And the data, being Euro-denominated, indicates that the M&A sector remained resilient even after credit downgrade events.

Although Moody’s did not downgrade South Africa to junk, the data from Greece and Brazil does indicate that deal flow will not evaporate should this happen. Volumes may initially drop but average deal values can be expected to increase.

While we continue to work to avoid it and acknowledge the punitive impact thereof, the statistical reality is that a downgrade is not likely to be as detrimental for the M&A sector as otherwise perceived.

 

Author
Andre Bresler
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +27 (0) 21 300 2055
E: bresler@benchmarkintl.com

 

 

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The Ultimate Glossary of Terms for a Mergers & Acquisitions Transaction

If you are a seller or buyer that doesn’t have a lot of experience in the world of M&A, it can be frustrating and confusing trying to understand the terminology that is used. As much as we try not to confuse our clients, it is many times more efficient to use the specialized terms of the profession. To help, we have put together a list of common M&A terminology that we hope will assist you and make the process smoother if you are buying or selling a business.

Acquisition: One company takes over the controlling interest or controlling ownership in another company.

Add-On Acquisition: A strategic acquisition fit for an existing platform/portfolio company.

Asset Deal: The acquirer purchases only the assets (not its shares) of the target company.

Confidential Information Memorandum: Sometimes called “the book,” pitchbook or a deck, the Confidential Information Memorandum is a description of the business including products, history, management, facilities, markets, financial statements and growth potential. This is used to market the business to potential buyers.

 

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Data Room: Secure online website that contains information including contracts, documents, and financial statements of the business being sold. These online data rooms can track who views the information.

Deal Structure: May include seller debt, earn outs, stock, or other valuables besides cash.

Due Diligence: Part of the acquisition process when the acquirer reviews all areas of the target business to satisfy their interests. This includes viewing the internal books, operations, and internal procedures.

Earn-Out: A type of deal structure where the seller can earn future payments based on certain achievements or the performance of the business being sold after the closing. These are often based on revenue targets or earnings.

EBITDA: Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

Goodwill: An intangible asset that comes as a result of name, customer loyalty, location, products, reputation, and other factors.

Indication of Interest (IOI): A letter from the buyer to the seller that indicates the general value and terms a buyer is willing to pay for a company. The letter is non-binding to both parties.

Letter of Intent (LOI): A document that lays out the key terms of the deal. LOI’s are typically non-binding for both parties except for certain provisions such as confidentiality and exclusivity.

Multiple: Common measure of value to compare pricing trends on deals.

NDA: A confidentiality agreement that prohibits the buyer from sharing the confidential information of the seller. This is usually signed before the seller provides detailed, sensitive information to a buyer.

 

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Purchase Agreement: The contract that contains all the specifics of the transaction and the obligations and rights of the seller and buyer.

Representations and Warranties (reps & warranties): Past or present statements of fact to inform the buyer or seller about the status and condition of their business and its assets, employees, and operations.

Search Fund: This is an individual or a group that is seeking to identify a business that the individual or group can acquire and manage. Usually, search funds do not have dedicated capital but instead, have informal pledges from potential investors.

Teaser: An anonymous document shared with potential buyers for a specific business that is for sale.

Working Capital: A financial term used as a measurement of a business’s ability to meet its financial obligations over the coming business cycle (which is 12 months for most businesses). It is not defined under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). However, it is commonly calculated using this formula: Working Capital = Current Assets – Current Liabilities.

If you are thinking about buying or selling a business, Benchmark International has a team of specialists that can help answer your questions. A simple phone call or email to us can start the process today.

 

Author
Amy Alonso 
Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 615 924 8522
E: alonso@benchmarkcorporate.com

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How & When To Explain To Your Employees That You Are Selling Your Business

You’ve decided to sell your company, but when is the right time to tell your employees? And what is the right way to tell them? The conversation may not be easy, but if you follow a few simple guidelines, you can ensure that you handle it to the best of your ability.

Have a Plan

You should already have an exit strategy in place when you are selling your business, but that is your own personal exit plan. You should also think about how the process will affect employees. Develop a clear timeline of how you expect the deal to progress and when you will meet with your staff about it. You do not want to come across as confused and unsure about the process. The more confident you are in explaining it, the more confident they will be about it being a good plan for them as well. You may also want to consider when to introduce the new owner. By having the staff meet the new boss, you can dispel a great deal of anxiety. The best time to do this is AFTER the deal is done, in the event that the deal falls through. Otherwise, you are introducing them to someone irrelevant, adding confusion and instability. 

Wait Until the Deal is Done

It can be tempting to share your plans with employees early in the process. But if you disclose your plans too soon, you are opening yourself up to risks that can tank a deal. Employees can get scared into finding another job. Vendors and clients can get nervous and jump ship. These are all scenarios that are not in your best interest, as the health of your business is an essential aspect of a sale. By waiting until a deal is in place, you can avoid telling your employees false information when things are still subject to change.

 

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Tell Management First

Depending on the size of your business, you will likely want to inform key management before telling anyone else in the organization. They are going to need to fully understand the transition because you are going to need their support. They can help you maintain clarity when employees go to them with questions. If management is clear on what is going to happen, they can keep employees calm and properly informed.

Be Accessible

Once you’ve made the announcement, you must remain proactive in answering employees’ questions. It can also be important that they hear any news directly from you versus rumors around the water cooler.

Provide Written Communication

By creating a document that outlines pertinent points about the deal and the transition, employees can reference it following the announcement if they do not recall something. It also provides them with something concrete so that you are not leaving details up to their imagination.

Do Not Overpromise

Once you sell the company, you will no longer have control over what happens in the day-to-day business operations. It is important to express to your employees that you care about their futures and that you took the proper steps of protecting them when brokering the deal with the new owner. However, you want to avoid making promises that you will not be around to honor.

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5 Things Sellers Wish They Had Known Before Selling Their Business

You’ve decided to sell your business. Congratulations! Whether you are retiring, looking to embark on a new business adventure, or wanting to hand off the reins and take a different role in the company, the process of selling a business can be a trying one without the correct preparation and support. Fortunately for you, you can learn from other entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes and have shared the five things that they wish they had known before selling their business.

1) Neglecting to perform pre-transaction wealth planning can result in you potentially leaving a lot of money on the table. Before you sell, consider your family members’ wishes and concerns. Communicating with family members before the sale can help ensure smooth sailing through the deal negotiations. Effective tax-planning to support family members’ needs, philanthropic plans, or creating family trusts can help increase the value gained from the transaction.

2) Don’t underestimate the importance of a good cultural fit with a buyer. While the price is always at the forefront of a sellers’ mind, cultural fit can mistakenly be pushed to the back burner. One of the many things that you have worked hard to create in your business is the employee culture. Most likely, you want to see the close-knit “family” that you have built continue when you are no longer working there. Benchmark International understands that and will help you find that partner. We remain committed along with you to your goal of finding a buyer who will carry on your legacy.

 

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3) Skimping on your marketing materials does not pay off in the long run. With confidentiality being of the utmost importance, how can you engage buyers without them knowing who you are? Preparing a high-quality, 1-2 page teaser that provides an anonymous profile of your business is the tool used to locate a buyer confidentially. This is followed by the Information Memorandum, with an NDA that is put in place for your protection. Benchmark International will prepare these high-quality documents and put your mind at ease.

4) Sellers wish they had known how detail-oriented the process would be, how many documents would be needed, and how labor-intensive each phase would be. One of the most crucial pieces of advice that the majority of sellers wish they had known is that you need to have a team. Sellers need to continue running their business as they were before, or operations can really start to slow. The last thing you want is for the value of your company to take a nosedive because you are investing all of your time into a transaction. With the team at Benchmark International as your partner dedicated to the M&A process, you will be free to continue to focus on the growth and operations of your business. We will handle the details for you.

5) Finding a like-minded partner can give a seller a false sense of security that the transition from two companies to one will be easy. You need a trusted advisor that will help you navigate the complexities of integration, giving you insight on some of the other intangibles that need to be negotiated. Those intangibles include the details of your role after the sale, employment contracts, earnouts, etc. With Benchmark International’s vast knowledge and experience in M&A deals, we know what is usual and customary to request throughout the negotiation process and will bring more value to your transaction.

Congratulations again, this is an exciting time for you! With the right partner, it can be a smooth and profitable process as well. Benchmark International has a team of specialists that arrange these types of deals every day. We can answer your questions and help you determine what is best for you, your business, and your exit plan. A simple phone call or email to us can start the process today and move you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

 

Author
Amy Alonso 
Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 615 924 8522
E: alonso@benchmarkcorporate.com

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15 Smart Tips On Exit Planning

15. Decide the Company's Future

Before planning your exit strategy, you must decide the future course for your business. Do you plan to sell outright? Would you prefer that the company stay within family ownership? Do you want to retain a percentage stake in the company? Is there an employee that you would want to take over? Could a merger or an acquisition be the best move? This is a key decision to consider before embarking on your exit plan.

14. Set a Date

It's never too early to think about when you plan to retire. This need not be an exact date on the calendar, but you should establish a ballpark timeframe that you would like to put the wheels in motion for your exit. Having an idea of the timing will help you get the process started at the right time, whether it's two years from now or 20 years down the road, especially because most transactions take time.

13. Plan for Continuity

If your business will be changing hands when you retire, you should have a solid plan in place for maintaining the continuity of the company's operation. Both employees and customers alike will need to feel that the future is secure, and you should be able to reassure them through a clear strategy for the transition.

12. Use Diversity to Minimize Risk

The more diversity you have in your client and supplier bases, the more attractive and less precarious your business will be to potential buyers. They are going to need to have confidence that the business can grow, rather than falling apart if the sale results in the loss of one or two key clients.

11. Think Big Picture

It is not uncommon for a business owner to get wrapped up in the day-to-day details of running the company to the point where they lose sight of the bigger picture. It is a good idea to take a step back and consider where you want your business to be in the future, how you plan to get it there, and when your exit fits into that plan.

 

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10. Create Your Dream Team

Having a strong management team in place is crucial to any successful exit strategy. Whoever is taking the reins is going to be a significant factor whether you are selling the business to an outside party or bequeathing it to family or an employee. It will also help you rest easier about leaving the company in someone else's hands.

9. Get Your Financials in Order

Before you can broker a sale or transfer ownership or control, you will need to organize financial statements, valuation data, and other important documents about the business. If you are planning to sell, buyers will expect to see thorough documentation about the business operations, profits, losses, projections, liabilities, contracts, real estate agreements (pretty much anything and everything regarding the company).

8. Know Your Target

If you plan to sell your company, you are obviously going to want a buyer who has the financial capacity to take on your business. But money is not the only thing that you should be seeking. You want a buyer who shares your values and your vision for the company. They also should possess the right skill set to maintain the company's success and even grow that success. You should not waste your time with a prospective buyer that doesn't have the chops to take the business in the right direction.

7. Always Listen

Even if you feel it is too soon to sell and someone is reaching out to you, it is always wise to hear him or her out. It could result in a meaningful relationship that can be beneficial in the future. They could also reveal some things about your company that you have not yet considered, sparking new ideas and opportunities in the realm of business acquisitions.

6. Devise Practical Earn-outs

If you plan on getting additional payment as part of the sale of your business based on the achievement of certain performance metrics, be realistic about setting these goals. Falling short of these targets can result in less money for you and enhanced leverage for the buyer.

5. Get Your Tech in Order

Today nearly everything is powered by technology. You use it to help you get organized, but you also run the risk of letting things fall through the cracks. Think about all the logins and passwords that give you access to things that run the business. Establish a plan to streamline your tech while keeping it secure for a transition in management. There are enterprise cyber-security management solutions that can assist with these matters.

4. Know Your Number

Have you asked yourself, "What is my business worth?" When you understand the precise valuation of your business, you will be able to ascertain the difference between a fair sale and a bad deal, and get the money you deserve. This includes a company analysis married with a market analysis. You should enlist the help of an M&A expert to determine the valuation of your business accurately. It is worth it to ensure that you get your maximum value.

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

 

3. Put it on Paper

Having the proper paperwork drawn up for legal purposes is important in the event that something were to happen to you so that you can convey your plans and wishes for the business. The task of creating this safety net will also help you plan more clearly for the future. Sometimes there are details you may overlook until you go to put it all on paper. You should outline your plan and make sure any necessary signatures are on file.

2. Assess the Market

Markets fluctuate and can change at any given time. But if you carefully evaluate your industry's outlook and growth projections, you can time your exit strategy for when you can get the most value for your company. If the outlook is not trending toward optimism, you can take the time to consider how you can bolster the value of your business and make it more desirable in the future.

1. Partner With an Advisor

Valuating and selling a company is not easy. Neither is planning an exit strategy. Seeking the help of experts such as an M&A advisory firm can take an enormous weight off of your shoulders. It can also ensure that the exit process goes smoothly, stays on track, and achieves your specific objectives for both you and the company.

Benchmark International can help you establish your exit strategy and broker the sale of your company so that you get every last penny that you are worth. Call us to get the process started. Even if you are not 100% sure that you are ready to plan your exit, we can help you devise strategies to grow your business in the meantime.

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Selling Your Business: Expectations vs. Reality

When business owners begin the process of selling their business, they may have expectations about the sale process. These expectations can be based on what they have read, what their friends have told them, and what their own needs are. However, the reality of selling a business can be very different from the expectations.

Timing

Sellers tend to think that a buyer will appear at their doorstep ready to transact a deal when, in reality, that is not the case. The sale of a business is a very time-consuming process. M&A transactions can take anywhere from 6 months to a few years to complete, pulling a seller away from the company, which can affect the financial performance and valuation of the business. Hiring an M&A advisor can help take some of the time burdens off of the seller.

Buyers

In our experience, it never surprises us who the buyer is at the end of the day. However, many sellers believe that their perfect buyer is international or a larger company. Again, this is not the reality of it. The ideal buyer may be right down the street or even a member of the seller's management team. When considering selling a business, a business owner needs to seek an advisor or sale process which will provide them with options when it comes to buyers. Not only does this drive up valuations, but it also allows the seller to choose the buyer that is the best fit for their company.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Business Condition

Sellers often assume that their business needs to be in the perfect shape to sell it. Sellers will typically share that they want their business to show year over year growth or a more diversified customer base. While these changes might make the business more attractive to the market, buyers buy companies for different reasons. For example, if a buyer is seeking to acquire a company to gain a relationship with a particular company, then that buyer will see a concentrated customer base as a good thing. Also, sellers will work hard to groom their business and miss out on opportunities within the open market. They work for years to grow their business, only to have the market shift and have their business not gain any additional value. The best tie to sell a business is now. We understand what's going on in the market, both from a micro and macro level, and we are not trying to predict the future.


Answer to Questions

The sale process can be very nerve-racking for sellers because of the unknowns. Sellers often expect their advisors and or buyer will be able to answer all of their questions. However, this is not the case. The sale process is just that, a process. Business owners need to go through the process to discover all the answers to their questions. Buyers are eager to get sellers comfortable with deals, integrations, and any other areas of concern for sellers. An M&A Advisor will be able to guide sellers on when they should have answers to their questions. If the answers are unknown, the M&A advisor can help guide the seller to provide comfort based on the advisor's experience.


Deal Structure

A lot of sellers assume that the majority of deals are structured as all cash transactions. All cash transactions mean when the sale closes, the seller will receive his or her money, and the buyer gets the key to the operations, allowing the seller to leave immediately. However, this scenario is a rare occurrence. Typically, a seller is required to remain with the company for 3-5 years to help with transitioning the business. Sellers in lower middle market deals tend to be critical to their company because processes are rarely formalized, and the relationships that sellers hold are key. Given the time frame for a transaction, the buyer will want to incentivize the seller to remain motivated post-closing. To achieve this goal, the buyer will want to structure the deal so that the seller has an interest in the smooth transfer and future success of the business.

 

Author
Kendall Stafford  
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +1 512 347 2000
E: Stafford@benchmarkcorporate.com

 

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Should You Hire An M&A Advisor To Sell Your Business?

That’s an easy answer. YES! You absolutely should hire an M&A advisor to sell your business. Here’s why.

It’s Not Easy

The process of selling a company is guaranteed to be complicated. While an accomplished attorney or accountant can help, you are going to need a true expert intermediary to handle the entire venture if you are serious about selling and getting the best possible deal.

Consider the seemingly endless amount of work that needs to be done.

• Data and documentation must be produced and organized, stretching back several years to a decade. This is going to include financials, vendors, contracts, and so much more. Do not underestimate how overwhelming the paperwork will be.

• Potential buyers will need to be identified and vetted. A good M&A advisor has access to connections and a knowledge base that you would otherwise never have, opening up an entirely new realm of potential buyers. This process will include a fair share of phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings, all of which add up to be very time-consuming.

• You are going to need an experienced negotiator that knows how to maximize your business value and lay the groundwork for getting you what you want. This means knowing how to push a deal forward while providing you with peace of mind that things are on the right track. This also means creating a competitive bidding landscape.

Get Peace of Mind

Selling your business is not a process that should be taken lightly. Countless decisions will need to be made. Consider the reality of what is going to be required and embrace the fact that you cannot shoulder the burden and run your company. Make sure you can sleep at night. Find an M&A advisor that will find you the right buyer, deal with the minutiae, and get the job done—all while sharing your vision for the company, as well as your exit strategy.

They Can Get You More Money

It is also important to note that an M&A advisor is more likely to get you more money. Research shows that private sellers receive significantly higher acquisition premiums when they retain advisors, in the range of six to 25%. Additional research shows that 84% of mid-market business owners who hired an M&A advisor reported that the final sale price for their business was equal to or higher than the initial sale price estimate provided. After all, they know how to value a company properly.

Another benefit of having an M&A advisor is that it shows buyers that you are a serious seller. As a result, hiring an M&A advisor can help drive up your company valuation and get you more favorable terms.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

What to Look for in an M&A Advisor

Enlisting the guidance of the wrong advisor can be disastrous. The last thing you want is to end up in negotiations with someone who does not have your wants and needs in mind at all times. Even worse, they can slow down the process and cost you a fortune. When making this decision, know what to look for:

• You want an advisor that understands you, your company, and what you expect to achieve from the sale.

• Consider their experience in your sector, as well as their geographic connections, and how that can work for your business. Global connections are especially helpful. And do they usually work with businesses that are around the same size as yours?

• They will adequately prepare you and manage your expectations.

• They will work diligently to find the RIGHT buyer, not just the easiest or the richest.

• They should be honest, and you should trust them because they have demonstrated that they are worthy of it.

• Their track record will speak for itself. A quality business acquisition advisor is going to have a proven reputation, client testimonials, credentials, and accolades.

• Also, ask if they use any proprietary technologies or databases and how it helps them gain insight into specific industries.

Take your time in evaluating potential advisors. A good firm will patiently accommodate your process. You are going to be working closely with them through a grueling journey, so you will want to feel comfortable with their team and confident that they will work around the clock to get you the most favorable results possible.

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The Importance of Environmental Due Diligence

We often say here at Benchmark that signing an LOI is the 10% mark of a transaction.  While it’s difficult to support that quantitatively, it’s certainly anecdotally true. Due diligence is an arduous part of the closing process that will either substantiate the terms outlined in the LOI, call for different terms, or reveal such material differences that the deal craters altogether.  Financial, operational, and sales diligence are all givens, but one component that isn’t always conducted is environmental due diligence. While the former three, as examples, are customary and a part of every transaction, environmental is not always a necessity.  If the business is purely a service business, it is increasingly unlikely that a purchaser will seek to conduct environmental due diligence.

However, there are many reasons a purchaser may decide to conduct environmental due diligence. Perhaps, real estate is included in the deal, or maybe the target entity is a manufacturing business that uses various chemicals in the production of a product. Ultimately, the purchaser is seeking to become aware of any pre-close conditions and limit any post close liability. This is a necessary step in the process as finding and assessing potential issues affecting the facilities is imperative to the facility’s overall health and safety for its future employees and customers.  The environmental due diligence audit ensures future regulatory compliance and reduces potential issues as well as future energy and waste costs associated with the property. 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Traditionally, purchasers have sought to go straight to a Phase 1 ESA (Environmental Site Assessment) which we will discuss further below in this article. However, environmental due diligence can be very costly and time intensive. Many environmental consulting firms now offer an Environmental Desktop Report.  This is the most cost-effective tool for evaluating the risk of future property, as it is done without a visit from the environmental consultant on-site to the property.  This assessment is limited and is used as an initial screen of the property to understand the potential environmental liabilities better.  Different types of environmental desktop reports consist of Historical Records and Database Review, Records Search with Risk Assessment, Environmental Historical Reports, and Environmental Database Reviews.  If any documented contamination has been identified from the past and the purchaser feels more comfortable with further inspection of the property’s existing state, the process expands to the previously referenced on-site Phase I ESA. Many times, the Desktop Report is packaged with the Phase I process to streamline.  The Phase I ESA includes a site visit by the Environmental Professional to document the potentially hazardous materials that could exist. Phase I ESA uses historical resources such as local, state, and federal records to identify any past uses and occupants of the property.  Additionally, the purchasing party will conduct interviews with tenants, government officials, as well as nearby businesses. Once all research is complete, the group will prepare a records review to determine if the next steps may be applicable.

If contamination is detected, the viable next step is a Phase II ESA. Phase II ESA is essentially a field investigation that evaluates the impact the hazardous waste had on the property.  Phase II ESA includes Soil Sampling, Groundwater/Surface Water Sampling, Geophysical Testing for Tanks, Drums & Waste Materials, among other tests.  The most frequent substances tested are petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, mold, and asbestos.  After proper testing and concise reporting, a Phase III ESA may be completed to remediate any contamination based on recommendations made during Phase II.  Phase III ESA includes identifying the extent of contamination, determining the amount of material that was impacted by said contaminants, and assessing options available for all parties involved.    

Regardless of the findings, it is very rare that a buyer walks away after conducting and concluding environmental due diligence.  If it makes it past the Phase II ESA, evidently there will be some remediation.  In the very off chance that the contamination is beyond safe and capable remediation, Phase IV ESA will be conducted. Phase IV ESA is quarantine and closure of the site. Think of Chernobyl. It’s not an often occurrence, and one we haven’t seen here at Benchmark.  All in all, it’s helpful to understand this part of diligence, its importance, and level of detail associated with it. Buyers and sellers alike should be as informed as possible, heading into the due diligence.

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9 Ted Talks Every Business Owner Should Watch

1. Globalization Isn't Declining—It's Transforming
Arindam Bhattacharya

https://www.ted.com/talks/arindam_bhattacharya_globalization_isn_t_declining_it_s_transforming

Mr. Bhattacharya is a Boston Consulting Group Fellow, Senior Partner in their New Delhi office, and worldwide co-leader of the BCG Henderson Institute in Asia. Hear his interesting argument as to why globalization is not going extinct but instead is evolving due to cross-border data flow.

2. How to Build a Company Where the Best Ideas Win
Ray Dalio

https://www.ted.com/talks/ray_dalio_how_to_build_a_company_where_the_best_ideas_win

Mr. Dalio is the founder, chair, and chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world. Learn how his strategies helped him create such a successful hedge fund and how you can use data-driven group decision making to your advantage.

3. Why the Secret to Success is Setting the Right Goals
John Doerr

https://www.ted.com/talks/john_doerr_why_the_secret_to_success_is_setting_the_right_goals

In this talk, engineer and venture capitalist Mr. John Doerr discusses the established goal-setting system "Objectives and Key Results," or "OKR," which is currently being used by companies such as Google and Intel.

4. The Global Business Next Door
Scott Szwast

https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_szwast_the_global_business_next_door

Mr. Szwast is the marketing director for UPS, and he has spent 25 years supporting the international transportation industry. In this talk, he explains how the image of global business is misunderstood and why businesses should stop hesitating to consider crossing borders.

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?


5. How to Break Bad Management Habits Before They Reach the Next Generation of Leaders
Elizabeth Lyle

https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_lyle_how_to_break_bad_management_habits_before_they_reach_the_next_generation_of_leaders

Tune in as esteemed leadership development expert Elizabeth Lyle offers a new approach to cultivating middle management in fresh, creative ways.

6. Business Model Innovation: Beating Yourself at Your Own Game
Stefan Gross-Selbeck

https://www.ted.com/talks/stefan_gross_selbeck_business_model_innovation_beating_yourself_at_your_own_game

Mr. Gross-Selbeck is Partner at BCG Digital Ventures, and he has 20 years of experience as an operator and a consultant in the digital industry. In this talk, he discusses the unique aspects of today's most successful start-ups. Also, he shares strategies for duplicating their philosophies of disruption and innovation that can be applied for any business.

7. How the Blockchain is Changing Money and Business
Don Tapscott

https://www.ted.com/talks/don_tapscott_how_the_blockchain_is_changing_money_and_business

Mr. Tapscott is the executive chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute. In this talk, he explains Blockchain technology and why it is crucial that we understand its potential to redefine business and society completely.

8. What it Takes to Be a Great Leader
Rosalinde Torres

https://www.ted.com/talks/roselinde_torres_what_it_takes_to_be_a_great_leader?referrer=playlist-talks_for_when_you_want_to_sta

In this talk, leadership expert Rosalinde Torres describes simple strategies to becoming a great leader, based on her 25 years of experience closely studying the behavior and habits of proven leaders.

9. How Conscious Investors Can Turn Up the Heat and Make Companies Change
Vinay Shandal

https://www.ted.com/talks/vinay_shandal_how_conscious_investors_can_turn_up_the_heat_and_make_companies_change

Mr. Shandal is a partner in the Boston Consulting Group's Toronto office, leading their principal investors and private equity practice. Hear his chronicles of top activist investors and how you can persuade companies to drive positive change.

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How Seller Due Diligence Maximizes Business Value

Selling a company is a momentous life event for any business owner. You have worked hard to build it and want to achieve the highest acquisition value possible when you are ready to sell. To do this, you should be fully prepared for any prospective buyer to conduct rigorous due diligence, which means you should be prepared to do your own.

What is due diligence? A comprehensive appraisal of your business to establish its assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential. 

If you carry out thorough due diligence before putting your company on the market, it will be primed and ready for the buyer to conduct their due diligence process. By being sufficiently prepared, your business is going to appear more attractive to buyers.

Planning Ahead is Crucial

First things first: plan ahead and plan early. Give yourself enough time to optimize the company’s value before putting it on the market. A carefully planned sales strategy is sure to garner better value than what appears to be a hasty fire sale. It is best to wait to sell until you have done everything that you can to maximize your company valuation. When you take the time to position your business attractively for the marketplace, it reduces the odds of a negative outcome.

Start by identifying the key value drivers for your business and how they can be improved. This will help you find obstacles to a sale before a buyer does, and give you time to address any issues. These drivers include:
• Skilled, motivated workforce
• Talented management team
• Strong financials and profitability
• Access to capital
• Loyal and growing customer base
• Economy of scale
• Favorable market share
• Strong products/services and mix of offerings
• Solid vendor relationships and supplier options
• Sound marketing strategy
• Product differentiation and innovation
• Up-to-date technology and workflow systems
• Strong company culture
• Research and development
• Protected intellectual property
• Long-term vision

It is common for buyers to be especially concerned with company culture and existing customer relationships. Make sure your employees and your customers know what to expect and share your vision. If there is misalignment in these areas, it can unfavorably impact the post-sale performance of the company.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?
Why Documentation Matters

Having all your documentation in order, ensuring its accuracy, and putting it all on the table is going to make you a more trusted seller and increase the value of the business. It will also help you avoid constant back-and-forth requests from a buyer, which can be a distraction for you while you’re trying to run a business.

Creating a secure and efficient virtual data room (VDR) for storage and review of documents offers major advantages. A VDR is a secure online document repository that enables efficient collaboration between parties in any location so they may share information at any time during the pre-deal phase. A VDR also makes it easier to compile and verify every document internally and avoid duplicating efforts. Plus, it offers exceptional security to safeguard against confidential information ending up in the wrong hands. Once you have your VDR completed and vetted internally, you can open the files up to outside partners. Overall, the VDR is your secret weapon in making sure all of your documentation is centralized and that you are presenting your company in the very best light.

You can learn more about the documentation you will need to compile here.

Timing is Everything

You want to sell at the right time based on the market, which is always changing. Being adequately prepared to sell means being ready to act when the time is right. And selling at the right time means getting more value for your business.

Something else you must consider is if you are truly ready to sell. This is not the time to be emotional. Once you’ve initiated the sales process, the last thing you want to do is change your mind when buyers are already involved in the conversation. This will give you a reputation of being disingenuous and not being a serious seller, scaring off potential buyers in the future and devaluing your company.

Professional Help is Key

If it sounds like preparing for the sale of your company is an exhaustive undertaking, that’s because it is. But you do not have to do it alone. If you enlist the expertise of a reputable mergers and acquisitions firm, they can lead the way and help you get the most value for your company. A good M&A Advisor will know better than anyone how to steer you through the due diligence process.

They will also know when the market is in the right place for a sale, and give you access to quality buyers that you can trust. It is also important to note that buyers are going to take you much more seriously when you have partnered with a highly regarded M&A firm.

At Benchmark International, we’re here for you. Our experts are ready to partner with you to exceed your expectations and make great things happen.

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On How To Sell Your Business

Once you have decided that the time has come to sell your company, you will want to be as prepared as possible for the endeavor. Being adequately prepared will pave the way for a smoother process, avoid unnecessary delays in the sale, and increase the value of your business. Use this cheat sheet as a guide to get your business ready for what lies ahead.

Know Why You’re Selling

An important part of selling your company is having a clear understanding of why you are doing it.

  • Do you want to exit the business completely and retire?
  • Do you wish for it to be under control by family or an existing employee?
  • Do you hope to retain a stake in the business as part of the sale terms?
  • Do you plan to sell the business to facilitate its growth?
  • Do you aspire to sell the business to fund other ventures?

These questions should all be considered so that you have a clear answer before initiating the sale process. By knowing why you are selling, you can look for the right kind of buyer to suit those needs and establish a clear plan of action.

Compile the Proper Documentation

Any buyer is going to expect to see the facts and figures on your business. The more prepared you are to provide detailed documentation, the more likely they will be to trust you. Items you should compile and have ready for review include:

  • Current and recent profit & loss statements
  • Balance sheets, income statements, and tax returns for at least 5 years
  • Leases and real estate paperwork
  • A business plan
  • A marketing plan
  • Accounts payable and client lists
  • Inventory and pricing lists
  • Insurance policies
  • Non-disclosure/confidentiality agreements
  • An executive summary and detailed profile of the business
  • Employee, customer, vendor, and distributor contracts
  • Outstanding loan agreements and liens
  • Organization chart
  • Letter of intent and purchase agreement

Feel like it's a good time to sell?

Inventory Your Assets

Your assets are a key factor in determining the value of your company, so it is important to have a clear picture of what they are and what they are worth. Create a record of these assets, including:

Physical assets:

  • Business furnishings, fixtures, and equipment, inventory, real estate, automobiles

Intellectual property assets:

  • Trademarks, patents, licensing agreements, trade secrets, and proprietary technology

Intangible assets:

  • Brand equity, business name, and brand identity
  • Processes and strategies
  • Trained employees
  • Loyal clientele
  • Supplier and distribution networks

Enlist the Help of an Expert

Selling a business is a complicated process, and it is not as simple as just gathering the items listed above. This is why most business owners opt to partner with a mergers and acquisitions firm to organize a deal. They do all the work and tend to all the details so that you can focus on running your business and keeping it thriving in the wake of a sale. This includes finding the right buyers, creating a competitive bidding environment, and making sure you get the most value for your company.

Advisors such as our experts at Benchmark International have specialized tools at our disposal that are proven to maximize value for our clients and get desired results. Give us a call and let us put our connections to work for you.

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How to Strike a Work-Life Balance to Improve Your Health

What were the reasons you started your own business? Most likely you wanted to pursue a passion but there are a multitude of other benefits that would tempt anyone to start their own business – from flexible working times to calling the shots. But, have these benefits actually become a reality?

If not, then it might be time to look at your work-life balance. Do you find yourself having no time to spend with your family and doing the things you love? Even worse, do you find that it’s having a detrimental effect on your health? For example, if you are stressed, being overworked can lead to a number of health problems such as stress induced insomnia and heart disease – something that needs to be remedied straight away.

Feel like it's time to slow down?

Here is what you should do to make sure you are balancing work and life without being detrimental to your health:

 

Visit the Doctor

If you are feeling stressed and this is making you feel unwell then it is time to visit the doctor. Nobody likes visiting the doctor and it might be difficult to fit an appointment in around your schedule, but it is best done sooner rather than later – a doctor can tell you if you need to slow down and what will happen if you don’t.

 

Factor in Time for a Healthy Lifestyle

Make sure you schedule time for eating well, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep. Admittedly, it’s easier said than done, but fitting these activities into your day can help you work better and, often, working longer hours doesn’t actually lead to increased productivity, in fact – studies have shown that work performance can improve with a shorter work week.

 

Schedule Some Non-Business Time

Aside from scheduling in time for a healthy lifestyle, you should have some time for leisure activities you enjoy. You can’t work 24 hours a day so try and find time in the evening or weekend to switch off and enjoy other passions in your life to help reduce stress.

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I’ve Had an Offer for my Business – What do I do?

If you’ve received an offer for your business, you have three options – the first being take the offer and sell your business. This is possibly something you have been considering, or it seems too good an offer to refuse; however, you should be cautious in such an event and, if you do want to pursue the offer, make sure you do the following:

Keep the Business Sale Confidential

Confidentiality is very important when it comes to the sale of your business. If it gets out that you are selling your business then this could potentially lose you staff, customers, and suppliers as they could get nervous about an impending sale and the changes that could be in store for them. Therefore, do not discuss anything until a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) has been signed, including whether you are prepared to sell the business.

Make Sure you Stay Focused on Your Business

One of the dangers of the sales process is that it is very time-consuming at the point where you really need to focus on maintaining a good business performance – if business performance dips, then this can give a buyer an excuse to lower their offer.

Need help with a business offer?

In fact, this is not the only situation where a buyer might decide to lower their initial offer. The buyer is under no obligation to actually pay this price for your company until you both sign the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) and there are several reasons a buyer might try and chip away at the offer to try and get your business for a bargain price.

For example, when you have accepted the offer and signed the subsequent Letter of Intent (LOI), the buyer can commence the due diligence process, providing them with access to confidential information such as financial documents and contracts for a specified period of time, typically 30-60 days. There are two related problems with this. Number one is the fact that the due diligence process is time-consuming and a resource drain, which could lead you to take your eye off the business. Number two is the buyer can now look at re-negotiating now they have had a thorough look at the ins and outs of your business.

Therefore, after this huge resource drain, you now have an offer on the table that does not meet your expectations as the buyer has chipped away at the price. Either you still take this less than favourable offer, or you turn away from the deal. While it is your prerogative to do so, you have lost time and valuable resources, you have given information about your company to another party, and you have not had your full focus on the business.

So – what are the alternatives to accepting an unsolicited offer?

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How Do I Know If I’m Ready To Retire?

Retirement is a significant decision that you have waited your entire life to make. Most people retire between the ages of 60 and 70, but everybody faces a different set of circumstances that dictate when they can retire. So how do you know if you are ready?

The most important factor in retirement is whether your financial situation will allow you to do so with security and peace of mind.

Do you have enough money saved? You want to live comfortably and maintain the standard of living to which you are accustomed. The last thing you want to do is retire and then realize you don’t have the means to live the way you are used to and end up having to downsize your dreams.

Are the markets in the right place so that you maximize your investment returns? Maybe your portfolio took a little bit of hit recently. Giving it a little time to recover can be a wise strategy. Consider where the markets are and where they are forecasted to be in the upcoming months. If you time it right, you can make the most of your decision.

Are you debt free? It may not be the smartest move to retire if you still carry debt you must pay, especially if it is significant. Retiring when you are debt free means retiring when you are worry free.

Do you need a plan to cut down on potential expenses? If you have a strong desire to retire but feel that you are not as financially confident as you would like to be, you can devise a plan to reduce your monthly expenses and ease some of the burdens.

Of course, there is more to the decision than just financial factors. You must consider whether you are mentally and emotionally prepared for retirement.

Are you no longer interested in pursuing career opportunities? If you are still hungry to attain work-related goals or you feel that you haven’t achieved everything you set out to achieve, then maybe retirement is not for you just yet. You do not want to retire and then feel that you are missing out or that you didn’t reach your full potential.

Do you find yourself thinking about recreational and social activities more than you are thinking about work? If you find yourself standing on the golf course, wishing you could spend more time there, then it may be a good time to consider retirement. Sometimes getting out before you are completely checked out is in the best interest of you and your business.

Do you have a plan for how you want to spend your time? It is not unheard of for people to retire only to become overwhelmed with boredom and a lack of purpose. Having a plan in place can help you stay busy and feel that you are achieving a new set of goals in life.

If you are retiring with your spouse, are you equally ready and on the same page when it comes to how you will spend your time? If you are in this together, make sure your plan is truly in sync. If one of you wants to travel the globe and the other one just wants to spend time with the grandchildren, there could be a conflict that you didn’t even realize you would have to address. Plan your vision for retirement together.

These are all critical questions to ask yourself when deciding if you are ready for retirement. But there is one more crucial question that you must address.

Do you have an exit strategy for retiring from your business? An exit plan is essential because it ensures that your business will make a successful transition into its next phase of ownership. Also, an exit plan will help you boost the value of your business so that you are prepared to sell at the ideal time.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?
A proven strategy for success regarding exit planning is to partner with a trusted advisor, such as Benchmark International. We can help you find the right buyer, maximize value, and craft a dream exit that leads to a happy and satisfying retirement.

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10 Things Most People Don’t Know About The M&A Process

1. Most M&As Fail
According to collated research and a recent Harvard Business Review report, the failure rate for M&A is between 70 and 90 percent. To effectively complete a deal, there must be a clear strategy and open communication among all parties.

2. Expect Due Diligence
Experienced buyers conduct meticulous due diligence. They want to know exactly what they are taking on, and that includes factors such as obligations, liabilities, contracts, litigation risk, and intellectual property. As a result, sellers should be prepared to provide very thorough documentation.

3. Priorities Change
Your company may be a good strategic fit today, and in a year from now. But people are fickle, and priorities can change, so a good offer today could be a non-existent offer later.

4. Employees Will Have Questions
In any sale of a business, employees are going to have questions about how the transaction will affect them. Also, the buyer will want to know how specific issues are handled. Will there be layoffs? Have confidentiality agreements been signed? What about any stock options? How will management be changed? These are just a few questions that should be anticipated.

5. Don’t Overlook Technology
These days, virtually every industry is impacted by technology. In the M&A process, it is important to think about how IT platforms will be consolidated or integrated, how technological changes can affect inventory, and how cloud management will be used, among many other factors.

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6. M&As Are Often Funded by Debt
Low interest rates on loans encourage M&A. In 2015, acquisition-related loans worldwide totaled more than $770 billion, the most since 2008.

7. Competition Will Result in the Best Deal
The more bidders there are on a sale, the more favorable the conditions are for the seller to negotiate a higher price and better terms. Even if there is only one serious bidder among several, the perceived level of interest can lead to brokering a better deal.

8. Synergy is a Must-Have
For an M&A deal to succeed, vision and strategy need to be synergized at the executive level and communicated to all management. M&As can fail due to a misalignment of vision for the culture, the industry, each company’s role, and more. The cultural fit of two companies can be crucial to how successfully they meld.

9. It Can Take Awhile
From beginning to end, most mergers and acquisitions can take a long time to be completed, usually in a period of around 4 to 12 months. The length of time depends on how much interest the seller has generated and how quickly a buyer conducts due diligence.

10. You Need an M&A Advisor
An experienced M&A advisory team can help ensure that the complex process of selling or buying a company goes smoothly, addressing all of the issues mentioned above on this list.

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9 Surprising Stats About Buying or Selling a Business

Are you considering buying or selling a privately held business? Below are a few stats that you might find surprising:

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The Importance Of Succession Planning

As a business owner, have you given any consideration to your succession plan?

It is important to note that a succession plan is not the same as an exit plan, but rather an element within an exit plan. Succession planning is focused on the interests of the business when an owner departs and another takes over. Exit planning is focused on the interests of the business owner, with succession just being one aspect in the overall plan.

It is actually quite common for small business owners to not have a succession plan, or even an exit plan, in place. Regardless of whether you have no plans of retiring anytime soon, the future is unpredictable, and having a solid, documented strategy in place can be crucial to the health and fate of your business. You will want to be ready for any scenario or opportunity that comes along.

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