It is natural to wonder whether it's a good idea to sell your business during a pandemic. Are there fewer buyers willing to take risks? Has the value of your business decreased as a result of market uncertainty? Would you be better off waiting until life returns to normal before putting your business on the market?
We receive questions such as these at my business brokerage almost every week. To help entrepreneurs decide whether it is a good idea to sell their business during a pandemic, I invite them to consider their intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.
An entrepreneur's intrinsic motivation for selling the company is personal and internal. Perhaps it's time to do something different because the entrepreneur is bored and doesn't enjoy owning the business anymore. Perhaps it's time to focus more on family. Perhaps it's time to retire. Perhaps there is a partnership dispute. Perhaps the entrepreneur is experiencing health issues. Whatever the intrinsic motivation is for wanting to sell the company, know that it is a valid reason to sell, whether or not Covid is ongoing.
When business owners ask whether they should wait until the pandemic is over before putting their business on the market, what they are really asking is "How can I get the most amount of money possible from the sale?" This motivation is external in nature and therefore extrinsic--which is not a problem until it becomes the only reason for selling the company and overshadows the entrepreneur's intrinsic motivations to sell. It helps to clarify why you want to sell your company. Is it to fulfill an intrinsic need to do something different with your life, or is it to fulfill the extrinsic need to make as much money as possible from the sale?
Having helped more than 200 business owners sell their companies successfully, I have noticed that the most successful business sellers strike a healthy balance between their internal and external motivations. Sometimes, the timing lines up. Just when the entrepreneur wishes to do something different in life, it is also the time when the company can fetch its highest value. Sometimes, the timing does not line up, and the entrepreneur is forced to strike a balance between one's personal reasons for selling and waiting until one can get the sale price one wants.
The mistake entrepreneurs make is assuming that their company will fetch a lower valuation just because we are in the midst of a pandemic. With interest rates at historic lows, there are many business buyers looking for the right opportunity to acquire a company. The pandemic has caused massive job losses, but many people who have lost their jobs still have a substantial savings or retirement account, and are now actively looking for a business to buy so they can generate some income. The market uncertainty has also reduced the inventory of businesses for sale, potentially leading to an increased sale price due to the lack of available supply.
If you are thinking about selling your company, chances are the motivation is intrinsic. Don't let the fear of fetching a lower sale price stop you from exploring the sale during a pandemic. Many business brokerages offer complimentary business valuations to potential clients. For example, Advantage Commercial Brokers offers complimentary business valuations to business sellers in Washington State. Find a business brokerage with a strong track record in your area. The interactions between you and the business brokerage are confidential. The business brokerage will review your financials and operations, and provide you with an idea of how much your business is worth under current market conditions. In the worst-case scenario, the business value is lower than you want and you choose not to put your business on the market. In the best-case scenario, you may be pleasantly surprised by how much your business is worth during a pandemic.