For many entrepreneurs, there will come a time when it makes sense to consider selling their business. Whether you're approaching retirement or simply ready for your next career challenge, finding a buyer to assume responsibility for the company you've built might seem like a very wise endeavor.
Although you may know it's the right time to sell, that doesn't mean the decision will be an easy one to make. Not only are there key practical elements to consider -- the financial arrangement, the strategy of incoming management, the impact on your employees, etc. -- but letting go of the business you built from the ground up can be very emotional, too.
According to a panel of successful entrepreneurs, here are some of the most important things to think about before you put your company up for sale.
The timing of your sale
In his experience of selling previous businesses, John Rampton, founder of Calendar, found that timing was a critical factor, both personally and professionally.
"I had to know that this was the market and the moment in which to sell," Rampton says. "Timing also related to where I was in my life with family and goals, and when to start my next business. The timing will be different for each person."
Your emotional preparedness
It can be difficult to let go of the business you put your heart and soul into building. That's why John Turner, founder of SeedProd LLC, recommends assessing whether you're emotionally ready to let go.
"Selling your business isn't a split-second process. The entire process can sometimes take a year or more," he says. "Being emotionally ready is key to making sure the process goes smoothly, instead of it being emotionally draining."
Why you want to sell (and for whom)
In today's world of social media, many individuals seek out social approval in the form of likes, views and followers. Kim Kaupe, co-founder of The Superfan Company, believes it's easy for this people-pleasing attitude to seep into other decisions, like selling your business.
"Who are you selling for?" Kaupe says. "Make sure others -- investors, fans, followers, that friend from high school who said you would amount to nothing -- aren't influencing such an important decision in your life."
What a potential buyer in your market wants
You may think you know what business buyers are looking for, but it's good to get the opinions of other people who have made successful exits, says Rachel Beider, CEO of PRESS Modern Massage.
"Reach out to a business consultant who can help you understand what potential buyers might be looking for specifically," she adds.
Your business's value
Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, says it's important to make sure your business is valued accurately before you try to sell.
"Fail to do that and you might never receive an offer or leave money on the table," he says. "Know what goes into a valuation as well, because it's more than just your net revenue."
Your financial prospects
According to Jared Weitz, CEO of United Capital Source Inc., a prospective seller must consider the net proceeds, and whether it's enough to get them through a non-compete period after the business changes hands.
"Often times, many get blinded by an upfront dollar amount, but that's not their net amount," says Weitz. "The number you're netting has to make sense with the amount of time you have to sit out with a non-compete."
What you're going to do next
As someone who's sold several companies, Erica Douglass, co-owner of 1Up Repairs, says the No. 1 thing to consider is your plan for the future.
"After selling my business, I immersed myself in the marketing world and learned copywriting and online selling techniques," explains Douglass. "I used those to start a new business."
Whether you're truly 'finished' with your business
Want to sell your business without any regrets? Bryce Welker, CEO and founder of Crush The CPA Exam, advises asking yourself if you've accomplished everything you wanted with it. If you haven't, ask yourself why.
"Was it a bad time in the market, did the risks outweigh the rewards or did you never have the time?" says Welker. "Truly examine whether or not you're actually finished with this business before selling."