Thursday, October 11, 2012

Exit Planning - A Business Needs Curb Appeal

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Let’s say you’re in the market for buying a house and you go to see one that sounds like it may have potential.  How does it look on the outside?  The inside?  What about the location?  What is your general impression?
Like your house, your business projects an image to potential buyers.  When potential buyers come to see your business for the first time, your "curb appeal" can either attract them to your business or cause them to walk away from it.
Do you need to improve your business’ curb appeal?  Here are some suggestions:
1.  Fix Your Leaky Faucets
Perhaps you started your business from scratch with one or two employees and now you have over 20 employees.  Do you have the appropriate infrastructure in place for that size company?  You may take pride in your informal management style, but this can prove to be a liability when it comes time to sell.
Make sure appropriate HR policies are in place and at least as stringent as those of the company you hope will buy your business.  Some basics to have in place include: 
  • A written policy making it clear you forbid any form of harassment or discrimination;
  • A written employment contract for each staff member;
  • A written description of your bonus system; and
  • Written policies for employee expenses, travel and benefits.
2.  Assemble Your Binder
When you buy a house, it will give you confidence if the owner has the instruction manuals for the appliances, information on where they were purchased, and who to call if one of them breaks down.  Similarly, when a potential buyer looks at your company, he/she wants to see that you have your business information in order.  Documenting your office procedures, core processes, and other intellectual capital can help you attract more bidders and a higher price for your company. 
If you want to attract a buyer one day, your business needs a binder with instructions for basic functions, such as:  
  • Opening and closing procedures;
  • Forms and step-by-step instructions for routine tasks;
  • Templates for key documents;
  • Emergency numbers for service providers;
  • Billing procedures for customers; and
  • How your company is positioned in the market and your marketing tools.
3.  Document Your Intangible Assets
Intangibles for house buying might include: Is the house near a good school or daycare?  What kind of neighbourhood is it?   What kind of commute will you have to get to work?
Your business also has intangible assets, often intellectual, that a potential buyer needs to be made aware of, such as: 
  • A formula for acquiring and retaining quality customers;
  • Proprietary research you’ve conducted or processes you’ve developed;
  • Criteria you use to evaluate a potential new product, service or location; and
  • Your unique approach to satisfying your customers' needs.
As with selling a house, your company's curb appeal can go a long way towards attracting buyers, increasing the price and, ultimately, closing a deal. 

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