1. Start the planning and preparation a few years before you intend to sell. This will help you sell up quickly when the time is right.
2. Look for any aspects of the business that prospective buyers may see as negatives and try to improve these areas. For example, expand your customer base to ensure the business is not over-reliant on a few big customers.
3. Aim to increase the company’s profitability year-on-year. Sell up when profit is still likely in the years ahead — if your business is stagnant, it will either be impossible to sell or you won’t reap the rewards you hoped for.
4. As the time to sell up approaches concentrate on short-term results — avoid taking on extra staff or spending lots of money on advertising.
5. Make sure the company accounts are in order, up to date and give a true picture of the business. Aim to show a stable financial pattern throughout the year delaying or bringing forward purchases if necessary.
6. Sell off under-used property or equipment. Improve your working-capital position with good stock control and tighter credit control.
7. Present the businesses assets in the best possible light. Make sure equipment and buildings are well maintained.
8. Try to look at the company as an outsider and aim to rectify anything that looks risky. For example, turn informal deals with suppliers into formal business contracts.
9. Establish incentive schemes to encourage key employees to stay with the business. Aim to get all staff on long-term contracts so the buyer knows they will already have a ready-made and knowledgeable team.
10. Do a final check for any loose ends that might deter a prospective buyer. For example, if the lease on your business premises is due to expire, check the landlord is happy to renew it.