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Common Problems Selling Your Business and How to Avoid Them

jmc portraitjmc portrait thumb smallerBy John Cohen

If you are thinking about selling your business – even if several years away – these simple tips will make your journey easier and put money in your pocket.

1. Pick your professional advisors early and carefully.  You need at least three key professional advisors to lay the groundwork early, carry through the process, and complete the transaction.

- Strong CPA’s to provide creditable audited financial statements
- Lawyers well-versed in corporate law and tax;
- An investment banker who can be a real business advisor – not just a sales agent – to help you position your company for maximum advantage.

2. Stay local. Large geographical differences will cause unexpected problems. Someone from California who claims special talents can be duplicated many times between the East Coast and West Coast.

- A local advisor can easily stay in touch and be available for informal advice, including almost ad hoc meetings or lunch/dinner. Your desire for a 2 hour face to face meeting with a distant advisor will encounter the natural impediment of the 6 hour flight he/she will try to avoid.
- A three hour time difference will create an incredibly annoying constant delay in communications by phone or email. Trust me, it will drive you crazy.
- When a name you don’t know from an office far away becomes a key person on “your team,” it is not too cynical to think you may be more of a training vehicle (or worse) than a highly thought of client. [My employer was once assigned an M&A senior manager from St. Louis, even though the firm had over 400 employees in their Boston office. It took only an hour or two on site at my company before we kicked her out.]

3. Do not be seduced by industry specialization. Industry specialization is almost always overrated and can actually be a disadvantage in some cases. Industry differences are almost always easily learned and adjusted to by smart professionals who know their professions and are willing to put in the effort to understand any unusual traits of your industry. If you aren’t sure, ask that potential advisor what particular benefits accrue from their prior experience in the industry.

John Cohen is an interim, part-time, and long-term CFO with experience in maximizing operations and business enterprise value for companies in a wide selection of industries.

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