These five issues are key to consider when you are contemplating selling your business.
1. Non-Disclosure Agreement
This agreement contains a few key elements that may easily be overlooked by an uninformed Seller. The first of these is the “non-solicitation” of employees, which should be coupled with a time frame of a minimum of two years, we suggest three years. A second important provision will state that “all obligations under this agreement shall survive for a period of ___ years (we suggest three), except that sections _ , _, _, and _ shall continue at all times. One of these specifically enumerated provisions states that the entire discussion must remain confidential. When a business owner goes to market, if they do not sell, they surely want that fact to remain confidential, even after two years, so this provision is extremely important. Buyers sometimes strike this provision, and a Seller must understand its importance.
2. Excluding Certain Types of Buyers from the Marketing Process
The goal of the business owner is to receive maximum value in the sale of their business. Strategic buyers typically pay a premium of 10% – 20% ( or more ) than pure financial buyers. A Seller should let their M&A professional contact the universe of qualified acquirers, including strategics, to insure that they receive the maximum value. If strategics are not included in the marketing effort, the Seller will never know if they received the highest price that was possible.
3. Letter of Intent – Timeline
One of the pitfalls that a Seller may experience when dealing with only one buyer, is the buyer’s total control of the timeline of the transaction. “Time is the enemy of a transaction.” That is not to say that the parties should rush to closing, but stretching out the timeline of due diligence and closing typically benefits the buyer, not the seller. The letter of intent should include a timeline of critical dates for important milestones, such as confirmation from the bank that a loan is approved, date for buyer to deliver initial contract draft, and closing date. The letter should contain language that the binding provisions of the LOI are contingent upon the buyer’s adherence to the timeline.
4. Letter of Intent – No Shop Provisions
Most Buyers insist upon a “No-shop” provision in the letter of intent. The Buyer is committing time, energy, paying CPA’s and attorneys, and as a reasonable request, typically asks the Seller for exclusivity (as long as the timeline is met !). However, many Buyers will include an additional sentence in the no-shop provision that the Seller must inform the Buyer if they are contacted by another party during the due diligence period, including the name of the potential buyer. We do not recommend our clients accept this specific provision.
5. Contacting Employees Early in the Due Diligence Process
Many Buyers will ask to speak to key employees early in the process – this should not happen. Discussions with key employees should only occur after financial due diligence is complete, a draft of the contract is received, evidence that financing is in place is received, and we are at the 11th hour. The Seller should always attend these meetings, which can be an issue for the Buyer. This is an extremely sensitive issue and must be handled carefully.
Considering selling your business? Corporate Investment M&A Advisors can advise you in how to start the process.