If you’ve ever gone through the process of selling a house, you probably know about that in-between season that lies between living normally in your house and handing the keys over to the new owner. It’s a season of cleaning up and making necessary improvements so that when you eventually do put your house on the market, it’s being presented in its absolute best light.
The same is true when you’ve made the enormous decision to sell your business! Even if you are confident in its value, a season of catching up and cleaning up your financial operations is essential to getting the most value out of the sale of your company.
Of course, like haphazard cleaning and cheap improvements to your house before selling won’t add value to its sale, making last minute improvements in your business’ financial operations won’t pay out – in fact, the opposite may be true. Savvy buyers are on guard for unorganized, sloppy bookkeeping. If your books don’t add up, or there are expenses that can’t be categorized correctly, you’re going to lose value in the sale.
There’s also the matter of reputation to consider here. You’ve invested years into creating what your business is today. What do you want the sale of it to say about your company? What do you want it to say about you?
You could be seen by potential buyers as an “old-school” unprofessional, or you could be seen as someone whose confidence in the value of their business shows clearly in the way you pay attention to even the most minute detail in your business’ bookkeeping
The choices you make in this in-between season before selling will not only impact the value you get out of the sale, but will also affect your legacy.
We’ve honed in on three specific areas that should be top priorities as you get your business’ books cleaned up and ready for a sale.
Every dollar needs to be accounted for in as much detail as possible.
When you’re preparing to sell your company, there is a ton of information you will need to have ready to show potential buyers. These include your financial records, a minimum of three years worth of profit/loss statements, net income statements, tax returns…the list goes on.
It may seem obvious, perhaps, that all these numbers need to be properly balanced and accounted for. What may be less obvious is the value of breaking down these numbers in greater detail than you might assume necessary.
You may be used to using one Quickbooks entry for your company’s “expenses,” but breaking those expenses down into specific, detailed categories (such as regular salaries vs. overtime pay, differentiating travel and entertainment expenses from regular expenses, highlighting parts and labor, etc,) will give potential buyers a lot more confidence in the true profits and expenses of the business.
Identify and remove personal expenses you’ve been running through your business.
Sometimes business owners try to “add back” the value of the personal expenses that they’ve written off through the company, such as family health insurance or personal travel expenses. Problems arise, however, if you have insufficient data to prove to your buyer that these expenses were truly personal.
We recommend identifying and removing these personal expenses from your books, ideally 18 months to a couple of years before putting your business up for sale. This protects your reputation as being transparent and honest, and lessens unnecessary confusion when it’s time to show your statements to potential buyers.
Identify and stop occasional expenses that aren’t recurring.
In that same vein, identifying random, occasional expenses will go a long way in helping clean up your bookkeeping. Perhaps you paid a large, one time payment for a marketing campaign, or sank some money into updating your company’s website. These aren’t recurring expenses for your company, but it can be hard to prove that to potential buyers as they’re looking over your books. We recommend starting to identify and stop spending money in these one-off categories at least two years in advance of selling your business. This will increase your profitability, which will help you sell for a higher value!
Is the reward worth the extra effort?
It’s a simple yes. With clean books, you’ll be a more trusted and therefore desirable target for buyers.
But, don’t just spend time ahead of your sale simply cleaning up your books. The next buyer is likely going to come in and implement updated, efficient systems to the business’ financial operations when they take over. This saves them time and money and therefore increases the value of the business right from the start. They’ll make sure you’re using the latest accounting software, and leveraging good third party tools for efficient bill pay and payroll processing.
Why leave this work for the next buyer? While you are cleaning up your books, also take the time to modernize your financial operations, thereby saving you time and money and increasing the value of your business.
The value you gain will be more than worth the extra effort – and you don’t have to do it alone.
At System Six, we are here to help. Day in and day out, we are helping businesses manage their financial operations and bookkeeping efficiently and accurately. And we love helping organizations get to that point – nothing gives us more joy than sitting back with a client after a few years of hard work and seeing decreased stress and increased profitability as a result of improved bookkeeping.
Are you looking towards the future, and considering what you can be doing right now to get the most value out of your company when it comes time to sell? Consider letting us help you improve your bookkeeping and the overall efficiency of your financial operations.