How to Sell a Business Quickly

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You may be in a tough situation with your business that leaves you with no choice but to sell it off to someone else. Maybe you are moving, are in the midst of a family emergency, have a lack of capital or you simply want to move into a new industry. If you need to sell a business quickly, you have to be creative, extremely flexible about your terms and willing to implement some creative strategies. You also need to be realistic about your time line---it's not likely that you are going to sell a business in a week. In fact, it is estimated that many businesses (about 38 percent) are sold within seven to nine months, while less than 10 percent of businesses get sold within one to three months.

Hire a business appraiser to give you an accurate estimate of what your business is worth (you will need to show the appraiser financial statements about your business income over the past few years). Then lower your price. If you want to sell your business quickly, you must be willing to negotiate on your selling price. Decide what price you would feel comfortable selling your business for based on the appraiser's opinion, and then reduce that amount further by 10 to 15 percent. If a potential buyer still isn't biting after that first three months on the market, you are going to need to reduce the price even further if you want it to move.

The first step to selling your business quickly is to place ads in the right places. What type of business are you selling? Based on the answer, place regular ads in trade magazines related to your business type. Place ads in brochures and programs at local business networking events. They are usually very reasonably priced. If you have the budget and your business is large enough, hire a broker who will look for buyers on your behalf and take a percentage of the sale.

Offer incentives. If you want to sell the business quickly, you have to make the deal as sweet as possible. Add in perks for the buyer that will make their job of putting the business back into operation easy. For example, if you are selling a small grocery store, offer to pay for the next food shipment. Offer up all of your business contacts and regular customers (names and addresses) to the buyer for free.

Try a "rent to own" type of arrangement with potential buyers if your business is seen as a high risk. Ask for a monthly rent payment for the business while allowing the buyer to take all of the income for the business over time, and then give the buyer a buy-out option after the end of the rental period. This way your buyer will be able to evaluate the business's potential before buying while you receive some type of cash flow for the business. In a similar type of arrangement, you can ask for a percentage payment from the buyer whenever sales are made over the course of the business; sort of like an affiliate agreement.

Sell off the business in pieces. If you can't sell the business as a whole quickly, break it down into portions (inventory, equipment, invoices, and other assets) for sale to different buyers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Prepare the sales contract in an editable file for quick reference and have a lawyer look over everything, even before you have a buyer. Save a few different versions of your sales contract with various terms to anticipate the various ways this agreement could be structured. This way, once you do have a buyer there will be no delay and getting them the paperwork to look over and sign.

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