As an entrepreneur, there are many different ways to market your company and different investment brokers have different styles and strengths.
When selling your business it is worth talking to other entrepreneurs who have sold their business via the broker you are considering engaging.
- Scattergun approach - ensuring many intermediaries are aware of the company.
- Direct competitors pooling - approaching up to five competitors with limited information to see who is interested and create competitive tension between buyers.
- Private equity play - contacting private equity investors who may seek to support management or bring in their own management.
- Next generation management succession - structuring a longer term plan to gradually transfer the business to the next generation via soft vendor loans or deferred payments.
However, in my view, the best way to sell your company is the "salmon or trout tickling approach", or bilateral discussions: having a strategic five year plan focused on selling your business to an identified buyer.
You should start sharing information with the buyer a few years out, pique their interest and get their advice on how to grow the business.
When you are ready to sell, the buyer should be in a position that buying your business is their number one priority, at any cost. Make the buyer think that anyone else buying the business would be a disaster.
Of course, it is natural that over the "grooming process" the originally identified buyer occasionally becomes the wrong buyer. You need to be flexible - don't be afraid to change horses and start dating another buyer; however, having a preferred buyer identified at the beginning of your five year plan is a key part of any entrepreneur's strategic plan.
How many buyers should be on a short list of potential acquirers