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Selling Your Company - A Checklist For Business Owners

Selling your company requires the same planning and commitment that starting your company required - except that there is more at stake. This short, step-by-step guide will help you get started. Don't leave your exit to chance. Begin planning now to maximize your chances of success.

Step 1: Define your Exit Objectives:

  • How much money do you need to achieve your financial goals?

  • When do you want to exit?

  • What kind of buyer do you prefer to sell to: a third party or insiders (employees, your management team, family)?

Step 2: Get an objective, professional valuation of your business. This will determine if a successful exit is feasible, and in what time frame. A good valuation will also identify value-enhancing opportunities.

Step 3: Prepare your company for your departure. This typically involves building a management team and focusing on the business value drivers necessary to meet your financial goals. This step may require you to continue running your company for a while and to make some targeted changes in the business. Too many business owners wait until they’re burned out, ready to retire or forced to rush by some unexpected event. Give yourself plenty of time by beginning your plan long before you actually want to sell!

Step 4: Initiate the sale process. The sale process doesn't begin with "selling", it begins with market research to identify potential acquirers and pre-sale due diligence make sure there are no surprises. The more prepared you are the more likely you are to achieve a successful exit.


Most owners sell to a third-party because it can be accomplished in less time and because it typically yields the best price. This is especially true when the market is strong and strategic buyers are active.

An insider sale can be riskier and more complicated. Insiders such as co-owners, employees or the owner’s family often don’t have the money or the ambition to buy the company. If an insider sale is a real option, there are several ways to reduce the risk associated with Transferring Your Company to Key Employees.

We recommend these steps:

1) Find a merger and acquisition advisor who can explain the process clearly and realistically and help you plan. Read as much as you can on the exit planning and business sale process.

2) Begin assembling a deal team including a merger and acquisition advisor, an attorney who understands business sale transactions and an accountant who understands tax minimization techniques. If you don't already have a personal financial advisor, now is the time to find one. These advisors may cost money in the short-term, but if you choose wisely, they’ll make you much more money in the long-term by:

  • Helping you avoid the most common deal pitfalls.

  • Minimize the tax consequences of the deal.

  • Developing a marketing strategy to engage the right potential buyers at the right time.

  • Designing a sale process that allows you to focus on running the company with minimum disruption while potential buyers are engaged and a deal is negotiated.

  • Helping you convert your business equity into a diversified portfolio of investments that will support your overall financial goals.

3) Create a written plan and work that plan, with the help of your advisors, until you are able to sell your company to the buyer you choose for the money you need.


Selling your company is likely to be one of the most challenging and life-altering endeavors of your career. Success requires planning, effort and discipline - the same attributes that made you a successful business owner in the first place. The sooner you begin planning and building your advisory team the more likely you are to exit for maximum value, when you want to and to the buyer of your choosing.


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