The ultimate guide to selling your business

Thinking about selling your business? Discover our three-point guide

As a business owner, you understand that planning is often key to your success. Perhaps you already have plans in place for when the time comes to sell your business. Unfortunately, many business owners don't or underestimate what's required for a successful sale, so they end up exiting their business later than they expect. Over half of business owners have never had their business appraised, and nearly half haven’t put a formal exit strategy in place.

After all the time, love and attention you have devoted to your business, you don't want to be left with any uncertainty when the time comes to sell. To get to this point, it's important first to prioritize and understand what you need to know.

To help you get there, we have created a guide on how to sell your business and what to consider before, during and after the sale. We understand that this process can be life changing, so think of this as your companion to assist you through the stages. Before diving in, let's look at the situation around you.


The exit boom: Are baby boomers about to exit their businesses?

There are many different types of business owner today, so concrete data on private business owners can be difficult to find. Overall, the data that is available all points in the same direction: a substantial majority of private businesses are owned by baby boomers (who are defined as having been born between 1946 and 1964). 

Baby boomers are now aged 55-73 and by most accounts are increasingly ready to exit their businesses:

  • 57% of business owners in this group intend to retire in the next five years.
  • 76% intend to retire within the next 10 years.

These businesses represent trillions of dollars of assets that will change hands – in one way or another – over the next few decades.

Many business owners plan to exit within the next decade

Survey of intended exits by business owners, in %

Source: © 2017 Business Enterprise Institute, Inc. Survey of business owners between 40 and 69 years of age with annual revenues between USD 500k – 500mn.


What are the challenges of selling a business? 

If you’re moving closer to selling your business, you’re likely to face some challenges that can in turn slow the process. Common hurdles include:

  • Uncertainty as to whether key employees or family members are interested in running it. 
  • Insufficient investment planning to shift confidently away from living off the income from it. 
  • Lack of clarity regarding feasible exit strategies. 

If they sound familiar, you’re in the right place. This guide attempts to clarify many of the uncertainties business owners face. We haven’t attempted to outline every scenario; instead we have developed a structured framework and bitesize takeaways to help you focus on what matters most. Discover our three-part guide to selling your business.


Part 1: Before the sale of your business 

Part 2: During the sale of your business 

Part 3: Life after business: What's next?