The UBS Investor Watch survey found that 40% of business owners regret not selling their business during recent periods of higher valuations. (UBS)

Successfully selling one’s business requires a combination of skill, timing, and patience. Owners who are ready to move on have to make hard decisions on whether it is the right time to sell or whether they should hold on until circumstances change.

The last 18 months have not been favorable for those looking to sell. The volatile state of the economy and Fed rate hikes have exerted pressure on middle-market mergers and acquisitions (M&A), creating anxiety for those who have recently found themselves in a position to exit their business or those who may have missed a chance to take advantage of more favorable conditions.

To better understand this current state of affairs, UBS surveyed over 500 US business owners who have either recently exited or plan to do so within the next few years. The report, Investor Watch: Wind in your sales , shares the results.

Key findings:

  • Respondents expressed remorse that they didn’t sell earlier and held serious concerns that they will ultimately receive a lower business valuation when they do sell.
  • Owners were not making the requisite preparations on an appropriate timescale to prepare for the best possible deal for their business.
  • Not enough owners were engaging financial advisors to help them—not only with the sale, but with the considerations that come after the fact.

The survey found that 40% of business owners regret not selling their business during recent periods of higher valuations, and 61% were concerned they will not get a proper valuation for their business when they are ready to sell. While owners cannot control market conditions, they can prepare themselves an eventual opportunity that will come along at some date.

Those looking to sell can learn from the mistakes of those who recently exited. The survey found 73% of business owners who sold their companies in recent years spent less than two years preparing for an exit (32% spent less than a year), but 80% wished they had started preparations earlier. We recommend owners engage with their financial advisor years in advance to ensure they and their families are ready for a sale.

The survey also found that only two-thirds of owners who were looking to exit their businesses turned to financial advisors for advice. Preparing to sell one’s business is not just about the actual exit; there are just as many important decisions that come after the fact. Forty percent or less of respondents have engaged in or contemplated important decisions around the passage of family wealth, the creation of an estate plan, or the development of a concrete plan for the proceeds of the sale. Financial advisors play a vital role in helping business owners prepare for exits, which includes key issues like these beyond the close of the sale.

Read the full report Investor Watch: Wind in your sales

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