Increasing the price of your products or services is, in most cases, the most difficult decision a business owner has to make. Looking at the negatives is easy.
• Our business is too competitive to increase prices.
• Our customers/clients are used to our pricing.
• Customers are too price-conscious.
• We won’t be able to get new customers/clients.
• We are known for low prices.
• We have a lot of repeat customers, they won’t pay more.
The list of reasons why prices shouldn’t increase could go on and on. The fear is always that people won’t pay the increase and profits will suffer.
Before considering a to raise prices, one must look at their current pricing method. Do you work on a cost plus a certain mark-up? If you use a mark-up percentage, are all items marked up by the same percentage? Do you try to maintain a price comparable to the competition? If you work on an hourly rate, for example consulting, when was your last increase? Have costs increased and have you increased prices to compensate for them?
Looking at the positives is also easy. Profits will increase; and the price of the business will increase based on the increase in sales and profits. Funds will be generated to do that advertising or promotion you have always wanted to do. With increased profits you can hire that extra salesperson you know will increase business; you can install the technology you know will increase service and lower costs.
As Ravi Mohammed said in his book, The Art of Pricing, “Let me ask you, will a 1% price increase really cause your customers to stop purchasing from you?” A 1% increase on a business doing $5,000,000 a year is $50,000 to the bottom line. On a business with sales of just $500,000, a price increase of only 2% would bring in $10,000 to the bottom line.
One does not need to increase prices across the board. On fast-selling items, increase the price more than on slow-moving items. By doing so, you can test the waters on increasing prices. As Ravi Mohammed also points out, “McDonald’s profit on hamburgers is marginal, but it has substantial profits on French fries and soft-drinks.”
You many decide not to increase your prices, but at least you have taken a look at your pricing policies.
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The answer to the question asked in the title is, “It all depends!” There are all sorts of studies, surveys and the like suggesting that as more and more “baby-boomers” reach retirement age, the market will be flooded with companies for sale. The consensus is that with these privately-held company owners reaching and nearing retirement age, the time to sell is now. In one survey, 57 percent of business owners said that their age was the motivating factor for exiting their business. In another one, 75 percent of owners with revenues between $1 million and $150 million stated that they looked to sell within the next three years. Reading all of this information, one gets the feeling that over the next few years almost every privately-held business will be on the market.
While there are always going to be those who feel that Armageddon is coming, or that all of these companies are going to be on the market on the day that baby-boomer owners hit 65, there are some compelling reasons to sell your business now – and some reasons that may compel you to hold off. One good reason for any owner to sell “now” is that it just may be time to “smell the roses,” as they say. After running the business for so many years, “burn-out” is a very valid reason for selling. Many business owners may have, without actually realizing it, let their business slide a bit. You lose a customer or client here and there and don’t make the effort to replace them. Or, you don’t make the effort to check back with the supplier who has promised to give you a better price on an important product or service. It’s too easy to stick with the one you have been dealing with for years, even though you know the price is probably too high.
On the flip side, it is also easy to convince yourself that business is down a bit this year, maybe due to the current economy or recent legislation, likely reducing the value of the company. Maybe waiting until things pick up a bit and values increase would be a good idea. Thirty-five percent of business owners, in one survey, said they were going to hold off selling because they felt their business would continue to grow and therefore, hopefully, also increase in value. Unfortunately, no one can predict the future. New competitors may enter your market. Foreign competition may move in. You may not have the energy or that “fire-in-the-belly” you once had, so the business may slide even further.
You could also point your finger to the tightening of credit and ask, “How is a buyer going to finance the business?” Despite very low interest rates, borrowing money is now more difficult.
There is an old saying that the time to plan your exit strategy is the day you start running the business. Business owners can’t outgrow interest rates, legislative changes or aging. The time to sell is when you are ready to sell. The mere fact that you have read this far may be a sign that now is the time to sell. To learn more about current market trends, what your business might sell for, and what your next step might be, call a professional intermediary.
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- By September, we could reach a trillion dollars in proposed deals for the summer, beating out the previous seasonal high in 2007.
- A significant portion of this summer surge is being led by corporate buyers who are scooping up acquisition targets and borrowing like rates may rise tomorrow to fund current or future deals.
- In June and July 933 deals came to market.
- While historically August can prove to be a quieter month, the momentum to date is leading many to believe that a summer slowdown is nowhere in sight and that we could be headed for one the most active years on record for dealmakers.
In recent blogs we have also reported the positive trend in California for business sales as well. These current trends begs the question… “is now the best time to sell my business?” Naturally it’s impossible to predict the future but the market is showing positive signs for sellers looking to exit their business. And with the retiring baby boomer trend continuing to heat up some predict the increased volume of business’s for sale will create more of a buyer’s market in the years coming ahead. It’s never too early to have to starting discussing the proper exit for anyone’s business.
Most business owners think selling their business is a sprint, but the reality is it takes a long time to sell a company.
The sound of the gun sends blood flowing as you leap forward out of the blocks. Within five seconds you’re at top speed and within a dozen your eye is searching for the next hand. Then you feel the baton become weightless in your grasp and your brain tells you the pain is over. You start an easy jog and you smile, knowing that you did your best and that now the heavy lifting is on someone else’s shoulders.
That’s probably how most people think of starting and selling a business: as something akin to a 4 x 100-meter relay race. You start from scratch, build something valuable, measuring time in months instead of years, and sprint into the waiting arms of Google (or Apple or Facebook) as they obligingly acquire your business for millions. They hand over the check and you ride off into the sunset. After all, that’s how it worked for the guys who started Nest and WhatsApp – right?
But unfortunately, the process of selling your business looks more like an exhausting 100-mile ultra-marathon than a 100-meter sprint. It takes years and a lot of planning to make a clean break from your company – which means it pays to start planning sooner rather than later.
Here’s how to backdate your exit:
Step 1: Pick your eject date
The first step is to figure out when you want to be completely out of your business. This is the day you walk out of the building and never come back. Maybe you have a dream to sail around the world with your kids while they’re young. Perhaps you want to start an orphanage in Bolivia or a vineyard in Tuscany.
Whatever your goal, the first step is writing down when you want out and jotting some notes as to why that date is important to you, what you will do after you sell, with whom, and why.
Step 2: Estimate the length of your earn out
When you sell your business, chances are good that you will get paid in two or more stages. You’ll get the first check when the deal closes and the second at some point in the future — if you hit certain goals set by the buyer. The length of your so-called earn out will depend on the kind of business you’re in.
The average earn out these days is three years. If you’re in a professional services business, your earn out could be as long as five years. If you’re in a manufacturing or technology business, you might get away with a one-year transition period.
Estimate: + 1-5 years
Step 3: Calculate the length of the sale process
The next step is to figure out how long it will take you to negotiate the sale of your company. This process involves hiring an intermediary (a mergers and acquisitions professional, investment banker or business broker), putting together a marketing package for your business, shopping it to potential acquirers, hosting management meetings, negotiating letters of intent, and then going through a 60 to 90-day due diligence period. From the day you hire an intermediary to the day the wire transfer hits your account, the entire process usually takes six to 12 months. To be safe, budget one year.
Estimate: + 1 year
Step 4: Create your strategy-stable operating window
Next you need to budget some time to operate your business without making any major strategic changes. An acquirer is going to want to see how your business has been performing under its current strategy so they can accurately predict how it will perform under their ownership. Ideally, you can give them three years of operating results during which you didn’t make any major changes to your business model.
If you have been running your business over the last three years without making any strategic shifts, you won’t need to budget any time here. On the other hand, if you plan on making some major strategic changes to prepare your business for sale, add three years from the time you make the changes.
Estimate: + 3 years
Step 5: Figuring out when to sell
The final step is to figure out when you need to start the process. Let’s say you want to be in Tuscany by age 50. You budget for a three-year earn out, which means you need to close the deal by age 47. Subtract one year from that date to account for the length of time it takes to negotiate a deal, so now you need to hire your intermediary by age 46. Then let’s say you’re still tweaking your business model – experimenting with different target markets, channels and models. In this case, you need to lock in on one strategy by age 43 so that an acquirer can look at three years of operating results.
It certainly would be nice to make a clean, crisp break from your business after an all-out sprint, but for the vast majority of businesses, the process of selling a company is a squishy, multi-year slog. So the sooner you start, the better.
Increase the value of your company by training others in your area of expertise.
It can be tough to grow a service business. Clients are typically buying your expertise, and if all you have to sell is time, the size of your business will always be limited by the number of hours in your day.
One way to scale up your service business is to launch a training division to teach others what you know. That’s what Nancy Duarte did when she found herself run ragged trying to grow Duarte, a Mountain View, California-based design studio.
Duarte’s specialty was creating high-impact presentations (her firm created the slides Al Gore used in the movie The Inconvenient Truth), but the work was tough to scale. She found herself spinning various plates and hoping none of them would fall to the ground. Finally she realized she was exhausted and no longer enjoying her job. She still loved the business but hated the constant demands on her time and energy.
In an effort to pull herself out of individual projects, she sat down and documented her methodology and from there created an internal training course so her employees could learn the Duarte way of creating presentations.
Once she had taught her own staff to handle the development of the presentations, she turned her philosophy and her approach into a book that was published in 2008 under the title Slide:ology – The art and science of creating great presentations. Her most recent book, Resonate: Present visual stories that transform audiences, was published in 2010). Having created a platform with the books, Nancy launched her training division, which offers corporate on-site workshops—her facilitators go to large companies to teach the employees how to make better presentations.
Due in large part to the training division, Duarte has scaled up her service business to the point where she now employs 82 people.
As business owners, we all know we should be documenting our systems for others to follow, but somehow writing our owner’s manual always takes a backseat to serving the next customer or fighting the next fire. Maybe what we need to do is stop thinking of writing down our process as an internal chore and instead focus on launching a training division. That way, the job of documenting our system goes from a textbook-boring task to the raw material needed to launch a revenue-generating business division. If your looking for a platform to use in creating your systems, check out this book “Work the System” by Sam Carpenter. Easy read and really helps break down the basics of the process to systemizing your business.Read More