I received a promotional email from a business broker last week. It had a big, bold headline that said they would “sell my business for maximum value”.
The pitch is common among business brokers and comes in different forms:
- “Don’t leave money on the table.”
- “We’ll get you more.”
- “Don’t lose value.”
All mean the same thing: we can sell your business for more than another broker. Maybe they can, but there’s a falsehood buried in that claim that most small business owners won’t recognize – and the lie perpetuates the most dangerous belief small business owners have about exiting their business.
The “top dollar” pitch only works if the small business owner believes three things:
- I have a sell-able business.
- There are different ways to sell that business.
- This broker’s way of selling my business might get me more money.
Where's the Problem?
Let’s look at these beliefs in order of most to least true:
#2 is clearly true. There are many ways to try to sell your business. Hire a business broker. Work with a realtor. Do it yourself. Do it online. Etc. Lots of different ways with benefits and drawbacks to each. The broker’s pitch is designed to convince you that they can beat the other options – and maybe they can, but . . .
#3 is probably sales pitch. There’s only a slim chance that #3 is true for any given broker. How likely is it that they can get you more than anyone else? It's pitch, but there’s nothing wrong with pitch, especially when we can clearly recognize it. The café that has the “world’s best cup of coffee” sign probably doesn’t, but we don’t hold it against them for having the sign that says they do.
#1 is fundamentally untrue for most small business owners. If you are a small business owner reading this, the odds say that your small business is probably unsellable. Regrettably you are like the rest of us who own a small business. You think, “I want to sell my business – so it must be sellable”, and that’s why . . .
The most dangerous lie isn’t one a broker might tell you, it’s the lie you tell yourself.
But I want to sell my business for top dollar, what do I need to do?
It feels like the answer to that question should come from outside your business, and the broker's pitch certainly supports that idea.
If you believe that selling your business is about what someone else does for you, then the broker wants to talk to you. Brokers always want to talk to business owners – even though they understand most of the owners they talk to will have businesses that are un-sellable.
If, however, you understand that selling your business is about building a sell-able business, then the questions of how to sell it, who you’ll sell it with, or whether they’ll get you “top dollar”, become secondary.
“We can sell your business for top value” is a sales pitch. And that pitch, and the service behind it, might be very effective – but only if your business is already sell-able.
Are you building the elements into your business that will make it sell-able?
That’s the real question.
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