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Your time on this planet is finite. Days are not to be wasted and especially not wasted doing something you don’t want to be doing. What’s the point? Exceptional businesses are run by people who care. Who are committed, who have gone all in. They are hell bent on their company succeeding and they are prepared to do whatever it takes.
If that’s not you, it might be time to sell. Here are five signs it’s time to sell your business.
Your business has outgrown you
Perhaps you hired well and your people are outperforming your expectations. They’re progressing the business in ways you hadn’t imagined. They have dreams and goals for where they want to take it and you’re not so sure. You’re trying to reign them in because you’re happy with an entity that plods along and earns you a wage. New clients and opportunities are coming to the business from all angles, but they don’t excite you like they once would.
Perhaps you’d rather not deal with the challenges on the horizon, perhaps you are trying your best to stay still. If you want a team of 12 but your company’s heading towards 100, there’s a mismatch in your goals. If your people have bigger dreams for your business than you do, if you simply don’t have the ambition to take it where it’s capable of going, this is a huge sign that you should sell. Otherwise, it’s a ticking time bomb, leading to frustrated employees who don’t see progression and tonnes of underutilised potential.
Find a buyer with big plans, for your clients and team. Find someone who wants to attack the challenges you want to avoid. Let them be the hero who takes it to the next level. Feel safe in the knowledge that your team’s passions can progress and continue the search for your own calling.
You’ve outgrown your business
If you’ve been running your company for a while, you will likely know it inside out. Every obstacle, you’ve seen it before. No problem can surprise you, no news can throw you off course. Your unconscious competence means you could run it in your sleep. Great, right? Not so much.
While this level of mastery is impressive, it might not feel like it to you. Perhaps you’re bored and ready for a new challenge. You want to solve bigger problems and let go of ones you have seen before. You secretly enjoy a bit of turmoil because it makes things interesting, but it’s not sustainable in the long term. Kicking back and taking your eye off the ball whilst you explore other options is tempting, but it might not work out. The business could start to go backwards, and you lose the cash cow you should have sold.
Before starting to court buyers, try an experiment. See if you can take your existing company to new heights. Push its boundaries, get it to punch above its weight. Give your team more responsibility and throw your hat into bigger rings, consider making an acquisition yourself. Take the unrivalled knowledge you hold and get to the next level. If that still doesn’t do the trick, it might be time to move on.
Your industry is shrinking
If you’re sailing a sinking ship, it might be time to disembark. But how do you know? Trends in human behaviour and technology can predict the future. If the future doesn’t involve your type of business, do something now. If your staple product is going out of fashion, if you’re analogue in a digital world, if your service is only used ironically, the writing is on the wall and the prognosis isn’t good.
Reimagine, rework, pivot. Analyse everything you’re doing to discern what is futureproof and what will soon be irrelevant. Shrinking businesses aren’t attractive to buyers so turning it around should be addressed first. Assess the situation, make a plan and reimagine the part you play within the modern world. You might just fall back in love with your company.
There are plenty of difficult ways to make money but fighting change is the least fun route. Your company might be the perfect purchase for a buyer with a plan. They might know exactly what to do with your timeless assets. Change is inevitable, standing still is optional. Keep moving your business along and only then decide the part you want to play in its future.
Unite and conquer, as the saying should go. If continuing alone seems like a daunting prospect, the answer could lie in a partnership. Combining forces with a competitor or collaborator to hold a bigger slice of the pie. Access more exciting work, go further and be a bigger fish in the same pond.
Double-barrelled company names are everywhere you look, signalling this strategy can work famously. Secure economies of scale across every aspect of your business; office, manufacturers, team and admin. Reduce the cost of the nonessential to reach new heights of opportunity and profitability. It could just work well.
An acquisition might not be right, but a merger could hit the spot. Find a partner whose values align and whose goals for the future are solid. Swallow your pride and ask the question, you might find they feel exactly the same.
You’re getting distracted
If your eyes are wandering to other ventures, it’s a good sign it’s time to sell your main thing. Side projects, whilst trendy, are often a false economy. Weigh up what you would rather have, five mediocre businesses or one household name brand. Both scenarios take the same energy, but in the former it’s distributed in multiple directions and in the latter it’s powerfully put into one company.
Dividing your attention is rarely worth it. Chase two rabbits, catch neither. Juggling is for circus clowns. Starting a new company with your other one in tow will cause its demise or cost its growth. Focus is a prerequisite to flow, and flow is where the magic happens in terms of running a business. Deep work, great ideas, concentrated thought; not possible when you’re registering new domain names every week.
Side hustles are often distraction traps best avoided by entrepreneurs. Starting one raises questions about your main gig and might reduce its perceived value to buyers. Make your current company the one you sell and your side project the one you put first. Exit on a high and secure a clean break before starting down another route. The alternative is messy.
If you’ve outgrown your business or your business has outgrown you. If your industry is shrinking or you’re looking elsewhere. If what you’re doing could be better done within a partnership, it might be time to sell. Consider the options carefully and be sure the diagnosis is correct before you move forward. Your time on earth is finite; don’t waste it on a business you’re not completely in love with.