You’ve come to this point for a reason: You are either sick of running your business, may not have any more time to maintain it and it’s starting to decline, or you have latched onto another opportunity that is too enticing to pass up and you need the cash.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to sell your business, it’s important to understand the options available to you in finding a new owner. You took careful consideration in building and growing it, why shouldn’t you get the most out of selling it?
The following list is not intended to be professional advice (we always recommended to seek it), but is meant to be educational and is not in any particular order. Every individual will fit into one or more categories depending on their needs, personality, business type, size, etc. So we recommend going with what makes you the most comfortable, whatever that ends up being.
Here are 7 options available to you that should help answer the question, “How do I sell my business?”.
1. Sell it internally
Many business owners think of employees and clients as potential options to take over. They understand and hopefully appreciate the business beyond what an outside buyer may, and could have a good rapport established with other employees to ensure a smooth transition or have ideas to grow the business.
Before sending out an email blast to your workers or client list saying you are looking to sell the business (ah, panic!), think first, and do so strategically. Pick a few people that you trust would be interested and be a good fit, get them to sign an NDA (if necessary), and go from there. If no one comes to mind, keep looking at other options.
2. Sell to family or friends
This is a tricky one as it’s never a great idea to mix business with those that are emotionally close to you. But, there might be someone in particular who would be a good fit, and if your business is solid (selling a dud to a friend can’t end well) there’s an incentive there to pass along something that will help them.
As with any investment, the risk involved should be clearly understood. Changing business cycles, new competitors, Google slaps, pricing issues, bad reviews, etc. can hurt a steady performing business quickly at no real fault of you or the new owner. Sometimes bad luck gets you, and they need to understand this going into an acquisition.
One thing is for sure about selling to family and friends, they will want a discount! Be prepared to lose some money on this option, as outside buyers are more likely to get emotionally involved in the business they are looking to buy, not let their emotional connection to you influence what price they’re willing to pay.
3. Business brokers
A business broker is a professional who specializes in selling businesses for a commission, similar to real estate brokers. They typically have financial, business, and/or marketing backgrounds, which assist them in making key decisions and leverage industry contacts that help get solid offers for businesses from qualified buyers.
Over the last 10 years as the internet and business done therein has grown, there has been a rise in what the industry calls website brokers, or those brokers that specialize primarily in web-based business such as e-Commerce stores, affiliate and lead generation businesses, content websites that are ad-driven, forums, and others rather than businesses with an offline brick and mortar location.
Business brokers help save sellers time and energy by handling all listing prep, marketing tasks, speaking to and negotiating with buyers, drafting legal contracts, and ensuring escrow goes smoothly. Leveraging brokers experience and contacts also typically garners higher asking prices than what sellers can manage on their own.
Some brokers will ask for an upfront retainer (as is common in the M+A industry) and a commission, but most website brokers are performance based and will only ask for a fee upon a successful sale, so there’s no risk to list.
Some of the website brokers that Acquisitionstation.com recommends (besides us of course!) are:
W3BusinessAdvisors.com: Over 30 years of combined financial experience, solid track record of selling e-Commerce businesses over $250k in value. Great communication and completion rate (over 80%).
WeSellYourSite.com: Experienced team that’s been in the industry for 8 years, specializes in selling all types of web-based businesses over $500k in value, and has a large network of qualified and repeat buyers.
4. Online marketplaces
If you are looking to sell your offline or online business yourself and save on broker fees, it is possible for you to get quick and thorough access to a large network of buyers through online marketplaces and their affiliates for a reasonable fee.
If you are comfortable speaking to and directly negotiating with buyers, this may be a good option for you to save on broker fees.
Here are the most active online marketplaces that we’ve worked with and can recommend:
Businessesforsale.com: Over 1M visits from potential buyers per month, flat fee pricing (no success commissions) starting at $109 for 1 month.
Flippa.com: A popular web-based business marketplace (websites, domains, digital apps) that has sold over $125M in total transactions, upfront listing fees ranging from free to $19, optional marketing upgrades, plus 10%-15% fees on a successful sale.
5. Internet forum marketplaces
Many internet marketing and business related forums will have a “websites and domains for sale” section where sellers can list and get in front of potential buyers. While it depends on the traffic and popularity of the forum, each offer a unique set of buyers that may be a good fit.
Here are a few that we recommend:
Warriorforum.com: One of the most popular internet marketing forums on the internet with over 700,000 members, active buyers looking for web-based businesses.
Experienced-people.net: A non-profit initiative to make it easier to buy and sell websites by teaching, providing industry stats, and listing for free or minimal fees of $2.
6. From your website
Just like with real estate, the first thing brokers do is put up a “for sale” sign. It’s a great way to get the attention of people driving by. If you own a website or web-based business, put up a link on the home page saying it’s for sale and where visitors can reach you. This is a good option for money making websites such as advertising, affiliate, lead generation, and others that don’t rely heavily on employees and involved client relationships.
This is by far the toughest option of them all as we’ve seen it to be a haven for scammers, unfortunately. But there are legitimate buyers out there looking, so it’s worth a shot if you have a good eye for honest buyers with good intentions. Sell through your local business for sale (bfs) section.
Hopefully this list gives you a better idea of the options available to you in selling your business. If you have any questions in particular, we’re happy to help. Please get in touch in the comments section below, call us at 844-ACQ-STN1, or contact us here.