There is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on external factors, the state of your business and the state of your mind.
There are some things over which you have no control – your industry, trends in the marketplace, the current mergers and acquisitions market cycle, and interest rates. The best you can do to prepare for these influences is to keep your finger on the pulse of the business. Be aware that there are better and worse times to sell; for example, if your prospective buyer needs to borrow money it’s easier to sell when interest rates are low.
The state of your business
Assess the state of your business by asking whether:
- Your books are in order?
- Your sales are trending up?
- You are making more profit every year?
- The business is dependent upon you, the owner, to run it?
- You have a leadership team that can run the business?
- You are remaining competitive using new machinery or technology?
- You are reinvesting in your people through professional development and training?
- You have intellectual property or unique abilities that ward off your competition?
- Your customer base and product line are diversified?
Your state of mind
If the business has changed from being fun and exciting to feeling more like an albatross around your neck, it may be time to initiate changes. Are you tired of running it and feel over your head as your business expands? Have you lost your passion and drive?
What should you do?
- Take stock of the external factors that will impact your business now and in the future. What do the trends tell you? Should you sell sooner or later? If sooner, don’t waste any more time thinking about it. Get started!
- Take the measure of your business. If you were looking for a business, would you buy it? Identify the factors over which you have control and control them. Most of those initiatives take time and effort. Get started.
- Assess your mental state. Are you having fun? Then pick a date to sell the business and set a goal to maximize its value so you are able to exit on a high. If it is driving you crazy take a deep breath, step away from the edge and make a conscious decision to make the best of it.
Get help if you need it. Consider your alternatives realistically and move forward.