That question is asked over and over and the answer is usually the same: “Until the right buyer shows up.” Not to be too sarcastic about it, it really does take enough time and exposure to attract the buyer who is financially qualified, business qualified, loan qualified and character qualified to take over a seller’s business and legacy.

We business brokers/intermediaries will quite often have a pool of buyers who are seriously looking for certain types of businesses. Yours may be in one of those industries or not. Yours may financially or organizationally be qualified or not. There is a lot that goes into the decision-making process and it can take time to sell your business.

An example of a real situation would be helpful. A service business located in a pleasant community with a long term consistent income around $170,000 was placed on the market. Potential buyers came to look at it, but each found his/her own reason not to proceed. It wasn’t convenient to where they lived. It wasn’t making quite enough money, though they knew the financials before visiting. Go figure. They couldn’t quite see themselves doing the work. They didn’t have quite the right skills. Their significant other couldn’t buy in. They offered too little. They couldn’t pull the trigger. So many different reasons.

As their broker, we changed the marketing presentation several times to attract new buyers, knowing that each season of the year will have a differing group of buyers as some move in and some out of the market. Still, after a year, there were no real takers. We decided to continue marketing because it was a good business and somewhere out there was the right person. By doing so, the right person came forward. They had the exact right skills to replace the owner. They had that special excitement for owning their own business. They were financially qualified and ready to make the move. So, after 15 months, this business sold. What if the seller decided to quit trying to sell? Would he have slowed down? Been discouraged? Let the business decline or even walked away, leaving money on the table?

It takes time and the right circumstances to sell a business. Make your decision when you want to, not when you have to. Be prepared to go the distance knowing that at any time the right person can show up. There is no magic involved. Neither your broker nor you want to force a sale like the old used car stereotype. A successful sale is one that keeps all parties happy and has no after sale repercussions. Expect the best but be prepared for the least.

John Young is a Broker/Investment Banker with Sunbelt Business Advisors. He can be reached at (408) 436-1900, ext. 103 or [email protected]