The biggest aspiration of most entrepreneurs and business owners today is to grow and then sell their businesses. And why shouldn't it be? Selling your business creates more multi-millionaires than any other endeavor.
The key issue however is this: are you growing your business the right way, and are you focusing on the right things? You see, when it comes time for buyers to appraise the value of your business, they might find different things to be important than you do. And the last thing you want to do is focus your time developing aspects of your business that buyers don't value. Particularly when doing so forces you to neglect the things they do.
Below are five key questions that will determine your business' value. Answer them honestly. And then work to improve your position on each.
1. How replicable is your business?
When corporations consider buying a business, they make a "build" or "buy" decision. That is, they ask whether the time and money it would take to build a similar business from scratch is greater than the cost to buy the business from you now.
As such, the more unique and less replicable your business is, the better. So think about how replicable your business is. For example, could another company easily replicate your products or services? Could they easily hire and train a team as good as yours? Would it be simple for them to build a customer base like yours?
Answer these questions honestly and focus on building a profitable AND harder-to-replicate business going forward.
2. How easy will it be to run your business after acquisition?
Why do we pay a premium for a new automobile versus a used one? Because we know the new one doesn't have any problems. It hasn't gotten into any accidents. It doesn't have an oil leak, etc.
Similarly, acquirers will pay a premium for a business that is in great "running condition." Sure, every business will have its challenges, but a business that is simple to run, like a new car, will be highly valued.
So, let me ask you this: if you sold your business today and retired, would the new owner be able to easily run your business thereafter?
Always think how your business will run after you're gone. And if currently it wouldn't run smoothly, take actions now so that it will.
3. How has your business performed financially?
Unless the majority of the value of your company is in unique and patented technologies, buyers will thoroughly review your financial performance.
Clearly, they want to see strong revenues and profits. And they want growing revenues and profits. If your revenues or profits are on the decline, many buyers will project that decline will continue, and thus significantly decrease the valuation of your business. Fortunately the opposite is true, so do whatever you can to have strong and growing revenues and profits.
4. How stable is your customer base?
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. The revenues you generate from them pay the bills and ideally fund great profits.
As such, acquirers will scrutinize your customer base. And the most important question is how stable that base is. For example, do they expect 50% of your customers to leave after the acquisition? Or 25%? Or 10%? Or none?
Clearly, the more stable your customer base, the more attractive you are to an acquirer. In the ideal situation, you have signed contracts with customers so the acquirer has complete certainty they will be retained. If not, ideally your customers have gotten in the habit of buying your products or services, or have a solid preference for them, so their continued patronage is likely.
Likewise, having a diversified customer base, as opposed to just a few very large clients, helps. Because with fewer, larger customers, there's more risk that one will leave and take a large chunk of your revenues with them.
5. What are the odds of sustainable future growth?
When you combine the four questions above, much of what the acquirer is trying to answer is what your odds are for future growth.
For instance, if you have a stable customer base, your financials are strong and growing, your business is unique, and it will be easy to run your business post acquisition, then your odds for future growth are great and you will have tons of suitors.
And tons of suitors interested in buying your business means that they will bid the value up and up, so when you sell, you will get a great premium. Which is probably one of the reasons you started your business in the first place. So do this, and make it happen!
Suggested Resource: If you want to build a sellable business, watch this free presentation called "Million Dollar Exits: How to Build a Business You Can Sell For Millions of Dollars ." It starts by explaining the 3 most dangerous trends facing entrepreneurs today. Click here  for this must-know information.