Owners planning a sale, IPO, or merger would be well-advised to get comprehensive sell-side support from an investment bank. But often, the owners who stand to benefit the most from such advice—those in the lower and middle markets—are also the most reluctant to seek expert M&A advice to sell their business. Buyers typically have the benefit of years of experience, as well as expert teams. Sellers who take a do-it-yourself approach may find that buyers capitalize on their ignorance, reducing the total value to the seller. Here are five key ways that advisory firms can generate M&A value.

Valuation and Preparing for the Sale

Preparing a company for sale is critical to the deal realizing its full potential. The process begins with a credible, professional valuation. This can set owner expectations and prevent buyers from capitalizing on owner naivete. The right team can also identify potential vulnerabilities and areas for growth that, with enough time, can help the company become more marketable and potentially more valuable.

Managing the Sale Process

Selling a company is truly a full-time job that demands significant time and attention. A professional sell-side M&A team can help manage the sale process, freeing the owner’s time and attention to focus on running the company. This can prevent declines in value and productivity at a critical moment.

Lending Professional Credibility to Negotiations

Buyers often have significant experience with M&A—something many sellers lack. This creates a disadvantage in negotiations that can result in lower prices, less favorable terms, and a stagnant process that causes the deal to lose value. M&A advisors endeavor to create a competitive bidding process, then streamline negotiations to ensure optimal value.

Understanding the Value Effects of Deal Terms

What might seem like a minor shift in deal terms can have significant implications for the seller. For example, structuring 10% of the sale price as an earnout could mean that 10% of the price never materializes—or that the seller does years of work in return for a small sum and significant fighting with the buyer. An experienced sell-side team can assess how various deal terms might affect total cash value, and advise owners about which deal terms to accept and which to reject.

Preparing for Integration

Many deals fail to realize their anticipated value because of integration failures. The right planning early in the process can reduce the risk of failures of integration. This ensures that an owner’s legacy continues even after they have left the business. And should the owner remain on in some capacity or agree to an earnout, it can ensure they are fully paid for their work and expertise.

DIY approaches pose a significant risk to M&A. While sellers may know how to sell their products and services, few have the knowledge necessary to sell a business. A sell-side M&A team can help level the playing field between buyer and seller, ensuring a fair and lucrative deal.

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