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How Much Time Do I Need to Sell My Business? First, Consider These 7 Factors. It's never too early to start planning to sell your business — in fact, some say you should have an exit strategy planned from day one. But before you do, consider these seven things.

By Mark Kravietz Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Selling your business is a major decision that requires careful planning and consideration. Not only is it logistically challenging, but can be mentally and emotionally taxing as well. It's not a process that can be rushed, as there are several components to consider. One of the most common questions that business owners have is, "How much time do I need to sell my business?"

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the time it takes to sell a business can vary depending on various factors. In general, selling a business can take anywhere from six months to a year to sell your business. Here are seven things to consider when determining your timeline.

Related: 6 Things You Must Know Before Selling Your Business

1. Preparation and due diligence

Before listing your business for sale, it's essential to prepare all the necessary documents and conduct a thorough due diligence process. This includes compiling financial statements, tax returns, legal contracts and other relevant records that potential buyers will need to evaluate. The time required for this preparation can vary depending on the complexity and size of your business and may involve several departments or outside contractors such as an accountant to compile everything. It's advisable to start this process at least a year in advance to ensure you have everything in order when potential buyers come knocking.

2. Market conditions

The state of the market can significantly affect the time it takes to sell a business. During a strong economy with high demand, businesses tend to sell more quickly. Conversely, during a downturn or recession, the process may take longer as buyers become more cautious and financing options may be limited. It's important to stay informed about the current market conditions, as well as potential projections for the coming year, and adjust your expectations accordingly.

3. Business valuation

Determining the value of your business is a crucial step in the selling process. It often requires the assistance of a professional business appraiser or an advisor who specializes in business valuations. It's vitally important to even get a "back of the envelope" number. This process can take several weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of your business and the availability of necessary financial data. Keep in mind that overpricing your business can deter potential buyers while underpricing it can result in financial losses for you. Striking the right balance is essential.

Related: 3 Essential Tactics You Need Do to Help Your Company Sell

4. Finding the right buyer

Finding the right buyer for your business can be a time-consuming process. It involves marketing your business through various channels, such as online listings, industry publications and networking events. You may need to engage the services of a business broker or investment banker to help you identify potential buyers and negotiate the terms of the sale. It's important to be patient and not rush into a deal with the first buyer who shows interest. Selling to the right buyer who shares your vision and can take the business forward is crucial for a successful transition.

5. Negotiations and due diligence by buyers

Once you have identified a potential buyer, the negotiation and due diligence process begins. This stage can take several weeks or months, as buyers will want to thoroughly examine your business's financials, operations, customer base and legal matters. They may also want to bring in their own advisors to conduct a comprehensive analysis. It's important to be transparent and provide all the necessary information requested by the buyers promptly. This will help build trust and expedite the process.

6. Legal and financial considerations

The sale of a business involves complex legal and financial considerations that can impact the timeline. Hiring a lawyer experienced in business transactions is crucial to ensure all legal requirements are met, including drafting, and reviewing contracts, non-disclosure agreements and non-compete agreements. The financial aspects, such as tax planning and structuring the deal, also require careful attention. It's advisable to involve professionals such as a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) early in the process to avoid any last-minute delays or complications.

Related: Expert Advice to Help You Prepare to Sell Your Business

7. Closing the deal

The final stage of selling a business is closing the deal. This involves transferring ownership, assets, and liabilities to the buyer, finalizing the purchase price, and executing all the necessary legal documents. The time required for this stage can vary depending on the complexities. We could be looking at three months to one year.

The timeline to sell your business will vary based on the seven points above. However, if you can prepare now, you'll be ready when the right buyer comes along, saving you months or even years of work. This is also true even if you're not sure exactly when you wish to sell, but see it on your horizon; it's never too early to start getting your paperwork in order and network to find the right buyer for your company.

Make sure to surround yourself with the right exit planning professionals who can help guide you through the process. Last but not least, be prepared to roll with the punches. Even the best-laid plans can go awry, so build in extra time (and patience) to address new challenges as they arise.

Mark Kravietz

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor


As the managing partner and founder of ALINE Wealth, Mark Kravietz, CEPA®, CFP® and CIMA®, specializes in exit planning. He was named to Forbes’ 2019-2024 Best-In-State wealth advisors. Mark hosts a podcast discussing how to successfully exit your business called “Find Your Exit."

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