Five Ways To Increase Value For A Merger, Acquisition, Or Succession

By David Shaffer MBA , Sr. Consultant, Practice Head for M&A and ERP/MRP

We recently did an Open Line on this topic with David, so please click on the link for the slides/audio:
Keeping on Track Open Line – M & A and Succession Planning – 5 Top Things to Consider with guest, David Shaffer.
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Does your business serve you or do you serve your business?

“Once you recognize that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then go to work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.”

Those are the words of bestselling business author Michael E. Gerber, who wrote The E-Myth Revisited.

For the better part of 40 years, Gerber has been encouraging business owners to work “on, not in” their business. Gerber firmly believes every company should be built as a product to sell.

Are you building a business you can sell? More important, are you optimizing the value of that business for a sale, merger, or succession plan?

What Is Your Current State Of Mind?

Which of the following statements best describes your current state of mind as the business owner:

• I have been working in my business for many years and I am ready to explore alternatives.
• I had hoped that my family would continue the legacy but there is little interest.
• I struggle with balancing the cash flow and need capital infusion to keep going.
• My team continues to point to having to upgrade my use of information systems
• My key team members are in the same age bracket as me and not certain they can move into leadership.
• My competitors are constantly focusing on their growth and my opportunities are being pressured to reduce margins.

For some business owners, all six of the above statements apply to their situation.

Five Action Steps To Assess Your Current Situation And Start Toward Value Creation

The following five action steps are designed to help you assess your situation. The steps also provide an outline for making your business more valuable.

Step One. Review, update, or create a strategic business plan that well defines your business.


Do you have a strategic plan that well defines your business? Because any potential buyer is going to want to see what is the business, what is the mission, what are the vision, what are the values of that business.

Do a detailed SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats) analysis so that it’s well defined. Outline the structure or organization that is in place that you can show a potential buyer. Or, analyze internally how you can extricate yourself from the business.

Step Two. Review your financial reporting to assure a proper representation of cash management.

The second step, which is critical, is your financial reporting. Are you able to provide accurate historical financial reporting? Can you determine your EBITDA, which is your bottom-line profitability?

When I value a business, I look at the EBITDA, which is the earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (that funny money that helps you pay less in taxes). When interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization are removed it becomes the true bottom line.

Within each industry there is multiple of earnings defined by the industry to calculate business value. The more you have exclusivity within the industry, the higher the multiple. You multiply those two numbers together and it gives you a good idea of the value of the business.

Step Three. Complete an objective assessment of your organization.

Can you explain to potential buyers your mission and vision? Do you have clear goals, objectives, systems, and policies?

When we go in to work with a client, we assess where they are today, what they’re looking to achieve in the longer term, and then where do the gaps exist. Following that we work with the company to put in place the appropriate steps to close the gap and create more value.

Step Four. Assess your role as business owner.

When we work a business, next we ask the owner to really take a look at themselves and where are they as far as key responsibilities. Do they have a transition plan to move out of the business? Are they communicating internally to keep personnel?
One of the things I see a lot in an acquisition is when a buyer says to the owner selling the business that it appears to be very dependent upon you. Then they say, “We’re going to put in place a three-year plan where over a three year period we’re going to buy out your business, but you need to be around for three years and hit certain objectives.

Well, if you’re a driven type personality and you’ve been successfully running your business for years, the last thing you want is someone externally telling you how to run your business.

That’s why we work with owners to extricate themselves from the business before the sale. That way they do not have to stick around as an employee for several years.

Step Five. Engage with experienced support team.

By Nick Fewings

Getting ready for a sale, merger or succession plan is not something for the do-it-yourselfer. This is probably a once in a lifetime transaction for you. This is the time to do some due diligence and get a team of trusted advisors on your side.

The trusted advisors you engage should have experience both on the operations and financial side. The objective, regardless of the exit path you choose, is to create value in the business. In many acquisitions there are tax ramifications, shelters, and potential benefits. The use of a qualified tax advisor will help uncover both opportunities and potential liabilities. Engaging a firm to complete financial due diligence and identify target markets reduces time and helps create a realistic value proposition.

Indeed, if Gerber is correct and your business is a product to be sold, you should work on the business, so you realize the best price. Here is a case in point about family business owners who sought help.

More Cash Flow And Time To Enjoy Life

Once I worked with a family-owned business and both principals were about to turn 60. They were at a crossroads as business owners. The dilemma was; should they stay or should they go?

This couple were the overstressed owners of a privately owned manufacturing company. When I was introduced to them they were looking to make changes in their internal information systems from a very archaic system to a new one.

I was brought in to work as a conduit between the owners and their operational team and the software firm. Because of my background in manufacturing operations and systems, I was very much involved in helping with the implementation, project management. and delivery of that information system.

However, further exploration and understanding of the business demonstrated that there was more than the existence of an archaic system problem. What we determined is that the information systems brought with it a need to align the organization and the best practices because the ownership was considering two options.

Option one was to sell the business, and option two was to retain the business. Neither option sounded attractive.

Both owners were heavily involved in day-to-day operations. Collectively they were involved in the manufacturing and delivering of products and overseeing the sales team as well as overseeing all of the human resources and finances of the company.

By PublicCo

Through the work that I did outside of the systems, we restructured the entire organization where we brought in interim sales management. We took one of the key operation people, promoted him to chief operating officer, put in place a dotted line between him and the sales team.

We brought in and developed a key accounting person to oversee all of the receivables, payables, and general ledger. Then we put together an advisory team that included myself with the owners. And through the implementation of the new system, we put in place dashboards to monitor the management of the system.

The net result was we increased the value of the company by 10% in the first year simply by having visibility into the profitability of the company. We had no need other than to bring in an interim sales manager to increase our expenses on personnel. We uncovered that their sales team was really one of customer service as opposed to new account sales.

We were able to reduce the outside sales team by two individuals, which represented 60% of their sales team. We added in customer service in-house at a far less expense. The whole process took 20 months.

The moral of the story: the owners now have more cash flow and time to enjoy life. The were able to purchase a second home outside of the state. They travel on a regular basis. Recently they sent me an email saying that they were on a two-week vacation and the company is running.

Now they are also entertaining a potential sale. But at this stage, they are less stressed over the sale because they know they’re making money and they’re not involved on the day-to-day operations of the business.


Whether the decision is to sell the business or retain, the creation of value is always a benefit. Whether it stays with ownership or enhances the sales, it is a cornerstone best practice.

If you are open to a conversation about mergers and succession, improving manufacturing workflow or if you are a service company taking a look at various ways to improve efficiencies, or how our in-depth work style and personality assessment could help to hire the right person and understand how to best work with the candidate from day one as well as gaining insights of your team, please contact us at 310-453-6556, extension 410.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact Lighthouse Consulting Partners LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

David Shaffer, MBA , Sr. Consultant, is our practice head for our Business Consulting For Higher Productivity Division and for our ERP and M&A practice. He is recognized for his ability to effectively integrate all aspects of the business, including financial management, information systems, infrastructure, sales management, sales strategies, and operations. David assists companies from planning through operational and business process improvement opportunities to the selection and integration of management information systems solutions. His range of company support includes start-ups through Fortune 500 firms.

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