Entrepreneurs share about selling a business

Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp

CEO/Founder of CorpNet.com

We started our first business in 1997 with $100 and sold it to Intuit for $20 million eight years later.

From beginning to end, the process was about 6 months.

Intuit approached us in March and the sale took place in November of the same year.

We went back and forth with negotiations.

In the end, yes I was happy with the number or I wouldn’t have accepted.

My husband and I are very free-spirited entrepreneurs.

So after we sold to Intuit we found that the corporate way of life just wasn’t a fit for us to stay on.

My husband stepped down immediately and it took me about 4 – 6 months before I stepped down.

Once our non compete was up we decided to get back into the industry with the launch of our current company, CorpNet.com.

We launched CorpNet in 2009 at the height of the last recession and it was a struggle.

But we fought and have succeeded yet again as CorpNet was recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies in America in 2020!


Bryan Clayton

Bryan Clayton

CEO of YourGreenPal

Before I started this company I ran a landscaping firm for 15 years growing it to over $8 million in sales and over 130 employees ultimately navigating the company to successful acquisition by our largest competitor, a national firm in a multimillion dollar deal.

A few quick secrets I would point out to anyone considering selling their small business:

  1. Manage your expectations as the process will take 10 times the work and stress than you believe it will.
  2. Get your books in order and pay a CPA to get all of your accounting records in GAAP standard.

  3. Get a good attorney that specializes in business transactions such as these. DO NOT get a run-of-the-mill attorney, and don’t be cheap when it comes to your attorney, unless you want to get taken advantage of in a deal.
  4. Be prepared for the journey to take a year to navigate the nuances of finding a buyer and at least six months to another year during the transition process over to that new buyer, so you need to at least be willing to give two years to the process. If you’re not willing to do that you won’t make it through the journey.
  5. Lastly and most important, go through a broker that specializes in your industry, they do this every day, believe me you are not experienced enough to get your best deal with seasoned negotiators.

Your Green Pal

Martha Sullivan

Martha Sullivan

President of Provenance Hill Consulting

According to the Exit Planning Institute, three out of four business owners profoundly regret selling their businesses 12 months after.

Why is that? There are two key reasons:

  1. Owners have distorted expectations of what their company is worth. Rather than seeing their baby through the buyer’s eyes, they see it through a parent’s unconditional love. Their lack of understanding around what drives a company’s value is limited so they assume that everyone will see all the benefits of ownership. Buyers, on the other hand, see risk before they see benefits.
  2. Business owners often have no plan for what happens after they put down the champagne glass. Like an addict going through withdrawal, they underestimate the power of the social, intellectual, physical, and emotional engagement owning and driving their business gave them. Without a well-planned glide path for what comes next, many owners are left adrift, lamenting what they lost rather than focusing on what adventure they can pursue next.

    1. The process of actually taking a company to market traditionally takes nine to 18 months (from point of hiring an investment banker/broker to date of close.) This falsely assumes the business be market ready. For every 100 companies an investment banker reviews, only one or two will go to market. And even those companies have only a 70% chance of a successful close.

      Astute business owners start the process 3-5 years in advance.

      They live to build and build to live… mindfully charting their next great adventure. It’s not just a transaction. It’s a transformation.

      These owners educate themselves on the process and gain an independent perspective on the company’s value.

      They take a holistic approach, gather experienced advisors, and understand what they need for them to move on comfortably. They build value and chart a course that provides options.

      Provenance Hill Consulting, LLC

Jay Myers

Jay Myers

President of JBM Enterprises

What advice would I give any small business owner who is interested in selling their company?

First off, based on my experience timing is everything when considering the sale of a business.

Certainly, a company with declining revenue/profits is not going to be an attractive target for a potential acquirer.

On the other hand, a company that is growing their revenue and profitability year over year tends to be well positioned for a potential acquisition.

In the case with my company, we sold the business the year after we earned record revenue/ profits which got the attention of the largest company in my industry (audio visual).

Another key ingredient in the M&A process is to make sure you have audited financials so that the potential acquirer can easily access and confirm numbers on both the balance sheet and income statement.

Another point of consideration is that selling a business takes a lot of time and the due diligence process in particular, can not only be time consuming but mind-numbing as well.

Also, it needs to be noted that it can be very tricky to run a business day to day when you are actively trying to sell it.

The key is to show the utmost in discretion and not send up any red flags!

What other words of wisdom do I have relative to the merger/acquisition process?

  1. Selling a business that you started is way more than a financial transaction but more of a life changing event. Be prepared for an emotional ride!
  2. It’s not what you think your business is worth but what someone is willing to pay for it.
  3. When selling a business focus on the future and not the past.
  4. It’s important to sell a business when it’s ready, not when you’re ready.
  5. JBM Enterprises