The Key to Preparing Your Business for an Eventual Investment or Sale

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Crafting an investment teaser for your business each year might seem premature if selling isn’t even on the radar yet. But this important forward-looking exercise does a lot more than prepare your business for an eventual investment or sale. It helps business owners visualize the pitch they would have to be able to give to achieve the business valuation of their dreams. The gap between what you would like to say and what you can credibly say is exactly where to focus your next frenzied period of energy and investment.

My partner and I learned this the hard way. We sold two consulting firms about ten years apart. The first was to a strategic buyer at the lower end of the cash flow multiple range, while the second was to a private equity buyer at the higher end of the revenue multiple range. Yes, the market conditions were a little better the second time around. But the real difference was that we started focusing on how to maximize our exit multiple on day one. We kept a rolling sales sheet in our heads at all times, and were constantly rethinking investments that didn’t pass the sales sheet “smell test.”

To get started with your first business teaser, put yourself in the right mindset. Remember, you are writing a forward-looking elevator sales pitch for your company aimed at getting an investment or strategic buyer to chomp at the bit. Visualize bounding into the tenth VC conference room of the day, rattling off the perfect narrative to an awed audience. This should include a deck chock-full of data and trend analysis with recent financial results that make it clear your business thesis is spot on.

Related: Selling a Business Starts on Day 1: Here’s What Founders Need to Know

Total addressable market

Every good pitch starts with the total addressable market (TAM) discussion. You want to be able to showcase the team cherry-picked the fastest growing part of the addressable market in a highly disciplined way. You should have gained plenty of insights during the launch phase to more narrowly tailor this market and make the case for what products and services deserved the highest level of investment. If you don’t have those insights at your fingertips, this is the place to start.

In our first business, investors yawned during the TAM discussion. We had only two entry points into a public company to buy our expensive consulting services. To make it worse, the number of public companies was in a slow state of decline. Not exactly a growth industry, even though we had grown revenue in excess of 30% annually for several years. In Business #2, we tweaked our service offering to support expanding our TAM from two business titles to eight, expanding our TAM nearly three-fold to $1 billion.

Growth strategy

The next section should cover the growth strategy. List and prioritize the business’s most important growth levers. Think of two or three home-run ideas that will really get the buyers nodding, not 12 weak singles. If your list is long and still feels a little like throwing darts at the wall, start narrowing. This is critical because you are going to swing for the fences with these by directing nearly all of your valuable business investments there.

In our first business, we focused on a land and expand strategy. We made significant investments in external salespeople, custom marketing tools and company-sponsored networking events. It worked. We attracted a few large clients who provided the base of a referral network that is still feeding us today. The downside? It made scaling expensive, and introductory sales meetings became our total existence.

Business #2 had far lower customer acquisition costs, which investors loved. We cracked the code on using thought leadership to open doors with potential clients and kept fine-tuning what they were most likely to read (real-world how to’s rather than deep strategic musings) to continuously improve our chances. The majority of our marketing money went to web-based marketing to get more eyeballs on our thought leadership. Margins were higher, and we built more inroads into potential clients than simply cold sales leads.

Related: The How-To: Building An Exit Strategy For Your Business (Even Before You Start)

Financial model

The last and arguably most important portion of the sell sheet is the financial model. The model needs to showcase the key metrics that translate great ideas into profits. Before you lead with whatever is the best metric in your operating deck, gather some industry intelligence on the industry metrics that matter most right now. Don’t try and do this in a vacuum. Reach out to recent industry sellers to ask their single most important financial decision. Figure out what multiple businesses are selling at and what metrics drove their company’s actual selling price. If those metrics don’t show your business story in a good light, you may have to make real changes in investment spending, operating expenses or pricing model.

Business #2 had very low overhead expenses as we spent less on office space and geographic expansion, and more on automation tools. It helped that this was during the pandemic, and our public company clients better understood the lack of a glitzy corporate headquarters. Expenses were lower, and excess cash flow was spent in a very surgical marketing campaign. We maximized our cash flow and margins, and as a result, more than doubled in two years the money that went into our pocket from a sale.

It may be years before you sell your business, but the discipline of annually writing your own investment teaser can be an important factor in effective investment decision-making. Picture standing before seasoned investors, articulating how your business strategy and concentrated investments are delivering unrivaled growth opportunities. By prioritizing clear, compelling growth strategies and aligning investments directly with them, you position your business not just as a contender, but as an irresistible opportunity.

Related: 6 Proven Ways to Sell Your Business for 10x or More

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