For a business with a £1m to £50m turnover, the average time to sell can be up to 18 months. If this is longer than you thought, there are good reasons for that. Learn what issues can slow down or speed up a company sale, based on our analysis of 50 real company sales*.
Months or years – what's the truth?
The dividing line on ‘how long it takes to sell’ correlates with the size of company in question. Brokers and business-for-sale listing websites say 6-12 months for those they do get away. However, their customer profile skews towards microbusinesses – typically in food service, personal services and independent retail – which are often simply the sale of equipment stock and customer lists. A full ‘share sale’ is more complex.
Accountants working with multi-million turnover SMEs suggest it takes around 12 months to sell. But we know that many auditor-based advisors are fond of management buyouts (MBO), which are usually quicker to complete as both parties already know each other.
Our study of 50 acquisitions ranges from deals handling negotiations for a client with a readymade acquirer in tow (43 days to complete) to advising businesses on how to restructure or test new products before going to market (six years to complete).
So let’s look at how this timeframe breaks down during the different phases of getting ready to sell, meeting buyers and negotiating the detail.