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  • Writer's pictureLes Elby

Harnessing Negative Buyer Feedback to Enhance Business Sale Outcomes

Updated: Jan 16

In the world of mergers and acquisitions, determining a business's true value can feel like navigating a blindfolded labyrinth. Buyers rarely disclose their exact desires for fear of inflating prices, but their critiques during negotiations offer tantalising glimpses. However, what if these value detractors and drivers weren't so cryptic after all?

Investment criteria
Investment criteria

A surprising truth emerges: business buyers are meticulous valuation sleuths. Like seasoned detectives, they scour for specific clues to assess a target's potential. This is particularly true for private equity giants known for their rigorous due diligence. M&A advisors serve as informants, regularly sharing acquisition criteria.

Yet, buried in whispers lies a curious paradox. Most buyers claim that industry doesn't matter much, albeit with a few caveats. However, beneath this apparent industry agnosticism lies a hidden truth: certain qualities hold universal allure, while others trigger alarm bells.

So, what are the coveted traits that make a business irresistible to an acquirer? And what hidden flaws send shudders down their spines? Unraveling these mysteries requires going beyond the superficial and delving into the core of an organisation.

Desired Criteria for a business sale:

The Holy Grail: Predictable Cash Flow. Investors crave consistent revenue streams. A business that generates reliable profits becomes a prime target.

The Midas Touch: Scalability. The potential for exponential growth is like rocket fuel to buyers. A business poised to expand beyond its current walls instantly becomes more valuable.

The Unbreakable Shield: Strong Competitive Advantage. In the business arena, buyers seek refuge in businesses with a clear edge over rivals. Robust intellectual property or a loyal customer base become fortresses against uncertainty.

However, just as sunshine casts shadows, these desirable features exist alongside value detractors lurking in the shadows. Some common suspects include:

Buyers, often private equity groups, meticulously scrutinise potential acquisitions, guided by specific investment criteria. They seek businesses with stable cash flows, significant EBITDA, and substantial operating margins. Despite their industry-agnostic claims, they have clear preferences, avoiding sectors like IT, startups, and turnarounds.

The Quest for the Ideal Acquisition:

Private equity firms, numbering in thousands, all hunt for 'a hidden diamond'-like businesses—those that promise a successful transition post-acquisition. However, not all businesses fit this mould. Many are lifestyle businesses, ideal for the owner but not scalable or transferable, thus less attractive to buyers.

Top 5 Value Detractors (what drives the price down)

1. Over-reliance on new sales rather than long-term contracts.

2. Owner-centric business operations, risking continuity post-transition.

3. Customer concentration, creating a high-risk investment.

4. Lack of competitive differentiation in the market.

5. Operating in a too narrow, limited, or declining market segment.

Understanding and addressing these detractors can be a game-changer for business owners. A simulated buyer review process can reveal areas that could negatively impact the selling price. Proactively correcting these issues can lead to a more lucrative sale and a higher proportion of cash transactions.

Real-life negotiations have underscored the importance of this proactive approach. Buyers often pinpoint areas like inflated overhead expenses or the risk of losing key assets (like skilled employees). Addressing such issues beforehand can significantly enhance the value realized from the sale.

In summary

Leveraging negative feedback and viewing one's business through the lens of a potential buyer can empower owners to make strategic adjustments. This foresight not only enhances the attractiveness of the business but also maximises the financial rewards of the eventual sale.

Lighthouse Advisory Partners: Leaders in tech M&A and strategy consulting. 

As a premier strategy consulting firm, Lighthouse specialises in empowering tech companies to chart clear paths toward growth and enhanced value. Our expertise in strategy, mergers, and acquisitions makes us the ideal partner for businesses aiming to navigate the complexities of the tech industry. Let us guide you to your next horizon of success.


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