Tough love is hard to receive. You think you’re getting somewhere, and then – bam! – you’re back at square one. You might feel like that when you first decide to sell your business. Once you learn how the process works, reality bites: Is it really this long and complicated?
Yes and no. We’ve been through the M&A machine many times as exited founders and helping 1,000s of founders sell. And while we continue to build the tools to make selling your business easy, you might learn some hard – but necessary – truths along the way. And there are definitely many ways that you can sell your business.
The good news is we’ve got your back. Your job is to continue running your business while we support you through every stage of the acquisition. That starts when your customer success manager (CSM) evaluates your goals, business, and expectations with the listing scorecard.
Think of it as a buyer’s report card of your listing, not a judgment on your business. It might feel strange to “fail” an aspect of your listing, but if we only said what you wanted to hear, we’d do you a disservice. You might not sell, or worse, sell for far less than you wanted.
Since we want you to get you Acquire’d, expect a little tough love at the beginning to ensure you stand the best chance of achieving your acquisition goals.
Preparing You for the Unexpected
You’ll encounter many surprises when selling your business. Maybe you’ll spot a discrepancy in your profit and loss (P&L) statement, an expired contractor agreement, or your social media ad campaigns are bleeding cash. Not all surprises are bad, though.
You might spot a tremendous growth opportunity for someone with the right skill set. Perhaps that proprietary software you built to solve an internal problem is worth a fortune to an outsider. Or maybe you’ll force a new way of thinking about your business that helps you scale.
Surprises can help or hinder an acquisition. Your CSM’s role is to identify the bad and highlight the good, ensuring you take your best shot when your listing goes live. As a result, the scorecard focuses on the areas where most founders struggle and that buyers care about most.
Common Listing Problems
- Crazy high (or low) asking prices
- Missing or scant financials
- Half-completed profiles
- Under or over-selling attributes
- Missing assets and descriptions
- Missing technical details
- Unclear growth opportunities
- And countless more…
Your CSM will inspect your listing, root out inaccuracies, missing information, and get to the heart of your business to make your startup pop.
Now, let’s review the listing scorecard to see where you stack up.
What Is the Listing Scorecard?
The listing scorecard is the culmination of hundreds of hours of acquisition research.
We analyzed thousands of acquisitions, interviewed hundreds of founders, and collected data across multiple industries to understand what makes the “perfect” listing:
- What do buyers want to see?
- What can help you achieve your goals before you book that first buyer call?
- What data sets and messaging best sell your business?
Then we split the listing scorecard into four areas, each with criteria on which our CSMs rate your business and give that area a score.
It looks like this:
The scorecard continuously evolves to adapt to your business.
How we use the scorecard also iterates as we list more businesses, close more acquisitions, and gather feedback from buyers, sellers, and the marketplace.
Don’t be surprised if your CSM shares a modified or totally different version to the one above. But this version gives you an idea of how we assess the quality of your listing.
Now, let’s look at how the scorecard works in practice.
How Does the Scorecard Help You Get Acquire’d?
The scorecard helps you get Acquire’d by diagnosing problems with your listing before it goes live. It measures the gap between your listing today and your best possible listing. That gap can be pretty large, which can delay or diminish your chances of acquisition (not cool).
Your CSM will help you close that gap by scoring you in each area and explaining how to raise your grades. If you get Cs, Ds, or Fs, don’t be disheartened. A few simple changes can instantly transform your listing into something that catches buyers’ attention.
Remember: The scorecard is about you and your listing from a buyer’s perspective. We could tell you what makes the perfect listing (which we have), or give you a list of do’s and don’ts, but we want to tailor advice to you. It’s that level of attention, personalization, and care that we believe makes selling on Acquire.com special – and the scorecard is just the start.
What Does the Scorecard Include and Why?
The first part of the scorecard deals with the health of your business.
It covers questions like:
- How long has your business been operating?
- Have you uploaded a profit and loss statement or balance sheet?
- Is your business profitable?
- Is your annual revenue over $250k?
- Is there a clear and practical strategy for further growth?
Buyers love profitable, growing startups that have survived those difficult early years to establish themselves as attractive investment opportunities.
Size matters, since it indicates scale and market penetration. Your growth playbooks tie everything together, convincing buyers to make you an offer.
Your business metrics include, at minimum:
- Web metrics such as site traffic and customer acquisition
- Financial metrics like gross revenue and profit
- Customer metrics like annual recurring revenue and growth rate
If you connected your metrics when signing up, all of this is done automatically, generating an automatic P&L and a convenient dashboard for viewing your data in real time. Your CSM might also recommend uploading a manual P&L for the last three years (if available).
Otherwise, you’ll have to include business metrics manually in your listing. Your CSM will discuss your business metrics to ensure they’re accurate and valid.
Also included in the business metrics area of the scorecard is a due diligence checklist. We’ll provide a template and data room for you – all you need to do is populate it.
Your CSM will also score you on how persuasively you’ve sold yourself and your business.
Before a buyer requests access to your private information, they investigate your public listing to whittle down their shortlist and determine whether you’re worth their time.
How do they do that?
They look at your:
- Seller profile – your bio and LinkedIn URL
- General startup summary – your industry, startup size, asking price, and so on
- Company overview – your elevator pitch, growth opportunity, and company details
- Acquisition details – why you’re selling and how you’re financed
Buyers are typically looking for credibility, fit, and opportunity.
Does your business match their acquisition criteria? Is it legitimate and verifiable? Will it give them the best return for their money?
Sharpen your copywriting pencil and showcase the maximum potential of your business to buyers before they connect with you. Your CSM will help you do that.
Finally, your CSM will check your preparedness for the acquisition process.
You might have certain self-defeating preconceptions about selling your business, which can lead to disappointment. Most founders do. The press all too often focuses on the fraction of a percent enjoying crazy high exits, and Twitter is a hotbed of wishful thinking.
Our experience of helping over a thousand founders get Acquire’d gives you a realistic picture of the process while gearing you up for success.
Your CSM will therefore check you against:
- How quickly you expect to sell
- Whether your business is a good fit for the marketplace
- How much time you’ve invested in learning about acquisitions
- Your understanding and articulation of your unique value propositions
- Your expected multiple and whether it’s in line with market reports
The goal here is to temper your expectations and prepare you for what’s to come. I can think of only a handful of life events as important as an acquisition, and even fewer where preparation is so integral to achieving your goals. Your CSM is ready to shepherd you toward them.
What Happens After the Scorecard?
The report card is in. You’ve got your grades. Now what?
Your CSM will have explained your scores during your first phone call and given you an action plan to improve your grades in areas that need it.
Now it’s time to do your homework. You’ll work with your CSM to improve your listing, scheduling another call to check on progress before your listing goes live.
Once your listing is live and the buyer inquiries flood your inbox, your CSM will help you field them. They’ll help you understand deal structures, discuss legal documents, and generally coach you through to closing.
The rest is up to you.
The content on this site is not intended to provide legal, financial, or M&A advice. It is for information purposes only, and any links provided are for your convenience. Please seek the services of an M&A professional before entering into any M&A transaction. It is not Acquire’s intention to solicit or interfere with any established relationship you may have with any M&A professional.