If you’re looking to sell your AEC firm, the sales process you take – either broad or targeted – will have its share of pros and cons.
Once the decision to sell your firm has been made, hire an M&A advisor. Your sell-side advisor will seek to achieve an optional mix of value maximization, speed of execution, and certainty of execution among other deal-specific objectives.
To maximize value and certainty of execution, M&A advisors seek to properly position the business by crafting a compelling story using marketing material and tailoring the sale process accordingly. It’s vital for your advisor to identify the shareholder’s objectives and priorities to determine the appropriate sales process to follow.
The traditional sell-side process is structured as a two-round “bidding” process that generally takes three to six months, from the decision to sell until the signing of a purchase agreement.
There are two primary types of sale processes:
- Broad sale approach. As its name implies, a broad sale approach maximizes the universe of prospective buyers contacted. A broad sale approach is designed to maximize competitive advantage to negotiate the best offer. By casting a wide net, this process involves contacting dozens of potential buyers comprised of both strategic buyers (which could likely include direct competitors and other AEC firms) and financial sponsors (family offices or private equity funds). It can be difficult to maintain confidentiality as this process is susceptible to information leakage which, in turn, could increase the risk of business disruption.
- Targeted sale approach. A targeted approach focuses on a few clearly defined pre-screened buyers that have been identified as having a strong strategic fit and/or interest, as well as the financial capacity, to execute an acquisition. This process is more conducive to not only maintaining confidentiality but also minimizing potential business disruption for the selling firm. At the same time, this process runs the risk of “leaving money on the table” by excluding a potential buyer that may be willing to pay a higher purchase price.
If you’re mostly indifferent toward confidentiality, timing, and potential business disruption, your advisor may consider running a broad sale process. Alternatively, if speed, confidentiality, a particular transaction structure, and/or cultural fit are a priority, the advisor will run a targeted sale process. In hiring an advisor to facilitate a sale mandate, it’s important to choose an M&A advisor with a vast network/database of qualified, pre-screened active buyers.
Noah Hunt is director of M&A advisory services at Zweig Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.