5 “Strategic” Ways to Sell Your Company

dollar Last year Facebook acquired Internet messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion? It represented the largest-ever acquisition of an Internet company in history.

WhatsApp is a pearl for sure. The messaging service allows users to avoid text-messaging charges by moving texts across the Internet instead of the mobile phone carrier networks. This can save people who travel, or who live in emerging markets, hundreds of dollars a year, which is why WhatsApp is adding one million new users per day.

At the time of the acquisition in February 2014, WhatsApp had acquired some 450 million users. Their business model is to charge a subscription of $1 per year after their first full year of service. Even if all 450 million WhatsApp users were already paying, that is still less than half a billion in revenue. Why would Facebook acquire WhatsApp for a number that is somewhere north of 40 times revenue?

Nobody know for sure what is in Mark Zuckerberg’s head, but we can only assume that at least part of the opportunity Facebook sees is the opportunity to sell more Facebook ads because of the information they glean from WhatsApp users. Global advertising giant Publicis estimates 2013 online advertising spending in the US alone to be around $500 billion. Presumably Facebook believes they can get a larger chunk of the global online ad buy because they know more about its users by owning WhatsApp.

And therein lies the definition of a strategic acquisition. Most acquisitions run a predictable pattern of industry norms, but a strategic can pay a significant premium for your business because they are looking at your business for what it is worth in their hands. Rather than forecasting out your future profits and estimating what that cash is worth in today’s dollars, a strategic is calculating the economic benefit of grafting your business onto theirs.

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Growing Into Your Eventual Exit

growth - plant in handIt has been said that ‘timing is everything’. Well in business transition planning, timing is important, but so is transferability. Today’s newsletter discusses both and is intended to provide you with some guidance as to how you can begin to design a plan for a successful business transition, which includes growing the transferable value of your business towards an exit that is a number of years into the future.

Gaining an Exit Perspective

Setting a plan for an exit requires a perspective on what you are trying to achieve and when it is possible to attain such an outcome. An important consideration for every business owner is that of ‘exit windows’, or, how to time your exit to meet your business and personal goals. Once you understand the timing of your exit, there is an opportunity for you to begin planning and making decisions today based upon achieving this future exit. Without this type of planning, you are likely to be without direction for your exit, and possibly missing the next exit window.

Exit Windows

The chart below illustrates the cycle of business exits and shows that the next likely window for exit is within the next few years. According to this ‘ten year transfer cycle’ chart, in 2015 we are inside of a window for exit that may last for another three (3) years or so – see belowPicture0001


So, how can you grow into your exit? Well, you can begin with the end in mind. You can begin by understanding when you would like to exit and then build the business around that timing.

Three Concepts Relating to a Transferable Business

In order to manage anything in life and in business, you need to be able to measure it. A measurement of your current value becomes very important. A plan to grow that value as you approach your exit becomes a critical part of the exit planning process. There are three (3) concepts that you should be looking at when thinking about growing into your exit. They are:

1. Profitability
2. Sustainability
3. Transferability


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