Selling your fire protection business is a hard decision. It can come with many mixed emotions, especially when the business has been in your family for generations. But, your exit does not have to be the end of your legacy.
There are ways to plan your retirement from fire safety while also knowing your customers and employees will be in good hands.
Sell Your Fire Protection Business Without Heartache
In this article, we want to address the concerns you may experience when planning your exit while worrying about your company’s future. We’ll look at:
- How selling your fire protection business can be the best way to take care of your team and your customers
- Ways to wade into selling your company and shifting ownership
- When it is the right time to start listing your business for sale (and how to do so confidentially)
“How Do I Sell My Fire Protection Business Without Betraying My Team and Family Legacy?”
This is a loaded question we hear often from business owners. Owners in service industries like yours know the blood, sweat, and tears that go into building a successful business.
The thought process behind that question may look something like this: you realize you are reaching the end of your working years and are ready to start the next chapter of your life. You would love to hand it off to one of your managers, but they can’t afford to buy it from you.
You could sell it off to a new owner, take the money, and walk away, but you want to do better by your team. The right acquisition partner can help you do just that.
From Small Business to Acquisition Target
The journey from start-up small business to fielding calls from business brokers and investors is a steep climb. Fire protection is a trade many families pass down, which can make it even more emotional to part with when the time comes.
Looking Out for Your Work Family
A successful business that you or your family members started has to persevere through many hard times. Your employees have become part of the family.
But now you find yourself on the brink of retirement without a good road map to hand your team. You want them to continue growing and reaching greater success. So, what do you do?
You have a few options that will allow you to go at the pace you’re most comfortable with while also supporting your team.
Not All Exit Strategies Are the Same
Not all exit strategies are created equal! While some may include a quick departure and a decent payoff, there are others that are better suited to your whole team. Here are some different ways exit strategies can work:
Sell Your Fire Protection Business to Another Industry Leader
One option when selling your company is to allow a larger fire protection company to acquire it. When this happens, you know that your team will be in the hands of other industry veterans. They will understand the needs of your customers and the day-to-day responsibilities of your employees.
From Small Business to Thriving Branch
Within this framework, your stellar employees can continue to run their office. Some acquisitions will allow your company to continue to operate independently. Other acquisitions will convert your company into one of their branches, with your team managing it if possible.
Either way, your fire protection company stays with fire protection people. That can make a big difference for your team’s feelings of support after your exit.
Sell for Funding While Maintaining Management
Depending on the size of your company and your aspirations for your team, a financial backer may be all you need. Different investors will be looking for different levels of involvement. Many will want to remain hands-off, as long as you remain profitable. Others may want to be involved in business decisions without taking over day-to-day management.
Learn About the Different Financial Options Available
Depending on the size of your company, your market position, and your revenue, there are several options for shifting ownership. Discussing these options with an experienced broker can help you know how to discuss your terms with interested buyers.
Fade Out by Selling Fire Alarm, Fire Extinguisher, or Fire Suppression Accounts
If you and your team decide you are not interested in growth or expansion, selling some of your accounts may be a good exit strategy option.
A Win-Win for You, Your Customers, and Your Team
Selling accounts can be a win-win solution for all involved. The customers move to a larger company who can keep up with their growing demands. Your team can focus their efforts back on the clients that they are best suited to protect. Meanwhile, you can still make some money ahead of your exit.
Knowing Your Options Can Give You Peace of Mind
As you consider the various ways to sell your business, or part of your business, when it’s time for your exit, knowledge is power. The more you can learn about the options, the better you will be able to decide which one is right for your business.
As part of this process, you can start talking to buyers interested in different types of deals and levels of involvement. The right partner for your team may have ideas that surprise you! With the right help, you can move through these conversations with discretion and confidence. We’ll explain how next.
Yes, You Can Speak to Buyers Confidentially
As the seller, the power is in your hands. Don’t let the options and financial terms intimidate you! With fire protection companies in high demand, you can take your time to find the right buyer for your business.
What If I Don’t Want My Business to Be Listed for Sale Publicly?
You can start talking to interested buyers long before you are interested in making your upcoming transition public. In many cases, owners will talk with buyers or investors and make a deal before announcing it to anyone. If the buyer does not offer or provide a confidentiality agreement upfront, then ask for one before you talk with that interested party.
Confidentiality Protects Buyers and Sellers
This confidentiality protects both parties. It keeps you in control of how and when you share the message with your team. It also keeps your competitors from circling around your customers and employees, waiting to swoop in the minute there is uncertainty around your business’s future.
Confidentiality keeps the buyer and/or investor safe, too. If one business or firm is in active conversations with you, the last thing it wants is to have other businesses aware of it and actively competing with them for your business. “But, wouldn’t that be good for me?” you may be asking. It can be, if done correctly! That’s where a broker is a wise partner.
How A Broker Can Help You Sell Your Fire Protection Business
Working with a broker takes all the pressure off your shoulders. Instead of navigating the different acquisition offer letters, meetings, and confidentiality notices yourself, you can have a broker represent you. A broker can:
- connect you to interested buyers who may not have reached out to you yet
- sort through your offer letters and negotiate better deals
- help you understand the different options available
- learn the goals you have for yourself and your team, and pair you with buyers who meet them
- keep your fire protection business confidential while negotiating with buyers
- relay the information to you so you can stay informed and weigh the options
A broker’s job is to make you money. A good broker knows that money is only part of the deal, so he or she will work hard to make you more money while also taking care of your team.
Plan Your Exit Strategy with Pride and Peace of Mind
If you are ready to exit your fire protection business, give Acquisition and Funding Services a call. Owner and former alarm business owner Rory Russell can sympathize with the process. His own experiences and his decades working with other security integration sellers help him prioritize your concerns while earning you the best price.
Read testimonials from other industry sellers here. You can also follow us on LinkedIn to stay up to date with the acquisition side of fire protection. Listening and learning may help you make your decision.