By Matthew J. Silla, ASA, CFA, senior manager, business valuation, litigation support, Barnes Wendling

Business owners need to begin the process of preparing their company for sale sooner rather than later. When selling your house, you get it in the best condition possible, and the same goes for selling your business.

Here are some things to consider so that when the time comes for you to leave — either voluntarily or unexpectedly — your business is in the best possible condition to maximize its value.

1. Do it now. The more prepared you are, the better the chances are of getting a good deal done. And you never know when death or disability may unexpectedly take you out of the picture. Owners of privately held businesses generally have a significant amount of wealth tied up in their companies, and at some point, there will be a liquidity event. Selling your business is probably one of the most important financial decisions you will ever make, and you need to understand the factors that can impact value to make the best decisions.

2. Analyze your business. A professional can help you analyze financial statements and historical trends, determine how your business compares to others in your industry, and assess the risks your company faces. With that information, he or she can assess where the company can grow and where it can decrease risks.

3. Document everything. Business owners have a lot of information in their heads but often fail to write it down. That works while you are in charge, but what about when you no longer are? You’ve invested a lot of time and money in growing your business, and if you don’t take the time to plan for your departure, it could crumble.

4. Involve your management team. The more you engage your management team, the better off your business will be. If your team members buy in to your plan and feel like they are part of the company’s future — even when you’re gone — they will work harder to grow the business, move it forward, and help it succeed. Without a plan, the uncertainty may cost you key employees as they seek other employment.

5. Continue to assess your plan. Succession planning is an ongoing process as your business continues to evolve, not something you do once and forget about.

Understanding what your company is worth – and determining when and how you want to exit – allows you to maximize your selling price, minimize your risks, leave the legacy you want, and prepare for contingencies.