The economic downturn of recent years has brought focus to aviation business owners who are suddenly contemplating the sale of their FBO, flight school, aircraft maintenance, or other general aviation businesses. It is not uncommon to find that few have planned their exit strategy or how to best position the company for a sale. And, at a time when the average sales cycle for aviation businesses is in excess of 12 months, it is important to begin laying the groundwork well in advance of the decision to sell.
Understandably, over time, a business owner’s attention is focused on building the business, improving sales, managing cash flows, and serving the customer. All are critically important to the ongoing reputation and viability of the business. However, over the longer term, it is vital for any aviation business owner to devise a series of long- and short-term strategies to help position the company for a sale.
When it comes to positioning a company for sale, time is a valuable resource which must be used wisely. Over the years, our experience has shown that those business owners who’ve invested the time, and who’ve taken the steps necessary to ready their company for an eventual sale achieve far better results than those who haven’t.
Make no mistake; in a time when the average business sales cycle is lengthy, one’s ultimate goal is to enhance the company’s value and marketability to prospective buyers, and to get the best price in the shortest possible time.
Long-term strategy/handling critical issues
As one reflects on the process of selling their business, it is important to view one’s business and its operations from the buyers’ perspective. Consequently for the business owner who is planning for that future date, an important part of the “positioning” strategy includes identifying and dealing with future issues which could directly affect the business’ value and buyer interest.
Future issues may include the need to renew a lease agreement with the airport or landlord, a requirement to refurbish or construct a hangar or other facility, the need to acquire or upgrade additional certifications, maintaining employee training and certifications, or the renewal of key contracts with customers or distributors. Simply put, to properly position an aircraft maintenance business for sale in future years, any issue or relationship which may affect value, buyer interest, and the company’s future profitability must be addressed and remedied as soon as possible.
Consultants and experts in the sale of aviation businesses, frequently see circumstances where economic and personal issues suddenly arise which force an owner to pursue a sale immediately. This situation is generally a result of disagreements within partnerships, family issues, owner’s health or death, declining financial performance, or a sudden desire to retire.
In these situations, timing may play a key role and may diminish the owner’s capability to solve those outstanding, “future issues.” When unforeseen events occur, the impact on the value of the business is usually negative, because those outstanding issues which one had always planned on eventually solving are now left undone.
Given the above, one’s best long-term strategy is not to procrastinate. Even if the plan to sell is projected in three to five years, spend time now (once or twice yearly) to plan your exit strategy and solve problem areas. Work toward adding value and eliminating problem issues.
Is your business ready to sell now? The selling process
Spring is typically a busy time when many aviation business owners become re-focused toward improving their sales, pursuing customers, and developing opportunities for growth within their organizations. It is also during this time (from March to July) that many FBO and aviation business owners seriously entertain the idea of selling their businesses.
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