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By Elizabeth M. Anderson
Vice President, Business Development
Whittier Trust Company

How hot is your company? Would you give it a solid 10 out of 10? What rating would others give it? Even if selling your company is the furthest thing from your mind, assessing its attractiveness and saleability should be a regular priority—a way to make sure you’re optimizing your resources and your balance sheet.

 

As the owner, you may be too close to the business to be fully objective. An outside perspective from a partner like Whittier Trust can help ensure your company is operating at peak performance and is set up to continue doing so, with or without you. Clients who have the most successful sales start thinking about the steps early and create a vision for their ideal transition out of the business. Whittier Trust works with you through the process in collaboration with trusted consultants. At the same time, we address your personal goals, from day-to-day concerns like cash flow needs to big-picture items, such as what sort of legacy you hope to leave.

If you want to rest assured that your business is ready for sale or transition at any time, here are six best practices encouraged by Whittier Trust’s exit planning team. Working through each of these items will boost your company’s value, giving you the strongest possible position when it comes time to negotiate.

  1. Make sure your company can thrive without you. It’s likely that your particular skills and personality have played a large role in your company’s success. That’s why this is often the hardest step. It’s vital to make sure key associates can ensure continuity across all aspects of the business, including customer and vendor relationships, your brand, and your company culture. And that those staff members will stay with the organization if it is sold or you leave.
  2. Get your house in order. Your business systems, processes, and facilities are a significant part of your value, so it’s time to delve into details you may have trusted others to handle for years. You’ll want to be sure no systems are out of date, no short-term fixes are masking underlying problems, and no areas of risk are making you vulnerable. You may be able to identify underutilized aspects of the business where you could gain some profit or advantages. And you need to be confident that staff are trained and productive, with built-in redundancies. Ask yourself: What will a prospective buyer see if they look under the hood?
  3. Audit yourself. Your accountants should be able to assure you that your financials are in auditable shape, but a true due diligence audit goes far beyond income statements and balance sheets. Contracts, licensing, insurance, intellectual property, legal actions, capital structure, and outstanding debt all need to be scrutinized, resolved or finalized, and clearly documented.
  4. Remember that timing is everything. There’s a lot of lead time required for company transitions, and you want to be ready when the market is strong and conditions are right for a merger, sale, or other major change. So, the time to start talking with consultants about improvements is now. Investing in the business today will pay off in a more valuable company tomorrow.
  5. Don’t shy away from the personal. It’s your family business, so every decision has implications for your personal wealth and well-being. Have you thought through your post-sale goals? Do you know how changes will affect your immediate family as well as extended family involved in the business? Do you have an estate plan, financial plan, and philanthropic and tax objectives? It’s easy to think that personal matters can wait until later, but a holistic approach will decrease stress for you and your family, and a partner like Whittier Trust can tackle both business and personal objectives at the same time.
  6. Mark your calendar to “repeat” automatically. Unfortunately, this assessment process is not a one-and-done process. Neither your business nor your personal life are completely predictable, so you’ll need to re-evaluate next year (assuming you haven’t sold the business by then). Being prepared for the unexpected is always good business.

In addition to helping you realize the highest value from the sale of a business, Whittier Trust is also committed to you and your family after the sale. As the oldest multifamily office headquartered in the West, we have guided hundreds of clients through family business transitions and through the tax, investment, and personal implications of significant liquidity events. (Keep in mind that if you’re considering a distribution of wealth among family members, the next year is a critical time period because of the 50% cut in the Lifetime Gift Tax Exemption that goes into effect on January 1, 2026.)

Engaging your own Whittier Trust multifamily office gives you a personal, custom team of advisors to handle the day-to-day demands of wealth management. We get to know your family’s hopes and challenges, and we facilitate communication among family members so everyone understands the decisions being made. Whether you’re navigating succession questions, estate plans, or charitable options, we help manage family dynamics and foster family continuity from one generation to the next. From the moment you begin contemplating selling your business to days spent enjoying grandchildren and hobbies, Whittier Trust’s team of experts is there to ensure you meet your business and personal goals.

Elizabeth M. Anderson helps lead the family business transitions team at Whittier Trust Company. She is a Certified Exit Planning Advisor and is passionate about assisting business owners with succession planning and pre-liquidity personal planning.

About Whittier Trust
Whittier Trust’s mission is to build and sustain an accomplished, successful, and talented organization that is expert in guiding families through multiple generations–protecting and enriching a family’s legacy through diligence and integrity while educating the family’s future generations about their stewardship and the opportunities it encompasses.  We have refined our singular focus on the business of wealth management since 1935. Today as a trust management company, Whittier Trust offers a breadth of financial services and expertise supported by an exceptional commitment to personal service reflecting our family office roots. We collaborate closely with our clients and their advisors to tailor investment strategies that meet their unique needs, goals, and values—in other words, we focus on what your wealth means to you.

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