Nobody wants to think of their business dying, but if it’s already happening, there’s nothing to do but to face it head-on. Delaying the inevitable will only make things worse. As with setting up a business, closing or selling one involves a lot of paperwork and finances. It also often takes some consultation with accountants, lawyers, and other business professionals. Before you call your bankruptcy lawyer, here’s a list of steps you need to take.
Have you tried everything yet?
If the root of the problem is financial, take advantage of small business loans and grants that you may be eligible for. Nav has a Small Business Grant contest every quarter that gives the winner $10,000. Runner-ups receive $5,000. FedEx has an annual grant contest that gives grants to 12 selected businesses. The first prize winner gets $50,000 and $7,500 worth in FedEx Office print services. The second placer gets $30,000, and the 10 other businesses get $15,000.
If the root of the problem is a low demand for your products and services, double down on your consumer research and find out what will sell. Think about how you can attract your target market. Determine your opportunities as well as potential dangers. Take steps that will help you maximize those opportunities and minimize or avoid causing more problems.
Set priorities and cut costs. Avoid discretionary spending. It may be tempting, but don’t try to run away from your creditors. Doing so will ruin your relationship with them, and they’ll be more likely to cut you off. Explain your situation clearly and honestly, and they’ll be very likely to work with you still if they think that you’ll still be able to pay them. You also have to think carefully about how you’re going to communicate your problems and how much you’re going to disclose. Both will depend on who your creditor is and what your relationship is like.
In case of shut down
But if you’ve used up every lifeline you could, and there’s no choice but to close down the business, here’s what to do.
Analyze. Whether you plan to close the business or keep fighting, you’ll have to analyze your situation. It can be painful to reflect upon your mistakes, but doing that is the only way you’ll learn.
Decide whether to close or sell. Determine your exit strategy. This will sometimes call for professional advice. The SBA has counseling services you can avail of. Whether you’re closing or selling, there’s going to be a lot of paperwork to go through, so it’s wise to ask for assistance from your lawyer and accountant.
Many will argue that you should sell your business instead of closing it. If you’re going to sell, you may want to consult a business appraiser who will determine your company’s value so that you can make sound offers to buyers.
After that, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to transfer ownership. It might be through outright sale, gradual sale, or lease agreement. An outright sale is best when you can no longer afford to keep the business any longer and need payment as soon as possible. You will sell your business in full and immediately hand over ownership to the buyer, who will pay you at once.
Gradual sale helps buyers who don’t have enough money to make a full payment. Instead of paying everything at once, the buyer will pay smaller increments over an extended period. A lease agreement means that the buyer and the previous owner will agree to follow a contract containing the lease conditions.
Don’t disconnect from your business contacts. Be it collaborators, clients, employees, or suppliers, don’t cut ties with the people you worked with. Make sure that, despite your business closing, you part with them on good terms. So that, should the opportunity arise where you have to work together again, both parties will be willing, and there won’t be any bitterness.
Take some time off. Closing a business is no easy task. It can be very emotionally draining. Take some time to recover and do things that you enjoy. By the time you start working again – be it starting another business or otherwise – you’ll feel more motivated to continue. Often, it’s when we take breaks that we can gain the most important insights.
Network with other entrepreneurs. It might be embarrassing to talk about running a failed business, but opening up about it shouldn’t cause people to respect you any less. If that happens, you should stay away from those people. But other entrepreneurs are more likely to be understanding rather than judgmental. After all, they’re familiar with the struggles of running a business. Talking to other entrepreneurs will also give you more insight as to what makes a business survive.
Letting go of a dying business – either by closing or selling – can be a complicated process. Following these steps can keep the process of letting go from being more painful than it already is.