As we have examined in the past, we are currently in one of the strongest seller’s markets in history. This was re-confirmed recently by an article written by Danielle Fugazy and published on the Axial website. According to the article:
The M&A market as a whole remains white hot and the lower middle market is no exception. Sellers are undoubtedly benefiting from today’s strong market conditions. “The market is as robust as it’s ever been. We are seeing high valuations. Average purchase price multiples are at an all-time high,” says Graeme Frazier, president of Private Capital Research LLC and a founder of GF Data, a data provider that tracks companies with enterprise values of $10 million to $250 million. “Even rising interest rates are not quelling demand.”
Frazier makes an interesting point at the end of that paragraph. Historically, as rates rise (or even the rumor of rates rising) M&A transactions are usually affected. However, this is not the case presently, perhaps because despite rates going up the past year, they are still at historically low levels:
Robin Engleson, a managing partner with Sapphire Financial, which provides debt and equity to middle and lower middle market companies, says it’s the combination of both the dry powder and equity available fueling activity. “You have an abundance of debt, and buyers are willing to over equitize these transactions today. Today, lower middle market companies that have a reasonable story have a good shot of getting the highest valuations they could ever get,” she says.
Think about that for a moment: Sellers in this market are possibly going to get valuations that are higher for their companies than they would have gotten in 2010 in the midst of the Great Recession, and most likely, higher than what they will get when this seller’s market eventually ends.
It is worth keeping in mind, as you analyze your company in light of this news, that companies in the lower middle market (generally those valued below $100 million) are particularly attractive to professional buyers as “add-ons” to existing platform holdings. Again, according to the article:
According to PitchBook, as of Q2 2018 roughly half of all buyouts globally and more than two-thirds of all buyouts in the U.S. are add-ons. In the first quarter alone add-ons accounted for 70 percent of all buyout activity.
That is a staggering statistic and further validates the notion that casting as wide a net as possible when you look for buyers is critical. As we always say, don’t assume that the optimal buyer for your company is going to be your competitor down the street. When selling a business, reach out to a large pool of realistic targets when you begin your search and definitely don’t discount private equity firms looking for add-ons.
The question on everyone’s mind is this: When will the seller’s market end? What convergence of events will cause buyers to back off record high valuations?
Despite feeling like the market is at the top or close to it, market professionals don’t see anything on the horizon that will change market conditions anytime soon. “There’s no sign of a slow down. We are seeing a lack of good target companies, but there’s nothing to make us believe that demand for lower middle market companies will slow. It’s certainly a compelling market to be a seller,” says Frazier.
Frazier again makes two key points: It is a great time to be a seller of a business, but the major factor impacting buyers is a lack of viable targets. And a lack of targets drives valuations up even further as the pool of buyers compete with one another to land any targets that they can.
Because of where we are in the market cycle, we are asking business owners that we meet with at our M&A conferences two key questions:
Until a business owner addresses these two questions, odds are good that their market timing will be driven by external circumstances. Keep in mind that there are two kinds of business owners:
It is far better to be the former than the latter. This is why it pays to have a business exit strategy.
If you are interested in addressing the two questions above and want to be an owner that PLANS rather than REACTS, attend a Generational Equity exit planning conference soon. While there you will not only learn more about just how active buyers are but you also will be able to meet one-on-one with our M&A professionals in attendance to discuss your specific circumstances.
By Carl Doerksen, Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity.
© 2021 Generational Equity, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
I decided to attend the conference and hopefully receive some guidance on how to structure an exit plan of my business. Upon arriving at the conference, I was so impressed with the presentation given by Generational Equity that I set a future appointment that week to discuss the possibility of selling my business with their Senior Managing Director David Robinson.JoAnn Ellis, Owner of Fondren 5 Star Kennels
The process was much more involved than I expected and your help, experience and advice was a big factor in making the negotiations go as smoothly as possible.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
I must say that I have never worked with a more driven, competent and focused individual as Don Ho.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
T.D., thank you so much! You are a great leader! I love how you are using your gifts and talents to better others. You are clearly a GREAT COACH! This 3 day session undoubtedly changed the future of our business, and very well may have been the sole catalyst to save my company, my health and my marriage! A genuine “thank you” from the bottom of my heart.Bryan D. Horn, Owner, Over Under Clothing
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all that you have done for us. Not only did you take care of all the aspects of the sale but took extra care to make sure we knew what it looked like every step of the way. I will definitely recommend your company to anyone that is in a position to or looking to exit their business.Shane and Johanna Kline, Owners of Vision Upfitters
We knew it would be a difficult task to have someone really understand our business and our market, prior to researching a possible buyer, so it was imperative that we found someone of your caliber, with definite proven experience in this area.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
The professionals at Generational Equity then helped develop a roadmap for enhancing the value of the firm and an evaluation report. This was completed by June 14, 2021. We then developed the Confidential Information Memorandum and put Taylor Studios, Inc. on the market by July.Betty L. Brennan, President, Taylor Studios
Generational Equity’s professional staff helped me every step of the way. Their network and professionals are the only reason I sold my company this quickly. For me this is a once in a lifetime sale and I was unfamiliar with the process. I was able to lean on them with questions and concerns.
Generational Equity’s assistance was invaluable in compiling and marketing our business.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
Generational Equity educated and informed us – so that we could be on the upside of a good decision (to sell).Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
I couldn’t have asked for a better team than Michael and Deborah. We couldn’t have done it without them.Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
I am pleased that I was able to work with Andrew Byrd throughout this experience. From the first meeting we had in Minneapolis I felt that I was in good hands. His knowledge and expertise is second to none. He guided the process consistently throughout. I feel lucky that I was pared with Andrew and could not be happier that I chose Generational Equity to handle this major life event. Thank you Andrew and GenEq for everything!Eric Erlandson, Owner, Action Fastenings, Inc.
I wanted to write you a quick letter to express our appreciation and our delight on the outcome of helping us through the process of our recent sale. We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
I need to say an immense thank you to Don Ho for his stellar work ethic, attention to detail, and tireless effort. Also thank you to the whole crew at GE! Without you, Don could not do such a phenomenal job. We were shooting for closing and funding before the end of 2020, due to the uncertainty of the political landscape and taxes. I am happy to report we closed last week and will be funding tomorrow.Dr. Caty J. Catron PhD, RN, VA-BC – Owner, Vic The Picc, LLC
Michael worked tirelessly, He followed every lead meticulously and urgently to make sure nothing was missed.Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
Through the sale process, Generational brought in several interested buyers and we closed in about 6 months. I am so glad I accepted that invitation to the conference and could not be happier with the whole process. The team at Generational coupled with their knowledge and guidance was so valuable that in the end, I know I could never have done this on my own!JoAnn Ellis, Owner of Fondren 5 Star Kennels
Thanks to you, the entire GE team and especially Michael Goss for driving a great valuation, coaching me and driving the process across the finish line. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to support GE going forward. P.S. Given my experience with GE I felt comfortable enough to sign up with Generation Wealth Advisors!Tom Currier, Former President & CEO, Rackmount Solutions
I would like to thank you and your firm, Generational Equity, for being our valued advisors in our journey.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
Greetings Mike. Thank you for the captivating and compelling presentation you made at the Phoenix presentation last week. Over many years in business yours was the most informative and well-presented presentation, on any subject, that I have ever attended! Your energy and enthusiasm combined with your concise and captivating support of your positions with easily understood examples and data was compelling.Pete L.
We were represented by Michael Goss with Generational. The due diligence was grueling and exhausting, but Michael propped us up and kept us motivated throughout the process. Debi and I continued to ask each other how we could possibly make it through this process without the assistance of Michael. Michael's professionalism and knowledge is absolutely amazing, and we are so blessed to have had him by our side as we made our future dreams come true.Bob and Debi Lee, Owners of BL Technology, Inc and BL Tl Services, LLC
I quickly recognized that Don was working for Sharpe Mixers above all else, and held our interests above others.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
We thank you Eric and Generational Equity making our dream come true.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
The help you provided us during each step of this process made us feel very comfortable and confident we were selecting the right approach to transition our Company.Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
After attending a conference with GE, I decided that the value they bring would be worth the expense and as soon as I started working with them, I realized that was the right decision. When we started to get LOIs, Fred Zweifel took the lead on the communication and supported negotiations throughout the process, which got tricky as we moved forward. I learned that it can be common for companies to make a great offer then work to erode that price with their discoveries, but Fred and the GE team kept that from happening.Caroline Connelly, CEO, OptoTest
Thank you again for all your guidance and support. Any company will achieve what they intend, if they have you on their team!Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
Your wisdom and experience were invaluable to me during this once-in-a-lifetime transaction.Ralph Noblin, President of Noblin & Associates
We were happy to see the interest in our company and what we cherished has not just a valuable company but an important company to the communities we served in.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
We had the pleasure of working with Mr. Ahmad Behjati Managing Director, M&A, for Generational Equity during our acquisition of Papa's Dodge in late 2021. Generational Equity and Mr. Behjati represented and marketed Papa’s Dodge. As our primary contact, Mr. Behjati was professional in every facet of this acquisition process, conveying valuable advice most times and assisting us in every step of the process.Rick Greene of Dobbs Equity Partners LLC
The most important contribution I think Ahmad made was with his personality and work ethic. He is sincere, efficient, and very hard working. He was available to me at all times, whether it was for specific detail of the negotiation or just to talk through the bigger picture. He listened, advised, and recommended, but never forced his idea or opinions. In the time we worked together, he became a valued colleague and also a friend.Salvo Stoch, Founder and CEO of Sleeping Partners
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