Built To Sell – How to Build Salability Into Your Business From Day 1

I met Jock Purtle at an affiliate party in the penthouse of Caesars Palace earlier this year (shout out to Charles Ngo!) and in between tasty bites of sushi and slow sips of whiskey, we got to talking shop.

Turns out Jock is a full-blown lifestyle entrepreneur, traveling the world and networking at conferences and parties with founders of start-ups and private equity managers alike. He helps CEOs structure their companies to be salable and pairs them with investors who want to buy a proven business and scale it up. He agreed to share how to structure your business so it’s “built to sell”

Jock Purtle

Jock Purtle, Founder of Digital Exits

So with that, I’m turning over the typewriter to Jock Purtle, founder of Digital Exits

Your Company May Not Be Worth What You Think It Is

Let me tell you a story.

Joe ran a small advertising agency. The business was making $100,000 per year in net earnings on $600,000 in gross sales. The business had 5 staff and Joe was doing all the selling while his team was doing all the development and administration.

Excited by the prospect of selling Joe asked around at an industry trade show and found out that small agencies were selling for between 3-4 times earnings (EBIDTA – earnings before interest depreciation tax and amortization or commonly referred to as the profit from the last 12 months of trading)

In fact Joe started to believe that because he had such a good business that he should be valued at the upper range of the scale at 4X net and his business was worth $400,000.

Joe was so excited about this that he setup a meeting with the largest advertising agency in town that have over 80 staff and $10 million in sales. In the meeting Joe presented a great presentation on where the business was going, all it’s strengths and then finally on the last slide said “Gentlemen I am interested in selling my business for $400,000, would you like to buy it?”

One of the Partners interrupted kindly thanked Joe for his presentation, however interjected with “I wouldn’t buy any equity in your company, your business is worth nothing to us”

So what was the problem?

In short what Joe didn’t know is that buyers place a massive discount, even to nothing, on a business that is solely reliant on the owner keeping it up and running. Essentially what they are buying is a job, not an asset that is going to systematically continue to generate cash flows for the new acquirer.

What Joe should have focused his time on, is instead of pitching the company for sale, he should have looked at developing an exit strategy, increasing sales and hiring staff to replace him.

What Buyers Look for When Acquiring a Business

  1. Profits – Buyers look at purchasing the profits of the business not the cash in the business. The perfect scenario would be growing profits. What a buyer is purchasing is future potential of the business and a way to make a return on their investment. They want to know that the business will be making more profit in the future.
  2. Client List – a business doesn’t make any money until it makes a sale and that sale is generated through a relationship with a customer. A buyer is also looking for repeat or recurring sales. The more times a customers buyers the more valuable your business is to a buyer.
  3. Systems and Process – a business is really a collection of systems and process that are combined to generate value for a customer and that value is sold for a price, which generates profit. It is the systems and processes that are valuable to an acquiring party.

How to Sell Your Business The Right Way

What can you do to improve the likelihood of selling a business?

There are a variety of things that you can do but I think to the two main ones are:

  1. Education – reading articles like this, books like built to sell, and talk to as many people as you can reach, especially people who have successfully sold their business, listen to podcasts like this and this and if you have the opportunity attend an exit strategy workshop.
  2. Extract the Owner – Buyers want to purchase an asset not a job. Make sure that you prep the business for sale and have staff and processes in place where the owner is not involved in the process. Have you tried the vacation test?
  3. Exit Strategy – I am a strong believer of developing an exit strategy. This in itself will radically improve the likelihood of a sale

Digital Exits Jock Purtle

Let me know if you’ve got any questions about structuring your business to sell and I’ll give you the down-low on the comment thread below!

About The Author

Jock Purtle is the owner of www.digitalexits.com. A Business brokerage focusing on selling online businesses.



About Jesse Krieger

Jesse Krieger is the founder and publisher for Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press. International best selling author of Lifestyle Entrepreneur and Host of Bestseller Summit Live. Connect on Facebook, Google+, and YouTube


  1. Thanks for the share mate.

  2. Built to Sell is an awesome book. One of my favorite business reads. It really is taking yourself out of the business since when sold, you’re out of it anyway so who wants to buy something dependent on you?! It really is a great way to step back and evaluate how your business runs. Returning customers show the value and the system in place show the structure that holds it all together.

  3. Nice read. I would like to read more about your approach towards “exit strategy”. In my opinion (I’m related to private equity business), this exit strategy is the “make” or “break” component of selling any business.

    I’m sure that big ad agency would’ve been interested early on. Nevertheless success comes after tough experiences.

    My best wishes for you and Jock on providing such an in-depth but brief analysis of PE tactics.

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