At some point, you might decide to sell your business.

Maybe it’s time to retire and enjoy the lifestyle you’ve planned. Maybe it’s time for a new challenge or a new job. Maybe it’s just a good time to sell.

Finding a buyer suited for your company may take time. It will certainly require due diligence, careful planning, and a realistic list of expectations. Selling an established business can be complicated, and finding a buyer simply adds to the complexity of the transaction.

Here are some possible buyers to approach when you’ve decided it’s time for something new.

Talk to family members, especially family members who work for the company already, or plan to. Family-owned businesses help provide an uncomplicated sale to people you’ve known all your life.

Be careful, however. If things don’t work out to the satisfaction of the seller (you) and buyer (your relative), it could cause friction. It is a business transaction, but when family is involved, it can get personal – something both parties should consider.

Vendors, suppliers, wholesalers, and other business associates are a pool of potential buyers, just a telephone call away.  One of them may be interested in expanding business services or products. They know you, they know the company, and they may recognize the potential for business expansion.

Call around and let business associates know you’re interested in initial discussions about selling the company.

Competitors are another option for a possible business buyer. These businesses know the market, the products or services, your company’s market share – they know about the industry.

Buying out your business may enable a competitor to eliminate competition, while expanding its service area.

Investors buy and sell businesses.  Some may already be familiar with your business and are looking for an opportunity to own a company in your business sector. It may be a few individuals within your business niche, a doctor with money to invest in office rentals, or a large retailer looking for greater street exposure.

Investors come in all shapes and sizes, each with a different view of you and your business. Trust your instincts when dealing with investors, get everything in writing, and ask for a substantial “good faith” deposit before the business transfers ownership.

Employees should also be considered as potential buyers. If you plan to retire a few years from now, consider creating an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP, that enables employees to assume a greater ownership stake over several years through payroll deductions.

An ESOP may also provide an opportunity to increase productivity and decrease staff turnover, since employees have a stake in the success of the company.

Overseas investors often purchase an existing, mature business to create a foothold inU.S. markets. International sales are usually conducted under U.S., state and local regulations, and tend to be a little more complex than B2B sales in the U.S.

However, an overseas company may see your business as more than just a profit center. That overseas company may view your company as an opportunity to expand, and be willing to pay a premium for that opportunity.  Overseas buyers tend to take a longer-term view of your business success, and the opportunities it offers.

Entrepreneurs looking for a new business opportunity should also be considered. Sometimes, these entrepreneurs are looking for a turnkey business that they can run from Day One. Other entrepreneurs look for under-valued or under-performing businesses that they believe have profit potential once they move in.

Start talking about a business sale with the relationship manager at your bank, who may know another business client who’d be interested in a purchase.

In your discussions, ask about the usefulness of business brokers, valuations, background checks of buyers and other information you need before you sell.  Chances are, your relationship manager can assist in the process of a business sale to help you profit from all of your hard work.

If it’s time to move on, it’s time to talk to your banking professional – the one you know by name.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.