Philie Group Blog

So …You Want to Sell Your Printing Business
By Mike Philie

When the waiter walks by your table in the restaurant, you raise your hand slightly to indicate that it’s time for the check because it’s time to go. If you are considering raising your hand and selling your business, let’s review some of the things that you can work on to help maximize shareholder value, and minimize the drama in the process.

Why Do You Want to Sell?

Why are you interested in selling the business? There could be several issues, some revolve around estate planning, or succession issues. Sometimes the seller is just tired and it’s time to go. Other reasons could be disentanglement from personal guarantees and financial concerns all the way to spending more time with the grandkids. And let’s not overlook the opportunity to bridge two strong companies with great leadership, to create scale and capture additional market opportunities.

There is no wrong reason to sell your business. The point I’d like to emphasize though, is to be clear on your objectives and to make sure that you articulate those to yourself, and any other shareholders and interested parties within your tight-knit circle.

Clean Up Your Financials

Make sure that your financial records are accurate and up-to-date. This includes income statements, balance sheets, cash flow reports, and tax returns. The condition of a company’s financial statements says a lot about how the business is being run. Potential buyers will be looking for holes to poke through at every turn. Don’t set yourself up by having poorly structured financials.

Operations and Key Personnel

As you are preparing to sell your business, work to streamline your production and operational processes to make your business more efficient. It’s not unlike fixing up your house before you get ready to sell it. These are not cosmetic changes, but most likely the changes that you’ve put off for the last few years. Get them done. You will also want to identify any areas of significant dependence on one person. Sometimes referred to as a single point of failure. These areas can create a potential risk for any new buyer.

Customer Concentration

The good news is that I see more and more printing companies landing major enterprise level accounts. These can become significant players within the company, and at the same time, create a high-level of client concentration at the top. While you won’t be saying no to additional work from these folks, the impetus is to surround those major accounts with other significant accounts, so that the client concentration is not so top-heavy. Do this on purpose and start today if you are not already doing so.

Along with high client concentration comes concentration within the sales organization. By that I mean, one or two of the salespeople control a significant portion of the business. A potential buyer will be looking at this as a potential risk. Strengthen your customer-to-company business relationship to help mitigate this risk.

Possible Outcomes

While there are a multitude of possible outcomes, we typically see a couple of scenarios (or variations of them) played out. If the buyer is looking to expand into new geographic territory, and or is looking for expanded capacity, there’s a strong likelihood that the seller’s business will remain intact and continue operations as a second facility. There may be some consolidation of back-office functions, such as accounting, purchasing, and estimating. Conversely, the buyer may be looking to capture additional market share to fill an existing plant that is underutilized. In this scenario, the seller’s business will cease operations and the sales will be transferred to the buyer’s facility. Often there are employment opportunities for key personnel and client facing staff to continue beyond the transition. The equipment and building would be liquidated with funds returning to the seller.

Three More Things

Three final thoughts on this. Stay patient, be ready to walk away from any deal, and remember that while all these conversations are going on that you still need to run your business profitably. There are a few business resources in the printing industry that focus on helping sellers find a buyer. They have been around for a long time and do a great job. In conjunction with these folks, my focus is on making sure it’s the right buyer, for the right reasons, and that the combination will see success beyond the close date.

The printing industry is at a crossroads where embracing change and innovation is not merely an option; it’s an absolute necessity. Technological advancements, shifting customer preferences, and sustainability concerns are driving the need for innovation in the industry. Evaluating your continued appetite for risk and whether it’s the right time for you to sell your business is never a bad idea. Good luck in your continued efforts, regardless of the path you choose.

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to ambitious owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic advice, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions.


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