This is a chapter from the book Starting & Sustaining which is a system to help you build and launch a web app with less pain and fewer mistakes. The entire book is free to read on the web.

You can also buy the book and additional resources which includes the digital version of the book, the audiobook, a playbook, and hundreds of dollars of discounts.

Be certain that selling is the right option

When you’ve poured yourself into something, moving on can be emotional, but sometimes it’s the right decision. I can’t know whether you should or shouldn’t sell your business, and even you might not know–or see it coming. I’d like to try to help you think through the decision in a structured way.

An initial criterion is whether your business is a year old. If not, you’re going to have a hard time finding someone willing to buy it. There’s too little history: any success after less than a year could be a fluke. And if it’s less than a year old, you probably haven’t given it enough time. Heck, if it’s less than two years old, you probably haven’t given it enough time.

Businesses can grow quickly in their early years, but most–even large successful businesses–grew steadily over time. Give your business a chance before you decide to give up too soon.

The next major consideration is what you’d do instead. Why do you want out? Do you want to start a different business? Do you want a regular job? Are you burnt out? Quite often, your initial reasons for selling don’t stand up. Are there ways you could make changes to the business that would fix your concerns? Selling a business is a long process. Trying to improve it first might solve the problems and improve your prospects. And anyway, those fixes will likely increase the valuation when you are ready to sell.

If you want to start another business, one of the most daunting questions you may not have considered is whether you could do it again. Market timing and luck can play a big role in building a business. Be objective as you look back at how you succeeded and figure out whether it’s repeatable. We’d all like to believe that success relies only on skill and hard work, but that’s rarely the case.

Consider the timing. Is your business trending up, down, or flat? Is the market for an app like yours good right now? If it’s trending up, you’ll get a higher multiple. If it’s trending down, you may have a much harder time selling it, or you may have to sell at a much lower valuation.

Finally, will you regret it? Follow the path that leaves you in the least doubt. Remember that selling a business can be stressful and time-consuming. If you think it will be a quick process of unloading it and cashing in, you could end up disappointed.

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