Building a great business is one skill — and learning how to sell it is another.
Even if you plan to work with an M&A advisor, M&A lawyer and other support professionals, you should do your best to educate yourself about the acquisition process.
While that includes steps within the acquisition itself — such as signing a Letter of Intent and navigating due diligence — arguably the most important piece to understand is how to maximize the value of your company. What makes it attractive to potential buyers? What levers can you pull to increase the sale price?
Many entrepreneurs look for resources for learning about this process only once an opportunity to sell arises. But in the ideal scenario, you’d learn about how to sell successfully long before it’s time to part with your business. That gives you time to prepare for a sale and adjust any of the factors that will increase the value of your company.
Looking to Sell Your Business?
Don’t know where to start? Watch our one-hour video course, which lays out your options for finding buyers, plus how to increase the value of your business before you sell.
Books on how to sell your online business
Selling a business is a niche topic, and most business books don’t cover it. Selling an online, bootstrapped or minimally-funded business is even more niche.
So we’re grateful to have the books listed below as resources for learning about how to sell your company. These are the books we’ve heard entrepreneurs talk about when they reveal how they prepared for their own sale.
Many of the books listed below are available not only in print, but in an audio version as well, which can be helpful for busy entrepreneurs.
Here are some books that will help you navigate the sale of your business.
Subtitle: Winning Strategies & Secret Hacks for Exiting on Top
Author: John Warrillow
Warrilllow is well-known in the business world because of the popularity of his 2012 book, Built to Sell, about building a business that can thrive without you. His 2021 book, The Art of Selling Your Business, is focused more on the exit itself. He talks about the secret to “punching above your weight” when it comes to acquisition negotiations.
Subtitle: How to Avoid Succession Pitfalls and Create Valuable Exit Options
Author: Laurie R. Barkman
This book demystifies the often-overwhelming exit process, so you can exit on your own terms and avoid regrets. Former CEO of a $100 million revenue company that sold to a Fortune 50, Barkman calls herself the “business transition sherpa,” and provides actionable guidance around transitioning in a way that feels good to you.
Subtitle: How to Sell Your Online Business for Top Dollar By Reverse Engineering Your Pathway to Success
Author: Joe Valley
This read’s especially for entrepreneurs building online businesses, and it’s available for free via immediate download, so you don’t even have to wait for it to arrive in the mail! Joe Valley’s co-owner of Quiet Light brokerage, which supports founders in selling their online business. (Full disclosure: Quiet Light is one of our partners, and may pay us a commission if you work with them to sell your business.)
Subtitle: Thought Experiments for Entrepreneurs
Author: Dan Andrews
Entrepreneur Andrews shares the story of how he and Ian Schoen sold their product business in 2015 for seven figures, and then suggests questions that are designed to help you identify the “why” behind selling your business, since that tends to inform the “how.”
Subtitle: How (Smart) Sellers Navigate the Obstacles to Exiting Their Business
Author: Denise Logan
Logan, a lawyer and business owner who has experienced her own exit, acknowledges that selling a business is more than a transaction, and it can often be an emotionally-fraught transition. Her book presents a philosophy for selling with integrity, humanity and understanding.
6. Exit Right
Subtitle: How to Sell Your Startup, Maximize Your Return and Build Your Legacy
Authors: Mark Achler and Mert Iseri
Achler, a serial entrepreneur and venture capital investor, and Iseri, who sold his healthtech business in 2020, interviewed dozens of M&A leaders in Silicon Valley, as well as attorneys, bankers and founders, to pull out lessons that lead to successful exits. They focus on details like how to create alignment between parties and which terms you should care about most.
Subtitle: A Roadmap for Technology Service Providers to Maximize Company Value
Author: Linda Rose
Rose, who built and sold several businesses and now works as an M&A advisor for tech acquisitions, walks you through how to value your company and find a buyer, as well as how to prepare for a sale. She also shares ways to maximize the value of your business and offers ways to think about whether you’re ready to exit on a personal level.
Subtitle: Selling Your Business in a World of Imperfect Buyers
Authors: Brent Beshore
CEO Beshore dives into the disheveled world of buying and selling small and medium-sized businesses. Derived from analysis of more than 10,000 business sales, the book aims to clarify what buyers want, the sales process, and the emotional journey of selling a company.
Subtitle: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game
Authors: Walker Diebel
Walker Deibel is an entrepreneur and investor who uses this book to educate readers on sustainable business growth after buying an existing company. He also shares how to find business brokers, uncover opportunities and risks of any company, and navigate the acquisition process. This book will not only help you in the process of building a sellable firm, but also gain the perspective of buyers.
10. Lost and Founder
Subtitle: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World
Author: Rand Fishkin
Rand Fishkin is the founder and former CEO of the SEO-giant Moz. While this book focuses more on what it’s like to build a startup than how to exit, Fishkin dissects tech startup mythology, the complexities of launching a minimum viable product (MVP), how to approach layoffs and the nuances of a venture capital strategy. Fishkin wrote the book with both early stage startups and mature companies in mind.
11. Finish Big
Subtitle: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top
Author: Bo Burlingham
Burlington is best known for his popular book, Small Giants, about companies that choose to be great instead of big. In Finish Big, the business journalist interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs and identified eight key factors that determined whether they were happy after their exit. He explores not only the practical challenges of selling, but the emotional ones as well.
12. Venture Deals
Subtitle: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist
Authors: Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
Venture Deals offers real-world insights from entrepreneurs and investors Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson on venture capital, detailing everything from VC term sheets to relationship building with investors to other misunderstood aspects of capital funding. Even if you’re building a bootstrapped business, you’ll gain insights from this book.