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HarborOne Voyage

HarborOne U Voyage for business

Selling your business

If you’re thinking about selling your business, it’s important to first work through the details that will help you maximize your price and make your business more attractive to potential buyers. We’ve compiled a checklist to help you out.

1. Evaluate your business’s current state

Check all legal and accounting disputes have been resolved

A new owner won’t want to take on any unresolved legal or accounting problems that could make their first few months in business more difficult than they need to be.

Make sure any legal or tax issues are settled. You’ll want to advertise a problem-free business to attract as many potential buyers as possible. Discuss any issues with your attorney, accountant and us as your bank.

Make sure any leases are ready for a new owner

Ensure any leases have been formalized in a way that’s acceptable to you and your likely buyer. It pays to properly handle the transfer of the lease to your buyer because it’s an integral part of selling a business – and can be a deal-breaker.

You don’t want the lease transfer to be refused by the landlord, so be honest and upfront by letting them know early that you plan on selling. The Small Business Administration (SBA) website has some more information on transferring ownership.

Get maintenance tasks up to date

Paint what needs to be painted, fix anything that’s broken, and repair or replace damaged assets. You don’t have to do it all yourself or get your staff to labor – contract an all-round repairperson to help you out.

Get your business environment looking clean and sellable so you can attract more buyers into taking a closer look. If you need extra funding to get your business up to standard, speak to us about how we can help.

Be certain there aren’t any environmental issues

If your business has any environmental problems, they would be best addressed before going to the marketplace.

Buyers may lose interest in your business opportunity if these issues are ongoing and unable to be solved, so be open and honest with each potential purchaser.

2. Assess your financials

Ensure your accounts are in order and check their accuracy

Are your accounts up to date and accurate? Having them in order will help maximize your business’s value and give a true portrayal of profits. You’ll want your accounts to show a well-run and profitable business.

Double-check to make sure you’ve included everything. Speak with your accountant and get them on the task if your accounts are in poor shape.

Gather together your last three years of financial records

Potential buyers will be interested in the last few years of your business’s accounts, particularly sales and profit figures, so they can examine how successful the business has been. They’ll also want to know if your business is turning over stock quickly and showing future profitability.

Highlight any unusual items

You should be able to explain any unusual items such as discontinued operations (like shutting down an operational unit) or a change in accounting principles, so everything is out in the open for potential buyers.

Make sure your accountant reviews any unusual items on your books.

3. Reduce the risk of selling

Speak with your staff about your sale plans

It’s very important that you manage your staff well during the sale process to avoid any personal grievance claims. Aim to treat all your employees fairly and reasonably as they may well be offered employment by the new owner.

Involve your key personnel in the sale process

Discuss the sale and transitional period with your key staff members. They will likely be contributing to the future success of the business. It’s important to keep them in the loop so they don’t get discouraged and go searching for other work.

Set up an informal meeting to discuss your sale plans going forward.

Get legal advice from your attorney

Your attorney is a critical assistant before, after and during the sale of your business. Make sure you’ve got the right attorney on board who can give you the right advice at the right times.

Speak with your attorney as soon as you begin thinking about selling even if it’s a number of years away.

Prepare confidentiality agreements

News that your business is for sale could lead to negative reactions from your customers, suppliers, creditors or staff. If competitors find out, they could react aggressively.

Prepare a confidentiality agreement for prospective buyers to sign to protect your business and its reputation.

Speak with your accountant about how to structure the sale

Your accountant can assist you with arranging your financial affairs to help you get the most money from the sale of your business. Your post-tax gain can fluctuate depending on how the sale is structured. For example, monthly payments over a period of time might be more tax-efficient than a lump sum.

Decide whether to use a broker

A broker can help you to package your business in an attractive way to potential buyers. A smart broker can also take inquiries from potential buyers without ever mentioning your business’s name.

Find an experienced broker at the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA). Search for one who’s knowledgeable about the marketplace and has the skills and time to help market your business for sale.

4. Add value to your business

Consolidate any contracts with long term customers

Customers are the lifeblood of most businesses, so secure any long-term contracts with regular customers to help increase the perceived value of your business.

A new owner wants to know they’ll have support from an already existing customer base.

Firm up any supplier or distributor agreements

Do you have favorable terms with your supplier(s) that you can lock in for the future benefit of the business?

Likewise, if you have agreements with distributors, secure them if they’ll increase the value of your business in the eyes of buyers.

Sell off any redundant assets

Depending on the condition or age of certain assets, you may be better off selling them rather than leaving them on a new owner’s books. Potential buyers won’t want to pay for old or obsolete assets.

Sell dated or surplus stock to demonstrate you run an efficient business. This will help maximize the value of your business and maintain the confidence of potential buyers.

Reduce shrinkage and decrease expenses

Tighten up any expenses that could be reigned in. For businesses that deal with a lot of physical stock, shrinkage can be a huge expense.

Aim to reduce it before taking your business to market, so new potential owners will view the business as efficient with little waste.

5. Work on a marketing strategy

Define your potential buyer(s)

Try to profile your likely buyer. What do they do? Are they entrepreneurs or will they be first-time business owners? What are their interests? What will be their main concerns with the business?

Outline what you expect your potential buyer to be like.

Discuss how to create interest among these prospective buyers

How will you market your business to the type of person you expect to buy it? You’ll need to drum up some interest in your opportunity while also being careful to keep the upcoming sale confidential.

Speak with your accountant, attorney, broker, and other advisers to form a plan.

Track and follow up all inquiries

There’s no point getting a barrage of interest in your business unless you look into each inquiry. Potential buyers will expect to be contacted in good time for the next step in the process.

Spend time getting to know what each interested party is looking for in a new business.

Define your process to maximize your sale price

Concentrate on your business’s core competencies and reduce its customer concentration so that you’re focused on the small percentage of customers who create the most revenue. Have an idea in mind about how you’ll maximize your sale price.

A buyer will want to know that a core group of customers who purchase the majority of goods or services are lifelong clients.

6. Gather all your paperwork

Draw up a comprehensive asset list

An asset list will show a potential buyer exactly what is being sold and the value of each item. The more assets your business can list, the healthier it will appear to a future investor.

Provide a copy of your lease (if applicable)

If your company is leasing or renting the premises it conducts business from, make sure you have a copy available for prospective purchasers.

A buyer will want to know what obligations they’re taking on if they acquire the business.

Disclose any intellectual property (IP) rights

You may have protected your business’s name or logo with a trademark, patented a new product or process, or safeguarded a trade secret. Discuss them with potential buyers so they can get a clearer idea of how beneficial they are to the business.

For more information on IP see the US Patent and Trademark Office site.

Organize copies of licenses or permits

Your business may require specific permits or licenses to operate legally. Ensure you inform prospective new owners of what these ongoing regulations are, so they don’t run into problems down the road.

Present any federal or state requirements

Your company may have to meet certain state or federal standards to continue doing business.

Make these requirements available for potential buyers to browse over and consider. Also organize any government and tax forms.

7. Value your business

Consult your advisers

Your advisers will play a crucial role by providing you with the information you need as you progress through various stages of the sale process.

Make sure you have the right advisers on board including an accountant, an attorney and possibly a broker. And don’t forget the useful advice we can provide you.

Decide on a fair sale price

Calculate a fair price that will get buyers interested and will gain you a worthy profit for all your hard work in the business. Potential buyers will know what to expect, so pricing too high will kill off demand and encourage them to purchase another business instead.

Speak to us for perspective on a fair price.

Anticipate buyer requests

Think about what your target buyer will probably ask you about your business. For starters, have all your paperwork ready and draw up a list of questions you’re likely to need to answer when you go to market.

Talk to any business advisers you know who’ve been through the selling process before.

Be honest, patient and realistic

It’s important to be upfront about all aspects of your business so you don’t run into any legal trouble later on.

Get everything out in the open, set a realistic price, and be patient as potential buyers take their time to make their decisions.

Prepare the sales agreement

Most of the hard work is now done. In conjunction with your lawyer and banker, get the sales agreement drawn up.

It’s the key document for buying the assets of your business so make sure it’s accurate. Present it to your buyer, get it signed, and celebrate moving on to the next stage of your working life.

Contact us

Contact us

Contact a Small Business Team member to discuss how we may help you achieve your business goals. We are here to assist every step of the way.


For informational purposes only. There is NO WARRANTY, expressed or implied, for the accuracy of this information or its applicability to your financial situation. Please consult your financial and/or tax advisor. Full legal disclaimer

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