Proven Concept - Buying an established company is less risky - as a buyer you already know how the process or concept works. Financing the purchase is often easier than securing funding for a start-up company for that very reason – the company has a track record. A bank will be able to look at the historical results for the company, not just rely on projections.

Brand – You’re buying a brand name; therefore, the on-going benefits of any marketing or networking that the prior owner has done will transfer to you. When you have an established name in the company community, it’s easier to place cold calls and attract new customers than it is with an unproven start-up. This is an intangible benefit that’s difficult to put a price on.

Relationships - With the purchase of an existing company, you will also be buying an existing customer base and vendor base that took years to build. It's very common for the seller to stay on and transition with the company for a short time to transfer those relationships to the buyer.

Focus - When you buy a company, you can start working immediately and focus on improving and growing the company instantly. The seller has already laid the foundation and taken care of the time-consuming, tedious start-up work. Starting a new company means spending a lot of time and money on basic items like computers, telephones, furniture and policies that don't directly generate cash flow.

People - In an acquisition, one of the most valuable and important assets you're buying is the people. It took the seller time to find those employees, develop them and assimilate them into the company culture. With the right team in place, just about anything is possible and you will have an easier time implementing growth strategies. Plus, with trained people in place you will have more freedom to go on holiday, spend time with family, or work on other company ventures. When start-up owners and independent contractors go on vacation, the company goes too.

Cash Flow - Typically, a sale is structured so you can cover the debt service, take a reasonable salary, and have some left over to take the company to the next level. Start-up owners, on the other hand, often "starve" at first. Some experts say start-ups aren't expected to make money for the first three years.

Risk - Even with all these advantages, some entrepreneurs believe it is cheaper and, therefore, less risky to start a company than to buy one. But risk is relative. A buyer may pay £1 million, for example, for an established company with strong cash flows of approximately £200,000 to £300,000. A lending institution funds the transaction because historical revenues show the cash flow can support the purchase price. For many people, however, that is far less risky than taking out a £300,000 loan with an unproven concept and projections that may or may not be realised.

The sale of shares is subject to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and the amount paid will be influenced by your personal tax circumstances. Whilst the conditions for Entrepreneurs' Relief (a CGT rate of 10 per cent) may appear simple, we recommend you take formal advice where the transaction structure is unusually complex, notwithstanding our panel of lawyers are normally happy to give a basic level of CGT advice.

There is no single answer. Obviously, the more demand for a type of company coupled with a lower than average asking price will typically speed up the process and the reverse is true, low demand and high asking price will dramatically slow the process.

According to various studies, it averages 6 to 9 months to actually be speaking with a competent, interested buyer prospect and another 6 to 9 months to have the transaction close, so most professionals would answer it takes, on average, 12 to 18 months. It certainly can happen more quickly, but that is not the norm. It can also take much longer or not happen at all, depending on such factors as:

• Vendor's commitment to the sale

• Asking price

• How you present the company

Choosing the right person or company to sell your company is vitally important.

A company valuation is important for many reasons; the most common is to determine the fair market value of a company.

If a company is priced too high, it will not attract any buyer interest and is highly unlikely to sell at all. If a company is priced too low, it may well attract considerable interest and offers, but the owner may leave hundreds, thousand and sometimes millions of dollars on the table.

According to a recent study, 4 out of 5 companies that actually sell do, in fact, leave 30% to 70% of their value on the table.

Warren Buffet, investor and philanthropist is widely regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world ... he is often quoted as saying "if a seller doesn't know the value of their company, it is both legal and ethical to steal it for less".

Clearly, a professional, independent valuation is essential to know the truth of a company' value, and for more reasons than just its pending sale.

A diligent buyer, once they have decided whether they have a serious interest in your company, will seek to substantiate and confirm every phase of your company through a thorough examination known in the industry as due diligence. This may include a review of your marketing and operations, product lines and services mix, management structure, customer and market base, and compatibility of operations.

Purchasers will assess your financial condition including financial statements, tax returns, depreciation schedules and payroll records. They will want to see your company's earnings (profit before taxes) for the past three to five years, if available.

Acquirers will review the assets of your company - facilities, equipment/vehicles, inventories and leasehold improvements.

They will want to know about employment contracts. If necessary for the company, also about your patents, licences, permits and franchise agreements.

Having professional help in preparing for the sale of the company is so important in dramatically increasing the likelihood of surviving due diligence, closing the transaction, and getting the most value the market will support.