How Some Sellers are Still Thriving in a Difficult M&A Environment



This article was originally published on October 7, 2023 on the I-95 Business website. 

Today’s volatile economic environment has many business owners wondering if it is possible to sell their company now and achieve a good outcome. The fact is that great deals are still happening for A+ companies. When investment bankers apply a strategic approach to taking the business to market and provide the right resources and guidance, they and their clients thrive.


The Bad News Is Not So Bad

Rising interest rates and economic uncertainty have tamped down the M&A frenzy that peaked in 2021. Among 420 private equity firms, the number of closed deals dropped from a high of 193 in Q4 of 2021 to a low of 57 in Q2 of this year, per a GF Data mid-year report. The same group saw average deal multiples decline over that period, from 8x trailing 12-month EBITDA to 6.4x.

But while the macro data appears discouraging, firms like ours are still closing good deals with solid valuations and attractive terms. When the right ingredients are in place, business owners are achieving great outcomes even in difficult times like these.


What It Takes to Get a Great Deal Now

In our experience, through all the highs and lows of the M&A market, the following factors enable investment bankers to guide companies toward a strong deal in a competitive market.



The M&A market is dynamic, as the last few years have underscored. Shifting economic conditions, changing regulations, and geopolitical events impact all buyers’ appetite for acquisitions and the price and terms they will offer. Investment banks that can stay agile, pivot quickly and strategically, and make decisions nimbly are closing great deals even in a volatile environment.


A Tailored Strategy

Every business is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for taking it to market, but there are best practices. Especially in a competitive climate, sellers need their investment banker to tailor the strategy based on the company’s current and historical financial performance, its industry, and the owner’s goals. Through their experience across many transactions, the banker will also know which buyers are most likely to be interested in this deal (which could include PE firms, strategic acquirers, family offices, or search funds) and how to position the business to appeal to them.


Dedicated Resources

Selling your company may be one of the biggest events of your life. You want to be sure it is in the hands of a team that is laser-focused on the transaction and up to the task. When evaluating investment banks, confirm that the senior-level bankers who pitch the deal will be the same team that sees the transaction through to a successful close. This ensures you will receive personalized attention, continuity, and the benefit of decades of experience.


Strong Execution and Negotiation

Even the best deal strategy can fall down in execution. It takes a disciplined process to execute a company sale effectively—from the initial discussion about your business and what drives its value, through negotiating and closing the transaction. Following a rigorous execution approach also ensures every buyer proceeds the same way, at the same time, creating more competition. Then once a buyer signs a Letter of Intent, shifting the leverage in their favor, strong negotiation skills are critical to achieving a deal that meets or exceeds your expectations.


Strategic Guidance

Unless you are a serial entrepreneur, this is the first and only time you will sell a company. So, it pays to have strong strategic guidance at every step of a long, complex and unfamiliar process. The right investment banker will serve as your trusted advisor—educating you on what to expect, keeping you focused on the end goal, and helping you avoid the risk of emotions taking control.


An A+ Company

You can likely guess what buyers are looking for: a company with strong earnings, on a solid growth trajectory, in a growing market, with a diversified customer base that reduces revenue risk. Businesses with recurring revenue (like SaaS) and in high-growth industries (like AI and cybersecurity) are especially appealing. In times when buyers are highly selective, if you fit the profile of an A+ company you can attract strong offers and complete a successful transaction.

Though the headlines tout fewer transactions and lower multiples, great deals are happening despite a difficult M&A environment. In the hands of an investment banking firm that is adaptable and agile, takes a tailored approach to bringing companies to market, and provides the resources, execution skills, and strategic guidance this process demands, owners of A+ companies are closing deals that achieve their goals.


About Chesapeake Corporate Advisors

Chesapeake Corporate Advisors is a boutique investment banking and corporate advisory firm providing strategic advisory services (value creation) and investment banking services (value realization) to companies with revenues between $10 million and $200 million. For more information, visit or call 410.537.5988.

About the author: Tim Brasel, CCA Managing Director

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