Right now the percentage of A/E firms looking to sell is at an all-time high, according to ZweigWhite's 2003 Merger & Acquisition Survey. Almost half (43%) those surveyed indicated they were interested in selling. Conversely, the percentage of firms looking to buy (59%) is at its lowest point since 1998. Selling firms need to spend more time positioning themselves to buyers due to this decrease in demand from the buyer's market and the increase in competition of other companies wanting to be sold. "Once the decision has been made to sell, it benefits the seller to take an honest look at his or her business and the current market for it," said David Malcarney, a mergers and acquisitions consultant with ZweigWhite, a leading management consulting firm serving the design industry. Malcarney's advice for firm owners who are interested in selling includes:
  • Define the competitive advantage. "The seller must be able to convey what is happening in the market and what type of competitive advantage will allow it to maintain above-average earnings."
  • Turn a weakness into a benefit. "A weakness could be a plus to a potential buyer, if the buyer believes that it can cut costs or increase revenue."
  • Identify potential buyers. "A selling firm's goal should be to identify a diverse, but manageable, number of firms that it sees as being compatible in services and markets, and that has the resources available to complete a deal."