Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article posted on Business2Community.com entitled “How to Close the Deal and When to Walk Away When Buying or Selling a Business” explains the business sale process and how to differentiate between a good deal and a bad deal during the process. Closing a deal involves quite a bit of legwork, including producing a letter of intent, doing due diligence, acquiring financing, signing a purchase agreement, and actually closing the deal. These items can be easier with the help of a business advisor, broker, or attorney, but emphasis should be placed on the due diligence aspect: knowing the business inside and out is vital to a successful sale.

Walking away from a deal can be difficult for a motivated buyer, but is sometimes necessary to avoid emotional and financial disaster. The following red flags help to signify that it’s time to walk away:

  1. Inconsistencies
  2. Neglect
  3. Undisclosed Problems
  4. Poor Credit Rating
  5. The Industry is in Decline

Being prepared is one of the best things that a buyer can do in the business sale process. Whether preparation proves a business deal is worth it or uncovers red flags, it will be worth the effort.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent Axial Forum article entitled “3 Reasons an M&A Advisor is Worth the Cost” presents impressive statistics regarding the utilization of M&A advisors in the sale process. 100% of owners that used an advisor when selling their business stated that the advisor had a positive impact on the sale, with 84% of these sellers achieving a sale price equal to or higher than the advisor’s initial estimate.

While these types of statistics are expected among industry insiders, many business owners will still hesitate to hire an advisor for the sale of their businesses. As the article outlines, advisors can help to identify weak links in a business’ management team, find quick ways to increase cash flow, and whip financials into shape, among many other things.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent Forbes article entitled “The Question Every Owner Should Ask: Is Now The Right Time To Sell The Business?” explains why choosing to sell sooner is actually better in a lot of ways than putting off a business sale for a few years. The author goes on to explain how when exits are planned for some arbitrary point in the future, owners often never seem to make it there, ending up wanting to sell but never actually selling. The article goes on to explain five important reasons to consider selling now:

  1. You May Be Choking Your Business
  2. Money is Cheap
  3. Timing Your Sale is a Fool’s Errand
  4. Cyber Crime
  5. There is No Corporate Ladder

Being an owner gives so much power over the path a business takes, whether it’s a sale or acquisition or even the owner staying on to work on the business for an extended period. The beauty of this is that the owner has the choice over whether or not to sell, but also the choice on what to do after. Starting another business is a common route to take for successful first-time entrepreneurs after an exit, so the sooner a sale occurs, the sooner they can get started on another business.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted on the Axial Forum entitled “7 Reasons to Perform Sell-Side Due Diligence” talks about why sell-side due diligence can be a useful and productive technique within the M&A process. While buy-side due diligence is much more common, sellers can take advantage of this practice to maximize the value presented to potential sellers so that they can ultimately get more out of the sale.

Sell-side due diligence can help to uncover and improve:

  1. Weak financial and operational data systems
  2. Overextended employee resources
  3. Unclear financial narrative
  4. Unhelpful “tax guy”
  5. Multiple entities and no consolidation
  6. Likely purchase price reductions
  7. Ineffective tax structuring

In the end, due diligence is part of any M&A process. But with so many things factoring into a successful sale, both buyers and sellers have a responsibility to know the business inside and out if they want to get the most out of a transaction.

Click here to read the full article.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Rise of Women Business Owners

The National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) identifies trends relating to the small business climate for women. New studies examining the role of female entrepreneurs by the NFWBO have yielded some surprising and eye-opening results.

A joint IBM, NFWBO study of the top fifty women business owners as well as 10 additional “up-and-coming” business owners reached several interesting conclusions. The women in the study covered a diverse array of industry categories including 27% in manufacturing, 25% in retail and 10% in real estate. 46% of the women inherited a business and over 50% started their own businesses, with 34% starting businesses themselves and another 17% starting businesses with others.

A Preference for Flexibility

One key part of the study centered on the fact that women business owners, in general, appear to prefer smaller operations. Among the 8 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., a full 75% are one person operations. Through ownership of these businesses women achieve a high level of flexibility in their work schedules. It is believed that this flexibility improves the odds of women keeping their home lives satisfying and rewarding.

Overall, millions of women are ignoring the notion that small businesses do not equate with success. While NFWBO research indicates that fewer than 1% of small women owned businesses generate over a $1 million in sales, there is no doubt that women are showing their strength in numbers.

Tackling Loan Issues

One major obstacle women business owners have faced comes in the form of bank loan inequities. Recently, for the first-time women owned business are experiencing access to business loans on par with male owners; this may be due in part to the increasing number of women in high bank positions as well as banks now seeing the previously untapped potential of women-owned businesses. The NFWBO has also discovered that women tend to direct loans towards business growth.

Internationally Owned Businesses

On an international scale, the NFWBO studies have shown that women business owners often come from similar backgrounds and express the same concerns regarding business issues. Today, female business owners represent between one-quarter and one-third of the world’s independent business owners and have become increasingly vocal as evidenced by female participation at an international conference in Paris sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

A Trend Towards Progress

To date, many obstacles have been overcome. Simply stated, the future looks very bright for women-owned businesses around the globe.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Tremendous Importance of Simply Saying, “Hello!”

Far too many customers have grown to expect poor customer service. Whether its rude employees and customer support or impersonal robotic phone system responses, customers are often shocked when they receive pleasant customer service. In such a climate, it is clear that businesses that simply treat customers well are taking advantage of a huge opportunity.

If you’ve ever personally called a credit card or cable company looking for help, then you already know that it can be something of a depressing and even Kafkaesque experience, leaving you feeling drained. More than likely you don’t feel too positive about any automated experience that bounces you around from one hold menu to the next. Summed up another way, hold music is never a fun or rewarding experience.

Communication is Always Changing

In the “old days” a telephone call was often a customer’s first experience with a business. Now, the game has, of course, changed, with most customers first experience being via the business’s website. While we can’t predict with 100% accuracy how businesses with be communicating with their customers in the future, we do know one fact for certain. The human touch will likely be valued for a long time to come.

Your Website is a Valuable Tool

The initial point of communication with a client, whether it is via telephone or your website, is of critical importance. If a customer has trouble finding key information about your business, such as your location, hours of operation or an easy to understand menu of what goods or services are offered, then they will take their business elsewhere. Consumers don’t generally wait for businesses to get their “act together.” They simply move on.

Simply stated, you want your business’s website to be very user-friendly, streamlined and intuitive as possible. Keep in mind that you understand your business and what it offers, which means you may not be the best judge in spotting flaws in your website presentation. For this reason, it is best to test your website designs with many different potential users who have little or no information about your business and what goods and services you provide.

In the end, every single client is valuable. For every client you lose represents both a potential loss of revenue and revenue being placed in the pocket of your competitor. Don’t let customers slip away simply because there wasn’t a friendly voice answering the phone or your website lacked clarity.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Three Signs You May Be Experiencing Burnout

Burnout is a strange phenomenon in that often a business owner doesn’t know that he or she is experiencing it until it is too late. Owners who feel beleaguered and over stressed frequently want to sell their business and move on. However, buyers are not so eager to accept burnout as a believable reason for why an owner wants to sell.

It is the responsibility of every business owner to be on guard against potential burnout. After all, it is better to “cash in” than to burnout. In this article, we will examine a few of the key warning signs that you may be on the verge of burning out.

Sign 1: There is No Joy in Owning Your Business

Once upon a time, you were likely excited about your business. But if those days are long gone, then it might be time to move on. Owning a business is hard work and eventually it can take a toll. If you find each day to be boring, then it is probably time to sell, move on and start a new chapter in your life.

Sign 2: You Feel Exhausted

Just as feeling no joy is a potential sign of burnout, the same holds true for feeling exhausted. If you feel exhausted all the time, then it is unlikely that you can run your business effectively over the long haul. In short, it may be time to consider selling.

Keep in mind that if your business is doing well, growing and expanding, then there will be more demands on your time, not less. If you feel exhausted a large percentage of the time and your business is expanding and seems poised to expand even more rapidly in the future, then cashing in may be your best bet.

Sign 3: You Feel Overwhelmed Almost on a Daily Basis

Business owners who frequently feel overwhelmed are likely teetering on the edge of burnout; this can be particularly true for business owners who are operating a “one-man show.” Operating a small business, especially one where you are doing most of the work, can be both mentally and physically exhausting.

There is certainly something to be said for being proactive and tackling burn out before it tackles you. In this way, you’ll be able to sell your business on your own terms. The last thing you want is to try and sell your business after you no longer have the energy to keep sales going in the right direction.

Working with an experienced business broker is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get your business ready to sell. Don’t let burnout put the fate of your business in a vulnerable position.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Top 3 Unexpected Events CEO’s May Encounter During the Selling Process

When it comes time to sell a business, not everything goes as planned. You may be one of the lucky ones and find that selling your business is a streamlined process with only a few unexpected occurrences. But most CEO’s looking to sell a business find they can expect the unexpected. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top surprises CEO’s experience during the sale process.

Unexpected Occurrence #1 – Surprisingly Low Bids

CEO’s looking to sell their businesses need to be ready for almost anything. One of the larger surprises that CEO’s face are surprisingly low bids. Don’t let low bids shock you.

Unexpected Occurrence #2 – A Huge Time Commitment

CEO’s have to make sure that everything from an offering memorandum to management presentation and suggestions to potential acquirers are ready to go. The offering memorandum is considered the cornerstone of the selling process and is typically at least 30 pages in length.

Most business intermediaries expect the potential acquirers to submit their initial price based on the information contained in the memorandum. Management presentations are also time consuming, but it is common to have these presentations ready before the final bids are submitted. Ideally it is best for the CEO to show the benefits involved in combining the acquirer and the seller as well as the future upside for selling the company.

Unexpected Occurrence #3 –The Need for Agreement from Other Stakeholders

You, as the CEO, are able to negotiate the transaction, but the sale isn’t authorized until certain shareholders have agreed and done so in writing. Until the Board of Directors, shareholders and financial institutions who may hold liens on key assets, have agreed to the deal, the deal simply isn’t finalized. Often this legal necessity turns out to be an issue that gets in the way of a successful deal.

Sellers can take their “eye off the ball” during the time-consuming process of selling a company, however, this can be a serious mistake. CEO’s must understand that potential acquirers will be examining monthly sales reports with great interest. If potential acquirers notice downward trends they may want to negotiate a lower price. No matter how time consuming the sales process may be, CEO’s have to maintain or even accelerate sales.

Ultimately, there can be a wide array of surprises awaiting a CEO who is looking to sell a business. Avoiding these kinds of issues is often, but not always, a matter of excellent preparation. However, it is vital that they keep in mind that even with the very best preparation and diligence, there can still be surprises when selling a business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Do You Really Understand Your Customers?

The time you invest getting to know and understand your customers is time very well spent. The feedback you get is gold, pure gold. Yet, there are other reasons why this is a prudent move. Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons you should learn more about your customers and their specific needs.

Today’s world has become increasingly impersonal. Most of us spend a shocking amount of time looking at one type of digital screen or another. Personal interaction isn’t what it once was, and you can use that fact to help build your business.

The Ultimate Form of Customer Service

Good old fashioned human contact goes a long way when it comes to keeping customers happy, loyal and returning. The personal touch can go a long way towards building your business by improving customer service. Customer service has become, in general, a very impersonal experience for most people in the modern world.

In most businesses, the owner is more of an impersonal theoretic concept that an actual being; after all, how often do you meet the owners of the businesses that you frequent? As a business owner, when was the last time that you got on the phone or had lunch with a good customer? The truth is that customers and clients enjoy working directly with owners, and it makes them feel more connected with a business. An owner who is working directly with his or her customers or clients is engaged in a powerful form of customer service.

Building Relationships

Investing time to build your business’s key relationships is a prudent step. When was the last time that you took a moment to contact your accountant, banker, legal adviser or other key people that support your business, such as key suppliers? The time you invest communicating with these key people and institutions is time well-spent especially should a problem ever arise. Since most communication is now done online, a handwritten thank you note or a quick phone call can go a long way towards maintaining and building relationships.

It is important to rise above all the background noise of life. One of the best ways of doing so is to invest the time to add a personal touch.

Owning and operating a business shouldn’t be a stealthy activity. Instead, you the business owner should be out front meeting with customers, suppliers and other key people. Running a business isn’t a “backroom” operation, so go out there and meet your customers and other key people! This is how you build and protect your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Top 3 Key Factors to Consider about Earnings

Two businesses could report the same numeric value for earnings but that doesn’t always tell the whole story. As it turns out, there is far more to earnings than may initially meet the eye. While two businesses might have a similar sale price, that certainly doesn’t mean that they are of equal value.

In order to truly understand the value of a business, we must dig deeper and look at the three key factors of earnings. In this article, we’ll explore each of these three key earning factors and explore quality of earnings, sustainability of earnings after acquisition and what is involved in the verification of information.

Key Factor # 1 – Quality of Earnings

Determining the quality of earnings is essential. In determining the quality of earnings, you’ll want to figure out if earnings are, in fact, padded. Padded earnings come in the form of a large amount of “add backs” and one-time events. These factors can greatly change earnings. For example, a one-time event, such as a real estate sale, can completely alter figures, producing earnings that are simply not accurate and fail to represent the actual earning potential of the company.

Another important factor to consider is that it is not unusual for all kinds of companies to have some level of non-recurring expenses on an annual basis. These expenses can range from the expenditure for a new roof to the write-down of inventory to a lawsuit. It is your job to stay on guard against a business appraiser that restructures earnings without any allowances for extraordinary items.

Key Factor # 2 – Sustainability of Earnings After the Acquisition

Buyers are rightfully concerned about whether or not the business they are considering is at the apex of its business cycle or if the company will continue to grow at the previous rate. Just as professional sports teams must carefully weigh the signing of expensive free-agents, attempting to determine if an athlete is past his or her prime, the same holds true for those looking to buy a new business.

Key Factor # 3 – Verification of Information

Buyers can carefully weigh quality and earnings and the sustainability of earnings after acquisition and still run into serious problems. A failure to verify information can spell disaster. In short, buyers must verify that all information is accurate, timely and as unbiased as is reasonably possible. There are many questions that must be asked and answered in this regard, such as has the company allowed for possible product returns or noncollectable receivables and has the seller been honest. The last thing any buyer wants is to discover skeletons hiding in the closet only when it is too late.

By addressing these three key factors buyers can dramatically reduce their chances of being unpleasantly surprised. On paper, two businesses with very similar values may look essentially the same. However, by digging deeper and exercising caution, it is possible to reach very different conclusions as to the value of the businesses in question.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Deeper Significance of a Listing Agreement

Listing agreements are very common when it comes to selling a business. In order to sell a business using a business broker, a listing agreement is usually required. In this article, we will explore this essential agreement and why it is so critical.

Signing a listing agreement legally authorizes the sale of a business. The fact is that signing a listing agreement serves to represent the end of ownership, which for many business owners, means heading into new territory. Quite often owning a business is more than “owning a business,” as the business represented a dream and/or a way of life.

Walking away from the dream or lifestyle represents a significant change. For many owners this is the end of a dream. It is not uncommon for many business owners to have started a business from “scratch,” and it is also only human to feel at least somewhat attached to the creation. Phrased another way, walking away from a business that one has worked on and cared for is often easier said than done. Businesses become integrated into the lives of their owners in a myriad of ways. Walking away is usually easier in theory than in practice.

Now, on the flipside of the coin, a signed listing agreement is a totally different animal for buyers. It represents the beginning of a dream. The lure of owning a business may come from a desire to achieve greater personal and financial independence, a sense of pride in owning and building something, a desire to always be an owner or a combination of all three. Buyers see the business as the next phase of their lives whereas sellers see the business as the past.

The listing agreement may seem simple enough, but what it represents is an important bridge between the seller and buyer. It is the job of the business broker to understand and consider the situation of both the seller and the buyer respectively and, in the process, work closely with both parties.

The lives of both the buyer and the seller will change greatly once the sale is completed, but in radically different ways. No one understands this simple, but very important fact, better and with more clarity than a business broker.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Are You Sure Your Deal is Completed?

When it comes to your deal being completed, having a signed Letter of Intent is great. While everything may seem as though it is moving along just fine, it is vital to remember that the deal isn’t done until many boxes have been checked.

The due diligence process should never be overlooked. It is during due diligence that a buyer truly decides whether or not to move forward with a given deal. Depending on what is discovered, a buyer may want to renegotiate the price or even withdraw from the deal altogether.

In short, it is key that both sides in the transaction understand the importance of the due diligence process. Stanley Foster Reed in his book, The Art of M&A, wrote, “The basic function of due diligence is to assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present, and predictable future of the business to be purchased.”

Before the due diligence process begins, there are several steps buyers must take. First of all, buyers need to assemble experts to help them. These experts include everyone from the more obvious experts such as appraisers, accountants and lawyers to often less obvious picks including environmental experts, marketing personnel and more. All too often, buyers fail to add an operational person, one familiar with the type of business they are considering buying.

Due diligence involves both the buyer and the seller. Listed below is an easy to use checklist of some of the main items that both buyers and sellers should consider during the due diligence process.

Industry Structure

Understanding industry structure is vital to the success of a deal. Take the time to determine the percentage of sales by product lines. Review pricing policies and consider discount structure and product warranties. Additionally, when possible, it is prudent to check against industry guidelines.

Balance Sheet

Accountants’ receivables should be checked closely. In particular, you’ll want to look for issues such as bad debt. Discover who’s paying and who isn’t. Also be sure to analyze inventory.

Marketing

There is no replacement for knowing your key customers, so you’ll want to get a list as soon as possible.

Operations

Just as there is no replacement for knowing who a business’s key customers are, the same can be stated for understanding the current financial situation of a business. You’ll want to review the current financial statements and compare it to the budget. Checking incoming sales and evaluating the prospects for future sales is a must.

Human Resources

The human resources aspect of due diligence should never be overlooked. You’ll want to review key management staff and their responsibilities.

Other Considerations

Other issues that should be taken into consideration range from environmental and manufacturing issues (such as determining how old machinery and equipment are) to issues relating to trademarks, patents and copyrights. For example, are these tangible assets transferable?

Ultimately, buying a business involves a range of key considerations including the following:

  • What is for sale
  • Barriers to entry
  • Your company’s competitive advantage
  • Assets that can be sold
  • Potential growth for the business
  • Whether or not a business is owner dependent

Proper due diligence takes effort and time, but in the end it is time and effort well-spent.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Do You Really Know the Value of Your Company?

It is common for executives at companies to undergo an annual physical. Likewise, these same executives will likely examine their own investments at least once a year, if not more often. However, rather perplexingly, these same capable and responsible executives never consider giving their company an annual physical unless required to do so by rule or regulations.

Most Business Owners Don’t Know

Recently, a leading CPA firm undertook a study that was quite revealing. In particular, this study concluded that a whopping 65% of business owners don’t know the value of their company and 75% of the surveyed business owners had their net worth tied up in their businesses. Phrased another way, 75% of business owners don’t know how much they are worth! Perhaps most striking of all was the fact that a full 85% of business owners have no exit strategy whatsoever.

Having Recurrent Valuations is a Must

Business owners should know what their businesses are worth at least on an annual basis. Situations, both personal as well as in the economy at large, can change very rapidly. A failure to have a valuation leaves one exposed if issues suddenly arise involving estate planning or divorce or even partnership issues. These are just two examples of potential problems.

It is also vital to understand how your business compares to last year and previous years; after all, valuations should be increasing not decreasing. A valuation can also help you understand how your business compares to other businesses. Perhaps most importantly, an annual valuation can help you spot and fix problems.

“Buy, Sell or Get Out of the Way”

If you don’t know your valuation, then you truly don’t know where you are headed. As former Chrysler CEO, Lee Iacocca once stated, “Buy, sell or get out of the way.”

Standing still isn’t an option. You need to know your valuation in order to take full advantage of opportunities. You may feel that an acquisition isn’t the right move at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready! Having a current valuation means you’re ready to go if opportunity does, in fact, knock!

You never know when a potential acquirer may enter the picture. Imagine missing out on a tremendous opportunity because you didn’t have a valuation in place. Often hot offers and hot opportunities depend on speed. The time it takes to get a valuation could mean that the opportunity is no longer available. An accurate annual valuation of your business provides a valuable option whether you choose to exercise it or not.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Understanding Issues Your Buyer May Face

Not every prospective buyer actually buys a business. In fact, out of 15 prospective buyers, only 1 actually makes a purchase. Sellers should remember that being a buyer can be stressful. The bottom line is that buying a business is usually one of the single largest financial decisions that a person can make. In this article, we are going to explore a few of the reasons why being a buyer can be both stressful and taxing. Keeping a buyer’s perspective in mind will help you on the road to successfully selling your business.

A prospective buyer has many decisions to make before he or she decides to buy a business. Many prospective buyers are employed, and that means they will have to leave their existing job in order to buy a business. Simply stated, a buyer will have to leave the safety and security of their job and “strike out on their own.”

There are also other substantial financial concerns for buyers as well. The majority of buyers will, in fact, have to take out loans in order to purchase a business. Additionally, the new owner will need to execute a lease or assume the existing list. At the end of the day there exist an array of weighty business decisions that a buyer must make.

Ultimately, a buyer has to decide whether or not he or she is ready to take a giant step and purchase a business. This is more than just a financial decision. The enormity of the decision to purchase a business is such that touches every aspect of a person’s life. Owning a business can be very time consuming and demand a great deal of one’s attention. The end result, is that buying a business has a direct impact on both one’s financial life and one’s personal life. Owning a business can be extremely time consuming and this is particularly true for new business owners.

Prospective buyers need to weigh all the factors involved in buying a business. Caution must be exercised. Buyers need to step back and fully assess whether or not owning a business is right for them both on a personal and financial level. When sellers put themselves in their buyer’s “shoes,” things begin to look a bit differently.

When it comes to buying or selling a business, the assistance of a business broker is invaluable. A business broker understands what is involved in owning a business and can help both buyers and sellers evaluate the pros and cons of any transaction.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Six Most Common Types of Buyers: Pros & Cons

Business owners considering selling should realize that they have many different types of prospective buyers. Today’s prospective business buyers are more sophisticated and diverse than ever before. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of prospective buyers and what you should know about each of them.

1. Family Members

Family members often buy businesses from other family members. There are many reasons this happens. For example, a family member is already very familiar with the business. If a family member is treating the responsibility seriously and has prepared years in advance for the responsibility of owning the business, then selling to a family member can work.

However, there are many potential problems when it comes to selling a business to a family member. One problem is that the family member simply lacks the cash to buy the business. This can cause disruptions. If the family member is unprepared to run the business, then the business can suffer a range of disruptions leading to a loss of business. Any family member that buys a business must be ready for the responsibility. An outside buyer usually solves all of the problems that come along with a family member buying a business.

2. The Individual Buyer

Most owners of small to mid-size businesses like the idea of selling to an individual buyer. Often these buyers are older between the ages of 40 and 60, and bring with them a good deal of real world business experience acquired in the corporate world. For these buyers, owning a business is a dream come true. Many individual buyers have the funds necessary to buy.

An individual buyer who is looking to replace a job that has been lost or downsized is often an excellent candidate. On the downside, individual buyers quite often have not owned a business before and may be intimidated by what is involved. At the end of the day, the individual buyer is often easier to deal with than other types of buyers.

3. Business Competitor

It is quite common for business owners to look to their competitors when it comes time to sell. No doubt, the approach of selling to a competitor makes sense, as a competitor already understands the business and will likely see the value.

Additionally, a buyer may see buying a similar business as an easy way to expand and increase cash flow. That stated, it is extremely important to work with a business broker in this situation. By going through a business broker, it is possible to have a secure confidentiality agreement in place so that the prospective buyer doesn’t learn the name of the business or other details before signing the agreement.

4. The Foreign Buyer

Foreign buyers often have the funds they need and look at buying an existing business as a way of addressing such issues as language barrier, licensing difficulties and other problems. Business brokers can be very helpful when working with foreign buyers, as they have experience with the obstacles a foreign buyer may face.

5. Synergistic Buyers

A synergistic buyer is one that feels that a particular business would complement his or her existing business. The idea is that they can combine the two businesses and in the process, lower their cost and acquire new customers. These are just a few of the advantages for a synergistic buyer, and that is why they are often willing to pay more than other buyers.

6. Financial Buyers

Financial buyers can come with a long list of demands, criteria and complications, but that doesn’t mean that they should be discounted. With the assistance of a business broker, financial buyers can still be good prospective candidates.

It is, however, important to remember that these buyers want maximum leverage and are often a good option for the seller who wants to continue to manage a company after it is sold. It is common for financial buyers to offer a lower purchase price than other types of buyers. After all, buying the business is strictly for financial purposes and it isn’t attached to fulfilling a dream or a family tradition. Financial buyers are looking for a business that is generating sufficient profits so as to support the business and provide a good return to the owner.

Working with a business broker can help you find the right kind of buyer for you. Every business is different and every prospective buyer is different. A business broker can help you navigate the possibilities so you find the right buyer for your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 Things You Need to Know About Confidentiality Agreements

Confidentiality is a major concern in virtually every business. Quite often business owners become a little nervous when it comes time to sell their business; after all, business owners usually want to keep the fact that they are selling confidential. Yet, at the same time, business owners want to receive top-dollar for their businesses and sell that business as quickly as possible. In order to sell a business quickly and receive top-dollar, it is usually necessary to present the business to a range of prospects. The simple fact is that you can’t sell a business without letting prospective buyers know that it is for sale.

All of this adds up to one simple conclusion: you will need a confidentiality agreement when selling a business. Let’s look at a few of the key points your confidentiality agreement should cover.

  1. Type of Negotiations

First, your confidentiality agreement should cover whether or not the negotiations are open or secret and exactly what kind of information can be disclosed.

2. Duration of Agreement

Your confidentiality agreement must specify exactly how long the agreement will be in effect. In most circumstances, it is prudent for the seller to seek a permanently binding confidentiality agreement.

3. Special Considerations

There are other considerations as well, for example, does your business hold any patents? A buyer could learn about your inventions during a buying process so you’ll want to make sure that your confidentiality agreement protects your patent and copyright interests as well.

4. State Laws

Additionally, your confidentiality agreement must factor in different state laws if the other party is based in a state different than your own.

5. Recourse in the Case of Breach

Finally, your confidentiality agreement should outline what recourse you will have if the agreement is breached. Having a confidentiality agreement does not offer magical protection against a violation. However, a confidentiality agreement does ensure that prospective buyers understand the seriousness of the situation and that there are indeed severe consequences if the agreement is not followed.

It is important for all parties involved to realize that a confidentiality agreement is a legally binding agreement that is enforceable in a court a law. Thanks to a confidentiality agreement, a seller can share confidential information with a prospective buyer or business broker so that a business can be properly evaluated.

With so much on the line, it is vital that you have your confidentiality agreement drawn up by a legal professional. A good confidentiality agreement is an investment in your business. It is possible for a business owner to sell his or her business and do so with some degree of confidence that information shared with prospective buyers will not be disclosed.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Financing the Business Sale: 6 Questions to Know

How the purchase of a business will be structured is something that must be dealt with early on in the selling process. The simple fact is that the financing of the sale of a business is too important to treat as an afterthought. The final structure of any sale will be the result of the negotiations between buyer and seller.

In order for the sale to be completed in a satisfactory manner, it is vital that the seller answers six key questions:

  1. What is your lowest “rock bottom” price? It is important for sellers to know what is the lowest price they are willing to accept before they begin negotiations. Far too often, sellers have not determined what price is their “lowest price” and this can literally cause negotiations to fall apart.
  2. What are the tax consequences of the sale? Just as sellers often don’t know what their lowest price is, it is also true that sellers often don’t think about the tax consequences of the sale.
  3. Interest rates are no small matter. It is important to determine what is an acceptable interest rate in the event of a seller-financed sale.
  4. Have unsecured creditors been paid off? Does the seller plan on paying for a portion of the closing costs?
  5. Will the buyer have to assume any long-term or secured debt?
  6. Will the business be able to service the debt and still give a return that is acceptable to a buyer?

Studies have indicated that there is a direct relationship between more favorable terms and a higher price. In particular, one study revealed that offering favorable terms could increase the total selling price by as much as 30 percent!

Business brokers are experts in what it takes to successfully buy and sell businesses, and this is exactly the kind of insight and information that they have at their disposal. Experienced brokers are able to use their knowledge of everything from current market conditions and financing strategies to the knowledge of previous sales and a given geographic region to help facilitate successful deals.

Usually, selling a business is one of the most important things that a business owner does in his or her professional lifetime. Business brokers understand this fact, and they understand the importance of making certain that the deal is structured correctly. The facts are that the way in which a sale is structured could mean the difference between success and failure.

Structuring a deal in such a way where it is the best possible deal for both the buyer and seller, helps to ensure that a deal is successfully concluded. Working with a business broker is one of the best way to ensure that a business will be sold.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Defining Goodwill

You may hear the word “goodwill” thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? When it comes to selling a business, the term refers to all the effort that the seller put into a business over the year. Goodwill can be thought of as the difference between the various tangible assets that a business has and the overall purchase price.

The M&A Dictionary defines goodwill in the following way, “An intangible fixed asset that is carried as an asset on the balance sheet, such as a recognizable company or product name or strong reputation. When one company pays more than the net book value for another, the former is typically paying for goodwill. Goodwill is often viewed as an approximation of the value of a company’s brand names, reputation, or long-term relationships that cannot otherwise be represented financially.”

Goodwill vs. Going-Concern

Now, it is important not to confuse goodwill value with “going-concern value,” as the two are definitely not the same. Going-concern value is typically defined by experts, as the fact that the business will continue to operate in a manner that is consistent with its intended purpose as opposed to failing or being liquidated. For most business owners, goodwill is seen as good service, products and reputation, all of which, of course, matters greatly.

Below is a list of some of the items that can be listed under the term “goodwill.” As you will notice, the list is surprisingly diverse.

42 Examples of Goodwill Items

  • Phantom Assets
  • Local Economy
  • Industry Ratios
  • Custom-Built Factory
  • Management
  • Loyal Customer Base
  • Supplier List
  • Reputation
  • Delivery Systems
  • Location
  • Experienced Design Staff
  • Growing Industry
  • Recession Resistant Industry
  • Low Employee Turnover
  • Skilled Employees
  • Trade Secrets
  • Licenses
  • Mailing List
  • Royalty Agreements
  • Tooling
  • Technologically Advanced Equipment
  • Advertising Campaigns
  • Advertising Materials
  • Backlog
  • Computer Databases
  • Computer Designs
  • Contracts
  • Copyrights
  • Credit Files
  • Distributorships
  • Engineering Drawings
  • Favorable Financing
  • Franchises
  • Government Programs
  • Know-How
  • Training Procedures
  • Proprietary Designs
  • Systems and Procedures
  • Trademarks
  • Employee Manual
  • Location
  • Name Recognition

As you can tell, goodwill, as it pertains to a business, is not an easily defined term. It is also very important to keep in mind that what goodwill is and how it is represented on a company’s financial statements are two different things.

Here is an example: a company sells for $2 million dollars but has only $1 million in tangible assets. The balance of $1 million dollars was considered goodwill and goodwill can be amortized by the acquirer over a 15-year period. All of this was especially impactful on public companies as an acquisition could negatively impact earnings which, in turn, negatively impacted stock price, so public companies were often reluctant to acquire firms in which goodwill was a large part of the purchase price. On the flip side of the coin, purchasers of non-public firms received a tax break due to amortization.

The Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB) created new rules and standards pertaining to goodwill and those rules and standards were implemented on July 1, 2001. Upon the implementation of these rules and standards, goodwill may not have to be written off, unless the goodwill is carried at a value that is in excess of its real value. Now, the standards require companies to have intangible assets, which include goodwill, valued by an outside expert on an annual basis. These new rules work to define the difference between goodwill and other intangible assets as well as how they are to be treated in terms of accounting and tax reporting.

Before you buy a business or put a business up for sale, it is a good idea to talk to the professionals. The bottom line is that goodwill can still represent all the hard work a seller put into a business; however, that hard work must be accounted for differently than in years past and with more detail.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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A Deeper Look at Seller Financing

Buying a business requires a good deal of capital or lender resources. The bottom line is that a large percentage of buyers don’t have the necessary capital or lender resources to pay cash and that is where seller financing comes into play. The fact is that seller financing is quite common. In this article, we will take a deeper look at some of the key points to remember.

Is Seller Financing a Good Idea?

Many buyers feel that a seller’s reluctance to provide seller financing is a “red flag.” The notion is that if a business is truly as good as the seller claims it to be, then providing financing shouldn’t be a “scary” proposition. The truth is that this notion does carry some weight in reality. The primary reason that many sellers are reluctant to provide seller financing is that they are concerned that the buyer will be unsuccessful. This, of course, means that if the buyer fails to make payments, that the seller could be forced to take the business back or even forfeit the balance of the note.

However, it is important for sellers to look at the facts. Sellers who sell for all cash receive approximately 70% of the asking price; however, sellers receive approximately 86% of the asking price when they offer terms!

Seller Financing has a Range of Benefits

Here are a few of the most important benefits associated with seller financing: the seller receives a considerably higher price, sellers can get a much higher interest rate from a buyer than they can receive from a financial institution, the interest on a seller-financed deal will add significantly to the actual selling price, there are tax benefits to seller financing versus an all-cash sale and, finally, financing the sale serves as a vote of confidence in the buyer.

Clearly there are no guarantees that the buyer will be successful in operating the business. Yet, it is key that sellers remember that in most situations the buyers are putting a large percentage of their personal wealth into the purchase of the business. In other words, in most situations, the buyer is heavily invested even if financing is involved.

Business brokers excel in helping buyers and sellers discover creative ways to finance the sale of a business. Your broker can recommend a range of payment options and plans that can, in the end, often make the difference between a successful sale and failure.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Selling a Business? Be Aware of These Four Potential Issues

We’ve outlined below a few unexpected aspects of the business sale process that can pop up. Sometimes they severely impact the turnaround time of a sale. But if you can understand these potential issues better, you will be better prepared to try to circumvent them.

1. Do You Have Time on Your Side?

It’s helpful to use an intermediary who will assist with the filtering of prospects vs. “suspects.” However, the inclusion of yet another party, in addition to both the business seller and potential buyers, increases the amount of time required to navigate the process.

Sellers are typically unaware of the time and documentation needed to compile the required Offering Memorandum. Once completed, the seller must provide both the intermediary and potential buyer more time to review and propose meetings and pricing. In the interim, owners are faced with the challenge of keeping their business thriving.

2. Trying to Do Too Much

It’s not surprising when a company owner is also its founder that individual is typically used to making all of the decisions. That’s why business owners in the midst of selling will soon find themselves challenged with the desire to fully be a part of both the selling process and the running of the business.

Delegation to someone else, such as the Sales Manager, can be truly invaluable. Think of your top people as extremely valuable resources. They may have first-hand knowledge regarding additional concerns such as competition and potentially interested acquirers. Bringing in trusted employees to be part of the sales process can be tremendously beneficial.

3. Delays Due to Stockholders

When mid-sized, privately held companies are supported by minority stockholders, these individuals must be included in the selling process—however small their share may be. The business owner will need to firstly obtain their approval to sell by using the sale price and terms as influencers. Of course, issues such as competing interests, pricing disagreements, and even inter-family concerns may cause conflict and further delay the process.

4. Money Issues

Once sellers decide upon a price that they would like to see, it is sometimes difficult for them to accept or even consider anything less. After all, a business owner likely created the company and may have a strong emotional attachment.

Another factor that often interferes with a successful sale occurs when sellers instantly turn down offers because they don’t meet with their desired asking price.

That’s when the intermediary can often come in to salvage the deal. A business broker often serves as a negotiator. He or she can work out a deal that is structured in a manner that works for both sides.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Your Company’s Undocumented Worth

The valuation is a major factor that influences the overall selling price of the property. Business appraisals are based upon a multitude of criteria and indisputable records such as comparables, projections, discount rates, EBITDA multiples, and more.

While the appraiser may have all the information he or she needs, the business elements might be overlooked. That’s why it’s extremely helpful for business appraisers to first grasp the purpose of an appraisal prior to getting started. Unfortunately, the appraiser is often unaware of additional considerations that may enhance or even devalue a business’ overall worth.

Is There Unwritten Value?

Business owners generally agree that prospective buyers are mostly looking for quality in depth of management, market share, and profitability. Though undoubtedly more subjective than documentation, figures, and calculations alone, information regarding key business elements such as market, operations, post-acquisition, value drivers, and fundamentals is highly valued to potential buyers.

Here are some questions to consider regarding a couple of these crucial elements:

Is there an abundance of market competition?

Does pricing reasonably align with the demographic?

Are the company goals consistent with advancing technology?

Are there various and/or global means of reach and distribution?

Does the business have more potential beyond a niche?

What’s the company’s competitive advantage?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of its competitors?

Is there a great deal of alternative technologies?

Are there various vendors?

Is the company’s location convenient to its target audience?

Increased Success & Valuation

Successful businesses thrive due to company-wide values and consistent customer-centric efforts. In his book The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business, Brian Tracy summarizes this as “a company-wide focus on marketing, sales and revenue generation. The most important energies of the most talented people in the company must be centered on the customer. The failures to focus single-mindedly on sales are the number one causes of business failures, which are triggered by a drop-off in sales.”

Tracy continues by pointing out that trends may be the most pivotal consideration and bottom-line contributor to any given company’s success and, therefore, valuation. For 2017, projected trends include the increased use of video marketing, crowdfunding as a source of product validation, nutrition and fitness tracking products, the use of e-commerce, and the acquisition and training of remote employees.

Understanding Trends

Start-up companies are likely practicing as many current trends as possible within their limited funding in an attempt to establish market share, while mature companies are hiring millennials to keep their business hip to those same trends in an effort to protect their existing share. Business owners would benefit from studying and ultimately executing these current trends, as well as from acknowledging the successes and mistakes of their competitors.

Tracy suggests that daily conversations that encompass problem-solving, decision-making, and team collaboration are pivotal factors in making a company successful. And those performing all of these necessities? As Tracy reiterates, top companies have the best people.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Service Businesses Perform Highest When It Comes to Sales

Recently, Business Brokerage Press performed a survey of brokers across the country to see what sells at the highest rate, and what they discovered was very interesting. Retail business sold at 17%, food and drink related businesses at 14%, service oriented businesses sold at 25%, auto related businesses sold at 9%, manufacturing businesses sold at 16% and distribution businesses sold at 11%. Businesses labeled as “other” sold at 5% and professional practices at 4%.

What is a Service Business?

Looking at this gathered information, it is clear that “service type businesses” are very hot and doing quite well. The range for what is considered a service type business is, in fact, rather broad. It encompasses everything from a dry cleaner and hair stylist business to a massage therapy chain or dental practice. Just so long as a business is providing a service and doesn’t fall into another category, it falls under the “service oriented” banner.

Food and Drink Businesses

One of the next key nuggets of information from the survey is that food and drink businesses tend to perform quite well too. Food and drink businesses range from bars to sit down restaurants or fast food establishments. The simple fact is that people need to eat, and this truth is certainly reflected in the strong performance of food and drink businesses. The need for certain types of businesses may change with changing times and changing technologies, but food and drink remains a staple.

Eating, for example, isn’t a trend and the tradition of visiting a local bar or restaurant is very established. In fact, some of the oldest continuously operating businesses in the world are bars and restaurants. Those looking for a business that has some degree of built in stability and is likely to be at least partially immune to emerging trends will be well advised to consider food and drink businesses.

The Mindset of Today’s Buyers

When you are considering what types of businesses that buyers may find interesting it is important to pause and reflect on the likely profile of prospective buyers. Today, a large percentage of prospective buyers are well educated and bring a lot of experience to the table. In short, they are savvy and know what they want.

This combination of education and experience also means that they are open minded and potentially flexible regarding the type of businesses that they will consider. Most prospective buyers will, in fact, be open to a wide array of potential options. At the end of the day, the most important factor for most prospective buyers will be whether or not a business is profitable.

The majority of prospective buyers will not be making an emotional buy. Instead, due to their combination of experience and education, they are very likely to focus on profitability above all else. Of course, this fact underscores the importance of having your business ready to sell long before the first prospective buyer sees it.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Gaining a Better Understanding of Leases

Leases can, and do, play a significant role in the buying or selling of businesses. It can be easy to overlook the topic of leases when focusing on the higher profile particulars of a business. However, leases are a common feature of many businesses and simply can’t be ignored.

Leases and Working with Your Attorney

Whenever a small business is sold, it is common that leases play a major role. In general, there are three different types of leasing arrangements. (If you have any questions about your lease, then you should consult with your attorney. Please note that the advice contained in this article shouldn’t be used as legal advice.)

Three Different Lease Options

In the next section, we will examine three of the most common types of leases. The sub-lease, new lease and assignment of lease all function in different ways. It is important to note that each of these three classes of leases can have differing complicating factors, which again underscores the value and importance of working with an attorney.

The Sub-Lease

The sub-lease, just as the name indicates, is a lease inside of a lease. Sellers are often permitted to sub-lease a property, which means that the seller serves as the landlord. It is key to note, however, that the initial landlord still has a binding agreement with the seller. Sub-leasing requires the permission of the initial landlord.

New Lease

If the previous lease on a property expires or is in need of significant change, a new lease is created. When creating a new lease, the buyer works directly with the landlord and terms are negotiated. It is customary to have an attorney draft the new lease.

Assignment of Lease

Assigning a lease is the most common type of lease used when selling a business. The assignment of a lease provides the buyer with use of the premises where the business currently exists; this works by having the seller “assign” all rights of the lease to the buyer. Once the assignment takes place, the business’s seller typically has no further rights. Also, it is common that the landlord will have wording in the contract that states the seller is still responsible for any part that the buyer doesn’t perform as expected.

Disclose All Lease Issues at the Beginning of the Sales Process

No one likes surprises. If there is a problem with your lease, then this is something that should be disclosed in the beginning of the sales process. Not having a stable place to locate your business can be a major problem and one that should usually be addressed before a business is placed for sale. Buyers don’t like instability and unknowns. Not having a firm location is definitely an issue that must be resolved.

Buyers want to see that you have made their transition from buyer to owner/operator as easy as possible. Providing clarity of issues, such as leasing, will help you attract a buyer and keep a buyer. Regardless of whether it is dealing with leasing issues or other key issues involved in buying or selling a business, working with a business broker can help you streamline the process and achieve optimal results.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What is Really in the Mind of Your Buyer?

It is always important to try and put yourself “in the other person’s shoes.” This fact is of paramount importance when dealing with prospective buyers. Thinking like a prospective buyer could, in fact, be the difference between selling your business and not selling your business. Yet, it is important to continue to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes during the entire sales process.

It is easy to think that because everything is going smoothly with the sale of your business that the tough part is behind you. That may be true, but then again there could still be problems ahead. Issues can come up at a moment’s notice when either your prospective buyer or his or her advisor raises a red flag. Additionally, the larger the business, the greater the complexity. This translates to the greater the risk of problems arising.

The “Little Things” that Could End Up Quite Big

Financial statements are of considerable importance. Quite often you’ll see contingencies regarding financial statements and/or business tax returns, so be ready and be organized. Lease issues is another common category for contingencies. Falling under the lease issue umbrella are topics such as whether or not the seller has agreed to stay on, or issues regarding the property or needs associated with the property if it is a rental.

Other common contingencies can include issues arising from equipment and fixtures that are being included with the sale. These are areas that could be easy to overlook, but they can serve to throw a major wrench into the workings of a deal. The so-called “little things” can cause a deal to fall apart.

3 Key Steps for Preventing Disruptions from Contingencies

Step One – Create a Comprehensive List

One easy move you can make to prevent disruptions from contingencies is to make a list of all FF&E or furniture as well as fixtures, equipment or any other items that could be included with the sale. If an item is not included be sure to remove it entirely.

Likewise, if an item is inoperable then repair it ahead of time. Or at the bare minimum, you could make a list of items that are currently inoperable and include those items in your list. Remember, you don’t want a last-minute surprise or misunderstanding to jeopardize your sale.

Step Two – Check Your Leases

Problems with leases can send deals spiraling out of control. It is a prudent investment of your time to look at things like your leases. You’ll want to make certain that there are no issues that could be viewed as problematic. If there are issues, then it is in the best interest of the deal that you disclose this information at the start of any deal. After all, you don’t want to waste anyone’s time, including your own.

Step Three – Predict Questions and Have Answers Ready

The time you invest in predicting potential questions and having the answers to those questions ready is time very well spent. You’ll look prepared and that helps build trust.

Be ready to answer questions that are likely to arise such as are you going to stay on with the business for a given period of time and what will be the cost, if any, of you doing so? What about employees staying on? Are there legal issues that should be considered? Being able to answer these kinds of questions is a prudent step.

Considering the needs of your prospective buyer will help you make a sale. In selling a business, there is no replacement for being organized and prepared.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Does Your Asking Price Truly Matter?

It is no great secret that sellers often aim high. The logic sellers use is simple, “I can always reduce my price.” While that is true, sellers do need to remember that if the asking price is initially too high, buyers won’t even take a serious look. In short, your selling price must be bound by reality and what the market will bear.

Pricing Does Matter

When an asking price is too high buyers will simply move on. But in the meantime, you may have lost a qualified buyer that would have been very interested at a lower price. Pricing isn’t a factor that should be played with, instead it should always be treated in as professional of a manner as possible.

Instant Millionaire? Maybe and Maybe Not

Some sellers want to become instant millionaires and sell their business for top dollar. Sometimes this is warranted and sometimes the numbers don’t support lofty valuations. Every situation and every business is different. It pays to be realistic.

Studies have shown that there is usually about a 15% difference between what sellers want and what the market will bear. For example, when a business is over $1 million, sellers usually sell for 90% of their asking price. Smaller businesses, valued under a million, usually sell for about 85% of their initial asking price. (Now, that stated, it is important to keep in mind that only data on sold businesses factors into this statistic.)

Business Brokers Help Determine an Accurate Valuation

A business broker has considerably expertise when it comes time to calculate a reasonable asking price for a business. They know that it is essential that they come up with a price that is fair. As a result, business brokers take many diverse issues into consideration. A few of the factors that business brokers consider are location, competition and annual sales variations.

Prospective Buyers Can’t Read Your Mind

An experienced business broker can help you determine the right value for your business and determining the right value is key. The last thing you want is to have an evaluation that is far too high as you will immediately eliminate many prospective buyers. While you may know that you are willing to negotiate and perhaps even reduce your asking price substantially, prospective buyers do not know this fact. A realistic and appropriate asking price is of paramount importance and a business broker can help guide you towards the best decision.

Market Forces Have the Ultimate Say

In the end, it is the market, not the seller, that determines the correct selling price. If no one is willing to pay a certain price than a given business is overpriced. That may be a brutal fact, but it is also quite true.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Strong Selling Points: Let Your Strengths Work for You

“Independent business owner” is a phrase with two meanings. Of course, it means being the owner of an independent business. But another way to look at “independent business owner” is to let this phrase define the very personality of the person at the helm. Independent. Confident. Self-assured. Strong-willed. These are vital entrepreneurial attributes, but, ironically, they can sometimes work against the business owner when it comes time to sell.

Since business owners are the type who know about selling — either products or services– and about making deals — haven’t they had to cope with suppliers, customers, and competitors throughout their business careers? — it’s not surprising that owners approach selling their businesses with these tried-and-true tactics and ideas. Sellers who have spent years building a business are often unaware of how completely different the process of selling a business is.

Savvy sellers, realizing the importance of a selling approach equal to this very important task, will depend on the guidance of a business intermediary. With professional guidance, sellers can benefit from their personal strengths instead of letting them get in the way of the selling process. The following “strong” selling points are signposts on the road leading to a successful transaction.

Price Your Business To Sell

Sellers are good “business people;” they naturally are after the best possible price for their business. Realistic pricing is perhaps the most important factor in selling from a point of strength. Understanding the marketplace, up-to-the-minute and not some high mark just past or in the possible future, is key.

The pricing of a business, different from the simpler means of valuing based on goods or services, depends on industry-tested valuation techniques, with intangibles incorporated to ensure that the business will not be underpriced. The price of a business is arrived at by a variety of factors, one of the chief of which is the intensity of a buyers interest in a particular business.

Know Your Buyer

The seller, although good at “psyching out” customers and vendors, may not be as adept at sizing up potential buyers. Some buyers are professional window-shoppers; talking a good game but never really ready to play. There are also the buyers who would play ball — if they only knew where the action was! First locating and then qualifying buyers is a key function of business brokers. They will use computerized data bases, professional associations and other networks nationally and internationally — all to increase the chances of selling a business at top value.

In addition, the business broker will determine the right buyer for the right business, focusing on those prospects who are financially qualified as well as genuinely (or potentially) interested in the business for sale. As part of qualifying buyers, to take the “fear” out of the likely need for seller financing, the business broker will assess the ability of a particular buyer to run a business successfully. This invaluable work by the broker not only locates the best buyers, it also frees the seller to concentrate on his role in the selling process.

Prepare Your Business for Sale

In addition to the obvious need for the business to appear clean and cared-for, there are important steps the seller must take in advance of putting the business on the market. In most cases, a business will sell based on the numbers. Your business broker will help you create a clear financial picture — in timely fashion — and to prepare statements suitable for presentation to a prospective buyer. Remember that buyers may be willing to buy potential, but they don’t want to pay for it. In fact, sellers should be open to about all aspects of the business that might affect the sale; otherwise, once the real facts are revealed, the deal may self-destruct.

Business owners are accustomed to coping with paperwork, but few have had exposure to the specialized contracts and forms required both before and during the selling process. The business broker, an expert at transaction details, will help guard against delays, problems, and premature (or inappropriate) disclosure of information.

Maintain Normal Operations

Another vital activity for the seller is to keep on top of the day-to-day running of the business. When a business intermediary is on hand to focus on the marketing of the business, the seller can focus on keeping daily operations on-target. Sellers are “people people,” and may have visions of wooing buyers with their great presentation of the business. Even if this were to happen, these sellers fail to visualize the number of buyers they would have to “woo-and-win” if handling the sale on their own.

Confidentiality

An adjunct to maintaining the status quo is the important task of maintaining confidentiality. Until a purchase-and-sale agreement has been signed, most sellers do not want to disturb (or jeopardize) the normal interaction with customers and employees; nor do they want to alert the competition. A business broker helps by using nonspecific descriptions of the business, requiring signed confidentiality agreements, and performing a careful screening of all prospects.

To keep the sale of your business on firm ground, be sure that your “strengths” as an independent business owner aren’t actually weakening the sale. Using these key selling points along with the expertise of a business intermediary will keep the process going strong.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What Are Your Company’s Weaknesses?

Every company has weaknesses; the trick is to fix them. There is a saying that the test of a good company president or CEO is what happens to the company when he or she leaves. Some companies–on paper–may look the same, but one company may be much more valuable due to weaknesses in the other company. Not all problems or weaknesses can be resolved or fixed, but most can be mitigated. Fixing or lessening company weaknesses can not only significantly improve the value, but also increase the chances of finding the right buyer. Here are some common weaknesses that concern some buyers, causing them to look elsewhere for an acquisition.

“The One Man Band”

Many small companies were founded by the current president, and he has made all of the major decisions. Since he has not developed a succession plan, there is no one in place to take over if he gets hit by the proverbial truck. He is the typical one man band; and, as a result, the company is not an attractive target for acquisition.

Declining Industry

Companies that are in a declining market have to be smart enough to recognize the situation and make changes accordingly. A real-life example of a “smart” company is one that made ties, and, realizing the decline in this apparel item, switched over to making personalized polo shirts. A company can still make ties but has to have the foresight – and ability – to move into new product areas.

Customer Concentration

This is a major concern of most buyers. It is not unusual for the one man band to focus on what made the company successful – one or two major customers. He has built the relationships over the years. These relationships are seldom transferable. Finding new customers may take time and money, but the effort is absolutely necessary should the owner eventually decide to sell.

The One Product

Many one man band run companies were based, and still are, on either the manufacture and sale of one product or the creation and development of a single service. Henry Ford made a wonderful car – the Model A – but that’s all he made. General Motors decided that many people would like something different and were willing to pay for it. Fortunately, for Ford, he caught on quickly, but almost went out of business with the thinking that one model fits everyone.

Aging Workforce/Decaying Culture

Young people are not entering the trades, leaving many jobs such as tool and die positions filled with “old hands” who will soon be retiring. Technology may be able to replace them, but that decision has to made and implemented. No one wants a business that will have idle machines with no one trained to operate them.

There are many other areas that could be considered company weaknesses. If there is a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board, perhaps they can help the one man band create a succession plan and just as importantly – a successor. Certainly the time to act on all of this is before the decision to sell is made. Whether current ownership plans on staying the course or eventually selling the company, the good news is that resolving company weaknesses is a win-win situation.

If you are considering selling your company in the next year or so, the time to start is now. Planning ahead can significantly add to the eventual selling price. A visit with a professional business intermediary is the first step.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Be a Winning Seller: Good Negotiation is the Key

You’ve made the big decision to put your business on the market. Your reasons for selling are valid, carefully-considered, and “good” – the kind that won’t make a prospective buyer shy away. Now, you may tell yourself, comes the fun part. You’ll come up with a price – maybe a little high, but why not? – and let gut instinct (an attribute common to successful business owners) lead the way.

Wait just a minute. Or maybe a quarter of an hour; however long it takes you to bone up on your negotiation skills with the following steps as a guide. Being a smart negotiator is tantamount to effecting the successful sale of your business.

Gather Your Forces

The first step is to engage the help of a business broker professional. He or she understands the sales negotiation process as well as tactics for marketing the business. Before sitting down with your business broker, however, you should gather the following information: profit and loss statements (for three years), current federal income tax returns, a list of fixtures and equipment, copies of equipment leases (if any), the lease and any lease-related documents, a copy of your franchise agreement (if applicable), lists of loans (if applicable), with amounts and payment schedule, an approximate tally of inventory on hand, and the names of any outside advisors (attorney, accountant, etc.) you plan to consult.

Be Market-Smart

It’s vital to have a clear and realistic notion about the value of your business. Pricing your business intelligently is as important as impressive financial records. Your business broker will apply industry-tested valuation methods, including ratios based on the sales of similar businesses, as well as the historical data that most closely matches your type of business. He or she will also incorporate intangibles to insure that the business will not be underpriced. At the same time, your broker will make sure you understand how the price is dictated by the marketplace and that realistic pricing is an absolute must. Most buyers won’t wait for an outsized price to drop – they will just go somewhere else.

Know Your Buyer

Finding the right buyer may be more important than getting that extra-high asking price. Your business broker will determine the right buyer for the right business, focusing on those prospects who are financially qualified and are genuinely interested in your type of business. It’s important also to know something about the bargaining power of the buyer and to discover early on how he or she plans to finance the purchase of your business. Your business broker will do that and more: he or she will anticipate the buyer’s concerns and counsel you about being up-front about any problems that might make a buyer suspicious and therefore unnecessarily adversarial during the negotiation process. Steeped in knowledge about negotiating price, terms and other vital aspects of the sale, the broker will guide you each step of the way. During the early stages, while the buyer is still considering making an offer, the broker is the ideal person to follow up and keep the deal running smoothly. Working alone, you could lose bargaining effectiveness by doing the follow-up yourself. And, in general, having someone else negotiate on your behalf is the smartest way to go. The “middle man” can get your thoughts across, keeping you at a distance from the words themselves.

Be Flexible

In negotiating the sale of your business, you need to keep the ball rolling once an offer has been presented. Study it closely, and don’t automatically despair. Just because you didn’t get your asking price doesn’t mean that the offer has nothing to commend it. It may have other points to offset what you feel is a low figure, such as – if the deal is to be seller-financed – higher payments or interest, a consulting agreement, more cash than you anticipated, or the promise of a buyer relationship that will make life easier. In evaluating an offer, take the long view and look for the ways in which the offer just might accomplish your objectives. Above all, don’t think in terms of “punishing” the buyer because of a low offer. This is the worst reason for rejecting an offer – and certainly a self-defeating one for you.

Beef Up Bargaining Power

The best negotiating weapon is to have options available. For the seller, the mightiest one is lack of desperation. With any luck, you have not waited too long to sell and your business is sound. Carry this a step further: be sure, in preparing to sell, that you don’t let the business slip. It’s important that prospective buyers see your business at its best – bustling, and showing no signs of neglect. You should, for example, keep normal operating hours, repair signage and other first-impression areas of the business, repair or remove non-operating equipment, remove items not included in the sale, maintain inventory at constant levels. Make it obvious that you have not been forced to sell, and that – if necessary – you could refuse all offers and carry on the operation of your business. This may be the last thing you want to do, having made the hard decision to sell, but the buyer won’t know that.

Master the Art of Good Timing

Timing is crucial to the successful sale of a business. Any deal has a shelf-life, and it will go stale if it sits around too long. On the other hand, sometimes ideas need extra time to jell – and people sometimes need a little time-and-space to be more objective about their own positions. Your business broker will keep the process moving at the proper pace. He or she will also provide or offer advice about the specialized contracts and forms necessary for the completion of the sale.

In negotiating the sale process, you will benefit many times over from the guidance of a business broker professional. The business broker represents you, the seller, and works toward completing the transaction in a reasonable amount of time and at a price and terms acceptable to you. The broker will also present and assess offers and, at the appropriate juncture, he or she can help in structuring the sale and negotiating its successful close – helping to create a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Points to Ponder for Sellers

Who best understands my business?

When interviewing intermediaries to represent the sale of your firm, it is important that you discuss your decision process for selecting one. Without this discussion, an intermediary can’t respond to a prospective seller’s concerns.

Are there any potential buyers?

When dealing with intermediaries, it always helps to reveal any possible buyer, an individual or a company, that has shown an interest in the business for sale. Regardless of how far in the past the interest was expressed, all possible buyers should be contacted now that your company is available for acquisition. People who have inquired about your company are certainly top prospects.

Lack of communication?

It is critical that communication between the seller, or his or her designee, and the intermediary involved in the sale, be handled promptly. Calls should be taken by both sides. If either side is busy or out of the office, the call should be returned as quickly as possible.

Does the offering memorandum have cooperation from both sides?

This document must be as complete as possible, and some of the important sections require careful input from the seller. For example: an analysis of the competition; the company’s competitive advantages – and shortcomings; how the company can be grown and such issues as pending lawsuits and environmental, if any.

Where are the financials?

It may be easy for a seller to provide last year’s financials, but that’s just a beginning. Five years, plus current interim statements and at least one year’s projections are necessary. In addition, the current statement should be audited; although this usually presents a problem for smaller firms — better to do it now than later.

Are the attorneys deal-makers?

In most cases, transaction attorneys from reputable firms do an excellent job. However, occasionally, an attorney for one side or the other becomes a deal-breaker instead of a deal-maker. A sign of this is when an attorney attempts to take over the transaction at an early stage. Sellers, and buyers, have to take note of this and inform their attorney that they want the deal to work – or change to a counsel who is a “team player.”

Intermediaries are responsible for handling what is usually the biggest asset the owner has – and they are proud of what they do. Intermediaries realize that the sale of a business can create the financial security so important to a business owner. Even when a company is in trouble, the intermediary is committed to selling it, since by doing so, jobs will be saved – and the business salvaged.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What Should Be in Your Partnership Agreement

Partnership agreements are essential business documents, the importance of which is difficult to overstate. No matter whether your business partner is essentially a stranger or a lifelong friend, it is prudent to have a written partnership agreement.

A good partnership agreement clearly outlines all rights and responsibilities and serves as an essential tool for dealing with fights, disagreements and unforeseen problems. With the right documentation, you can identify and eliminate a wide range of potential headaches and problems before your business even starts.

Determining the Share of Profits, Regular Draw, Contributing Cash and More

Partnership agreements will also outline the share of profits that each partner takes. Other important issues that a partnership agreement should address is determining whether or not each partner gets a regular draw. Invest considerable time to the part of the partnership agreement that outlines how money is to be distributed, as this is an area where a lot of conflict occurs.

The issue of who is contributing cash and services in order to get the business operational should also be addressed in the partnership agreement. Likewise, the percentage that each partner receives should be clearly indicated.

Partnership Agreements Outline and Prevent Potential Problem Areas

Another area of frequent problems is in the realm of who makes business decisions. Here are just a few of the types of questions that must be answered:

  • Are business decisions made by a unanimous vote or a majority vote?
  • What must take place in order to consider new partners?
  • Who will be handling managerial work?
  • How will the business continue and what changes will occur in the event of a death?
  • At what stage would you have to go to court if a conflict cannot be resolved within the framework of your partnership agreement?

You might just want to get your business running as soon as possible, but not addressing these issues in the beginning could spell disaster down the road.

The Uniform Partnership Act

One option to consider, which is offered in all states except Louisiana, is the Uniform Partnership Act or UPA. The UPA covers all the legal regulations that specifically apply to partnerships.

Reduce Conflict Via a Partnership Agreement

Forming a partnership can be great way to launch a new business, but it is also important to keep in mind that no matter how exciting the process may be it is still a business. New businesses face an array of challenges, and the last thing any new business needs is internal disruption. Mapping out via a partnership agreement the duties and expectations of all partners is an easy and logical way to reduce internal conflict within the business so that you can stay focused on building the business and making money!

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Sell Your Business and Start Your Retirement

When the day comes to sell your business, it is important that prospective buyers understand why you have made this decision. Having a valid reason why it is time for you to sell can make your business more attractive to prospective buyers. After all, it is only natural that you will have to retire at some point even if the business is thriving. In fact, it is safe to state that buying a successful business from an owner that is retiring is just the kind of the situation that most buyers like

Owning a business and retirement, of course, is far different than retiring from a job. You likely have many friends ranging from vendors and employees to customers, clients and other business owners. It is vital that your departure does not disrupt the operation of your business and that prospective buyers understand that you have taken steps to ensure a smooth transition. In short, you want to create a situation in which everyone is happy once you have sold your business.

Helping to ensure a smooth transition has many parts. One of those parts is finding a buyer who will treat your people well. Another key aspect of a smooth transition is to automate as much of your work as possible before you leave. No one knows your business as well as you do, which means that you are the best source to automate and simplify the processes of your business. Outlining what steps you’ve taken to automate and simplify your business will help make it more attractive to buyers.

A key aspect of streamlining, simplifying and organizing your business is to pick out, well in advance, your second in command. Once you have decided on which person would be the best candidate, it is important that you begin grooming that person so they can take over day-to-day operations once you leave. Having a capable person who is committed to staying is a very attractive commodity for prospective buyers. A capable second in command can prove invaluable not just during the transition period but also for the long term operation of the business.

Finally, you should have set up a retirement account on which you can draw upon. Statistics indicate that roughly 50% of business owners do not have a retirement account set up in advance. If you don’t have an account set up, don’t panic, instead set one up as soon as possible.
Working with a business broker is one of the single best ways to handle the process of selling your business and getting ready for retirement.

A business broker can help you with everything from finding qualified prospective buyers to establishing the value of your business. The sooner you begin working with a business broker, the easier your transition will be.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Can I Buy a Business With No Collateral

At first glance the idea of buying a business with no collateral may seem impossible, but in reality it can be done. Let’s examine your options. When it comes to achieving this goal, your greatest assets are an open mind and a commitment to hanging in there despite the odds.

The Small Business Association’s 7 (a) Program is Your Friend

One possible avenue for buying a business with zero collateral is to opt for the SBA’s 7 (a) program, which works to incentivize the bank to make a loan to a prospective buyer. Under this program, the SBA guarantees 75%. The buyer still has to put in 25%; however, this money doesn’t necessarily have to be his or her money. This is where things really get interesting. The cash that the buyer uses can come from investors or even be a gift from parents in the case of young buyers. These possibilities all fall within the SBA’s guidelines.

Look into Seller Financing, You Might Be Surprised

There is a second way to buy a business with no collateral, and that comes in the form of finding a seller who is willing to finance. Again, this might seem counter intuitive at first glance. But the facts are that a large percentage of sellers do agree to offer some level of financing. So in other words, seller financing is not unheard of and stands as a viable way for a prospective buyer to buy without collateral.

Combining Seller Financing and the SBA’s 7 (a) Program

Combining the SBA’s 7 (a) program with seller financing can prove to be a powerful combination. It is important to note, however, that if you do use the SBA’s 7 (a) program the seller cannot receive his or her repayment for two years.

Persistence Pays

Ultimately, you will likely need to be rather persistent when trying to find a bank. Rejection is likely. But if you are persistent, it is possible to make the SBA’s 7 (a) program work for you.

One key way to keep yourself motivated is to constantly remember that jumping through some hurdles is all part of the process since you’re trying to circumvent the traditional route of using collateral. But working relentlessly may be worth it because if you are successful, you have acquired a tangible asset without any collateral of your own. That is no small accomplishment.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from S.C.O.R.E., the Small Business Administration (SBA), or an experienced business broker. While it might sound very unlikely that you’ll be able to buy a business without collateral, plenty of people have successfully done so.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Should You Become a Business Owner?

While being a business owner may in the end not be for everyone, there is no denying the great rewards that come to business owners. So should you buy a business of your own? Let’s take a moment and outline the diverse benefits of owning a business and help you decide whether or not this path is right for you.

Do You Want More Control?

A key reason that so many business savvy people opt for owning a business is that it offers a high level of control. In particular, business owners are in control of their own destiny. If you have ever wished that you had more control over your life and decisions, then owning a business or franchise may be for you.

Owning a business allows you to chart your own course. You can hire employees to reduce your workload once the business is successful and, in the process, free up time to spend doing whatever you like. This is something that you can never hope to achieve working for someone else; after all, you can’t outsource a job.

Keep in mind that when you own a business or franchise, you never have to worry about being downsized or having your job outsourced. You also don’t have to worry about asking for a raise. No doubt business owners do have to contend with market forces and unexpected turns. But even considering those factors, business owners clearly enjoy a greater level of control over their destiny.

Are You Willing to Forgo Benefits?

As an employee, you’ll usually be able to count on a regular income and even allowances for sick days and vacation days. However, business owners lose money if they are sick or take a vacation. Plus, they won’t necessary have the steady salary that employees receive as they could see their income vary from one month to the next.

Do You Want to Grow Your Income?

Business owners have the potential to grow their income and take a range of proactive steps that lead to income growth. As an employee, your fate is far different. Employees usually exercise either minimal or no control over the course of a business and have no say in key decisions that impact its growth and stability. Being a business owner by contrast allows you to seize that control.

The amount of income made by business owners varies widely depending on everything from the industry to the region. But statistics show that the longer you own your business the more you’ll make. In fact, those who have owned their businesses for greater than 10 years tend to earn upwards of 6 figures per year.

One of the best ways to determine whether or not being a business owner is right for you is to work with a business broker. A broker understands everything that goes into owning a business and can help you determine whether or not you have the mindset to set out on the path towards business ownership.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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