What Do Buyers Want in a Company?

Selling your business doesn’t have to feel like online dating, but for many sellers this is exactly what it can feel like. Many sellers are left wondering, “What exactly do buyers want to see in order to buy my company?” Working with a business broker is an excellent way to take some of the mystery out of this often elusive equation. In general, there are three areas that buyers should give particular attention to in order to make their businesses more attractive to sellers.

Area #1 – The Quality of Earnings

The bottom line, no pun intended, is that many accountants and intermediaries can be rather aggressive when it comes to adding back one-time or non-recurring expenses. Obviously, this can cause headaches for sellers. Here are a few examples of non-recurring expenses: a building undergoing foundation repairs, expenses related to meeting new government guidelines or legal fees involving a lawsuit or actually paying for a major lawsuit.

Buyers will want to emphasize that a non-recurring expense is just that, a one-time expense that will not recur, and are not in fact, a drain on the actual, real earnings of a company. The simple fact is that virtually every business has some level of non-recurring expenses each and every year; this is just the nature of business. However, by adding back these one-time expenses, an accountant or business appraiser can greatly complicate a deal as he or she is not allowing for extraordinary expenses that occur almost every year. Add-backs can work to inflate the earnings and lead to a failure to reflect the real earning power of the business.

Area #2 – Buyers Want to See Sustainability of Earnings

It is only understandable that any new owner will be concerned that the business in question will have sustainable earnings after the purchase. No one wants to buy a business only to see it fail due to a lack of earnings a short time later or buy a business that is at the height of its earnings or buy a business whose earnings are the result of a one-time contract. Sellers can expect that buyers will carefully examine whether or not a business will grow in the same rate, or a faster rate, than it has in the past.

Area #3 – Buyers Will Verify Information

Finally, sellers can expect that buyers will want to verify that all information provided is accurate. No buyer wants an unexpected surprise after they have purchased a business. Sellers should expect buyers to dig deep in an effort to ensure that there are no skeletons hiding in the closet. Whether its potential litigation issues or potential product returns or a range of other potential issues, you can be certain that serious buyers will carefully evaluate your business and verify all the information you’ve provided.

By stepping back and putting yourself in the shoes of a prospective buyer, you can go a long way towards helping ensure that the deal is finalized. Further, working with an experienced business broker is another way to help ensure that you anticipate what a buyer will want to see well in advance.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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A Short Story All Family-Owned Businesses Should Read

When it comes to selling a family-owned business there are no shortage of complicating factors, but one in particular pops up quite often. This article contains a true story about a popular family business that was built up from the ground up only to later meet a very sad ending. While this is just one story, there are countless similar situations all across the country.

Once upon a time, there was a family-owned pizza dough company that had millions in sales. They sold their pizza dough to a range of businesses including restaurants and supermarkets. The founder had five children and split the business equally amongst them. Complicating matters was the fact that the children didn’t feel compelled to work in the family business. As a result, they turned the operation of the business over to two members of the third generation.

Once the founder’s children reached retirement age, they decided that they wanted to sell. So, they hired a business broker. The business broker began the search for an appropriate buyer, however, there was little interest. After considerable effort, the business broker found a successful businessman who offered to buy the pizza dough business for 50% of the sales, which was a good price. The business broker took the offer to the five owners and that is when the problems began.

A huge family argument was unleashed and the business broker was cut out of the loop. Later the offer was turned down flat and worst of all there was no counter-proposal, no attempt to negotiate price, terms, conditions or anything else. In short, the offer was finished and done. In the end, the business broker had lost several months of hard work.

Wondering what had happened, the business broker learned that two of the third-generation members who had been operating the business didn’t want to sell out of fear of losing their jobs. Over two decades later, the business has experienced almost no growth and is essentially breaking even. The owners, now in their 70s will likely never receive anything for their equity.

What you have just read is a true story, although the specific business type has been changed. This story serves to outline the problems that can arise when it comes time to sell a family business, especially if there is no agreement in place. Passing on this deal meant that the five children lost a considerable amount of money; this would have of course been money that could have made their retirement much more pleasant.

The story is both tragic and cautionary, in that this great business built from scratch by its founder was, in the end, left to flounder.

There is a moral to this story. Family-owned businesses need to have strict guidelines in place concerning issues such as salaries, benefits, what happens when one member wants to cash out and more. Such issues should be worked out with professionals, such as business brokers, years in advance.

When Two Million Dollars is Just Not Enough

Not everyone wants to sell when they feel as though they have to sell. Life changes, such as divorce or illness, can trigger the sale of a business. Everything from declining business revenue to partnership problems and more can send business owners scrambling for the exit sign. However, selling isn’t always an option, especially for small businesses. In this article, we will take a closer look at just such a situation.

The business under consideration is a successful distribution business, which is also a classic example of a value-enhanced business. The two owners each draw several hundred thousand from the business each year to go along with a range of other benefits. If hypothetically, the business was to sell for $2 million dollars, each of the owners would receive approximately $1 million. Of course, this sounds like a sizable amount. So, what is the problem?

When one stops to factor in such variables as taxes, closing expenses and debt, that $1 million-dollar number has shrunk dramatically, leaving each owner with much less, perhaps as little as just two years of income. In such a situation, selling isn’t a great idea. Many owners of small companies want to “cash in” and retire only to discover that their business isn’t worth enough to do so.

Owners who want to retire but can’t afford to do so are in a difficult position. Such owners may have already “checked out” mentally and in the process, have lost their focus resulting in a failure to both invest financially and creatively in the business. In turn, this decreases the value of the business even more, as competitors may likely move in to fill the void.

So, what does all of this mean for business owners? Business owners don’t want to get stuck in the position we discussed thus far. Instead, business owners want to sell at the optimal moment, when a business is at its high point and the owners are not considering retiring and feel as though they have to sell.

Determining when is the best time to sell can be one of the single smartest business decisions that a business owner ever makes. Working with a professional and experienced business broker is a fast and simple way to determine if the time is right to sell your business or if you should wait. Waiting until the optimal moment to sell has passed you by could be a painful experience.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Three Common Errors Caused by Inexperience

The old saying that “there is no replacement for experience” is a truism that has stood the test of time. The simple fact is that a lack of experience can dismantle your deal.

Consider the following scenario – a business owner nearing retirement owns a multi-location retail operation that is doing several million in annual sales. He interviews a well-respected and experienced intermediary and is impressed.

However, the business owner’s niece has recently received her MBA and has told her uncle that she can handle the sale of his business and in the process, save him a bundle. On paper, everything sounds fine, but as it turns out the lack of experience gives this business owner less than optimal results.

Let’s take a look at a few problems that recently arose with our nameless, but successful, business owner and his well-meaning and smart, but inexperienced niece.

Error #1 No Confidentiality Agreements

One problem is that the business owner and his niece don’t use confidentiality agreements with prospective buyers. As a result, competitors, suppliers, employees and customers all learn that the business is available for sale. Of course, learning that the business is for sale could cause a range of problems, as both employees and suppliers get nervous about what the sale could mean. Ultimately, this could undermine the sale of the business.

Error #2 Incorrect Financials

Another problem is that the inexperienced MBA was supposed to prepare an offering memorandum. In the process, she compiled some financials together that had not been audited. While on paper this seemed like a small mistake, it failed to include several hundred thousand dollars the owner took. He simply forgot to mention this piece of information to his niece. Clearly this mishap dramatically impacted the numbers. Additionally, this lack of information would likely result in lower offers as well as lower bids, or even decrease overall prospective buyer interest.

Error #3 Failing to Include the CFO

A third key mistake in this unfortunate story was a failure to bring in the CFO. The niece felt that she could handle the financial details, but in the end, her assumption was incorrect. The owner and the niece failed to realize that prospective buyers would want to meet with their CFO, and that he would be involved in the due diligence process. In short, not bringing the CFO on board early in the process was a blunder that greatly complicated the process.

The problem is clear. Selling a business, any business, is far too important for an amateur. When it comes time to sell your business, you want an experienced business broker with a great track record. Again, there is no replacing experience.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article posted on Forbes.com entitled “Small Business Owners Are Retiring, And Millennials May Not Fill The Gap On America’s Main Street” uses the closing of a 235-year-old hardware store to prove a startling fact: the Millennial generation may not be suited to take over small business ownership like the generations before them. In the case of Elwood Adams Hardware, which has seen a multitude of owners over the last almost two and a half centuries, the current owner simply couldn’t find a buyer.

While student loan debt and an inclination to pursue work in the gig economy may be factors in this unwillingness to take on small business ownership, their age may actually be the driving factor. The article mentions that the sweet spot for entrepreneurship is typically the 40’s, so it may take some time to truly see if millennials are suited for small business ownership.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article from the Axial Forum entitled “Five Due Diligence Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them” outlines some common mistakes and pitfalls that are made during the due diligence process and gives tips on how to navigate the due diligence waters. The pitfalls include:

  1. Missed Opportunities
  2. Pointless Provisions
  3. Red Flags at the 11th Hour
  4. Poor Communication
  5. Leaving Money on the Table

Avoiding these five things won’t guarantee success, but doing so can definitely help give an owner the best chance at success. Buying a business is not an easy process, but knowing what to expect, what to avoid, and how to maximize the value of a dollar can go a long way.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted on Divestopedia.com entitled “The Investment Banking Landscape: Different Types of M&A Firms” gives an overview of the different types of M&A firms as well as how they can be useful in different situations. Owners interested in selling should know how each type of firm works and how each could be of use to them during the sale of their business. The following represent these different types of firm:

  1. Boutique Investment Firms
  2. Regional Investment Banks
  3. Bulge Bracket Investment Banks
  4. M&A Advisory Firms
  5. Business Brokerage

Each of these types of M&A firms has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it is very important for an owner to understand and explore the options available to them before settling on one.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted on BizBuySell.com entitled “Small Business Transactions Reach Record High As Buyers Shrug Off Amazon Effect” explores business transaction data from the third quarter of 2017. As outlined by the report, closed transactions numbered 2,589 in the third quarter, up 24% from the same time period last year. This quarter continues the overall trend of quarter-over-quarter growth in reported transactions going back two years.

Increases in median revenue and cash flow of sold businesses as well as a decrease in the median time to sell a business show a strengthening small business sector and an improving overall market. Although retail has taken a hit from the “Amazon Effect,” retail transactions are actually up 23% since this time last year. Read the full report by clicking the link below.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted on BizJournals.com entitled “Closely-held Businesses Head Toward a Slippery Slope” explores a startling truth about small businesses in the United States: around 60 percent of owners will likely retire within the next 10 years. On the surface, this may sound unimportant or irrelevant to the small business world. But just beyond the surface lies the fact that almost 70 percent of successions fail. But still, what does this mean for the small business sector?

Finding a suitable well-trained successor will be of absolute necessity within the next 10 years for these 60 percent of retiring owners. Failure is inherently more common than success post-transition, so finding qualified individuals to take over will be paramount to continued small business success in the United States.

Click here to read the full article.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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It’s Time To Embrace CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)

If you are unfamiliar with CSR or corporate social responsibility, you are certainly not alone. In the coming years, you’ll be hearing a lot about CSR. In this article, we’ll look at CSR and how, when implemented with sincerity, it can positively impact your company and its operation.

Building Your CSR Locally

One of the key ways that you can build your CSR is to think about ways to help your community. Contributing to local community programs, for example, is a great place to start. Everything from personal involvement to direct financial support can help build your company’s reputation within your community.

Your Connection to the Environment

A second way to build your CSR is to show that your company is thinking about its impact on the environment. Recycling is important but so is using eco-friendly packaging and containers. Additionally, embracing low-emission and high mileage vehicles is another good step as this lowers your company’s carbon footprint.

Advertising and Good PR

A third area to consider is how your company interacts with the marketplace. Using responsible advertising, business conduct and public relations is a savvy move. Likewise, providing fair treatment of your shareholders, suppliers and vendors and contractors will all help to improve your CSR.

Yet, one of the single most important areas of corporate social responsibility occurs in the workplace. The advent of social media has helped fuel the dispersal of information. If your business isn’t treating its employees in a fair manner and/or has unsafe work conditions or unfair employment practices, the word will eventually get out. There has never been a more important time to treat your employees well.

Embracing CSR serves to increase shareholder and investor interest. In short, it is expected. Socially-conscious companies are considered smart and stable investments. A company that has fully embraced CSR will find greater buyer interest and even a higher selling price when the time comes to sell. Most buyers want excellent customer loyalty with no skeletons hiding in a company’s closet. They also are seeking happy and loyal employees, low employee turnover and for a company to have a good reputation within a community. CSR helps achieve all of these goals and more.

Ultimately, corporate social responsibility works to create additional value. When you invest in CSR, you are investing in achieving a higher selling price and making your business more attractive to sellers. Summed up another way, you can’t afford not to think about this topic.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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You Know the Old Saying About Loose Lips? How Does It Impact You?

The saying “loose lips sink ships,” doesn’t have ancient origins. While it sounds like one of those sayings that has been around forever, the saying was actually invented during World War II. It was taken quite literally. The idea was that a lack of secrecy could lead to the loses of actual ships or other wartime deaths. So in other words, this saying was serious business. It should come as no surprise that this saying is alive and well in the business world.


Few things are more important than safeguarding your business from leaks. Leaks can, simply stated, spell disaster for your business. Leaks can be particularly damaging if you are looking to or are in the process of selling business. A leak that you are planning on selling your business can have a range of consequences. Everyone from employees to customers, suppliers and, of course, prospective buyers and competitors could all take notice and this could have ramifications.

Yet, confidentiality stands as a bit of a Catch-22 situation. Sellers want to get to the best price possible for their business and that means letting prospective buyers know that the business is for sale. The greater the number of potential buyers contacted, the greater the chances of receiving top dollar. However, the more potential buyers that know you are interested in selling, the greater the risk of a leak. Clearly, this situation represents a considerable dilemma.

As a buyer, you may discover that owners can be overly, perhaps even irrationally concerned, about leaks. It is important to remember that for most owners, the business represents their largest asset and often their greatest professional accomplishment in life. In other words, they have a lot riding on their business. It is important to remind sellers that the less time a business is on the market the lower the risk of a leak. Also, the longer the negotiations go on, the greater the risk of a leak.

Sellers should always remember to keep all important documents related to the potential sale or sale literally under lock and key. Everything should be considered confidential and only transferred to buyers in a highly secure fashion. Confidential information shouldn’t be emailed or faxed, as this makes a leak much easier. Sellers and buyers alike should remember that they shouldn’t discuss the sale or potential sale with anyone. Confidentiality should be stressed at all times.

Working with a business broker is one way to dramatically reduce the risk of a leak occurring. For business brokers, confidentiality is a cornerstone of their operations. Business intermediaries require buyers to sign very strict non-disclosure agreements. While loose lips may sink “ships,” there is no reason that your business, or the one you are interested in buying, has to be one of those ships.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Top Four Statistics You Need to Know About Ownership Transition

If you own a business, then ownership transition should definitely be a central topic in your planning. A few years ago, MassMutual Life Insurance Company conducted a very interesting and thought-provoking survey of family-owned businesses. Obviously, family-owned businesses have their own unique needs and challenges. The MassMutual Life Insurance Company survey certainly underscored this fact. While the survey was conducted a few years ago, the information it contained is more relevant and actionable than ever. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key conclusions and discoveries.

Founder Control

One of the most important findings of the survey was that a full 80% of family-owned businesses are still controlled by the founders. The survey also discovered that 90% of family-run businesses intend to stay family-owned in the future.

Lack of Leadership Plans

Leadership is another area of great interest. Strikingly, approximately 30% of family-owned businesses will in fact change leadership within just the next five years. Moreover, 55% of CEOs are 61 or older and have not chosen a successor. When a successor has been chosen that successor is a family member 85% of the time. Succession is often a murky area for family-owned businesses. A whopping 13% of CEOs stated that they will never retire.

Failure of Proper Valuations

According to the survey, valuation is another surprise area. 55% of companies fail to conduct regular evaluations, meaning that they are essentially flying blind in regards to the true value of their company. Adding to the potential confusion is the fact that 20% of family owned businesses have not completed any estate planning and 55% of family-owned businesses currently have no formal company valuation for estate tax estimates.

Lack of Proper Strategic Plans

The financials for family-owned businesses are often just murky as their succession issues. The MassMutual Life Insurance Company survey also discovered that 60% of family-owned businesses failed to have a written strategic plan and a whopping 48% of family-owned businesses were planning on using life insurance to cover estate taxes.

Simply stated, many family-owned businesses are not organized properly and are, in the process, not fully taking advantage of their opportunities. In short, family-owned businesses are frequently insular in their approach to a wide range of vital topics ranging from succession and leadership to valuation, planning and more. In the long term, these vulnerabilities may serve to undermine the business making it harder to sell when the time comes or opening it up to other problems and issues. Family-owned businesses are strongly advised to work with professionals, such as experienced accountants and business brokers, to ensure the long term profitability and continuity of their businesses.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Reasons for Sale

The reasons for selling a business can be divided into two main categories. The first is a sale that is planned almost from the beginning or by an owner who knows that selling is or should be a planned event. The second is exactly the opposite – unplanned; the sale is motivated by a specific event such as health, divorce, business crises, etc. However, in between the two major reasons, are a host of unpredictable ones.

A seller may not even be thinking of selling when he or she is approached by an individual, group or another company, and an attractive offer is made. The owner of a business may die, and the heirs have no interest in operating it. A company may bring in new management who decides to sell off a division or two; or maybe even decides that selling the entire business is in the best interests of everyone.

A major competitor may enter the market, forcing an owner to elect to sell. And the competition may not just be another company. The owner of a business may realize that an external threat is such that the company will lose a competitive advantage. New technology by a competitor may outdate the way a company produces its products. Two competitors may merge, placing new pressures on a company. The growth of franchising and big box stores can promote themselves on a much larger scale than a single business, no matter how good it is. National advertising can create the perception that a large business’s pricing, inventory or service is better than the smaller competitor, even if it isn’t.

Although these issues may not push a business owner or company management to consider selling, they are certainly causes for consideration. Unfortunately, most sellers fail to create an exit strategy until they are forced to. Professional athletes want to go out on top of their game, and business owners should do the same.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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You’re Experiencing Burnout, Now What?

A large percentage of business owners are not just owners, but also operators. Owning a business can be exciting and rewarding, but it is also a tremendous amount of unending work. In the end, the “buck” stops with you. With that realization comes a significant amount of stress. It goes without saying that stress can lead to burnout.

A business with a burnt-out owner can spell doom. Even if you are lucky and have invested the time to surround yourself with an amazing team, you will only have so much time before you have to jump back in and be very proactive. Otherwise your business will begin to suffer.

Let’s face it, as the owner, you can take a vacation. But your burnout might not let you even enjoy said vacation. This is even more true if you are stuck checking your texts and your computer all day long, trying to manage things from out of town.

The First Step is Acceptance

When dealing with burnout the first, and most important step, is to admit that you are in fact, burnt out. This condition may be the result of mental and physical fatigue. While most people might not immediately connect issues, such as health and diet, with burnout, there is often a connection.

Start Taking Care of Yourself

Owning a business means work and lots of it. That may mean that you are not taking enough time or thinking enough about your own health and well-being. Consider improving your diet to include more fresh foods and reduce or even eliminate fast food, which has been proven to negatively impact health. You should also consider investing in air and water purification systems. A recent medical study showed that indoor air pollution can harm not just the lungs but even the kidneys as well.

In the end, you are the key element in the success or failure of your business. If you are suffering from aches and pains, headaches and fatigue, then you, as the heart of the business, are ultimately harming the business. Putting your health first is a way for you to safeguard the health of your business.

Consider Putting a #2 Person in Place

Many business owners have a great “right hand person” that can take over if the owner becomes sick, but that is not always the case. Keep in mind that when it comes to selling your business, having that key team member will be essential to your potential buyer. If it’s possible to start cultivating that person now, by all means do so.

You may be saying, “But I’m a health nut and I still feel burnt out.” Again, owning a business is demanding, and the years can weigh heavily. It is important, especially before burnout sets in, to step back and look for ways to streamline your operations and delegate responsibilities. Small changes can have a big long-term impact. Additionally, streamlining your operations will make your business more attractive when it comes time to sell.

In the end, if taking a vacation, streamlining your operations, and improving your health regime doesn’t yield big results, it might be time to consider selling your business. There is no rule that states that you must operate your business until retirement. Don’t be afraid to walk away if necessary.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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