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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Three Overlooked Areas to Investigate Before Buying

Before you jump in and buy any business, you’ll want to do your due diligence. Buying a business is no time to make assumptions or simply wing it. The only prudent course is to carefully investigate any business before buying, as the consequences of not doing so can in fact be rather dire. Let’s take a quick look at the three top overlooked areas to investigate before signing on the dotted line and buying a business.

1. Retirement Plans

Many buyers forget all about retirement plans when investigating a business prior to purchase. However, a failure to examine what regulations have been put into place could spell out disaster. For this reason, you’ll want to make certain that the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are up to date with the Department of Labor. There can be many surprises when you buy a business, but this is one you want to avoid.

2. 1099’s and W-2’s

Just as many prospective buyers fail to investigate the retirement plan of a business, the same is often true concerning 1099’s and W-2’s. In short, you’ll want to be sure that if 1099’s have been given out instead of W-2’s that it has been always done within existing IRS parameters. There is no reason to buy a business only to discover a headache with the IRS.

And speaking of employees, does the business you are interested in buying have employee handbooks? If so, you’ll want to make sure you review it carefully.

3. All Legal Documents

The simple fact is that you never want the business you are interested in buying to have its corporate veil pierced once you take over. You should carefully review all trademarks, copyrights and other areas of intellectual property to be sure that everything is completely in order. You’ll want to obtain copies of all consulting agreements, documents involving inventions as well as intellectual property assignments.

Everything should be protected and on legally sound footing. If you see any problems in this category you should run for the hills and find another business to buy.

Protect Yourself from a Potential Lifetime of Regret

Evaluating overlooked areas is essential in protecting your investment. For most people, the purchase of a business is the largest of his or her lifetime. It leaves little room for error.

Not only is it vital to investigate the major areas, but it is also essential to explore the smaller details. However, the truth of the matter is that when you’re buying a business there are no “small details.” No one realizes this fact more so than business brokers. Business brokers are experts in what it takes to buy and sell businesses. Working with a business broker is a significant move in the right direction. The time you invest in properly exploring and evaluating a business is time well spent and may literally save you from a lifetime of regret.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Avoiding Legal Mistakes When Selling Your Business

A common mistake that many make when preparing to buy or sell a business is to overlook all the various legal issues involved. A legal mistake can bring the entire process to a screeching halt or even worse case cost you a small fortune. For this reason, it is important to carefully evaluate the full slate of relevant legalities. This article will explore some of the key legal points one need to consider long before placing your business on the market.

Mistake #1 Neglecting to Have a Non-Disclosue Agreement

Having potential buyers sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, or NDA, is critically important when selling your business. One benefit to having this agreement signed and sealed is that in the event that the deal falls through, which often happens, the buyer can’t disclose the details to other parties. However, if you don’t have an NDA, the buyer could reveal important aspects of your discussions. This could impact any future sales.

Mistake #2 Failing to Get an Experienced Attorney

There are times to cut corners, and then there are times when cutting corners or trying to save a dollar is a big mistake. Prepping to sell your business is one of those occasions where investing in good and proven counsel is a must. A good attorney can give you a range of legal moves you should and should not make.

Additionally, hiring an attorney with an established experience is just what you need to create ironclad agreements. Sellers have an array of risks that they must face when selling a business. For example, the seller needs protection from a potential buyer hiring away key employees. Without ironclad agreements and a tight NDA, a buyer could pass on buying the business, yet “steal” employees or weaken business in other ways.

Mistake #3 Skipping the Letter of Intent

Another legal way to protect your interests comes in the form of a letter of intent. This letter should be one of your key tools in negotiating the deal. Included in this letter should be a termination fee for the buyer. This applies in the event that the buyer walks away for a reason that is not the seller’s fault. Inclusion of this clause means that the seller is far less impacted if the deal does not go through as planned. Further, this clause goes a long way in ensuring that only serious buyers are attracted.

Reap the Benefits of Ample Preparation

These are just a few of the many errors that sellers often make and regret later on. It is a worthwhile investment to take the legal aspects of selling your business seriously. If you prepare for the sale of your business, you will have a much more successful experience. That means you should work with a proven and competent attorney and business broker before you put your business on the market.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 Things to Consider When Transferring Your Business to Family Members

Letting go of a business isn’t a process that one should jump into lightly, and that fact holds true even when it comes to your loved ones. Let’s take a look at five of the most important factors to consider when selling or transferring a business to a family member.

#1 The All-Important Buy-Sell Agreement

One of the single most valuable tools available when it comes to selling your business is a buy-sell agreement. Simply stated, this essential document puts everything in writing. In situations such as a family owned business, people may be tempted to skip a contract, but that doesn’t mean they should.

When transferring your business, you should have an expert created document in place that outlines the following:

  • The business valuation
  • Who is to be kept on the payroll and the amount he or she will receive
  • The amount being paid
  • What level of involvement you will have in the business once the transfer has taken place

#2 The Benefits of Gifting

Consider the option of gifting. Gifting can actually work to reduce your taxes on real estate, while at the same time it can allow you to maintain some level of control over the business.

#3 Seller Financing and Transferring the Family Business

Selling your business to a family member is, of course, another option. On occasion, sellers will consider a private annuity, which allows for payments to be spread out for a considerable time period, such as to the end of your life.

#4 The Self-Canceling Installment Note

Another option is to use an installment sale. If you are a selling parent and you happen to pass away before the payments have all been made for the sale, then the remaining debt may be attached to your will. This arrangement can keep your other children from paying excess income tax on your estate.

#5 Keep the IRS Happy

The fact of the matter is that the IRS does, in fact, look more closely into sales where the business is being sold to a family member. This reason alone is a good enough reason to professionally establish a real and accurate valuation of your business.

A business broker can help you work out the particulars as to how best to proceed when navigating the process of selling or transferring your business to a relative. With the right planning and preparation, selling or transferring your business to a relative doesn’t have to be an overly difficult or cumbersome process. Work with a business broker and you’ll find that the process can be smoother than you may have expected.

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How to Ensure Confidentiality During your Sale

Selling a business is a process that depends upon professionalism and confidentiality. Selecting a business broker who understands the critical role that confidentiality plays is simply a must. Unfortunately, countless sellers have in fact dealt with a situation where a breach in confidentiality has caused a deal to fall apart.

A failure to maintain confidentiality can lead to a slew of negative reactions from a range of parties. Everyone from supplies and vendors to creditors could react in a way that could harm your business, for example, vendors could change their terms and this could in turn negatively impact your cash flow.

A breach of confidentiality could also lead to negative reactions amongst both employees and customers. The reason is that employees may begin to worry about the security of their jobs and may also become nervous about the change in management. These fears could prompt employees to find a new job and leave you with a position that needs to be filled. Potentially more significant is the fact that the loss of key personnel could cause your buyer to have cold feet.

As if all of these factors were not enough of a concern there is also the issue of the competition. If your competition gets wind that you may be looking to sell they may take advantage of the situation and start attempting to steal your customers.

Finally, a breach in confidentiality could send potential buyers running. The headaches that are often associated with a breach in confidentiality are such that potential buyers may simply drop the deal.

The best way to protect your confidentiality is to opt for a great business broker. A business broker is an expert in prompting a business without notifying the competition, your employees, vendors or anyone else. The process is both an art and a science.

When attempting to sell on your own there are many and diverse pitfalls. Sellers are much more likely to accidentally reveal who you are; after all, a seller has to provide phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses and other critical and identifying information. Even your home phone number could be traced back to your identity and ultimately your business.

A seasoned business broker can help you bypass these potentially damaging issues, by not just shielding your business’s identify but also by ensuring that all interested parties sign confidentiality agreements and are pre-qualified. In this way you only reveal what is absolutely necessary. In short, it is best to work with a business broker and maintain your confidentiality at all costs.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Can you Understand Your Buyer’s Key Motivations?

Negotiations can be tricky affairs. One wrong move can undo a tremendous amount of work. In negotiations, it is best to take a moment and think about where the other party is coming from.

What are their needs and how best can you meet them? Understanding your buyer’s motivation increases the chances of a successful negotiation.

What Appeals to Most Buyers?

When it comes to selling a business, you likely will not know your buyer personally. This means that you will not know what they value most, how exacting their standards will be, and how easy or challenging they will be during negotiations. That’s why it is imperative to err on the side of caution and act in such a way that would appeal to most buyers.

Ensuring that your business is in strong financial health means that your business will be appealing to both a corporate executive as well as an individual buyer with a leadership/managerial background. Keep in mind that individuals who buy businesses will want a strong ROI, and often they will want the responsibilities that accompany that investment to not interfere too greatly with their current lifestyle.

Playing into Emotions

In general, buyers tend to be the most excited at the beginning of the sale process. It is at this point that you can expect your buyer’s passion to be its strongest. As a result, the first stages are when you want to keep your presentation and approach the most realistic. The reason is that once the surge of passion has worn off, your buyer may otherwise feel that you have tried to oversell your business.

Being Forthcoming with Information

It is quite common that you will not at first know if your buyer has previous experience in your market. As a result, you shouldn’t assume that they understand anything about your business or industry. In short, it is definitely in your best interest to be very honest about your business and what is involved in running it. If there are issues that they will invariably discover, then it is best to go ahead and disclose those issues early on as it establishes trust and goodwill.

Understanding Expectations

Another area to consider is what a buyer may expect of you after the sale. A buyer who already possesses a background in your niche would already be very familiar with the ins and outs of your industry. Having you around after the sale may not be viewed as necessary or beneficial.

However, with that said, the exact opposite may also be true. You may be dealing with a buyer who is in dire need of your expertise. These factors could be of critical importance in what you offer your buyer in terms of your availability. Again, that’s why it’s best to not make assumptions and make sure your terms would appeal to a wide variety of backgrounds.

An Investment of Value

Invest the time to understanding your buyer’s motivation. The more you understand what it is that your buyer wants out of the transaction, the greater your chances of focusing on the areas of your business that best match those expectations.

When it comes to the motivations and concerns that prospective buyers may have, a business broker can add a new level of understanding. The value that your broker adds to the process of selling a business is difficult to overstate.

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Seller Financing

The majority of business sales include some form of seller financing. Typically, seller financing is when the seller provides a loan to cover part of the purchase price. The rest of the purchase price is covered by the down payment or often other financing sources are used as well. Summed up another way, the seller is essentially acting as a bank for the buyer.

When sellers offer financing, it often also helps them achieve a higher final sale price. Sellers who are not open to seller financing will likely limit their possibilities.

Performing Due Diligence

When a seller opts for seller financing, it is necessary to do much of the work that a bank would usually perform, for example, checking a potential buyer’s credit report, financial statements and other key financial information. After all, if you opt to offer seller financing, then you’ll want to ensure that your buyer will not default.

Usually contracts allow for the seller to take back a business in 30 to 60 days if financing fails. In this way, the buyer can avoid a potentially serious business problem.

There are often other contractual stipulations as well. A common clause for businesses involving inventory is that new owners need to maintain a certain level of supplies during the payment period.

Providing Benefits for Both Parties

It should also be noted that seller financing is of considerable interest to buyers. Sellers looking to attract as much attention to their business as possible will want to consider this route. Offering this type of financing sends a very clear message. When a business owner is open to seller financing, he or she is stating that he or she has great confidence that the business will generate both short term and long term revenue. That level of confidence speaks volumes to buyers about the health of the business.

What Due Terms Typically Look Like?

In terms of the length of seller financing, 5 to 7 years is typical. The issue of how much a seller is expected to finance is another issue that draws considerable attention. While there are no steadfast rules as to what percentage seller’s typically finance, it is common for sellers to finance up to 60% of the total purchase price.

Finally, seller financing does have a good deal of paperwork and points to consider. Opting to work with an attorney or business broker is absolutely essential to protect all parties involved.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Power of Recurring Revenue

Buyers and sellers alike love recurring revenue. But what is it exactly that makes it so attractive? Recurring revenue is generally viewed as a very good factor as it indicates positive cash flow, the potential for growth, business success and business stability. Let’s take a closer look at how it can benefit you.

Show You’re in Demand

Businesses, including IT companies, are valued higher if they can show recurring revenue, such as monthly subscriptions, SaaS subscriptions, or a transaction that consistently occurs. If your business is centered on a subscription based platform and you have high subscription levels, then you can expect keen interest from prospective buyers.

If you want to show a prospective buyer that your business is a good bet, then recurring revenue is a great place to start. Recurring revenue indicates that you have ongoing consumers and that means ongoing revenue. But recurring revenue indicates something else as well, namely, it indicates that your business is providing a consistent service that is consistently in demand.

Take the Pressure Off Buyers

Buyers like predictability. Recurring revenue means that a buyer knows that he or she can buy a business and count on income from day one.

Sellers can often forget that most buyers get nervous when they are making any kind of business buying decision. The power of recurring revenue is, in part, psychological as it allows buyers to realize that there will be revenue no matter what. Even if they do little to develop the business, cash will flow in. In other words, the psychological value of recurring revenue is that it takes much of the pressure off.

Examining Your Annual Recurring Revenue

If your business has a strong annual recurring revenue or “ARR”, then you should place a good deal of focus on this fact. Many feel that a company’s ARR number is a powerful indicator of a company’s overall health.

Ultimately, recurring revenue indicates a great deal about your company. High recurring revenue doesn’t just mean that you have a reliable source of income every period. It indicates that your business is providing a service that is needed and valued. Strong recurring revenues also indicate that your business is doing many things correctly and that your goods and/or services are of such a caliber that you are generating repeat business.

Visibility and Transparency

Savvy buyers also value visibility and transparency. Thanks to this kind of consistent income, it is easier for buyers to plan for and manage future expenses and increase a business’s overall stability.

Part of properly showcasing your business is to emphasize your business’s recurring revenues if they do indeed occur. A seasoned business broker can be an invaluable ally in helping you reveal your business in the best light possible.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What is EBITDA and Why is it Relevant to You?

If you’ve heard the term EBITDA thrown around and not truly understood what it means, now is the time to take a closer look, as it can be used to determine the value of your business. That stated, there are some issues that one has to keep in mind while using this revenue calculation. Here is a closer look at the EBITDA and how best to proceed in using it.

EBITDA is an acronym for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. It can be used to compare the financial strength of two different companies. That stated, many people don’t feel that EBITDA should be given the importance that is frequently attributed to it.

Divided Opinion on EBITDA

If there is disagreement on EBITDA being able to determine the value of a business, then why is it used so often? This calculation’s somewhat ubiquitous nature is due, in part, to the fact that EBITDA takes a very complicated subject, determining and comparing the value of businesses, and distills it down to an easy to understand and implement formula. This formula is intended to generate a single number.

EBITDA Ignores Many Key Factors

One of the key concerns when using or considering a EBITDA number is that it is often used as something of a substitute for cash flow, which, of course, can make it dangerous. It is vital to remember that earnings and cash earnings are not necessarily one in the same.

Adding to the potential confusion is the fact that EBITDA does not factor in interest, taxes, depreciation or amortization. In short, a lot of vital information is ignored.

Achieving Optimal Results

In the end, you simply don’t want to place too much importance or emphasis on EBITDA when determining the strength of a business. The calculation overlooks too many factors that could influence future growth and prosperity of a business.

Business brokers have been trained to handle valuations to determine the approximate value of a business. Since valuations take many more factors into consideration, they also tend to be far more accurate.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Five Reasons Business Brokers Improve Closing Rates

It has long been a well-known fact that business brokers can help improve closing rates. In this article, we will take a closer look at the five top reasons why having a business broker on your side can make all the difference in the world.

#1 – They Reach the Most Buyers

What seller isn’t looking to reach more buyers? When more candidates are reviewing your business, the odds of selling for your desired price only go up. The simple fact is that business brokers reach the most buyers. In fact, they usually have a long list of prospective buyers waiting.

#2 – Business Brokers Know How to Navigate Negotiation Hurdles

As the old saying states, “there is no replacement for experience,” and this definitely holds true for business brokers. Business brokers know what it takes to circumvent negotiation hurdles. Their years of hands on experience means they can spot problems long before they occur, and this dramatically helps them to successfully boost closing rates.

#3 – They Know How to Present Your Business

Once again, experience matters. Business brokers specialize in buying and selling, and this means that they understand how to best present those businesses. Showcasing your business in the best light possible and working to eliminate weaknesses in presentation is a vital part of the sales process. Business brokers put their experience to work helping sellers achieve the best presentation possible.

#4 – They Stay Focused

Business brokers sell businesses for a living. You, however, by contrast have to worry about the day to day state of your business until all the paperwork is signed.

Additionally, since you are unfamiliar with the process of selling a business, you very well may become bogged down in the process; this is more dangerous than it may seem. Sellers who spend too much time getting involved in the “ins and outs” of the deal may accidentally start to neglect their own business operations. The last thing you want in the time period leading up to a sale is for your business to suddenly flounder.

#5 – Business Brokers Are Highly Invested in Your Success

Business brokers only get paid if your business sells. That means they too have a vested interest in your success. You can expect them to do everything possible to ensure that the sale of your business goes through.

Added together, these five factors help to explain why business brokers have historically enjoyed high closing rates. If you want to improve your chances of selling a business, don’t try to do it alone.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 Tips for Buyers of International Businesses

The decision to buy an international business is no doubt quite serious. There are numerous factors that must be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not an international business purchase is the right move. Let’s take a closer look.

Tip #1 – Relocating Vs. Hiring a Manager

Buying an international business can also mean a substantial life change. Before jumping into the process, it is critical that you know whether you will be relocating or hiring a manager to run your newly acquired business.

Obviously, owning a business is a substantial responsibility and you’ll want to ensure that you know exactly what is going on with your new acquisition. Sometimes that means actually being there. The bottom line is that you will either have to relocate or hire a manager.

Tip #2 – Regulations

Understanding regulations, taxes and customs are another must for buyers of international businesses. A failure to factor in these elements can literally undo one’s business or at the very least place you at a competitive disadvantage. The time and money you invest in learning how regulations, taxes and customs work in this new territory is time and money well spent.

Tip #3 – Research Similar Businesses

You will want to invest your time into research. In particular, you will want to research similar businesses that already exist in the place where you are investing. Why are those businesses successful? What could you do to improve on their model or approach? Don’t assume that just because you know how businesses fare in the United States that this knowledge will always translate over to other countries.

Tip #4 – Be Aware of Potential Cultural Differences

It is important to be aware of cultural differences during the negotiation process, but this is really just the beginning. Cultural differences do not end once the negotiation process is over. They have ramifications in areas including everything from dealing with your staff and vendors to getting professional assistance from people such as local accountants and lawyers. You will need to be aware of cultural differences and perhaps even learn to speak the language if you want your business to be a thriving success.

Tip #5 – Hire a Business Broker

Business brokers are experts in buying and selling all kinds of businesses and that includes international businesses. There are many layers to owning an international business and business brokers can help you navigate the waters. The sizable expertise that a business broker brings to the table can help save you considerable amount of frustration and confusion.

These five tips are invaluable for helping you determine whether you should opt for an international business and/or how to proceed once you’ve decided to move forward. There can be big opportunities in owning an international business, but it is critical to proceed with a clear cut strategy.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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How to Keep Employees Engaged During an Ownership Transition

Ensuring that your employees stay on course during your ownership transition should be one of your key areas of focus. There are many key steps that you should take during this delicate time. Let’s explore the best tips for keeping your employees engaged throughout the entire ownership transition process.

Step 1 – Establish and Implement a Training Program Early On

If you are selling your business, then be certain that you train replacements early on in the process. Failure to do so can result in significant disruptions. Additionally, if you are buying a business it is of paramount importance that you are 100% confident that there are competent people staying on board after the sale.

Step 2 – Address Employee Concerns

No matter what your employees say or how they act, you must assume that they are worried about the future. After all, if you were them wouldn’t you be concerned at the prospect of a sale? The best way to address these concerns is to meet with employees in small groups and discuss their concerns.

Step 3 – Don’t Make Drastic Changes

Above all else, you want a smooth and fluid transition period. A key way to ensure that this time is as trouble-free as possible is to refrain from making any drastic changes before or after the transition. Remember the sale of the business is, in and of itself, shocking enough.

You don’t want to add yet more disruption into the process by making changes that could be confusing or unsettling. In other words, keep the waters as calm as possible. Drastic changes could lead to employees quitting or worst of all, going to work for a competitor.

Step 4 – Focus on the Benefits

If possible focus on the benefits to your employees. It is your job as the new business owner to outline how the sale will benefit everyone. Don’t let your employees’ imaginations run wild with speculation. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens when employees and management feel as though they are not receiving any information about the sale. So don’t be mysterious or cryptic. Instead provide your employees with information, and keep the focus on how the changes will benefit them both personally and professionally.

Implementing these four steps will go a very long way towards helping to ensure a smooth transition period. Transition periods can be handled adeptly; it just takes preparation and patience.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Is It Possible to Sell to a Business Competitor?

A common question in the realm of buying and selling businesses is, “Is it possible to sell to a business competitor?” The short answer is yes, it is quite possible and rather common. That stated, selling to a business competitor is different than selling to a buyer who is completely new to the industry. The two types of buyers should not be treated the same way, as there are various differing variables.

A Competitor Can Be a Great Buyer

One reason is that a competitor may indeed be the right party to buy your business, is that they usually have an excellent understanding of how your business and your industry works. They may also enter the negotiation process already understanding the value of your business, and this can serve to speed up the process.

Always Proceed with Caution

Competitors, however, must be approached carefully. Unfortunately, there have been many cases where competitors acted as though they wanted to buy in order to acquire access to inside information. That’s why sensitive information like client lists and other “secrets” shouldn’t be shared until the sale is complete and the money is literally in the bank.

Working with a business broker is always a prudent move when it comes to buying and selling businesses; however, when working with a competitor is involved a business broker is even more important than normal. A business broker can act as something of a shield in the process, helping to ensure that you don’t reveal too much prized information until the sale is 100% complete.

Negotiate from a Place of Knowledge

Further, a business broker understands how much your business is worth and can back up that valuation. Having this information before discussing a potential sale with a competitor is of great importance.

Be Prepared to Accept Certain Legal Conditions

Finally, don’t be surprised if your competitor asks you to sign a non-compete or for you to stay on as a consult after he or she has acquired your business. This is a prudent step and one that makes tremendous sense. If you were buying a business from a competitor wouldn’t you want to make certain that the competitor didn’t simply “set up shop” somewhere else a few months or even a couple of years later? Likewise, tapping your expertise is another prudent move for your former competitor.

Summed up, selling your business to a competitor is a potentially great move, but it is also an opportunity that absolutely must be explored with extreme caution. Never divulge critical information to your competitor until the deal is finalized.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Importance of Having a Dominant Position in the Market

In order to get top dollar for your business, it is necessary to prepare for the sale well in advance. In short, a tremendous amount of strategy and preparation goes into a successful sale. The amount you ultimately receive for your business is directly tied to how well you prepare.

At the top of the list of making sure that your business is attractive to potential buyers is to make certain your business is as well positioned in the market as possible. Of course, this is often easier stated than done. Here are some of the best ways to make sure your business is optimally positioned.

Tip One – Start Positioning Your Business Well in Advance

Selling your business isn’t something you should just do one day. You should start positioning your business at least one year before the closing.

Quite often, experts say business owners should always operate as though a sale is on the horizon. This makes a great deal of sense on one hand. If you ever experience an unexpected turn of events and need to sell, then you will certainly be ready. Another reason that this advice is solid is due to the fact that operating as though a sale is on the horizon helps you make certain that your business is running as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Tip Two – Always Think About Growth

Another way to ensure optimal position in the market is to always stay focused on growth. Asking yourself what steps you can take to grow your business in both the short term and the long term is a prudent move. You should always know what it takes to launch a new growth stage.

Tip Three – Customers, Lots of Customers/Clients

You don’t want a prospective buyer to see that you have only one or two key customers or clients. Understandably, this situation should make a buyer quite nervous. It comes across as extreme vulnerability. Having many varied customers or clients is a step in the right direction.

Tip Four – Be Ready for Due Diligence

Whatever you do, don’t overlook due diligence. Neglecting or waiting to prepare for the buyer’s due diligence stage until the eleventh hour is quite risky. Have all of your financial, legal and operations documents ready to go. A failure to properly handle due diligence could derail a deal or even reduce the amount you receive.

Tip Five – Understand Your Business’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Every business has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t attempt to hide your weaknesses or overplay your strengths. Be transparent!

A business broker is an expert at handling investors and even writing a business plan that you can hand to potential buyers.

Think about boosting your market position while simultaneously increasing the odds that you receive top dollar for your sale. Instead of rushing, take the time to prepare and work with a business broker to achieve the best market position and sale price possible.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Are You Emotionally Ready to Sell?

Quite often sellers don’t give much thought to whether or not they are ready to sell. But this can be a mistake. The emotional components of both buying and selling a business are quite significant and should never be overlooked. If you are overly emotional about selling, then this fact can have serious ramifications on your outcomes. Many sellers who are not emotionally ready, will inadvertently take steps that undermine their progress.

Selling a business, especially one that you have put a tremendous amount of effort into over a period of years, can be an emotional experience even for those who feel they are more stoic by nature. Before you jump in and put your business up for sale, take a moment and reflect on how the idea of no longer owning your business makes you feel.

Emotional Factor #1 – Employees

It is not uncommon for business owners to form friendships and bonds with employees, especially those who have been with them long-term. However, many business owners are either unaware or unwilling to face just how deep the attachments sometimes go.

While having such feeling towards your team members shows a great deal of loyalty, it could negatively impact your behavior during the sales process. Is it possible you might interfere with the sale because you’re worried about future outcomes for your staff members? Are you concerned about breaking up your team and no longer being able to spend time with certain individuals? It is necessary ultimately to separate your business from your personal relationships.

Emotional Factor #2 – Do You Have a Plan for the Future?

Typically, business owners spend a great deal of their time and energy being concerned with their businesses. It is a common experience that most owners share. Just as no longer being with your employees every day may create an emotional void, the same may also hold true for no longer running or owning your business.

Your business is a key focal point of your entire life. No longer having that source of focus can be unnerving. It is important to have a plan for the future so that you are not left feeling directionless or confused. What will you do after you sell your business and how does that make you feel? Before you sell, make sure that you have something new and positive to focus on with your time.

Emotional Factor #3 – Are You Sure?

Are you sure that you can really let your business go? At the end of the day many business owners discover that deep down they are just not ready to move on. Are you sure you are ready for a new future? If not, perhaps it makes sense to wait until you’re in a more secure position.

Addressing these three emotional factors is an investment in your future well-being and happiness. It is also potentially an investment in determining how smoothly the sale of your business will be and whether or not you receive top dollar.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 Reasons Buying a Business is Preferable to Starting a New One

If you are considering running your own business, one of the first questions that might pop in your mind is: should I start a new one or buy an established business. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the age-old dilemma of buying an existing business verses starting a new one from scratch.

1. An Established Concept

The benefits of buying an established business are no doubt huge. At the top of the list is that an existing business will have an established concept. Starting a business from scratch means taking a big risk in the form of a new idea. Will it really work? If the business fails, why did it fail? Both of these stressful questions need not be asked when you buy. An established business, especially one that has been around for years, has already shown that the concept and all the variables that go into it do, in fact, work.

2. Proven Cash Flow

Another massive benefit of buying an existing business is that an existing business has proven cash flow. You can look at the books and, in the process, determine just how much money is flowing in and out. With a new business, you simply won’t be sure how much it will generate. This can make it tricky when you’re trying to figure out how to not only pay your business expenses, but your personal ones as well.

3. The Unproven Element

No matter how good your idea and/or your location, your new business is still unproven. Despite the best of efforts, there may be an unforeseen variable that you or your consultants might have missed. However, when you opt for a proven, existing business, this variable does not apply to you.

4. An Established Staff

A business is often only as good as the people that populate and support it. Starting up your own business means that you have to go out and find all of your own employees. This process is much more than sifting through resumes. A resume only reveals so much. A resume doesn’t reveal if a candidate will be a good fit for the business, and it certainly doesn’t factor in chemistry. As any good coach of any team sport knows, chemistry is one of the greatest factors in winning a championship.

5. Established Relationships

A proven business also comes with an array of business relationships. Working out problems with your supply chain in the early days of your business can mean the end of that business. Many business owners have seen their businesses undone by problems with their supply chains. An existing business can point the way to reliable and consistent suppliers. When buying an existing business, you are acquiring a proven performer. You know that the business had what it takes to provide cash flow over a given period of time. You will also have customers who know who you are, where you are and how to buy from you. Buying an existing business also means gaining access to reliable suppliers and enjoying all the benefits that come with an established brand name and location.

Learn the Dynamics and Save the Deal

Many business owners are unfamiliar with the dynamics of selling a company, because they have never done so. There are numerous possible “deal breakers.” Being aware of the following pitfalls and their remedies should help prevent the possibility of an aborted transaction.

Neglecting the Running of Your Business
A major reason companies with sales under $20 million become derailed during the selling process is that the owner becomes consumed with the pending transaction and neglects the day to day operation of the business. At some time during the selling process, which can take six to twelve months from beginning to end, the CEO/owner typically takes his or her eye off the ball. Since the CEO/owner is the key to all aspects of the business, his lack of attention to the business invariably affects sales, costs and profits. A potential buyer could become concerned if the business flattens out or falls off.

Solution: For most CEOs/owners, selling their company is one of the most dramatic and important phases in the company’s history. This is no time to be overly cost conscious. The owner should retain, within reason, the best intermediary, transaction lawyer and other advisors to alleviate the pressure so that he or she can devote the time necessary for effectively running the business.

Placing Too High a Price on the Business
Obviously, many owners want to maximize the selling price on the company that has often been their life’s work, or in fact, the life’s work of their multi-generation family. The problem with an irrational and indiscriminate pricing of the business is that the mergers and acquisition market is sophisticated; professional acquirers will not be fooled.

Solution: By retaining an expert intermediary and/or appraiser, an owner should be able to arrive at a price that is justifiable and defensible. If you set too high a price, you may end up with an undesirable buyer who fails to meet the purchase price payments and/or destroys the desirable corporate culture that the seller has created.

Breaching the Confidentiality of the Impending Sale
In many situations, the selling process involves too many parties, and due to so many participants in the information loop, confidentiality is breached. It happens, perhaps more frequently than not. The results can change the course of the transaction and in some cases; the owner—out of frustration—calls off the deal.

Solution: Using intermediaries in a transaction certainly helps reduce a confidentiality breach. Working with only a few buyers at a time can also help eliminate a breach. Involving senior management can also prevent information leaks.

Not Preparing for Sale Far Enough in Advance
Most business owners decide to sell their business somewhat impulsively. According to a survey of business sellers nationwide, the major reason for selling is boredom and burnout. Further down the list of reasons reported by survey respondents is retirement or lack of successor heirs. With these factors in mind, unless the owner takes several years of preparation, chances are the business will not be in top condition to sell.

Solution: Having well-prepared and well-documented financial statements for several years in advance of the company being sold is worth all the extra money, and then some. Buying out minority stockholders, cleaning up the balance sheet, settling outstanding lawsuits and sprucing up the housekeeping are all-important. If the business is a “one-man-band,” then building management infrastructure will give the company value and credibility.

Not Anticipating the Buyer’s Request
A buyer usually has to obtain bank financing to complete the transaction. Therefore, he needs appraisals on the property, machinery and equipment, as well as other assets. If the owner is selling real estate, an environmental study is necessary. If a seller has been properly advised, he will realize that closing costs will amount to five to seven percent of the purchase price; i.e., $250,000-$350,000 for a $5 million transaction. These costs are well worth the expense, because the seller is more apt to receive a higher price if he can provide the buyer with all the necessary information to do a deal.

Solution: The owner should have appraisals completed before he tries to sell the business, but if the appraisals are more than two years old, they may have to be updated.

Seller Desiring To Retire After Business Is Sold
It is a natural instinct for the burnt-out owner to take his cash and run. However, buyers are very concerned with the integration process after the sale is completed, as well as discovering whether or not the customer and vendor relationships are going to be easily transferable.

Solution: If the owner were to become a director for one year after the company is sold, the chances are that the buyer would feel a lot more secure that the all-important integration would be smoother and the various relationships would be successfully transferable.

Negotiating Every Item
Being boss of one’s own company for the past ten to twenty years will accustom one to having his or her own way… just about all the time. The potential buyer probably will have a similar set of expectations.

Solution: Decide ahead of the negotiation which are the very important items and which ones are not critical. In the ensuing negotiating process, the owner will have a better chance to “horse trade” knowing the negotiatiable and non-negotiable items.

Allocating Too Much Time for Selling Process
Owners are often told that it will take six to twelve months to sell a company from the very beginning to the very end. For the up-front phase, when the seller must strategize, set a range of values, and identify potential buyers, etc., it is all right to take one’s time. It is also acceptable for the buyer to take two or three months to close the deal after the Letter of Intent is signed by both parties. What is not acceptable is an extended delay during which the company is “put in play” (the time between identifying buyers, visiting the business and negotiating). This phase should not take more than three months. If it does, this means that the deal is dragging and is unlikely to close. The pressure on the owner becomes emotionally exhausting, and he tires of the process quickly.

Solution: Again, the seller needs to have a professional orchestrate the process to keep the potential buyers on a time schedule, and move the offers along so the momentum is not lost. The merger and acquisition advisor or intermediary plays the role of coach, and the player (seller) either wins or loses the game depending on how well those two work together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Selling: What Does An Intermediary Expect From You

If you are seriously considering selling your company, you have no doubt considered using the services of an intermediary. You probably have wondered what you could expect from him or her. It works both ways. To do their job, which is selling your company; maximizing the selling price, terms and net proceeds; plus handling the details effectively; there are some things intermediaries will expect from you. By understanding these expectations, you will greatly improve the chances of a successful sale. Here are just a few:

• Next to continuing to run the business, working with your intermediary in helping to sell the company is a close second. It takes this kind of partnering to get the job done. You have to return all of his or her telephone calls promptly and be available to handle any other requests. You, other key executives, and primary advisors have to be readily available to your intermediary.

• Selling a company is a group effort that will involve you, key executives, and your financial and legal advisors all working in a coordinated manner with the intermediary. Beginning with the gathering of information, through the transaction closing, you need input about all aspects of the sale. Only they can provide the necessary information.

• Keep in mind that the selling process can take anywhere from six months to a year — or even a bit longer. An intermediary needs to know what is happening — and changing — within the company, the competition, customers, etc. The lines of communication must be kept open.

• The intermediary will need key management’s cooperation in preparation for the future visits from prospective acquirers. They will need to know just what is required, and expected, from such visits.

• You will rightfully expect the intermediary to develop a list of possible acquirers. You can help in several ways. First, you could offer the names of possible candidates who might be interested in acquiring your business. Second, supplying the intermediary with industry publications, magazines and directories will help in increasing the number of possible purchasers, and will help in educating the intermediary in the nature of your business.

• Keep your intermediary in the loop. Hopefully, at some point, a letter of intent will be signed and the deal turned over to the lawyers for the drafting of the final documents. Now is not the time to assume that the intermediary’s job is done. It may just be beginning as the details of financing are completed and final deal points are resolved. The intermediary knows the buyer, the seller, and what they really agreed on. You may be keeping the deal from falling apart by keeping the intermediary involved in the negotiations.

• Be open to all suggestions. You may feel that you only want one type of buyer to look at your business. For example, you may think that only a foreign company will pay you what you want for the company. Your intermediary may have some other prospects. Sometimes you have to be willing to change directions.

The time to call a business intermediary professional is when you are considering the sale of your company. He or she is a major member of your team. Selling a company can be a long-term proposition. Make sure you are willing to be involved in the process until the job is done. Maintain open communications with the intermediary. And, most of all – listen. He or she is the expert.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Family-Owned Businesses Do Have Choices

Family-owned businesses do have some options when it comes time to sell. Selling the entire business may not be the best choice when there are no other family members involved. Here are some choices to be considered:

Internal Transactions

  • Hire a CEO – This approach is a management exit strategy in which the owner retires, lives off the company’s dividends and possibly sells the company many years later.
  • Transition ownership within the family – Keeping the business in the family is a noble endeavor, but the parent seldom liquefies his investment in the short-term, and the son or daughter may run the company into the ground.
  • Recapitalization – By recapitalizing the company by increasing the debt to as much as 70 percent of the capitalization, the owner(s) is/are able to liquefy most of their investment now with the intent to pay down the debt and sell the company later on.
  • Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) – Many types of companies such as construction, engineering, and architectural are difficult to sell to a third party, because the employees are the major asset. ESOPs are a useful vehicle in this regard, but are usually sold in stages over a time period as long as ten years.

External Transactions

  • Third party sale – The process could take six months to a year to complete. This method should produce a high valuation, sometimes all cash at closing and often the ability of the owner to walk away right after the closing.
  • Complete sale over time – The owner can sell a minority interest now with the balance sold after maybe five years. Such an approach allows the owner to liquefy some of his investment now, continue to run the company, and hopefully receive a higher valuation for the company years later.
  • Management buy-outs (MBOs) – Selling to the owners’ key employee(s) is an easy transaction and a way to reward them for years of hard work. Often the owner does not maximize the selling price, and usually the owner participates in the financing.
  • Initial public offering (IPO) – In today’s marketplace, a company should have revenues of $100+ million to become a viable candidate. IPOs receive the highest valuation, but management must remain to run the company.

Source: “Buying & Selling Companies,” a presentation by Russ Robb, Editor, M&A Today

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Who Is Today’s Buyer?

It has always been the American Dream to be independent and in control of one’s own destiny. Owning your own business is the best way to meet that goal. Many people dream about owning their own business, but when it gets right down to it, they just can’t make that leap of faith that is necessary to actually own one’s own business. Business brokers know from their experience that out of fifteen or so people who inquire about buying a business, only one will become an owner of a business.

Today’s buyer is most likely from the corporate world and well-educated, but not experienced in the business-buying process. These buyers are very number-conscious and detail-oriented. They require supporting documents for almost everything and will either use outside advisors or will do the verification themselves, but verify they will. A person who is realistic and understands that he or she can’t buy a business with a profit of millions for $10 down is probably serious. They must be able to make decisions and not depend on outside parties to do it for them. They must also have the financial resources available, have an open mind, and understand that owning one’s own business means being the proverbial chief cook and bottle washer.

Today’s buyers are usually what might be termed “event” driven. This means that the desire to own their own business is coupled with a need or reason. Maybe they have been downsized out of a job, they don’t want to be transferred, they travel too much, they see no future in their current position, etc. Many people have the desire, but not the reason. Most people don’t have the courage to quit a job and the paycheck to venture out on their own.

There are the perennial lookers. Those people who dream about owning their own business, are constantly looking, but will never leave the job to fulfill the dream. In fact, perspective business buyers who have been looking for over six months would probably fit into this category.

Business brokers spend a lot of time interviewing buyers. Here are just a few of the questions they will ask. The answers they receive will determine whether or not the prospective buyer is serious and qualified.

  • Why is the person considering buying a business?
  • Has the person ever owned their own business?
  • How long has the person been looking?
  • Is the person currently employed?
  • What kind of business is the person looking for?
  • Is he or she flexible in the kind of business?
  • What are the most important considerations?
  • How much money is available?
  • What is the person’s timeframe?
  • Does the person’s experience match the type of business under consideration?
  • Who else is involved in the purchase decision?
  • Is the person’s spouse positive about owning a business?

There are other questions and considerations, but those cited above reveal the depth of a buyer interview. Business brokers want to work only with buyers who are serious about purchasing a business. They don’t want to show a business to anyone who is not qualified, which is simply a waste of their time and the seller’s time.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Why Deals Fall Apart — Loss of Momentum

Deals fall apart for many reasons – some reasonable, others unreasonable.

For example:

• The seller doesn’t have all his financials up to date.
• The seller doesn’t have his legal/environmental/administrative affairs up to date.
• The buyer can’t come up with the necessary financing.
• The well known “surprise” surfaces causing the deal to fall apart.

The list could go on and on and this subject has been covered many times. However, there are more hidden reasons that threaten to end a deal usually half to three-quarters of the way to closing. These hidden reasons silently lead to a lack of or loss of momentum.

This essentially means a lack of forward progress. No one notices at first. Even the advisors who are busy doing the necessary due diligence and paperwork don’t notice the waning or missing momentum. Even though a slow-down in momentum may not be noticeable at first, an experienced business intermediary will catch it.

Let’s say a buyer can’t get through to the seller. The buyer leaves repeated messages, but the calls are not returned. (The reverse can also happen, but for our example we’ll assume the seller is unresponsive.) The buyer then calls the intermediary. The intermediary assures the buyer that he or she will call the seller and have him or her get in touch. The intermediary calls the seller and receives the same response. Calls are not returned. Even if calls are returned the seller may fail to provide documents, financial information, etc.

To the experienced intermediary the “red flag” goes up. Something is wrong. If not resolved immediately, the deal will lose its momentum and things can fall apart quite rapidly. What is this hidden element that causes a loss of momentum? It is generally not price or anything concrete.

It often boils down to an emotional issue. The buyer or seller gets what we call “cold feet.” Often it is the seller who has decided that he really doesn’t want to sell and doesn’t know what to do. It may also be that the buyer has discovered something that is quite concerning and doesn’t know how to handle it. Maybe the chemistry between buyer and seller is just not there for one or the other of them. Whatever the reason, the reluctant party just tries to ignore the proceedings and lack of momentum occurs.

The sooner this loss of momentum is addressed, the better the chance for the deal to continue to closing. Because the root of the problem is often an emotional issue, it has to be faced directly. An advisor, the intermediary or someone close to the person should immediately make a personal visit. Another suggestion is to get the buyer and seller together for lunch or dinner, preferably the latter. Regardless of how it happens, the loss of momentum should be addressed if the sale has any chance of closing.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Personal Goodwill: Who Owns It?

Personal Goodwill has always been a fascinating subject, impacting the sale of many small to medium-sized businesses – and possibly even larger companies. How is personal goodwill developed? An individual starts a business and, during the process, builds one or more of the following:

• A positive personal reputation
• A personal relationship with many of the largest customers and/or suppliers
• Company products, publications, etc., as the sole author, designer, or inventor

The creation of personal goodwill occurs far beyond just customers and suppliers. Over the years, personal goodwill has been established through relationships with tax advisors, doctors, dentists, attorneys, and other personal service providers. While these relationships are wonderful benefits, they are, unfortunately, non-transferable. There is an old saying: In businesses built around personal goodwill, the goodwill goes home at night.

It can be difficult to sell a business, regardless of size, where personal goodwill plays an integral role in the business’ success. The larger the business, the less likely that one person holds the key to its profitability. In small to medium-sized businesses, personal goodwill can be a crucial ingredient. A buyer certainly has to consider it when considering whether to buy such a business.

In the case of the sale of a medical, accounting, or legal practice, existing clients/patients may visit a new owner of the same practice; they are used to coming to that location, they have an immediate problem, or they have some other practical reason for staying with the same practice. However, if existing clients or patients don’t like the new owner, or they don’t feel that their needs were handled the way the old owner cared for them, they may look for a new provider. The new owner might be as competent as, or more competent than, his predecessor, but chemistry, or the lack of it, can supersede competency in the eyes of a customer.

Businesses centered on the goodwill of the owner can certainly be sold, but usually the buyer will want some protection in case business is lost with the departure of the seller. One simple method requires the seller to stay for a sufficient period after the sale to allow him or her to work with the new owner and slowly transfer the goodwill. No doubt, some goodwill will be lost, but that expectation should be built into the price.

Another approach uses some form of “earnout.” At the end of the year, the lost business that can be attributed to the goodwill of the seller is tallied. A percentage is then subtracted from monies owed to the seller, or funds from the down payment are placed in escrow, and adjustments are made from that source.

In some cases, the sale of goodwill may offer some favorable tax benefits for the seller. If the seller of the business is also the owner of the personal goodwill, the sale can essentially be two taxable events. The tax courts have ruled that the business doesn’t own the goodwill, the owner of the business does. The seller thus sells the business and then also sells his or her personal goodwill. The seller’s tax professional will be able to give further advice on this matter.

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Copyright:Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

The Three Ways to Negotiate

Basically, there are three major negotiation methods.

1. Take it or leave it. A buyer makes an offer or a seller makes a counter-offer – both sides can let the “chips fall where they may.”

2. Split the difference. The buyer and seller, one or the other, or both, decide to split the difference between what the buyer is willing to offer and what the seller is willing to accept. A real oversimplification, but often used.

3. This for that. Both buyer and seller have to find out what is important to each. So many of these important areas are non-monetary and involve personal things such as allowing the owner’s son to continue employment with the firm. The buyer may want to move the business.

There is an old adage that advises, “Never negotiate your own deal!”

The first thing both sides have to decide on is who will represent them. Will they have their attorney, their intermediary or will they go it alone? Intermediaries are a good choice for a seller. They have done it before, are good advocates for their side and they understand the company and the seller.

How do the parties get together in a win-win negotiation? The first step is for both sides to work with their advisors to settle on the price and deal structure positions. Both sides should be able to present their side of these issues. Which is more important – price or terms, or non-monetary items?

Information is vital to a buyer. Buyers should keep in mind that the seller knows more about the business than he or she does. Both buyer and seller need to anticipate what is important to the other and keep that in mind when discussing the deal. Buyer and seller should do due diligence on each other. Both buyer and seller must be able to walk away from a deal that is just not going to work.

Bob Woolf, the famous sports agent said in his book, Friendly Persuasion: My Life as a Negotiator, “I never think of negotiating against anyone. I work with people to come to an agreement. Deals are put together.”

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Due Diligence — Do It Now!

Due diligence is generally considered an activity that takes place as part of the selling process. It might be wise to take a look at the business from a buyer’s perspective in performing due diligence as part of an annual review of the business. Performing due diligence does two things: (1) It provides a valuable assessment of the business by company management, and (2) It offers the company an accurate profile of itself, just in case the decision is made to sell, or an acquirer suddenly appears at the door.

This process, when performed by a serious acquirer, is generally broken down into five basic areas:

• Marketing due diligence
• Financial due diligence
• Legal due diligence
• Environmental due diligence
• Management/Employee due diligence

Marketing Issues
It has been said that many company officers/CEOs have never taken a look at the broad picture of their industry; in other words, they know their customers, but not their industry. For example, here are just a few questions concerning the market that due diligence will help answer:

• What is the size of the market?
• Who are the industry leaders?
• Does the product or service have a life cycle?
• Who are the customers/clients, and what is the relationship?
• What’s the downside and the upside of the product/service? What is the risk and potential?

Financial Issues
Two important questions have to be answered before getting down to the basics of the financials: (1) Do the numbers really work? and (2) Are the seller’s claims supported by the figures? If the answer to both is yes, the following should be carefully reviewed:

• The accounts receivables
• The accounts payable
• The inventory

Legal Issues
Are contracts and agreements current? Are products patented, if necessary? How about copyrights and trademarks? What is the current status of any litigation? Are there any possible law suits on the horizon? What would an astute attorney representing a buyer want to see and would it be acceptable?

Environmental Issues
Not too long ago this area would have been a non-issue. Not any more! Current governmental guidelines can levy responsibility regarding environmental issues that existed prior to the current occupancy or ownership of the real estate. Possible acquirers – and lenders – are really “gun-shy” about these types of problems.

Management/Employee Issues
What employment agreements are in force? What family members are on the payroll? Who are the key people? In other words, who does what, why, and how much are they paid?

Operational Issues
The company should have a clear program covering how their products are handled from raw material to “out the door.” Service companies should also have a program covering how services are delivered from initial customer contact through delivery of the services.

The question is, do you give your company a “physical” now, or do you wait until someone else does it for you – with a lot riding on the line?

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Considerations When Selling…Or Buying

Important questions to ask when looking at a business…or preparing to have your business looked at by prospective buyers.

• What’s for sale? What’s not for sale? Does it include real estate? Are some of the machines leased instead of owned?

• What assets are not earning money? Perhaps these assets should be sold off.

• What is proprietary? Formulations, patents, software, etc.?

• What is their competitive advantage? A certain niche, superior marketing or better manufacturing.

• What is the barrier of entry? Capital, low labor, tight relationships.

• What about employment agreements/non-competes? Has the seller failed to secure these agreements from key employees?

• How does one grow the business? Maybe it can’t be grown.

• How much working capital does one need to run the business?

• What is the depth of management and how dependent is the business on the owner/manager?

• How is the financial reporting undertaken and recorded and how does management adjust the business accordingly?

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Keys to a Successful Closing

The closing is the formal transfer of a business. It usually also represents the successful culmination of many months of hard work, extensive negotiations, lots of give and take, and ultimately a satisfactory meeting of the minds. The document governing the closing is the Purchase and Sale Agreement. It generally covers the following:

• A description of the transaction – Is it a stock or asset sale?

• Terms of the agreement – This covers the price and terms and how it is to be paid. It should also include the status of any management that will remain with the business.

• Representations and Warranties – These are usually negotiated after the Letter of Intent is agreed upon. Both buyer and seller want protection from any misrepresentations. The warranties provide assurances that everything is as represented.

• Conditions and Covenants – These include non-competes and agreements to do or not to do certain things.

There are four key steps that must be undertaken before the sale of a business can close:

1. The seller must show satisfactory evidence that he or she has the legal right to act on behalf of the selling company and the legal authority to sell the business.

2. The buyer’s representatives must have completed the due diligence process, and claims and representations made by the seller must have been substantiated.

3. The necessary financing must have been secured, and the proper paperwork and appropriate liens must be in place so funds can be released.

4. All representations and warranties must be in place, with remedies made available to the buyer in case of seller’s breech.

There are two major elements of the closing that take place simultaneously:

• Corporate Closing: The actual transfer of the corporate stock or assets based on the provisions of the Purchase and Sale Agreement. Stockholder approvals are in, litigation and environmental issues satisfied, representations and warranties signed, leases transferred, employee and board member resignations, etc. completed, and necessary covenants and conditions performed. In other words, all of the paperwork outlined in the Purchase and Sale Agreement has been completed.

• Financial Closing: The paperwork and legal documentation necessary to provide funding has been executed. Once all of the conditions of funding have been met, titles and assets are transferred to the purchaser, and the funds delivered to the seller.

It is best if a pre-closing is held a week or so prior to the actual closing. Documents can be reviewed and agreed upon, loose ends tied up, and any open matters closed. By doing a pre-closing, the actual closing becomes a mere formality, rather than requiring more negotiation and discussion.

The closing is not a time to cut costs – or corners. Since mistakes can be very expensive, both sides require expert advice. Hopefully, both sides are in complete agreement and any disagreements were resolved at the pre-closing meeting. A closing should be a time for celebration!

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“Red Flags” in the Sunset

Unlike that poetic title of an old-time standard song, Red Sails in the Sunset, red flags are not a pretty sight. They can cause a deal to crater. Sellers have to learn to recognize situations indicating there might be a problem in their attempt to sell their business. Very, very seldom does a white knight in shining armor riding a white horse gallop up, write a large check and take over the business – no questions asked. And, if he did, it probably should raise the red flag – because that only happens in fairy tales. Now, if the check clears – then fairy tales can come true.

Sellers need to step back and examine every element of the transaction to make sure something isn’t happening that might sink the deal. For example, if a company appears interested in your business, and you can’t get through to the CEO, President, or, even the CFO, there most likely is a problem. Perhaps the interest level is not what you have been led to believe. A seller does not want to waste time on buyers that really aren’t buyers. In the example cited, the red flag should certainly be raised.

A red flag should be raised if an individual buyer shows a great deal of interest in the company, but has no experience in acquisitions and has no prior experience in the same industry. Even if this buyer appears very interested, the chances are that as the deal progresses, he or she will be tentative, cautious and will probably have a problem overcoming any of the business’s shortcomings. Retaining an intermediary generally eliminates this problem, since every buyer is screened and only those that are really qualified are even introduced to the business.

Both of the above examples are early-stage red flags. Sellers have to be focused so they don’t waste their time on buyers that are undesirable. If a buyer appears to be weak, does not have a good reason to need the deal, or is otherwise unqualified, the red flag should be raised because the chances of a successful transaction are diminished. The seller might seriously consider moving on to other prospects.

Red flags do not necessarily mean the end of the deal or that it should be aborted immediately. It simply means that the seller should pay close attention to what is happening. Sellers should keep their antenna up during the entire transaction. Problems can develop right up to closing. Here is an example of a middle-stage red flag: The seller has received a term sheet from a prospective buyer and is then denied access to the buyer’s financial statements in order to verify their ability to make the acquisition. As a reminder, a term sheet is a written range of value for the purchase price plus an indication of how the transaction would be structured. It is normally prepared by the would-be purchaser and presented to the seller and is non-binding. A buyer who is not willing to divulge financial information about his or her company, or, himself, in the case of an individual, may have something to hide. Due diligence on the buyer is equally as important as due diligence on the business.

If a proposed deal has entered the final stages, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be any red flags, or any additional ones, if there have been some along the way. If there have been several red flags, perhaps the transaction shouldn’t have gone on any further. It is these latter stages where the red flags become more serious. However, at this point, it makes sense to try to work through them since problems or issues early-on apparently have been resolved.

One red flag at this juncture might be an apparent loss of momentum. This might mean a problem at the buyer’s end. Don’t let it linger. As mentioned earlier, at this juncture all stops should be pulled out to try to overcome any problems. If a seller, or a buyer, for that matter, suspects a problem, there might very well be one. Ignoring it will not rectify the situation. When a red flag is recognized, it is best that it be confronted head-on. It is only by acting proactively that red flags in the deal can become red sails in the sunset – a harbinger of smooth sailing ahead.

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The Confidentiality Myth

When it comes time to sell the company, a seller’s prime concern is one of confidentiality. Owners are afraid that “if the word gets out” they will lose employees, customers and suppliers. Not to downplay confidentiality, but these incidents seldom happen if the process is properly managed. There is always the chance that a “leak” will occur, but when handled correctly, serious damage is unlikely. Nevertheless, a seller should still be very careful about maintaining confidentiality since avoiding problems is always better than dealing with them. Here are some suggestions:

  • Understand that there is a “Catch 22” involved. The seller wants the highest price and the best deal, and this usually means contacting numerous potential buyers. Obviously, the more prospective buyers that are contacted, the greater the opportunity for a breach of confidentiality to occur. Business intermediaries understand that buyers have to be contacted, but they also realize the importance of confidentiality and have the procedures in place to reduce the risk of a breach. Another alternative is to work with just a few buyers. This, however, does reduce the chances of obtaining the best price.
  • Another way to avoid this breach is to try to keep a short timetable between going to market and a closing. The shorter the timetable, the less the chance for the word to get out. One way to keep a short timetable is to gather all of the information necessary for the buyer’s due diligence ahead of time. Create a place where all of this material can be consolidated. This can be as simple as a set of secured file drawers. Such documentation as: customer and vendor contracts, leases and real estate records, financial statements and supporting schedules (assets, receivables, payables), conditions of employment agreements, organization charts and pay schedules, summary of benefit programs, patents, etc. should be gathered. It is not unusual for due diligence examinations to look back 3 to 5 years, so there could be a lot of records.
  • The above means that the seller has to get organized. Selling one’s business is fraught with paperwork. Set up some three-ring binders so all of the relevant paperwork and resulting documentation has a place. These binders should be kept in a secure location.
  • The seller’s employees should be conditioned to having strange people (potential buyers) walk through the facility. One way to avoid suspicion is to arrange to have unrelated people, for example – customers, suppliers, advisors – tour the company facilities prior to placing the business on the market.
  • If sellers have not prepared their employees for strangers walking through the facilities as suggested above, awkward situations can develop. A valued employee may question why tours are being conducted. The seller is then placed in the position of explaining what is happening or covering the question with a “smokescreen.” A seller could reply by saying that the strangers are possible investors in the company. If asked directly if the business is for sale, the seller could respond by saying that if General Electric wants to pay a bundle for it – anything is for sale. Once in the selling process, it is also important to minimize traffic by only allowing serious, qualified prospects to tour the operation.
  • Keep in mind that confidentiality leaks can emanate from many sources. For example, an errant email ends up on someone else’s email. A fax gets sent to the wrong fax machine or UPS or FedEx deliveries go to the wrong people. Establish methods ahead of time on how to communicate with potential buyers or an intermediary.
  • The key to handling confidentiality is for the seller to retain a third party intermediary. They will insist that all potential buyers sign a confidentiality agreement. They will also be able to advise the seller on how to handle the “company tours” and can insure that only qualified buyers are shown the facilities.
  • The “myth” is that confidentiality issues can make or break a deal, or cause serious damage to the seller’s business. The reality is that breaches seldom occur when an intermediary is involved, and if they do occur and are handled properly, there is little damage to the business or a potential transaction.

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A Selling Memorandum

A sellers memorandum includes all those points one would normally expect to see in any business plan, to wit: an executive summary, a business description, financial requirements, target market niche, identification of top management, an operations review, analysis of strengths and weaknesses, and current financial statements and projections.

Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions published by PPC

A proposed sale of a middle-market company almost always begins with a selling memorandum. This document is called many things, including offering memorandum, confidential descriptive memorandum or simply the book. Regardless of what you choose to call it, its purpose is to encourage prospective buyers to take a further look at the company.

For the seller, it has a secondary side benefit. It forces them to take a hard look at the company, its strengths and its weaknesses. Upon reviewing the information necessary to prepare a selling memorandum, the seller may, in fact, decide that it’s not such a bad company after all and elect to keep it. On the other hand, the seller could decide that the current condition of the company needs to be improved before attempting to sell it. Looking at the company through the eyes of a buyer, could also prompt the seller to try to increase the value prior to selling. This may be done, for example, by building a stronger brand loyalty, by entering into employee contracts with key managers, or perhaps by diversifying the customer base.

Assuming, however, that the decision to sell has been made, the importance of the selling memorandum can not be emphasized enough. It is like a strong advertisement for the company and it must tell a good story. It should highlight the positive parts of the company, add value for the buyer, and show the negatives as opportunities. The selling memorandum has to make a good first impression. A seller wants to attract qualified buyers and bring value to the company being sold. This means that the selling memorandum has to be prepared and written by a professional. It is too important a document to do it any other way. It is also the basis of a strong marketing program to attract the best buyer at the best price.

What makes up a strong selling memorandum? It includes quite a few different elements. But, first a few caveats:

  • Don’t include confidential company information or reveal trade secrets. Although the document may be intended for qualified buyers only, once it is disseminated it really becomes a public document. Professional intermediaries and investment bankers do make prospective buyers sign a confidentiality agreement, which does help in this area. Still, with copy machines and email services readily available, it never hurts to maintain confidential information until much further in the negotiations.
  • Make sure that a prospective buyer knows exactly what you are selling. It is assumed unless otherwise mentioned that it is the entire company that is for sale. You don’t want prospects to think that they can purchase just the most profitable portions of the company. Obviously, a seller wants to show-off the excellent parts of the company, but this should not be done at the expense of the not-so-good parts. These can be presented as excellent opportunities.
  • The selling memorandum should not be aimed at the right prospects. If the business requires technical language to best explain it, use it. A buyer, who doesn’t understand it, probably isn’t a buyer.
  • There should be an explanation of how the company works so a prospective acquirer can read through the lines about the selling company’s corporate culture. This element can make or break a sale and it’s best to discover it at the outset.
  • There is always a tendency to include too much information – don’t. Don’t over-sell. You don’t need to include the names of customers and vendors and the names of all the employees.
  • Be sure to also include the blemishes. If there is a pending lawsuit, include. The bad news should be revealed early on – no one likes surprises, especially later in the negotiations.
  • And, finally, and probably, most important, the selling memorandum should be easy to read.

Now, what about the various elements of the selling memorandum. Here are the areas that should be covered in it.

Business Profile (or Executive Summary) – This may be the most important element of the selling memorandum. The entire offering should be covered in brief – no more than four-pages, at most. Many are done in one page. Remember, the sole purpose of the business profile is to generate excitement and interest. It is a selling piece! It should include:

  • Ownership
  • The Business
  • Financial highlights
  • Products and/or services
  • Markets
  • The opportunities
  • Reason for sale (Why is it for sale?)

This business profile is usually sent to possible purchasers. If the prospect is interested further, they sign a confidentiality agreement before receiving the entire selling memorandum. The selling memorandum includes detailed information on the key elements of the company and usually covers the following:

  • Business overview – In other words, who and what is the company? This is the place where everything about the company is summarized: it’s history, the employees (in general), the management team, the locations, any important intangible assets, and the outlook for the business.
  • Company strengths – What does the company do well? This should cover those strengths that bring value to this particular company.
  • Markets – Who are the customers/clients? What and how does the company sell its products or market its services.
  • The Risks – What are they? If there are risks in the business, they should be described and then an explanation of how the company solves them.
  • Financial data – Is the company making money? Cash flow statements are important. Current thinking is that the seller doesn’t have to include all of the available financial data – which the prospective buyer will go through all the financial history as the deal moves forward.

The selling memorandum should include any relevant corporate and/or product brochures as attachments. Prior to putting the business on the market, it is important that an outside valuation be performed. However, the price and terms are not usually a part of the selling memorandum – the marketplace will dictate the price. The purpose of the entire selling memorandum is to generate sufficient interest so that a prospective acquirer will make an offer.

Building Value

Prior to putting a company on the market for sale, the question of value has to be addressed. Increasing the value should, in fact, be considered a year, preferably two, prior to sale. Value is based on profitability, cash flow, management and the overall quality of the operation itself. Here are some considerations in building value, whether the business is going to be sold or not.

  • Are the company’s pricing policies set too low, creating low margins? Perhaps they were set some time ago in order to boost sales. Now might be a good time to review them to make sure they are in keeping with current market conditions.
  • Is the inventory level too high? How about work-in-progress or finished goods? Increasing the turns in inventory can increase cash flow.
  • Are you paying too much for raw material? Talk to your vendors and suppliers, you might be able to get some better prices or terms. Take a look at all of the expenses: utilities, telephone, technology, office expenses – it all adds up.
  • Are there services that could be outsourced for increased savings?
  • Increasing the quality of customer service may entice customers or clients to pay their bill promptly.
  • Are all the employees working together to improve the operation and profitability of the company?

These are just a few of the areas that can and should be reviewed. Although profits are important, there is an old expression that cash is king. The time to take a look at the overall company operations is now.

Measuring the Value of a Company

Consider the following important areas of a company. How does your company stack up in these critical areas? If you were to rank them on a 1 to 4 scale, for instance, what would your score be? The higher the score the more valuable the company! They are considered value drivers – in other words, they are important to a prospective buyer.

  • Profitability
  • Type of business
  • History of company and industry
  • Business growth
  • Customers/Clients
  • Market share
  • Return on investment
  • Quality of financial statements
  • Size
  • Management
  • Terms of sale

For example, in looking at a company’s financial data – are the statements audited or merely compiled? Is the growth of the company slow or is it growing quickly? How about the customer base – is it based on several major ones, or is it spread out over many customers? The time to consider these critical value drivers is now!

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Common Seller Questions

How long does it take to sell my business?

It generally takes, on average, between five to eight months to sell most businesses. Keep in mind that an average is just that. Some businesses will take longer to sell, while others will sell in a shorter period of time. The sooner you have all the information needed to begin the marketing process, the shorter the time period should be. It is also important that the business be priced properly right from the start. Some sellers, operating under the premise that they can always come down in price, overprice their business. This theory often backfires, because buyers often will refuse to look at an overpriced business. It has been shown that the amount of the down payment may be the key ingredient to a quick sale. The lower the down payment (generally 40 percent of the asking price or less), the shorter the time to a successful sale. A reasonable down payment also tells a potential buyer that the seller has confidence in the business’s ability to make the payments.

What Happens When There is a Buyer for My Business?

When a buyer is sufficiently interested in your business, he or she will, or should, submit an offer in writing. This offer or proposal may have one or more contingencies. Usually, they concern a detailed review of your financial records and may also include a review of your lease arrangements, franchise agreement (if there is one) or other pertinent details of the business. You may accept the terms of the offer or you may make a counter-proposal. You should understand, however, that if you do not accept the buyer’s proposal, the buyer can withdraw it at any time.

At first review, you may not be pleased with a particular offer; however, it is important to look at it carefully. It may be lacking in some areas, but it might also have some positives to seriously consider. There is an old adage that says, “The first offer is generally the best one the seller will receive.” This does not mean that you should accept the first, or any offer — just that all offers should be looked at carefully.

When you and the buyer are in agreement, both of you should work to satisfy and remove the contingencies in the offer. It is important that you cooperate fully in this process. You don’t want the buyer to think that you are hiding anything. The buyer may, at this point, bring in outside advisors to help them review the information. When all the conditions have been met, final papers will be drawn and signed. Once the closing has been completed, money will be distributed and the new owner will take possession of the business.

What Can I Do To Help Sell My Business?

A buyer will want up-to-date financial information. If you use accountants, you can work with them on making current information available. If you are using an attorney, make sure he or she is familiar with the business closing process and the laws of your particular state. You might also ask if their schedule will allow them to participate in the closing on very short notice. If you and the buyer want to close the sale quickly, usually within a few weeks (unless there is an alcohol license or other license involved that might delay things), you don’t want to wait until the attorney can make the time to prepare the documents or attend the closing. Time is of the essence in any business sale transaction. The failure to close on schedule permits the buyer to reconsider or make changes in the original proposal.

What Can Business Brokers Do – And, What Can’t They Do?

Business brokers are the professionals who will facilitate the successful sale of your business. It is important that you understand just what a professional business broker can do — as well as what they can’t. They can help you decide how to price your business and how to structure the sale so it makes sense for everyone — you and the buyer. They can find the right buyer for your business, work with you and the buyer in negotiating, and work with you both every step of the way until the transaction is successfully closed. They can also help the buyer in all the details of the business buying process.

A business broker is not, however, a magician who can sell an overpriced business. Most businesses are saleable if priced and structured properly. You should understand that only the marketplace can determine what a business will sell for. The amount of the down payment you are willing to accept, along with the terms of the seller financing, can greatly influence not only the ultimate selling price, but also the success of the sale itself.

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Are You Ready to Exit?

If you’ve gone this far, then selling your business has aroused enough curiosity that you are taking the first step. You don’t have to make a commitment at this point; you are just getting informed about what is necessary to successfully sell your business. This section should answer a lot of your questions and help you through the maze of the process itself.

Question 1
The first question almost every seller asks is: “What is my business worth?” Quite frankly, if we were selling our business, that is the first thing we would want to know. However, we’re going to put this very important issue off for a bit and cover some of the things you need to know before you get to that point. Before you ask that question, you have to be ready to sell for what the market is willing to pay. If money is the only reason you want to sell, then you’re not really ready to sell.

*Insider Tip:
It doesn’t make any difference what you think your business is worth, or what you want for it. It also doesn’t make any difference what your accountant, banker, attorney, or best friend thinks your business is worth. Only the marketplace can decide what its value is.

Question 2
The second question you have to consider is: Do you really want to sell this business? If you’re really serious and have a solid reason (or reasons) why you want to sell, it will most likely happen. You can increase your chances of selling if you can answer yes to the second question: Do you have reasonable expectations? The yes answer to these two questions means you are serious about selling.

The First Steps

Okay, let’s assume that you have decided to at least take the first few steps to actually sell your business. Before you even think about placing your business for sale, there are some things you should do first.The first thing you have to do is to gather information about the business.

Here’s a checklist of the items you should get together:

  • Three years’ profit and loss statements
  • Federal Income tax returns for the business
  • List of fixtures and equipment
  • The lease and lease-related documents
  • A list of the loans against the business (amounts and payment schedule)
  • Copies of any equipment leases
  • A copy of the franchise agreement, if applicable
  • An approximate amount of the inventory on hand, if applicable
  • The names of any outside advisors

Notes:
If you’re like many small business owners you’ll have to search for some of these items. After you gather all of the above items, you should spend some time updating the information and filling in the blanks. You most likely have forgotten much of this information, so it’s a good idea to really take a hard look at all of this. Have all of the above put in a neat, orderly format as if you were going to present it to a prospective purchaser. Everything starts with this information.

Make sure the financial statements of the business are current and as accurate as you can get them. If you’re halfway through the current year, make sure you have last year’s figures and tax returns, and also year-to-date figures. Make all of your financial statements presentable. It will pay in the long run to get outside professional help, if necessary, to put the statements in order. You want to present the business well “on paper”. As you will see later, pricing a small business usually is based on cash flow. This includes the profit of the business, but also, the owner’s salary and benefits, the depreciation, and other non-cash items. So don’t panic because the bottom line isn’t what you think it should be. By the time all of the appropriate figures are added to the bottom line, the cash flow may look pretty good.

Prospective buyers eventually want to review your financial figures. A Balance Sheet is not normally necessary unless the sale price of your business would be well over the $1 million figure. Buyers want to see income and expenses. They want to know if they can make the payments on the business, and still make a living. Let’s face it, if your business is not making a living wage for someone, it probably can’t be sold. You may be able to find a buyer who is willing to take the risk, or an experienced industry professional who only looks for location, etc., and feels that he or she can increase business.

*Insider Tip
The big question is not really how much your business will sell for, but how much of it can you keep. The Federal Tax Laws do determine how much money you will actually be able to put in the bank. How your business is legally formed can be important in determining your tax status when selling your business. For example: Is your business a corporation, partnership or proprietorship? If you are incorporated, is the business a C corporation or a sub-chapter S corporation? The point of all of this is that before you consider price or even selling your business, it is important that you discuss the tax implications of a sale of your business with a tax advisor. You don’t want to be in the middle of a transaction with a solid buyer and discover that the tax implications of the sale are going to net you much less than you had figured.

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Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

10 Tips for a Successful Sale

1.Sellers should find out the loan value of the fixtures, equipment and machinery prior to a sale. Many buyers will count on using it for loan or collateral purposes. No one wants to find out at the last minute that the value of the machinery won’t support the debt needed to put the deal together.

2.Sellers should resolve all litigation and environmental issues before putting the company on the market.

3.Sellers should be flexible about any real estate involved. Most buyers want to invest in the business, and real estate usually doesn’t make money for an operating company.

4.Sellers should be prepared to accept lower valuation multiples for lack of management depth, regional versus national distribution, and a reliance on just a few large customers.

5.If a buyer indicates that he or she will be submitting a Letter of Intent, or even a Term Sheet, the seller should inform them up-front what is to be included:

  • price and terms
  • what assets and liabilities are to be assumed, if it is to be an asset purchase
  • lease or purchase of any real estate involved
  • what contracts and warranties are to be assumed
  • schedule for due diligence and closing
  • what employee contracts and/or severance agreements the buyer will be responsible for

6.Non-negotiable items should be pointed out early in the negotiations.

7.The sale of a company usually involves three inconsistent objectives: speed, confidentiality and value. Sellers should pick the two that are most important to them.

8.A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of more than 300 privately held U.S. companies that were sold or transferred pointed out the most common things a company can do to improve the prospects of selling:

  • improve profitability by cutting costs
  • restructure debt
  • limit owner’s compensation
  • fully fund company pension plan
  • seek the advice of a consultant
  • improve the management team
  • upgrade computer systems

9.Sellers should determine up-front who has the legal authority to sell the business. This decision may lie with the board of directors, a majority stockholder, and a bank with a lien on the business, etc.

10.Partner with professionals. A professional intermediary can be worth his or her weight in gold.

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The Term Sheet

Buyers, sellers, intermediaries and advisors often mention the use of a term sheet prior to the creation of an actual purchase and sale agreement. However, very rarely do you ever hear this document explained. It sounds good but what is it specifically?

Very few books about the M&A process even mention term sheet. Russ Robb’s book Streetwise Selling Your Business defines term sheet as follows: “A term sheet merely states a price range with a basic structure of the deal and whether or not it includes the real estate.” Attorney and author Jean Sifleet offers this explanation: “A one page ‘term sheet’ or simply answering the questions: Who? What? Where? and How Much? helps focus the negotiations on what’s important to the parties. Lawyers, accountants and other advisors can then review the term sheet and discuss the issues.” She cautions, “Be wary of professional advisors who use lots of boilerplate documents, take extreme positions or use tactics that are adversarial. Strive always to keep the negotiations ‘win-win.’”

If the buyer and the seller have verbally agreed on the price and terms, then putting words on paper can be a good idea. This allows the parties to see what has been agreed on, at least verbally. This step can lead to the more formalized letter of intent based on the information contained in the term sheet. The term sheet allows the parties and their advisors to put something on paper that has been verbally discussed and tentatively agreed on prior to any documentation that requires signatures and legal review.

A term sheet is, in essence, a preliminary proposal containing the outline of the price, terms and any major considerations such as employment agreements, consulting agreements and covenants not to compete. It is a good first step to putting a deal together.

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What Makes Your Company Unique?

There are unique attributes of a company that make it more attractive to a possible acquirer and/or more valuable. Certainly, the numbers are important, but potential buyers will also look beyond them. Factors that make your company special or unique can often not only make the difference in a possible sale or merger, but also can dramatically increase value. Review the following to see if any of them apply to your company and if they are transferable to new ownership.

Brand name or identity

Do any of your products have a well recognizable name? It doesn’t have to be Kleenex or Coke, but a name that might be well known in a specific geographic region, or a name that is identified with a specific product. A product with a unique appearance, taste, or image is also a big plus. For example, Cape Cod Potato Chips have a unique regional identity, and also a distinctive taste. Both factors are big pluses when it comes time to sell.

Dominant market position

A company doesn’t have to be a Fortune 500 firm to have a dominant position in the market place. Being the major player in a niche market is a dominant position. Possible purchasers and acquirers, such as buy-out groups, look to the major players in a particular industry regardless of how small it is.

Customer lists

Newsletters and other publications have, over the years, built mailing lists and subscriber lists that create a unique loyalty base. Just as many personal services have created this base, a number of other factors have contributed to the building of it. The resulting loyalty may allow the company to charge a higher price for its product or service.

Intangible assets

A long and favorable lease (assuming it can be transferred to a new owner) can be a big plus for a retail business. A recognizable franchise name can also be a big plus. Other examples of intangible assets that can create value are: customer lists, proprietary software, an effective advertising program, etc.

Price Advantage

The ability to charge less for similar products is a unique factor. For example, Wal-Mart has built an empire on the ability to provide products at a very low price. Some companies do this by building alliances with designers or manufacturers. In some cases, these alliances develop into partnerships so that a lower price can be offered. Most companies are not in Wal-Mart’s category, but the same relationships can be built to create low costs and subsequent price advantages.

Difficulty of replication

A company that produces a product or service that cannot be easily replicated has an advantage over other firms. We all know that CPA and law firms have unique licensing attributes that prevent just anyone off of the street from creating competition. Some firms have government licensing or agreements that are granted on a very limited basis. Others provide tie-ins that limit others from competing. For example, a coffee company that provides free coffee makers with the use of their coffee.

Proprietary technology

Technology, trade secrets, specialized applications, confidentiality agreements protecting proprietary information – all of these can add up to add value to a company. These factors may not be copyrighted or patented, but if a chain of confidentiality is built – then these items can be unique to the company.

There are certainly other unique factors that give a company a special appeal to a prospective purchaser and, at the same time, increase value. Many business owners have to go beyond the numbers and take an objective look at the factors that make their company unique.

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DISCLAIMER: TM Business Brokers, LLC does not offer securities for sale, real estate brokerage services, accounting, tax or legal advice, or financing negotiations. TM Business Brokers, LLC does not audit / verify any information provided by business owners and their third party advisers, and we make no representations or warranties thereto.