Cultivating Success: The Impact of Business Brokers on Closing Rates

Business brokers and M&A advisors consistently improve closing rates. There are many reasons why this is the case and, in this article, we’ll explore some of the top reasons why brokerage professionals get results.

When it comes to selling a business, few variables are as important as how your business is presented. A key area of expertise for business brokers is in presenting businesses. There are many factors to consider when presenting your business in the best possible light. An experienced business broker can help you prepare your business for even the most discerning buyer.

Another key reason that business brokers are a great option for any seller is that they reach not only more buyers, but more qualified buyers. Brokerage professionals have years of experience in buying and selling businesses, and with that experience comes a long list of vetted buyers. When you start working together, they likely already have many qualified buyers in mind that they feel would be a good fit for your business.

A third reason sellers should consider working with a business broker or M&A advisor is that they are invested in your success. When your business is sold, these professionals stand to profit. In this way, the process of selling your business becomes a team effort, one that you can expect them to take seriously. After all, they only get paid if you get paid.

Selling a business is a very complex process, even for those with the most experience. There are rules, regulations, negotiation hurdles, and more that must be navigated. Everything from government regulations to spouses who may have a different opinion can, and do, play a role. An experienced business broker or M&A advisor has the experience to find solutions to almost any negotiation obstacle.

One of the most important reasons sellers should work with a business broker or M&A advisor is to gain focus. As the owner of your business, you have no choice but to stay focused on the day-to-day operation of your business. Far too often, owners place their business for sale and then become preoccupied with the sales process. Sadly, this can lead to a loss of revenue and overall business disruption, which in turn, decreases the value of the business.

Opting to work with a business broker or M&A advisor is an easy, and proven, way to dramatically boost your odds of achieving a successful sale. When all the variables are combined, it is easy to see why sellers who choose to work with a brokerage professional consistently enjoy high closing rates.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Strategies for Maximizing Market Dominance: Key Steps to Boosting Business Value

At some point, you will need to sell your business. When the time comes to put your business on the market, it is in your best interest if your business has a dominant position in the market. Potential buyers will be far less excited about your business if you are playing catch-up to one or more competitors. In the end, maintaining a dominant market position will help you receive both maximum interest and top dollar for your business.

Take Steps in Advance

Preparing your business to be sold isn’t something that you do overnight. Instead, preparing your business for sale is a process that can take years of meticulous planning. Operating your business as though you will need to sell it soon is always a smart strategy.

Boost Your Customer Base

A key part of maintaining a dominant position in your market is to have a large number of customers. The logic is simple: if you have a large number of customers, then it only makes sense that your competitors have fewer customers. 

A prospective buyer will find your business more interesting when you have a wide and varied customer base. Conversely, a business that depends on just a few large customers may make buyers nervous. The built-in vulnerability of having a handful of key customers will send many prospective buyers looking for the exit ramp.

Have a Growth Mindset

Achieving a dominant position in the market means that you are always thinking about growth. It is vital that you consider how to expand your business in both the short term and the long term. Additionally, it is important to realize that different strategies are needed for both short-term and long-term growth. You should always have a growth plan ready to implement.

Gain a Realistic Understanding of Your Business

Whether you have achieved a dominant position in your market or are striving to do so, it is essential that you understand your business’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Far too many business owners turn a blind eye to the weaknesses of their business or overplay its strengths. One way to better understand these aspects of your business is to work with a business broker or M&A advisor who can evaluate your business from an outside perspective.

You want prospective buyers to be excited about your business and its potential for the future. Demonstrating that you have a dominant position in your market and that your business has room for potential growth will dramatically increase buyer interest and enthusiasm. Business owners looking to achieve top dollar will want to take the necessary steps to achieve a dominant position in the market.

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The Emotional Side of Selling Your Business

It is easy to get lost in the numbers when it comes to selling your business, but it is important to remember that the numbers only tell one side of the story. Both buying and selling a business come with significant mental and emotional ramifications. 

Why is this so critical to understand? Sellers who are not emotionally ready might subconsciously take steps to interfere with the sales process. Typically, sellers have invested a great deal of time and effort into their business, and as a result, they may simply not be truly ready to sell. Before the day comes to put your business up for sale, pause and reflect on whether you are 100% onboard. 

Let’s take a look at some of the questions to ask yourself so that you can decide if you are truly ready to sell.

Do You Have Future Plans? 

Topping the list of emotional factors that you need to consider when selling are your plans for the future. If you don’t know what your plans are for after selling your business, you may encounter difficulties post-sale. 

Far too often, business owners discover that they don’t know what to do with themselves after a sale has taken place. All the mental and emotional effort put into running a business has to be redirected once the business has been sold. It is crucial that before you sell your business, you have something new and exciting to work on in the future.

Do You Have a Strong Support Network?  

A second emotional factor to consider before you sell your business is whether or not selling it will lead to social isolation and stress. It is very common for business owners to form long-term friendships and bonds with numerous employees. 

Quite often, business owners begin to feel as though their employees are something like extended family. Suddenly not working with that extended family can bring with it a fair degree of social isolation. 

It is not uncommon for business owners to have many of their social needs met at work. Once those friendships are gone, many business owners can feel isolated, and isolation can lead to stress and a sense of regret. It is prudent to make sure your social network is robust enough that selling your business doesn’t lead to unexpected mental and emotional stress.

Selling a business is a massive decision for most business owners. It is a prudent move to be sure that you actually do want to sell. Once your business has been sold, there is no turning back.  

The last thing any business owner wants is to sell their business only to discover that they regret the decision. Don’t simply focus on the profit to be gained when selling your business, but also on the ramifications of that sale on your life and future happiness.

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Why Should You Buy an Established Business?

A pre-existing business is a proven commodity. A new business, regardless of how great your idea may be, will always have a future that is uncertain. You can hire many consultants and plan meticulously. Yet, even with the best ideas and most experienced consultants, your newly minted business could still quickly fail. A business with a long track record of success provides you with a degree of security and certainty.

It’s also important to note that an existing business has a myriad of established relationships, which are invaluable. Business is all about cultivating strong relationships and developing a positive reputation. An established business will have those relationships set up and ready to go. This can be tremendously beneficial and save you a lot of time and energy. 

Whether it is suppliers, customers or key employees and management, this track record can help ensure your success. It will bring with it long-term customers, as well as an established and proven supply chain. Supply chain issues should not be overlooked as a key factor in successfully operating a business. Many new businesses find themselves in ruins over unforeseen supply chain issues. Opting for an established business can help safeguard against an array of potential disruptions. 

Another advantage of buying a pre-existing successful business is that it will have a proven cash flow. Statistics¹ show that 82% of businesses fail due to cash flow mismanagement.  Even with exceptional ideas, it can take years for a new business to take flight, but an established business should have positive cash flow from day one. No matter how well you plan, there is no way to know with certainty that your new business will generate the revenue you expect it to. An established business can provide proven cash flow, and that is so critical for the success of any business.

Finally, a business is only as strong as the idea and people behind it. An existing business will already have key people in place. You should look for one that has proven and reliable people. 

Hiring from scratch is often much harder than it sounds. All too often a resume fails to tell the full story about a potential hire. When you opt for an established business, the previous owner has already vetted key team members for you and they have experience working in the industry and performing a certain role.

Again, new businesses fail way too often. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor and choosing to buy a proven and time-tested existing business will eliminate many headaches. This approach will dramatically boost your overall chances of success and provide you with peace of mind in the process.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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¹ https://www.score.org/resource/blog-post/1-reason-small-businesses-fail-and-how-avoid-it 

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What Should You Expect from Your Business Intermediary?

Eventually every business owner needs to sell or think about who will take over their business when they retire. Working with an intermediary is an easy and streamlined way to jumpstart the process and learn what mistakes to avoid. A business broker or M&A advisor can help you to understand what steps to take to achieve optimal results. 

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

First, it is simply critical to understand that selling a business is a team effort. No seller should begin working with an intermediary with the idea that the intermediary will do “all the work.” The reality is that in order to achieve a successful sale, it is necessary for the seller and the intermediary to work closely and engage in a good deal of communication. 

Other key people such as executives and advisors will also have to work closely with your business broker or M&A advisor. Without a doubt, selling a business is a group effort that will need cooperation from many parties. For example, you’ll also need the cooperation of key management and team members when a prospective buyer visits the business.

Prepare for an Extended Process 

Another essential point to remember is that selling a business can take time. It is common for the sales process to take between six months to a year, but it can also take even longer than that. Sellers should enter the sales process realizing that they will be working closely with their chosen intermediary for a considerable period of time. That means that you’ll want to be sure to keep your intermediary well informed regarding any developments with your business for an extended period of time.

Be Open to Ideas 

Third, remember that your intermediary has invaluable experience and that you hired them to guide you through the process. It is not necessary that you blindly follow all their advice; however, it is essential that you be receptive to all their suggestions. 

Your intermediary may have years, if not decades, of proven experience selling businesses just like yours. It only makes sense to take advantage of that experience as much as possible. Your intermediary may have suggestions about what type of buyer you should be targeting or they may even have ideas as to how you can change your business to make it more attractive to prospective buyers. When intermediaries know that they have a receptive audience with a given buyer, they will feel more comfortable providing valuable suggestions.

The time to contact an intermediary about selling your business is now. Getting a business ready to sell takes time, effort and preparation. The sooner you begin working with a business broker or M&A advisor, the sooner you can begin charting a path to eventual success.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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How to Save a Deal

Few business owners truly understand the complex dynamics of making a deal. Having never participated in selling a business before, the majority of business owners are blissfully unaware of what it takes to turn the dream of selling a business into a reality. Having a brokerage professional by their side is an easy way for a business owner to avoid the dangers that can easily torpedo a deal.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

One of the most common reasons that businesses will fail to sell is that the business owner becomes obsessed with the pending transaction, and in the process, fails to keep up with the day-to-day operations of the business. The sales process can take months, or even years, and that means that the owner needs to pay attention to every aspect of their business or a prospective buyer could become very concerned.

Keep Confidentiality a Top Priority 

Another mistake that business owners can make, one that will quickly kill a deal, is a breach of confidentiality. If the sales process involves too many parties, then confidentiality often falls apart. Often the owner will call off the deal in frustration. A business broker or M&A advisor understands the tremendous importance of maintaining confidentiality and will prevent leaks from occurring. 

Seek Out Another Perspective

Being the boss for years, or even decades, means that a business owner may become rather set in their ways. Commonly, business owners may become rigid where compromises are concerned, especially when it comes to their business. As a result, a business owner may wish to negotiate every single item and detail which can send buyers running for the door. Some fights make sense and others should be avoided. Everyone can benefit from this essential third-party perspective, and this is another of the important ways that business brokers can help sellers.

Prepare Early

It can take years to properly get a business ready for sale. All too often, business owners will not prepare for the sale of their business until the 11th hour. Some business owners may even decide to sell on a whim or because of burnout. Unless a business owner prepares for the sale of their business well in advance, the business is unlikely to be ready to be sold. 

A business broker or M&A advisor knows precisely what it takes to get a business ready. For example, some areas that are particularly important for business owners considering selling a business are buying out minority stockholders, dealing with any pending lawsuits and cleaning up their balance sheet.

Keep Your Pricing Realistic

A fifth deal killer comes in the form of placing too high a price on a business. It is understandable that a business owner wants to receive top dollar as a business usually represents an owner’s life work. However, an unrealistic asking price can quickly destroy any chances a business has of being sold. A business broker can work with or without an appraiser to achieve a fair and realistic price and in the process dramatically increase the chances of a successful deal.

Buying or selling a business can have many twists and turns. Working with a brokerage professional stands as one of the simplest and most effective ways to avoid problems before they arise and, in the process, save the deal.

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How Business Owners Can Leverage AI

Artificial Intelligence has certainly received more than a bit of attention in the last two years. It’s no wonder that many business owners wonder how best to use this tool to gain an edge over the competition.

Currently, the cost of ChatGPT-4 is only $20 per month, which is a very nominal cost considering its capabilities. For that cost, users gain access to a powerful large language model or LLM. ChatGPT-4 allows users to put in a prompt and quickly receive an answer. Since ChatGPT-4 is a neural network, it is possible for you to customize how data is generated. 

An AI Virtual Assistant?

Almost anyone can appreciate the benefits a virtual assistant can bring. With ChatGPT-4, it is possible to use the technology as a digital VA that can simulate the work you might otherwise need to hire people to do. AI tools have become better and better at providing pinpointed information. More and more, business owners are viewing artificial intelligence as a tool that can serve the function of a virtual assistant or in some cases even a trusted business advisor. 

One example of how you could leverage ChatGPT-4 is to help you with your website’s SEO. Instead of hiring an expert, AI can assist you by generating lists of valuable keywords and SEO instructions. 

Other ways business people have used ChatGPT include everything from customer services and support to employee training. Its functionality is incredibly versatile and can serve many niches. 

Creating GPTs

GPT stands for “Generative Pre-Trained Transformer.” This term basically refers to a language model and framework used for artificial intelligence. This type of AI uses neural networks for tasks that involve language. 

Through GPTs, people now have the ability to create assistants or bots. To date, over 20,000 GPTs have been created. These are highly specific programs that have the ability to use internal data in ways that users deem fit. The more refined the prompt you put in, the more precise the information that you will receive. 

Another tool that could be helpful to business owners is Voice Chat GPT, which can transcribe what you are saying in real time. There is also Visual Chat GPT, which can verify visual information, for example, identifying the type of bird in a photograph.

Creating Personas 

In order to get the most out of ChatGPT-4, you can prime it and tell it what you want and need. Through ChatGPT-4, it is possible to create “personas” to bounce ideas around and get different information and feedback. For example, it is possible to create CEO and marketing manager personas, to name just two. The information you receive will differ depending on the persona you turn on. Different information and responses will then be generated via these different personas. This tool allows you to ask and receive responses on a wide variety of business-related questions. 

Protecting Information 

One word of caution in using these tools is to be careful regarding importing confidential information into ChatGPT or other AI tools. While efforts may be made to keep information confidential, it is still possible that other companies will use this information for training purposes. Any sensitive information about your business, employees or customers should be carefully guarded. 

The bottom line is yes, you can use AI to improve and expand your business, and you can start doing this right away. It’s important to note that artificial intelligence is a fast moving and evolving technology. For that reason, the way you can utilize it today may be entirely different in the coming years. 

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Options for Family Owned Businesses

If you own a family-owned business, you may feel as though there are more factors to consider when it’s time to sell. In this article, we’ll examine some of the best options that business owners can use. You’ll want to keep in mind that both internal and external strategies are available to you. Let’s take a closer look. 

3 Types of Internal Transactions 

One of the top options for selling a family-owned business is to simply transition the ownership of the business within the family. This is an often-exercised option for many reasons. For example, one of the benefits to this strategy is that selling a family-owned business to a relative will keep the business in the family. Oftentimes this decision best suits the emotional preferences of the owner. A major risk is that the family member will fail to operate the business successfully, and this point underscores the importance of only transferring ownership to a family member that is ready for the task.

A second option is what is known as the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). ESOPs are often utilized in companies when selling to a third party could prove to be problematic or difficult. Architectural, construction and engineering companies are all good examples of businesses that can be difficult to sell to third parties.

Choosing to hire a CEO who manages the owners exit strategy is a third option for business owners to consider when selling. This is a time-tested strategy that many business owners have appreciated. Using this CEO strategy allows the owner to essentially retire and live off of company dividends while at the same time delaying the sale of the company for years.

External Transactions to Consider

The previous three examples specifically focused on internal transactions. Now, we’ll turn our attention to external transactions, as there are several viable external transactions that work for family-owned businesses looking to sell. 

A management buy-out or MBO, is an option that shouldn’t be overlooked. Selling to key employees with the company has many pros, for example, key employees understand the business as well as its current and future challenges and potential.  An MBO does have negative aspects to consider such as the fact that owners typically don’t receive the highest possible asking price as they have to provide financing.

A second external transaction for a family-owned business is an outright sale to a third party. One pro of a third-party sale is that an all-cash closing is possible and after the transaction is settled, the owner is free of the business. A potential downside of a third-party sale is that the sale process could be lengthy.

A third option for family-owned businesses to consider is an initial public offering (IPO). Companies with revenues of $100+ million are seen as a potential candidate for IPOs. An IPO can receive a high valuation; however, it is important to note that management will need to remain with the company.

Business brokers and M&A advisors are experts in helping family-owned businesses chart the best path forward. No two family-owned businesses are the same. An experienced brokerage professional can evaluate your business and help guide you towards the sale option that makes the most sense for your business and your personal situation.

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Understanding the Modern Buyer

A key part of the American Dream is the notion of being financially independent and controlling one’s own fate. While times have changed, the idea of the American Dream is alive and well. Entrepreneurs have long realized that one of the quickest ways of achieving this dream is to own a successful business. 

The majority of today’s buyers are well educated and come from the corporate world; however, they are typically not versed in the business buying process. Since these buyers are coming from the corporate world, they are fact-driven, meaning that they want to see the numbers and will pay attention to details both large and small. You can expect these buyers to want to see all necessary supporting documents. They will want to verify everything themselves. Additionally, you can expect them to employ many outside advisors. Summed up, today’s buyer is not an easy sale.

Another key fact about the modern buyer is that they are often what can best be termed as “event driven.” These are buyers that not only want to control their own destiny, but also need to buy a business for some other practical reason. For example, perhaps their current job was downsized or they were transferred to a location where they did not want to move. It is common that people don’t have the courage to quit their current job and say goodbye to the safety of a steady paycheck in favor of a leap into the unknown. It is quite common that there needs to be an event to stimulate the change.

Business brokers and M&A advisors seek to protect their clients while moving them closer to their goals. One of the ways that they can achieve that is by working with only serious and qualified buyers. The process of matching the right buyer to the seller involves asking a series of important questions such as the following:

  • Why is the person considering buying a business? 
  • How long have they been looking? 
  • What kind of business are they seeking? 
  • How much money do they have available? 
  • Have they ever owned a business before?

Every business is different. It should come as no surprise that each buyer out there has a different story and different goals. A one-size-fits-all approach to buying and selling a business simply doesn’t provide optimal results. Working with a qualified business brokerage professional is the easiest way for a seller to not only find the right buyer, but do so with the least stress possible.

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The Top Four Reasons Why Deals Fall Apart

It takes a lot of work to buy or sell a business. When a once promising deal is not successful, this can be due to a wide array of reasons. However, understanding the reasons why a deal can fall apart in advance can serve to dramatically increase your odds of success.

Some of the reasons that deals fall apart are reasonable, while other reasons, to be blunt, are unreasonable. Let’s take a look at four common reasons that are seen in the world of business brokerage. 

Reason 1- Financial Issues on the Buyer’s End 

One of the most common reasons that deals fall apart is that buyers simply can’t find the needed financing. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor is a way to safeguard against this outcome, as an experienced brokerage professional knows how to pre-screen prospective buyers to increase the odds of success from a financial standpoint.

Reason 2 – Lack of Financials on the Seller’s End 

A second reason that deals fall apart is that the seller doesn’t have all of their financials in an up-to-date form. Sellers must constantly strive to put themselves in the shoes of a prospective buyer. Virtually no serious buyer would move forward with a deal without having a clear picture of the finances of the business. This is an issue that can be circumvented with the right level of planning and preparation. 

Reason 3 – Last Minute Surprises

A third common reason that deals fall apart occurs when a surprise happens at the last minute. It is almost impossible to safeguard against every possible surprise, however, an experienced business broker knows how to navigate the due diligence process so as to dramatically reduce the chances of unexpected problems. Again, brokerage professionals have tried and tested techniques which help reduce the chances of these unwanted surprises. 

Reason 4 –Business Issues Left Unaddressed 

Preparing a business to be sold isn’t something that happens overnight. Sellers should expect that any serious buyer will do more than “kick the tires,” but will instead have their experts go over every aspect of the business. Administrative, environmental, or legal issues that have not been properly addressed can serve to raise many red flags. Needless to say, this can scare prospective buyers away from a business. There is no replacement for proper preparation and meticulous due diligence months or preferably years in advance.

At the end of the day, there are many reasons that a deal can fall apart. Buyers and sellers simply can’t safeguard against them all. However, an experienced business broker or M&A advisor can often see problems on the horizon. Plus, when you work with an experienced professional, it can help keep emotions in check. It’s important to keep all parties involved focused on success. With the right team in place, it is possible to dramatically decrease the chances of surprise events ruining what would otherwise be a good deal.

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6 Critically Important Aspects of Due Diligence

Performing due diligence as a part of your company’s annual review is a smart move and one that can help your business in a range of ways. Through this means, if the day comes that you need or want to sell, then you’re ready to go. There are six key areas of due diligence that you’ll want to consider. These are aspects that most serious buyers will consider when buying a business.

 You can expect any savvy buyer to focus on the following during due diligence if they are truly interested in acquiring your business. Problems in any of these areas could spell serious trouble in the sales process.

  1. Legal
  2. Marketing 
  3. Environmental 
  4. Operational
  5. Management 
  6. Employees

Legal Issues

In terms of legal issues, you’ll want to carefully evaluate whether or not your contracts and agreements are all current. Issues such as copyrights, trademarks and patents should all be examined. Most importantly, if there is any pending litigation it would be best to resolve the matter if possible. Likewise, if there are any potential legal issues, such as lawsuits, looming on the horizon, those issues should be addressed as well. Try and think about what your own lawyer or legal team would want to see out of a business before recommending that you ink a deal. Obviously, these types of legal issues should not and will not simply be overlooked. 

Marketing Issues

Marketing issues should be dealt with as well. Business owners should understand not just their business, but the industry as a whole.

Consider the following questions:

  • Who are the industry leaders? 
  • What is the size of the market? 
  • Who are your current and future customers? 
  • What are the upsides and risks of your products or services? 

You should demonstrate to a prospective buyer that you understand the “lay of the land.” You should be able to convey a strong grasp of how the business is currently positioned and how it may be positioned in the future.

Environmental Issues

One serious environmental issue can derail a deal or even destroy a business. Prospective buyers are very wary of potential environmental issues. Identifying and addressing environmental issues, if possible, should be a key part of your preparation for due diligence.

Operational Issues 

Another key area to evaluate is operational issues. Your company should have an easy to understand program for how products or services are handled at every point of the process. How your goods or services are delivered to the customer shouldn’t be a mystery, but should instead be clearly defined to a prospective buyer.

Financial Issues 

As there is clarity in how your goods or services reach consumers, the same holds true for financial issues. You do not want your finances to seem mysterious. Everything from your inventory and supply chain to your accounts receivable and accounts payable should be well laid out, accessible and easy to understand.

Employees and Management 

Problems with employees or management can spell doom for any company. You’ll want to take steps to cover any potential issues in these areas well before selling.

Working to address these six key areas will help keep your business in a ready to sell posture. While you might not plan on selling today or tomorrow, there is no way to know what the future may bring. It’s best to be prepared.

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7 Important Questions to Ask Yourself When Selling a Business

There is no denying the fact that for most people, the decision to buy or sell a business is one of the most important professional and financial decisions that they will ever make. Let’s turn our attention to some of the key questions you’ll need to ask.

1. What is really for sale?

You’ll need to determine what is, and is not, for sale. If you own machinery or real estate associated with the business, are those items to be included in the sale?

2. What assets bring in revenue? 

One important factor to consider when preparing a business to be sold is what assets are earning money. If you have assets that are not earning money, then it may or may not be prudent to sell those assets.

3. What is proprietary?

Buyers and sellers alike will want to consider what is proprietary. Anything from software and patents to formulations can be extremely valuable. Sellers will want to give substantial thought to how to best frame any proprietary property that they have in the best light. Buyers will want to carefully evaluate proprietary property to try to ascertain an accurate value. Outside experts may be needed to make an accurate assessment.

4. What’s your competitive advantage? 

A business’s competitive advantage should be of importance to buyers and sellers. A seller should focus on understanding their competitive advantage, whether it is a certain niche, a superior manufacturing process or product, better marketing or a range of other factors. Properly framing your competitive advantage can help buyers see the full, and even untapped, value of your business.

5. What is your growth potential?

Buyers will want to consider factors such as whether or not the business has the potential to grow. If the business can’t be grown, then buyers should include this fact in their final decision and/or offer.

6. What agreements do you have in place?

Other factors such as employee agreements, non-competes, and the depth of management are all areas of concern for a prospective buyer. Buyers will want to consider if the seller has secured agreements from key employees and how dependent the business is on an owner/manager. 

7. What relevant financial information will a buyer want to know? 

Understanding how much working capital is needed to run the business and how financial reporting is undertaken are other factors that should not be glossed over.

If you are preparing to sell your business it is worth the time to pause and think about what your business might look like to a buyer. In short, what would you think of your business if you were the buyer and what questions would you ask? 

Buying or selling a business is complex. Every single business is different and that means there is no 100% standardized approach and route towards success. A seasoned, experienced and professional business broker or M&A advisor can help guide buyers and sellers alike towards optimal outcomes.

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Steps for a Successful Closing

The closing is a pivotal moment in the history of a business as it marks the formal transfer of a business from one party to the next. Behind every successful closing is months of focus and hard work. Simply stated, a successful closing doesn’t just happen, but is instead the byproduct of extensive negotiations. 

One key document to utilize in the closing process is the Purchase and Sales Agreement. There are four key aspects to this document. 

  1. First are the terms of the agreement, which typically cover the price as well as detailed terms on how the business is to be paid. In the Purchase and Sales Agreement, you will find the status of any management that will be staying with the business. 
  2. This document also should contain conditions and covenants which include non-competes as well as agreements on what to do and what not to do moving forward. 
  3. Any good Purchase and Sales Agreement will, of course, include a description of the transaction. In other words, is the transaction a stock or asset sale? 
  4. Finally, the agreement will cover representations and warranties. This is typically negotiated after the Letter of Intent is agreed upon. In short, the warranties will provide that everything is as it has been represented.

Now, let’s look at the four key steps that are a must before the sale of a business can close. 

  1. Topping the list, is that the seller must provide satisfactory evidence that they have the full legal right to act on the behalf of the selling company. Additionally, the seller must show evidence that they have full legal authority to sell the business. 
  2. Secondly, all representations and warranties must be in place. Importantly, this will also include clearly stated remedies that are available to the buyer in the case of a seller’s breach. 
  3. Third, the buyer’s representative should have completed the due diligence process. A key part of the due diligence process is that any claims and representations made by the seller have been clearly substantiated and addressed. 
  4. Last, but certainly not least, necessary financing should have been secured. A critical part of the process is that all of the proper paperwork, as well as the appropriate liens, should be in place, as no funds can be released until these conditions have been met.

It is also important to note that there are two significant elements of closing that will take place simultaneously. 

  1. The first is the corporate closing which is the actual transfer of the corporate stock or assets. This step is based on the provisions set forth in the Purchase and Sales Agreement. All the paperwork that was carefully laid out in the Purchase and Sales Agreement has been completed. 
  2. The second major element is the financial closing. In the financial closing all the paperwork, as well as the legal documents needed to provide funding have successfully been executed.

While there is no doubt that closing is a joyous time, it is also vital to remember that the period leading up to closing is the time to have a laser-like focus. This is the most important time to avoid mistakes. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor can dramatically reduce your chances of experiencing mistakes during the all-important closing process.

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Lack of Experience Can Be a True Deal Killer

Most business owners are experts at running their specific businesses. They are not necessarily experts at selling businesses. This is where working with a seasoned brokerage professional can prove to be invaluable. 

As it turns out, there are endless examples of people trying to save money by simply finding an MBA to handle the sale of their business. Owners often will trust this person despite whether or not they have direct experience selling businesses. Sadly, the results from this decision can be very poor. 

Let’s take the example of a business owner who opted to let his nephew with a freshly minted MBA oversee the sale of his multi-location retail operation. The idea was that his nephew would help him save a great deal of money. Unfortunately, this idea simply didn’t work. His well-intended nephew’s inexperience proved to be a liability. 

Let’s take a look at some of the main problems that this business owner and his nephew faced:

Missing Legal Arrangements

One of the first problems is that neither the business owner nor the nephew realized how important confidentiality agreements were to the process of selling a business. This led to competitors learning that the business was for sale. Likewise, the lack of confidentiality agreements meant that everyone from key employees to clients, customers and suppliers could learn that the business was for sale.

Further, the nephew opted to use the company’s attorney instead of finding an attorney with experience in business transactions. The company attorney had never handled the sale of a large business before.

Incomplete Documentation

Another problem was that the nephew prepared what was supposed to be a Confidential Business Review/Confidential Information Summary – CBR/CIM. The review/summary prepared by the nephew failed to include proper financials, including a large sum taken by the owner. Importantly, there were no projections, ratios and other important information. This lack of information could easily lower the bids or simply cause prospective buyers to lose interest.

The way that the business owner and nephew handled the CFO was also an issue. They failed to bring in the CFO and did not execute a “stay” agreement. The nephew was confident that he could handle the financial details on his own. However, neither the owner nor the nephew realized that prospective buyers expected to meet the CFO as part of the due diligence process.

Failure to Properly Screen Candidates 

Finally, not only did the nephew not understand the importance of confidentiality agreements or the due diligence process, but he also failed to understand the importance of the screening process. The nephew failed to interview prospective buyers to discover whether or not they were serious and had the resources to buy the business. The failure to have a proper screening process served to both waste valuable time and spread the word that the business was for sale.

For most people, selling a business is the single most important financial decision of their lives. For this reason, it is critical to find experienced and competent assistance for the process. An experienced business broker or M&A advisor understands what is involved in selling a business. In other words, your nephew may be a great guy and he may want to help you, but without years of experience selling businesses, he simply isn’t the right person for the job.

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What to Consider Before Handing Your Business Over to the Next Generation

No business owner will be able to stay with their business indefinitely. For this reason, you will either have to eventually sell or hand your business off to the next generation. Let’s take a closer look at the concept of handing a business over to a family member and how you can make sure that the business is in optimal shape when the time comes. 

If you want your business to be prepared for succession and the next generation, you’ll want to repair any key problems before handing it over. Some experts advise putting your focus on evolving the business. One key recommendation is to focus on sales, marketing and distribution in the coming years, so that troublesome issues, such as sales plateaus, are properly addressed and hopefully circumvented.

Also, you’ll want to consider boosting communication with key employees so that current management understands where all the employees stand. Skilled and motivated employees are rare commodities, and they are absolutely critical to the future success of any business. For any business owner considering handing over their business to their children, employee skill level, motivation and commitment will be essential to the success of the business during a potential transition period.

Some people see their business as a form of job creation for their children, instead of being what it truly is, a business. For a wide variety of reasons, it may not be feasible for your descendants and relatives to take over the business. They may not be capable of the demands or they may simply have no interest. But if you are able to successfully pass it down, you’ll want to optimize their chances for success. 

Just as buying or selling a business involves preparation, the same holds true for handing the baton to the next generation. There is no replacement for advance planning. The sooner that you begin thinking about, and taking tangible steps to prepare for the next generation taking over the reins, the better off everyone will be.

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What Can Negatively Impact Your Chances of a Sale?

The last thing that any business owner wants is for a sale to fall through over something that was completely preventable. The good news is that with proper preparation and planning, these mistakes can be minimized or avoided altogether.

Workforce Issues

One of the top mistakes that business owners can make is allowing for an unstable workforce. It should come as no surprise that prospective buyers want to buy a business that produces consistent results. A key part of business stability resides in a stable workforce. Having a great product or service and then knowing that you have good dependable people to deliver those goods and services is essential. Buyers will be looking for this when they make their buying decisions. 

Faulty Recordkeeping

You can be very certain that any serious buyer will want to examine your books for the last several years. It is only prudent to expect that a prospective buyer will look at every part of your financials, including everything from your operating costs to your sales history. Proper recordkeeping will help convey the message that you are a responsible business owner, and this in turn, will increase the perceived value of your business.

Delayed Improvements

Delaying key investments and improvements may sound good for the foreseeable future, but it can be costly in the long run. It also points to a lack of vision and planning on the part of business owners. If you’d like to maintain your business’ value for when it is time to sell, you must constantly invest in your future. This will help your business thrive today and grow in the future. 

Another mistake that business owners can make is to fail to innovate. In a sense, this failure often goes hand-in-hand with a failure to invest in the business. A business that is not innovative is one that may be seen as a business that is not well positioned for the future. 

Of course, every industry is different. For this reason, it is important that business owners evaluate their business, the competition, and what opportunities exist if they embrace a constant stream of innovation. It is key to note that innovation is not always about making grandiose and costly moves. Quite often, innovation is the result of adopting a different mindset and finding small ways to boost customer or client satisfaction and reach new customers.

Failing to Work with Professionals 

Business brokers and M&A advisors understand all of these variables. They understand the mistakes that business owners can make when preparing to sell their business. Just as importantly, they understand the steps necessary to circumvent them. Working with a brokerage professional well before putting your business up for sale will dramatically increase your odds of a successful outcome. You’ll also want a solid team of other professionals including an experienced attorney and accountant.

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What You Need to Know About the Confidential Business Review

There are many different strategies that will likely be deployed during the sales process. In this article, we’ll focus on how to utilize the Confidential Business Review CBR and/or CIM. Frequently, the Confidential Business Review is also referred to as a Confidential Information Memorandum. But no matter what name is used, the CBR/CIM provides a pathway for obtaining the highest selling price possible.

It is important to understand that the CBR/CIM must be factual at its core. Yet simultaneously, the CBR/CIM can function as a promotional and sales tool. The CBR/CIM can be integrated with an Executive Summary in the document, which allows prospective buyers a way to learn more about the business.

Through the Executive Summary section of the CBR/CIM, prospective buyers can quickly gain insight into the key highlights of a given company. The outline should include key factors, such as an overview of the ownership and management structure as well as a description of both the business and financial highlights. The company’s products and services should also be covered in detail. Importantly, the CBR/CIM should include why the business is for sale and some information about the market.

A well-constructed Executive Summary helps to both guide and motivate a prospective buyer so that they become motivated to learn more and take action. The Executive Summary should grab hold of anyone who reads the high points and illuminate why your business is valuable.

Many variables can be included in the CBR/CIM. Everything from the history of your company and what it does for the markets it serves and the products it creates can all be found in this document. Other topics such as the current state of competition, your key customers, management, your growth strategies, various financial information and other important variables can all be included in a CBR/CIM.

The creation of a coherent and persuasive CBR/CIM, one that motivates a prospective buyer or their representative to take action, is an artform. Much like it is prudent to invest both time and resources to the creation of an excellent confidentiality agreement, the same holds true for the creation of a CBR/CIM.

Business Brokers and M&A Advisors are experts in the creation of key sales documents, such as the CBR/CIM. One of the quickest and easiest ways to create an excellent CBR/CIM is to work with an experienced Business Broker as they understand exactly what should be in an offering memorandum. This document may very well be the first important contact point with a prospective buyer. For this reason, it should be designed to work to your benefit in a variety of ways.

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Making the Most Out of Your Confidentiality Agreements

Great deals can quickly be derailed when confidentiality agreements are not properly used and observed. The number of headaches that can occur due to a failure to follow the requirements of a confidentiality agreement are rather extensive. Whether it is employees discovering the potential sale, to the loss of key customers or even alerting a competitor that your business is for sale, there is no end to the headaches that can arise when a confidentiality agreement is not in place or adhered to. Simply stated, adhering to confidentiality is one of the most important aspects of the entire sales process.

Thanks to a well-constructed confidentiality agreement, sellers can enjoy protection from the disclosure of critical and confidential information during the sales process. While confidential agreements may have originated as a way to safeguard against prospective buyers revealing information about a seller’s business, these agreements have evolved to consider numerous seller concerns. 

A good confidentiality agreement helps to protect all sorts of important details that may be revealed during the sales process including trade secrets and proprietary information. It can also outline the fact that a prospective buyer will not attempt to hire away key employees.

Considering the importance of a confidentiality agreement, it is well worth the time to create an agreement that covers all key areas. Everything from how confidential information should be shared to how breaches in confidentiality should be remedied must be addressed by a confidentiality agreement. It is not prudent to cut corners to save money and time when drafting a confidentiality agreement, as it is likely one of the most important business documents your business will ever create.

Just as no two businesses are the same, this fact holds true for the content of important legal documents. The sale of every business is a unique situation, and for that reason every confidentiality agreement must be tailored to fit the precise circumstances of the business.

Business brokers and M&A advisors are experts in the buying and selling of businesses. Part of that expertise extends to the creation and execution of confidentiality agreements, which are also sometimes referred to as non-disclosure agreements. 

At the end of the day, the last thing any business owner wants is for key information regarding their business to be revealed. Working closely with a brokerage professional is an important way for sellers to safeguard their confidentiality throughout the process.

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Discovering How to Leverage SBA Lending Options

For most entrepreneurs, finding the money to launch their first business stands as a tremendous challenge. The good news is that getting a loan through the Small Business Association (SBA) is turning out to be a viable option for many business owners.

The SBA doesn’t directly provide loans itself, but instead, works to facilitate lending. SBA assistance can even extend into the realm of micro-lending. It is very important for prospective buyers to realize that since SBA loans are government backed, lenders are typically much more willing to offer a prospective buyer a loan. Impressively, the SBA will cover seventy-five percent of a lender’s loss in the event that a loan ultimately goes into default.

Many entrepreneurs find the issue of collateral to be a challenging one. Once again, the SBA can be of assistance. In some cases, an SBA loan may bypass the need for collateral altogether.

Overall, SBA loans do in fact have a good deal in common with other types of loans. Prospective buyers should have all of their financial documentation ready and well organized. In short, prospective buyers should have all their information organized as they would when dealing with a bank without SBA involvement.

Not every prospective buyer will qualify, so the first step that should be taken is for a would-be business owner to check and verify that they do indeed qualify for a loan. The next step for a prospective buyer is to find a lender and complete all necessary SBA forms.

There are several factors that determine eligibility for an SBA loan. Here are the two top factors that are important for qualifying for a loan 

  1. The business must be based in the United States, the business must be a for-profit venture. 
  2. Prospective buyers should expect that their application will take two to three months to process once it has been submitted.

All too often, people assume that they simply won’t qualify for an SBA loan. The statistical data tells a different story. Every year, thousands of people are approved for SBA loans. It’s important to keep in mind that these loans are not just for those looking to buy a business. The SBA also helps existing businesses that are looking to expand.

For the end of 2023, the SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman announced that this year, the SBA delivered $50 billion and this included capital, disaster relief and small business support. Guzman stated, “The Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to simplifying and addressing persistent inequities in accessing capital to ensure all small business owners can get the funding needed to grow and create jobs for our economy. In Fiscal Year 2023, the SBA transformed its lending and investment programs and expanded its capital partners to deliver nearly $50 billion in startup, growth, and recovery capital, as well as surety bonds, including more small business lending to people of color, women, and veterans.” [1]

Business brokers and M&A advisors are experts in working with the SBA. Entrepreneurs looking to buy a business can benefit enormously from their years of SBA experience. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor can help you streamline the SBA process and dramatically increase your chances of success.

[1] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/sba-announces-biden-harris-administration-154000629.html

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Employees and the Long-Term Success of Your Business

There can be no doubt that the quality of your employees will directly impact the quality of your business and its long-term value. Employee quality and the success of your business are intrinsically linked. Unfortunately, far too many entrepreneurs learn this lesson too late, and their businesses suffer as a consequence. Employees who do not feel invested in a business and its long-term growth and success can damage your business on a daily basis. 

The quality of employees stands as one of the most important factors that entrepreneurs should consider before buying a business. With this fact in mind, it is critically important that business owners do everything possible to put together a great team. 

It’s important to keep in mind that your employees can be either an asset or a detriment to the success of your business. A dedicated and knowledgeable team of employees will help boost not only a business’s bottom line, but also its value when it comes time to sell.

Along similar lines, if you’re considering buying a business, you should take a careful look at how much work the current owner is responsible for and how well they are supported by the staff. If the owner is shouldering too much work and not relying on capable employees, then owner burnout can be a real possibility. Remember that the amount of work the current owner is doing could be what you’re facing down the line.

It is also important to consider the loyalty of employees and how likely it is that they may quit and join a competitor. Potential buyers should carefully evaluate employees and how they operate before signing on the dotted line.

At the end of the day, most businesses are only as strong as their employees and management. It should come as no surprise that employees who don’t feel invested and are just doing the “bare minimum” to not get fired are not the kind of employees that help build a successful business. 

A successful business is one with longevity, and the future of a business depends on employees that care about the business. In doing so, they will work to ensure customer or client satisfaction and loyalty. There are many variables that you must consider before deciding to buy a business, but buyers should never overlook the strength of employees.

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How Can You Find the Ideal Buyer for Your Business?

In the day-to-day routine of running your business, it is easy to forget that eventually the day will come when you need to sell. The last thing that any business owner wishes to discover is that they are ready to exit, but they are hopelessly underprepared. One of the key ways to prevent this from happening is to prepare for the sale of your business as far in the future as possible. 

1. Always Look Ahead to the Future

Many experts consider not having an exit strategy to be a risky endeavor. 

So, what are some of the most important steps that business owners need in preparation for selling their business? The first step is thinking about your exit strategy on the day you found your company. 

If you build your business while keeping an eye on the fact that you will one day be seeking to be acquired, then you will adjust your plans and strategies accordingly. All of this means understanding the market and knowing exactly what prospective buyers want from a business. In other words, the sale of your business should be built into its very foundation.

2. Think About Prospective Buyers 

There are a variety of reasons why acquisitions occur. For example, sometimes it is an entrepreneur looking for opportunities, and sometimes it is a business in the same industry that is looking to expand. The more you can learn about the motivating factors that cause individuals and entities to buy businesses, the better positioned you will be. 

3. Constantly Network 

Another good idea is to constantly network and make connections. The more people you know, the better off you will be. You may be running and developing your business for decades. During this time, get to know as many people in the industry as possible. 

While it may be necessary to modify the exit strategy in the future, having one in place serves to create an invaluable framework for when the time comes to sell. A savvy business owner will have a well thought out exit strategy in place at the very beginning.   

When you work with a business broker or M&A advisor, you will also benefit from their professional connections and years of networking with buyers. Selling a business is all about preparation, making connections, and finding the right advisors and partners.

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Key Steps for All First Time Buyers

Are you a first-time business buyer? If so, it is critical that you work with a business broker or M&A advisor. If you’ve never purchased a business before, you simply can’t anticipate all that is involved in buying a business. 

Buying a business is vastly different than buying a home, which is typically the largest purchase that most first-time business buyers have made. Sometimes buyers assume that since they have made large investments before, they will have a leg up in the business buying process. However, they typically quickly find out that they still need a great deal of assistance to navigate the complexities of the business buying process.  

Business brokerage professionals know the process, the lay of the land, and the players involved. Additionally, business brokers and M&A advisors know where the traps and pitfalls are located. When it comes time to buy a business, all prospective business buyers can benefit from a guide. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the steps that are involved in purchasing a business. 

Sign a Confidentiality Agreement

Prospective business buyers should always be ready to sign a confidentiality agreement. It is important to put yourself in the shoes of the seller. They have invested a great deal of their lives in their business and allowing someone to peak behind the curtain can be a stressful prospect. Signing a confidentiality agreement is an initial sign of good faith.

Investigate the Business

Next, you’ll want to gather a good deal of information about the business. Once more, working with a business broker or M&A advisor is a prudent move as business brokers understand what kind of information should be acquired. They have an understanding of how to uncover important information that might otherwise go unseen.

Armed with as much relevant information as possible and an experienced brokerage professional, you’ll want to carefully evaluate the business in question. With the right information and experienced professionals at your side, you can be sure that you are making a wise investment. 

Make Your Decision 

The next step is to either decide to make an offer or pass on the business. You and your business brokerage professional will carefully evaluate a range of information including financial statements and tax returns. When choosing to make an offer, it is important that all key details are clearly laid out in writing, and this includes contingencies. 

Finding the right business for you, in part, means determining what kind of business you truly want to own. The good news is that business brokers and M&A advisors are experts in every point examined in this article, and they can even assist prospective business buyers with determining what type of business is a good fit. The sooner you begin charting out a plan, the greater your chances of finding the right business for your unique needs, preferences, and specifications.

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What Are the Financial Considerations of Seller Financing?

Deciding how the purchase of a business should be structured is no small task. If you are planning to help finance the sale of your business, you’ll want to tackle this issue very early in the sale process. When it comes to small business sales, a high percentage of deals include some seller financing. Here are some of the most important things you’ll want to think about beforehand.

Interest Rates

The simple fact is that interest rates cannot be overlooked. In an era where interest rates continue to climb, the future rates are far from certain. That’s why it is critically important to factor in interest rates to your buying decision. In the event that you find a buyer, you’ll need to decide what is the acceptable interest rate for a seller financed sale.

The Buyer and Debt

It is also quite important to know whether or not a buyer will assume any long-term debt or secured debt. Early in the process, you’ll want to address this topic and come to a conclusion regarding the optimal path forward. If there are favorable terms, this usually means a higher sales price.

Taxes

There will, of course, be tax implications to the sale. It is only prudent to work well in advance with a tax professional, to understand every tax implication. You should gain an understanding of how the taxes will work long before a sale takes place. You’ll also want to talk to an experienced attorney to understand the legal implications of seller financing.

Without a doubt, there will be tax implications that affect your sale. That’s why you’ll need to understand what those implications are and what it will mean for you.

Additional Costs

Just as taxes can throw a curveball into the mix, this fact holds true for additional costs. You’ll want to consider if there are any unsecured creditors that still need to be paid in full. Closing costs are another commonly overlooked issue. It is prudent to determine whether or not the seller plans on paying for part of the closing costs. Closing costs, just like taxes, can be sizable and should not be overlooked.

Knowing Your Lowest Price

Before walking into any negotiation, you need to know what is your lowest price. It can take months or even years for a business to sell. You need to know what your lowest price is for when the day comes that an offer is made. 

Working with a business broker or M&A advisor is a savvy way to address all of these issues well in advance. There are many factors that go into the sale of a business and having an experienced professional by your side is simply invaluable.

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Prepare for Your Exit When You Launch Your Business

You’ll often hear business brokers and M&A advisors say that the right time to prepare for your exit is when you first launch. By that they mean that it’s important to always be thinking about how to optimize your business so that it is streamlined for an eventual sale.  Some of the savviest entrepreneurs and business owners are also thinking about partnering with those who will ultimately want to buy their businesses, even if the prospective sale of their business is many years away. It is easy to see why so many top-level entrepreneurs feel this way, as it is prudent to plan for the outcome you want from the very beginning.

It Pays to Think Ahead

The simple fact is that in most endeavors in life, it pays to think ahead. Selling a business is no exception. The rate of businesses that are being acquired is rising significantly. In a recent study at the University of Maryland, researchers found that in the last three decades the rate of venture capital-backed startups that have been acquired has soared from 10% to 90%.[1]

Anyone building a business should build that company in such a way that it will be appealing for acquisition down the line. Thinking about who the ideal buyer might be will help you to properly shape your business operations.  

Many owners have an eye on businesses that work to serve similar markets. You may also want to think about how your product and your business model work to address an overlooked need within the existing customer base of that larger entity. If you can clearly show that acquiring your company will instantly lead to new business, then much of the battle is already won. By finding customers that a business is overlooking, you have positioned your business to be an attractive target for acquisition. 

Have a Success Oriented Strategy from Day One

In short, company founders must understand their customer, their product, and why a customer will want and need what they offer. Being able to attract the right talent is also important. If a successful staff is firmly in place, your business will be far more attractive to potential buyers.

Understanding from day one the path of your startup and where you want to go will make all the difference in your success. It is important to remember that it is much easier to build an acquisition friendly company from day one than it is to retrofit your existing company years down the road.  

1. The Great Startup Sellout and the Rise of Oligopoly

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The Different Buyers You Might Encounter

If you’re selling a business for the first time, you might have a preconceived notion of the type of buyer that’s most likely to purchase your business. However, the truth is that sellers often get competitive and attractive offers from buyers that they were not expecting to have an interest in their business. Let’s take a look at some of the variety of buyers you might encounter on the path to selling your business.

Your Family Members

One common buyer would be a member or members of your family. One of the advantages to selling to family members is they already may have a deep understanding of what it means to own and operate your business. As a result, they may feel more prepared. 

On the other hand, just because someone is your family member does not mean they have the chops to actually run your business. Further, if you sell to a family member, you may end up dealing with someone who has less cash available to buy.

Competitors and Synergistic Buyers

You may not have warm fuzzy feelings towards your competitors, but the truth is that you need to be open to the idea of receiving offers from them. In fact, many competitors immediately look to their competition first when they decide they are going to expand their business. Your competitors make a lot of sense as good candidates because they understand your industry. Purchasing your business represents a viable way to rapidly expand their own offering with products and/or geographical reach.

Along similar lines, synergistic buyers acquire new companies in order to leverage their existing operations. You will find these buyers are typically larger entities in the same or related industries. In buying your business, their goal is to support and quickly add value to their current organization.

Individual Owner Operators

Many sellers end up with a deal on the table from an individual buyer. There are definite advantages associated with this type of buyer including the fact that it can streamline the sales process when you are dealing with one person rather than a group. Individual buyers oftentimes have corporate experience that helps them to effectively take over and manage a business. Another advantage to the individual buyer is that he or she oftentimes has a personal interest in the business and plans to successfully operate and improve it. 

Financial Buyers

A financial buyer is most interested in their ROI. They will zero in on finding out about the cash flow and long-term exit strategies. These investors are typically only interested in very solid companies that are generating solid revenue. They will be less likely to want to take the time to make changes and improvements, so they will expect healthy returns on their investment on day one. 

Your business broker or M&A advisor will help you understand the pros and cons of various buyers when it comes to your unique situation. Ultimately, you’ll find the type of buyer that is best suited to buy your business and that fulfills your needs and goals simultaneously. 

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The Complexities of Business Valuations

Many buyers and sellers are not aware of the complexities that go into appraisals for businesses. To get the most accurate results, a business needs to be looked at from a variety of angles. When completing a business valuation, we look at everything from comparable businesses to EBITDA. There are a lot of nuances involved that are customized depending on the business at hand. Without looking at a wide range of factors, you could accidentally get less for your business than what it’s really worth. 

What Will Be Important for Your Buyer?

When you’re selling a business, part of the fair market value of your business relates to benefits that your buyer will receive. Obviously, your valuation will include factors such as market share and profitability that a buyer will enjoy. But there are also less obvious factors. For example, is there potential for the business to expand beyond its current niche? What is the competition like? What about access to customers? 

Current Trends 

Also brought into consideration should be trends that will impact the business. These trends could be everything from trends in technology to economic or social changes. In some cases, business trends might make a business much more valuable. For example, due to the recent pandemic and fast adaptation of online conferences, companies that integrated video conferencing had a major edge over those that did not. 

When business owners are aware of emerging market trends, it allows them to develop new offerings to meet current demand. In turn, this can boost business growth and increase a business valuation. 

The Workforce

Recent workforce issues have definitely impacted the value of businesses across the board. If you have a strong, highly trained and dependable workforce, it will help to increase the value of your business. If your staff members are customer-facing, positive customer experiences will drive revenue growth. Further, buyers will feel more confident buying a business with a reliable roster of employees.  

There are many questions that will affect your buyer and those should be considered in the price you ultimately decide upon. The savviest business owners are always thinking about trends in society and how to work with them to strengthen the value of their business. They will also consider the decisions made by their competitors and how they impacted their businesses for better or worse. 

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Why Do Sellers Often Face an Array of Surprises?

Experts recommend that sellers prepare years before they plan to put their businesses up for sale, and there are many good reasons why they make this recommendation. A wide range of factors can interfere with the sale of a business, ranging from life changes like divorce and burnout to a new competitor moving into town. Preparing to sell your business in advance will help prepare you for the day you need to sell, whenever that day may be. Now, let’s take a look at a few of the surprises that sellers may face when selling their company.

Time Commitments

Topping the list of surprises that sellers often face is the time commitment involved. As almost any business owner will tell you, it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort just to run a business. Adding the additional variable of putting a business up for sale can be a real strain on a business owner’s time and resources. The idea that one can simply put a business up for sale and “the rest will take care of itself” is very rarely the case. 

Most businesses take many months or even years to sell even with considerable effort put into the process by both the business owner and brokerage professionals. Prospective buyers can take up a considerable amount of time to deal with, and this is one of the many reasons it is important to work with a business broker or M&A advisor. A competent brokerage professional has expertise in determining if a potential buyer is worth the time, effort and money it will cost by you and licensed Deal Team professionals such as attorneys and CPAs – vetting a buyer’s ability to close on the sale of your business – saving you a great deal of time and aggravation.

Documentary Requirements 

Sellers are often unaware of just how much documentation must be compiled for the Confidential Business Review (CBR) alone. However, the CBR is key in the selling process. If you’re selling your business in the near future, be prepared to compile, create and review a lot of documents. 

Shared Decision Making

Of course, there are many other variables that must be considered when a seller makes the decision to sell their business. Minority stockholders or family members with an interest in the business must be taken into consideration. 

Typically, sellers are accustomed to handling most of the key decisions regarding their business. This approach might work for running a business, but it can be quite challenging when it comes time to sell. Everyone from members of the management team to lawyers, accountants, and, of course, business brokers or M&A advisors, must be involved in the process. 

Owners simply cannot realistically handle every aspect of getting a business ready to be sold. Usually, the requirements of the sale process are too diverse and complex to be handled effectively by one individual.

While the above-mentioned surprises are often the most common, a wide range of other factors can often be unexpected. These factors range from sellers accidentally decreasing the value of their businesses due to failing to maintain normal business operations during the sale which can decrease the value of the business to confidentiality leaks. 

Selling a business is a complex process. Many business owners feel that since they are accustomed to the complexities of operating a business that they can handle the complexities of selling a business. The reality of the situation is quite different. 

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The Main Reasons Why the Sale of Your Business Can Fall Through

Selling any business can be complicated. Finding the right buyer is one hurdle that must be overcome. However, even once the right buyer has been found, there are still many reasons why a deal can collapse. 

Unpredicted Events 

It is important to realize that you can do everything perfectly and “acts of fate” can still intervene and impede the success of your deal. For example, one issue is that you might not be able to satisfy the buyer in regards to demonstrating the earnings of the business. 

A second issue is that during the sales process problems may arise with federal, state and/or local government bodies and agencies. Many of these problems may be quite difficult to predict in advance. A third issue is that the buyer’s investigation ultimately reveals some problem regarding the business that was previously unknown. 

Simply stated, a seller cannot guard against every single possible unforeseen act of fate. The best any seller can do is look for potential problems and try to remedy them in advance. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor can be an excellent way to identify all types of business problems and adjust accordingly.

Buyer Issues

Another major reason that deals can fall through are issues with the buyer. Many sellers are just “testing the waters” or lack the commitment and resolve to see the sales process through, which is often much more complicated than many sellers realize. This issue marks the importance of working with an experienced business broker or M&A advisor who hopefully can weed out these uncommitted buyers in the beginning. 

Often buyers will fail to be honest about their situation or how capable they are of buying the business. Business brokers are experts at assessing the potential of interested buyers, and that means they can typically save sellers a great deal of time and aggravation. But even with the best brokerage professionals on your side, it’s important to realize that buyers can still be unpredictable. 

Third-Party Interference 

A particular source of deal killing frustration can be that buyers are influenced by third-parties who are opposed to the purchasing of the business, for a variety of reasons, and will work to kill the deal regardless of its merits. Everyone from landlords who may not want to transfer a lease or grant a new one to outside business consultants, such as attorneys, may all intentionally or unintentionally create a range of problems that interfere with the success of the sale.

There are many pitfalls that can derail the successful sale of a business. Identifying those kinds of issues far in advance is one way to dramatically boost your chances of a successful sale. Working with an experienced business broker or M&A advisor can help to dramatically increase the odds of finding the right buyer for your business.

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Help Buyers to Understand How You Excel

No business is perfect, but when you are preparing your business to be sold, it is imperative that you lead with your strengths. That’s why it is important to work with a business broker or M&A advisor to identify, catalog and work to remedy any weaknesses. When presenting your business to prospective buyers, focus on your key selling points first and what makes you really stand out from the crowd. You want to sell a prospective buyer on the value of your business and its long-term potential before addressing any shortcomings or areas that need to be improved. 

Most business owners who are selling a business are doing so for the first time. If you’ve never sold a business before then there are many mistakes and traps that can befall you. Selling a business is typically not a fast and easy process, but can instead take many months or even years. 

Working with a business broker is one way to ensure that the process goes smoothly, but there are other steps that you can take to help ensure that your business sells. At the top of the list of steps business owners can take to help their business sell is to maintain normal operations. Again, it is very unlikely that your business will sell as soon as it hits the market. To protect the value of your business and to avoid financial trouble, you have to maintain normal business operations throughout the sales process.

The next key step to take is to get your business ready. It likely took years, or even decades, to get your business to where it is today. You shouldn’t expect that preparing your business to be placed on the market should be an overnight process. One of the best ways to properly present your business is to inspect every aspect of your business and its operations. In this way, you’ll discover what areas need work and what strengths are best to promote. 

Brokerage professionals know where the competitive advantages of businesses reside and have an understanding of what buyers really want. An incorrectly priced business can scare away otherwise excellent potential buyers. The same holds true for poorly organized paperwork and financial records. In short, the preparation you make now to sell your business later can be invaluable for achieving the results you seek.

At the end of the day, you must remember that selling your business is a financial transaction. Like all kinds of sales, you must understand not only what the buyer needs but what they want as well. Not every business is right for every buyer. 

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Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before Purchasing a Business

Truly understanding a business is much like understanding the condition of a car. It is necessary for a skilled mechanic to “pop the hood” to access the true condition of a car. In much the same way, you and your team of experts need to “pop the hood” of the business in order to understand the business’s long-term health and viability. Here are four things to consider before signing on the dotted line.

Will You Enjoy the Work?

Owning a business, especially if you are planning on being an owner-operator, can be a demanding path. You will likely have to log many hours, especially in the beginning. For this reason, you’ll want to select a business that you will enjoy owning. 

Life is too short to own a business that you would not want to be involved in. Importantly, if you do not like the business you own, the odds of facing burnout and losing interest are higher. It goes without saying that these kinds of obstacles can dramatically harm your business. Think long and hard before selecting a business to buy, as it is a decision that you will have to live with for years to come.

Did You Examine the Business Plan?

A second factor to consider is that there is no replacement for a good business plan. When you are considering buying a business, you’ll want to dive in and understand every aspect of the current owner’s business plan. If the business plan has major holes or just doesn’t seem to be adding up, you should move on.

Do You Understand the Financials?

Similar to understanding the particulars of a business’s business plan, it is also critical that you have a very precise and clear view of a business’s financials. You should look over everything from profit and loss statements to tax returns and more. It is a smart idea to consult your accountant and a brokerage professional regarding what financial documents you should review. Before you buy a business is the time to understand every small detail of a business’s financial health, not after.

How is the Business Performing? 

A fourth factor to consider when evaluating a business is the business’s overall performance. It is possible for a business to have a good business plan (at least on paper) and strong financials and yet it could still have a less than stellar future. Oftentimes, the true health of a business lies beyond the business plan and the current financials. 

You’ll need to know about a wide variety of factors including how vulnerable the business is to competition, changes in market forces, the status of key management and employees, the relationship with key suppliers and customers, and any pending litigation. When buying a business, you simply can’t afford to overlook any area.

If you keep an eye on these four key areas, and work closely with experienced professionals like business brokers or M&A advisors, your odds of finding the right business for you will skyrocket. Owning a business that you love will greatly increase your chances of success, so don’t underestimate the emotional factor in the equation. 

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Take These Steps Before Buying a Business

If you’re buying a business, you might be feeling overwhelmed about all the details that are involved, especially if it’s your first business. Buying a business is certainly no small task, and that’s why you’ll want to dive into the process headfirst and make sure that you’ve carefully examined the business. 

Here are some of the most important elements to consider. While some of these aspects don’t immediately come to buyer’s minds, they should be high on your list of considerations. 

Legal Documents

Reviewing legal documents might not seem like the most enjoyable task, but this activity should be one of the first things you will want to do before buying a business. Most worthwhile businesses will have a long list of legal documents to show, ranging from documents showing trademarks and copyrights to consulting agreements.

Tax Documents

When it comes to paperwork, tax documents are obviously also a necessary element to review. Some things that you should be watching for are forms that do not adhere to the IRS rules. It goes without saying that you don’t want to be the one taking responsibility for a previous owner’s error. 

Business & Retirement Documents

The list of documents you’ll want to review doesn’t end there, as you’ll also want to check into retirement documents such as balance sheets, investment statements, and income statements. You’ll want to ensure that all of the qualified and non-qualified retirement programs run by the business are up to date. You might need to check the parameters of the Department of Labor’s rules. 

Work with a Business Brokerage Professional

Your business broker or M&A advisor will take you through the due diligence process to help you make sure that all aspects of the business have been reviewed thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line. Be sure to work with an experienced individual who is proactive when it comes to making sure all of your questions have been answered to your satisfaction. 

The items on your to-do list might seem overwhelming at first, but remember that a lot of focus and effort now will save you a ton of hassles and issues later. And you might end up dodging a bullet by spotting a serious issue that causes you to change your mind about a business. Always be sure to protect yourself and your best interests. 

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Why You Should Address Your Company’s Weaknesses Head On

By spotting your company’s weaknesses you can take steps to remedy them and improve operations, however, this is only the beginning of the benefits derived from spotting these types of issues. You should be the world’s foremost expert on your company and the investment that it represents. Identifying and repairing any negative issues will pay dividends both today and potentially for the life of your company. 

There are many areas of weakness that companies may experience. In this article, we’ll look at a few of the key areas that many share

Workforce Issues

An area of business weakness that is receiving a good deal of well-deserved attention in recent years are problems related to the workforce. Workforce headaches are varying between industries and sectors. It has been well documented that young people are not entering trades in the numbers needed to replace retiring workers. This is a fact that is causing significant headaches for many businesses. An aging workforce will impact some businesses more significantly than others. Understanding the labor situation as it pertains to your business is a critical move for any business owner.

Overreliance 

Being overly reliant on any one supplier, customer, product line or even employee or group of employees, may have an impact on your business in a number of ways.  Supply chain interruptions, disruption to income and cash flows, labor shortages and a diminishment in the perceived value of your business by future buyers are just a few of the issues you may encounter. Diversification isn’t just a smart way to handle one’s portfolio, but is also a smart way to address your business plan. If your business is overly reliant in any one area, it is a good idea to measure the risk vs. reward and seek out ways to diversify if necessary. Your business will be stronger and worth more in the end.

General Industry Decline

Nothing lasts forever. Once upon a time, the country’s landscape was littered with Blockbuster Videos, but today Blockbuster Video has joined the vast and great technological dinosaurs of the past. 

There is no escaping the fact that industries change. Being on the tail end of that change without a transition plan to meet new and potentially more profitable opportunities is not a good place to be. One of your key jobs as a business owner is to identify issues and problems within your industry and adapt, ideally ahead of the competition. Part of this adaptation may ultimately include knowing when it is time to exit your business entirely.

Business brokers and M&A advisors specialize in helping business owners spot weaknesses and then strategize to make significant improvements. The world of business is changing and evolving faster than ever before. Engaging with experienced advisors who can help you navigate this flurry of ongoing change could spell the difference between success and failure; while greatly improving the value of your business, rewarding you handsomely in your retirement.

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Getting the Most out of a Partnership Agreement

As an entrepreneur and business owner, your partnership agreement stands as one of the most important business documents you will sign. Business structures can be as complicated as the people that create those businesses. Quite often, business owners create businesses with friends or loved ones and, as a result, will not have a proper partnership agreement in place. 

It’s important to note that not having a partnership agreement in place is a mistake. There are too many unknowns and too many variables not to have this essential document. You need a legal framework to protect your business from the vast array of potential pitfalls that may have an impact. 

The Key Elements of a Solid Partnership Agreement

At the top of the list of every partnership agreement is a clear outline and understanding of rights and responsibilities. All too often partnerships run into trouble as the rights and responsibilities of the parties aren’t clearly thought through and then outlined in a partnership agreement. 

Mapping out rights and responsibilities will help eliminate problems in the future. A partnership agreement should be seen as a serious legal document. As such, it is prudent to work with an experienced lawyer in the area of partnership agreements.

What Every Partnership Agreement Should Address

At the top of the list, every partnership agreement should address how money is to be distributed and which partner(s) will receive a draw. The issue of who will contribute funds so that the business becomes operational should be very plainly spelled out in the partnership agreement. A failure to address this issue could end the business before it even gets off the ground. 

Issues such as what percentage each partner will receive and who will be in charge are two additional key areas that should never be overlooked. In terms of issues that are frequently overlooked by those forming a partnership, it is common for those forming a partnership to overlook long-term issues such as what is to happen in the event of the death of a partner, what steps are to be taken to bring in a new partner, and how business decisions are made.

Without a solid partnership agreement in place, business owners may find themselves in the last place they want to be, namely, court. A lengthy court battle can weaken your business in a very wide range of ways including a hit to company morale as well as the loss of key customers and employees. A legal battle between business partners can destroy what would otherwise be a healthy and thriving business. 

The time you invest in the creation of a business agreement is time and money well spent. In fact, it is safe to state that a business agreement might just turn out to be one of the greatest investments you ever make.

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The Tremendous Importance of Maintaining Confidentiality When Selling Any Business

When the time comes to sell a business, any business, confidentiality must be placed at the top of the list. One of the quickest ways to damage any business that is for sale is for confidentiality to be breached. Once confidentiality is breached it can be difficult, or even impossible, to contain or repair the damage. No business in any industry is exempt from this rule.

It is no accident that savvy and experienced entrepreneurs, business owners, attorneys, accountants and business brokers are dedicated to maintaining seller confidentiality. A single breach of confidentiality can potentially destroy a business or, at the very least, negatively impact its value. A breach of confidentiality, even if it doesn’t destroy a business, can tarnish its reputation and ultimately deflate its value. 

When it becomes public that a business is for sale, there are many potential negative ramifications. Key employees, customers and suppliers may all think that it is time to begin looking elsewhere. The loss of even one key employee, customer or supplier could have significant ramifications for your business. Employees may worry about the stability of their position and begin looking for employment elsewhere. Worst of all, employees may take their knowledge and expertise to a competitor and, in the process, weaken your business. 

Employees in management positions may leave and, in the process, create a massive hole in your organization that will be difficult to fill, especially in a timely manner. Key customers and suppliers, worried about disruptions, may take their business elsewhere. All of these variables can combine to negatively impact your bottom line and potentially decrease the value of your business overnight. 

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, there is the very real problem of the competition. If the competition discovers that your business is for sale, they may share this information with your key suppliers and customers. Your competitors may become very aggressive in their quest to steal your customers and take advantage of the situation.

A breach of confidentiality can severely hamper your ability to sell your business. Business brokers and M&A advisors are experts at maintaining confidentiality through all stages of the sales process. We do more than simply have prospective buyers sign confidentiality agreements. Experienced business brokerage professionals will vet potential buyers to ensure that they are not just window shopping or gathering information, but are instead, truly serious about buying your business. 

Working on your behalf to ensure that a prospective buyer is a serious buyer is one of the best ways that we can protect confidentiality. The process of selling a business is a complex one, and at its foundation is taking steps to maintain confidentiality.

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3 Tips for Mapping out An Easy Retirement Transition

Business owners are usually too busy running their business to deal with the fact that retirement will arrive one day. Ultimately, every business owner walks away from their business. The sooner you start preparing for that day, the better off you’ll be.

Whether it is an established location, relationships with customers and suppliers, or an understanding of a given industry, an established business has much to offer. Prospective buyers also know the benefits of buying a business with a track record.

Simply stated, no one is a greater expert on your business than you. That means you are positioned to evaluate your business and help map out a plan so that there is a smooth transition from buyer to seller. Let’s take a look at some tips for getting the best price on your deal and making that transition a little easier.

1. Have a Second-in-Command

This first tip is one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Develop and have a competent, dependable, and proven second in command. Any prospective buyer evaluating your business will feel much more confident with the idea of taking over if they know there is a responsible and experienced professional waiting in the wings to support the transition and beyond.

Buying a new business can be an intimidating prospect, especially if the buyer has never owned a business before. Acquiring a business with a competent second in command in place will serve to ease a prospective buyer’s many apprehensions while boosting their confidence that their plan to buy and operate your business will be successful.

2. Streamline Operations

A second key tip for business owners looking for ways to ensure an easy transition is to streamline operations. A lot goes into operating a successful business and the more you can streamline that process, the more attractive your business will be to any prospective buyer. This could be everything from creating operations manuals to improving training for staff members.

3. Be Transparent Wherever and Whenever Possible

Everybody wants to be loved…but when it comes to business it’s best as a business owner for your employees, customers and vendors to be more in love with your business than you.  Communicating with key employees, customers and vendors early on in the process can help ensure a smooth transition.  Deciding how and when to have these communications can be tricky however, and seeking outside counsel may be your best course of action in this regard.

Any prospective buyer who is considering buying a business will feel much more comfortable after learning that key employees, customers and vendors will all be motivated and ready to work with the new owner. One of the top fears of any prospective buyer is that they will buy the business only to see critical team members quit, key customers take their business elsewhere, or have to deal with supply disruptions. No one expects you to work forever so, the earlier transparent communications can take place about “one day…”, the easier the ultimate reality of a transition will be.

Finally, any business owner considering selling their business should explore working with a business broker or M&A advisor. Business brokers understand what it takes to ease the diverse fears that buyers have when it comes to buying a business. A business broker or M&A advisor’s expertise and knowledge base can prove invaluable for helping business owners chart the best path forward and get their businesses sold.

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What is the Best Time to Sell Your Company?

The old saying that “timing is everything,” usually applies to selling one’s business. Ultimately, every business owner will have to exit their business, and the sooner one prepares to sell, the better the final results will be. 

With each passing year, more and more baby boomers are reaching retirement age. In many cases, this means that they have no choice but to sell their businesses. The time is now upon us where a simply massive number of businesses will be put up for sale. 

Statistics and studies back up this claim. Studies show that people born between 1946 and 1964 make up 40% of small business owners, and about 10,000 baby boomers retire every single day. 1 Business owners who get out in front of this pending avalanche stand to benefit considerably.

There are many other good reasons to sell. Many business owners find that general burnout, and especially the burnout associated with operating a business during the pandemic, is prompting them to think about selling. Burnout isn’t just unpleasant for a business owner, but it can also be dangerous for the well-being and longevity of the business itself. An owner experiencing burnout is an owner who is unlikely to make the best decisions and seize on new opportunities. The results of burnout can be staggering and range from a loss of customers to getting caught off guard by new and existing competitors. In the end, burnout can dramatically decrease the value of a business or even destroy it.

The economy is bouncing back from the pandemic, and that can mean that right now is a great time to sell. If the covid pandemic reinforced any truism, it reminded us that the world and regional and global economies can change in a heartbeat. There are many complex variables on the table. 

Simply stated, we are in a period of uncertainty, and that makes predicting the future of the marketplace harder than in recent decades. These facts, combined with the current strong economy, point towards now potentially being a good time to sell your business.

Most business owners have never sold a business before, but instead, they have spent a sizable chunk of their professional careers building up their business. As a result, most business owners don’t know what it takes to successfully sell a business. Working with a proven business broker, one with years of experience, is a smart way to evaluate your current situation and determine if now is the right time to sell your business.

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[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/markhall/2022/01/25/unsexy-but-thriving-businesses-the-hidden-opportunity-gifted-to-us-by-baby-boomers/?sh=338393134620

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Why is Employee Satisfaction So Important?

Your employees are the heart and soul of your business. Therefore, if you want a thriving business, you need to put their satisfaction at the top of your list. After all, if your employees are not happy, this level of negativity will eventually spread to your customers and clients. Before you know it, you may see your level of profits and success decrease. Any time you spend thinking about positive changes in your workplace will be well worth your time and energy. 

Hiring Processes

Be sure to pay careful attention to your hiring processes and the ways that you evaluate candidates. When you hire a new employee, this is the start of a relationship that will ultimately impact your business in a wide variety of ways. It’s worth the time to make the job attractive and be as accurate as possible when it comes to your job descriptions. Make sure that anyone at your company who is involved in the interview or selection process is professional and thoroughly coached on best hiring practices.  

Steps to Ensure Employee Satisfaction

Once your employees are on board, it’s a good idea to take active steps to ensure that they are positive about their jobs. Oftentimes, business owners make the mistake of assuming that their employees will naturally be dedicated to their jobs and the tasks at hand. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Therefore, you must take steps to ensure that your staff members feel motivated. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Offer competitive compensation 
  • Offer benefits
  • Show appreciation for employee contributions
  • Offer rewards such as praise and bonuses
  • Offer days off for holidays, birthdays, and vacations
  • Be respectful of all employees
  • Ask staff members for their feedback and implement changes
  • Provide opportunities for career development 
  • Help build relationships among staff members

When your employees are not happy, their stress and negativity will undoubtedly rub off on your customers. Further, their unhappiness will be more likely to make them miss days or work, whether it’s due to illness caused by stress or just the fact that they are unmotivated. Further, satisfied employees will be more likely to be productive and stay with your business for a long time. 

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What Serious Buyers Look For

Obviously, serious buyers want to carefully look at the financials of a company under consideration and all of the other major aspects of the company. However, there are a few other areas that the serious buyer will investigate that sellers may overlook.

The Industry – The buyer will want to take a serious look at the industry itself, the customers, the suppliers, the competition, etc. This investigation will cover the strengths, weaknesses, threats from competition, and opportunities of the potential acquisition. With the growth of the “big box” retailers, much power has shifted from the manufacturer to the retailer. A manufacturer may want to increase prices, but if Wal-Mart says no, it’s a very powerful no.

Discretionary Costs – Some sellers will reduce their expenses in discretionary areas such as advertising, public relations, research and development, thus making for a higher bottom line. However, these cuts will hurt the future bottom line, and smart buyers will take notice of this.

Obsolete Inventory – This is another area that buyers take a serious look at and that can impact the purchase price. No one wants to pay for inventory that is unusable, antiquated or unsalable.

Wages and Salaries – A company may be paying minimum wages, or offering few or low-cost benefits, a limited retirement program, etc. These cost-saving devices will make the bottom line look good, but employee turnover may create expensive problems later on. If the target company is to be absorbed by another, compensation issues could be critical.

Capital Expenditures – The serious buyer will take a very close look at machinery and equipment to make sure they are up to date and on par with, or superior to, that of the competition. Replacing outdated equipment can modify projections and may affect an offering price.

Cash Flow – Serious buyers will take a long look at the cash flow statements and the areas that affect them. The buyer wants to know that the business will continue to generate positive cash flow after the acquisition (i.e.: after servicing the debt and after paying a reasonable salary to the owner or general manager).

Other areas that sellers overlook, but that the serious buyer does not are: internal controls/systems, financial agreements with lenders, governmental controls, anti-trust issues, legal matters and environmental concerns.

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The Benefits of an Advisory Council

Experts recommend considering adding an advisory council to your business. This informal board would provide strategic advice on business management related issues. An advisory council would be in place to provide advice to your business, but unlike a board of directors, they will not actually make the key decisions. Further, while a board of directors often has equity in the business, an advisory council does not. Of course, an advisory council is not right for every business. You will typically see them in businesses that are making between 3 and 25 million. 

Consider Your Strengths and Weaknesses

There are many fundamental needs of a business and most entrepreneurs are good at one or two, but cannot excel in every area. The advisory council, as well as other outside experts, can be a great way to fill in the gaps in an entrepreneur’s abilities. 

Beyond understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a company, it is also important for an advisory council to understand the goals of the business and create a business strategy. Understanding the lifetime goals of the entrepreneur, what they want to accomplish, and the work necessary to reach those goals, are all of vital importance.

Time Commitments Involved

In terms of the time commitment involved, experts say that the best approach is to limit the number of advisory council meetings to 12 per year, with 3 quarterly meetings onsite with each meeting lasting approximately 3 to 4 hours. Additionally, you may want to consider 1 lunch meeting per year and sporadic Zoom meetings. 

Implementing Recommendations 

Having an advisory council and implementing their recommendations are, of course, two different things. It is important that any plans also have reasonable time frames as well as a facilitator that can serve to motivate staff.  

An advisory council can be extremely valuable in that they provide a new perspective on the business. While there is no doubt that creating and maintaining an advisory council may be a lot of work, there are ample potential benefits to consider. Additionally, the process of creating an advisory council and implementing their recommendations can dramatically increase the value and salability of your business. 

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Cultivating Your Brand Strategy

Your brand is a customer’s perception about your business. It determines how they feel about the services and product that you offer. A consistent brand message over time will shape what clients and customers think about you and what you stand for. As a business owner, you need to be able to answer the following important question: why should customers care about you?

Every business owner has to think about the art of branding in order to build a stronger and more robust organization. This should incorporate the art of storytelling and the science of strategy in order to build a dynamic and memorable brand. 

Relationships with Your Clients

In creating a brand, it is vital to remember that brand creation ultimately takes place in the mind of the consumer. Each individual consumer will create their own version of the brand based on his or her perception. 

At the core of the entire process is building trust. The goal, both in the short-term and the long-term, is for customers to feel safe enough that they are confident in you and the products and services that you offer. Central to building that trust is demonstrating, in a clear and coherent fashion, what you are going to deliver and how you are going to deliver it.  

Learning from Branding Gurus

Seth Godin wrote, “Brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” With this in mind, you must ask yourself what you are doing to successfully cultivate and promote your brand in the marketplace.

Marty Neumeier is considered by many to be the father of modern branding. Neumeier stated that branding is centered on managing relationships between a company and people over many channels.

Allie Weaver, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Allie Weaver Productions, noted that branding is, “The act of giving people a reason to care about your business and a place to belong.” 

Author Bernadette Jiwa pointed out that great companies all have something in common. Great companies win by mattering. The people who build great companies know what they stand for, and then act on those beliefs in a consistent fashion. Think for a moment about two great companies, Apple and Nike, that have been highly successful in the utilization of modern branding.

Following Your Compass

Building a great brand starts with you. You must understand your vision and be able to answer the question, “Why Me?” Think about why your company exists and matters. How are you working towards keeping a consistent brand promise? In the end, your brand needs to be your compass. If you can understand why customers should choose your business, you’ll be well on your way to utilizing modern branding in a powerful and effective way.

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An Overview of Term Sheets

If you’re planning on a business agreement to buy or sell a business, you’ll want to know about term sheets. These non-binding agreements will help with progress for both parties. The information covered in the term sheet should include everything from pricing and terms to special considerations. You can expect it to be between one and five pages in length. 

What is the Difference Between a Term Sheet and a Contract?

When a term sheet is created, it demonstrates that there is an agreement between the buyer and seller and a business transaction is possible. However, neither party is bound to this transaction. On the other hand, a contract is typically a legally binding agreement that would hold up in a court of law. 

What are the Pros and Cons of a Term Sheet

While it can be beneficial that a term sheet is non-binding when buyers and sellers are exploring the terms of a deal, it’s also important to know that a term sheet can come with risks. Due to the fact that it covers many details about the potential deal, it can instigate either the buyer or seller pulling out of the deal if they are unsatisfied with the contents of the document.  

On the positive side, a term sheet can serve to greatly expedite negotiations and help things progress faster. Further, it can save time by making sure that the conditions of the deal are understood and accepted before formal documents are drawn up. It can play a huge role in clarifying objectives and circumventing misunderstandings that could ultimately end a deal at a later stage. 

Putting Term Sheets to Work on Your Behalf

One of your goals with your term sheet should be to create a situation that is beneficial for all parties. When a verbal agreement between a buyer and seller is put down on paper it can help a deal begin to take form and actualize in the near future. In the end, a term sheet can help a deal move along and ultimately be successful. It’s the perfect first step towards a completed deal. 

If you have questions about how a term sheet fits into your overall plan to buy or sell a business, this is a question that can be addressed with your business broker, M&A advisor, or attorney. 

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Is Your Deal Really Going to be Successful?

If you’re selling your business and things are looking positive with your buyer, you might be tempted to start resting easy. If you have a signed letter of intent, you might be even more tempted to think that things are pretty settled. However, the fact of the matter is that much can be uncovered during the due diligence process, and that is often when deals start to fall apart. Due diligence is an essential step that protects buyers, and sellers should be well-prepared to have things in good shape far in advance. Let’s take a closer look at some areas where a deal can potentially go awry. 

Products and Equipment 

When the sale involves a business that handles manufacturing, equipment is carefully evaluated during due diligence. Buyers will be thinking about any potential environmental issues that could affect the business. If you’re selling a business and have loose ends with your equipment or facility, this should be handled in advance if possible. 

Buyers will also be looking at the various product lines and inventory. They will be considering how the sales are spread among the product lines. For example, if one product makes up the majority of sales, that can raise red flags in the mind of a buyer. They will also think about supplies and how likely they are to be stable once the business switches hands. 

Buyers will want to look at breakdowns of customers so they can consider the company’s market share and also where the sales are coming from. Similarly, to only having one product, if a business only has one or two key buyers, that can be a source of concern for buyers. 

Intangible Assets

When you are selling a business, your buyers will also be thinking about the assets like intellectual property. Will all trademarks, patents and copyrights be transferred during the sale? If not, it can be a big source of concern for buyers. 

Buyers will also consider the state of the human resources department. Sellers should be aware that buyers will be typically looking for established staff members who are unlikely to leave. This is another area where sellers have the opportunity to prepare in advance to achieve optimal results. 

Sales Issues

Your prospective buyer will want to carefully examine accounts receivable. So if you have bad debt, you might want to sort out these kinds of issues before the due diligence phase. They will also want to have a firm understanding of everything that is included in the sale. Oftentimes during due diligence, a buyer finds out that equipment or patents are not included with the sale, and it quickly derails the deal. 

If you’re selling a business, you’ll want to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and consider what you would want to see if you were buying a business. Anything that you can do in advance to improve your workforce, equipment, premises, and financial records is highly recommended.  The goal is to have a smooth transition for the buyer, and anything that could stand in the way of that taking place should be analyzed and improved if possible. When you work with a business broker or M&A advisor to sell your business, you will have an expert in your corner to help sort out the details.

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When Should Sellers Proceed with Caution?

Selling your business is typically quite an involved process that takes a series of months. Sellers typically experience a variety of ups and downs during that time. This is true even in the case of the most successful deals. That’s why you will want to keep your eyes open during the process so that you will be equipped to vet your potential buyers.

This article will take a look at various aspects of the sales transaction that could be concerning and could mean that a deal is less likely to be successful. It’s a good idea to identify these types of situations so you’ll be better prepared to notice them if they were to occur. After all, the last thing you’ll want to do is waste your time and energy dealing with a prospective buyer that is not a good candidate for buying your business. 

Signs of Lack of Interest

There are countless instances when sellers have been approached by prospective buyers, but the parties controlling the purchase are never involved. If a company expresses interest in your business, but the President or CEO seems to be too busy to talk to you, it more than likely means that there is something off about the situation. If communication starts to fizzle out during the process, it very well could also mean that your buyer is not truly interested. 

Inexperienced Buyers

What if you’re dealing with an individual buyer? If an individual says that he or she is interested in buying your business, but has no experience in your industry and no history of owning businesses in the past, this can be a red flag. Even if this buyer does have serious intentions, he or she may become nervous and start to feel overwhelmed as things progress with your deal. In the early stages when you are being approached by potential buyers it is a good idea to not get too wrapped up in buyers that do not appear to be completely legitimate. 

Withholding Information 

There are situations where caution should be warranted in the later stages of a deal as well. For example, in some instances, sellers have not been allowed to see the buyer’s financial statements. Clearly, that could mean that the buyer doesn’t have the resources actually necessary to proceed. 

When you work with a business broker or M&A advisor, you will find that you have built in protection from buyers that are not the right fit. Most brokerage professionals have seen it all and tend to be able to sense when something is too good to be true, or just simply not quite right. Also, when challenges do occur, having a third party involved can go a long way in effectively getting things back on track. 

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How Improved Negotiation Tactics Can Benefit Your Deals

There is no underestimating the importance of negotiation when you are buying or selling a business. Let’s take a look at some of the most often used strategies and our recommendations. 

The Direct Approach

One approach in negotiations is what we often refer to as the “take it or leave it” strategy. In this scenario, the buyer makes an offer, and the seller then counters that offer. There is little negotiation work necessary, as both parties are direct and simple about the numbers and terms they propose. The drawback to this approach, however, is that when it doesn’t work, there is little to no recourse. When this “direct approach” offer isn’t accepted by one of the parties, there is little opportunity for flexibility on either side. Therefore, the direct approach can be somewhat of a risk.

Focusing on Influential Details

There are typically certain aspects of a deal where a buyer or seller is unwilling to compromise. Sometimes this aspect isn’t even financial in nature. It could be anything from the desire to move the business to a new site, to employment of a friend or relative. Once the negotiations embrace and include these non-negotiables, it can help expedite a successful deal. 

Splitting the Difference

A common approach that is seen when buying or selling businesses is that one side offers to split the difference. Unlike the direct approach, there is a good deal of flexibility here. When one party shows that they are open to split the difference, it is often seen as a way to keep negotiations going. Another point in favor of this approach is that communication continues. Obviously when one or both sides stop talking, the deal has not been successful. 

Third Party Involvement 

When it comes to finding solutions and resolutions, having a third party involved is tremendously beneficial. When you bring in a business broker or M&A advisor, that individual can then help facilitate the negotiated solutions. This third party is seen as skilled, yet also more of an impartial party. Business brokers and M&A advisors also have many years of experience encouraging buyers and sellers to understand and work with one another. 

Your brokerage professional can help both parties agree to a fair price while handling the aspects of all the small details involved in buying and selling businesses. Negotiations almost always benefit from having a professional involved, as they bring a different, and much needed, perspective to the table. 

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How Leases Factor into Business Sales

If you’re planning to buy or sell a business that involves a lease, this can lead to an extra level of complication. Oftentimes, such as in the case of a restaurant or retail establishment, the location is essential to the success of the business itself. That means that if you’re buying a business, you’ll have to make sure any lease issues you might encounter are straightened out before you sign on the bottom line. But even if you’re buying a business that isn’t location-sensitive, you’ll still want to iron out all the details about your lease ahead of time. 

Negotiating a Lease

If you’re buying a business with a lease, one word of advice is to have a clear way out of the lease in the near future. After all, with a business so new to you, you might make changes in the short term. The general recommendation is to negotiate a one-year lease that has an option for a longer period of time. 

In many instances, the buyer of a business with a lease will find that he or she doesn’t have too much leverage. However, buyers typically find that there is more opportunity to negotiate if the lease is close to its expiration date or the business is performing poorly. 

Future Contingencies

When you’re first negotiating your lease, you may also want to think about the big picture. For example, if your business is in a mall, you might want to confirm that no future tenants will be allowed to move in and be your competition. Along similar lines, some businesses located in shopping centers seek to outline a reduction of rent if the shopping center’s anchor store were to close, as that could negatively impact the business. 

When you negotiate your lease, you’ll also want to think about the far-off future when you’d like to sell the business. You will want to make sure that the landlord allows for lease transfers, and you’ll want to confirm the requirements necessary for a potential transfer.  

Another thing to consider is what if the property did become available in the future? If this were to occur, you might want to negotiate the option to potentially buy the property. Otherwise, you might find yourself in an unfortunate situation where you are forced to move your establishment. 

Basics for Your Lease

A lease should always outline your responsibilities as well as those of your landlord. Make sure you carefully review the lease with your attorney. You’ll want to be sure that you thoroughly understand all the terms. It should cover various issues that might arise in the future and how they will be handled. For example, if there were a fire or disaster, who would pay to rebuild the building? How are the taxes, fees and maintenance handled for the property?

Unfortunately, in some situations a landlord’s lack of flexibility with a lease has even sunk a deal. If the landlord is unwilling to agree to a new lease or offer concessions to an ongoing one, buyers often will find the situation too restrictive. In certain instances, however, sellers have been willing to offer concessions to buyers to counterbalance issues with a lease.  

The fate of your business could literally depend on your lease. If you set things up correctly in the beginning, it will most likely benefit you tremendously in the long run. 

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How Can You Identify a Serious Buyer?

No one wants to waste their time and energy trying to sell their business to someone who isn’t actually planning to buy. That’s why it’s so important for you and your business broker or M&A advisor to focus on the most qualified and serious buyers. But how can you really make these kinds of assessments about a buyer’s viability until they sign on the dotted line? Let’s take a look at some signs that will help you figure out your buyer well in advance. 

Do they have a history of ownership?

When someone has owned a business in the past, they have a firm understanding of what is involved. As a result, they are more likely to be a serious buyer. It also means they are more likely to move forward. You will also find that they have the ability to make a substantial down payment and financing options. While they might want you to help them with financing, you should still be looking to ensure they will put their own capital at risk as well. 

Are they seeking information about your cash flow?

If a buyer is serious, it goes without saying that they will want to make sure the business is profitable. They should be asking a lot of questions about not only your cash flow, but also your inventory.  If you have unusable inventory this could be of concern to a buyer. Be sure to disclose this information upfront, as it will likely be discovered in the due diligence process regardless.  

Are they asking about the health of your staff?

Any real buyer would want a dedicated and reliable staff. If your buyer is asking about salaries, it is a good sign that they are serious. After all, if you’re only paying minimum wage, chances are that your staff will not have a lot of staying power. These days, many companies are suffering due to staffing issues, and it’s something that should be front and center in any serious buyer’s mind.

Do they have an interest in the industry?

If your prospective buyer is asking questions about the industry, that is another good sign. After all, who would really want to buy a business without detailed knowledge about the industry they are about to enter? Along the same lines, if you know your buyer has experience in a given industry, it means they are more likely to go through with a purchase. If they lack experience in your industry, do they at least seem passionate about the industry? If they seem like they are not asking probing questions, this might mean they are wasting your time.

Are they asking about capital expenditures?

Your prospective buyer will want to know how money is being spent. You can expect them to make sure that major expenses have already been paid for as they will want to make sure they won’t be caught off guard by large pending purchases.

Do you have professional assistance? 

The bottom line is that the more in-depth questions a person is asking, the more serious they are likely to be. Your business broker’s job is to screen prospective buyers. Years of experience doing so helps them know the warning signs that pop up when buyers profess to be interested, but are not likely to go through with the sale. 

When you are trying to sell your business, it is critical that you focus your time wisely. Your brokerage professional will help ensure that you do not waste time working with people who are just kicking the tires. 

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Are You Cut Out to Own a Business?

There are clearly qualities that make a person an ideal candidate to be a business owner. On the other side of the coin, however, it’s clear that owning a business isn’t for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the unique personality aspects that help motivated individuals identify owning a business as a good fit for them. 

You Seek to Guide Your Destiny

A common reason people become business owners is that they want to have more control over their lives. After all, if you’re working for someone else, your fate is never truly in your own hands. You can always be fired or let go. When you are a business owner however, not only do you have control over your job itself and the tasks you accomplish on a daily basis, but you can also determine who you work with and where you work. You also need to have optimism to keep working with the belief that things are moving in a positive direction. 

You are Comfortable with Risk

When you take the role of business owner, you invite a certain degree of risk into your life. That means you are responsible for the success of your business, and you will also have a team of people depending on you. That’s why it’s so important to have a clear vision for the business before you take on the responsibility. You are likely to invest a great deal of your own money into the venture. You may even have to put up valuable assets as collateral, such as your house. You may also have to make sacrifices such as taking a reduced income as the business gets off the ground. It’s important for business owners to possess the inner strength to stay motivated and on track to keep the business growing. 

You are Motivated

People who make good business owners are typically inspired by the idea of growing their income, and they are willing to put in the work to achieve that goal. The idea of making key decisions to grow their business is something they find exciting. The truth is, the longer you own your business, the more money you will make. Often you will have to exercise patience in order to reap the financial benefits you’re seeking. 

You are Collaborative

Not everyone is great at collaboration. As a business owner however, you will need to work well with others for the business to be a success. It’s rare to do everything on your own. That’s why you need to be a good communicator and will need to be talented at managing others. Great business owners are bosses that are disciplined, self-aware and able to operate comfortably with a high degree of vulnerability.  

Before you decide to own a business, it makes sense to do some self-reflection to ensure that your personality really does lend itself to being a business owner. If you have questions about what owning a business entails, be sure to discuss this topic with a business broker or M&A advisor. 

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Can You Buy a Business Without Collateral?

If you’ve ever gotten any type of substantial loan, chances are that you’re already familiar with the concept of collateral. This is when something of value is pledged as security. As a result, the lender has something of value that they could potentially take if the loan is not repaid. Collateral is designed to protect the lender. Of course, the most common example of collateral is your house when you have a mortgage. 

Oftentimes, those looking for a loan to buy a small business wonder if they can do so if they have no collateral. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular options in this situation.

The 7(a) Loan Assistance Program

If you’re lacking collateral and looking for a business loan, it’s a good idea to check with the Small Business Administration. The SBA 7(a) loan is one of their most popular programs. While it can be used for establishing or acquiring a new business, it’s also commonly used for long and short-term working capital, refinancing business debt, or the purchase of real estate or equipment. 

The SBA guarantees up to 75 percent of the amount of the loan if you can contribute 25 percent of the money. This can be a very good option for buyers who don’t want to contribute collateral. You can even use cash that came as a gift from investors. As a result, this program is frequently used by first time business owners. More information is available here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/7a-loans

One thing you’ll want to note about the 7(a)-loan program is that the seller will not be able to receive payments for two years. As a result, the seller may request or require some other kind of incentive. 

Seller Financing Options 

Seller Financing happens more often than you would think and is another great way of buying a business without collateral. Most sellers are motivated and will agree to help with financing. Some buyers have even combined SBA loan 7(a) program with seller financing for maximum results. 

If you are looking for creative financing options, be sure to talk to your business broker or M&A advisor about the specifics of your situation. You can also look to S.C.O.R.E to receive information about best practices for proceeding. 

If you’re looking to buy a business and have no collateral, just remember that people use ingenuity to buy businesses every day. You just need to set your goal and be determined to reach it. 

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What is a Partnership Agreement?

A partnership agreement is a legal document that provides an outline of how a business will be run. This agreement will often be used by small for-profit businesses when two or more people are involved. It’s an essential document to have, especially in the case when a dispute arises between partners. Even if you have gone into business with a friend or relative, you should have this document in place to make sure everyone is protected. Let’s take a look at some of the key elements that should be in this document. 

The Basics

It goes without saying that your partnership agreement should include the basics, such as the name of the business and the names of key parties involved.  You’ll also want to outline the goals of your partnership and how long it will last. 

Rules and Responsibilities 

When you create your partnership agreement, you’ll want to make sure it offers a lot of clarity on different points with an eye to everyone’s responsibilities. Think through what concerns or disagreements could possibly arise and then outline how you would solve them. 

Financial Issues

You’ll want to cover everything involving finances in your agreement. This should include key points on income and how it will be distributed. You will also want to clearly outline the ownership interests of each partner involved. Also be sure that the agreement includes the accounting obligations of the partners, and how you’ll handle salaries, vacation, sick leave, etc. Also think about the funds that will be necessary to operate the business. Who will be contributing these funds?

Partners and Staff

The partnership agreement should also cover points involving the work itself. Who is in charge of managing your staff? What kind of authority role does each partner have? What if you decide to bring in a new partner? The agreement should discuss the procedure for adding people to your partnership and what that entails. 

Issues Involving Key Decisions

Another important issue to explore and detail in the agreement relates to decision making. How will your company make its business decisions? What will occur if a conflict cannot be resolved? Will you go to court or take another route? What if the partnership was terminated? What would the terms and conditions of your termination be? 

When your partnership agreement is under your belt, it should empower you to feel confident in the core structure of your business and its ability to function smoothly. 

Obviously, you’ll want to avoid the DIY approach and instead work with an experienced attorney. While it might take more time and money to do so, you’ll be glad that you hired a professional if and when you run into conflicts down the line. Your business broker or M&A advisor should be able to recommend a lawyer who has experience crafting partnership agreements. 

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What Are Your Flaws?

As a business owner, your natural inclination is likely to be considering the strengths of your business and how to perform even better in the future. However, the truth is that sitting back and thinking about your flaws can actually benefit you in the long run. When you have a full understanding of where you are lacking, it will empower you to make the best strategic decisions for the future. These changes, in turn, will help you receive top dollar when you go to sell your business. 

Here are 4 areas you should be evaluating:

1. Your Products

How diverse are your products? If you rely upon the sale of just one product, that puts your business in jeopardy. You should be thinking about additional products you could add. This will also open you up to new opportunities for customers and revenue.  

2. Your Workforce

There has been much publicity about the current trends in businesses struggling to find staff. Further, there are a variety of trades, such as tool and die, where there is a shortage of skilled workers to begin with.  However, your staff members are the core of your business, and represent its wellness and ability to thrive in the future.  

3. Your Industry

You should always be on the lookout for trends that could negatively impact your business. Sometimes things are simply out of your control, and you might find that your entire industry is in decline. When this occurs, be sure to think about new directions you can take. If you sit back and just wait for things to change, the value of your business could slip away before your eyes. 

4. Your Customers

If you only have one or two core customers, that will typically lower the value of your business. Any potential buyer will quickly realize that the health and stability of your business is somewhat fragile.  While you may feel that you don’t currently have the time and resources to obtain new customers and clients, doing so will serve you tremendously when it’s time to sell.

When you work with a business broker or M&A advisor, he or she will help you to evaluate your company and look for weaknesses. However, oftentimes it’s challenging or even impossible to turn the tides when you are under the gun to sell right away. That’s why so many business owners decide to work with a brokerage professional years before they actually plan to sell. This enables them to correct any weaknesses years in advance and be fully prepared to present their business in the best light possible. 

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BizBuySell Insight Report for 2022

BizBuySell has issued their latest insight report, which summarizes market growth and trends from last year. In this report, they have several interesting areas to report including a summary of how lower sales prices and rate hikes impacted the value of businesses in recent months. The report can be found at https://www.bizbuysell.com/insight-report/#reportArchive.

Overall Trends in 2022

Buyers currently appear to have some leverage when it comes to the prices of businesses on the market. When comparing 2022 with 2021, we see a 4.7% increase in closed transactions. Comparing it to the year prior, there is a 19% gain. Obviously, 2020 sales were negatively impacted by COVID. 

While sales grew substantially in the first half of 2022, there was a decrease in momentum in the second half of the year due to inflation and interest rate increases. 

The number of transactions recorded by BizBuySell.com in 2022 are actually fairly comparable to 2021, with numbers of 9054 and 8647, respectively. While the transactions raised 27% and then 14% in the first and second quarters, transactions then lagged in the second half, dropping by 2% and then 12.7%.

Trends Among Business Owners

BizBuySell’s surveys showed that the majority of owners are concerned about rate hikes and inflation. In fact, 53% say that the rate hikes are having a negative impact on them. They also reported concerns about rising SBA loan rates, as many business owners utilize their lines of credit. In addition to that aspect, there are still supply chain issues that are negatively impacting businesses. 

The main takeaways from 2022 seem to be a steady but slow progression in growth. Moving into 2023, interest rate hikes and inflation seem to be on everyone’s mind as a prevailing factor that will have an impact on sales and growth.  

It’s Never Too Early to Create an Exit Plan 

The report also reveals that according to data acquired by BizBuySell, only 53% of business owners say they have an exit plan. Only 58% of owners reported knowing what their business is worth. If you are a business owner and would like to find out more about what your business is worth, a business broker or M&A advisor can assist you with that information. 

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Expectations for Business in 2023

BizBuySell just released its latest insight report, which tracked sales and growth in 2022 and compared it to the prior year. Overall, we are seeing a high demand for service-based businesses as well as an increase in restaurant business sales. The insight report also reveals what business brokers across the country are expecting for 2023 and beyond. 

Data on Service Business Sales

In 2022, 39% of the acquisitions tracked by BizBuySell were service businesses, and their transactions were 7% higher than 2021. The service sector typically includes predominantly financial and healthcare related businesses. These types of companies are usually considered to be low-risk. 

Across the map, buyers were willing to pay more for service businesses last year. In fact, the median sales price for service businesses rose 4% over 2021. It’s interesting to note that the sales prices were even higher than the pre-pandemic levels. Also, there is a trend towards buyers seeking out socially responsible and environmentally conscious businesses. 

Data on Restaurant Businesses 

Restaurant businesses also did quite well in 2022. In fact, the acquisitions of restaurants jumped 20% over 2021. They previously had plummeted 38% in 2020. While these numbers are strong, they are still 21% lower than before COVID. 

Restaurant businesses also had less time on the market. The median days were 169 instead of 176 the year before. Restaurants also sold for more money. The median revenue for closed transactions was up 7% and the cash flow was up 13%. It seems that the general consensus is that dining out is popular again after years of struggles due to people avoiding meals in public. 

Expectations for 2023

The conclusion of this data collected about 2022 is that buyers no longer will benefit from sitting it out. Higher interest rates are expected to be more and more of an impact for buyers in 2023. The good news is that most experts are expecting rates to get better in 2024. 

Business brokers surveyed by BizBuySell expect that the market in 2023 will continue at the same place as it did in 2022. Many sellers will seek to retire. The concern of a recession should also motivate more baby boomers to sell. In fact, 45% of owners are saying they are selling to retire. At the same time, buyers will be looking for profitable companies that will grow.

The data revealed by BizBuySell indicates that those who are buying businesses may currently have the upper hand. In fact, 47% of brokers say that their view is that the market has shifted towards buyers. They attribute this to rate increases. They are finding that the majority of buyers are saying that current businesses are overpriced. 

Sellers Must Be Flexible

The insight report shows that overall business brokers believe there is pressure on sellers to be more flexible in their pricing and terms. As always, seller financing is essential. In fact, 90% of buyers are saying it’s important for owners to offer this option to them. 95% of brokers echo this sentiment. 

It should come as no surprise that businesses with strong financials are in high demand. When these businesses are considered recession proof, this fact is even more true. But even sellers with the strongest businesses may still have to consider offering financing or adjust prices due to the higher rates. Sellers who want to sell in the near future, of course, should begin preparing their exit now. 

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5 Ways that Sellers Can Focus on the Positives

When you are looking to sell, always focus on the positive aspects of your business. Many business owners fail to properly make a case for the benefits of their businesses to prospective buyers.  Be sure to make it clear that your business has stability and ample financial health. Let’s take a closer look. 

1. Prepare in Advance 

Preparing paperwork in advance will help to make sure that everything is in proper order and you’re not scrambling at the last moment. When your records are organized and correct, your prospective buyer will be able to truly see the value of your business. Buyers will also like to know that you have robust accounting processes that they can rely on in the future. 

You should also make sure that inventory is in stock and that any necessary upkeep has been done. All of these updates are part of the big picture when it comes to presenting your business in the best light to buyers. 

2. Reveal Your Methods of Operations 

You’ll also want to demonstrate that you have a solid formula for a successful business. Buyers love to see items in place like procedures manuals, as they reveal the routine tasks necessary to run the business. Anything you can provide that will help the buyer understand how to successfully run your business will help them understand its advantages. 

3. Keep Things Consistent

During the sales process, you’ll want to be sure to maintain regular operations. If prospective buyers see any kind of dip in success, this could negatively impact your deal. Selling a business is an all-encompassing process, and it can be next to impossible to handle all the associated tasks while still putting all the necessary time and energy into your business. 

Additionally, you will want to absolutely make sure confidentiality is maintained. A breach of confidentiality, whether to employees or to competitors, can quickly sabotage your deal. There are countless instances where a deal fell through due to a breach in confidentiality. 

4. Get an Outside Perspective

What is the best possible light for your business? Since you’re involved in the day to day running of the business, it is hard to have an outside perspective. Plus having never sold a business before, it can be hard to know what buyers will respond positively to. That is a great reason to work with a business broker or M&A advisor. They have years of experience knowing what attracts and deters buyers. They will help you to emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. 

While emphasizing the positives, you will of course want to be sure to be transparent about issues affecting your business. Otherwise, the lack of knowledge can come back to haunt you. When it comes to negative factors, your business broker or M&A advisor will work to help buyers to understand how some of these can be turned into positives once they take over the business. Or they can assist you to fix some of those weaknesses before putting your business on the market. 

5. Price Your Business Correctly

It should come as no surprise that if the price you set on your business is too high, you will lose interest from prospective buyers. That is another advantage to working with business brokers or M&A advisors. They will assist you to assign a fair market value to your buyers. When the price is optimal, the strengths of your business will stand out more. While it’s essential not to undervalue your business, you also want to make sure that you don’t overvalue it either. The good news is that brokerage professionals have experience and expertise at listing the optimal price. 

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The Top 3 Reasons Why Deals Fall Through

No one likes to think about the deals that didn’t succeed. However, the fact of the matter is that sometimes things go wrong during the process and a sale doesn’t successfully close. We have pinpointed the most common reasons why this happens into three main categories. By understanding the issues that can prevent a deal from finalizing, we are able to dramatically maximize the odds of success for clients. 

1. Issues with the Seller

If a seller lacks a strong reason for wanting to sell his or her business, that seller is often unable to be flexible on the terms of a deal. As a result, when complexities arise during the sales process, the seller doesn’t have the patience, commitment and/or stamina to work to overcome those issues. In many cases, a seller has presented an unrealistic price for the business and simply cannot be realistic about the true value the business will sell for on the market. Another common issue that arises with sellers is that they are not fully transparent with the potential buyer. For example, they might be neglecting to mention serious problems with the business, such as new competition on the horizon.

2. Issues with the Buyer

Just like circumstances surrounding the seller may interfere with the sale of a business, the same is true for buyers. In some cases, the buyer is just mildly interested in being a business owner. As a result, he or she doesn’t have the wherewithal to continue on and navigate the complexities that can arise during the stages leading up to a successful deal. There are other issues that often pop up with buyers as well. For example, they also may have unrealistic expectations regarding price. Some buyers are not willing to pay the fair market value for a given business. In other cases, once they find out the amount of work that will be required to make the business successful, they are unmotivated to continue.

3. Third Party Interference

In some instances, there is no issue regarding the buyer or seller. Instead, it is a third party that interferes. An example of this would be a landlord being unwilling to transfer a lease or grant a new one. Or unexpected issues with the federal or local government could cause problems. Another problem that involves a third party occurs when outside advisors, such as attorneys, overlook the fact that the goal is to put together a deal that will work. Instead, they get so caught up in protecting the best interests of their clients that they erect too many roadblocks for a deal to succeed. These types of problems are often completely unexpected by either the buyer or seller.

It is hard to argue with the fact that if a buyer isn’t really committed to selling, perhaps it is not the best choice for them in the long run. The good news is that if potential problems are handled at the appropriate stage of the deal, most business deals do come to a successful conclusion. Business brokers and M&A advisors are specialists when it comes to resolving and circumventing potential issues. 

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The Four Essential Stages of a Closing

When it comes to reaching a successful closing, there are four important stages to keep in mind. In this article, we will take a look at the process and what sellers can expect. If you are planning to sell a business, it is also helpful to understand in depth what the stages are from a buyer’s perspective. 

The Letter of Intent (LOI)

The letter of intent is one of the responsibilities that your business broker or M&A advisor will take on to assist you. Your letter of intent should include the price, terms, time frame anticipated as well as other factors, such as the seller’s transition and training. Details such as what is included and what is not included in the deal should always be addressed in this agreement. 

Due Diligence 

The due diligence process is also an essential step. Your business broker or M&A advisor will guide you during due diligence. All important facts and documentation should be evaluated, ranging from tax returns and internal P&Ls to leases, bank statements, and customer/employee lists.  Buyers who do not invest enough time and energy into due diligence can often have serious regrets after the deal has closed. Be sure to take your time with this stage. 

There are other areas of due diligence that should not be overlooked including the very important NDA, financial statements, credit reports and other factors. If you want to have a smooth closing (which clearly you do!), you will want to wisely invest your time in due diligence.

Financing Approval 

Financing approval is considered your lender’s responsibility. However, if you need advice and insights, your business broker or M&A advisor should be able to assist you. You may want to look into local SBA lenders or seller financing. 

Agreement Drafting

The final agreement drafting period must be taken seriously. This is a step where your attorney will be of tremendous assistance. Your written agreement should cover a wide range of aspects including everything from payment terms to assets and liabilities. Both the buyer and seller should know exactly what the arrangement will be. 

When these four stages are followed properly, your deal should close in a timely and effective manner. If you have any concerns or uncertainties about these parts of a closing, be sure to always ask the necessary questions. 

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Take Inventory of Your Company

Most business owners don’t give a second thought to the idea of going to the doctor for an annual physical. So why do they not give the same level of care and consideration to their company? The fact of the matter is that many executives literally go decades without giving their companies a “physical.” They only stop to truly evaluate their business when required by regulations or another matter forcing them to do so.

Consider an Annual Valuation 

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why business owners should get an annual valuation. The first issue concerns the curveballs life often throws at us. At any given time, you and your business could be unexpectedly hit with everything from partnership issues or life changes like a divorce to changes in bank relationships. When you keep careful track of the value of your business, you will know in advance how potential changes would affect you. Perhaps even more importantly, you will gain an understanding of the health of your business.  

Monitor Business Growth 

It’s critical to be aware of how your business compares from one year to the next. Are values definitely increasing? If not, you would surely want to know immediately and start making necessary adjustments. If a major problem were to surface, you would want to know about it right away so that you can take action. Otherwise, you might just let the years pass you by while this issue goes unchecked. This is the kind of data you will gain when you commit to regular valuations. 

Be Prepared for the Unknown

You might feel far from ready to sell. However, you should always be ready if the situation does present itself. What if an amazing opportunity showed up on your doorstep? On the flip side of the coin, what if a life issue like illness put you in a situation where a sale was suddenly necessary? If you are not ready both mentally and with the necessary paperwork for your business prepared, you might miss out on a legitimate opportunity. 

Statistics gathered from a prominent accounting firm showed that 65% of business owners do not know what their company is worth. However, at the same time 75% of the net worth of these business owners is tied up in their business. The problem with these statistics is quickly evident. Be sure to take as good of care of your business as you would take of yourself. 

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5 Elements for Buyers to Investigate

When you’re in the process of buying a business, it’s important to stay logical. No matter how good the opportunity may seem at first glance, be sure to carefully evaluate the business in a step-by-step manner. Regardless of how excited you might be about the prospect of ownership; you’ll want to have your guard up when you go through the due diligence process. Let’s take a look at 5 of the most important questions to ask yourself before signing on the dotted line.

1. Do you have a personal interest in the business? 

Needless to say, owners have made businesses successfully thrive even if they lack a personal interest in what is being sold. However, you might want to stop and ask yourself if you do indeed have a passion for the goods or services offered by the business in question. If you are uninterested, you may find it harder to make a long-time commitment. 

2. What is the business plan like? 

It’s helpful to see the goals of the current owner and evaluate which of these goals have actually been achieved. If there is no business plan, this should give you pause.  

3. How does the business perform?

Take a look at the business’s overall performance. Do you get the feeling that the business requires many hours of intensive work from the owner? If so, remember that this owner putting in all of those hours could be you in the near future. Is there a reliable manager to oversee operations in your absence?

4. What are the demographics? 

Who are the key customers? Are there several main accounts that the business depends upon or a wide variety of customers and clients? Needless to say, if the business relies on just a few key accounts, this could be problematic if things were to change. Further, do you see a clear way to add new customers in the future? Before you buy a business, you’ll want to feel confident that you can help it thrive and grow.

5. Are you satisfied with the financials?

Once you’ve successfully signed the necessary written agreements, you’ll want to take a deep dive into the business’s financials. Make sure that everything has been provided including:

  • Tax returns
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Bank statements

The bottom line is that you will want to be careful when purchasing a business and watch for any red flags. The last thing you want is to make a hasty decision that you regret later on.

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Defending Your Asking Price

When you’re putting your business on the market, one of the top considerations is your asking price. Once you have a fair price established, let’s take a closer look at how business brokers and M&A advisors work with their clients to back up that price with details concerning why it is justified. 

Telling the Story

A key aspect of defending your asking price is telling the story of your business. Your brokerage professional will help you go over the details of the story so it is properly conveyed to prospective buyers. Buyers, of course, will want to understand the story behind the business so that they can understand its history and why it is for sale. You will want to feel prepared to interact with prospective buyers and how to discuss details concerning its value. 

Your business broker or M&A advisor will put together written materials about your business. These also help buyers gain clarity on the story of your business and its sales message. 

Seeing Your Buyer’s Perspective

It goes without saying that a big part of coming up with your decision of the asking price is that you want something that sounds not only reasonable but also attractive to buyers. We recommend trying to view the entire transaction from the buyer’s perspective. The buyer must be able to see how they will successfully own and potentially operate the business, as this is essential for fostering a completed deal.

Another consideration is, how will they pay for the business? In many cases, it can tremendously benefit a transaction to offer assistance in the way of seller financing. Seller financing can speed up the process, as you will not be so reliant waiting for the bank loan process, which can drag out for months. 

The Complexities of Your Asking Price 

The process of establishing and then justifying your asking price is not always simple. It is a symphony of moving parts, and it’s important to feel educated and involved in the process. Ultimately justifying the asking price is the launching point of the process, but it is also just the beginning of the journey towards the completion of a successful deal.

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Common Legal Mistakes That Sellers Make

Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a business owner like a legal mistake. The best way to ensure that you will avoid serious legal issues is to work with a trusted and experienced team. Otherwise, it’s easy to accidentally miss necessary steps. 

When you’re selling a business, there are a lot of moving pieces, and that means that there are ample opportunities for things to go wrong. It’s always best to be prepared. When mistakes are made, it can not only mean a significant expenditure of your time, but also your money. These kinds of issues can also bring your sales process to a total halt and perhaps derail your deal completely.

There are more than a few sellers who overlooked the importance of working with an attorney. When you are selling a business, it should come as no surprise that there is a great deal of paperwork. Your attorney will guide you to make sure that all necessary preparations have been made from a legal perspective. When your prospective buyer sees that your legal “ducks are in a row,” he or she will feel more confident in your organization and level of professionalism.

One document that often is skipped is the Letter of Intent (LOI). Sellers assume that things will move along more quickly if they forego this document. Keep in mind that the LOI truly has its place in almost any deal. After all, it not only outlines both parties’ expectations in writing, it also works to protect your best interests. Once projective buyers have signed this document, it proves they are serious about the deal. That means it is not so easy for them to walk away without consequences. 

What if your deal falls through completely? Will your buyer then reveal to the public that your business was for sale and even the potential terms that were on the table? This could indeed occur if you were not backed up by an NDA. Don’t skip this very important document either. Your business broker or M&A advisor will be very well acquainted with NDAs and guide you in the best way possible. 

Warding off these kinds of issues is one great reason to be equipped with a small team of professionals to turn to for advice. This team should include your business broker or M&A advisor, accountant, and attorney. 

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What Does the Road Ahead Look Like?

Each quarter, the Market Pulse Report issues a report revealing information about market conditions The report is supported by M&A Source and the International Business Brokers Association. The data that is analyzed is based on a comprehensive survey of business brokers and M&A advisors. The report focuses on Main Street businesses (with values up to $2MM) and the lower middle market (values between $2MM and $50MM.) 

The research is conducted and then the report is published each quarter to reflect the state of the industry. In this article, we will look at some of the key takeaways of the report and what it reveals about the path ahead for buyers and sellers.

Tracking the Labor Shortage 

For the second quarter, the report revealed a variety of interesting information. One massive data point from the report is that the labor shortage continues to be a significant variable for business owners. A staggering 92% of report respondents state that the labor shortage has negatively impacted their business with 54% stating that the shortage has had a “very negative impact” and 35% stating that the impact is “somewhat negative.”

Closing Times

The report further indicated that it is taking about seven months for a business to close. They noted that it takes about six months to a year to sell a well-priced business or a well benchmarked business. The report noted that approximately 60-120 days are spent in the due diligence or execution stage, once the letter of intent has been signed. 

The Strongest Industries

In terms of what kinds of businesses are selling, the report points to restaurants making a solid comeback. It is interesting to note that restaurants valued from less than $500K to $1 million are enjoying a particularly strong rebound. Business services, personal services, construction and manufacturing remain steady. 

In Summary 

The latest Market Pulse Report is pointing in several directions. Currently, three factors are impacting business owners, namely, the labor shortage, inflation, and supply chain issues. Many businesses have had no choice but to give large raises to employees, and others have been able to pass the costs on to consumers and buyers.

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