The Importance of Understanding Leases

Leases should never be overlooked when it comes to buying or selling a business.  After all, where your business is located and how long you can stay at that location plays a key role in the overall health of your business.  It is easy to get lost with “larger” issues when buying or selling a business.  But in terms of stability, few factors rank as high as that of a lease.  Let’s explore some of the key facts you’ll want to keep in mind where leases are concerned.

The Different Kinds of Leases

In general, there are three different kinds of leases: sub-lease, new lease and the assignment of the lease.  These leases clearly differ from one another, and each will impact a business in different ways.

A sub-lease is a lease within a lease.  If you have a sub-lease then another party holds the original lease.  It is very important to remember that in this situation the seller is the landlord.  In general, sub-leasing will require that permission is granted by the original landlord.  With a new lease, a lease has expired and the buyer must obtain a new lease from the landlord.  Buyers will want to be certain that they have a lease in place before buying a new business otherwise they may have to relocate the business if the landlord refuses to offer a new lease.

The third lease option is the assignment of lease.  Assignment of lease is the most common type of lease when it comes to selling a business.  Under the assignment of lease, the buyer is granted the use of the location where the business is currently operating.  In short, the seller assigns to the buyer the rights of the lease.  It is important to note that the seller does not act as the landlord in this situation.

Understand All Lease Issues to Avoid Surprises

Early on in the buying process, buyers should work to understand all aspects of a business’s lease.  No one wants an unwelcomed surprise when buying a business, for example, discovering that a business must be relocated due to lease issues.

Summed up, don’t ignore the critical importance of a business’s leasing situation.  Whether you are buying or selling a business, it is in your best interest to clearly understand your lease situation.  Buyers want stable leases with clearly defined rules and so do sellers, as sellers can use a stable leasing agreement as a strong sales tool.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Day One is the Day to Prepare Your Exit

Pepperjam CTO, Greg Shepard recently published “Planning Your Exit Should Begin When You Launch” in Entrepreneur magazine. In this article, Shepard puts forward a variety of thought-provoking ideas including that entrepreneurs should be thinking about partnering early on with those they believe will ultimately want to buy their business.

Thinking Ahead

Much of Shepard’s thinking centers around the fact that a large percentage of startups end in acquisitions. In particular, he notes that in 2017, “mergers and acquisitions accounted for 93 percent of the 809 ventures capital-backed exits, yielding a total of $45.6 billion in disclosed exit value.” Not too surprising, he also points out that according to a recent Silicon Valley Bank survey, over 50% of all startups are “hoping for an acquisition.”

For this reason, Shepard points out that entrepreneurs should be thinking about who may potentially acquire them from day one. In particular, startups will want to build their companies in such a way that they will be attractive for acquisition at a later date.

Making one’s startup attractive for acquisition means thinking about such details as the Ideal Customer Profile, Ideal Employee Profile, and Ideal Buyer Profile. This will help startups build the most attractive acquisition friendly company possible. According to Crunchbase, exit opportunities frequently present themselves well before a company’s Series B funding.

Building Successful Strategies

Startups simply must understand who their customer is and why their particular product is attractive to that customer. Likewise, having the right kind of employees with the right kind of training and know how is key. Hiring the best talent is definitely a way for a startup to make itself more attractive for a potential future acquisition.

Shepard believes that once you understand your customer and have the right team to support your vision, you’ll want to focus in on companies that are most likely to be interested and construct an “optimal buyer pool.” Finding this optimal buyer pool means finding businesses that serve similar markets and then making sure that your product, as well as your business model, both address an overlooked need within the existing customer base. Combine all of these variables together, and your company will be more attractive for an acquisition.

Let Innovation Drive You

Another key point in Shepard’s article is that startups will want to provide products or services that potential buyers are currently not providing to their customers. Additionally, he states that “Disruptors should seek out companies that are truly driven by innovation-perhaps those that have already established or partnered with innovative labs or accelerators.”

Ultimately, it is critical for startups to understand where they could fit within a larger organization. Understanding this will help entrepreneurs make their company more acquisition friendly.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What Makes the Sale of a Business Fall Through?

There are a myriad of reasons why the sale of a business doesn’t close successfully; these multiple causes can, however, be broken down into four categories: those caused by the seller, those caused by the buyer, those that just happen (“acts of fate”), and those caused by third parties. The following examines the part each of these components can play in contributing to the wrecked deal:

The Seller

1. In some instances, the seller doesn’t have a valid reason for entering into the sale process. Without a strong reason for selling, he or she has neither the willingness to negotiate nor the flexibility to see the sale to a conclusion. Without such a commitment, the desire to sell is not powerful enough to overcome the many complexities necessary to finalize the sales process.

2. Some sellers are merely testing the waters. As detailed above, they are not at that “hungry” stage that provides the push toward a successful transaction. These sellers merely want to see if anyone wants to buy their business at the price they would like to receive.

3. Many sellers are unrealistic about the price they want for their business. They may be sincere about wanting to sell, but they are unable to be realistic about how the marketplace will value the business. The demand for their business may not be there.

4. Some sellers fail to be honest about their business or its situation. They may be hiding the fact that new competition is entering the market, that the business has serious problems or some other reason the business is not salable under existing circumstances. Even worse, some sellers do not disclose that there is more than one owner and that they are not all in agreement about selling the business.

5. A seller may decide to wait until a buyer is found and then check with their outside advisors about the tax and/or legal consequences. At this point, the terms of the deal have to be altered, and the buyer won’t agree. Sellers should deal with these complications ahead of time. Nobody likes changes–especially buyers!

The Buyer

1. The buyer may not have an urgent need or a strong desire to go into business. In many cases the buyer may begin with positive intentions, but then doesn’t have the courage to make “the leap of faith” necessary to go through with the sale.

2 Some buyers, like sellers, have very unrealistic expectations regarding the price of businesses. They are also uneducated about the nature of small business in general.

3. Many buyers are not willing to put in the hours or do the type of work necessary to operate a business successfully.

4. Buyers can be influenced by others who are opposed to the purchase of a business. Many people don’t or can’t understand the need to be “your own boss.”

Acts of Fate

These are the situations that “just happen,” causing deals to fall through. Even considering the strong hand of fate, many of these situations could have been prevented.

1. A buyer’s investigation reveals some unmentioned or unknown problem, such as an environmental situation. Or, perhaps there are financial deficiencies discovered by the buyer. Unfortunately, these should have been on the table from the beginning of the selling process.

2. The seller may not be able to substantiate, at least to the buyer’s satisfaction, the earnings of the business.

3. Problems may arise, unknown to both the seller and the buyer, with federal, state, or local governmental agencies.

Third Parties

1. Landlords may become difficult about transferring the lease or granting a new one.

2. Buyers and/or sellers may receive overly-aggressive advice from outside advisors, usually attorneys. Attorneys, in their zeal to represent their clients, forget that the goal is to put the deal together. In some cases, they erect so many roadblocks that the deal can only fall apart.

Most of the problems outlined here could have been resolved before the selling process was too far advanced. There are also some problems that could not have been avoided–people do sometimes enter situations with the best of intentions only to find out that this is not the right answer for them after all. These are the exceptions, however. Most business sales can have happy endings if potential difficulties are handled at the appropriate time.

Business brokers are aware of the various ways a deal may fall through. They are experienced in resolving issues before the business goes onto the market or before a buyer is introduced to the business. To buy or sell a business successfully, sellers should resolve any potential deal-wreckers, following the advice of a professional business broker.

Although business brokers cannot provide legal advice, they are familiar with the intricacies of the business sale. They are also familiar with local attorneys who specialize in the details of these transactions. These attorneys will usually be more efficient, and therefore more cost-effective, than the attorney who handles a general practice.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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When It’s Time to Sell, Put Your Strengths First

Putting your strengths first will help you sell your business. While this may seem obvious, a surprising number of business owners will either improperly index the strengths of their business or fail to emphasize those strengths adequately. In this article, we will examine five key business strengths that you should focus on when it comes time to sell.

Understand Your Buyer

You know your business, but you don’t necessarily know what buyer is best for it in the long run. If you’ve never sold a business before (and most business owners haven’t), then you may not know how to best position and present your business for sale.

A business broker is immensely valuable in this regard. These professionals are very good at determining which prospective buyers are serious and which ones are not. Additionally, a business broker will use their own databases of prospective and vetted buyers and try to match your business up with the prospective buyers that are most likely to be a good fit. When dealing with a buyer, a seasoned business broker will put emphasis on your strengths whenever possible.

Be Sure to Maintain Normal Operations

Selling a business can be very demanding and underscores, once again, the value of working with a business broker. A business broker will focus on selling your business so that you have more time to focus on the day-to-day of running your business.

The last thing you want is to waste your time on buyers who are not serious. Remember, if your business suffers as a result of the time you spend away from your business in the sale process, then the value of your business to prospective buyers could suffer.

Determining the Best Price

If you incorrectly price your business, you could dramatically reduce the interest. Business brokers are experts at pricing businesses and can help you determine the best possible price. Many business owners have unrealistic valuations and others may even undervalue their businesses or they fail to incorporate all aspects of their business. Working with a professional business broker can help you quickly achieve the best price. The best price possible will work to maximize the strengths of your business.

Getting Your Business Ready for Sale

There is a lot that goes into getting your business ready to sell. The simple fact is that getting your business ready to sell isn’t a one-dimensional process, but instead involves every aspect of your business. Getting your business ready to sell isn’t about making it look presentable and putting a “new coat of paint” on things, although this is a factor.

Instead it is necessary to have every aspect of your business in order. From paperwork such as tax returns, contracts and forms to a business plan and more, it is important to consider every aspect of your business. You should consider what you would want to see if you were the one looking to buy the business. Be sure to do everything possible to build up your strengths.

Confidentiality

If word gets out that your business is up for sale, there could be a range of problems. Employees, including key management, could begin looking for other jobs and suppliers and key buyers could begin to look elsewhere. In short, a breach of confidentiality could lead to chaos.

Getting your business ready for sale means factoring in the strengths and weakness of your business then fixing weaknesses whenever possible and building upon your strengths. Working with a business broker can help you address every point covered in this article and more.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Evaluating Your Company’s Weaknesses

The time you spend evaluating your company’s weaknesses is, as it turns out, one of the single best investments you can hope to make. No one should understand your company better than you. But to fully understand your company, it is essential that you invest the time to understand your company’s various strengths and weakness.

Your company, from the beginning, has been an investment. It’s an investment in your time, your mental energy and, of course, your financial resources. The time and effort you expend to locate, understand and then fix your businesses’ weaknesses is time very well spent. Addressing and remedying your businesses’ weakness will not only pay dividends in the here and now, but will also help get your business ready to sell. Let’s turn our attention to some of the key areas of weakness that can cause some buyers to look elsewhere.

An Industry in Decline

A declining market can serve as a major red flag for buyers. You as a businessowner must be savvy enough to understand market situations and respond accordingly.

If you spot a troubling trend and realize that a major source of your revenue is declining or will decline, then you must branch out in new directions, offer new goods and/or services, find new customers and also find new ways to get your existing customers to buy more. Taking these steps shows that your business is a vibrant and dynamic one.

You Face an Aging Workforce

It has been well publicized that young people, for example, are not entering the trades. Many trades such as tool and die makers will be left with a substantial shortage of skilled workers as a result. No doubt, technology will replace some, but not all, of these workers.

This is an example of how an aging workforce can impact the health and stability of a business. If your business potentially relies upon an aging workforce then it is essential that you find a way to address this issue long before you put your business up for sale.

You Only Have, or Primarily Rely Upon a Single Product

Being a “one-trick pony” is never a good thing, even if that trick is exceptionally good. Diversification increases the chances of stability and can even help you find new customers. Additional goods and services allow you to weather unexpected storms such as a supply chain disruption while at the same time provide access to new customers and thus new revenue.

The Factor of Customer Concentration

Many buyers are concerned about customer concentration. If your business has only one or two customers, then your business is highly vulnerable and almost every prospective buyer will realize this fact. While it is an investment to find new customers, it is well worth the time and money.

A business broker can help you evaluate your company and, in the process, address its weaknesses. Remedying your businesses weakness before you put your business up for sale and you will be rewarded.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Top Three Major Legal Mistakes to Avoid During a Sale

The business sale process can be complex, which is part of the reason why it makes sense to have expert help in the form of a business broker. Legal mistakes can be very costly mistakes. A legal mistake can also bring the entire sale process to a sudden and complete halt. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to avoid these kinds of issues when selling your business.

Major Mistake 1 – You Skipped the Non-Disclosure Agreement

Nothing quite invites trouble like skipping the non-disclosure agreement. If a deal falls through, then you have the NDA backing you up. This document ensures that the prospective buyer doesn’t tell the world that your business is up for sale. Never assume that a deal is going through until it actually is 100% complete. Buying or selling a business is a complex process with lots of moving parts. There is plenty of room for things to go wrong, and that is why you always need to have an NDA in place.

Major Mistake 2 – You Don’t Work with an Attorney

Let’s be very blunt here, if you are selling a business, then you need an attorney. Just as there is no replacement for an NDA, the same holds true for working with a lawyer. It is also vital that you properly prep your business for sale, which means getting paperwork organized and making sure that you have legally checked all your boxes. Working with an experienced and proven attorney will help you ensure that your business is ready for sale. If you’re not prepared for the deal, it can make buyers nervous.

Major Mistake 3 – You Failed to Get a Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is a valuable, and necessary, legal document. Some sellers are reluctant to use it, fearing that it will slow down the momentum of the deal. However, since this letter works to protect your interest and outlines expectations, this step should not be skipped. For example, a letter of intent details the termination fee for the buyer, meaning that the buyer can’t walk away without consequences simply because he or she is having a bad day. Importantly, a letter of intent ensures that you are only dealing with serious buyers.

Many things can go wrong while selling a business. The more prepared you are before you begin the process, the greater the chances that you will not only avoid headaches, but also be successful. Long before you put your business on the market, you should begin working with a capable business broker and attorney. Their input and advice will prove to be invaluable and help you avoid a range of costly and time-consuming issues.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 Key Factors in Transferring Your Business to a Family Member

The odds are that you’ve put a great deal of yourself into your business. Inevitably, the day will come when you have no choice but to walk away from your business and begin a new chapter of your life. Quite often, businesses are transferred from one family member to another. In this article, we will examine 5 of the key factors you’ll want to consider when transferring your business to a family member.

Factor #1 Gifting Can Have Numerous Benefits

Will you be selling your business to a family member or simply gifting that business? Gifting comes with several major advantages, for example, this approach can reduce your real estate taxes. Also, the gifting process can allow you to maintain a level of control if the agreement is written properly.

Factor #2 The Buy-Sell Agreement

Don’t overlook the importance of the buy-sell agreement, which works to put everything in writing. You may be tempted to forgo a contract since you are dealing with a family member, but this is a mistake, no matter how close you might be with your loved ones. A buy-sell agreement adds clarity to the process, which can help to keep confusion levels low and the chances of success high. When the time comes to transfer your business to a relative, you’ll want an expert to create a document that outlines all relevant details. It should feature everything from the value of the business and the amount being paid for the business to who will be kept on the payroll to what level of involvement you’ll have once the process is finished.

Factor #3 Seller Financing

Seller financing is quite common among sellers, and when relatives are involved it becomes even more common. One option is to consider a private annuity. A private annuity allows for payments to be spread out for many years and can even extend until the end of your life.

Factor #4 Considering the Self-Cancelling Installment Note

In the installment note, it is possible to feature a self-cancelling clause, which can definitely benefit your family in the future. This part of the paperwork will confirm that if you were to pass away before all the payments have been made, the remaining debt can be attached directly to your will. If you are a parent selling a business to a child, then one of the key benefits of an installment note is that it keeps your other children from paying excess income tax on your estate.

Factor #5 Transferring a Business to a Relative and the IRS

You can expect the IRS to take a second look when you sell a business to a family member. The IRS does this to make sure that everything is above board, due to the fact that many past business owners have acted in an unethical manner. You’ll want to be very sure that every aspect of the sale is done professionally and that you have all your paperwork in order.

A business broker can help you deal the unique particulars that come along with selling a business to a relative. Every business is different, and every sale is different too. A professional business broker can help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Maintaining Confidentiality Throughout the Sale Process

There are two key ingredients when it comes to selling a business: professionalism and confidentiality. If either of these two ingredients are lacking, then you’ll most likely run into problems. Sadly, many sellers see their deals fall apart due to a breach of confidentiality. You certainly don’t want to be among their ranks.

The simple fact is that a breach in confidentiality can negatively impact everyone from suppliers and vendors to creditors. For example, vendors could change their terms and this, in turn, could have a major, negative impact on cash flow. There can be a chain reaction of events that spirals out of control.

The potential negative outcomes of a breach in confidentiality are quite numerous, for example, employees and customers alike could begin to worry about the future of the business. Employees could begin to worry about the safety of their jobs and begin looking for a new position. Dangerously, this situation could lead to changes in management and the loss of key employees. Likewise, customers, fearing instability with the business, could also decide to take the business elsewhere, leading to revenue problems.

Yet another complicating factor comes in the form of the competition. If the competition hears that your business is up for sale, they could sense blood in the water and look to steal your customers.

Ultimately, a breach could give potential buyers cold feet. At this point, it should be very clear that protecting confidentiality is a must. One of the single best ways to ensure that confidentiality is maintained is to opt for an experienced and proven business broker. Business brokers understand the simply tremendous value of keeping things under wraps.

It may be tempting to try and sell your business on your own, but it is vital to understand that doing so can damage your businesses’ reputation. A good business broker knows how to shield your business from breaches of confidentiality. By working with a business broker, not only are confidentiality agreements signed and taken seriously, but also you’ll know that prospective buyers are vetted and fully pre-qualified. According to an article on Inc.com, broker feedback has revealed 9 out of 10 interested parties who respond to “business for sale” ads are not qualified to make the purchase. Why would you want to risk giving away key details to these parties?

In short, you’ll have a much better idea of who you are dealing with and how serious they are about buying your business. At the end of the day, there is no replacement for maintaining confidentiality.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Embracing Retirement and Selling: 4 Tips for a Smooth Transition

No one works forever. Regardless of how much you love your business, sooner or later you will have to step away. Owning a business can be very demanding. This fact can be doubly true for owner-operators of businesses. The simple fact is that you’ll have to embrace retirement at some point.

Most business owners have never sold a business before and may not know what to expect. The good news is that prospective buyers usually like the idea of buying an established business directly from a business owner. It is key, however, to do everything possible to make selling your business, as well as the transition period, as easy for a buyer as possible.

Prepping your business for sale has many diverse parts that need to be taken into consideration. Prospective buyers want to feel as though they will have a seamless transition, so it’s in your best interest to evaluate what steps you need to take to make the transition smooth.

You are the world’s greatest expert on your business. As a result, you are perfectly positioned to evaluate your business so as to ensure that it is both appealing to a prospective buyer and ready to sell. Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.

The Top 4 Transition Tips

1. Automate as many processes as possible.

In this way, prospective buyers are less likely to be intimidated by the level of work involved in owning a small business. The odds are good that many of your prospective buyers have never owned a business before. One of the best ways to not scare prospects away is to make owning and operating your business as streamlined as possible.

2. Work with your employees, key customers and vendors to ensure a smooth transition.

Anything that can cause a potential disruption may scare off prospective buyers. Put yourself in the shoes of prospective buyers and think about what may cause you concern if you were evaluating a business. Once you locate those areas of potential concern, do what you can start to remedy them well before placing your business on the market.

3. Pick out your “second-in-command” before you sell your business.

Having a competent and proven “right hand man or woman” that can step in and essentially operate your business is a very attractive asset to have in place when it comes time to sell your business.

4. Consider working with a business broker.

Brokers are expert in the art and craft of buying and selling businesses. They will be able to help you evaluate your business and address areas that need improvement so as to ensure a smooth transition.

Taking these steps will not just make your business easier to sell, but it will also shorten the amount of time it takes to sell. The last thing you want when you are ready to sell your business and retire is for the selling process to drag on forever.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press

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The Top Two Ways to Purchase a Business without Collateral

Banks love collateral and for a very simple reason. If you have collateral, then the bank has something it can take if you fail to repay your loan. At its heart, collateral is a remarkably simple concept. However, unfortunately, many people who want to start a business lack it. All of this leads us to the simple question, “Can I start a business without a collateral.

1. Try the SBA

There are ways that you can start a business without collateral, but you will need some amount of money. The larger the business, obviously the more money you’ll need. Those interested in the zero collateral route will want to take a look at the SBA’s 7 (a) program. This program incentivizes banks to make loans to prospective buyers. Through this program, the SBA guarantees an impressive 75% of the loan amount.

Of course, the buyer still has to put up 25% of the money in order to buy the business, but for those looking to own a business without having to put up collateral, the SBA’s 7 (a) program is an impressive option. Perhaps best of all, the cash buyers used can come from investors or even a gift, helping to make this program a potentially great one for first time business owners.

2. Think about Seller Financing

Another option is seller financing. Sellers frequently get involved in financing. When a seller is motivated to sell, due to retirement or some other factor, things can get interesting. Most sellers do agree to offer some degree of financing, so asking for selling financing is not unheard of or insulting to a business owner. Prospective business owners may even be able to combine seller financing with the SBA’s 7 (a) program. Correctly used, this path could provide a powerful and useful option.

Speaking of retiring, according to The International Business Brokers Association (IBBA), M&A Source and the Pepperdine Private Capital Market Project, 33% of deals now take place when owners are retiring. This clearly demonstrates how it is in the best interest of many sellers to consider seller financing.

While the SBA’s 7 (a) program is potentially very useful to buyers, it is important to note that under the program, the seller cannot receive any payments for two years. Working around this potential problem may very well require some creativity and effort on the part of the prospective buyer. In the end, it may be necessary to offer the business owner some incentive in order to justify waiting two years for his or her money.

Attempting to buy a business without collateral may, at first, sound like too large of an obstacle to overcome. However, these kinds of purchases really do happen all the time. By staying focused, persistent and understanding your options, you will increase your odds of success. Finally, get as much professional help as possible. Prospective business owners should consult with S.C.O.R.E., experienced business brokers and others to learn the best way to buy a business without collateral.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Fairness Opinions

Since one often hears the term “fair value” or “fair market value,” it would be easy to assume that “fairness opinion” means the same thing. A fairness opinion may be based to some degree on fair market value, but there the similarities end. Assume that you are president of a family business and the other members are not active in the business, but are stockholders; or you are president of a privately held company that has several investors/stockholders. The decision is made to sell the company; and you as president are charged with that responsibility. A buyer is found; the deal is set; it is ready to close — and, then, one of the minority stockholders comes out of the woodwork and claims the price is too low. Or, worse, the deal closes, then the minority stockholder decides to sue the president, which is you, claiming the selling price was too low. A fairness opinion may avoid this or protect you, the president, from any litigation.

A fairness opinion is a letter, usually only two to four pages, containing the factors or items considered, and a conclusion on the fairness of the selling price along with the usual caveats or limitations. These limitations usually cite that all the information on which the letter is based has been provided by others, the actual assets of the business have not been valued, and that the expert relied on information furnished by management.

This letter can be prepared by an expert in business valuation such as a business appraiser or business intermediary. The content of the fairness opinion letter is limited to establishing a fair price based on the opinion of the expert. It does not provide any comment or opinion on the deal itself or how it is structured; nor does it contain any recommendations on whether the deal should be accepted or rejected.

Fairness opinions are often used in the sale of public companies by the board of directors. It helps support the fact that the board is protecting the interests of the stockholders, at least as far as the selling price is concerned. In privately held companies, the fairness opinion will serve the same purpose if there are minority shareholders or family members who may elect to challenge the price the company is being sold for.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Are You Asking a Reasonable Price for Your Privately Held Company?

Placing a price on a privately-held company is usually more complex than placing a value, or a price, on a publicly-held company. There are many reasons for this fact, but one of the top reasons is that privately-held companies don’t have audited financial statements.

Why are Audited Financial Statements Lacking in Privately-Held Companies?

Preparing an audited financial statement is expensive and, as a result, many companies that have not gone public simply forego the expense. On the other hand, publicly held companies reveal much more information regarding their finances as well as a range of other kinds of information.

Compared to a privately-held company, a publicly held company can often seem like an “open book.” Buyers are left with the proposition of having to dig out a lot more information from a privately-held company in order to assess whether or not a valuation or price is accurate.

What Can You Do to Overcome this Factor?

You, as the seller, can help streamline this process. By having as much information available as possible and having your accountant make sure that your numbers are presented in a manner that is easy to understand and follow, you will increase your chances of selling your business.

Experts agree that there are several steps a seller of a privately-held company can make when he or she is establishing a price or a value. First, use an outside appraiser or expert to determine a value. Next, establish what your “go-to-market” price is. Third, know your “wish price.” A seller’s “wish price” is the price that he or she would ideally like to see. Finally, it is critical that sellers establish the lowest price that they are willing to take. You should know in advance how much you are willing to sell for as this can help a negotiation move along.

The Marketplace Will Ultimately Decide

It is common that the final sale price for the company be somewhere between the asking price and the bottom-dollar price established in advance by the seller. Yet, it is important to note, that on occasion a selling price may, in fact, be lower than any of the four we’ve outlined above. At the end of the day, the undeniable fact, is that the marketplace will establish the final sales price.

Here are a few of the areas that you can expect a buyer to review when establishing the price that he or she is willing to pay: stability of the market and stability of earnings, the potential of the market, product diversity, the size of the customer base, the number and seriousness of competitive threats, how broad the customer base is, the relationship with suppliers, the distribution network in place, needs for capital expenditures and other factors. The more favorable each of these points are, the more likely it is you’ll receive a higher price.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Examining the Mind of the Serious Buyer – 5 Points to Consider

Are you looking for a way to perfect your presentation? Understanding what the typical serious buyer wants will help you get your business ready for selling.

Let’s turn our attention to looking at what these types of individuals and entities really want. After all, your time is precious.

1. An Interest in the Industry

First, prospective buyers will want to have a better understanding of your industry. Any serious buyer will want to understand the industry as a whole, as well as your existing customers, prospective customers and the strengths and weaknesses of your business. Key factors, such as threats from competition, will also be a major factor for prospective buyers.

2. Seeking Knowledge about Discretionary Costs

Secondly, expect buyers to take a long look at discretionary costs. Sellers will often look to reduce their expenses in a range of discretionary areas including advertising, research and development and public relations; this is done to help make a business appear more attractive to a buyer. However, it is important to note, that a savvy prospective buyer will notice reduction in discretionary expenses.

3. Inquiries about Wages and Salaries

Wages and salaries is another area that receives attention from buyers. If your business is paying minimum wage or offers a limited retirement program then employee turnover is likely to be high. Buyers may be concerned that employee stability may be low, which, of course, can potentially disrupt business.

4. Questions about Cash Flow and Inventory

No serious buyer will ignore the issue of cash flow. Any prospective buyer will want to know that the business they are considering buying will continue to generate profits both now and in the future.

Inventory is another area that will not be ignored. If your business is carrying a large amount of antiquated, unsalable or simply unusable inventory, then expect that to be factored into a prospective buyer’s decision-making process. It is best to disclose such inventory instead of hiding it, as it will be discovered during due diligence.

5. Seeking Capital Expenditure Details

Finally, capital expenditures will be examined by buyers. You can expect buyers to carefully evaluate machinery and equipment to ensure that there will be no expensive surprises looming on the horizon.

These give areas are definitely not the only areas that buyers will explore and investigate. Everything from financial agreements and environmental concerns to government control will be examined in depth. You should invest some time thinking about the situation from the perspective of a buyer, as this will help you discover many potential problems and try to secure viable workarounds. Working closely with a business broker is another way to ensure that you can successfully anticipate the needs of buyers.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Is Now the Right Time to Sell Your Company?

Like many things in life, timing can be everything when it comes to selling your company. Every day more and more baby-boomers are now reaching retirement age. Soon, the market will likely be flooded with companies looking to sell.

According to a 2016 survey of business brokers, 54% plan to exit in the next ten years. We may be on the verge of a massive wave of businesses hitting the market. Getting out in front of that wave could be in your best interests. Now very well may be the time to sell.

Are You Suffering from Burnout?

If you’ve been running your business for many years, it is quite possible that you are suffering from burnout. This issue is remarkably common with business owners and it is also very dangerous. Owners suffering from burnout don’t invest as much of themselves and their creative energy into their businesses, and that has a range of implications.

Everything from losing customers to failing to keep up with the competition are all possibilities when an owner feels ready to throw in the towel. The end result is that owners, through poor decisions and inaction, can inadvertently decrease the value of their businesses. Combine this fact with the fact that a wave of businesses may soon be hitting the market and selling may start looking more and more attractive.

Jump into a Strong Economy

Further, today’s strong economy means that new and unexpected competitors may soon enter the picture. It is difficult to predict how the marketplace may change in the coming years, but a strong economy means both more opportunities for existing businesses and the potential for greater competition.

Interest rates have remained at historic lows and that could definitely help you sell your business. Working with an experienced business broker is one way to test the waters. You may determine that now is the perfect time to sell your business. There are many factors involved in selling your business, and a skilled broker can help you look at the overall situation at hand and determine when it is the right time to sell.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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If You’re Selling, Get Ready to Expect the Unexpected!

Many experts agree that the best time to prepare to sell your business is when you start your business. That may sound extreme. However, few business owners reach that level of preparedness. A simple fact of life and owning a business is that most sales are event-driven. Factors such as problems with a partnership, health issues, burnout or even divorce can drive a business owner to sell.

Once you’ve made the decision to sell, it is essential that you realize one key fact. Unexpected events and factors will always rise to the surface. In this article, we’ll explore four key questions that you’ll need to address before selling your business.

1. What is the Value of Your Time?

Meeting with prospective buyers can be a serious time sponge. One of the key benefits of working with a business broker is that a broker can take some of the pressure off of you. They can interact with buyers on your behalf.

A large percentage of business owners are also deeply involved in the day-to-day operation of the business. Business owners don’t have time to meet with every interested party or take the time to weed out the qualified prospects from the window shoppers.

2. What Do You Want Your Level of Involvement to Be?

Working with prospective buyers is obviously time consuming, but so is knowing every detail about a prospective buyer’s visit. A seasoned business broker can sift through what information is essential and what information is extraneous. In this way, you only hear about what is relevant and can skip the rest.

It is important for business owners to keep in mind that buyers expect that the business will continue to run successfully not just during the sales process but through closing as well. For this reason, you’ll want to stay as focused on the day-to-day operations of your business as possible; after all, if a deal falls through the last thing you want is to have a dip in revenue.

3. Are There Other Decision Makers?

Determining whether or not there are any other decision makers is a very smart move. Part-owners and silent partners will have to be addressed when it comes time to sell.

4. Just How Important is Confidentiality to You?

Confidentiality is important when it comes to selling your business. The more active your selling process, the greater the chances are that you’ll have a leak if you’re not extremely careful. Leaks unfortunately occur more than you might think.

How much will this issue negatively impact your business if it does occur? You should have a “leak plan” ready to go. In your plan, you should have in place what steps you should take to minimize the damage caused by the leak. Being ready to deal with key customers, employees and distributors is the cornerstone of dealing with any leak. Business brokers are experts at helping clients maintain confidentiality. This can save you a great deal of time and effort on many fronts.

By answering these four questions fully, you will save yourself time, stress and effort. Selling a business is a complex process. But with the right planning you can minimize your effort and maximize your results.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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How Your Employees Can Boost Profits and Values

The simple fact is that without employees, you don’t have a business. Given the tremendous importance of your employees, it is important to step back and reflect on the value associated with keeping those employees happy.

There is a direct relationship between happy employees and happy customers. A happy employee takes steps to ensure that your customers are satisfied. This approach in turn leads to a higher level of customer retention and helps in attracting new customers. On the flip side, unhappy employees can be quite dangerous to your company’s bottom line.

The hiring process is a key process for the health of your business and should never be overlooked or treated as a secondary process within your business. Cultivating happy employees begins at this point. Hiring can and will either make or break your business.

Offering great pay and benefits is only one important factor in keeping employees happy. A more overlooked important factor is to appreciate the contributions that employees make. If employees feel as though they are being overlooked or not appreciated, their overall happiness level will falter. Many owners unnaturally expect their employees to have the same dedication to their business that they do, and this can lead to problems.

Your employees realize that they don’t own the business. As a result, most are only willing to invest so much of themselves, their talents and their abilities into your business. Taking steps to keep your employees engaged, such as showcasing that their talents are appreciated, will help keep employees invested and happy. Research has also revealed feeling happy will make them more productive. A few years ago, Fortune Magazine wrote an article that cited a UK study connecting employee happiness and productivity. It’s definitely worth a look.

Being a positive owner is a gigantic step in the right direction where cultivating happy employees is concerned. Being a good role model is at the heart of having happy employees. It is vital that you reward people with praise and bonuses for jobs well done and fire employees that are consistently negative or failing to perform their respective duties. Special touches, such as giving employees their birthdays off, can go a long way towards cultivating the kind of climate that leads to increased satisfactions. And don’t forget, your team’s satisfaction will increase your bottom line.

When it comes time to sell a business, you can be sure that prospective buyers will be interested in your level of profits. In this way, the investment you make in the happiness of your employees can be returned many fold.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article posted on the Axial Forum entitled “What Do Buyers Look for in the Lower Middle Market?” explains how to make your business valuable to potential buyers and how to find the right buyers for your business. The buyers in the lower middle market are usually strategic buyers, financial buyers, private equity firms, and search fund advisors.

Buyers in this market are generally looking for the following characteristics:

  • A strong management team who has incentive and is prevented from competing against the company if their employment is terminated
  • Stability and predictability of revenue and cash flow
  • Low customer concentration
  • Other value drivers such as state-of-the-art operating systems
  • High level of preparedness

The article warns about the biggest obstacles for owners. Business owners should consult with experienced deal attorneys and investment bankers before speaking to any buyers. They should also consult with advisors before the company goes on the market to make sure the business is properly prepared for sale. A business owner’s management team may also be subject to rigorous professional assessment and background checks if a private equity or financial buyer is interested.

Currently in the marketplace, buyers are offering amounts higher than the historical norms. This means that along with the higher sale prices, sellers are subject to more scrutiny through due diligence. This is all the more reason for a seller to be prepared and to work with experienced advisors to get their business ready for sale.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article from the Axial Forum entitled “5 Ways Sell-Side Customer Diligence Can Maximize Sale Prices” explains how third-party sell-side customer diligence has become increasingly more common and why it can help sellers maximize and justify sale prices. Here are the 5 ways this due diligence can help you get the best sale price:

  1. Determine if it’s the right time for a sale – Positive customer feedback can help reinforce the decision to sell, and neutral or negative feedback can help improve the company so it will be better prepared for a sale.
  2. Attract and persuade buyers – Your confidential information memorandum (CIM) will show how strong customer relationships are, how your market share has grown, how the business has become more competitive, and more. Thorough documentation of the health of customer relationships will also help attract buyers.
  3. Control the message – Having the seller contact their customers reduces the risk of anyone being tipped off about the sale and also allows for the seller to provide a better interpretation of the results.
  4. Prove there is a clear path for future growth – Pre-sale due diligence can help justify the ways in which the company can grow in the future.
  5. Accelerate the timeline – Having customer diligence done ahead of time will speed up the process so the buyer doesn’t have to do it.

Sell-side due diligence gives the buyer a good overall assessment of customer relationships while also allowing the seller to control the process of the findings and substantiate their asking price.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article from Inc.com entitled “The Art of Finding the Right Buyer for Your Business” gives us three essential items to consider when selling a business.

  • Set goals – The first step is to set goals for the future of your business, yourself and your family. You’ll want to consider factors such as how the transaction will affect your employees, if you will continue on as a team member or transition out of the company, and what your overall goals for the company are. This will help you and your advisor customize the sale process.
  • Explore options – Be sure to know the difference between a private equity group and a strategic corporate buyer, and find out how they can benefit your business. There are also “family offices,” which are investors who manage the wealth of a family or multiple families, but they hold a business forever.
  • Keep an open mind – It’s especially important in the beginning to stay open to both types of buyers and find a good advisor who can help guide you towards the right buyer. Whether they are a financial buyer or a strategic buyer, you don’t know how they are going to handle the future of a company until you get to know them.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article from the M&A Source entitled “Gold Rush: New Entrepreneurs Seek Search Funds to Finance Takeovers of Baby Boomer Businesses” explains how new entrepreneurs are looking for funding to take over businesses as the baby boomer generation starts to retire. There is currently an entrepreneurial generational gap with far less young entrepreneurs than there are baby boomers looking to sell. Healthy financial trends paired with recent tax reforms have contributed to making ideal conditions for the new generation of small business owners.

This new generation of entrepreneurs is coming from recent MBA graduates who are choosing to acquire a business instead of heading to Wall Street. Most notably, they are doing things differently when it comes to financing by turning to the search fund model which is seeing unprecedented growth as of late. This process known as entrepreneurship through acquisition (ETA) is also becoming increasingly popular in business schools which are now offering ETA programs.

It is believed that this trend is going to continue and that the timing is right. More schools are increasing awareness about it and the model will get easier as more baby boomers retire and sell their businesses. As more big money sources see this model gain popularity, there will be more money to support this growth as well.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted by Divestopedia entitled “Avoiding the Biggest Deal Killer: Time” tells us that the key to a successful deal is preparation and momentum. This means that the seller should be fully ready when the business hits the marketplace, not when the first offer is made.

To keep the momentum going, there are 14 factors to consider:

  1. Know when it is a good time to sell your business
  2. Know why you want to sell
  3. Know the company’s strengths and weaknesses
  4. Know what you will do after you sell your business
  5. Know the value of your business
  6. Have a realistic asking price
  7. Be sure you are current on all taxes
  8. Make sure operational details are organized and recorded
  9. Know that the business can operate without you
  10. Know your company’s place in the market
  11. Be prepared with accurate financial statements, tax returns, and financial reports
  12. Know that your team of trusted advisors is ready
  13. Have a growth and marketing plan for your buyer
  14. Know what is most important to you so you can stay focused on the key issues and not worry too much over minor details

Click here to read the full article.

Copyright:Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Don’t Let the Dust Settle on Your Lease: 8 Factors to Consider

Owners often neglect understanding their leases and this can be problematic. If your business is location-sensitive, then the status of your lease could be of paramount importance. Restaurants and retail businesses, for example, are usually location-dependent and need to pay special attention to their leases. But with that stated, every business should understand in detail the terms of its leases.

There are many key factors involving leases that should not be ignored or overlooked. If you adhere to these guidelines, you’ll be much more likely to control your outcomes.

  1. At the top of the list is the factor of length. Usually, the longer your lease the better.
  1. Secondly, if the property does become available, then it is often in an owner’s best interest to try and buy the property or he or she may be forced to move.
  1. When negotiating a lease, it is best to negotiate a way out of the lease if possible; this is particularly important for new businesses where the fate of your business is still an unknown. Experts recommend opting for a one-year lease with a long option period.
  1. You may want to sell your business at some point, and this is why it is important to see if your landlord will allow for the transfer of the lease and what his or her requirements are for the transfer.
  1. Look at the big picture when signing a lease. For example, what if your business is located in a shopping center? Then attempt to have it written into your lease that you’re the only tenant that can engage in your type of business.
  1. If you’re located in a shopping center, then try to outline in your agreement a reduction of your rent if an anchor store closes.
  1. Your lease should detail what your responsibilities are and what responsibilities your landlords hold. Keep in mind that if you are a new business, it is quite possible that your landlord will likely require a personal guarantee from you, the owner.
  1. The dollar amount is necessarily the most important factor in determining the quality of your lease. It is important to carefully assess every aspect of the lease and understand all of its terms.

There are many other issues that should be taken into consideration when considering a lease.

  • For example, what happens in the event of a natural disaster or fire? Who will pay to rebuild?
  • Is there a percentage clause and, if so, is that percentage clause reasonable?
  • How are real estate taxes, grounds-keeping fees and maintenance fees handled?

Investing the time to understand every aspect of your lease will not only save you headaches in the long run, but it will also help to preserve the integrity of your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Your Deal is Almost Done, Then Again, Maybe Not

Having a letter of intent signed by both the buyer and the seller can be a very good feeling. Everything can seem as though it is moving along just fine, but the due diligence process must still be completed. It is during due diligence that a seller decides whether he or she is going to finalize the deal. Much depends on what is discovered during this important process, so remember the deal isn’t done until it is truly finalized.

In his book, The Art of M&A, Stanley Forster Reed noted that the purpose of due diligence is to “Assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present and predictable future of the business to be purchased.”

Summed up another way, due diligence is quite comprehensive. It probably comes as no surprise that this is when deals often fall apart. Before diving in, it is critically important that you meet with such key people as appraisers, accountants, lawyers, a marketing team and other key people.

Let’s take a look at some of the main items that both buyers and sellers should have on their respective checklists.

Industry Structure

You should determine the percentage of sales by product line. Additionally, take the time to review pricing policies, product warranties and check against industry guidelines.

Human Resources

Review your key people and determine what kind of employee turnover is likely.

Manufacturing

If your business is involved in manufacturing then every aspect of the manufacturing process must be evaluated. Is the facility efficient? How old is the equipment? What is the equipment worth? Who are the key suppliers? How reliable will those suppliers be in the future?

Trademarks, Patents and Copyrights

Trademarks, patents and copyrights are intangible assets and it is important to know if those assets will be transferred. Intangible assets can be the key assets of a business.

Operations

Operations is key, so you’ll want to review all current financial statements and compare those statements to the budget. You’ll also want to check all incoming sales and at the same time analyze both the backlog and the prospects for future sales.

Environmental Issues

Environmental issues are often overlooked, but they can be very problematic. Issues such as lead paint and asbestos as well as ground and water contamination can all lead to time-consuming and costly fixes.

Marketing

Have a list of major customers ready. You’ll want to have a sales breakdown by region and country as well. If possible, you’ll want to compare your company’s market share with that of the competition.

The Balance Sheet

Accounts receivable will want to check for who is paying and who isn’t. If there is bad debt, it is vital to find that debt. Inventory should also be checked for work-in-progress as well as finished goods. Non-usable inventory, the policy for returns and the policy for write-offs should all be documented.

Finally, when buying or selling a business, it is vital that you understand what is for sale, what is not for sale and what is included whether it is machinery or intangible assets such as intellectual property. Understanding the barriers to entry, the company’s competitive advantage and what key agreements with employees and suppliers are already in place, will help ensure a smooth and stable transition. There are many important questions that must be answered during the due diligence process. Working closely with a business broker helps to ensure that none of these vital questions are overlooked.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article from Small Business Trends entitled “41% of Entrepreneurs Will Leave Their Small Business Behind in 5 Years” summarizes a report by a global financial services firm that looks at business ownership and entrepreneurialism in modern America. The report found that almost 60% of wealthy investors would consider starting their own business while more than 40 percent of current business owners are planning to exit their business. Of the 41% of business owners who are planning to leave their business in the next 5 years, half of them plan to sell their business.

The report highlights how heirs in the family are often reluctant to take over the family business and that many business owners underestimate what they need to reach a successful sale. The report notes that 58% of business owners have never had their business appraised and 48% have no formal exit strategy. One of the main takeaways from this should be that small business owners need to prepare for selling their business and they should create an exit plan well in advance.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article on the Axial Forum entitled “9 Reasons Acquisitions Fail — and How to Beat the Odds” shows us how looking at why others have failed can help you to learn from their mistakes in order to have a successful acquisition. Here are 9 common causes of failed acquisitions:

  1. Strategy – Poor strategic logic was used and it was not a good fit for integration
  2. Synergy – Potential synergy between the companies is overestimated or the complexity is underestimated
  3. Culture – Incompatibility between the companies, ineffective integration, or compromising the positive aspects of one business to create uniformity
  4. Leadership – Poor leadership, not enough participation in the transaction & integration process, clashes between leaders
  5. Transaction Parameters – Paying too much, inappropriate deal structure, negotiations taking too long
  6. Due Diligence – Not enough investigation is done beforehand, failure to act on findings
  7. Communications – Lack of proper communication can result in talent loss, customer loss, and many more problems which eventually lead to failure
  8. Key Talent – Failing to identify or retain key employees
  9. Technology – Failing to identify incompatibilities or underestimating the complexity and time required for integration

Integration involves several steps starting from the initial strategic thinking, to due diligence and then carrying on into the months after the deal is made. Deal makers and business owners need to consider all steps of the process to make an acquisition successful.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted by WilmingtonBiz Insights entitled “How Does Exit Planning Protect Business Value?” explains the importance of exit planning in retaining and growing business value.

The article gives an example of two similar businesses, both valued at $5 million, who take different strategies towards increasing their companies’ values before selling. The first company invests in more equipment and hiring more employees, but does not work with any advisors besides their CPA at tax time. The second company works with their CPA, an exit planning advisor and a tax specialist. They build a strong management team, cut the owner’s work week in half, and convert the company to an S corporation. They also work with a business broker to buy two smaller competitors which broadens their market.

When the Great Recession of 2008 hits, both companies are affected but in very different ways. The first company has to lay off all the new employees they hired and their new equipment sits unused. They end up selling their business for less than what it was valued at. The second company has minimal layoffs and has extra money saved from strategic tax planning. Their business is valued at $15 million because of the two businesses they bought, and they are able to exit their business with $10 million profit. No matter what unforeseen circumstances may occur, the right planning can make a huge difference.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article from Divestopedia entitled “Constructing a Buyer List and Finding the Right Buyer for Your Company” explains how buyer lists are created and what makes a good buyer. The first step in constructing the buyer list is to determine the objectives of the seller such as leaving a legacy or retaining the local employment base.

M&A advisors will have many existing resources to start with including an in-house database, established relationships in the industry, business networks, and more. Adding your competitors to the list is another thing to consider, which will depend on the goals of the seller and the reputation of the competitors.

The ability to pay is the main qualifier to look at in finding a good buyer. Consider the following factors when looking for a buyer who can pay a premium:

  • Economies of scale
  • Economies of scope and cross-selling opportunities
  • Unlocking underutilized assets
  • Access to proprietary technology
  • Increased market power
  • Shoring up weaknesses in key business areas
  • Synergy
  • Geographical or other diversification
  • Providing an opportunistic work environment for key talent
  • To reach critical mass for an IPO or achieve post-IPO full value
  • Vertical integration

The best way to find the right buyer is to approach all potential buyers, talk to them and see if it’s a good fit.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article from Business Sale Report entitled “Almost a quarter launch businesses with a sale in mind” summarizes the results of a new study which asked nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs about their start-up history and their motivation for launching businesses. The study found that 23% of those starting their own business have their exit as a primary goal, with 83% of those claiming that selling at a profit is their main incentive.

The top 2 answers for why they started their business were that “It was a passion of mine” and “I knew it would eventually sell well and had exit in mind.” All of the study participants said that they wished they had an exact way to know the value of their business and more than half said they had no real way of knowing the value of their business.

If you are starting a business with a main goal of selling the business for profit, it is essential to know your valuation so that you get a fair price.

Click here to read the full article.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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