COVID-19 Advice for Hospitality Businesses

Clearly, some industries are taking a bigger hit from COVID-19 than others.  Any industry that requires a great deal of interaction with the public, or where people gather in large groups, are obviously having very tough times.  Movie theaters and restaurants, for example, have essentially gone dark.  Some restaurants are easing the bloodletting a bit by providing delivery, but in the vast majority of cases, revenue pales in comparison to what it was prior to the pandemic. 

While there is no doubt that the hospitality industry is suffering right now, business owners should understand that there are concrete steps they can take now to improve their odds of surviving the pandemic.  In this article, we’ll explore a few of these key ideas.

One of the areas every decision maker and business owner in the hospitality industry should be thinking about right now is staff.  During a recent industry roundtable discussion, John Howe, chairman of the International Association of Business Intermediaries, pointed out that staffing problems will continue long after the pandemic has paused or is over.  He believes that hospitality businesses will have a tough time getting the staff they need, especially in the short run. 

His key piece of advice is to work to have a line on people for key positions.  This will allow you to at least get back up and running with basic operations.  While it may be a while before hospitality businesses are at “full steam,” it is critical that they are able to open up in some fashion, as this will translate into much needed revenue.  Hospitality businesses looking to survive the pandemic should focus on making certain that key positions have been filled.  In this way, the post-pandemic relaunch can be as smooth as possible.

Founder and President of Cornerstone Business Services, Scott Bushkie, explained that there are a lot of hospitality industry people out of work right now, and this represents a real opportunity.  Now, is the perfect time to potentially upgrade staff.  There are plenty of experienced and proven hospitality people looking for positions.  The new people you bring may come with extra benefits such as bringing their customers, suppliers, and other relationships with them.  For those in the hospitality industry who may have always wanted to upgrade their team, now is perhaps the best time in history to do so.

Employees are a foundational element of your business.  Improving your staff means you’ve improved your business and boosted your odds of survival.  Bringing in new team members can help you prepare for the post-pandemic business environment.  It also offers up the potential for you to upgrade an important element within your business.

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Dealing with COVID-19’s Economic Impact: Planning and Communication are Key

There are many things that you should be doing to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.  At the top of the list is to be proactive.  Now is the time to be thinking about how best to position your business after the economy has returned to something near normal.  Now is not the time for self-pity.  In fact, not preparing for the relaunch of the economy will cost you.

In David Finkel’s recent Inc. article entitled, “10 Things Every Small-Business Owner Needs to Do to Deal with the Impact of COVID-19 on Their Business,” Finkel outlines the 10 key steps business owners should take immediately.  Finkel is the author of 12 business books and CEO of Maui Mastermind business coaching company.

There is no way of knowing how long the COVID-19 fueled economic downturn will last, and that means time is of the essence.  Business owners, regardless of their particular sector, need to prepare as though the economy could relaunch tomorrow.

Finkel’s 10 Things: 

  1. Take steps to protect your staff and customers from getting sick.
  2. Tell your customers what safety steps you’re taking.
  3. Educate your staff on how to stay healthy at work and at home.
  4. Engage in scenarios planning to deal with how markets could change.
  5. Enlist vendors and suppliers for help.  You should ask them to negotiate payment terms.
  6. Take steps to plan out your cash flow.
  7. Open a dialogue with your management team.
  8. Go on the offensive and look for opportunities.
  9. Get your team together and brainstorm.
  10. Be sure your key leaders communicate in a united fashion.

There are definitely some commonalities amongst these 10 important steps.  You’ll notice that communication and education are at the heart of most of these points. 

There is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there.  More than almost any time in modern history now is the time to communicate.  All business owners should be advised to communicate with their customers, clients, suppliers, staff, and management team in a clear fashion.  Effective communication based around a consistent and logical message can help to reduce fear.  The fear sections of the brain are driven by our primordial ancestors’ dread of the unknown lurking in the darkness.  Part of being a good leader is to reduce those fears whenever possible. 

Another common thread is planning, which includes looking for new opportunities.  Whenever there is chaos and fear, there are also opportunities.  You should be looking for those opportunities, whether it is improving your own business practices or looking for other companies to buy.

Good communication and planning can help you navigate these choppy waters.  Planning for the recovery from COVID-19 pandemic could be the difference between staying in business and going out of business.

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How to Make Remote Teams Accountable

One of the many, many changes that COVID-19 has ushered in is the extreme uptick in people working remotely.  Social distancing has made working from home a necessity for millions. 

The technology that is allowing remote working to take place has matured greatly in the last decade.  Today, it is possible for team members to work from virtually any location.  Of course, as with most technologies, there is a potential downside.  Accountability can become a significant challenge with remote workers.  Of course, the more remote workers you have at a given time, the greater the potential challenges will be. 

Many businesses are struggling with the phenomenon of remote working, as it is something new for them.  Under normal circumstances, large numbers of employees working remotely simply wouldn’t happen.  In a recent article, “The Right Way to Keep Your Remote Team Accountable,” author Elise Keith, Co-Founder and CEO of Lucid Meetings, explores the key steps businesses should take to help ensure that their employees stay on target while working from home.

Starting Slow

Keith believes that for remote working to be effective that there are 4 major mistakes that should be avoided.  One of the biggest mistakes that employers, especially those unfamiliar with remote work, make is that they demand too much productivity right out of the gate. 

She points out that remote teams can, in fact, be very productive and even outperform their in-office counterparts.  Summed up another way, remote work can be extremely productive.  Keith’s perspective is that businesses should “identify the highest priority tasks right now and relax the rest.”  Business owners need to remember that they are not the only ones under stress.  The simple and undeniable fact is that your employees are feeling the stress of COVID-19 as well.

Getting Good at Working Remotely

The second major mistake she points to is that people are assuming the current pandemic situation is temporary.  Other crises will occur in the future, and it makes sense to be prepared.  As she phrases it, why not “get good at working remotely?”  Teams with good remote working skills are proving to be rather resilient right now.

Being Open to Technology

A third mistake she points out is businesses shouldn’t disallow the use of non-approved tools.  In short, now is not the time to worry too much about what software tools people are using.  Instead, she suggests creating an expedited process for the adoption of new tools.  If your team finds a new tool that boosts productivity, you should consider buying it. 

She astutely points out, “Software costs pale when compared to the costs of lost opportunity.”  At the heart of this point is the fact that now, more than any time in decades, is the time to set aside restrictive thinking and become more open-minded and flexible.  After all, your number one goal, and the number one goal of your clients, is to stay in business until the pandemic has passed.

Staying Flexible

Keith’s fourth mistake centers on management’s design to dictate hours and response times.  Remote work is, by its nature, going to be more flexible.  Trying to micromanage every move digitally is simply not a savvy move and will hurt morale. 

Instead, she feels businesses should opt for having a daily meeting via phone or videoconference with the team.  Additionally, she puts forth the idea of having a one-on-one meeting with every team member as well.

For many businesses and many situations, remote work may be the “only game in town.”  Trying to carry on business as usual is only going to cause headaches for everyone.  Remote work can be highly effective for you, especially when used correctly.

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Now is the Time for Focus

As of late April 2020, there is one thought at the forefront of the vast majority of businesses around the globe, namely, what steps do I need to take to stay in business until the COVID-19 pandemic is over or recedes?  There is no doubt about it, this is the “big question” of the day. 

The global economic structure hasn’t seen this much uncertainty since WWII, and some would argue that we’ve never seen this level of simultaneous global economic disruption.  Knowing what steps you need to take to keep your business up and running is of paramount importance. 

In short, business owners must be sure that their businesses are in good shape.  You should take every step possible to position yourself for when the economy is back up and running at full steam.  Right now, there is a degree of chaos and uncertainty, but this will not last.  As a business owner, you need to focus on getting your house in order.

Now is not a time to take a vacation.  Instead, you should be focused like never before on the inner workings of your business.  You should be striving to find ways to improve every single aspect.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  There is a real psychological hurdle, as for many people it seems as though everything has “stopped.”  While customers, clients, and staff interactions have been dramatically reduced, now is not the time for you to “check out” mentally and wait for things to get better.

Rarely, if ever, has it been more important for owners to invest as much of their time and energy as possible.  After all, as a business owner, you have already shown a great deal of drive and determination, as well as at least some level of out of the box thinking.  You have proven that you have what it takes to get through the recent challenges. 

Many will feel dejected right now.  But you should pool on the same skill sets that allowed you to create a successful business in the first place.  What obstacles did you overcome in life to create your business?  Was your business created during a prior economic downturn?  The odds are that you already have skill sets and strengths that will allow you to survive the fallout of COVID-19.

For business owners who truly want to survive the economic stress of the pandemic, ultimately, focus is key to survival.  The odds are excellent that there are revenue streams and different approaches that may have been overlooked.  Your job is to identify and then exploit those avenues.

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Questions for Helping Businesses Survive the COVID

Developing Your 90-Day Plan

Those who want to make sure their businesses survive this pandemic will want to achieve a laser-like focus.  It is important to realize that the forced downtime triggered by the pandemic affords you the opportunity to work on potentially neglected aspects of your business. 

Summed up another way, now is the time for dynamic and focused action.  In this article, we’ll address what you can do to help your business survive this unusual time period. 

Reevaluating Your Business

It’s time to step back and look at every aspect of your business, including your processes.  You should be encouraged to find new ways of doing things.  In short, now should be viewed as a time of opportunity to reboot your business.  That way when the pandemic has subsided, and your business picks up once more, it is more efficient, more effective, and more competitive.

Scott Bushkie, Founder and President of Cornerstone Business Services, recommended that business owners create 90-day plans where they look for ways to innovate.  This strategic plan should focus on what they are going to do and what they want to accomplish.  It is critical that there is an actual plan that achieves tangible results and not simply a list of things that should be accomplished.  Listed below are a few questions you should be pondering.

  1. How can I outperform the competition?
  2. How can I innovate?
  3. How can I increase my use of technology?
  4. How can I deliver my products and services in a different way?
  5. How can I reduce my operational costs?
  6. Have I reached out to my suppliers and creditors for assistance?
  7. Have I applied to applicable SBA COVID-19 focused programs?
  8. What do I want to accomplish in the next 90-days? 

It’s Time to Reboot

The main point is that businesses should not look at this pandemic situation as some sort of “miserable and stressful vacation,” but instead as an opportunity to reboot what is not working, and look for ways to make improvements in every aspect of your business.  This process begins by asking the right questions and striving to find the answers.

In answering these questions and finding ways to help boost your rates of survival, you should turn to every asset at your disposal.  Why not ask your management team as well as all of your employees for ideas that could help their business?  Everyone should understand that owners are looking for ways to keep their business healthy while navigating the pandemic.

Now is the time for reflection, short-term and long-term planning, and tangible actions.  Business owners should also consult with a range of business professionals, including, of course, business brokers and M&A Advisors.  Brokers are uniquely positioned to help business owners through this crisis.

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6 Tips and 90 Days to Protect Your Business

There can be no way around it, Inc. contributor Brian Hamilton’s April 2020 COVID-19 centered article, “6 Actions to Take in the Next 90 Days to Save Your Business,” isn’t pulling any punches.  Hamilton, Founder of the Brian Hamilton Foundation, believes that the next 90-days could be make or break days for business owners looking to navigate the choppy waters of the COVID-19 pandemic.  His latest Inc. article provides readers with 6 actions they should take now to survive the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tip #1 Vigorously Control What You Can

Hamilton’s first tip is to “Vigorously control what you can.  Vigorously ignore what you can’t control.”  As Hamilton points out, you can’t control the economy; instead, you need to focus on what you can control.  His view is that there has never been a more important time to focus, “More than ever, you’ll need to go to war with things within your control.”  Now is the time to exercise control.

Tip #2 Guard Morale

During tough economic times, employee morale can be a real issue.  This brings us to Hamilton’s second point, “guard employee morale.”  Significant drops in employee morale can lead to serious problems with your business, which is exactly what you don’t want to see right now.  Hamilton notes that you have to be the general that helps his or her troops rise above potential panic.

Tip #3 Preserve Cash

Hamilton’s third tip is to “preserve cash where you can.”  He states, “Right now, your motto should be: Live to fight another day.”  The pandemic means that you need to keep expenses down and watch every dollar.  No one knows what the next few months, or the next couple of years, could have in store.

Tip #4 Be First in Line

“Be first in line,” is Hamilton’s fourth point.  Hamilton wisely pushes business owners to be the first in line for government assistance.  This is very good advice, as SBA and other funds are likely to be limited.

Tip #5 Get Back to the Basics

Fifth, Hamilton recommends, “Get back to the basics…starting with monomaniacal customer service.”  As always, customers, whether existing or new, are the lifeblood of your business.  You can’t afford to lose customers now and for this reason, you need to have a laser-like focus on customer service. 

Tip #6 Pivot your Product or Service 

Hamilton’s sixth tip is to “Pivot your product or service to new conditions.”  Small changes to your business can open up new streams of revenue.  Even if these streams of revenue are comparatively small, they could mean the difference between sink or swim!  Try to step back and look at your business with fresh eyes and strive to find ways to offer something new to your customers.  Whatever you offer should be based on your existing goods and services and not require a new, large expenditure.

The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously disruptive, but it won’t last forever.  Hamilton’s advice of focusing intensely on the next 90 days is sound advice.  You won’t regret looking for ways to safeguard your business for the next 3 months.

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Improving Your Telework Habits

In her recent April 20th, 2020 Forbes article, “Three Keys to Engaged, Productive Telework Teams,” author Rajshree Agarwal, who is a professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, explored how to get the most out of telework.  This highly timely article covers some very important territory for many companies dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Let’s explore Agarwal’s key points so that you can help your team get the most out of telework.

Agarwal notes that people may tend to shy away from sharing personal information and feelings while in the office.  But via video conferencing, the story can be different.  For this and other reasons, it is necessary for employers to keep in mind that the dynamic between you and your employees may be different when you use video conferencing.  This will also often be the case when your employees speak with one another. 

She prudently cautions business owners from taking a “business-as-usual” approach to the COVID-19 situation, as it can make them look both unnecessarily cold and out of touch with reality.  On the flip side, however, it is also important to not dwell on the negative aspects of the pandemic.  Offering some sense of normalcy during the COVID-19 pandemic is a smart move as well. 

How you use telework and video conferencing is, in part, about developing the correct balance.  On one hand, you’ll want to acknowledge that the situation is serious and must be addressed.  But on the other hand, you don’t want to dwell on the pandemic.  After all, not effectively handling the work at hand could undermine your business and cause other problems for both you and your employees. 

It is in everyone’s best interest to be smart, safe, and acknowledge the bizarreness of the current situation while striving to achieve business goals.  The keyword here is “balance.”  Agarwal states that “The combination of empathy and purpose unifies individuals, allowing team members to channel their efforts towards shared objectives and values.  This is the best antidote for anxiety.”

From Agarwal’s perspective, there are three keys to making telework effective: communication, socialization, and flexibility.  First, there has to be good communication.  For example, people can’t simply ignore one another’s emails because they are working virtually.  She points out that real-time meetings via Zoom or Skype can eliminate some communication issues, but not all. 

The second factor to consider is socialization.  As Agarwal points out “Engaged, productive teams also take time to socialize.”  Working from home alters the typical modes and methods of socialization, but virtual interactions can be used to help people form and develop their social networks. 

In short, socialization doesn’t have to end once telework begins.  Used judiciously, socializing, and the bonds it creates between co-workers can still continue. 

Agarwal’s third key is flexibility.  Flexibility is critical, as all team members must adjust to what, for some, may be a fairly radical restructuring of their day-to-day work experience.  Those who haven’t worked virtually before may find adjusting to be quite a challenge.  Management should strive to be more flexible during telework caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Trying to maintain the same top-down approach could prove to be problematic.

It goes without saying that telework presents challenges.  However, the challenges it represents are not insurmountable.  There are benefits to teleworking, and teams can use it to generate solutions that they might have not reached in the typical work environment.

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Don’t Fear Failure, Learn from It Instead

Failure is rarely fun.  But it is also a key ingredient in success.  While failure can be painful, there is no doubting the fact that the lessons that come from failure can be powerful teachers that provide life-long lessons and even life-trajectory altering results.  Summed up another way, failure hurts.  But on occasion, not failing could hurt more, especially in the long run.

In her Inc. article, “Why Tons of Failure Is the Key to Success, According to Seth Godin,” author Sonia Thompson, CEO of Thompson Media Group, points out that most people “avoid failure like the plague.”  Instead, they spend their time trying to achieve perfection.  In the process of adopting this approach, people miss all kinds of opportunities because they are afraid of damaging their egos.  Embracing failure is a way to experience many “transformational benefits,” which would never be experienced without the lessons of failure.

Thompson points to the work of 18-time best-selling author Seth Godin who has written about how entrepreneurs who fail more often perform at a higher level.  She quotes Godin as follows, “The rule is simple.  The person who fails the most will win.  If I fail more than you do, I will win.  Because in order to keep failing, you’ve got to be good enough to keep playing.”  Godin continues that failure imparts a gift of sorts in that it teaches us how to distinguish between a good idea and a bad idea.

As Thompson notes, research supports the notion that if you want a breakthrough idea, you will need to “produce an enormous volume of ideas.”  Obviously, most ideas won’t work, but that isn’t the issue.  The issue is to work your way through the bad ideas to get to the winners.  Sure, it would be great to have nothing but winners.  But life and reality don’t work that way.  Failure should be seen more as a path forward than the end of the road.

Getting comfortable with failure, in Thompson’s view, is critically important.  She believes entrepreneurs should take steps that make them more comfortable with failure, such as detaching oneself from the results. 

It is vital to remember that you are not the work.  In contrast, the work is part of an ongoing process.  Getting good at something takes time, and there will be failures.  For this reason, entrepreneurs simply must embrace a “growth mindset.”  Don’t think of failure as failure, but instead as part of a learning process.  There is no denying that this approach will make you calmer and that, in turn, may help you make better decisions.

There will be failure in life.  There will be problems and there will be obstacles.  Much will happen that you can’t predict, manage or control, such as the COVID-19 outbreak.  The trick is to focus on what you can control and move forward without a paralyzing fear of failure.  Because in the end, failure may be one of your best tools.

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How to Connect During a Crisis

Small business owners are facing new challenges during this crisis.  Communicating with customers requires more focus and depth than ever before.  In Mat Zuker’s latest article for Forbes Magazine, he cites Jay Mandel who runs The Collective NYC, a marketing consulting team focusing on a customer’s experience, who underlines the importance of businesses to understand their mission statement and values in order to re-enforce marketing strategies. 

Information is Crucial.  Each customer purveying your business’s website needs to understand your hours of operation, any limitations to service and what is being done to ensure cleanliness.  Providing this information establishes to your customer your seriousness of precautions which will be appreciated during this time.

If your financial situation allows, focus on your employees, donate to charities or offer discounted or free products.  By marketing this information, your brand’s scope will bolster with the customer as well. 

Utilizing the Customer’s Time.  Most customers are adhering to social distancing guidelines put forth by their state and the federal government.  Now, more than ever, it is important to exhibit to your customers how your brand can be utilized beyond your brick and mortar.  Zuker cites how universities are beginning to offer free online classes and telecommunication companies are offering two months of free service to low-income families; King Arthur flour is promoting its library of comfort food recipes (yes, please!).  Thinking beyond your storefront to put your service or product into your customer’s virtual hands is important.

Remember to entertain.  By each passing day, customers are looking for new stimulation to help the time go by at home.  Movie companies are making the best of the situation by sending theatrical releases to online streaming services.  We don’t think it is necessary to always make your customers laugh, but it might be within your branding to aim for content geared towards warmth, humanity and empathy. 

The metric for engaging your customers is changing; moving beyond views and shares to quality feedback or social impact on your community.  Do not bite off more than you can chew.  Cited in Zuker’s article, Social Media Today warns of virtue signaling; meaning declaring a set of values, but not following through on the actual deeds. 

Also, this is a fantastic opportunity to consider your marketing strategies for when this crisis ends.  What will your business look like once you are able to open the doors?  How are you able to stay relevant with your competitors?  These are all questions needing answers, but today we must do our best to accomplish what is in front of us. 

Read Mat Zucker’s full article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/matzucker/2020/04/01/content-in-a-crisiswhat-brands-can-deliver/

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Finding the Best Business for You

Owning a business and owning the right kind of business for you are, of course, two wildly different things.  Owning the wrong kind of business can make you absolutely miserable.  So if you are considering buying a business, it is prudent that you invest the time and effort into determining the best kind of business for your needs and your personality.  In a recent Forbes article, “What is the Right Type of Business for You to Buy?” author Richard Parker explores how buyers should go about finding the right business fit.

Parker is definitely an expert when it comes to working with buyers as he has spoken with an estimated 100,000 buyers over his career.  In that time, Parker has concluded that it is critical that you don’t “learn on your own time.” 

His key piece of advice concerning what type of business to buy is as follows.  “While there are many factors to be considered, the answer is simple: whatever it is you do best has to be the single most important driving factor of the revenues and profits of any business you consider purchasing.”  And he also believes that expertise is more important than experience.  Parker’s view is that it is critical for prospective buyers to perform an honest self-assessment in order to identify their single greatest business skill and area of expertise.  The last thing you want to do is pretend to be something that you are not.

Parker makes one very astute point when he notes, “Small business owners generally wear many hats: this is usually why their businesses remain small.  Remember that every big business was once a small business.”  As Parker points out, whoever is in charge of the business will ultimately determine how the business will evolve, or not evolve.  Selecting the right business for you and your skillsets is pivotal for the long-term success of your business.

All of this adds up to make the process of due diligence absolutely essential.  Before buying a business, you must understand every aspect of that business and make certain that the business is indeed a good fit for you.  According to Parker, if you don’t love your business, it will have trouble growing.  This point is impossible to refute.  Owning and growing a business requires a tremendous amount of time and effort.  If you don’t enjoy owning and/or operating your business, success will be a much more difficult proposition.

Finding the right business for you is a complicated process even after you have performed a proper evaluation of your skills and interests.  After all, do you really want a solid business with great potential for growth that you would hate owning?  By working with brokers and M&A advisors, you can find the best business fit for your needs, personality, and goals.  These professionals are invaluable allies in the process of discovering the right business for you.

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Great Tips for Selling Your Business

It takes preparation and focus to sell most businesses.  The reality of the situation is that it can take years to achieve this goal.  Partnering with a business broker or M&A Advisor is a smart step towards selling any business, as these pros know the very best tips.  In that spirit, let’s take a look at some great tips for selling your business.

Getting your business ready to sell means carefully evaluating the foundation.  Any significant problem can send buyers “running for the hills,” so be sure that you work out any problems well before placing your business on the market.  If you have any litigation or environmental issues, you most definitely want to address those issues before it is time to sell.  Nothing will scare away prospective buyers quicker than pending litigation or the specter of a potentially costly environmental clean-up.

A second key issue you’ll want to address is determining who exactly has the legal authority to sell the business.  If a board of directors or majority stockholder situation is in place, then selling a business can become more complex than it would be if you were dealing with a sole proprietorship or partnership.  Again, the last thing you want is for “legal surprises” to occur when you get ready to sell a business.

If you have non-negotiable items, be certain that those items are discussed upfront.  Revealing your non-negotiable items at the very beginning of negotiations will save everyone involved a great deal of trouble.

Tip three involves maintaining a flexible mindset.  In most circumstances, you simply can’t have everything that you want.  Both buyers and sellers need to be flexible.  Sellers will want to be flexible about any real estate.  Buyers may not want real estate associated with a given business, and you need to be prepared for this.  Sellers should also be prepared to accept valuation multiples for lack of management depth and other factors, such as reliance on a small number of customers.

At the end of the day, sellers should partner with experienced professionals such as attorneys and business brokers.  You’ve put a lot of time, energy and resources into building your business.  When it comes time to sell, it is only prudent to put together the best team in order to achieve optimal results.

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It’s Time to Exit. Are you Ready?

Thinking about whether or not you are ready to exit is an important question.  It’s something that every business owner will have to address at some point.  Importantly, you don’t want to wait until the 11th hour to prepare to sell your business.  There are far too many pieces in this particular puzzle to wait until the last minute.  You’ll want to begin the process sooner by asking yourself some key questions. 

Determining Value

First, you’ll need to determine the actual value of your business.  It is a harsh truth, but what you think your business is worth and what the market feels that it is worth may be two very different things. 

This point serves to underscore the importance of working with a business broker or M&A advisor early in the process.  An experienced broker knows how to go about determining a price that will generate interest and seem fair.  Remember that at the end of the day, it will be the marketplace that determines the value of your business, but working with a seasoned professional is an excellent way to match your offering price with what the market will ultimately bear.

Going Within

Secondly, you’ll want to consider whether or not you truly want to sell.  It is not uncommon for business owners to begin the process of selling their business only to realize a few hard facts.  Wanting to sell and the time being right to sell are often two different things. 

Upon placing your business on the market for sale, you may learn that you’re not emotionally or financially ready.  If this happens to you, consider it a learning experience that will serve you well down the line.

Get Your Ducks in a Row

If you have done a financial assessment, a little soul searching and have begun working with a business broker or M&A advisor to determine that now is a good time to sell your business, then there are several steps you’ll need to take.  You can be sure that any serious prospective buyer will want a good deal of information regarding your company. 

At the top of the list of items potential buyers will want to see are three years of profit and loss statements as well as federal income tax returns for the business.  Other important documents ranging from lease and lease related documents, lists of loans against the business and a copy of a franchise agreement, when applicable, are all additional documents that you will need to provide.  You should also have a list of fixtures and equipment, copies of equipment leases, lists of fixtures and equipment, and an approximate amount of inventory on hand.  A failure to not have this information organized and ready to present at a moment’s notice could be a costly mistake.

Working with professionals, such as accountants, lawyers, and brokers, is a savvy move.  Owning and operating a business can be a complex process, and the same holds true for selling a business.  Investing the time to seek out experienced and professional advice is the first step in selling your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What You Need to Know About the Golden Age of Business Acquisitions

Business acquisitions are red hot, and all kinds of businesses are being snapped up.  Some people are under the impression that only large businesses are being acquired, but this is far from the reality of the situation.  It would surprise many to learn that so much of the “action” is, in fact, small businesses buying other small businesses. 

In his Forbes article, “Take Advantage of the Golden Age of Business Acquisitions,” author Christopher Hurn explores the true state of the “acquisitions game.”  His conclusions are quite interesting.  In Hurn’s opinion, there has never been a more active time in the realm of business acquisitions.

If you own a business and are looking to grow, then you may want to consider acquiring a competitor in order to consolidate the market.  As Hurn points out, there are many reasons that you might want to consider acquiring a business in addition to consolidating the market.  These reasons include acquiring a new product or service, acquiring a competitor that has superior technology or even identifying a business that you believe is primed for substantial growth.

Yet, there are other forces at work that are combining to make this moment the “golden age of acquisitions.”  At the top of the list of why now is a good time to investigate acquiring a business is demographics.  According to a 2019 study by Guidant Financial and Lending Club, a whopping 57% of small business owners are over the age of 50.  The California Association of Business Brokers has concluded that over the next 20 years about $10 trillion worth of assets will change hands.  A mind-blowing 12 million businesses could come under new ownership in just the next two decades!  As Hurn phrased it, “The stars are aligning for the Golden Age of business acquisitions.”

This all points to the fact that now is the time to begin understanding what kind of acquisition would best help your business grow.  Hurn believes that turning to the Small Business Administration in this climate of rapid acquisition is a savvy move. 

In particular, he points to the 7(a) program and a host of reasons that the SBA can benefit small businesses.  Since the SBA lowered equity injection requirements, it is now possible to finance a staggering 90% of business acquisition deals with loan terms up to 25 years and lower monthly payments.  Additionally, the SBA 7(a) program can be used for a variety of purposes ranging from expanding or purchasing an existing business to refinancing existing business debt.

Hurn truly does have an important insight.  Baby Boomers will retire by the millions, and most of them will be looking to sell their businesses.  With 12 million businesses scheduled to change hands in just the next 20 years, now is a highly unique time not only in the history of acquisitions but also in the history of business. 

Business brokers understand what is involved in working with the SBA and acquisitions.  A seasoned business broker can point you towards opportunities that you may have never realized existed.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Determining the Right Time to Sell

Determining when it’s finally the right time to sell can be a tricky proposition.  If you are thinking about selling your business, one of the best steps you can take is to contact a business broker.  A good business broker will have years, or even decades, of proven experience under his or her belt.  He or she will be able to guide you through the process of determining what you need to do in order to get your business ready to sell.

One major reason you should contact a business broker long before you think you might want to sell is that you never know when the right time to sell may arise.  Market forces may change, unexpected events like a large competitor entering your area, or a range of other factors could all lead you to the conclusion that now, and not later, is the time to sell.

In a recent The Tokenist article, “When is the Best Time to Sell a Business?”, author Tim Fries covers a variety of factors in determining when is the best time to sell.  At the top of Fries’ list is growth.  If your company can demonstrate a consistent history of growth, that is a good thing.  Or as Fries phrases it, “What never varies, however, is the fact that growth is a key component, buyers will look for.”  Growth will be the shield by which you justify your price when you place your business on the market. 

If your business is experiencing significant growth then you have a very strong indicator that now could be the time to sell.  Fries points to a quote from Cerius Executives’, CEO, Pamela Wasley who states, “When your business has grown substantially, it might be time to consider selling it.  Running a business is risky, and the bigger you get, the bigger the risks you have to face.”  Again, growth is at the heart of determining whether or not you should sell.

Knowing the “lay of the land” is certainly a smart move.  For example, have there been a variety of businesses similar to your own that have sold or were acquired recently?  If the answer is “yes,” then that is another good indicator that there is substantial interest in your type of business. 

Reviewing similar businesses to your own that have sold recently can help you determine how much buyers are paying for comparable businesses.  This can help you spot potential trends.  In short, you should be aware of market factors.  As Fries points out, everything from relatively low taxes and low interest rates to strength in the overall economy and an upward trend of sales prices can impact the optimal times for a sale.

Now, as in this exact moment, might not be the right time for you to sell.  Getting your business ready to sell takes time and preparation.  Fries points out that smart sellers “look for a good time, not the perfect time” to sell a business.  Working with a business broker is a great way to determine if now is the right time to sell your business and what steps you have to take in order to be prepared for when the time is right.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Should You Sell Your Family Business?

When the complicating variable of family is added to the equation of selling a business, the situation can get rather messy.  Family usually complicates everything and businesses are, of course, no exception.  Ken McCracken’s recent article “Family business: to sell or not to sell?” 6 questions to help you make the right decision,” seeks to decode the complexities so often associated with family businesses. 

Consider the Market 

The foundation of determining whether or not now is the right time to sell must begin with market forces.  Determining how much your business is worth is a key variable in any decision to sell. 

The best way to determine the worth of your business is to have an outside party, such as a business broker, evaluate your business.  What you believe your business to be worth and what the market dictates could be very different.  You may discover that your business does not have the value that you hoped for.  If this is the situation, then selling simply may not be an option.

What is Next for You?

Tied to knowing your market value is understanding what you will do next after you sell your business.  For example, do you have a family member who can run the business without you?  What will you and any family members who work for the business do after the sale goes through?  You may discover that the sale could be very disruptive for you personally.  All too often, people fail to recognize the emotional and mental stress that comes along with selling a business.  Many owners begin the selling process only to discover that they are not emotionally ready to do so.  While everyone wants to be unemotional in making their business decisions, this is not always the case.

Due Diligence 

You will also need to deal with the issue of due diligence.  Working with a business broker is an excellent way to handle the due diligence process.  Business brokers usually vet prospective buyers ahead of time, which can save you a great deal of aggravation and wasted time. 

McCracken believes business owners should investigate how the prospective buyer handled previous acquisitions.  Specifically, McCracken believes that business owners should look to how well the prospective buyer honored previous commitments, as doing so is an indicator of how trustworthy a buyer may be. 

Planning for Negotiations

Finally, McCraken believes it is essential to know who will oversee negotiations.  It is key to note that many deals that could have otherwise been successful, fall apart due to poor negotiations.  A business broker can be invaluable in negotiations.  After all, who wouldn’t want someone with dozens, or even hundreds, of successful transactions advising them?

Selling a family business can be emotionally charged and can cause significant life changes for not just you, but for members of your family as well.  Often, family businesses were built up over a lifetime or even over generations, which can make the decision to sell quite emotionally charged.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Why You Should Focus on Proper Exit Planning

If you are like many business owners, you are primarily focusing on building your business.  Yet, as we’ve covered here many times before, you should start thinking about what you’ll need to do to sell your business before you even officially launch.  Many businesses can take years to sell or even fail to sell all together.  For this and many other reasons, it is important to invest some time and energy into thinking about proper exit planning and strategies. 

Walker Deibel’s recent Forbes article, “How Proper Exit Planning Benefits the Buyer and Seller,” Deibel discusses his interview with Exit Planning: The Definitive Guide, author John H. Brown. Brown and Deibel both agreed that, when properly handled, exit planning can help both the seller and the buyer. 

Exit planning can make a business more transferable.  As Deibel points out, when buyers are evaluating businesses, transferability is a key factor.  A buyer must feel that he or she can walk into a business, take it over, keep it running effectively and even grow the business in the future. 

A key aspect of being able to buy a business and having that business be successful is that all relationships from vendors to customers are transferable.  A good management team, one that can step in and help a new owner thrive, is a must.  Building that team in advance is a savvy move for any business owner looking to sell his or her business.  Concerns on any of these fronts can spell doom for a seller.  If a buyer doesn’t feel that they can operate a business, then they probably shouldn’t be buying it.

Great exit planning most definitely benefits the seller as well.  As Deibel notes, when sellers engage in exit planning, they realize how much money they need in order to exit.  In turn, this forces sellers to become very focused and goal-oriented.  Sellers will take proactive steps to ensure that their business is as appealing to a potential buyer as possible.

Ultimately, proper exit planning is a win-win, one that benefits both buyer and seller.  Exit planning can provide sellers with much-needed clarity while simultaneously lowering the overall risk that sellers face.

Buying or selling a business is a multifaceted, and often quite complex, process.  The sooner you begin working with a professional, like a business broker, the better off you’ll be in finding the right business for you and your particular needs.  For most people, buying or selling a business is the financial decision of a lifetime.  Having a proven trusted partner, one that knows the lay of the land, is simply invaluable.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Top Ways to Create an Attention-Grabbing Sales Ad to Sell Your Business

A major part of selling your business is getting the word out.  After all, the more people that know your business is for sale, the better off you’ll be.  In Bob House’s recent article, “How to Create an Effective Business for Sale Ad and Ensure It Gets the Best Result,” House gives readers an assortment of tips that he believes will help sellers attract higher offers from real buyers.

Getting the Word Out

As House wisely points out, many buyers wait until the last second to dive in and create a good sales ad.  In fact, many buyers fail to grasp the real importance of creating a quality and compelling advertisement.  Imagine creating a good sales ad like you would going fishing with a group of friends.  The more friends you have on your fishing trip, the greater the odds that someone catches a fish.  In much the same way, the more people who know you are selling your business, the greater the chances that you’ll get some serious “bites.”

Tips for Receiving More Attention 

House has five key tips for attracting more attention from prospective buyers via your sales ad.  At the top of the list is to be descriptive.  Your sales ad should give an excellent description of your business and its unique features.  As House notes, you want to “paint a clear picture.”  In other words, now is not the time for mystery.  You want prospective buyers to have a very clear idea of what kind of business they could possibly buy.

Headlines Count

Secondly, you should have a great headline.  People have always skimmed, but the rise of the Internet has taken skimming to a whole new level.  Your sales ad should have a very engaging and interesting headline.  You want to capture people’s attention.  A good place to start is by determining what your business’s best feature is and emphasizing that feature in your headline.

Incorporate Top-Notch Images

Third, the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words absolutely applies to selling a business.  Just as a great headline will capture people’s attention, the same holds true for a great picture.  Consider having a professional photographer take the photo, as he or she may have tips to make your business look its best that you may simply not know.

Your Financials

Fourth, your ad should definitely include key financials.  Any serious buyer will be very concerned, if not obsessed, with your financials.  Information such as cash flow and income statements are a good idea as may potential buyers focus their business searches around key financial metrics.

Don’t Forget the Final Step

Finally, if there has ever been a time in your life to proofread, this is the time.  In fact, you should consider hiring a proofreader to look over your ad for grammar and spelling mistakes.  As House notes, you want prospective buyers to realize that you are attention oriented and responsible.  A simple grammar or spelling mistake could wreck a potential deal.

Creating a great sales ad is an art form.  One of the best ways to ensure that you have a great sales ad is to work with an experienced business broker.  Business brokers know what buyers are looking for, have great marketing professionals at their disposal, and can help you frame your business in the best light possible.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What Do You Need to Do to Get Your Business Ready to Sell?

In his recent article in Smart Business entitled, “How to get your business, and yourself, ready for sale,” author Adam Burroughs explores the key points of getting your business ready to sell.  Burroughs points to the truism that, at some point, almost every business owner must sell his or her business.  For this reason, it is critical to think about what it takes to get your business ready to sell.  Simply stated, it is best to explore and plan for selling your business long before you actually need to place your business on the market.  Let’s explore some key points for selling your business.

Broadening Your Options

Burroughs interviews Scott McRill at Clark Schaefer Hackett.  McRill notes, “The sooner you think about your exit, the more options you’ll have for yourself and the business when the time comes.”  A savvy business owner will always want to give himself or herself as many options as possible. McRill wisely points out that early planning is key, and a failure to engage in early planning could lead to a lower selling price.  If you want to get the best price for your business, then planning for the eventual sale as far in advance as possible is a good move.

Planning in Advance

According to Burroughs, business owners should start planning to sell their business at least 2 to 3 years before they actually plan to sell.  Part of the reason for this is so that business owners will have enough time to make operational improvements designed to maximize the business’s overall value. 

A Financial Review

At the top of every business owners “preparing to sell” list is to have a third-party review the business’s financial situation.  This is excellent advice for, as frequent readers of this blog know, any serious prospective buyer will look long and hard at your business’s financials.  Getting your business’s financial house in order means that you should turn to an accounting firm for help.  You’ll want to review financial statements for at least the previous 2 to 3 years.

Burroughs points out that when it comes to selling a business, there are many variables that business owners often overlook.  At the top of the list is the management team. 

Your Management Team

Prospective buyers can get very nervous about the stability of the management team once ownership has changed hands.  Often, the new buyer may only sign on the dotted line if the owner agrees to stay on after the sale during a transition period.  Having a competent and proven team in place, one that is dedicated to staying with the company will help you get your business ready to sell.

There are a lot of variables involved in preparing to sell a business.  The sooner that you get experts involved in the process, the better off you will be.  A business broker can serve as a guide – one that can point you in the right direction.  Find a broker with an abundance of experience, and you’ll have an invaluable ally who can help you navigate the process.  It can take a lot of time and effort to sell a business.  Working with a business broker can keep you from reinventing the wheel at every step of the process.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc. 

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Selling Your Business, Taxes & Tax Structures

It is never too early to start thinking about what tax structure you should use when it comes time to sell your business.  A simple, but undeniable, rule of life is that taxes matter and they can’t be overlooked.  Author Tim Fries at The Tokenist has written an excellent and quite detailed overview article on what tax issues business owners need to consider before selling their business.  His article, “What Tax Structure Should You Use When Selling Your Business?” explores many aspects of a topic that many business owners fail to invest enough time in, namely taxes.

As Fries astutely points out, the taxes involving the sale of a business can be complex and are usually unknown to those selling a business for the first time.  Your tax structure can influence how much money you receive at the closing of your deal, so it’s a very good idea to pay attention to all aspects of taxation and your business.  It is key to remember, “When you are selling your business – as far as taxes are concerned – you’re ultimately selling a collection of assets.”

Fries points out that taxes and selling a business are no small matter.  It is possible that up to 50% of the sale of a business can go to taxes. Don’t worry if you are learning this for the first time and feel more than a little shocked.  However, this fact does a good job of illuminating the importance of setting up the right tax structure for your business.  While you might not be able to get around taxes altogether by investing the time and effort to set up the right structure for your business, you can keep from paying more taxes than is necessary.

There are a lot of variables that go into how much you will ultimately have to pay in taxes.  Let’s take a look at some of the key questions Fries raises in his article.

  1. Is your sale considered ordinary income or is the sale considered capital gains?
  2. Are you operating as an LLC, a sole proprietorship, a partnership or are you operating as a corporation?
  3. What portion of the sale price goes to tangible assets as compared to intangible assets?
  4. Is there a difference between your tax basis and the proceeds from your sale?
  5. What does your depreciation look like?
  6. Don’t expect that the buyer will instantly agree to your terms.
  7. Realize that the decisions you make during negotiations with a buyer will have tax implications.
  8. Is an installment sale right for your business?
  9. With C corporations, sellers usually want a stock sale whereas buyers generally prefer an asset sale.
  10. Cashing out immediately, where you receive all your funds at once, will increase your tax liability.
  11. Have you considered switching to an S corporation?
  12. Have you consulted with experts to decide which tax structure is best for you?
  13. Have you consulted with a business broker?

Selling a business is obviously complicated.  Finding a seasoned business broker can help you demystify many aspects of buying and selling a business.  Ultimately, having the best deal structure and finding the right buyer can be a labyrinthian process.  Having the very best professional help in your corner is simply a must.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Tackling Growth Delusions When Buying a Business

There is no doubt about it, it can be exciting to buy a new business.  However, in the process, it is very important that you don’t become unrealistic about future growth.  Keep in mind that in the vast majority of cases, if a business is poised to quickly grow substantially, the seller would be far less interested in selling. 

Richard Parker’s recent article for Forbes entitled “Don’t Be Delusional About Growth When Buying a Business” seeks to instill a smart degree of caution into prospective buyers.  Parker notes that when evaluating a business and talking to the owner, many buyers come away with a sense that enormous growth is just “sitting there” waiting to be seized.  In particular, Parker cautions those buyers who are buying into an industry that they know nothing about; those individuals should be very careful. 

When buying into an industry where one has no familiarity, there can be a range of problems.  The opportunities that you see may not have been tapped into by the existing owner for a range of reasons.  You couldn’t possibly guess what these reasons might be without more of a knowledge base.  Since you are an outsider, you likely lack the proper perspective and understanding.  In turn, this means you may see growth opportunities that may not exist, as the seller may have already tried and failed.  Summed up another way, until you actually own the business and are running it on a day to day basis, you simply can’t make a proper assessment of how best to grow that business.

The seductive lure of growth shouldn’t be the determining factor when you are looking for a business.  A far more important and ultimately reliable factor is stability.  The real question, the foundation of whether or not a business is a good purchase option, is whether or not the business will maintain its revenue and profit levels once you’ve signed on the dotted line and taken over.  You want to be sure that the business doesn’t have to grow to remain viable.

As Parker points out, the majority of small business buyers will buy in a sector where they don’t have much experience, and that is fine.  What is not fine is assuming that you can greatly grow the business.  Of course, if new buyers can achieve that goal, that is great and certainly icing on the cake.  But don’t depend on that growth.

In the end, everyone has some ideas that work and some that don’t.  You may take over a business and, thanks to having a different perspective than the previous owner, are able to find ways to make that business grow.  But realize that many of your ideas for growing the business may fail completely. 

A professional business broker will be able to help you determine what business is best for you.  A business broker will help keep you focused on what matters most and steer you clear of the mistakes that buyers frequently make when buying a business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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