Mastering Your Mindset: Strategic Approaches to Selling Your Business

At some point, the odds are exceptionally high that you’ll need to sell your business. Today, fewer businesses are being passed on to the next generation, increasing the likelihood that you will be selling yours eventually. Regardless of your business’ stage of life, the time to prepare for its eventual sale is now.

Many believe that the most effective approach to selling a business is to avoid adopting a purely “selling” mindset and instead aim to position the business to be purchased. Let’s take a look at a historical example. In Cary Reich’s 1996 book “The Life of Nelson Rockefeller”, an insightful anecdote illustrates this point. 

In negotiations over Rockefeller’s Mesabi iron ore properties with J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. astutely replied to Morgan’s team asking for a price with, “I think there must be some mistake. I did not come here to sell. I understand you wish to buy.” Despite Morgan eventually purchasing the properties, the price was set significantly higher.

The takeaway from the Morgan-Rockefeller interaction is that adopting a “player” mindset can be crucial in achieving success in negotiations and business deals. Never neglect to realize that your mindset going into a negotiation will likely influence its final outcome. 

One of the first realities any seller must acknowledge is that selling a business can be emotionally draining. The process demands significant time and thought, and many business owners inadvertently harm the value of their business by neglecting day-to-day operations during the sales process. 

It’s advisable to delegate the heavy lifting of selling your business to experts. Most business owners have never sold a business before, and even if they have, they likely lack expertise in this specialized field. When striving for optimal results in any endeavor, seeking the expertise of professionals is always beneficial. A business broker or M&A advisor, for instance, can manage every aspect of the sale—from evaluating offers and structuring deals to vetting serious buyers.

As a business owner, your primary focus should remain on running your business successfully until the day it is sold. This approach ensures that your business maintains its value and appeal to potential buyers throughout the sales process.

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5 Essential Tips for Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is a crucial platform for professionals serious about business. Its versatility allows business owners to harness its potential in numerous ways. By implementing the following tips, you can enhance your LinkedIn profile to attract more leads and expand your network rapidly.

1. Send Connection Requests

Initiate by actively sending connection requests. Most LinkedIn users understand its networking purpose, making it easier to connect with potential clients, CPAs, attorneys, and other influential individuals. Use LinkedIn’s search tool to identify and invite relevant contacts. The platform’s improved connections recommendation feature is invaluable for expanding your network strategically.

2. Build Out Your Profile

Before diving into connections, ensure your profile is comprehensive and up-to-date. Include a professional photograph or yourself, contact information, and a clear summary detailing who you are, what you do, and how you and your business can add value. 

Focus on conveying essential information succinctly to maintain interest and engagement. Users are unlikely to read long paragraphs about you and your opinions. That’s why experts suggest focusing on conveying key thoughts and carefully shaping what information is presented on your LinkedIn page.

3. Be Involved

Join groups and engage in discussions to maximize your LinkedIn experience. Look for groups relevant to your regional market or industry. Contribute valuable insights and information to establish yourself as a knowledgeable professional, attracting more connections organically.

4. Update Regularly

Regularly post new content on LinkedIn to stay visible and engage your connections. Share blog posts, professional tips, relevant articles, or updates about your listings. Ensure all your posts provide value and insight, demonstrating your expertise and dedication to your field.

5. Stay in Touch

Maintain relationships by staying in touch with your connections. Regularly reach out to inquire about their well-being and offer assistance if needed. Cultivating these connections over time can lead to unexpected opportunities and strengthen your professional network.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for expanding your business network when used effectively. By implementing these strategies consistently, you can leverage LinkedIn to its full potential.

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Navigating Due Diligence: Essential Steps for Successful Business Transactions

There is no denying the satisfaction that comes with obtaining a signed letter of intent from both the buyer and seller. However, it’s crucial to recognize that due diligence has yet to be completed. No deal is final until the seller undergoes this process and commits to proceeding.

In Stanley Foster Reed’s insightful book, The Art of M&A, Reed emphasizes that the goal of due diligence is to “assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by investigating all relevant aspects of the business’s past, present, and foreseeable future.” Reed highlights the importance of thoroughly examining every aspect of a business and its potential trajectory. 

Due diligence is inherently comprehensive, and it’s no surprise that many deals falter during this critical stage. Therefore, it is prudent for both buyers and sellers to consult with key team members, such as lawyers and accountants, before embarking on due diligence.

Reviewing All Aspects of a Business 

There are numerous factors that buyers and sellers should consider before initiating due diligence. A checklist addressing these areas is essential. For instance, accounts receivable should be scrutinized to identify outstanding debts. Similarly, inventory should undergo thorough examination.

Environmental concerns, often underestimated by sellers, can derail a deal swiftly. Issues such as lead or asbestos contamination, or water pollution, require careful assessment due to potentially substantial remediation costs and time commitments.

If the business holds trademarks, patents, or copyrights, these valuable assets must be properly documented and their transferability confirmed. They are critical to the business’s current and future value.

The strength of any business lies in its key employees and management. Sellers should evaluate their team for any weaknesses, while buyers must gain a comprehensive understanding of the workforce. Over-reliance on the owner or key personnel can signal risks.

For example, in manufacturing, it is imperative to evaluate all aspects of the production process. The condition of equipment, its anticipated lifespan, efficiency, and overall value are crucial considerations. Identifying key suppliers and assessing their reliability is equally essential.

Due diligence is pivotal for buyers to comprehend the true nature of the business being sold. Sellers can leverage this process to highlight their business’s strengths and address any weaknesses. 

Through due diligence, stakeholders can gain insights into critical factors, such as the company’s competitive edge, long-term potential, status of team members, customer and supplier relationships, and more. Business brokers and M&A advisors are well-versed in every facet of due diligence and can guide stakeholders through this complex process.

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The Critical Importance of Confidentiality in Selling Your Business

Maintaining confidentiality should be placed at the top of your “to-do” list when selling a business. The tremendous importance of maintaining confidentiality is difficult to overstate and stands as one of the key reasons that any seller should opt to work with a business broker or M&A advisor. Every seller should remember that a breach in confidentiality can quickly kill a deal, and for many different reasons.

To be blunt, a breach in confidentiality is dangerous for your business. Such a breach can cause suppliers, vendors, key customers or clients, as well as employees and management, to become concerned or even alarmed. A change in the ownership of a business can translate into major changes in how it operates. 

Vendors and suppliers can worry about disruptions, and employees and management may become concerned for their jobs or positions. In turn, disruptions may take place, such as key team members finding new positions, which could make a prospective buyer nervous. These disruptions could make it more challenging to successfully sell your business.

While a breach of confidentiality may lead to a loss of confidence or concern among vendors, suppliers, employees, and management, that is only the beginning of the problems that a breach may cause. A breach in confidentiality could mean that your competition learns that your business is going to be sold. Your competitors may seize on this opportunity and try to steal your clients or customers. The end result is that your business could experience a sudden and sharp decrease in revenue as key customers go elsewhere. The loss of revenue and customers will make your business less attractive to any potential buyer. In this way, a breach of confidentiality could dramatically help your competitors grab market share and do so at your expense.

Even if all of your employees and management stay and all of your vendors, suppliers, and key customers move forward with business as usual, there is still another issue. Prospective buyers who learn that there was a breach of confidentiality may simply walk away from the deal as they are worried about potential negative outcomes due to the breach in the future.

It can be challenging to maintain confidentiality, and yet, it is remarkably important. Brokerage professionals are experts in maintaining confidentiality. Any owner looking to sell their business will be well-served by taking advantage of all that a business broker has to offer.

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Understanding the Complexities of Buyer Motivation

Negotiations can often be both perplexing and delicate. A simple misstep can jeopardize what could have been a great deal. One key but often overlooked tool in any negotiation is to pause and consider the wants, needs, and desires of the other party. Contemplating the ideal outcome for them can work wonders.

Understanding what motivates a buyer is crucial for a successful outcome. At the beginning of the sales process, it’s unlikely that you’ll know what your buyer really wants. This lack of knowledge about their desires, values, and standards presents a challenge, especially in the initial stages. Essentially, you’re operating with limited key information at the negotiation’s onset, necessitating caution.

One effective approach is to emphasize the strong financials of the business. Emphasizing a business’s sound financial footing is generally well-received. Whether a buyer is a former corporate executive or from another background, highlighting a strong return on investment (ROI) is prudent. Additionally, most buyers prefer a business that won’t disrupt their current lifestyle.

Understanding what a buyer expects from you post-sale is crucial. Some may want the previous owner available to assist during the transition period, while others, particularly those familiar with your industry, may require less post-sale involvement. Knowing their expectations can help you adapt your approach accordingly. Some buyers may seek your expertise, while others have their own ideas for running the business. Understanding their direction can aid negotiations.

Emotions play a significant role in business transactions. Buyers are often excited about the prospect of purchasing a business, especially in the initial stages. However, it’s essential to maintain a realistic and grounded presentation and approach. Overselling the business can backfire, as it can lead to later disillusionment from the buyer.

Sellers should consistently consider what buyers want. While all buyers seek a successful business, their motivations and perspectives can vary widely. Tailoring your approach to each buyer and understanding their motivations can lead to positive outcomes. With their extensive experience, business brokers and M&A advisors can provide valuable insights into buyer motivation.

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Considering Seller Financing

Many sellers are surprised to learn that seller financing is very common. In fact, sellers should realize that there is a good chance that in order to sell their business, they will have to consider offering seller financing. 

What is Seller Financing?

Seller financing essentially occurs when the seller provides a loan to cover some part of the purchase price. It is common for the rest of the purchase price to be covered by a combination of a down payment and additional financing sources. 

Benefits of This Approach

At the end of the day, seller financing means that the seller serves as sort of a bank for the buyer. While many sellers may not like this prospect, seller financing can offer many benefits. Two key benefits are that potential difficulties of working with a real bank are bypassed, and sellers often enjoy a higher final sale price.

Most business brokers strongly encourage sellers to consider seller financing. One reason brokerage professionals favor the seller financing option is that it helps stimulate buyer interest. A seller who believes in their business enough to offer seller financing can expect buyers to take notice and respond. Sellers with confidence in their business can expect buyers to be eager to learn more.

Due Diligence is Essential

Sellers who choose to offer seller financing will still have to perform all necessary due diligence. Working with a bank does have its benefits; for example, a bank will check a potential buyer’s financial statements as well as their credit reports and more. 

Without the involvement of a bank, the seller is responsible for performing due diligence and checking that the buyer has a low risk of default. While seller financing opens up many possibilities for sellers, it is important that sellers also realize that this route comes with additional responsibilities.

Safeguards to Utilize

There are a variety of safeguards that sellers can use to help protect themselves when offering seller financing, and once again, brokerage professionals can be invaluable guides in this regard. Contracts often allow for the seller to take back the business within a 30-to-60-day window if financing fails. Another helpful clause for businesses centered on inventory is that the new owners are required to maintain a predetermined level of inventory during the payment period.

Thanks to seller financing, both buyers and sellers can benefit in a range of ways. Sellers who opt for seller financing usually discover that they receive a good deal of attention from buyers. Buyers enjoy greater financing flexibility and have a very clear indicator that the seller has confidence in the business. While seller financing does come with a good deal of paperwork, it is an option that buyers and sellers alike should consider.

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Unlocking Business Potential with Strong Recurring Revenue

Everyone loves recurring revenue and for good reason. When buyers see recurring revenue, they instantly know that a business is stable, has positive cash flow, and, importantly, has room for potential future growth.

There is no way around the fact that buyers want a business to be predictable. In short, buyers want to see consistency and stability at every level. Recurring revenue means that a prospective buyer can be confident that they will see income from the first day they take over the business. There is a powerful psychological aspect to recurring revenue that sellers should keep in mind, as they put themselves in the buyer’s shoes. 

When a buyer sees that there is recurring revenue, they know that even if they are unable to develop the business as soon as they take over, there will be positive cash flow. Buying a business is a big decision, and recurring revenue can take some of the fear out of the equation.

Recurring revenue also serves to strongly indicate to buyers that your business offers goods and services that are consistently in demand. Any seller that wants to convince a buyer that their business is worth the asking price should focus on cultivating recurring revenue opportunities. There is nothing quite like recurring revenue to calm nerves and convince buyers that a business is worth a serious look.

Sellers should strive to have a business that has strong annual recurring revenue (ARR). ARR is a metric that measures the money coming in annually.  Once your business has a strong ARR, don’t be shy about emphasizing that fact to buyers. A healthy number serves as a truly powerful indicator of your company’s current and future health and potential. 

When your business displays strong recurring revenue, it points to the fact that your business is doing many things correctly. It shows that your business is able to consistently serve its customers well enough that they return again and again. This fact indicates that both your goods and services and your management and team members are performing optimally.

Summed up another way, recurring revenue is a quick and easy way for potential buyers to gain insight into the value of your company. Any seller looking to optimally showcase their ARR, or looking for ways to boost their recurring revenue, should consider working with a business broker or M&A advisor. Brokerage professionals understand all the different variables involved in helping prepare a business to be sold.

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Cultivating Success: The Impact of Business Brokers on Closing Rates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Steps in Advance

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

Boost Your Customer Base

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

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

Have a Growth Mindset

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

Gain a Realistic Understanding of Your Business

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

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

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

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The Emotional Side of Selling Your Business

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

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

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

Do You Have Future Plans? 

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

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

Do You Have a Strong Support Network?  

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Should You Buy an Established Business?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Should You Expect from Your Business Intermediary?

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

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

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

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

Prepare for an Extended Process 

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

Be Open to Ideas 

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

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

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

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How to Save a Deal

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

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

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

Keep Confidentiality a Top Priority 

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

Seek Out Another Perspective

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

Prepare Early

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

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

Keep Your Pricing Realistic

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

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

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How Business Owners Can Leverage AI

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

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

An AI Virtual Assistant?

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

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

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

Creating GPTs

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

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

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

Creating Personas 

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

Protecting Information 

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

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

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Options for Family Owned Businesses

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

3 Types of Internal Transactions 

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

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

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

External Transactions to Consider

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

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

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

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

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

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Understanding the Modern Buyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Top Four Reasons Why Deals Fall Apart

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

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

Reason 1- Financial Issues on the Buyer’s End 

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

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

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

Reason 3 – Last Minute Surprises

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

Reason 4 –Business Issues Left Unaddressed 

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

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

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6 Critically Important Aspects of Due Diligence

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

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

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

Legal Issues

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

Marketing Issues

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

Consider the following questions:

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

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

Environmental Issues

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

Operational Issues 

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

Financial Issues 

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

Employees and Management 

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

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

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7 Important Questions to Ask Yourself When Selling a Business

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

1. What is really for sale?

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

2. What assets bring in revenue? 

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

3. What is proprietary?

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

4. What’s your competitive advantage? 

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

5. What is your growth potential?

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

6. What agreements do you have in place?

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

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

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

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

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

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Steps for a Successful Closing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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