Essential Meeting Tips for Buyers & Sellers

The buyer-seller meeting is quite often a “make or break” meeting.  Your business broker or M&A Advisor will do everything possible to ensure that this meeting goes as well as possible. 

It is vitally important to realize that rarely is there an offer before buyers and sellers actually meet.  The all-important offer usually comes directly after this all-important meeting.  As a result, you want to ensure that meetings are as positive and productive as possible.

Buyers need to understand how the process of selling a business works and what is expected of them from the process.  Buyers also need to understand that following their broker’s advice will increase the chances of a successful outcome. 

Sellers should be ready to be honest and forthcoming during the meeting.  They also want to be sure to not say or do anything that could come across as a strong-armed sales tactic. 

Asking the Right Questions

If you are a buyer preparing to meet a business owner for the first time, you’ll want to make sure any questions you ask are appropriate and logical.  It is important for buyers to place themselves in the shoes of the other party. 

Buyers also shouldn’t show up to the buyer-seller meeting without having done their homework.  So be sure to do a little planning ahead so that you are ready to go with good questions that show you understand the business. 

Building a Positive Relationship

Buyers should, of course, plan to be polite and respectful.  They should also be prepared to avoid discussing politics and religion, which often can be flashpoints for confrontation.  When sellers don’t like prospective buyers, then the odds are good that they will also not place trust in them.  

For most sellers, their business is a legacy.  It quite often represents years, or even decades, of hard work.  Needless to say, sellers value their businesses.  Many will feel as though it reflects them personally, at least in some fashion.  Buyers should keep these facts in mind when dealing with sellers.  A failure to follow these guidelines could lead to ill will between buyers and sellers and negatively impact the chances of success.

Sellers Should Be Truthful

Sellers also have a significant role in the process.  While it is true that sellers are trying to sell their business, they don’t want to come across as a salesperson.  Instead, sellers should try to be as real and honest as possible.

Every business has some level of competition.  With this in mind, sellers should not pretend that there is zero competition.  A savvy buyer will be more than a little skeptical.

The key to a successful outcome is for business brokers and M&A Advisors to work with their buyers and sellers well in advance and make sure that they understand what is expected and how best to approach the buyer-seller meeting.  With the right preparation, the odds of success will skyrocket.

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Negotiating the Price Gap Between Buyers and Sellers

Sellers generally desire all-cash transactions; however, oftentimes partial seller financing is necessary in typical middle market company transactions.  Furthermore, sellers who demand all-cash deals typically receive a lower purchase price than they would have if the deal were structured differently.

Although buyers may be able to pay all-cash at closing, they often want to structure a deal where the seller has left some portion of the price on the table, either in the form of a note or an earnout.  Deferring some of the owner’s remuneration from the transaction will provide leverage in the event that the owner has misrepresented the business.  An earnout is a mechanism to provide payment based on future performance.  Acquirers like to suggest that, if the business is as it is represented, there should be no problem with this type of payout.  The owner’s retort is that he or she knows the business is sound under his or her management but does not know whether the buyer will be as successful in operating the business.

Moreover, the owner has taken the business risk while owning the business; why would he or she continue to be at risk with someone else at the helm?  Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which an earnout can be quite useful in recognizing full value and consummating a transaction.  For example, suppose that a company had spent three years and vast sums developing a new product and had just launched the product at the time of a sale.  A certain value could be arrived at for the current business, and an earnout could be structured to compensate the owner for the effort and expense of developing the new product if and when the sales of the new product materialize.  Under this scenario, everyone wins.

The terms of the deal are extremely important to both parties involved in the transaction.  Many times the buyers and sellers, and their advisors, are in agreement with all the terms of the transaction, except for the price.  Although the variance on price may seem to be a “deal killer,” the price gap can often be resolved so that both parties can move forward to complete the transaction.

Listed below are some suggestions on how to bridge the price gap:

  • If the real estate was originally included in the deal, the seller may choose to rent the premise to the acquirer rather than sell it outright.  This will decrease the price of the transaction by the value of the real estate.  The buyer might also choose to pay higher rent in order to decrease the “goodwill” portion of the sale.  The seller may choose to retain the title to certain machinery and equipment and lease it back to the buyer.
  • The purchaser can acquire less than 100% of the company initially and have the option to buy the remaining interest in the future.  For example, a buyer could purchase 70% of the seller’s stock with an option to acquire an additional 10% a year for three years based on a predetermined formula.  The seller will enjoy 30% of the profits plus a multiple of the earnings at the end of the period.  The buyer will be able to complete the transaction in a two-step process, making the purchase easier to accomplish.  The seller may also have a “put” which will force the buyer to purchase the remaining 30% at some future date.
  • A subsidiary can be created for the fastest growing portion of the business being acquired.  The buyer and seller can then share 50/50 in the part of the business that was “spun-off” until the original transaction is paid off.
  • A royalty can be structured based on revenue, gross margins, EBIT, or EBITDA.  This is usually easier to structure than an earnout.
  • Certain assets, such as automobiles or non-business-related real estate, can be carved out of the sale to reduce the actual purchase price.

Although the above suggestions will not solve all of the pricing gap problems, they may lead the participants in the necessary direction to resolve them.  The ability to structure successful transactions that satisfy both buyer and seller requires an immense amount of time, skill, experience, and most of all – imagination.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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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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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.

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A Closer Look at 3 Major Factors to Consider When You Buy a Business

The simple but undeniable fact is buying a business is one of the single greatest financial decisions a person can make.  Buying a business can lead to great financial success or great financial failure.  This fact helps to underscore why it is so important to work with an experienced broker who can help guide you through the often labyrinthian process of buying a business.

In a July 2019 article from Smallbusiness.co.uk, author Kyle Carins explores three key factors that everyone should consider before they buy a business.  The first factor covered in Carins’ article, “3 Things to Consider When Buying a Business,” is appeal vs. viability. 

Appeal Vs. Viability

Not surprising, the most important variable for most prospective owners is that the business is indeed viable.  Not being able to differentiate between an appealing business and one that is viable can lead to financial disaster. 

As Carins points out, “Do you want to make money or do you want to fulfill a dream?”  Sometimes those two variables can intersect, but not always and not often.  In the end, it is vital to know whether a given business is, in fact, potentially lucrative. 

However, as Carins points out, it is also important that you choose a business that you will enjoy.  Nothing can be more spirit crushing than running a business that you truly hate, even if it is lucrative.  Selecting the right business for you is something of a balancing act that must take in a variety of often competing variables.

Considering Hidden Costs

The second factor that Carins looks at is the issue of “hidden costs.”  One of the key reasons that it is so important to work with a business broker is that a business broker understands these kinds of factors that you might otherwise overlook.  Due diligence is amazingly important.  For those who have never bought a business before, working with a business broker offers substantial protection against making a potentially serious mistake.

Second Opinions

The third factor examined in Carins article is “Getting a second opinion.”  For Carins, getting a second opinion is actually linked to due diligence.  He feels that additional opinions regarding a given business should go beyond working with professionals and should also include talking to friends and family who know you well.  Additional opinions can help one see angles that might otherwise be missed. 

Again, buying a business is complicated and will take up a good deal of one’s time and mental energy.  Your friends and relatives, understand your personality and your wants and desires.  Their input can be particularly beneficial.

Finding an experienced business broker can help you do more than simply establish whether or not a given business is a “good deal.”  Brokers with years of proven experience can also help you determine whether or not a specific business is a good fit for you and your lifestyle.

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Do You Know What Kind of Business Owner You Really Are?

Does your business have real, long-lasting longevity or is your business a temporary entity that will vanish the second you stop working on it?  In his insightful article in The Business Journals entitled, “Are You Living for Today as a Business Owner or Building Value?” author Kent Bernhard asks a very important question of readers, “Are you a lifestyle business owner or a value accelerator?” 

Many business owners have never stopped to ask this very important, yet basic, question regarding their businesses.  So, let’s turn our attention to this key question that all business owners must stop and ask at some point.

As Bernhard points out the core issue here is how a given business owner defines the idea of success for him or herself.  As Chuck Richards, the CEO of CoreValue Software notes, “At the end of the day, a lifestyle business is just a job.” 

Richards goes on to note that this is fine for many people.  But if this is the case, it is a choice that one is making.  Therefore, lifestyle business owners should be aware that they are, in fact, clearly making a choice.

Business owners who are lawyers, consultants and accountants often fall into the category of those with a “business as a job.”  They fail to accumulate enough assets for their business to really be more than a job.  Summed up in another fashion, the business generates enough revenue to provide a comfortable lifestyle.  However, it does not have the infrastructure or equity to remain profitable, or even in existence, once they walk away.  As the owner and operator of the business, they are vital to its very existence.  This means that the business only has value so long as the owner is working in the business on a regular basis.  As a result, the owner may never really be able to exit the business.

As Bernhard points out, “To build a business as an asset, you have to become a value accelerator who looks beyond whether the business’ profits are sufficient to maintain your lifestyle.  It means looking at the business as an entity outside yourself.”  Those who fall into the value accelerator category, focus on figuring out creating value for the business as a financial asset that can operate independently. 

Making sure that your business can continue on without you means that you have to build it, and that involves having a coherent and focused plan.  Plan in advance and know how you will exit your business.  To ultimately create value for the business entity itself, a plan must be in place that allows for your successful exit.

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Business Buyers Can Leverage SBA Lending

Finding the money to start your own small business can be a challenge.  Over the decades, countless people have turned to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for help.  A recent Inc. Magazine article, “Kickstart Your Business Dreams with SBA Lending,” by BizBuySell President, Bob House, explored how SBA lending can be used to the buyer’s advantage.

The article covers the basics of an SBA loan and who should try to get one.  House notes that the SBA doesn’t provide loans itself, but instead facilitates lending and even micro-lending with a range of partners.  The loans are backed by the government, which means that lenders are more willing to offer a loan to an entrepreneur who might not typically qualify for one.  The fact is that the SBA will cover 75% of a lender’s loss if the loan goes into default. 

Entrepreneurs can benefit tremendously from this program.  In some cases, an SBA loan even means skipping the need for collateral.  SBA loans can be used for those looking to open a business, expand their existing business or open a franchise.

House points out that getting an SBA loan has much in common with receiving other types of loans.  For example, it is necessary to be “bank ready.”  By “bank ready,” House means that all of your financial documentation should be organized, clear to understand and ready to go. 

Next, a buyer would need to check that he or she qualifies, find a lender and fill out the necessary SBA forms.  In order to be eligible for an SBA loan, it is necessary that the business is a for-profit venture and that it will do business in the United States.  Once the necessary forms have been submitted, it can take between 2 to 3 months for an application to be processed and potentially approved.  

The simple fact is that the SBA helps thousands of people every year.  If you are looking to buy a business or expand your current business, then working with the SBA could be exactly what you need.  Of course, business brokers are experts on what it takes to buy.  Working with a broker stands as one of the single best ways to turn the dream of owning a business into a reality.

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How Employees Factor into the Success of Your Business

Quality employees are essential for the long-term success and growth of any business.  Many entrepreneurs learn this simple fact far too late.  Regardless of what kind of business you own, a handful of key employees can either make or break you.  Sadly, businesses have been destroyed by employees that don’t care, or even worse, are actually working to undermine the business that employs them.  In short, the more you evaluate your employees, the better off you and your business will be.

Forbes’ article “Identifying Key Employees When Buying a Business”, from Richard Parker does a fine job in encouraging entrepreneurs to think more about how their employees impact their businesses and the importance of factoring in employees when considering the purchase of a business. 

As Parker states, “One of the most important components when evaluating a business for sale is investigating its employees.”  This statement does not only apply to buyers.  Of course, with this fact in mind, sellers should take every step possible to build a great team long before a business is placed on the market.

There are many variables to consider when evaluating employees.  It is critical, as Parker points out, to determine exactly how much of the work burden the owner of the business is shouldering.  If an owner is trying to “do it all, all the time” then buyers must determine who can help shoulder some of the responsibility, as this is key for growth.

In Parker’s view, one of the first steps in the buyer’s due diligence process is to identify key employees.  Parker strongly encourages buyers to determine how the business will fair if these employees were to leave or cross over to a competitor.  Assessing if an employee is valuable involves more than simply evaluating an employee’s current benefit.  Their future value and potential damage they could cause upon leaving are all factors that must be weighed.  Wisely, Parker recommends having a test period where you can evaluate employees and the business before entering into a formal agreement.

It is key to never forget that your employees help you build your business.  The importance of specific employees to any given business varies widely.  But sellers should understand what employees are key and why.  Additionally, sellers should be able to articulate how key employees can be replaced and even have a plan for doing so.  Since, savvy buyers will understand the importance of key employees and evaluate them, it is essential that sellers are prepared to have their employees placed under the microscope along with the rest of their business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 M&A Myths and How to Deal with Them

Where your money is concerned, myths can do damage.  A recent Divestopedia article from Tammie Miller entitled, Crazy M&A Myths You Need to Stop Believing Now, Miller explores 5 big M&A myths that can get you in trouble.  Miller points out that many of these myths are believed by CEOs, but that they have zero basis in reality.

Myth 1

The first major myth Miller explores is the idea that the “negotiating is over once you sign the LOI.”  The letter of intention is, of course, important. However, this is by no means the end of the negotiations and it is potentially dangerous to think otherwise.  The negotiations are not concluded until there is a purchasing agreement in place. As Miller points out, there is a great deal that can go wrong during the due diligence process.  For this reason, it is important to not see the LOI as the “end of the road.”

Myth 2

Another myth that Miller wants you to be aware of is that you don’t have to take a company’s debt as part of the purchase price.  Many business brokers, such as Miller, recommend that buyers don’t take seller paper.

Myth 3

A third myth that Miller explorers is a particularly dangerous one.  The idea that everyone who makes an offer has the money to follow through is, unfortunately, simply not true.  Oftentimes, people will make offers without securing the money to actually buy the business.  No doubt, this wastes everyone’s time.  As the business owner, it can derail your progress.  If you are not careful, it could actually prevent you from finding a qualified buyer.

Myth 4

Another myth is built around the notion that sellers don’t need a deal team in order to sell their business.  Again, this is another myth that has no real foundation in reality.  While it may be possible to sell your business without the assistance of an experienced M&A attorney or business broker, the odds are excellent that doing so will come at a price.  According to Miller, those working with an investment banker or business broker can expect, on average, 20% more transaction value!

Additionally, there are other dangers in not having a deal team in place.  A business broker can handle many of the time-consuming aspects of selling a business, so that you can keep running your business.  It is not uncommon for business owners to get stretched too thin while trying to both run and sell a business and this can ultimately harm its value.

Myth 5

Miller’s final myth to consider is that you must sell your entire business.  It is true that most buyers will want to buy 100% of a business, but a minority ownership position is still an option.  There are many reasons to consider selling a minority stake, so don’t assume that selling your business is an “all or nothing” affair.

Ultimately, Miller lays out an exceptional case for the importance of working with business brokers when selling or buying a business.  Business brokers can help you avoid myths.  In the end, they know the lay of the land.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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10 Questions Everyone Should Ask Before Signing on the Dotted Line

Before buying any business, a seller must ask questions, lots of questions.  If there is ever a time where one should not be shy, it is when buying a business.  In a recent article from Entrepreneur magazine entitled, “10 Questions You Must Ask Before Buying a Business”, author Jan Porter explores 10 of the single most important questions prospective buyers should be asking before signing on the dotted line.   She points out to remember that “there are no stupid questions.”

The first question highlighted in this article is “What are your biggest challenges right now?”  The fact is this is one of the single most prudent questions one could ask.  If you want to reduce potential surprises, then ask this question.

“What would you have done differently?” is another question that can lead to great insights.  Every business owner should be an expert regarding his or her own business.  It only makes sense to tap into that expertise when one has the opportunity.  The answers to this question may also illuminate areas of potential growth.

How a seller arrives at his or her asking price can reveal a great deal.  Having to defend and outline why a business is worth a given price is a great way to determine whether or not the asking price is fair.  In other words, a seller should be able to clearly defend the financials.

Porter’s fourth question is, “If you can’t sell, what will you do instead?”  The answer to this question can give you insight into just how much bargaining power you may have.

A business’ financials couldn’t be any more important and will play a key role during due diligence.  The question, “How will you document the financials of the business?” is key and should be asked and answered very early in the process.  A clear paper trail is essential.

Buying a business isn’t all about the business or its owner.  At first glance, this may sound like a strange statement, but the simple fact is that a business has to be a good fit for its buyer.  That is why, Porter’s recommended question, “What skills or qualities do I need to run this business effectively?” couldn’t be any more important.  A prospective buyer must be a good fit for a business or otherwise failure could result.

Now, here is a big question: “Do you have any past, pending or potential lawsuits?”  Knowing whether or not you could be buying future headaches is clearly of enormous importance.

Porter believes that other key questions include: “How well documented are the procedures of the business?” and “How much does your business depend on a key customer or vendor?” as well as “What will employees do after the sale?”

When it comes to buying a business, questions are your friend.  The more questions you ask, the more information you’ll have.  The author quotes an experienced business owner who noted, “The more questions you ask, the less risk there will be.”

Business brokers are experts at knowing what kinds of questions to ask and when to ask them.  This will help you obtain the right information so that you can ultimately make the best possible decision.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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A Step by Step Overview of the First Time Buyer Process

A recent article on Businessbroker.net entitled, First Time Buyer Processes by business broker Pat Jones explores the process of buying a business in a precise step-by-step fashion.  Jones notes that there are many reasons that people buy businesses including the desire to be one’s own boss.  However, he is also quick to point out that buyers should refrain from buying a business that they simply don’t like.  In the quest for profits, many prospective owners may opt to do this, but it could ultimately lead to failure.

Step One – Information Gathering

For Jones, there are seven steps in the business buying process.  At the top of the list is to gather information on businesses so that one has an idea of what kind of businesses are appealing.

Step Two – Your Broker

The second key step is to begin working with a business broker.  This point makes tremendous sense; after all, those new to the business buying process will benefit greatly from working with a guide with so much experience.  Business brokers can gain access to information that prospective business owners simply cannot.

Step Three – Confidentiality and Questions

The third step in the process is to sign a confidentiality agreement so that you can learn more about a business that you find interesting.  Once you have the businesses marketing package, you’ll want to have your broker schedule an appointment with the seller. It is vitally important that you prepare a list of questions on a range of topics.  There is much more to buying a business than the final price tag.  By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to learn more about the business and its long-term potential.

Step Four – Evaluation

In the fourth step of the business buying process, you’ll want to evaluate all the information that you have received from the seller.  Once again, a business broker can be simply invaluable, thanks to years of hands-on experience, he or she will know how to evaluate a seller’s information.

Step Five – The Decision

In the fifth step, you’ll need to decide whether or not you are making an offer.  If you are making an offer, you will, of course, want it to be written and include contingencies.

If your offer is accepted, then the process of due diligence begins.  During due diligence, you and your business broker will look at everything from financial statements to tax returns.  You will evaluate the company’s assets.  Again business brokers are experts at the due diligence process.

Buying a business is an enormous commitment.  Making certain that you’ve selected the right business for you is one of the most critical decisions of your life.  Having as much competent and experienced help as possible is of paramount importance.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Goodwill and Its Importance to Your Business

What exactly does the term “goodwill” mean when it comes to buying or selling a business?  Usually, the term “goodwill” is a reference to all the effort that a seller puts into a business over the years that he or she operates that business.  In a sense, goodwill is the difference between an array of intangible, but important, assets and the total purchase price of the business.  It is important not to underestimate the value of goodwill as it relates to both the long-term and short-term success of any given business.

According to the M&A Dictionary, an intangible asset can be thought of as asset that is carried on the balance sheet, and it may include a company’s reputation or a recognized name in the market.  If a company is purchased for more than its book value, then the odds are excellent that goodwill has played a role.

Goodwill most definitely contrasts and should not be confused with “going concern value.”  Going concern value is usually defined as the fact that a business will continue to operate in a fashion that is consistent with its original intended purpose instead of failing and closing down.

Examples of goodwill can be quite varied.  Listed below are some of the more common and interesting examples:

  • A strong reputation
  • Name recognition
  • A good location
  • Proprietary designs
  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights
  • Trade secrets
  • Specialized know-how
  • Existing contracts
  • Skilled employees
  • Customized advertising materials
  • Technologically advanced equipment
  • Custom-built factory
  • Specialized tooling
  • A loyal customer base
  • Mailing list
  • Supplier list
  • Royalty agreements

In short, goodwill in the business realm isn’t exactly easy to define.  The simple fact, is that goodwill can, and usually does, encompass a wide and diverse array of factors.  There are, however, many other important elements to consider when evaluating and considering goodwill.  For example, standards require that companies which have intangible assets, including goodwill, be valued by an outside expert on an annual basis.  Essentially, a business owner simply can’t claim anything under the sun as an intangible asset.

Whether you are buying or selling a business, you should leverage the know how of seasoned experts.  An experienced business broker will be able to help guide you through the buying and selling process.  Understanding what is a real and valuable intangible asset or example of goodwill can be a key factor in the buying and selling process.  A business broker can act as your guide in both understanding and presenting goodwill variables.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Importance of Understanding Leases

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

The Different Kinds of Leases

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

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

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

Understand All Lease Issues to Avoid Surprises

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

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

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What Should You Evaluate When Buying a Business?

Buying a business can be an exciting prospect. For many prospective business owners, owning a business is the fulfillment of a decades long dream. With all of that excitement comes considerable emotion. For this reason, it is essential to step back and carefully evaluate several key factors to help you decide whether or not you are making the best financial and life decision for you. In this article, we’ll examine five key factors you should consider before buying a business.

What is Being Sold?

If you hate the idea of owning a clothing store, then why buy one? The bottom line is that you have to have a degree of enthusiasm about what you are buying otherwise you’ll experience burnout and lose interest in the business.

How Good is the Business Plan?

Before getting too excited about owning a business, you’ll want to take a look at the business plan. You’ll want to know the current business owner’s goals and how they plan on going about achieving those goals. If they’ve not been able to formulate a coherent business plan then that could be a red flag.

You need to see how a business can be grown in the future, and that means you need a business plan. Additionally, a business plan will outline how products and services are marketed and how the business compares to other companies.

How is Overall Performance?

A key question to have answered before signing on the bottom line is “How well is a business performing overall?” Wrapped up in this question are factors such as how many hours the owner has to work, whether or not a manager is used to oversee operations, how many employees are paid overtime, whether or not employees are living up to their potential and other factors. Answering these questions will give you a better idea of what to expect if you buy the business.

What Do the Financials Look Like?

Clearly, it is essential to understand the financials of the business. You’ll want to see everything from profit and loss statements and balance sheets to income tax returns and more. In short, don’t leave any rock unturned. Importantly, if you are not provided accurate financial information don’t hesitate, run the other way!

What are the Demographics?

Understanding your prospective customers is essential to understanding your business. If the current owner doesn’t understand the business, that is a key problem. It should be clear who the customers are, why they keep coming back and how you can potentially add and retain current customers in the future. After all, at the end of the day, the customer is what your business is all about.

Don’t rush into buying a business. Instead, carefully evaluate every aspect of the business and how owning the business will impact both your life and your long-term financial prospects.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Interested in Buying a Business? Check Out These 3 Commonly Overlooked Areas

When it comes to buying a business, nothing is more important than the factor of due diligence. For most people, this investment is the single largest financial decision that they will ever make. And with this important fact in mind, you’ll want to leave absolutely no stone unturned.

Let’s examine the three most commonly overlooked areas when it comes to buying a business: retirement plans, 1099’s and W-2’s, and legal documents.

1. Examine All Legal Documents

While it may sound like a “pain” to investigate all the legal documents relating to a business that you are vetting for purchase, that is exactly what you have to do. The very last thing you want is to buy a business only to have the corporate veil pierced. Everything from trademarks and copyrights to other areas of intellectual property should be carefully examined. You should be quite sure that you receive copies of everything from consulting agreements to documentation on intellectual property.

2. Retirement Plans

Don’t forget about retirement plans when you’re buying a business, as this mistake can quietly translate into disaster. Before signing on the dotted line and taking ownership, be sure that both the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are 100% up to date with the Department of Labor and ready to go.

3. W-2’s and 1099’s

If 1099 forms were given out instead of W-2’s, you’ll want to know about that and be certain that it was done within the bounds of IRS rules. Imagine for a moment that you fail to do your due diligence, buy a business and then discover that you have problems with the IRS. No one wants IRS problems, but a failure to perform due diligence can quickly result in just that. So do your homework!

Never forget what is at stake when you are buying a business. If there has ever been a time to have laser-like focus, this is that time. There can be many skeletons hiding in a business, and you want to be sure that you protect yourself from any unwanted surprises. Not performing your due diligence can lead to a shockingly large array of problems. One exceptional way to protect yourself is to work with a business broker. A business broker knows what to look for when buying a business and what kinds of documents should be examined. There is no replacement for the expertise and experience that a business broker brings to the table.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Key Elements for Every Partnership Agreement

You should never forget that your partnership agreement is, in fact, one of the most important business documents you will ever sign. Many people go into business with loved ones, relatives or lifelong friends only to discover (once it’s too late) that they should have had a partnership agreement. A partnership agreement protects everyone involved and can help reduce problems that may arise. Outlining what will happen during different potential situations and events in a legal framework can help your business keep running smoothly.

What Should Be in a Partnership Agreement?

Every business is, of course, different; however, with that stated, any partnership should outline, with as much clarity as possible, the rights and responsibilities of all involved. A well written and carefully considered partnership agreement will keep small problems and disagreements from evolving into more elaborate and serious concerns.

There are times to take a DIY approach and then there are times when you should always opt for a professional. When it comes to partnership agreements, it is best to opt for working with a lawyer. Finding competent legal help for drafting your partnership agreement is simply a must.

What is Typically Addressed in a Partnership Agreement?

In theory, a partnership agreement can cover a wide-array of factors. Here are a few points typically addressed in partnership agreements.

What Questions Will a Good Partnership Agreement Address?

  1. Which partner(s) are to receive a draw?
  2. How is money to be distributed?
  3. Who is contributing funds to get the business operational?
  4. What percentage will each partner receive?
  5. Who will be in charge of managerial work?
  6. What must be done in order to bring in new partners?
  7. What happens in the event of the death of a partner?
  8. How are business decisions made? Are decisions made by a unanimous vote or a majority vote?
  9. If a conflict cannot be resolved when must the conflict be resolved in court?

Thanks to partnership agreements, all partners involved can proceed and start a new business with fewer areas of concern. The simple fact is that without a partnership agreement, your business can face a range of disruptions; these would be disruptions that could ultimately spell doom for your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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