Can I Buy a Business With No Collateral

At first glance the idea of buying a business with no collateral may seem impossible, but in reality it can be done. Let’s examine your options. When it comes to achieving this goal, your greatest assets are an open mind and a commitment to hanging in there despite the odds.

The Small Business Association’s 7 (a) Program is Your Friend

One possible avenue for buying a business with zero collateral is to opt for the SBA’s 7 (a) program, which works to incentivize the bank to make a loan to a prospective buyer. Under this program, the SBA guarantees 75%. The buyer still has to put in 25%; however, this money doesn’t necessarily have to be his or her money. This is where things really get interesting. The cash that the buyer uses can come from investors or even be a gift from parents in the case of young buyers. These possibilities all fall within the SBA’s guidelines.

Look into Seller Financing, You Might Be Surprised

There is a second way to buy a business with no collateral, and that comes in the form of finding a seller who is willing to finance. Again, this might seem counter intuitive at first glance. But the facts are that a large percentage of sellers do agree to offer some level of financing. So in other words, seller financing is not unheard of and stands as a viable way for a prospective buyer to buy without collateral.

Combining Seller Financing and the SBA’s 7 (a) Program

Combining the SBA’s 7 (a) program with seller financing can prove to be a powerful combination. It is important to note, however, that if you do use the SBA’s 7 (a) program the seller cannot receive his or her repayment for two years.

Persistence Pays

Ultimately, you will likely need to be rather persistent when trying to find a bank. Rejection is likely. But if you are persistent, it is possible to make the SBA’s 7 (a) program work for you.

One key way to keep yourself motivated is to constantly remember that jumping through some hurdles is all part of the process since you’re trying to circumvent the traditional route of using collateral. But working relentlessly may be worth it because if you are successful, you have acquired a tangible asset without any collateral of your own. That is no small accomplishment.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from S.C.O.R.E., the Small Business Administration (SBA), or an experienced business broker. While it might sound very unlikely that you’ll be able to buy a business without collateral, plenty of people have successfully done so.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Goodluz/BigStock.com

Can I Buy a Business With No Collateral

At first glance the idea of buying a business with no collateral may seem impossible, but in reality it can be done. Let’s examine your options. When it comes to achieving this goal, your greatest assets are an open mind and a commitment to hanging in there despite the odds.

The Small Business Association’s 7 (a) Program is Your Friend

One possible avenue for buying a business with zero collateral is to opt for the SBA’s 7 (a) program, which works to incentivize the bank to make a loan to a prospective buyer. Under this program, the SBA guarantees 75%. The buyer still has to put in 25%; however, this money doesn’t necessarily have to be his or her money. This is where things really get interesting. The cash that the buyer uses can come from investors or even be a gift from parents in the case of young buyers. These possibilities all fall within the SBA’s guidelines.

Look into Seller Financing, You Might Be Surprised

There is a second way to buy a business with no collateral, and that comes in the form of finding a seller who is willing to finance. Again, this might seem counter intuitive at first glance. But the facts are that a large percentage of sellers do agree to offer some level of financing. So in other words, seller financing is not unheard of and stands as a viable way for a prospective buyer to buy without collateral.

Combining Seller Financing and the SBA’s 7 (a) Program

Combining the SBA’s 7 (a) program with seller financing can prove to be a powerful combination. It is important to note, however, that if you do use the SBA’s 7 (a) program the seller cannot receive his or her repayment for two years.

Persistence Pays

Ultimately, you will likely need to be rather persistent when trying to find a bank. Rejection is likely. But if you are persistent, it is possible to make the SBA’s 7 (a) program work for you.

One key way to keep yourself motivated is to constantly remember that jumping through some hurdles is all part of the process since you’re trying to circumvent the traditional route of using collateral. But working relentlessly may be worth it because if you are successful, you have acquired a tangible asset without any collateral of your own. That is no small accomplishment.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from S.C.O.R.E., the Small Business Administration (SBA), or an experienced business broker. While it might sound very unlikely that you’ll be able to buy a business without collateral, plenty of people have successfully done so.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Goodluz/BigStock.com

Should You Become a Business Owner?

While being a business owner may in the end not be for everyone, there is no denying the great rewards that come to business owners. So should you buy a business of your own? Let’s take a moment and outline the diverse benefits of owning a business and help you decide whether or not this path is right for you.

Do You Want More Control?

A key reason that so many business savvy people opt for owning a business is that it offers a high level of control. In particular, business owners are in control of their own destiny. If you have ever wished that you had more control over your life and decisions, then owning a business or franchise may be for you.

Owning a business allows you to chart your own course. You can hire employees to reduce your workload once the business is successful and, in the process, free up time to spend doing whatever you like. This is something that you can never hope to achieve working for someone else; after all, you can’t outsource a job.

Keep in mind that when you own a business or franchise, you never have to worry about being downsized or having your job outsourced. You also don’t have to worry about asking for a raise. No doubt business owners do have to contend with market forces and unexpected turns. But even considering those factors, business owners clearly enjoy a greater level of control over their destiny.

Are You Willing to Forgo Benefits?

As an employee, you’ll usually be able to count on a regular income and even allowances for sick days and vacation days. However, business owners lose money if they are sick or take a vacation. Plus, they won’t necessary have the steady salary that employees receive as they could see their income vary from one month to the next.

Do You Want to Grow Your Income?

Business owners have the potential to grow their income and take a range of proactive steps that lead to income growth. As an employee, your fate is far different. Employees usually exercise either minimal or no control over the course of a business and have no say in key decisions that impact its growth and stability. Being a business owner by contrast allows you to seize that control.

The amount of income made by business owners varies widely depending on everything from the industry to the region. But statistics show that the longer you own your business the more you’ll make. In fact, those who have owned their businesses for greater than 10 years tend to earn upwards of 6 figures per year.

One of the best ways to determine whether or not being a business owner is right for you is to work with a business broker. A broker understands everything that goes into owning a business and can help you determine whether or not you have the mindset to set out on the path towards business ownership.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

dgrilla/BigStock.com

Should You Become a Business Owner?

While being a business owner may in the end not be for everyone, there is no denying the great rewards that come to business owners. So should you buy a business of your own? Let’s take a moment and outline the diverse benefits of owning a business and help you decide whether or not this path is right for you.

Do You Want More Control?

A key reason that so many business savvy people opt for owning a business is that it offers a high level of control. In particular, business owners are in control of their own destiny. If you have ever wished that you had more control over your life and decisions, then owning a business or franchise may be for you.

Owning a business allows you to chart your own course. You can hire employees to reduce your workload once the business is successful and, in the process, free up time to spend doing whatever you like. This is something that you can never hope to achieve working for someone else; after all, you can’t outsource a job.

Keep in mind that when you own a business or franchise, you never have to worry about being downsized or having your job outsourced. You also don’t have to worry about asking for a raise. No doubt business owners do have to contend with market forces and unexpected turns. But even considering those factors, business owners clearly enjoy a greater level of control over their destiny.

Are You Willing to Forgo Benefits?

As an employee, you’ll usually be able to count on a regular income and even allowances for sick days and vacation days. However, business owners lose money if they are sick or take a vacation. Plus, they won’t necessary have the steady salary that employees receive as they could see their income vary from one month to the next.

Do You Want to Grow Your Income?

Business owners have the potential to grow their income and take a range of proactive steps that lead to income growth. As an employee, your fate is far different. Employees usually exercise either minimal or no control over the course of a business and have no say in key decisions that impact its growth and stability. Being a business owner by contrast allows you to seize that control.

The amount of income made by business owners varies widely depending on everything from the industry to the region. But statistics show that the longer you own your business the more you’ll make. In fact, those who have owned their businesses for greater than 10 years tend to earn upwards of 6 figures per year.

One of the best ways to determine whether or not being a business owner is right for you is to work with a business broker. A broker understands everything that goes into owning a business and can help you determine whether or not you have the mindset to set out on the path towards business ownership.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

dgrilla/BigStock.com

Three Overlooked Areas to Investigate Before Buying

Before you jump in and buy any business, you’ll want to do your due diligence. Buying a business is no time to make assumptions or simply wing it. The only prudent course is to carefully investigate any business before buying, as the consequences of not doing so can in fact be rather dire. Let’s take a quick look at the three top overlooked areas to investigate before signing on the dotted line and buying a business.

1. Retirement Plans

Many buyers forget all about retirement plans when investigating a business prior to purchase. However, a failure to examine what regulations have been put into place could spell out disaster. For this reason, you’ll want to make certain that the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are up to date with the Department of Labor. There can be many surprises when you buy a business, but this is one you want to avoid.

2. 1099’s and W-2’s

Just as many prospective buyers fail to investigate the retirement plan of a business, the same is often true concerning 1099’s and W-2’s. In short, you’ll want to be sure that if 1099’s have been given out instead of W-2’s that it has been always done within existing IRS parameters. There is no reason to buy a business only to discover a headache with the IRS.

And speaking of employees, does the business you are interested in buying have employee handbooks? If so, you’ll want to make sure you review it carefully.

3. All Legal Documents

The simple fact is that you never want the business you are interested in buying to have its corporate veil pierced once you take over. You should carefully review all trademarks, copyrights and other areas of intellectual property to be sure that everything is completely in order. You’ll want to obtain copies of all consulting agreements, documents involving inventions as well as intellectual property assignments.

Everything should be protected and on legally sound footing. If you see any problems in this category you should run for the hills and find another business to buy.

Protect Yourself from a Potential Lifetime of Regret

Evaluating overlooked areas is essential in protecting your investment. For most people, the purchase of a business is the largest of his or her lifetime. It leaves little room for error.

Not only is it vital to investigate the major areas, but it is also essential to explore the smaller details. However, the truth of the matter is that when you’re buying a business there are no “small details.” No one realizes this fact more so than business brokers. Business brokers are experts in what it takes to buy and sell businesses. Working with a business broker is a significant move in the right direction. The time you invest in properly exploring and evaluating a business is time well spent and may literally save you from a lifetime of regret.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Langstrup Photography/BigStock.com

Three Overlooked Areas to Investigate Before Buying

Before you jump in and buy any business, you’ll want to do your due diligence. Buying a business is no time to make assumptions or simply wing it. The only prudent course is to carefully investigate any business before buying, as the consequences of not doing so can in fact be rather dire. Let’s take a quick look at the three top overlooked areas to investigate before signing on the dotted line and buying a business.

1. Retirement Plans

Many buyers forget all about retirement plans when investigating a business prior to purchase. However, a failure to examine what regulations have been put into place could spell out disaster. For this reason, you’ll want to make certain that the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are up to date with the Department of Labor. There can be many surprises when you buy a business, but this is one you want to avoid.

2. 1099’s and W-2’s

Just as many prospective buyers fail to investigate the retirement plan of a business, the same is often true concerning 1099’s and W-2’s. In short, you’ll want to be sure that if 1099’s have been given out instead of W-2’s that it has been always done within existing IRS parameters. There is no reason to buy a business only to discover a headache with the IRS.

And speaking of employees, does the business you are interested in buying have employee handbooks? If so, you’ll want to make sure you review it carefully.

3. All Legal Documents

The simple fact is that you never want the business you are interested in buying to have its corporate veil pierced once you take over. You should carefully review all trademarks, copyrights and other areas of intellectual property to be sure that everything is completely in order. You’ll want to obtain copies of all consulting agreements, documents involving inventions as well as intellectual property assignments.

Everything should be protected and on legally sound footing. If you see any problems in this category you should run for the hills and find another business to buy.

Protect Yourself from a Potential Lifetime of Regret

Evaluating overlooked areas is essential in protecting your investment. For most people, the purchase of a business is the largest of his or her lifetime. It leaves little room for error.

Not only is it vital to investigate the major areas, but it is also essential to explore the smaller details. However, the truth of the matter is that when you’re buying a business there are no “small details.” No one realizes this fact more so than business brokers. Business brokers are experts in what it takes to buy and sell businesses. Working with a business broker is a significant move in the right direction. The time you invest in properly exploring and evaluating a business is time well spent and may literally save you from a lifetime of regret.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Langstrup Photography/BigStock.com

5 Tips for Buyers of International Businesses

The decision to buy an international business is no doubt quite serious. There are numerous factors that must be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not an international business purchase is the right move. Let’s take a closer look.

Tip #1 – Relocating Vs. Hiring a Manager

Buying an international business can also mean a substantial life change. Before jumping into the process, it is critical that you know whether you will be relocating or hiring a manager to run your newly acquired business.

Obviously, owning a business is a substantial responsibility and you’ll want to ensure that you know exactly what is going on with your new acquisition. Sometimes that means actually being there. The bottom line is that you will either have to relocate or hire a manager.

Tip #2 – Regulations

Understanding regulations, taxes and customs are another must for buyers of international businesses. A failure to factor in these elements can literally undo one’s business or at the very least place you at a competitive disadvantage. The time and money you invest in learning how regulations, taxes and customs work in this new territory is time and money well spent.

Tip #3 – Research Similar Businesses

You will want to invest your time into research. In particular, you will want to research similar businesses that already exist in the place where you are investing. Why are those businesses successful? What could you do to improve on their model or approach? Don’t assume that just because you know how businesses fare in the United States that this knowledge will always translate over to other countries.

Tip #4 – Be Aware of Potential Cultural Differences

It is important to be aware of cultural differences during the negotiation process, but this is really just the beginning. Cultural differences do not end once the negotiation process is over. They have ramifications in areas including everything from dealing with your staff and vendors to getting professional assistance from people such as local accountants and lawyers. You will need to be aware of cultural differences and perhaps even learn to speak the language if you want your business to be a thriving success.

Tip #5 – Hire a Business Broker

Business brokers are experts in buying and selling all kinds of businesses and that includes international businesses. There are many layers to owning an international business and business brokers can help you navigate the waters. The sizable expertise that a business broker brings to the table can help save you considerable amount of frustration and confusion.

These five tips are invaluable for helping you determine whether you should opt for an international business and/or how to proceed once you’ve decided to move forward. There can be big opportunities in owning an international business, but it is critical to proceed with a clear cut strategy.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Sven Hoppe/BigStock.com

5 Reasons Buying a Business is Preferable to Starting a New One

If you are considering running your own business, one of the first questions that might pop in your mind is: should I start a new one or buy an established business. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the age-old dilemma of buying an existing business verses starting a new one from scratch.

1. An Established Concept

The benefits of buying an established business are no doubt huge. At the top of the list is that an existing business will have an established concept. Starting a business from scratch means taking a big risk in the form of a new idea. Will it really work? If the business fails, why did it fail? Both of these stressful questions need not be asked when you buy. An established business, especially one that has been around for years, has already shown that the concept and all the variables that go into it do, in fact, work.

2. Proven Cash Flow

Another massive benefit of buying an existing business is that an existing business has proven cash flow. You can look at the books and, in the process, determine just how much money is flowing in and out. With a new business, you simply won’t be sure how much it will generate. This can make it tricky when you’re trying to figure out how to not only pay your business expenses, but your personal ones as well.

3. The Unproven Element

No matter how good your idea and/or your location, your new business is still unproven. Despite the best of efforts, there may be an unforeseen variable that you or your consultants might have missed. However, when you opt for a proven, existing business, this variable does not apply to you.

4. An Established Staff

A business is often only as good as the people that populate and support it. Starting up your own business means that you have to go out and find all of your own employees. This process is much more than sifting through resumes. A resume only reveals so much. A resume doesn’t reveal if a candidate will be a good fit for the business, and it certainly doesn’t factor in chemistry. As any good coach of any team sport knows, chemistry is one of the greatest factors in winning a championship.

5. Established Relationships

A proven business also comes with an array of business relationships. Working out problems with your supply chain in the early days of your business can mean the end of that business. Many business owners have seen their businesses undone by problems with their supply chains. An existing business can point the way to reliable and consistent suppliers. When buying an existing business, you are acquiring a proven performer. You know that the business had what it takes to provide cash flow over a given period of time. You will also have customers who know who you are, where you are and how to buy from you. Buying an existing business also means gaining access to reliable suppliers and enjoying all the benefits that come with an established brand name and location.

A Buyer’s Quandary

Statistics reveal that out of about 15 would-be business buyers, only one will actually buy a business. It is important that potential sellers be knowledgeable on what buyers go through to actually become business owners. This is especially true for those who have started their own business or have forgotten what they went thorough prior to buying their business.

If a prospective business buyer is employed, he or she has to make the decision to leave that job and go into business for and by himself. There is also the financial commitment necessary to actually invest in a business and any subsequent loans that are a result of the purchase. The new owner will likely need to execute a lease or assume an existing one, which is another financial commitment. These financial obligations are almost always guaranteed personally by the new owner.

The prospective business owner must also be willing to make that “leap of faith” that is so necessary to becoming a business owner. There is also the matter of family and personal responsibilities. Business ownership, aside from being a large financial consideration, is very time consuming, especially for the new business owner.

All of these factors have to be weighed very carefully by anyone that is considering business ownership. Buyers should think carefully about the risks – and the rewards. Sellers should also put themselves in a buyer’s position. The services of a professional business broker or intermediary can help determine the relative pros and cons of the transaction.

The Confidentiality Agreement

When considering selling their companies, many owners become paranoid regarding the issue of confidentiality. They don’t want anyone to know the company is for sale, but at the same time, they want the highest price possible in the shortest period of time. This means, of course, that the company must be presented to quite a few prospects to accomplish this. A business cannot be sold in a vacuum.

The following are some of the questions that a seller should expect a confidentiality agreement to cover:

  • What type of information can and can not be disclosed?
  • Are the negotiations open or secret?
  • What is the time frame for which the agreement is binding? The seller should seek a permanently binding agreement.
  • What is the patent right protection in the event the buyer, for example, learns about inventions when checking out the operation?
  • Which state’s laws will apply to the agreement if the other party is based in a different state? Where will disputes be heard?
  • What recourse do you have if the agreement is breached?

Obviously, executing an agreement does not mean a violation can’t occur, but it does mean that all the parties understand the severity of a breach and the importance, in this case, of confidentiality.

While no one can guarantee confidentiality, professional intermediaries are experienced in dealing with this issue. They are in a position to understand the extreme importance of confidentiality in business transactions as well as the devastating results of a breach in confidentiality. A professional intermediary will require all legitimate prospects to execute a confidentiality agreement.

A confidentiality agreement is a legally binding contract, enforceable in a court of law. It establishes “common ground” between the seller, who wants the agreement to be extensive, and the buyer, who wants as few restrictions as possible. It allows the seller to share confidential information with a prospective buyer or a business broker for evaluative purposes only. This means that the buyer or broker promises not to share the information with third parties. If a confidentiality agreement is broken, the injured party can claim a breach of contract and seek damages.

© Copyright 2015 Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Photo Credit: pippalou via morgueFile

The Devil May Be in the Details

When the sale of a business falls apart, everyone involved in the transaction is disappointed – usually. Sometimes the reasons are insurmountable, and other times they are minuscule – even personal. Some intermediaries report a closure rate of 80 percent; others say it is even lower. Still other intermediaries claim to close 80 percent or higher. When asked how, this last group responded that they require a three-year exclusive engagement period to sell the company. The theory is that the longer an intermediary has to work on selling the company, the better the chance they will sell it. No one can argue with this theory. However, most sellers would find this unacceptable.

In many cases, prior to placing anything in a written document, the parties have to agree on price and some basic terms. However, once these important issues are agreed upon, the devil may be in the details. For example, the Reps and Warranties may kill the deal. Other areas such as employment contracts, non-compete agreements and the ensuing penalties for breach of any of these can quash the deal. Personality conflicts between the outside advisers, especially during the
due diligence process, can also prevent the deal from closing.

One expert in the deal-making (and closing) process has suggested that some of the following items can kill the deal even before it gets to the Letter of Intent stage:

  • Buyers who lose patience and give up the acquisition search prematurely, maybe under a year’s time period.
  • Buyers who are not highly focused on their target companies and who have not thought through the real reasons for doing a deal.
  • Buyers who are not willing to “pay up” for a near perfect fit, failing to realize that such circumstances justify a premium price.
  • Buyers who are not well financed or capable of accessing the necessary equity and debt to do the deal.
  • Inexperienced buyers who are unwilling to lean heavily on their experienced advisers for proper advice.
  • Sellers who have unrealistic expectations for the sale price.
  • Sellers who have second thoughts about selling, commonly known as seller’s remorse and most frequently found in family businesses.
  • Sellers who insist on all cash at closing and/or who are inflexible with other terms of the deal including stringent reps and warranties.
  • Sellers who fail to give their professional intermediaries their undivided attention and cooperation.
  • Sellers who allow their company’s performance in sales and earnings to deteriorate during the selling process.

Deals obviously fall apart for many other reasons. The reasons above cover just a few of the concerns that can often be prevented or dealt with prior to any documents being signed.
If the deal doesn’t look like it is going to work – it probably isn’t. It may be time to move on.

© Copyright 2015 Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Photo Credit: jppi via morgueFile

Family Businesses

A recent study revealed that only about 28 percent of family businesses have developed a succession plan. Here are a few tips for family-owned businesses to ponder when considering
selling the business:

  • You may have to consider a lower price if maintaining jobs for family members is important.
  • Make sure that your legal and accounting representatives have “deal” experience. Too many times, the outside advisers have been with the business since the beginning and just are not “deal” savvy.
  • Keep in mind that family members who stay with the buyer(s) will most likely have to answer to new management, an outside board of directors and/or outside investors.
  • All family members involved either as employees and/or investors in the business must be in agreement regarding the sale of the company. They must also be in agreement about price and terms of the sale.
  • Confidentiality in the sale of a family business is a must.
  • Meetings should be held off-site and selling documentation kept off-site, if possible.
  • Family owners should appoint one member who can speak for everyone. If family members have to be involved in all decision-making, delays are often created, causing many deals to fall apart.

Many experts in family-owned businesses suggest that a professional intermediary be engaged by the family to handle the sale. Intermediaries are aware of the critical time element and can help sellers locate experienced outside advisers. They can also move the sales process along as quickly as possible and assist in negotiations.

Keeping it in the Family

It’s hard to transfer a family business to a younger kin. Below are some statistics regarding family businesses.

  • 30% of family businesses pass to a second generation.
  • 10% of family businesses reach a third generation.
  • 40% to 60% of owners want to keep firms in their family.
  • 28% of family businesses have developed a succession plan.
  • 80% to 95% of all businesses are family owned.
Source: Ted Clark, Northeastern University Center for Family Business

© Copyright 2015 Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Photo Credit: naomickellogg via morgueFile

Two Similar Companies ~ Big Difference in Value

Consider two different companies in virtually the same industry. Both companies have an EBITDA of $6 million – but, they have very different valuations. One is valued at five times EBITDA, pricing it at $30 million. The other is valued at seven times EBITDA, making it $42 million. What’s the difference?

One can look at the usual checklist for the answer, such as:

  • The Market
  • Management/Employees
  • Uniqueness/Proprietary
  • Systems/Controls
  • Revenue Size
  • Profitability
  • Regional/Global Distribution
  • Capital Equipment Requirements
  • Intangibles (brand/patents/etc.)
  • Growth Rate

There is the key, at the very end of the checklist – the growth rate. This value driver is a major consideration when buyers are considering value. For example, the seven times EBITDA company has a growth rate of 50 percent, while the five times EBITDA company has a growth rate of only 12 percent. In order to arrive at the real growth story, some important questions need to be answered. For example:

  • Are the company’s projections believable?
  • Where is the growth coming from?
  • What services/products are creating the growth?
  • Where are the customers coming from to support the projected growth – and why?
  • Are there long-term contracts in place?
  • How reliable are the contracts/orders?

The difference in value usually lies somewhere in the company’s growth rate!

© Copyright 2015 Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Photo Credit: jeltovski via morgueFile

What Are Buyers Looking for in a Company?

It has often been said that valuing companies is an art, not a science. When a buyer considers the purchase of a company, three main things are almost always considered when arriving at an offering price.

Quality of the Earnings

Some accountants and intermediaries are very aggressive when adding back, for example, what might be considered one-time or non-recurring expenses. A non-recurring expense could be:

  • meeting some new governmental guidelines,
  • paying for a major lawsuit, or
  • adding a new roof on the factory.

The argument is made that a non-recurring expense is a one-time drain on the “real” earnings of the company. Unfortunately, a non-recurring expense is almost an oxymoron. Almost every business has a non-recurring expense every year. By adding back these one-time expenses, the accountant or business appraiser is not allowing for the extraordinary expense (or expenses) that come up almost every year. These add-backs can inflate the earnings, resulting in a failure to reflect the real earning power of the business.

Sustainability of Earnings

The new owner is concerned that the business will sustain the earnings after the acquisition. In other words, the acquirer doesn’t want to buy the business if it is at the height of its earning power; or if the last few years of earnings have reflected a one-time contract, etc. Will the business continue to grow at the same rate it has in the past?

Verification of Information

Is the information provided by the selling company accurate, timely, and is all of it being made available? A buyer wants to make sure that there are no skeletons in the closet. How about potential litigation, environmental issues, product returns or uncollectible receivables? The above areas, if handled professionally and communicated accurately, can greatly assist in creating a favorable impression. In addition, they may also lead to a higher price and a quicker closing.

© Copyright 2015 Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Photo Credit: mconnors via morgueFile

A Reasonable Price for Private Companies

Putting a price on privately-held companies is more complicated than placing a value or price on a publicly-held one. For one thing, many privately-held businesses do not have audited financial statements; these statements are very expensive and not required. Public companies also have to reveal a lot more about their financial issues and other information than the privately-held ones. This makes digging out information for a privately-held company difficult for a prospective purchaser. So, a seller should gather as much information as possible, and have their accountant put the numbers in a usable format if they are not already.

Another expert has said that when the seller of a privately-held company decides to sell, there are four estimates of price or value:

  1. A value placed on the company by an outside appraiser or expert. This can be either formal or informal.
  2. The seller’s “wish price.” This is the price the seller would really like to receive – best case scenario.
  3. The “go-to-market price” or the actual asking price.
  4. And, last but not least, the “won’t accept less than this price” set by the seller.

The selling price is usually somewhere between the asking price and the bottom-dollar price set by the seller. However, sometimes it is less than all four estimates mentioned above. The ultimate selling price is set by the marketplace, which is usually governed by how badly the seller wants to sell and how badly the buyer wants to buy.

What can a buyer review in assessing the price he or she is willing to pay? The seller should have answers available for all of the pertinent items on the following checklist. The more favorable each item is, the higher the price.

  • Stability of Market
  • Stability of Historical Earnings
  • Cost Savings Post-Purchase
  • Minimal Capital Expenditures Required
  • Minimal Competitive Threats
  • Minimal Alternative Technologies
  • Reasonable Market
  • Large Market Potential
  • Reasonable Existing Market Position
  • Solid Distribution Network
  • Buyer/Seller Synergy
  • Owner or Top Management Willing to Remain
  • Product Diversity
  • Broad Customer Base
  • Non-dependency on Few Suppliers

There may be some additional factors to consider, but this is the type of analysis a buyer should perform. The better the answers to the above benchmarks, the more likely it is that a seller will receive a price between the market value and the “wish” price.

© Copyright 2015 Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Photo Credit: cohdra via morgueFile

Who Is the Buyer?

Buyers buy a business for many of the same reasons that sellers sell businesses. It is important that the buyer is as serious as the seller when it comes time to purchase a business. If the buyer is not serious, the sale will never close. Here are just a few of the reasons that buyers buy businesses:

  • Laid-off, fired, being transferred (or about to be any of them)
  • Early retirement (forced or not)
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Desire for more control over their lives
  • Desire to do their own thing

A Buyer Profile

Here is a look at the make-up of the average individual buyer looking to replace a lost job or wanting to get out of an uncomfortable job situation. The chances are he is a male (however, more and more women are going into business for themselves, so this is rapidly changing). Almost 50 percent will have less than $100,000 in which to invest in the purchase of a business. In many cases the funds, or part of them, will come from personal savings followed by financial assistance from family members. The buyer will never have owned a business before, and most likely will buy a business he or she had never considered until being introduced to it.

Their primary reason for going into business is to get out of their present situation, be it unemployment or job disagreement (or discouragement). Prospective buyers want to do their own thing, be in charge of their own destiny, and they don’t want to work for anyone. Money is important, but it’s not at the top of the list, in fact, it probably is in fourth or fifth place in the overall list. In order to pursue the dream of owning one’s own business, buyers must be able to make that “leap of faith” necessary to take the risk of purchasing and operating their own business.

Buyers who want to go into business strictly for the money usually are not realistic buyers for small businesses. Keep in mind the following traits of a willing buyer:

  • The desire to buy a business
  • The need and urgency to buy a business
  • The financial resources
  • The ability to make his or her own decisions
  • Reasonable expectations of what business ownership can do for him or her

What Do Buyers Want to Know?

This may be a bit premature since you may not have decided to sell, but it may help in your decision-making process to understand not only who the buyer is, but also what he or she will want to know in order to buy your business. Here are some questions that you might be asked and should be prepared to answer:

  • How much money is required to buy the business?
  • What is the annual increase in sales?
  • How much is the inventory?
  • What is the debt?
  • Will the seller train and stay on for awhile?
  • What makes the business different/special/unique?
  • What further defines the product or service? Bid work? Repeat business?
  • What can be done to grow the business?
  • What can the buyer do to add value?
  • What is the profit picture in bad times as well as good?

Buying (or Selling) a Business

The following is some basic information for anyone considering purchasing a business. Is may also be of interest to anyone thinking of selling their business. The more information and knowledge both sides have about buying and selling a business, the easier the process will become.

A Buyer Profile

Here is a look at the make-up of the average individual buyer looking to replace a lost job or wanting to get out of an uncomfortable job situation. The chances are he is a male (however, more women are going into business for themselves, so this is rapidly changing). Almost 50 percent will have less than $100,000 in which to invest in the purchase of a business. More than 70 percent will have less than $250,000 to invest. In many cases the funds, or part of them, will come from personal savings followed by financial assistance from family members. He, or she, will never have owned a business before. Despite what he thinks he wants in the way of a business, he will most likely buy a business that he never considered until it was introduced, perhaps by a business broker.

His, or her primary reason for going into business is to get out of his or her present situation, be it unemployment, job disagreement, or dissatisfaction. The potential buyers now want to do their own thing, be in charge of their own destiny, and they don’t want to work for anyone. Money is important, but it’s not at the top of the list, in fact, it is probably fourth or fifth on their priority list. In order to pursue the dream of owning one’s own business, the buyer must be able to make that “leap of faith” necessary to take the plunge. Once that has been made, the buyer should review the following tips.

Importance of Information

Understand that in looking at small businesses, you will have to dig up a lot of information. Small business owners are not known for their record-keeping. You want to make sure you don’t overlook a “gem” of a business because you don’t or won’t take the time it takes to find the information you need to make an informed decision. Try to get an understanding of the real earning power of the business. Once you have found a business that interests you, learn as much as you can about that particular industry.

Negotiating the Deal

Understand, going into the deal, that your friendly banker will tell you his bank is interested in making small business loans; however, his “story” may change when it comes time to put his words into action. The seller finances the vast majority of small business transactions. If your credit is good, supply a copy of your credit report with the offer. The seller may be impressed enough to accept a lower-than-desired down payment.

Since you can’t expect the seller to cut both the down payment and the full price, decide which is more important to you. If you are attempting to buy the business with as little cash as possible, don’t try to substantially lower the full price. On the other hand, if cash is not a problem (this is very seldom the case), you can attempt to reduce the full price significantly. Make sure you can afford the debt structure–don’t obligate yourself to making payments to the seller that will not allow you to build the business and still provide a living for you and your family.

Furthermore, don’t try to push the seller to the wall. You want to have a good relationship with him or her. The seller will be teaching you the business and acting as a consultant, at least for a while. It’s all right to negotiate on areas that are important to you, but don’t negotiate over a detail that really isn’t key. Many sales fall apart because either the buyer or the seller becomes stubborn, usually over some minor detail, and refuses to bend.

Due Diligence

The responsibility of investigating the business belongs to the buyer. Don’t depend on anyone else to do the work for you. You are the one who will be working in the business and must ultimately take responsibility for the decision to buy it. There is not much point in undertaking due diligence until and unless you and the seller have reached at least a tentative agreement on price and terms. Also, there usually isn’t reason to bring in your outside advisors, if you are using them, until you reach the due diligence stage. This is another part of the “leap of faith” necessary to achieve business ownership. Outside professionals normally won’t tell you that you should buy the business, nor should you expect them to. They aren’t going to go out on a limb and tell you that you should buy a particular business. In fact, if pressed for an answer, they will give you what they consider to be the safest one: “no.” You will want to get your own answers–an important step for anyone serious about entering the world of independent business ownership.

The Deal Is Almost Done — Or Is It?

The Letter of Intent has been signed by both buyer and seller and everything seems to be moving along just fine. It would seem that the deal is almost done. However, the due diligence process must now be completed. Due diligence is the process in which the buyer really decides to go forward with the deal, or, depending on what is discovered, to renegotiate the price – or even to withdraw from the deal. So, the deal may seem to be almost done, but it really isn’t – yet!

It is important that both sides to the transaction understand just what is going to take place in the due diligence process. The importance of the due diligence process cannot be underestimated. Stanley Foster Reed in his book, The Art of M&A, wrote, “The basic function of due diligence is to assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present, and predictable future of the business to be purchased.”

Prior to the due diligence process, buyers should assemble their experts to assist in this phase. These might include appraisers, accountants, lawyers, environmental experts, marketing personnel, etc. Many buyers fail to add an operational person familiar with the type of business under consideration. The legal and accounting side may be fine, but a good fix on the operations themselves is very important as a part of the due diligence process. After all, this is what the buyer is really buying.

Since the due diligence phase does involve both buyer and seller, here is a brief checklist of some of the main items for both parties to consider.

Industry Structure

Figure the percentage of sales by product line, review pricing policies, consider discount structure and product warranties; and if possible check against industry guidelines.

Human Resources

Review names, positions and responsibilities of the key management staff. Also, check the relationships, if appropriate, with labor, employee turnover, and incentive and bonus arrangements.

Marketing

Get a list of the major customers and arrive at a sales breakdown by region, and country, if exporting. Compare the company’s market share to the competition, if possible.

Operations

Review the current financial statements and compare to the budget. Check the incoming sales, analyze the backlog and the prospects for future sales.

Balance Sheet

Accounts receivables should be checked for aging, who’s paying and who isn’t, bad debt and the reserves. Inventory should be checked for work-in-process, finished goods along with turnover, non-usable inventory and the policy for returns and/or write-offs.

Environmental Issues

This is a new but quite complicated process. Ground contamination, ground water, lead paint and asbestos issues are all reasons for deals not closing, or at best not closing in a timely manner.

Manufacturing

This is where an operational expert can be invaluable. Does the facility work efficiently? How old and serviceable is the machinery and equipment? Is the technology still current? What is it really worth? Other areas, such as the manufacturing time by product, outsourcing in place, key suppliers – all of these should be checked.

Trademarks, Patents & Copyrights

Are these intangible assets transferable, and whose name are they in. If they are in an individual name – can they be transferred to the buyer? In today’s business world where intangible assets may be the backbone of the company, the deal is generally based on the satisfactory transfer of these assets.

Due diligence can determine whether the buyer goes through with the deal or begins a new round of negotiations. By completing the due diligence process, the buyer process insures, as far as possible, that the buyer is getting what he or she bargained for. The executed Letter of Intent is, in many ways, just the beginning.

Buying a Business – Some Key Consideration

  • What’s for sale? What’s not for sale? Is real estate included? Is some of the machinery and/or equipment leased?
  • Is there anything proprietary such as patents, copyrights or trademarks?
  • Are there any barriers of entry? Is it capital, labor, intellectual property, personal relationships, location – or what?
  • What is the company’s competitive advantage – special niche, great marketing, state-of-the-art manufacturing capability, well-known brands, etc.?
  • Are there any assets not generating income and can they be sold?
  • Are agreements in place with key employees and if not – why not?
  • How can the business grow? Or, can it grow?
  • Is the business dependent on the owner? Is there any depth to the management team?
  • How is the financial reporting handled? Is it sufficient for the business? How does management utilize it?

Company Weaknesses

Take two seemingly identical companies with very similar financials, but one of the companies was worth substantially more than the other company.  One company will sell for $10 million “as is” or some changes can be made and the same company can be sold for $15 million. Following is a partial list of potential company weaknesses to consider in order to assess a company’s vulnerability.

Customer Concentration:  First, one has to analyze the situation.  The U.S. Government might be considered one customer but from ten different purchasing agents.  Or, GM might have one purchasing agent but be directed to ten different plants.  One office product manufacturer with $20 million in sales had 75% of its business with one customer…Staples.  They had three choices: 1. Cross their fingers and remain the same; 2. Acquire another company with a different customer base; or 3. Sell out to another company.  They selected the third choice and took their chips off the table.  The acquirer was a $125 million competitor which was unable to sell to Staples, so after absorbing the smaller company, the customer concentration to Staples was only about 10% ($125m + $20m=$145m of which $15 million was sold to Staples or 10+%).

Single Product: Perhaps the most famous example of a single product acquisition is when General Motors overtook Ford’s single product, the Model A, with Alfred Sloan’s brilliant concept of a different model for people with different financial thresholds.  Henry Ford’s stubbornness to stay with one product (Model A) almost cost the company its existence.

Regional Sales/Limited Marketing:  Companies with parochial focus have limited capabilities to grow other than within their own domain.  A widget company with national and international sales has substantially greater prospects to grow than one limited to its own region.

Aging Workforce/Decaying Culture:  Skilled workers in certain trades, such as tool and die shops, are not being replaced by the younger generation.  This is a sign that the next generation will not provide the companies with a skilled workforce in certain industries.

Declining Industry:  Some companies are agile enough to completely change their industry, such as Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway and Fashion Neckwear Company which completely changed from neckties to polo shirts.

Pricing Constraints/Rising Costs: Companies who sell a commodity product often lack pricing elasticity and are unable to pass on their increased costs to their customers.  For a while, the steel industry was in this predicament, but through massive industry consolidation and a booming demand from China, the situation changed.

CEO Dependency/No Succession Plan: Many middle market companies have successfully been built up by the founder/entrepreneur/owner and some critics call these individuals a “one-man-band” for good reason.  These superman types tend to dominate most aspects of the company, but this is no way to build a sustainable business long term.  Furthermore, these CEOs usually have not created a succession plan.

Maximizing Value

If the owners of a company, many of whom may be outsiders, want to increase the value of their investment, they should, through the Board of Directors, try to overcome the company’s weaknesses.  On the other hand, the CEO may not be either capable or motivated to do so.  The alternative is to implement a CEO succession plan, preferably with the cooperation of the current CEO.  Kenneth Freeman’s thesis in “The CEO’s Real Legacy” (Harvard Business Review, Nov 2004) is that the CEO’s real legacy is implementing a succession plan.

Freeman advises:

“Your true legacy as a CEO is what happens to the company after you leave the corner office.

“Begin early, look first inside your company for exceptional talent, see that candidates gain experience in all aspects of the business, help them develop the skills they’ll need in the top job…

“During good times, most boards simply don’t want to talk about CEO succession…During bad times when the board is ready to fire the CEO, it’s too late to talk about a plan for smoothly passing the baton…Succession planning is one of the best ways for you to ensure the long-term health of your company.”

Both buyers and sellers should assess the company’s weaknesses.  While some weaknesses are difficult to overcome, especially in the short term, one potential weakness that is very easy to overcome is to implement a succession plan…especially during the company’s good times before things go bad and it’s too late.

Questions to Consider for the Serious Buyer

A serious buyer should have the answers to the following questions:

  • Why are you considering the purchase of a business at this time?
  • What is your time frame to find a suitable business?
  • Are you open-minded about different opportunities, or are you looking for a specific business?
  • Have you set aside an amount of capital that you are willing to invest?
  • Do you really want to be in business for yourself?
  • Are you currently employed or unemployed?
  • Are you the decision maker, or are there others involved?

The real key to being a serious buyer, however, is whether the individual can make that “leap of faith” so necessary to the purchase of a business. No matter how much due diligence a buyer performs, no matter how many advisors there are to advise the buyer, at some point, the buyer has to make a leap of faith to purchase the business. There are no “sure things” and there are no guarantees. If a buyer is not comfortable being in business, he or she should not even contemplate buying one.