Seller Financing: It Makes Dollars and Sense

When contemplating the sale of a business, an important option to consider is seller financing.  Many potential buyers don’t have the necessary capital or lender resources to pay cash.  Even if they do, they are often reluctant to put such a hefty sum of cash into what, for them, is a new and untried venture.

Why the hesitation?  The typical buyer feels that, if the business is really all that it’s “advertised” to be, it should pay for itself.  Buyers often interpret the seller’s insistence on all cash as a lack of confidence–in the business, in the buyer’s chances to succeed, or both.

The buyer’s interpretation has some basis in fact.  The primary reason sellers shy away from offering terms is their fear that the buyer will be unsuccessful.  If the buyer should cease payments–for any reason–the seller would be forced either to take back the business or forfeit the balance of the note.

The seller who operates under the influence of this fear should take a hard look at the upside of seller financing.  Statistics show that sellers receive a significantly higher purchase price if they decide to accept terms.  On average, a seller who sells for all cash receives approximately 70 percent of the asking price.  This adds up to approximately 16 percent difference on a business listed for $150,000, meaning that the seller who is willing to accept terms will receive approximately $24,000 more than the seller who is asking for all cash.

Even with these compelling reasons to accept terms, sellers may still be reluctant.  Selling a business can be perceived as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit the cash jackpot.  Therefore, it is important to note that seller financing has advantages that, in many instances, far outweigh the immediate satisfaction of cash-in-hand.

  •  Seller financing greatly increases the chances that the business will sell.
  • The seller offering terms will command a much higher price.
  • The interest on a seller-financed deal will add significantly to the actual selling price. (For example, a seller carry-back note at eight percent carried over nine years will double the amount carried.  Over a nine-year period, $100,000 at eight percent will result in the seller receiving $200,000.)
  • With interest rates currently the lowest in years, sellers can get a much higher rate from a buyer than they can get from any financial institution.
  • The tax consequences of accepting terms can be much more advantageous than those of an all-cash sale.
  • Financing the sale helps assure the success of both the sale and the business, since the buyer will perceive the offer of terms as a vote of confidence.

Obviously, there are no guarantees that the buyer will be successful in operating the business.  However, it is well to note that, in most transactions, buyers are putting a substantial amount of personal cash on the line–in many cases, their entire capital.  Although this investment doesn’t insure success, it does mean that the buyer will work hard to support such a commitment.

There are many ways to structure the seller-financed sale that make sense for both buyer and seller. Creative financing is an area where your business broker professional can be of help. He or she can recommend a variety of payment plans that, in many cases, can mean the difference between a successful transaction and one that is not. Serious sellers owe it to themselves to consider financing the sale. By lending a helping hand to buyers, they will, in most cases, be helping themselves as well.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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

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

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

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

Finkel’s 10 Things: 

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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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.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press

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It’s Time to Exit. Are you Ready?

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

Determining Value

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

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

Going Within

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

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

Get Your Ducks in a Row

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

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

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

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Determining the Right Time to Sell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Selling Your Business, Taxes & Tax Structures

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Understanding M&A Purchasing Agreements

M&A purchasing agreements can have a lot of moving parts.  A recent article from Meghan Daniels entitled, “The Makings of the M&A Purchase Agreement” serves to outline a range of facts including that every M&A deal is different.  The article, which serves as a general overview, raises a range of good points.

Components of the Deal

It should come as no surprise that M&A purchase agreements have various components.  Everything from definitions and executive provisions to representatives, warranties and schedules, indemnifications and interim and post-closing covenants are all covered in these purchase agreements.  Other key factors included in M&A purchase agreements are closing conditions and break-up fees.

Advice for Sellers

In her article, Daniels includes a range of tips for sellers.  She correctly points out that negotiating a purchase agreement (as well as the different stages involved in finalizing that agreement) can be both time consuming and stressful. 

As any good business broker will tell you, business owners have to be careful not to let their businesses suffer while they are going through the complex process of selling.  Selling a business is hard work, and this fact underscores the importance of working with a proven broker.

Likewise, Daniels observes that any serious buyer is likely to look quite closely at your business’s financials, which is yet another reason to work with key professionals during the process.  Additionally, you don’t want to wait until the last moment to get your “financial house in order.” 

You can be completely certain that prospective buyers will want to examine your finances closely before making an offer.  The sooner you begin working on getting your finances together, the better off you’ll be.

Use Trusted Pros

Another key point Daniels makes is that there will be tension, as every party is looking to protect their own best interests.  Having an experienced negotiator in your corner is a must.  Make sure your negotiator has bought and sold businesses in the past, and he or she will understand what pitfalls and potential problems may be lurking on the horizon.  Daniel’s view is that the sale price isn’t the only variable of importance.  Factors such as the terms of the deal must be taken into consideration.

The bottom line is that there are many reasons to work with a business broker.  A business broker understands the diverse complexities of an M&A purchase agreement.  They also have experience helping business owners organize their financial information and can prove invaluable during negotiations.  For most business owners, selling their business is the single most important business decision they will ever make.  Find someone who understands the process and can act as a guide through the process.

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Key Mistakes that Could Impact Your Sale

The old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” most definitely applies to any business owner that believes he or she will someday want to sell his or her business.  The bottom line is that every business owner has to transition out of ownership at some point.  In a recent Inc. article, “Four Mistakes That Could Lower Your Business’s Value and Weaken Its Salability,” author Bob House explores 4 mistakes that could spell trouble for business owners looking to sell.

No doubt House explores some excellent points in his article, such as that you should always have what he calls, “a selling mindset.”  The reason this mindset is potentially invaluable for a business owner is that when operating in this way, sellers are essentially forced to stay on their toes. 

Or as House writes, “a selling mindset encourages continual innovation, growth, and investment, helping your business stay ahead of the competition and at the top of its potential.”  Having a “selling mindset” means that business owners have no choice but to perform periodic reality checks and access the strengths and weaknesses of their businesses.

Mistake #1 Poor Record Keeping

For House, poor record-keeping tops the list of big mistakes that business owners need to address.  As House points out, both potential buyers and brokers will want to examine your books for the last few years.  The odds are excellent that before anyone buys your business, they will look very closely at every aspect of your financials, ranging from your sales history to your operating costs. 

Mistake #2 Failure to Innovate

The next potential mistake that business owners need to avoid is a failure to innovate.  House notes that a lack of tech-savviness could make your business less attractive to prospective buyers.  The simple fact is that virtually every business is now impacted in some way by its online presence, whether it is the quality of that presence or lack of it altogether. 

For House, a failure to maintain an active online presence could be associated with a failure to innovate.  Even if your company is innovative, if you do not maintain a coherent and robust online presence, this could portray your company in a negative light.

Mistake #3 Unstable Workforce

House also feels that having an unstable workforce could spell trouble for your business’s value and negatively impact its salability.  Most prospective buyers will not be very eager to buy a business that they know has a lot of employee turnover.  In general, new business owners crave stability.  Attracting and keeping great employees could make all the difference when it comes time to sell your business.

Mistake #4 Delayed Investments

The final factor that House notes as a potential issue for those looking to sell their business is delaying investments and improvements.  House states that it is important for owners to continue to invest even if they know they are going to sell.  Investing in your business can help it expand, grow and showcase its potential future growth.

Another excellent way to prevent making mistakes that could interfere with your ability to sell your business is to begin working with a business broker.  A top-notch broker knows what mistakes you should avoid.  This experience will not only save you countless headaches but also help you preserve the value of your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Effectively Utilizing Confidentiality Agreements

Every year countless great deals, deals that would have otherwise gone through, are undone due to a failure to properly utilize and follow confidentiality agreements.  A failure to adhere to this essential contract can lead to a myriad of problems.  These issues range from employees discovering that a business is going to be sold and quitting to key customers learning of the potential sale and taking their business elsewhere.  Needless to say, issues such as these can stand in the way of a sale successfully going through.  Maintaining confidentiality throughout the sales process is of paramount importance.

Utilizing a confidentiality agreement, often referred to as a non-disclosure agreement, is a common practice and one that you should fully embrace.  There are many and diverse benefits to working with a business broker; one of those benefits is that business brokers know how to properly use confidentiality agreements and what should be contained within them.

By using a confidentiality agreement, the seller gains protection from a prospective buyer disclosing confidential information during the sales process.  Originally, confidentiality agreements were utilized to prevent prospective buyers from letting the world at large know that a business was for sale. 

Today, these contracts have evolved and now cover an array of potential seller concerns.  A good confidentiality agreement will help to ensure that a prospective buyer doesn’t disclose proprietary information, trade secrets or key information learned about the business during the sales process.

Creating a solid confidentiality agreement is serious business and should not be rushed into.  They should include, first and foremost, what areas are to be covered by the agreement, or in other words what is, and is not confidential.  Additional areas of concern, such as how confidential information will be shared and marked, the remedy for breaches of confidentiality and the terms of the agreement, for example, how long the agreement is to remain enforced, should also be addressed. 

A key area that should not be overlooked when creating a confidentiality agreement is that the prospective buyer will not hire any key people away from the selling company.  Every business and every situation is different.  As a result, confidentiality agreements must be tailored to each business and each situation.

 When it comes to selling a business, few factors are as critical as establishing and maintaining confidentiality.  The last thing any business wants is for its confidential information to land in the hands of a key competitor.  Business brokers understand the value of maintaining confidentiality and know what steps to take to ensure that it is maintained throughout the sales process.

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The Hidden Benefits of Planning Your Succession Strategy

Succession planning is something that many business owners fail to think about; however, it turns out there are benefits to succession planning that might not be immediately obvious upon first glance.  In this article, we’ll explore a recent Accountancy Daily article, “Succession Planning for Business Owners,” which details the wisdom and benefits of succession planning.

Accountancy Daily polled 500 SME owners and uncovered a variety of interesting facts.  At the top of the list is that one-third of owners felt more confident about the future of their businesses when they had a coherent succession strategy. 

In what can only be deemed a surprising finding, the poll discovered that 17% of respondents noted that succession planning actually brought them closer to their families.  In short, the Accountancy Daily poll found that succession planning came with a variety of unexpected benefits.  In other words, it is about more than preparing to hand one’s business over to a new party.

Author Glen Foster makes the point that business owners frequently underestimate the level of effort and time needed to sell a business.  The fact is that selling a business is usually a layered process that can even take years to complete.  Importantly, business owners must understand that in the time it takes to sell, the market may have changed or their own financial or personal situations may have changed as well.  Additionally, selling can be an emotional and stressful process which further complicates the entire matter. 

For most business owners, selling a business represents the single greatest financial move of their lives.  As such, it is often accompanied with significant stress and anxiety.  It is essential not to underestimate the emotional and psychological side of the sales equation.  Properly planning years in advance for the sale of a business will help business owners prepare for the emotional and psychological stress that can result from both the sales process and the eventual sale itself. 

A key part of the stress of selling a business is that business owners are often left wondering “what comes next?” after selling.  Developing a succession strategy is a way to think through such issues well in advance.

Another key aspect of succession planning is to take the steps necessary to make sure that your business is ready to be sold.  As Foster points out, you wouldn’t put a home on the market with significant problems, and the same holds true for your business.  If you want to receive the optimal price for your business, then your business should be in tip-top shape.  This means diving into your books and records and getting everything in order.  Working with an accountant or an experienced business broker can be invaluable in this process.

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Great Tips for Helping You Find a Buyer for Your Business

No one keeps a business forever.  At some point, you’ll either want to sell your business or have to retire.  When the time comes to sell, it is important to streamline the process, experience as little stress as possible and also receive top dollar.  In Alejandro Cremades’s recent Forbes magazine article, “How to Find a Buyer for Your Business,” Cremades explores the most important steps business owners should take when looking to sell. 

Like so many things in life, finding a buyer for your business is about preparation.  As Cremades notes, you should think about selling your business on the day you found your company.  Creating a business but having no exit strategy is simply not a good idea, and it’s certainly not a safe strategy either.  Instead you should “build and plan to be acquired.” 

For Cremades, it is vital to decide in the beginning if your preferred exit strategy is to be acquired.  If you know from the beginning that you wish to be acquired, then you should build your business accordingly from day one.  That means it’s essential to understand your market and know what prospective buyers would be looking for.  

According to the Leadership Development Program, Kauffman Fellows, acquirers buy businesses for a range of reasons including: 

  • Driving their own growth
  • Expanding their market
  • Accelerating time to market 
  • Consolidating the market

Some of the more potentially interesting reasons that acquirers buy a business include to reinvent their own business and even to respond to a disruption.  At the end of the day, there is no one monolithic reason why a given party decides to buy a business.  But there are indeed some general factors that acquirers are known to commonly seek out.

Additionally, Cremades believes that for those serious about finding a buyer, it is critical to make connections.  Or as Cremades states, “strategic acquisitions are about who you know, and who knows you.  Start making those connections early.”  He also points out that buyers are not always who one expects in the beginning of the process.  Keeping this fact in mind, it is important to stay open and always look to build solid relationships and keep those relationships up to date regarding your status.  Getting your company acquired won’t happen overnight.  Instead, it is a process that can take years.  Therefore, networking years in advance is a must.

Like many seasoned business professionals, Cremades realizes how important it is to work with a business broker.  If you have failed to network properly over the years, then a broker is an amazingly valuable ally.  They are about more than offering sage advice, as business brokers can also make potentially invaluable introductions and help you navigate every stage of the acquisition process.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Variety of Variables Involved in Selling Your Business

Selling a business is more than a big decision, as it is also quite complex.  Finding the right buyer for a business is at the heart of the matter.  In the recent Forbes article, “Ready to Sell Your Business? Follow These 3 Tips to Find the Best Buyer,” author Serenity Gibbons outlines that selling a business is a multifaceted process with a lot of moving parts.

A central variable for those looking to sell a business is to have a coherent and well thought out exit strategy in place.  She points out that at the top of your to-do list should be selling your business the right way, and that means having a great exit strategy in place.  In fact, many experts feel that you should have an exit strategy in place even when you first open your business.

Another key variable to keep in mind is that, according to Gibbons, only an estimated 20% to 30% of businesses on the market actually find buyers.  This important fact means that business owners, who usually have a large percentage of their wealth tied up in their businesses, are vulnerable if they can’t sell.  It is vital for business owners to make their businesses as attractive as possible to buyers for when the time comes to sell.

This article points to author Michael Lefkowitz’s book “Where’s the Exit.”  This book outlines what business owners need to do to get their business ready for their exit.  Updating your books, ensuring that a good team is in place and ready to go and taking steps to “polish the appeal of your brand” are some of the important topics covered. 

Gibbons notes that “not every buyer with cash in hand is the right buyer for your company.”  Mentioned are three key variables that must be addressed when looking to find the right buyer: consider your successor, explore your broker options and find a pre-qualified buyer.

In the end, working with a business broker is the fastest and easiest way to check off all three boxes.  An experienced professional knows the importance of working exclusively with serious, pre-qualified buyers.  Since a good business broker only works with serious buyers, that means business brokers can greatly expedite the process of selling your business. 

In her article, Gibbons supports the fact that working with a business broker is a smart move.  Those looking to get their business sold and reduce an array of potential headaches along the way, will find that there is no replacement for a good business broker.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Dealing with Inexperience Can Ruin the Deal

The 65-year old owner of a multi-location retail operation doing $30 million in annual sales decided to retire.  He interviewed a highly recommended intermediary and was impressed.  However, he had a nephew who had just received his MBA and who told his uncle that he could handle the sale and save him some money.  He would do it for half of what the intermediary said his fee would be – so the uncle decided to use his nephew.  Now, his nephew was a nice young man, educated at one of the top business schools, but he had never been involved in a middle market deal.  He had read a lot of case studies and was confident that he could “do the deal.”

Inexperience # 1 – The owner and the nephew agreed not to bring the CFO into the picture, nor execute a “stay” agreement.  The nephew felt he could handle the financial details.  Neither one of them realized that a potential purchaser would expect to meet with the CFO when it came to the finances of the business, and certainly would expect the CFO to be involved in the due diligence process.

Inexperience # 2 – It never occurred to the owner or his nephew that revealing just the name of the company to prospective buyers would send competitors and only mildly interested prospects to the various locations.  There was no mention of Confidentiality Agreements.  Since the owner was not in a big hurry, there were no time limits set for offers or even term sheets.  It would only be a matter of time before the word that the business was on the market would be out.

Inexperience # 3 – The owner wanted to spend some time with each prospective purchaser.  Confidentiality didn’t seem to be an issue.  There was no screening process, no interview by the nephew.

Inexperience # 4 – The nephew prepared what was supposed to be an Offering Memorandum.  He threw some financials together that had not been audited, which included a missing $500,000 that the owner took and forgot to inform his nephew about.  This obviously impacted the numbers.  There were no projections, no ratios, etc.  This lack of information would most likely result in lower offers or bids or just plain lack of buyer interest.  In addition, the mention of a pending lawsuit that could influence the sale was hidden in the Memorandum.

Inexperience # 5 – The owner and nephew both decided that their company attorney could handle the details of a sale if it ever got that far.  Unfortunately, although competent, the attorney had never been involved in a business sale transaction, especially one in the $15 million range.

Results — The seller was placing almost his entire net worth in the hands of his nephew and an attorney who had no experience in putting transactions together.  The owner decided to call most of the shots without any advice from an experienced deal-maker.  Any one of these “inexperiences” could not only “blow” a sale, but also create the possibility of a leak.  The discovery that the company was for sale could be catastrophic, whether discovered by the competition, an employee, a major customer or a supplier .

The facts in the above story are true!

The moral of the story – Nephews are wonderful, but inexperience is fraught with danger.  When considering the sale of a major asset, it is foolhardy not to employ experienced, knowledgeable professionals.  A professional intermediary is a necessity, as is an experienced transaction attorney.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Variables that Drive and Influence Business Valuations

If you’ve never bought or sold a business before, then the factors that drive and influence business valuations likely seem a bit murky.  In a recent Divestopedia article from Kevin Ramsier entitled, “A Closer Look at What Drives and Influences Business Valuations,” Ramsier takes a closer look at this important topic. 

Business brokers and M&A advisors play a key role in helping business owners understand why their business receives the valuation that it does.  No doubt, the final assessed value is based on a wide array of variables.  But with some effort, clarity is possible.

In his article, Ramsier points out that “value means different things to different buyers” and that the “perceived value depends on the circumstances, interpretation and the role that is played in a transition.”  It is important to remember that no two businesses are alike.  For that reason, what goes into a given valuation will vary, often greatly. 

Looking to EBITDA

Ramier points to several metrics including return on assets, return on equity and return on investment.  Another important valuable for companies with positive cash flow is a multiple of EBITDA, which stands for “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.”  EBITDA is widely used in determining value.  On the flip side of the coin, if the company in question has a negative cash flow, then the liquidation value of the business will play a large role in determining its value.

Primary Drivers to Consider

Ramsier provides a guideline of Primary Drivers of Valuation, Secondary Drivers of Valuation and Other Potential Drivers of Valuation.  In total there are 25 different variables listed, which underscores the overall potential complexity of accurately determining valuation. 

In the Primary Drivers of Valuation list, Ramsier includes everything from the size of revenue and revenue stability to historical and projected EBITDA as well as potential growth and margin percentages.  Other variables, ones that could easily be overlooked, such as the local talent pool and people training are also listed as variables that should be considered.

Support for the Business Owner

The bottom line is that determining valuation is not a one-dimensional affair, but is instead a dynamic and complex process.  One of the single best moves any business owner can make is to reach out to an experienced business broker. Since business brokers are experts in determining valuation, owners working with brokers will know what to expect when the time comes to sell.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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7 Big Questions to Ask Yourself Before Moving Forward

The first step towards successfully selling a business is finding a qualified business broker to work with.  Sellers should also ask themselves an array of important questions.  A recent article, “7 Questions to Answer Before Selling Your Business,” published by Good Men Project, has a great overview of questions sellers should answer before moving forward.

Author Troy Lambert believes that at the top of the list is one very simple and powerful question, “Are you ready?”  For example, your financial reports should be ready to show.

The second question is, “What’s it worth?”  Determining what a business is worth means you’ll need a professional business valuation.  A great deal can go into evaluating your business and you need an expert to help you determine that value.

Third, Lambert believes that prospective sellers should ask themselves, “How’s the health of my industry?”  He emphasizes that honesty is key here for a variety of reasons.  If your industry is in a transition period, for example, then it might be better to wait until a better time to sell.

The fourth question on Lambert’s list is, “How long will it take?”  In short, you need to remember that selling a business can take a long time.  Successfully selling your business may even mean that you have to stay on and work with the new owner during a transition period.

The fifth key question is, “Who is my buyer?”  You don’t want to waste a lot of time with potential buyers who are simply not a good fit.  Finding the right buyer for your business helps to ensure that a deal will be finalized.

Sixth, Lambert wants sellers to think about how they will get paid.  Are you willing to finance part of the deal?  What about balloon payments over time?  Understanding, before you put your business on the market how you want to be paid and how flexible you can be in terms of payment is essential.

For most sellers, selling a business will stand as the largest financial decision of their lives.  With this realization comes more than a little pressure.

Considering the enormity of the decision, having good advice is simply a must.  A seasoned and experienced business broker understands what it takes to buy and sell a business.  Working with a business broker is an easy and efficient way to begin the process of selling your business.  Brokers know what it takes to successfully sell a business and can help you answer these questions and many more.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Historic Levels of Small Businesses Being Sold Drops Slightly

The number of small business transitions continues to be strong for the first quarter of 2019.  In fact, despite a small decline, small business transitions remain at historically high levels.

Looking at the Statistics

According to a recent BizBuySell article entitled, “Number of Small Businesses Changing Hands Dips Slightly, But Market Remains Ripe for Buyers and Sellers,” now is still very much the time for both buying and selling a business.  It is true that the number of businesses sold in the first three months of 2019 dropped by 6.5% when compared to 2018.  Yet, it is important to keep in mind that the number of completed transactions remains very strong.  Likewise, inventory is increasing, with a 6.1% increase in listings in Q1 of 2019 when compared to the same period in 2018.

While the market is indeed strong, the BizBuySell article did note that some experts feel that there are signs that the market could become more challenging moving forward.  In part, this is due to the prospect that interest rates and financing could become increasingly challenging and more expensive.  These factors indicate that now is a smart time to both buy and sell a business.

Likewise, the financials of sold businesses in Q1 remains strong.  In fact, the median revenue of sold businesses jumped 6.5% when compared to Q1 2018.  Now, the median revenue stands at $540,000.  However, cash flow continues to hover around the $100,000 for five years in a row.

What are the Top Regions?

Currently, the top markets by closed small business transition are Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington.  The top markets by median sale price are Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Denver-Aurora and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington.

A Consistently Strong Market

Overall, the experts at BizBuySell believe that the market remains very strong and active.  They believe that the wave of retiring baby boomers looking to exit their businesses, historically low interest rates and the rise of the next generation of entrepreneurs are helping to fuel a great deal of activity.

According to Matt Coletta, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, M&A Business Advisors, “We are seeing more quality businesses coming on the market with good, clean books than I have seen in my 25+ years in the business.”

If you are considering buying or selling a business, then now is an excellent time to jump in.  Working with a business broker is a great way to ensure that you find the right business for you at the right price.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey Report Predicts Major Changes

The IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey Report for the fourth quarter of 2018 has a range of interesting insights.  The survey’s purpose is to provide an “accurate understanding of market conditions for businesses being sold in Main Street (values $0-$2MM) and the Lower Middle Market (values $2MM-$50MM).  This national survey was designed as a tool for business owners and their advisors and has the support of both the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Projects and the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.

One of the most striking facts to leap out of the report is the fact that a full one-third of advisors fully expect the strong market to end this year.  Overall, advisors are not optimistic that the current climate will continue through 2020.  In fact, advisors are encouraging sellers to consider placing their businesses on the market now, while the market is still strong.  This is according to Craig Everett, PhD and Assistant Professor of Finance and Director of the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project.

One fact from the report that could be overlooked is that only a mere 8% of advisors expect the current climate to last for 48 months or more.  Additionally, only 9% believe that the current climate will last between 24 to 48 months.  Perhaps most striking of all is the fact that 60% of advisors feel that the current climate will end within the next two years.

Business owners who are considering selling should be advised that almost two-thirds of advisors now feel that there will be a significant shift in the next two years.  Considering that it can take a year or more to sell a business, business owners would be wise to consider this important fact.

The report sites Neal Isaacs, Owner of VR Business Brokers of the Triangle who states, “Deals are taking longer in due diligence as buyers work hard to validate their investment and make sure that what they’re buying is worth the premium price today’s sellers are commanding.”

So, is now the time to sell?  Many experts feel that it is possible to lose a sizable amount of value if one waits too long to sell.  Even just a few months can make a huge difference in terms of perceived value and the ultimate sales price.  Working with a proven business broker is a key way to ensure that you are selling at the right time and secure the best possible price.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Thinking About Succession Planning

If you haven’t been thinking about succession planning, the bottom line is that you should be. In the February 20, 2019 Divestopia article, “All Companies Need to Look at Succession Planning,” author Brad Cherniak examines the importance of succession planning. Owning and/or operating a business can be a great deal of work, but it is imperative to take the time to develop a succession plan.

Succession Planning is for Businesses of All Sizes

Author Cherniak wants every business owner to realize that succession planning isn’t just for big businesses. Yet, Cherniak points out that the majority of small-to-medium sized businesses, as well as their senior managers, simply don’t focus much on succession planning at all.

Many business owners see succession planning as essentially being the same as exiting a business. Cherniak is quick to point out that while the two can be linked and may, in fact, overlap, they are by no means the same thing. They should not be treated as such.

Following an Arc Pattern

Importantly, Cherniak notes, “Succession planning should also be linked to your strategic planning.” He feels that both entrepreneurs and businesses managers follow an arc pattern where their “creativity, energy and effectiveness” are all concerned. As circumstances change, entrepreneurs and business managers can become exhausted and even a liability.

The arc can also change due to a company’s changing circumstances. All of these factors point to “coordinating the arcs of business,” which includes “startup, ramp-up, growth, consolidation, renewed growth and maturity,” with whomever is running the business at the time. In this way, succession planning is not one-dimensional. Instead it should be viewed as quite a dynamic process.

Evaluating Each Company Individually

Cherniak highlights the importance of making sure that the team matches the needs of a company as well as its stages of development. Who is running a company and setting its direction? Answering these questions is important. It also is of paramount importance to make sure that the right person is in charge at the optimal time.

Companies and their circumstances can change. This change can often occur without much notice. As Cherniak points out, few small-to-medium sized businesses focus on succession planning, and this is potentially to their detriment.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Could the Red-Hot Market for Businesses Be Cooling Down

The economy is red hot, and that fact is translating over to lots of activity in businesses being sold.  However, it is possible that this record-breaking number of sales could cool down in the near future. In a recent article in Inc. entitled, “The Hot Market for Businesses is Likely to Cool, According to This New Survey,” the idea that the market for selling business is cooling down is explored in depth.  Rather dramatically, the article’s sub header states, “Entrepreneurs who are considering selling their companies say they’re worried about the future of the economy.”

The recent study conducted by Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business as well as the International Business Brokers Association and the M&A Source surveyed 319 business brokers as well as mergers and acquisitions advisers.  And the results were less than rosy.

A whopping 83% of survey participants believed that the strong M&A market will come to end in just two years.  Perhaps more jarring is the fact that almost one-third of participants believe that the market would cool down before the end of 2019.

The participants believe that the economy will begin to slow down, and this change will negatively impact businesses.  As the economy slows down, businesses, in turn, will see a drop in their profits. This, of course, will serve to make them more challenging to sell.

The Inc. article quotes Laura Ward, a managing partner at M&A advisory firm Kingsbridge Capital Partners, “People are thinking about getting out before the next recession,” says Ward.  The Pepperdine survey noted that a full 80% of companies priced in the $1 million to $2 million range are now heading into retirement. In sharp contrast, 42% of companies priced in the $500,000 to $1 million range are heading into retirement.  Clearly, retirement remains a major reason why businesses are being sold.

Is now the time to sell your business?  For many, the answer is a clear “yes.” If the economy as a whole begins to slow down, then it is only logical to conclude that selling a business could become tougher as well.

The experts seem to agree that whether it is in one year or perhaps two, there will be a shift in the number of businesses being sold.  Now may very well be the right time for you to jump into the market and sell. The best way of making this conclusion is to work with a proven and experienced business broker.  Your broker will help you to analyze the various factors involved and make the best decision.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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