No business is perfect, but when you are preparing your business to be sold, it is imperative that you lead with your strengths. That’s why it is important to work with a business broker or M&A advisor to identify, catalog and work to remedy any weaknesses. When presenting your business to prospective buyers, focus on your key selling points first and what makes you really stand out from the crowd. You want to sell a prospective buyer on the value of your business and its long-term potential before addressing any shortcomings or areas that need to be improved.
Most business owners who are selling a business are doing so for the first time. If you’ve never sold a business before then there are many mistakes and traps that can befall you. Selling a business is typically not a fast and easy process, but can instead take many months or even years.
Working with a business broker is one way to ensure that the process goes smoothly, but there are other steps that you can take to help ensure that your business sells. At the top of the list of steps business owners can take to help their business sell is to maintain normal operations. Again, it is very unlikely that your business will sell as soon as it hits the market. To protect the value of your business and to avoid financial trouble, you have to maintain normal business operations throughout the sales process.
The next key step to take is to get your business ready. It likely took years, or even decades, to get your business to where it is today. You shouldn’t expect that preparing your business to be placed on the market should be an overnight process. One of the best ways to properly present your business is to inspect every aspect of your business and its operations. In this way, you’ll discover what areas need work and what strengths are best to promote.
Brokerage professionals know where the competitive advantages of businesses reside and have an understanding of what buyers really want. An incorrectly priced business can scare away otherwise excellent potential buyers. The same holds true for poorly organized paperwork and financial records. In short, the preparation you make now to sell your business later can be invaluable for achieving the results you seek.
At the end of the day, you must remember that selling your business is a financial transaction. Like all kinds of sales, you must understand not only what the buyer needs but what they want as well. Not every business is right for every buyer.
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Truly understanding a business is much like understanding the condition of a car. It is necessary for a skilled mechanic to “pop the hood” to access the true condition of a car. In much the same way, you and your team of experts need to “pop the hood” of the business in order to understand the business’s long-term health and viability. Here are four things to consider before signing on the dotted line.
Will You Enjoy the Work?
Owning a business, especially if you are planning on being an owner-operator, can be a demanding path. You will likely have to log many hours, especially in the beginning. For this reason, you’ll want to select a business that you will enjoy owning.
Life is too short to own a business that you would not want to be involved in. Importantly, if you do not like the business you own, the odds of facing burnout and losing interest are higher. It goes without saying that these kinds of obstacles can dramatically harm your business. Think long and hard before selecting a business to buy, as it is a decision that you will have to live with for years to come.
Did You Examine the Business Plan?
A second factor to consider is that there is no replacement for a good business plan. When you are considering buying a business, you’ll want to dive in and understand every aspect of the current owner’s business plan. If the business plan has major holes or just doesn’t seem to be adding up, you should move on.
Do You Understand the Financials?
Similar to understanding the particulars of a business’s business plan, it is also critical that you have a very precise and clear view of a business’s financials. You should look over everything from profit and loss statements to tax returns and more. It is a smart idea to consult your accountant and a brokerage professional regarding what financial documents you should review. Before you buy a business is the time to understand every small detail of a business’s financial health, not after.
How is the Business Performing?
A fourth factor to consider when evaluating a business is the business’s overall performance. It is possible for a business to have a good business plan (at least on paper) and strong financials and yet it could still have a less than stellar future. Oftentimes, the true health of a business lies beyond the business plan and the current financials.
You’ll need to know about a wide variety of factors including how vulnerable the business is to competition, changes in market forces, the status of key management and employees, the relationship with key suppliers and customers, and any pending litigation. When buying a business, you simply can’t afford to overlook any area.
If you keep an eye on these four key areas, and work closely with experienced professionals like business brokers or M&A advisors, your odds of finding the right business for you will skyrocket. Owning a business that you love will greatly increase your chances of success, so don’t underestimate the emotional factor in the equation.
If you’re buying a business, you might be feeling overwhelmed about all the details that are involved, especially if it’s your first business. Buying a business is certainly no small task, and that’s why you’ll want to dive into the process headfirst and make sure that you’ve carefully examined the business.
Here are some of the most important elements to consider. While some of these aspects don’t immediately come to buyer’s minds, they should be high on your list of considerations.
Reviewing legal documents might not seem like the most enjoyable task, but this activity should be one of the first things you will want to do before buying a business. Most worthwhile businesses will have a long list of legal documents to show, ranging from documents showing trademarks and copyrights to consulting agreements.
When it comes to paperwork, tax documents are obviously also a necessary element to review. Some things that you should be watching for are forms that do not adhere to the IRS rules. It goes without saying that you don’t want to be the one taking responsibility for a previous owner’s error.
Business & Retirement Documents
The list of documents you’ll want to review doesn’t end there, as you’ll also want to check into retirement documents such as balance sheets, investment statements, and income statements. You’ll want to ensure that all of the qualified and non-qualified retirement programs run by the business are up to date. You might need to check the parameters of the Department of Labor’s rules.
Work with a Business Brokerage Professional
Your business broker or M&A advisor will take you through the due diligence process to help you make sure that all aspects of the business have been reviewed thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line. Be sure to work with an experienced individual who is proactive when it comes to making sure all of your questions have been answered to your satisfaction.
The items on your to-do list might seem overwhelming at first, but remember that a lot of focus and effort now will save you a ton of hassles and issues later. And you might end up dodging a bullet by spotting a serious issue that causes you to change your mind about a business. Always be sure to protect yourself and your best interests.
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By spotting your company’s weaknesses you can take steps to remedy them and improve operations, however, this is only the beginning of the benefits derived from spotting these types of issues. You should be the world’s foremost expert on your company and the investment that it represents. Identifying and repairing any negative issues will pay dividends both today and potentially for the life of your company.
There are many areas of weakness that companies may experience. In this article, we’ll look at a few of the key areas that many share
An area of business weakness that is receiving a good deal of well-deserved attention in recent years are problems related to the workforce. Workforce headaches are varying between industries and sectors. It has been well documented that young people are not entering trades in the numbers needed to replace retiring workers. This is a fact that is causing significant headaches for many businesses. An aging workforce will impact some businesses more significantly than others. Understanding the labor situation as it pertains to your business is a critical move for any business owner.
Being overly reliant on any one supplier, customer, product line or even employee or group of employees, may have an impact on your business in a number of ways. Supply chain interruptions, disruption to income and cash flows, labor shortages and a diminishment in the perceived value of your business by future buyers are just a few of the issues you may encounter. Diversification isn’t just a smart way to handle one’s portfolio, but is also a smart way to address your business plan. If your business is overly reliant in any one area, it is a good idea to measure the risk vs. reward and seek out ways to diversify if necessary. Your business will be stronger and worth more in the end.
General Industry Decline
Nothing lasts forever. Once upon a time, the country’s landscape was littered with Blockbuster Videos, but today Blockbuster Video has joined the vast and great technological dinosaurs of the past.
There is no escaping the fact that industries change. Being on the tail end of that change without a transition plan to meet new and potentially more profitable opportunities is not a good place to be. One of your key jobs as a business owner is to identify issues and problems within your industry and adapt, ideally ahead of the competition. Part of this adaptation may ultimately include knowing when it is time to exit your business entirely.
Business brokers and M&A advisors specialize in helping business owners spot weaknesses and then strategize to make significant improvements. The world of business is changing and evolving faster than ever before. Engaging with experienced advisors who can help you navigate this flurry of ongoing change could spell the difference between success and failure; while greatly improving the value of your business, rewarding you handsomely in your retirement.
As an entrepreneur and business owner, your partnership agreement stands as one of the most important business documents you will sign. Business structures can be as complicated as the people that create those businesses. Quite often, business owners create businesses with friends or loved ones and, as a result, will not have a proper partnership agreement in place.
It’s important to note that not having a partnership agreement in place is a mistake. There are too many unknowns and too many variables not to have this essential document. You need a legal framework to protect your business from the vast array of potential pitfalls that may have an impact.
The Key Elements of a Solid Partnership Agreement
At the top of the list of every partnership agreement is a clear outline and understanding of rights and responsibilities. All too often partnerships run into trouble as the rights and responsibilities of the parties aren’t clearly thought through and then outlined in a partnership agreement.
Mapping out rights and responsibilities will help eliminate problems in the future. A partnership agreement should be seen as a serious legal document. As such, it is prudent to work with an experienced lawyer in the area of partnership agreements.
What Every Partnership Agreement Should Address
At the top of the list, every partnership agreement should address how money is to be distributed and which partner(s) will receive a draw. The issue of who will contribute funds so that the business becomes operational should be very plainly spelled out in the partnership agreement. A failure to address this issue could end the business before it even gets off the ground.
Issues such as what percentage each partner will receive and who will be in charge are two additional key areas that should never be overlooked. In terms of issues that are frequently overlooked by those forming a partnership, it is common for those forming a partnership to overlook long-term issues such as what is to happen in the event of the death of a partner, what steps are to be taken to bring in a new partner, and how business decisions are made.
Without a solid partnership agreement in place, business owners may find themselves in the last place they want to be, namely, court. A lengthy court battle can weaken your business in a very wide range of ways including a hit to company morale as well as the loss of key customers and employees. A legal battle between business partners can destroy what would otherwise be a healthy and thriving business.
The time you invest in the creation of a business agreement is time and money well spent. In fact, it is safe to state that a business agreement might just turn out to be one of the greatest investments you ever make.
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When the time comes to sell a business, any business, confidentiality must be placed at the top of the list. One of the quickest ways to damage any business that is for sale is for confidentiality to be breached. Once confidentiality is breached it can be difficult, or even impossible, to contain or repair the damage. No business in any industry is exempt from this rule.
It is no accident that savvy and experienced entrepreneurs, business owners, attorneys, accountants and business brokers are dedicated to maintaining seller confidentiality. A single breach of confidentiality can potentially destroy a business or, at the very least, negatively impact its value. A breach of confidentiality, even if it doesn’t destroy a business, can tarnish its reputation and ultimately deflate its value.
When it becomes public that a business is for sale, there are many potential negative ramifications. Key employees, customers and suppliers may all think that it is time to begin looking elsewhere. The loss of even one key employee, customer or supplier could have significant ramifications for your business. Employees may worry about the stability of their position and begin looking for employment elsewhere. Worst of all, employees may take their knowledge and expertise to a competitor and, in the process, weaken your business.
Employees in management positions may leave and, in the process, create a massive hole in your organization that will be difficult to fill, especially in a timely manner. Key customers and suppliers, worried about disruptions, may take their business elsewhere. All of these variables can combine to negatively impact your bottom line and potentially decrease the value of your business overnight.
As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, there is the very real problem of the competition. If the competition discovers that your business is for sale, they may share this information with your key suppliers and customers. Your competitors may become very aggressive in their quest to steal your customers and take advantage of the situation.
A breach of confidentiality can severely hamper your ability to sell your business. Business brokers and M&A advisors are experts at maintaining confidentiality through all stages of the sales process. We do more than simply have prospective buyers sign confidentiality agreements. Experienced business brokerage professionals will vet potential buyers to ensure that they are not just window shopping or gathering information, but are instead, truly serious about buying your business.
Working on your behalf to ensure that a prospective buyer is a serious buyer is one of the best ways that we can protect confidentiality. The process of selling a business is a complex one, and at its foundation is taking steps to maintain confidentiality.
Business owners are usually too busy running their business to deal with the fact that retirement will arrive one day. Ultimately, every business owner walks away from their business. The sooner you start preparing for that day, the better off you’ll be.
Whether it is an established location, relationships with customers and suppliers, or an understanding of a given industry, an established business has much to offer. Prospective buyers also know the benefits of buying a business with a track record.
Simply stated, no one is a greater expert on your business than you. That means you are positioned to evaluate your business and help map out a plan so that there is a smooth transition from buyer to seller. Let’s take a look at some tips for getting the best price on your deal and making that transition a little easier.
1. Have a Second-in-Command
This first tip is one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Develop and have a competent, dependable, and proven second in command. Any prospective buyer evaluating your business will feel much more confident with the idea of taking over if they know there is a responsible and experienced professional waiting in the wings to support the transition and beyond.
Buying a new business can be an intimidating prospect, especially if the buyer has never owned a business before. Acquiring a business with a competent second in command in place will serve to ease a prospective buyer’s many apprehensions while boosting their confidence that their plan to buy and operate your business will be successful.
2. Streamline Operations
A second key tip for business owners looking for ways to ensure an easy transition is to streamline operations. A lot goes into operating a successful business and the more you can streamline that process, the more attractive your business will be to any prospective buyer. This could be everything from creating operations manuals to improving training for staff members.
3. Be Transparent Wherever and Whenever Possible
Everybody wants to be loved…but when it comes to business it’s best as a business owner for your employees, customers and vendors to be more in love with your business than you. Communicating with key employees, customers and vendors early on in the process can help ensure a smooth transition. Deciding how and when to have these communications can be tricky however, and seeking outside counsel may be your best course of action in this regard.
Any prospective buyer who is considering buying a business will feel much more comfortable after learning that key employees, customers and vendors will all be motivated and ready to work with the new owner. One of the top fears of any prospective buyer is that they will buy the business only to see critical team members quit, key customers take their business elsewhere, or have to deal with supply disruptions. No one expects you to work forever so, the earlier transparent communications can take place about “one day…”, the easier the ultimate reality of a transition will be.
Finally, any business owner considering selling their business should explore working with a business broker or M&A advisor. Business brokers understand what it takes to ease the diverse fears that buyers have when it comes to buying a business. A business broker or M&A advisor’s expertise and knowledge base can prove invaluable for helping business owners chart the best path forward and get their businesses sold.
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The old saying that “timing is everything,” usually applies to selling one’s business. Ultimately, every business owner will have to exit their business, and the sooner one prepares to sell, the better the final results will be.
With each passing year, more and more baby boomers are reaching retirement age. In many cases, this means that they have no choice but to sell their businesses. The time is now upon us where a simply massive number of businesses will be put up for sale.
Statistics and studies back up this claim. Studies show that people born between 1946 and 1964 make up 40% of small business owners, and about 10,000 baby boomers retire every single day. 1 Business owners who get out in front of this pending avalanche stand to benefit considerably.
There are many other good reasons to sell. Many business owners find that general burnout, and especially the burnout associated with operating a business during the pandemic, is prompting them to think about selling. Burnout isn’t just unpleasant for a business owner, but it can also be dangerous for the well-being and longevity of the business itself. An owner experiencing burnout is an owner who is unlikely to make the best decisions and seize on new opportunities. The results of burnout can be staggering and range from a loss of customers to getting caught off guard by new and existing competitors. In the end, burnout can dramatically decrease the value of a business or even destroy it.
The economy is bouncing back from the pandemic, and that can mean that right now is a great time to sell. If the covid pandemic reinforced any truism, it reminded us that the world and regional and global economies can change in a heartbeat. There are many complex variables on the table.
Simply stated, we are in a period of uncertainty, and that makes predicting the future of the marketplace harder than in recent decades. These facts, combined with the current strong economy, point towards now potentially being a good time to sell your business.
Most business owners have never sold a business before, but instead, they have spent a sizable chunk of their professional careers building up their business. As a result, most business owners don’t know what it takes to successfully sell a business. Working with a proven business broker, one with years of experience, is a smart way to evaluate your current situation and determine if now is the right time to sell your business.
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Your employees are the heart and soul of your business. Therefore, if you want a thriving business, you need to put their satisfaction at the top of your list. After all, if your employees are not happy, this level of negativity will eventually spread to your customers and clients. Before you know it, you may see your level of profits and success decrease. Any time you spend thinking about positive changes in your workplace will be well worth your time and energy.
Be sure to pay careful attention to your hiring processes and the ways that you evaluate candidates. When you hire a new employee, this is the start of a relationship that will ultimately impact your business in a wide variety of ways. It’s worth the time to make the job attractive and be as accurate as possible when it comes to your job descriptions. Make sure that anyone at your company who is involved in the interview or selection process is professional and thoroughly coached on best hiring practices.
Steps to Ensure Employee Satisfaction
Once your employees are on board, it’s a good idea to take active steps to ensure that they are positive about their jobs. Oftentimes, business owners make the mistake of assuming that their employees will naturally be dedicated to their jobs and the tasks at hand. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Therefore, you must take steps to ensure that your staff members feel motivated.
Here are some ideas:
- Offer competitive compensation
- Offer benefits
- Show appreciation for employee contributions
- Offer rewards such as praise and bonuses
- Offer days off for holidays, birthdays, and vacations
- Be respectful of all employees
- Ask staff members for their feedback and implement changes
- Provide opportunities for career development
- Help build relationships among staff members
When your employees are not happy, their stress and negativity will undoubtedly rub off on your customers. Further, their unhappiness will be more likely to make them miss days or work, whether it’s due to illness caused by stress or just the fact that they are unmotivated. Further, satisfied employees will be more likely to be productive and stay with your business for a long time.
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Obviously, serious buyers want to carefully look at the financials of a company under consideration and all of the other major aspects of the company. However, there are a few other areas that the serious buyer will investigate that sellers may overlook.
The Industry – The buyer will want to take a serious look at the industry itself, the customers, the suppliers, the competition, etc. This investigation will cover the strengths, weaknesses, threats from competition, and opportunities of the potential acquisition. With the growth of the “big box” retailers, much power has shifted from the manufacturer to the retailer. A manufacturer may want to increase prices, but if Wal-Mart says no, it’s a very powerful no.
Discretionary Costs – Some sellers will reduce their expenses in discretionary areas such as advertising, public relations, research and development, thus making for a higher bottom line. However, these cuts will hurt the future bottom line, and smart buyers will take notice of this.
Obsolete Inventory – This is another area that buyers take a serious look at and that can impact the purchase price. No one wants to pay for inventory that is unusable, antiquated or unsalable.
Wages and Salaries – A company may be paying minimum wages, or offering few or low-cost benefits, a limited retirement program, etc. These cost-saving devices will make the bottom line look good, but employee turnover may create expensive problems later on. If the target company is to be absorbed by another, compensation issues could be critical.
Capital Expenditures – The serious buyer will take a very close look at machinery and equipment to make sure they are up to date and on par with, or superior to, that of the competition. Replacing outdated equipment can modify projections and may affect an offering price.
Cash Flow – Serious buyers will take a long look at the cash flow statements and the areas that affect them. The buyer wants to know that the business will continue to generate positive cash flow after the acquisition (i.e.: after servicing the debt and after paying a reasonable salary to the owner or general manager).
Other areas that sellers overlook, but that the serious buyer does not are: internal controls/systems, financial agreements with lenders, governmental controls, anti-trust issues, legal matters and environmental concerns.
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