When you’re trying to sell your business, the last thing you want is to waste time dealing with buyers who aren’t qualified and are unlikely to actually make a purchase. After all, you will not want to reveal details about your business to someone who may be looking to take advantage of the situation. Let’s take a closer look at how you can weed out legitimate buyers from those who are just kicking the can down the road.
Legitimate buyers will ask the right questions. They will have a keen interest in your industry and are seeking to gain more information. They will also be likely to ask intelligent probing questions about your customer base and the strengths and weaknesses of your business.
The best buyers will also ask logistical questions about your inventory and cash flow. It goes without saying they will want to know details about profits that are generated. Real buyers will also be concerned about wages and salaries. Their goal will be to ensure that your employees are taken care of and will be unlikely to quit.
Another area that you can expect serious buyers to ask about is capital expenditures. They will evaluate any equipment and machines involved in the business. They will also likely inquire about inventory that is unusable due to the fact that it is outdated or problematic. After all, if they are truly planning to buy the business, they would inherit any headaches.
A good rule of thumb is to imagine yourself in the shoes of the prospective buyer. What kinds of questions would you ask? If you find that a buyer is only asking the bare minimum of questions that only scratch the surface, odds are that they are not really interested. You can expect the legitimate buyer to ask about everything from environmental concerns to details about your competitors.
The best way to evaluate buyers is to turn to the experts. Your Business Broker or M&A Advisor will have years of experience in talking to buyers and will have a leg up on evaluating who is worth your time and energy.
Further, you would likely be overwhelmed with the process of handling buyer inquiries while you are still trying to effectively run and manage your business. A good brokerage professional will handle your incoming inquiries and only notify you of buyers who are suitable, qualified candidates. They will ensure that the highest standards of confidentiality are held along the way.
Many business owners are emotionally attached to their businesses, and it is easy to understand why. Typically, business owners invest not only a considerable amount of time and money into their business, but a good bit of themselves as well. Owning and operating a business often becomes part of one’s identity. However, the fact is that no one will work forever, as retirement eventually comes for almost every business owner. With this in mind, it is important to prepare for selling your business well in advance.
Brokerage professionals can take your knowledge regarding your business, and use it to help you frame your business in the best possible light. Your expertise in your business can also help a broker find ways to improve your business so that it is more attractive to potential buyers. With all of this in mind, let’s turn our attention to the key steps you should take when preparing to sell your business and transition into retirement.
Select Your Second-in-Command
Any savvy buyer will want to know that the business is well supported by a capable team. Buyers rightfully worry about having a smooth transition period, and nothing helps dispel those fears like having a proven and capable second-in-command standing by. When selecting this important individual, it is important that you pick someone that understands how your business works and is a proven asset to its operation.
Automate, Automate and Automate
Buyers can be intimidated by taking control of a business. Having a proven second-in-command ready to assist is one smart step. Automating as much as possible is yet another prudent move. In short, you want your prospective new buyer to feel more confident about buying and operating your business.
Make a “Smooth Transition” List
As the seller, you have the critically important job of removing buyers’ fears. When you boost their confidence that they can successfully run your business, you increase the odds that your sale will go smoothly. Making a smooth transition list, which includes all the steps that you can take to improve the odds of a buyer being successful, is a smart investment of your time and effort.
A good transition list will include information about how to work with key customers, employees and vendors. You want to ensure that your customers, employees, and vendors understand that a sale will take place, but also understand that the process will be smooth and trouble-free. Whether large or small, take any steps that you can to show buyers that the transition will be well-received.
The average business owner has, in fact, never sold a business before, and is unprepared for this very complex process. Since the process of buying or selling a business is a very complicated one, they should strongly consider working with an experienced Business Broker or M&A Advisor who can help guide them through the process. Brokerage professionals are experts at buying and selling businesses. They understand what both buyers and sellers want and need. As a result, they can help you take the necessary steps to get your business ready to be sold.
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There is a considerable difference between determining the value of a privately-held company and a publicly-held company. Topping the list of considerable differences is the fact that privately-held companies do not have audited financial statements. Let’s look at how the owners of privately held companies should proceed in establishing a reasonable price for their company.
An audited financial statement is a costly endeavor. In order to avoid the cost, many companies simply don’t go public. Of course, it should be noted that publicly held companies, as the name indicates, reveal much more about their finances than their privately held counterparts do. Privately held companies are often seen as being more mysterious whereas publicly held companies are considered more “open.”
Business owners looking to sell their business will, of course, want to address the fact that their company lacks the public information associated with publicly held companies. Providing prospective buyers with as much verified information about your business as possible is one of the fastest and easiest ways to overcome buyers’ concerns. A smart move for any business owner is to work closely with their accountant to go over the numbers and create an easy-to-understand presentation for prospective buyers. This should serve to allay many of their concerns.
Working with your accountant is only the first step in providing prospective buyers with the information they need to feel comfortable. The second step is to work with an outside appraiser or other expert who can determine the value of your business. After that, you’ll want to decide on what your market price will be, as well as your “wish price,” or the price that you would ideally want. Third, you must know your “rock bottom” lowest price. You, as the owner, need to have this information as it will greatly facilitate and streamline all negotiations.
When buyers are reviewing materials and working to determine what price they are willing to pay, they will look at a wide range of factors including:
- Product diversity
- The size of your customer base
- Potential competitors in the area
- Competitors on the horizon
- Potential disruptions to your business, such as supplier problems
- The stability of your earnings
- The stability of the market
- Need for capital
Different buyers may place differing levels of emphasis on certain areas, but you can be certain that the aforementioned areas will be examined with care. The process is undoubtedly rather complex. This complexity underscores the need for professional assistance.
Ultimately, the market will determine the sale price of your business. For business owners, the first and most important step is to work closely with professionals such as accountants, appraisers, Business Brokers and M&A Advisors to establish the price of your privately held business. You can count on brokerage professionals to properly organize the facts and numbers that support that price.
BizBuySell’s Insight Report is filled with key statistics and information on a range of topics, including the labor shortage and hiring problems that many businesses currently face. Visit BizBuySell for more information about the findings that they recently reported for the third quarter of 2021. This website also offers an archive of past quarterly reports dating back to 2013.
The pandemic has “reshuffled the deck,” causing many to reassess their positions in corporate America. At this point in 2021, businesses are recovering, but the pandemic continues to play a role in business operations. 71% of business owners surveyed noted that they are facing higher costs than before the pandemic. Most respondents indicated that labor shortages have been having a significant impact on their businesses. There are issues both in hiring and retaining employees.
As the report explains, “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, retail spending in September increased 13.9% over the previous year. However, many businesses still struggle to attract or retain employees. In fact, 49% of owners say the labor shortage is impacting their business, while Business Brokers see it as the number one concern facing small businesses.”
Some of the problems related to the issue of labor shortage are not immediately obvious. As it has become common knowledge that employers are having trouble filling positions and are having to increase pay in order to attract new employees, existing employees are taking note. Since existing employees realize that new hires are being hired at higher wages, they are themselves often expecting raises. In turn, operational costs are going up for many businesses.
The fact is that the business owners are still selling and for a variety of reasons. BizBuySell’s statistics also indicate that of buyers who are planning to sell, 20% cite retirement as their main reason for selling, whereas 38% cite burnout as the primary reason.
According to the data collected by BizBuySell, transactions are up 17% over the last quarter, but are still 7% below pre-pandemic levels. However, it is expected that the number of transactions will grow to be well above their pre-pandemic levels in 2022.
Buyers and sellers alike should remember that the pandemic has changed business and will continue to do so in the near future. In short, the business landscape continues to evolve.
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Every business has an array of important legal documents. However, the partnership agreement holds a unique and important place in your business and its future.
The facts are that many people choose to go into business with close friends or family members, and often these personal relationships lead to a forgoing of the partnership agreement. Don’t go this route, as it would be a major mistake. As a business owner, you have a responsibility to protect, maintain, and grow your business.
A well-written partnership agreement can greatly reduce the number of potential problems that your business can face down the road. Establishing a legal framework for the operation of your business is a must.
A good partnership agreement is one in which every major aspect of how the partnership should run is outlined and spelled out in detail. At the end of the day, your partnership agreement should be viewed as a legal document that serves as a key guidepost for the operation of your business. Since a partnership agreement is a legal document, it is essential that you work with a lawyer to create a contract that is specific to your company.
This type of agreement is often a more complex agreement than many business owners would initially expect, and for good reason. Due to the wide scope that a partnership can entail, the partnership agreement can address many different points.
It is important to remember that partnership agreements are designed to minimize misunderstandings and outline how the business should function. Issues such as how money is distributed, what percentage each partner will receive, and which partners are to receive a draw, should all be covered.
However, a partnership agreement does more than simply address how money is to be distributed. It should also outline key operational factors such as what happens in the event of the death of a partner. If that were to occur, for example, who will be in charge of managerial work? Issues such as how business decisions should be made, and how conflicts are to be resolved, are additional important issues that should be addressed.
A good partnership agreement, one that strives to foresee as many problems as possible, serves to protect your business against future disruptions. Every successful operation or enterprise has rules by which it operates, and your business should be no exception.
At some point, every business owner will need to think about selling his or her business. This means you’ll need to be ready to overcome a range of obstacles, as the process of selling a business can be both confusing and time-consuming. This is especially true for those who have not gone through the process before. Let’s turn our attention to some of the key reasons why deals can fall apart.
Buyers, like sellers, enter the process with a variety of preconceived notions about how the process should work, as well as what they consider to be “a great deal.” The psychological factors involved in selling a business shouldn’t be overlooked.
Sellers need to understand the specific wants and desires of the buyer as well as their own psychology.
Even serious buyers may have highly unrealistic expectations regarding various aspects of a business, ranging from its price to its opportunities for future growth. In some cases, they may stall due to the fact they are not quite ready to buy a business and see no urgency in the matter.
Buyers can also be influenced by outside parties, whether advisors or friends and family. In short, sellers may discover that, for all practical purposes, buyers may actually be several people who are forming a collective opinion on issues regarding the business.
A seller’s own psychology can play a huge role in whether or not a business is successfully sold. Many sellers enter into the process without a full understanding of what is involved. This factor, of course, underscores the tremendous importance of working with professionals months, if not years, before you actually place your business on the market. These professionals should include an M&A Advisor or Business Broker.
Another major obstacle is that many sellers have unrealistic expectations about both price and the time frame in which their business can be sold. Sellers should enter the selling process with their eyes open and realistic expectations in place. Be sure to establish a fair price. It’s also important to understand that it may take a year or longer before a buyer is found.
Acts of Fate
Sellers should remember that there are many “acts of fate” that can disrupt a deal. A deal may seem like everything is moving along without problems, only to discover at the last minute that the buyer isn’t able to secure the needed funds as expected.
It is important for all parties involved to realize that until a deal is finalized, problems can still arise. In fact, they can arise from unexpected directions. But it is difficult to anticipate and spot every potential disruption. The complexity of selling a business is one of the main reasons why so many business owners opt to work with a brokerage professional.
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When it comes to finalizing deals, successful negotiations are at the heart of the matter. It only makes sense to think about how to improve your communication skills and to choose a Business Broker or M&A Advisor who is well versed in the art of negotiation.
Cultivating Win-Win Situations
Achieving a win-win for all parties is essential, and there are many components involved. It’s essential to understand what the other party is seeking and to help them also feel as though they succeeded in the deal.
One tried and tested strategy is to lead people through a series of “yeses” by starting with topics and points that can be agreed upon and then working forward. In the beginning of this negotiating strategy, the yeses may come from getting others to agree on what may be seen as trivial things. However, this step works to create the right climate for moving forward so that yeses can be obtained on more important issues.
Maintaining the Flow of Information
The flow of information is a critical aspect of the negotiation process. For this reason, it’s best for negotiations between buyers and sellers to go through their brokerage professionals, rather than conducted directly.
The simple fact is that otherwise there are too many variables and opportunities for something to go wrong, ranging from egos getting in the way to miscommunications. When you choose a qualified Business Broker or M&A Advisor, you’ll be able to place trust in that person to achieve optimal outcomes.
Understand One Another
It is important to keep the other side talking and show that you understand their perspective and the issues they may have. It is in this way that you can encourage cooperation and diffuse resistance in advance.
Ultimately, great negotiations stem from proper strategy, preparation, proper education, enhanced communication, and understanding the other party’s needs. When you and your Business Broker or M&A Advisor foster good communications with the other party, it will enhance the chances of achieving the kind of cooperation you are seeking. This in turn, dramatically increases the chances of achieving win-win outcomes.
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Created in 2012, the IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey was created to provide business owners and their advisors with a clear understanding of ever-changing market conditions.
Through this survey, it is possible to gain clarity on businesses being sold in Main Street (values $0-$2MM) and the lower middle market (values $2MM -$50MM). Scott Bushkie served as the originator of the Market Pulse Report with IBBA and M&A Source and has continued to play a key role since the report’s inception.
A core finding of the IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey for Q2 was that there has been a big shift between the turmoil of 2020 and the climate of 2021. Across the spectrum of sizes and price ranges of businesses, sellers now have an advantage or are at least in a better position to sell their business. This is quite different from the situation in 2020.
The market has shifted towards being a seller’s market for a variety of reasons including the fact that many private equity groups are now looking for ways to grow their money. Acquiring an existing business has become an increasingly attractive option to buyers due to the current labor pool conditions.
Buyers are now looking at existing companies as a way to bypass attracting talent. Instead, they can secure that talent via acquiring a new business. In short, many buyers are looking to buy versus organically build to meet their talent needs.
Another reason that now is a good time for sellers is that many buyers are looking to leave corporate America. This situation has likely been accelerated by the pandemic and people seeking to control their own destiny. The increase in global uncertainty has made the idea of becoming a business owner increasingly attractive.
The shift in climate from 2020 to 2021 underscores the value of the IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey. Through this revealing survey, it is possible for business owners and their advisors to gain a clearer understanding of market conditions and what to expect.
Eventually every business owner will have to turn over control of their business to someone else. There are many options for how this can play out. They range from selling the business to a prospective buyer or selling to a competitor, to turning your business over to a family member. It is key that you start thinking about these options years before you end up in a situation where you actually have to sell.
Working with a Business Broker or M&A Advisor is one way to determine what sales options are optimal for you based on your specific situation. Let’s explore some of the variables you’ll want to consider when you decide to transfer your business to a family member.
There are some significant advantages to transferring your business to a family member. No doubt topping the list of advantages of going this route is the fact that the transfer can be considered a gift. One advantage of this approach is that you’ll reduce your real estate taxes. Depending upon how the agreement is written, you also may be able to maintain some control over the business. For many business owners, this factor can be a big advantage.
One issue you’ll want to explore when opting to transfer your business to a family member is seller financing. Seller financing is a common practice when it comes to buying and selling businesses in general. This type of financing is even more common where transfers to relatives are concerned.
Seller financing opens up the versatile option of implementing a private annuity. A private annuity can serve to spread payments out across a long period of time. This could be a win-win situation for both you and your relative. You would receive a long-term stream of income as a result of ongoing payments. In turn, this decision may very well make ownership more financially realistic for your relative.
Keep in mind that if you sell your business to a relative, this in no way negates the need for a buy-sell agreement. Even when you are dealing with your most trusted family members, legal agreements must be firmly in place. A buy-sell agreement is an invaluable tool that protects everyone involved.
This contract clearly outlines all aspects of the arrangement. Your buy-sell agreement should include such key information including the value of the business, amount being paid, information on which employees will be retained, the current business owner’s level of future involvement, and much more.
Working with Professionals
Ultimately, there are a range of potentially powerful benefits associated with transferring a business to a relative. While it is true that you can expect the IRS to closely evaluate the sale, this should not dissuade you from considering this option. Business Brokers and M&A Advisors are experts at buying and selling businesses, and they understand the specifics of transferring a business to relatives. Working with professionals early in the selling process can help you gain tremendous insight into the best way to proceed.
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After decades of hard work, selling your business can be an exciting and rewarding time. Yet, many business owners overlook the importance of focusing on the legal matters associated with sales. In this article, we’ll explore three of the most significant mistakes sellers make.
1. Use an NDA
The first critical mistake that business owners should be guarding against is skipping the use of a non-disclosure agreement. Simply stated, a business owner should always make sure that a non-disclosure agreement is in place before disclosing to any buyers that a business is on the market.
NDA’s stand as an invaluable way to restrict who does and does not know your business is for sale. After all, the last thing any business owner looking to sell his or her business wants is for competitors or employees to learn confidential information.
2. Hire an Attorney
The second critical mistake that many business owners make is they skip working with an attorney. There is no way around the fact that if you are selling a business, or for that matter anything of significant value, you need to work with a lawyer experienced in the area of sales.
Business owners become accustomed to doing a great many things themselves and learning on the job. There is no doubt that this is a personality trait that has served them well over the years. However, when it comes time to sell your business, there is zero room for “on the job training” or relying on your own instincts. One of the best ways that you as a business owner can protect your future is to work with a lawyer when selling your business. In fact, a Business Broker or M&A Advisor can be a vital resource for helping you to find a proven lawyer with a background in the buying and selling of businesses.
3. Get a Letter of Intent
A third significant mistake that business owners frequently make when selling their business is that they fail to get a letter of intent. Much like an NDA, a letter of intent is a key legal document in the process of selling a business. All too often business owners will skip requesting a letter of intent out of fear of slowing down the process and potentially disrupting a deal.
The letter of intent is designed to both clearly spell out expectations, while simultaneously protecting your interests as a business owner. When a buyer signs a letter of intent, it indicates that he or she is taking the process seriously. This will protect you from wasting your time.
The process of buying or selling a business is complex in many different ways. Whether it is dealing with human psychology, organizing your books, thinking about what information prospective buyers are likely to want to see, or addressing a wide array of legal issues, it is a complex and time-consuming process. Working closely with a Business Broker or M&A Advisor is one of the fastest ways that you can increase your chances of a successful sale.
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