A recent article from Divestopedia entitled “When is the Best Time to Sell My Business” explains that a business owner who is looking to sell should begin preparing for the sale three years before they plan to list their business on the market.
The state of the market matters when listing your business, but what you can’t control this as a business owner. What you can control, however, is the state of your financial records, whether the business has any litigation outstanding, and the overall appearance and wellbeing of the business. In order to sell your business at the highest value possible, there are certain things that need to be taken care of before listing. By giving yourself about three years (the number of years of clean, verifiable financial statements you should have) to prepare your business for sale, you are giving yourself and your business the best chance on the market.Read More
In the proverbial “perfect world,” business owners would plan three to five years ahead to sell their companies. But, as one industry expert has suggested, business owners very seldom plan to sell; rather, selling is “event driven.” Partner disputes, divorce, burn-out, health, and new competition are examples of events that can force the sale of a business.
Sellers often find, after they have decided to sell, that the unexpected happens and they are “blindsided” and caught off-guard. Here are a few of the unexpected events that can occur.
The Substantial Time Commitment
Sellers find that the time necessary to comply with the requests of not only the intermediary but also the potential buyers can take valuable time away from the actual running of the business. The information necessary to compile the offering memorandum takes time to collect. Many sellers are unaware of the amount of their time necessary to gather all the documents and information required for the offering memorandum, nor of its importance to the selling process.
There is also the time necessary to meet and visit with prospective buyers. An intermediary will play an important role in screening prospects and separating the “prospects from the suspects.”
Handling the Confidentiality Issue
Owners of many companies are also the founders and creators of them. They can have difficulty in delegating and tend to want to make all of the decisions themselves. When it comes time to sell, they want to be involved in everything, thus, again, taking time away from running the business. Members of the management team, like the sales manager, have a lot of the information necessary not only for the memorandum but also on competitive issues, possible acquirers, etc. The owner has to allow his or her managers to be part of the selling process. This is easier said than done.
Forgetting the Others
Many mid-sized, privately held companies also have minority stockholders or family members who have an interest in the business. The managing owner may be the majority stockholder; but in today’s business world, minority stockholders have strong rights. The owner has to deal with these people, first in getting an agreement to sell, then convincing them about the price and terms. A “fairness opinion” can help resolve some of the pricing issues. Minority stockholders and family interests have to be dealt with and not overlooked or pushed to the end of the deal. When this happens, many times it is the end of the deal, literally speaking.
The Price is the Price is the Price
All sellers have a price in mind when it comes time to sell their companies. Most businesses go to market with a fairly aggressive price structure. When an offer(s) is presented, it is generally, sometimes significantly, lower than the seller anticipated. They are never prepared for this event – they are blindsided, and obviously not very happy. They turn the deal down without even looking past the price. Here is where an intermediary comes in, by helping structure the deal so it can work for both sides.
Not Having Their Own Way
Business owners are used to calling the shots. When an offer is presented, they, in some cases, think that they can call all of the shots. They have to understand that selling their company is a “give and take.” They can stand firm on the issues most important to them, but they have to give on others. Also, some owners want their attorneys to make all of the decisions, both legal and business. Unfortunately, some attorneys usurp this decision. Owners must make business decisions.
There is always the small possibility that the word will leak out that the business is for sale. It may just be a rumor that gets started or it may be worse – the confidentiality is exposed. Sellers must have a contingency plan in case this happens. A simple explanation that growth capital is being considered or expansion is being explored may quell the rumor.
“Keeping Your Eye on the Ball”
With all that is involved in marketing a business for sale, the owner must still run the business – now, more than ever. Buyers will be kept up-to-date on the progress of the business, despite the fact that it is for sale.Read More
Some interesting stats from BizBuySell’s 2017 Insight Report regarding business sales…
Small Business Transactions Reached Record Highs in 2017, up 27 Percent from 2016, According to BizBuySell.com Report
BizBuySell.com’s Fourth Quarter 2017 Insight Report shows strong second half of 2017 boosting business-for-sale market to new highs as businesses continue to thrive in today’s strong economy.
San Francisco, CA – BizBuySell.com, the Internet’s largest business-for-sale marketplace, reported today that annual small business transactions ascended to record highs in 2017, exceeding previous highs set in 2016 by 27 percent. The full results are included in BizBuySell’s 2017 Q4 and year-end Insights Report, which aggregates statistics from business-for-sale transactions reported by participating business brokers nationwide.
This year’s increase marks a noteworthy upward shift in the number of small businesses changing hands across America. For several years after the 2008-2009 Great Recession, sales volume remained low as small businesses struggled financially and capital for financing remained tight. Beginning in 2013, as the economy recovered, closed transactions have steadily increased. But 2017 represents a significant increase, with 9,919 closed transactions reported compared to the 7,842 in 2016. This year-over-year growth rate is the largest since 2013.Read More
BizBuySell.com’s 4th quarter report showing 2016 was a strong year for small business transaction counts
Below is an excerpt from BizBuySell.com’s 4th quarter report showing 2016 was a strong year for small business transaction stats.
Improved business financials have helped make 2016 a hot market for business sales.
“San Francisco, CA – BizBuySell.com, the Internet’s largest business-for-sale marketplace, reported today that the annual small business transaction count reached record levels in 2016, topping 2015’s totals by 8.6 percent and 2014’s previous high by 4.6 percent. The full results are included in BizBuySell’s annual and Q4 2016 Insight Report, which aggregates statistics from business-for-sale transactions reported by participating business brokers nationwide.”
Here are a couple key stats from the 2016 report:
- A total of 7,842 closed transactions were reported in 2016, the highest yearly total of small business sales since BizBuySell first started tracking data in 2007.
- The median revenue from each business transaction grew 5.2 percent from $449,462 in 2015 to $472,798 in 2016.
- Median cash flow also increased, up to $107,551 from $102,000 the year prior.
- The median asking price remained flat from 2015 at $225,000, while the median sale price increased a mere half a percentage point to $200,000.
|Asking Price to Cash Flow (avg)|
|Contra Costa-Alameda-Solano, CA||3.01|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA||2.91|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||2.84|
Are you stuck trying to figure out how to create some recurring revenue for your business? Here’s how one business owner quadrupled the value of their business in three moves.
You know those automatic sales will make your business more valuable and predictable, but the secret to transforming your company is to think less about what’s in it for you and more about coming up with a reason for customers to agree to a monthly bill.
Take a look at the transformation of Laura Steward’s company, Guardian Angel. Steward had gotten her IT consulting firm up to $400,000 in revenue when she called in a valuation consultant to help her put a price on her business. Steward was disappointed to learn her company was worth less than fifty percent of one year’s sales because she had no recurring revenue and what sales she did have were dependent on her personally.
Steward set about to transform her business into a more valuable company and made three big moves:
- Angel Watch
The first thing Steward did was to design a monthly program called Angel Watch, which offered her business clients ongoing protection from technology problems. Steward offered her Angel Watch customers ongoing remote monitoring of their networks, pre-emptive virus protection and staff on call if there was ever a problem.
Steward approached her clients with a calculation of what they had spent with her firm over the most recent 12-month period, including the cost of her customer’s downtime. She made the case that by signing up for Angel Watch, they would save money when taking into consideration both the hard costs of her firm’s time and the soft costs associated with downtime.
90% of her customers switched from hourly billing to the Angel Watch program.
- Doubling Rates
Next Steward doubled her personal consulting rates. That way, when one of the customers who decided not to opt into Angel Watch called her firm, they were quoted one rate for a technician’s time or twice the price to have Steward herself. Not surprisingly, most customers opted for the cheaper option and others chose to re-consider their decision not to sign up for Angel Watch.
- Survivor Clause
Steward also credits a small legal manoeuvre for further driving up the value of her business. She included a “survivor clause” in her Angel Watch contracts, which stipulated that the obligations of the agreement would “survive” a change of ownership of her company.
Steward went on to successfully sell her business at a price that was more than four times the original valuation she had received just two years prior to launching Angel Watch.
It’s more interesting to begin by asking: Can a business be sold without the use of a business broker? The undisputed answer is obviously yes. Many businesses still sell through private parties. Sellers hire brokers because they believe the broker will do a better job than they would.
Key functions of a broker
Business valuation: Fair market value is what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller, period. Without selling a number of businesses in a particular area, a broker couldn’t possibly know what fair market value is for a business. Without this experience it’s simply theory. The right broker will know the value based on experience, and work with local valuation experts to assist in the process.
Confidentiality: Brokers protect the seller and buyer in every possible way, even though the selling process requires the sharing of information. Using a good broker is the optimal way to ensure confidentiality.
Packaging and marketing: Quality brokers have expertise and know what makes a business attractive to a buyer. They can therefore identify strong selling points for each business, which a seller might not have considered. After all, selling a business is just that… Selling! Packaging and marketing are critical to the successful sale of a business.
Finding prospective buyers: Brokers should be constantly marketing to buyers through websites, direct mail, phone solicitation, and networking. This results in a large database of interested buyers of all sorts.
Buyer qualification: Brokers screen prospective buyers in several ways. They obtain documents such as credit reports and financial statements, as well as interview buyers regarding credentials and experience. Sellers do not want to waste time with buyers who may not have the needed experience or are not serious buyers.
Consultation: A broker works with owners throughout the process regarding all aspects of the sale, including the terms of sale, financing issues, non-compete and other contract issues, customer retention, and whatever else is needed to make the process run smoothly.
Negotiations: Brokers provide important third-party negotiation skills to ensure that the deal gets done under terms that are satisfactory. This is one of the most underappreciated aspects of what a good broker provides and could fill an entire book of its own. This is where the broker either pays for himself or costs the seller money.
Financing: Successful brokerage firms have access and expertise in obtaining financing for the buyer so that the seller can receive cash at close if the business and buyer qualify. A broker can also provide guidance and valuable experience with regard to seller financing issues when necessary.
Large Pools of Buyers: It is simple Economics 101: Sellers can’t get the best deal from one or two potential buyers they met at an industry seminar. The larger the pool of potential buyers, the better the chance of getting not only the right price and terms, but the best fit for your clients and staff.
There is a reason some brokers successfully sell many businesses each year, while others don’t. Some work hard and produce results while others merely list businesses and wait. Selling a business is not a simple process. It’s a complex, legally binding transaction with potential repercussions far into the future.
Randy Hendershot 916.993.5433 ext 5
3017 Douglas Blvd, Suite 300, Roseville, CA 95661Read More
- Strongest Growth in businesses selling that are valued at $5M-$5M
- Buyers market for businesses valued under $1M, over the $1M mark is a Seller’s market
In order to get top dollar for your business, it is necessary to prepare for the sale well in advance. In short, a tremendous amount of strategy and preparation goes into a successful sale. The amount you ultimately receive for your business is directly tied to how well you prepare.
At the top of the list of making sure that your business is attractive to potential buyers is to make certain your business is as well positioned in the market as possible. Of course, this is often easier stated than done. Here are some of the best ways to make sure your business is optimally positioned.
Tip One – Start Positioning Your Business Well in Advance
Selling your business isn’t something you should just do one day. You should start positioning your business at least one year before the closing.
Quite often, experts say business owners should always operate as though a sale is on the horizon. This makes a great deal of sense on one hand. If you ever experience an unexpected turn of events and need to sell, then you will certainly be ready. Another reason that this advice is solid is due to the fact that operating as though a sale is on the horizon helps you make certain that your business is running as effectively and efficiently as possible. This also helps with your short and long term decision making.
Tip Two – Always Think About Growth
Another way to ensure optimal position in the market is to always stay focused on growth. Asking yourself what steps you can take to grow your business in both the short term and the long term is a prudent move. You should always know what it takes to launch a new growth stage. As unusual as it sounds businesses can even foster growth by acquisition if well planned. This can show faster results than organic growth helping to foster new markets, add needed employee talent, and decrease the impact of fixed costs.
Tip Three – Customers, Lots of Customers/Clients
You don’t want a prospective buyer to see that you have only one or two key customers or clients. Understandably, this situation should make a buyer quite nervous. It comes across as extreme vulnerability. Having many varied customers or clients is a step in the right direction. Make sure to have an understanding of your customer concentration percentage. As a general rule your business should not have any one customer with over 15% of your total revenue.
Tip Four – Be Ready for Due Diligence
Whatever you do, don’t overlook due diligence. Neglecting or waiting to prepare for the buyer’s due diligence stage until the eleventh hour is quite risky. Have all of your financial, legal and operations documents ready to go. A failure to properly handle due diligence could derail a deal or even reduce the amount you receive. One of the easiest items that will have the most impact on value is the readiness and accuracy of your financials. Invest the time and money to have a professional account/CPA keep your records accurate and up to date.
Tip Five – Understand Your Business’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Every business has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t attempt to hide your weaknesses or overplay your strengths. Be transparent! There is no such thing as a perfect business! Many times a weakness can be turned into a positive in the buyers eyes. As an example, if your marketing efforts have not been consistent yet you have a nice growth curve, imagine a buyer proficient in marketing and what he/she could do to affect future growth.
A business broker is an expert at handling investors and even writing a business plan that you can hand to potential buyers.
Think about boosting your market position while simultaneously increasing the odds that you receive top dollar for your sale. Instead of rushing, take the time to prepare and work with a business broker to achieve the best market position and sale price possible. Planning leads to increase value and a much smoother transaction.Read More
Thinking Vs. Doing: A Consistent Dilemma for business owners.
The train conductor vs. the thinker
Your role as a CEO/Business owner can be divided into two buckets: one for managing and the other for thinking.
The managing bucket is where, metaphorically speaking, you ensure the trains all run on time. In this role, you’re establishing goals for your employees and holding them accountable for achieving their targets. You’re making sure your products and services are of a high quality and that your biggest customers are happy.
When you’re wearing your manager hat, you’re scouring your company looking for small enhancements every day. This obsession with continuous improvement is what big companies call “six-sigma thinking,” but you probably just think of it as building a great company.
The other bucket is reserved for thinking and it’s where you create the future of your company. In this visionary time, you get to design new products, imagine new ways of serving customers, or contemplate where you could take your business in the years ahead.
Your visionary hours are spent dreaming and imaging what your business could be, instead of worrying about what it is today.
The most valuable companies
The question is, how much of your time should you devote to each role? If your goal is to create a more valuable business—one that someone might like to buy one day—data reveals that you should start gradually increasing the time you spend on thinking and hire someone else to do the managing.
For example, after analyzing more than 20,000 businesses who have received their Value Builder Score, it has been discovered that companies of owners who know each of their customers by first name (i.e., managers) trade at just 2.9 times their pre-tax profit, whereas the companies of owners who do not know their customers’ first names (i.e., thinkers) trade at closer to 5 times pre-tax profit.
Further, companies that would suffer if their owners were unable to come to work for three months, receive significantly lower offers when compared to companies that would not feel the absence of the owner for a month or two.
Finally, in a recent survey of merger and acquisition (M&A) professionals, they were asked who they like to see an owner hire if they can only afford one “C-level” executive. The M&A professionals overwhelmingly identified a general manager/second-in-command as the most important role a founder can fill ahead of a chief revenue, marketing or financial officer.
In short, the owners of the most valuable businesses have found managers to ensure the trains run on time while they spend an increasing amount of their energy thinking about what’s next for their business.
To take the 13 minute Value Builder survey and find out your Value Builder Score Click here.Read More
Many business owners are unfamiliar with the dynamics of selling a company, because they have never done so. There are numerous possible “deal breakers.” Being aware of the following pitfalls and their remedies should help prevent the possibility of an aborted transaction.
Neglecting the Running of Your Business
A major reason companies with sales under $20 million become derailed during the selling process is that the owner becomes consumed with the pending transaction and neglects the day to day operation of the business. At some time during the selling process, which can take six to twelve months from beginning to end, the CEO/owner typically takes his or her eye off the ball. Since the CEO/owner is the key to all aspects of the business, his lack of attention to the business invariably affects sales, costs and profits. A potential buyer could become concerned if the business flattens out or falls off.
Solution: For most CEOs/owners, selling their company is one of the most dramatic and important phases in the company’s history. This is no time to be overly cost conscious. The owner should retain, within reason, the best intermediary, transaction lawyer and other advisors to alleviate the pressure so that he or she can devote the time necessary for effectively running the business.
Placing Too High a Price on the Business
Obviously, many owners want to maximize the selling price on the company that has often been their life’s work, or in fact, the life’s work of their multi-generation family. The problem with an irrational and indiscriminate pricing of the business is that the mergers and acquisition market is sophisticated; professional acquirers will not be fooled.
Solution: By retaining an expert intermediary and/or appraiser, an owner should be able to arrive at a price that is justifiable and defensible. If you set too high a price, you may end up with an undesirable buyer who fails to meet the purchase price payments and/or destroys the desirable corporate culture that the seller has created.
Breaching the Confidentiality of the Impending Sale
In many situations, the selling process involves too many parties, and due to so many participants in the information loop, confidentiality is breached. It happens, perhaps more frequently than not. The results can change the course of the transaction and in some cases; the owner—out of frustration—calls off the deal.
Solution: Using intermediaries in a transaction certainly helps reduce a confidentiality breach. Working with only a few buyers at a time can also help eliminate a breach. Involving senior management can also prevent information leaks.
Not Preparing for Sale Far Enough in Advance
Most business owners decide to sell their business somewhat impulsively. According to a survey of business sellers nationwide, the major reason for selling is boredom and burnout. Further down the list of reasons reported by survey respondents is retirement or lack of successor heirs. With these factors in mind, unless the owner takes several years of preparation, chances are the business will not be in top condition to sell.
Solution: Having well-prepared and well-documented financial statements for several years in advance of the company being sold is worth all the extra money, and then some. Buying out minority stockholders, cleaning up the balance sheet, settling outstanding lawsuits and sprucing up the housekeeping are all-important. If the business is a “one-man-band,” then building management infrastructure will give the company value and credibility.
Not Anticipating the Buyer’s Request
A buyer usually has to obtain bank financing to complete the transaction. Therefore, he needs appraisals on the property, machinery and equipment, as well as other assets. If the owner is selling real estate, an environmental study is necessary. If a seller has been properly advised, he will realize that closing costs will amount to five to seven percent of the purchase price; i.e., $250,000-$350,000 for a $5 million transaction. These costs are well worth the expense, because the seller is more apt to receive a higher price if he can provide the buyer with all the necessary information to do a deal.
Solution: The owner should have appraisals completed before he tries to sell the business, but if the appraisals are more than two years old, they may have to be updated.
Seller Desiring To Retire After Business Is Sold
It is a natural instinct for the burnt-out owner to take his cash and run. However, buyers are very concerned with the integration process after the sale is completed, as well as discovering whether or not the customer and vendor relationships are going to be easily transferable.
Solution: If the owner were to become a director for one year after the company is sold, the chances are that the buyer would feel a lot more secure that the all-important integration would be smoother and the various relationships would be successfully transferable.
Negotiating Every Item
Being boss of one’s own company for the past ten to twenty years will accustom one to having his or her own way… just about all the time. The potential buyer probably will have a similar set of expectations.
Solution: Decide ahead of the negotiation which are the very important items and which ones are not critical. In the ensuing negotiating process, the owner will have a better chance to “horse trade” knowing the negotiatiable and non-negotiable items.
Allocating Too Much Time for Selling Process
Owners are often told that it will take six to twelve months to sell a company from the very beginning to the very end. For the up-front phase, when the seller must strategize, set a range of values, and identify potential buyers, etc., it is all right to take one’s time. It is also acceptable for the buyer to take two or three months to close the deal after the Letter of Intent is signed by both parties. What is not acceptable is an extended delay during which the company is “put in play” (the time between identifying buyers, visiting the business and negotiating). This phase should not take more than three months. If it does, this means that the deal is dragging and is unlikely to close. The pressure on the owner becomes emotionally exhausting, and he tires of the process quickly.
Solution: Again, the seller needs to have a professional orchestrate the process to keep the potential buyers on a time schedule, and move the offers along so the momentum is not lost. The merger and acquisition advisor or intermediary plays the role of coach, and the player (seller) either wins or loses the game depending on how well those two work together.Read More