Buying a business can be an exciting prospect. For many prospective business owners, owning a business is the fulfillment of a decades long dream. With all of that excitement comes considerable emotion. For this reason, it is essential to step back and carefully evaluate several key factors to help you decide whether or not you are making the best financial and life decision for you. In this article, we’ll examine five key factors you should consider before buying a business.
What is Being Sold?
If you hate the idea of owning a clothing store, then why buy one? The bottom line is that you have to have a degree of enthusiasm about what you are buying otherwise you’ll experience burnout and lose interest in the business.
How Good is the Business Plan?
Before getting too excited about owning a business, you’ll want to take a look at the business plan. You’ll want to know the current business owner’s goals and how they plan on going about achieving those goals. If they’ve not been able to formulate a coherent business plan then that could be a red flag.
You need to see how a business can be grown in the future, and that means you need a business plan. Additionally, a business plan will outline how products and services are marketed and how the business compares to other companies.
How is Overall Performance?
A key question to have answered before signing on the bottom line is “How well is a business performing overall?” Wrapped up in this question are factors such as how many hours the owner has to work, whether or not a manager is used to oversee operations, how many employees are paid overtime, whether or not employees are living up to their potential and other factors. Answering these questions will give you a better idea of what to expect if you buy the business.
What Do the Financials Look Like?
Clearly, it is essential to understand the financials of the business. You’ll want to see everything from profit and loss statements and balance sheets to income tax returns and more. In short, don’t leave any rock unturned. Importantly, if you are not provided accurate financial information don’t hesitate, run the other way!
What are the Demographics?
Understanding your prospective customers is essential to understanding your business. If the current owner doesn’t understand the business, that is a key problem. It should be clear who the customers are, why they keep coming back and how you can potentially add and retain current customers in the future. After all, at the end of the day, the customer is what your business is all about.
Don’t rush into buying a business. Instead, carefully evaluate every aspect of the business and how owning the business will impact both your life and your long-term financial prospects.
The business sale process can be complex, which is part of the reason why it makes sense to have expert help in the form of a business broker. Legal mistakes can be very costly mistakes. A legal mistake can also bring the entire sale process to a sudden and complete halt. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to avoid these kinds of issues when selling your business.
Major Mistake 1 – You Skipped the Non-Disclosure Agreement
Nothing quite invites trouble like skipping the non-disclosure agreement. If a deal falls through, then you have the NDA backing you up. This document ensures that the prospective buyer doesn’t tell the world that your business is up for sale. Never assume that a deal is going through until it actually is 100% complete. Buying or selling a business is a complex process with lots of moving parts. There is plenty of room for things to go wrong, and that is why you always need to have an NDA in place.
Major Mistake 2 – You Don’t Work with an Attorney
Let’s be very blunt here, if you are selling a business, then you need an attorney. Just as there is no replacement for an NDA, the same holds true for working with a lawyer. It is also vital that you properly prep your business for sale, which means getting paperwork organized and making sure that you have legally checked all your boxes. Working with an experienced and proven attorney will help you ensure that your business is ready for sale. If you’re not prepared for the deal, it can make buyers nervous.
Major Mistake 3 – You Failed to Get a Letter of Intent
A letter of intent is a valuable, and necessary, legal document. Some sellers are reluctant to use it, fearing that it will slow down the momentum of the deal. However, since this letter works to protect your interest and outlines expectations, this step should not be skipped. For example, a letter of intent details the termination fee for the buyer, meaning that the buyer can’t walk away without consequences simply because he or she is having a bad day. Importantly, a letter of intent ensures that you are only dealing with serious buyers.
Many things can go wrong while selling a business. The more prepared you are before you begin the process, the greater the chances that you will not only avoid headaches, but also be successful. Long before you put your business on the market, you should begin working with a capable business broker and attorney. Their input and advice will prove to be invaluable and help you avoid a range of costly and time-consuming issues.Read More
When it comes to buying a business, nothing is more important than the factor of due diligence. For most people, this investment is the single largest financial decision that they will ever make. And with this important fact in mind, you’ll want to leave absolutely no stone unturned.
Let’s examine the three most commonly overlooked areas when it comes to buying a business: retirement plans, 1099’s and W-2’s, and legal documents.
1. Examine All Legal Documents
While it may sound like a “pain” to investigate all the legal documents relating to a business that you are vetting for purchase, that is exactly what you have to do. The very last thing you want is to buy a business only to have the corporate veil pierced. Everything from trademarks and copyrights to other areas of intellectual property should be carefully examined. You should be quite sure that you receive copies of everything from consulting agreements to documentation on intellectual property.
2. Retirement Plans
Don’t forget about retirement plans when you’re buying a business, as this mistake can quietly translate into disaster. Before signing on the dotted line and taking ownership, be sure that both the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are 100% up to date with the Department of Labor and ready to go.
3. W-2’s and 1099’s
If 1099 forms were given out instead of W-2’s, you’ll want to know about that and be certain that it was done within the bounds of IRS rules. Imagine for a moment that you fail to do your due diligence, buy a business and then discover that you have problems with the IRS. No one wants IRS problems, but a failure to perform due diligence can quickly result in just that. So do your homework!
Never forget what is at stake when you are buying a business. If there has ever been a time to have laser-like focus, this is that time. There can be many skeletons hiding in a business, and you want to be sure that you protect yourself from any unwanted surprises. Not performing your due diligence can lead to a shockingly large array of problems. One exceptional way to protect yourself is to work with a business broker. A business broker knows what to look for when buying a business and what kinds of documents should be examined. There is no replacement for the expertise and experience that a business broker brings to the table.Read More
The odds are that you’ve put a great deal of yourself into your business. Inevitably, the day will come when you have no choice but to walk away from your business and begin a new chapter of your life. Quite often, businesses are transferred from one family member to another. In this article, we will examine 5 of the key factors you’ll want to consider when transferring your business to a family member.
Factor #1 Gifting Can Have Numerous Benefits
Will you be selling your business to a family member or simply gifting that business? Gifting comes with several major advantages, for example, this approach can reduce your real estate taxes. Also, the gifting process can allow you to maintain a level of control if the agreement is written properly.
Factor #2 The Buy-Sell Agreement
Don’t overlook the importance of the buy-sell agreement, which works to put everything in writing. You may be tempted to forgo a contract since you are dealing with a family member, but this is a mistake, no matter how close you might be with your loved ones. A buy-sell agreement adds clarity to the process, which can help to keep confusion levels low and the chances of success high. When the time comes to transfer your business to a relative, you’ll want an expert to create a document that outlines all relevant details. It should feature everything from the value of the business and the amount being paid for the business to who will be kept on the payroll to what level of involvement you’ll have once the process is finished.
Factor #3 Seller Financing
Seller financing is quite common among sellers, and when relatives are involved it becomes even more common. One option is to consider a private annuity. A private annuity allows for payments to be spread out for many years and can even extend until the end of your life.
Factor #4 Considering the Self-Cancelling Installment Note
In the installment note, it is possible to feature a self-cancelling clause, which can definitely benefit your family in the future. This part of the paperwork will confirm that if you were to pass away before all the payments have been made, the remaining debt can be attached directly to your will. If you are a parent selling a business to a child, then one of the key benefits of an installment note is that it keeps your other children from paying excess income tax on your estate.
Factor #5 Transferring a Business to a Relative and the IRS
You can expect the IRS to take a second look when you sell a business to a family member. The IRS does this to make sure that everything is above board, due to the fact that many past business owners have acted in an unethical manner. You’ll want to be very sure that every aspect of the sale is done professionally and that you have all your paperwork in order.
A business broker can help you deal the unique particulars that come along with selling a business to a relative. Every business is different, and every sale is different too. A professional business broker can help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.Read More
There are two key ingredients when it comes to selling a business: professionalism and confidentiality. If either of these two ingredients are lacking, then you’ll most likely run into problems. Sadly, many sellers see their deals fall apart due to a breach of confidentiality. You certainly don’t want to be among their ranks.
The simple fact is that a breach in confidentiality can negatively impact everyone from suppliers and vendors to creditors. For example, vendors could change their terms and this, in turn, could have a major, negative impact on cash flow. There can be a chain reaction of events that spirals out of control.
The potential negative outcomes of a breach in confidentiality are quite numerous, for example, employees and customers alike could begin to worry about the future of the business. Employees could begin to worry about the safety of their jobs and begin looking for a new position. Dangerously, this situation could lead to changes in management and the loss of key employees. Likewise, customers, fearing instability with the business, could also decide to take the business elsewhere, leading to revenue problems.
Yet another complicating factor comes in the form of the competition. If the competition hears that your business is up for sale, they could sense blood in the water and look to steal your customers.
Ultimately, a breach could give potential buyers cold feet. At this point, it should be very clear that protecting confidentiality is a must. One of the single best ways to ensure that confidentiality is maintained is to opt for an experienced and proven business broker. Business brokers understand the simply tremendous value of keeping things under wraps.
It may be tempting to try and sell your business on your own, but it is vital to understand that doing so can damage your businesses’ reputation. A good business broker knows how to shield your business from breaches of confidentiality. By working with a business broker, not only are confidentiality agreements signed and taken seriously, but also you’ll know that prospective buyers are vetted and fully pre-qualified. According to an article on Inc.com, broker feedback has revealed 9 out of 10 interested parties who respond to “business for sale” ads are not qualified to make the purchase. Why would you want to risk giving away key details to these parties?
In short, you’ll have a much better idea of who you are dealing with and how serious they are about buying your business. At the end of the day, there is no replacement for maintaining confidentiality.Read More
You should never forget that your partnership agreement is, in fact, one of the most important business documents you will ever sign. Many people go into business with loved ones, relatives or lifelong friends only to discover (once it’s too late) that they should have had a partnership agreement. A partnership agreement protects everyone involved and can help reduce problems that may arise. Outlining what will happen during different potential situations and events in a legal framework can help your business keep running smoothly.
What Should Be in a Partnership Agreement?
Every business is, of course, different; however, with that stated, any partnership should outline, with as much clarity as possible, the rights and responsibilities of all involved. A well written and carefully considered partnership agreement will keep small problems and disagreements from evolving into more elaborate and serious concerns.
There are times to take a DIY approach and then there are times when you should always opt for a professional. When it comes to partnership agreements, it is best to opt for working with a lawyer. Finding competent legal help for drafting your partnership agreement is simply a must.
What is Typically Addressed in a Partnership Agreement?
In theory, a partnership agreement can cover a wide-array of factors. Here are a few points typically addressed in partnership agreements.
What Questions Will a Good Partnership Agreement Address?
- Which partner(s) are to receive a draw?
- How is money to be distributed?
- Who is contributing funds to get the business operational?
- What percentage will each partner receive?
- Who will be in charge of managerial work?
- What must be done in order to bring in new partners?
- What happens in the event of the death of a partner?
- How are business decisions made? Are decisions made by a unanimous vote or a majority vote?
- If a conflict cannot be resolved when must the conflict be resolved in court?
Thanks to partnership agreements, all partners involved can proceed and start a new business with fewer areas of concern. The simple fact is that without a partnership agreement, your business can face a range of disruptions; these would be disruptions that could ultimately spell doom for your business.Read More
No one works forever. Regardless of how much you love your business, sooner or later you will have to step away. Owning a business can be very demanding. This fact can be doubly true for owner-operators of businesses. The simple fact is that you’ll have to embrace retirement at some point.
Most business owners have never sold a business before and may not know what to expect. The good news is that prospective buyers usually like the idea of buying an established business directly from a business owner. It is key, however, to do everything possible to make selling your business, as well as the transition period, as easy for a buyer as possible.
Prepping your business for sale has many diverse parts that need to be taken into consideration. Prospective buyers want to feel as though they will have a seamless transition, so it’s in your best interest to evaluate what steps you need to take to make the transition smooth.
You are the world’s greatest expert on your business. As a result, you are perfectly positioned to evaluate your business so as to ensure that it is both appealing to a prospective buyer and ready to sell. Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.
The Top 4 Transition Tips
1. Automate as many processes as possible.
In this way, prospective buyers are less likely to be intimidated by the level of work involved in owning a small business. The odds are good that many of your prospective buyers have never owned a business before. One of the best ways to not scare prospects away is to make owning and operating your business as streamlined as possible.
2. Work with your employees, key customers and vendors to ensure a smooth transition.
Anything that can cause a potential disruption may scare off prospective buyers. Put yourself in the shoes of prospective buyers and think about what may cause you concern if you were evaluating a business. Once you locate those areas of potential concern, do what you can start to remedy them well before placing your business on the market.
3. Pick out your “second-in-command” before you sell your business.
Having a competent and proven “right hand man or woman” that can step in and essentially operate your business is a very attractive asset to have in place when it comes time to sell your business.
4. Consider working with a business broker.
Brokers are expert in the art and craft of buying and selling businesses. They will be able to help you evaluate your business and address areas that need improvement so as to ensure a smooth transition.
Taking these steps will not just make your business easier to sell, but it will also shorten the amount of time it takes to sell. The last thing you want when you are ready to sell your business and retire is for the selling process to drag on forever.Read More
Many people know that owning a business isn’t for them. But for others, the appeal and lure of owning their own business can be powerful indeed. If you are uncertain as to whether or not this path is for you, there are a few simple questions you can ask to gain almost instant clarity. In this article, we will explore those key questions and help you determine if owning a business is in your future.
1. Are You Dedicated to Growing Your Income?
Quite often people like the idea of making more money, at least in the abstract. But when presented with what it takes, many people realize that they don’t want to do what is involved. Owning and operating a business can be a lot of work and it’s not for everyone. Yet, those who embrace it can find it rewarding in a variety of ways.
Being a business owner is radically different than being an employee. As an employee, you simply don’t exercise much control. Summed up another way, your financial fate is clearly in the hands of someone else: your employer.
However, owning a business means that you can take steps to control your own financial destiny. You can make decisions that will, ultimately, boost the success of your business and in turn increase your own income.
As an important note, statistics from 2010 show that the longer you own your business the more money you, as the business owner, will make. It is typical for those who have owned a business for ten years or more to earn upwards of six figures per year. If you have had more than one year of experience in running an organization, the yearly salary will likely range from $34,392 to $75,076. However, if you’ve owned your business for more than a decade, you will likely earn more than $105,757 per year.
While there are no guarantees, owning a business can be a path to growing one’s income and wealth.
2. Would You Like Greater Control Over Your Life?
Many opt to start their own business because they want more control. Business owners realize that unless they own their own business their financial fates rest in the hands of someone else. Some people are comforted with this feeling or don’t see a way around it and others are not so comfortable with the realization. If you want greater control over your life, then owning a business might be for you.
Owning a business increases the amount of control a business owner has over his or her life in many ways, not just financial. For example, business owners have more control over how they spend their time, where they work, when they work and who they work with on a daily basis. Instead of being part of a business, you help create, mold and shape it. Clearly, this is a lot of work and it isn’t for everyone, but again the rewards can be diverse and great.
3. What is Your Personality Like?
Owning a business translates to great control, but that control comes with a degree of risk. In the end, you’ll have to determine how comfortable you are in dealing with risk. As a business owner the “buck” stops with you. You’re risking your time, effort and, of course, money. You also don’t get a paid vacation, sick days or any of the other benefits so often associated with being an employee.
Other traits identified during a study by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute showed there are other ideal personality traits for business owners. These traits include collaboration, curiosity, focus on the future, and being self-fulfilled, tech savvy and action oriented.
Thinking about these three key questions is the perfect place to start when contemplating opening a business. Additionally, working with a business broker can help you gain clarity and determine if owning a business is right for you.Read More
Banks love collateral and for a very simple reason. If you have collateral, then the bank has something it can take if you fail to repay your loan. At its heart, collateral is a remarkably simple concept. However, unfortunately, many people who want to start a business lack it. All of this leads us to the simple question, “Can I start a business without a collateral.
1. Try the SBA
There are ways that you can start a business without collateral, but you will need some amount of money. The larger the business, obviously the more money you’ll need. Those interested in the zero collateral route will want to take a look at the SBA’s 7 (a) program. This program incentivizes banks to make loans to prospective buyers. Through this program, the SBA guarantees an impressive 75% of the loan amount.
Of course, the buyer still has to put up 25% of the money in order to buy the business, but for those looking to own a business without having to put up collateral, the SBA’s 7 (a) program is an impressive option. Perhaps best of all, the cash buyers used can come from investors or even a gift, helping to make this program a potentially great one for first time business owners.
2. Think about Seller Financing
Another option is seller financing. Sellers frequently get involved in financing. When a seller is motivated to sell, due to retirement or some other factor, things can get interesting. Most sellers do agree to offer some degree of financing, so asking for selling financing is not unheard of or insulting to a business owner. Prospective business owners may even be able to combine seller financing with the SBA’s 7 (a) program. Correctly used, this path could provide a powerful and useful option.
Speaking of retiring, according to The International Business Brokers Association (IBBA), M&A Source and the Pepperdine Private Capital Market Project, 33% of deals now take place when owners are retiring. This clearly demonstrates how it is in the best interest of many sellers to consider seller financing.
While the SBA’s 7 (a) program is potentially very useful to buyers, it is important to note that under the program, the seller cannot receive any payments for two years. Working around this potential problem may very well require some creativity and effort on the part of the prospective buyer. In the end, it may be necessary to offer the business owner some incentive in order to justify waiting two years for his or her money.
Attempting to buy a business without collateral may, at first, sound like too large of an obstacle to overcome. However, these kinds of purchases really do happen all the time. By staying focused, persistent and understanding your options, you will increase your odds of success. Finally, get as much professional help as possible. Prospective business owners should consult with S.C.O.R.E., experienced business brokers and others to learn the best way to buy a business without collateral.Read More
Since one often hears the term “fair value” or “fair market value,” it would be easy to assume that “fairness opinion” means the same thing. A fairness opinion may be based to some degree on fair market value, but there the similarities end. Assume that you are president of a family business and the other members are not active in the business, but are stockholders; or you are president of a privately held company that has several investors/stockholders. The decision is made to sell the company; and you as president are charged with that responsibility. A buyer is found; the deal is set; it is ready to close — and, then, one of the minority stockholders comes out of the woodwork and claims the price is too low. Or, worse, the deal closes, then the minority stockholder decides to sue the president, which is you, claiming the selling price was too low. A fairness opinion may avoid this or protect you, the president, from any litigation.
A fairness opinion is a letter, usually only two to four pages, containing the factors or items considered, and a conclusion on the fairness of the selling price along with the usual caveats or limitations. These limitations usually cite that all the information on which the letter is based has been provided by others, the actual assets of the business have not been valued, and that the expert relied on information furnished by management.
This letter can be prepared by an expert in business valuation such as a business appraiser or business intermediary. The content of the fairness opinion letter is limited to establishing a fair price based on the opinion of the expert. It does not provide any comment or opinion on the deal itself or how it is structured; nor does it contain any recommendations on whether the deal should be accepted or rejected.
Fairness opinions are often used in the sale of public companies by the board of directors. It helps support the fact that the board is protecting the interests of the stockholders, at least as far as the selling price is concerned. In privately held companies, the fairness opinion will serve the same purpose if there are minority shareholders or family members who may elect to challenge the price the company is being sold for.