Owners often neglect understanding their leases and this can be problematic. If your business is location-sensitive, then the status of your lease could be of paramount importance. Restaurants and retail businesses, for example, are usually location-dependent and need to pay special attention to their leases. But with that stated, every business should understand in detail the terms of its leases.
There are many key factors involving leases that should not be ignored or overlooked. If you adhere to these guidelines, you’ll be much more likely to control your outcomes.
- At the top of the list is the factor of length. Usually, the longer your lease the better.
- Secondly, if the property does become available, then it is often in an owner’s best interest to try and buy the property or he or she may be forced to move.
- When negotiating a lease, it is best to negotiate a way out of the lease if possible; this is particularly important for new businesses where the fate of your business is still an unknown. Experts recommend opting for a one-year lease with a long option period.
- You may want to sell your business at some point, and this is why it is important to see if your landlord will allow for the transfer of the lease and what his or her requirements are for the transfer.
- Look at the big picture when signing a lease. For example, what if your business is located in a shopping center? Then attempt to have it written into your lease that you’re the only tenant that can engage in your type of business.
- If you’re located in a shopping center, then try to outline in your agreement a reduction of your rent if an anchor store closes.
- Your lease should detail what your responsibilities are and what responsibilities your landlords hold. Keep in mind that if you are a new business, it is quite possible that your landlord will likely require a personal guarantee from you, the owner.
- The dollar amount is necessarily the most important factor in determining the quality of your lease. It is important to carefully assess every aspect of the lease and understand all of its terms.
There are many other issues that should be taken into consideration when considering a lease.
- For example, what happens in the event of a natural disaster or fire? Who will pay to rebuild?
- Is there a percentage clause and, if so, is that percentage clause reasonable?
- How are real estate taxes, grounds-keeping fees and maintenance fees handled?
Investing the time to understand every aspect of your lease will not only save you headaches in the long run, but it will also help to preserve the integrity of your business.Read More
The value of the term sheet shouldn’t be overlooked. From buyers and sellers to advisors and intermediaries, the term sheet is often used before the creation of an actual purchase or sale agreement. That stated, it is important that the term sheet is actually explained in detail. Let’s take a closer look at its importance.
What is a Term Sheet?
Even though term sheets are quite important, they are rarely mentioned in books about the M&A process. In the book, Streetwise Selling Your Business by Russ Robb, a term sheet is defined as, “Stating a price range with a basic structure of the deal and whether or not it includes real estate.”
Another way of looking at a term sheet, according to attorney and author Jean Sifleet, is that a term sheet serves to answer to four key questions: Who? What? Where? And How Much?
Creating the Right Environment
A good term sheet can help keep negotiations on target and everyone focused on what is important. Sifleet warns against advisors, accountants and lawyers who rely heavily on boilerplate documents as well as those who adopt extreme positions or employ adversarial tactics. The main goal should be to maintain a “win-win” environment.
At the end of the day, if a buyer and a seller have a verbal agreement on price and terms, then it is important to put that agreement down on payment. Using the information can lead to a more formalized letter of intent. The term sheet functions to help both parties, as well as their respective advisors, begin to shape a deal, taking it from verbal discussions to the next level.
Make Sure Your Term Sheet Has the Right Components
In the end, a term sheet is basically a preliminary proposal containing a variety of key information. The term sheet outlines the price, as well as the terms and any major considerations. Major considerations can include everything from consulting and employment agreements to covenants not to compete.
Term sheets are a valuable tool and when used in a judicious fashion, they can yield impressive results and help to streamline the buying and selling process. Through the proper use of term sheets, an array of misunderstandings can be avoided and this, in turn, can help increase the chances of successfully finalizing a deal.Read More
Having a letter of intent signed by both the buyer and the seller can be a very good feeling. Everything can seem as though it is moving along just fine, but the due diligence process must still be completed. It is during due diligence that a seller decides whether he or she is going to finalize the deal. Much depends on what is discovered during this important process, so remember the deal isn’t done until it is truly finalized.
In his book, The Art of M&A, Stanley Forster Reed noted that the purpose of due diligence is to “Assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present and predictable future of the business to be purchased.”
Summed up another way, due diligence is quite comprehensive. It probably comes as no surprise that this is when deals often fall apart. Before diving in, it is critically important that you meet with such key people as appraisers, accountants, lawyers, a marketing team and other key people.
Let’s take a look at some of the main items that both buyers and sellers should have on their respective checklists.
You should determine the percentage of sales by product line. Additionally, take the time to review pricing policies, product warranties and check against industry guidelines.
Review your key people and determine what kind of employee turnover is likely.
If your business is involved in manufacturing then every aspect of the manufacturing process must be evaluated. Is the facility efficient? How old is the equipment? What is the equipment worth? Who are the key suppliers? How reliable will those suppliers be in the future?
Trademarks, Patents and Copyrights
Trademarks, patents and copyrights are intangible assets and it is important to know if those assets will be transferred. Intangible assets can be the key assets of a business.
Operations is key, so you’ll want to review all current financial statements and compare those statements to the budget. You’ll also want to check all incoming sales and at the same time analyze both the backlog and the prospects for future sales.
Environmental issues are often overlooked, but they can be very problematic. Issues such as lead paint and asbestos as well as ground and water contamination can all lead to time-consuming and costly fixes.
Have a list of major customers ready. You’ll want to have a sales breakdown by region and country as well. If possible, you’ll want to compare your company’s market share with that of the competition.
The Balance Sheet
Accounts receivable will want to check for who is paying and who isn’t. If there is bad debt, it is vital to find that debt. Inventory should also be checked for work-in-progress as well as finished goods. Non-usable inventory, the policy for returns and the policy for write-offs should all be documented.
Finally, when buying or selling a business, it is vital that you understand what is for sale, what is not for sale and what is included whether it is machinery or intangible assets such as intellectual property. Understanding the barriers to entry, the company’s competitive advantage and what key agreements with employees and suppliers are already in place, will help ensure a smooth and stable transition. There are many important questions that must be answered during the due diligence process. Working closely with a business broker helps to ensure that none of these vital questions are overlooked.Read More
A recent article from Small Business Trends entitled “41% of Entrepreneurs Will Leave Their Small Business Behind in 5 Years” summarizes a report by a global financial services firm that looks at business ownership and entrepreneurialism in modern America. The report found that almost 60% of wealthy investors would consider starting their own business while more than 40 percent of current business owners are planning to exit their business. Of the 41% of business owners who are planning to leave their business in the next 5 years, half of them plan to sell their business.
The report highlights how heirs in the family are often reluctant to take over the family business and that many business owners underestimate what they need to reach a successful sale. The report notes that 58% of business owners have never had their business appraised and 48% have no formal exit strategy. One of the main takeaways from this should be that small business owners need to prepare for selling their business and they should create an exit plan well in advance.
A recent article on the Axial Forum entitled “9 Reasons Acquisitions Fail — and How to Beat the Odds” shows us how looking at why others have failed can help you to learn from their mistakes in order to have a successful acquisition. Here are 9 common causes of failed acquisitions:
- Strategy – Poor strategic logic was used and it was not a good fit for integration
- Synergy – Potential synergy between the companies is overestimated or the complexity is underestimated
- Culture – Incompatibility between the companies, ineffective integration, or compromising the positive aspects of one business to create uniformity
- Leadership – Poor leadership, not enough participation in the transaction & integration process, clashes between leaders
- Transaction Parameters – Paying too much, inappropriate deal structure, negotiations taking too long
- Due Diligence – Not enough investigation is done beforehand, failure to act on findings
- Communications – Lack of proper communication can result in talent loss, customer loss, and many more problems which eventually lead to failure
- Key Talent – Failing to identify or retain key employees
- Technology – Failing to identify incompatibilities or underestimating the complexity and time required for integration
Integration involves several steps starting from the initial strategic thinking, to due diligence and then carrying on into the months after the deal is made. Deal makers and business owners need to consider all steps of the process to make an acquisition successful.
A recent article posted by WilmingtonBiz Insights entitled “How Does Exit Planning Protect Business Value?” explains the importance of exit planning in retaining and growing business value.
The article gives an example of two similar businesses, both valued at $5 million, who take different strategies towards increasing their companies’ values before selling. The first company invests in more equipment and hiring more employees, but does not work with any advisors besides their CPA at tax time. The second company works with their CPA, an exit planning advisor and a tax specialist. They build a strong management team, cut the owner’s work week in half, and convert the company to an S corporation. They also work with a business broker to buy two smaller competitors which broadens their market.
When the Great Recession of 2008 hits, both companies are affected but in very different ways. The first company has to lay off all the new employees they hired and their new equipment sits unused. They end up selling their business for less than what it was valued at. The second company has minimal layoffs and has extra money saved from strategic tax planning. Their business is valued at $15 million because of the two businesses they bought, and they are able to exit their business with $10 million profit. No matter what unforeseen circumstances may occur, the right planning can make a huge difference.
A recent article from Divestopedia entitled “Constructing a Buyer List and Finding the Right Buyer for Your Company” explains how buyer lists are created and what makes a good buyer. The first step in constructing the buyer list is to determine the objectives of the seller such as leaving a legacy or retaining the local employment base.
M&A advisors will have many existing resources to start with including an in-house database, established relationships in the industry, business networks, and more. Adding your competitors to the list is another thing to consider, which will depend on the goals of the seller and the reputation of the competitors.
The ability to pay is the main qualifier to look at in finding a good buyer. Consider the following factors when looking for a buyer who can pay a premium:
- Economies of scale
- Economies of scope and cross-selling opportunities
- Unlocking underutilized assets
- Access to proprietary technology
- Increased market power
- Shoring up weaknesses in key business areas
- Geographical or other diversification
- Providing an opportunistic work environment for key talent
- To reach critical mass for an IPO or achieve post-IPO full value
- Vertical integration
The best way to find the right buyer is to approach all potential buyers, talk to them and see if it’s a good fit.
A recent article from Business Sale Report entitled “Almost a quarter launch businesses with a sale in mind” summarizes the results of a new study which asked nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs about their start-up history and their motivation for launching businesses. The study found that 23% of those starting their own business have their exit as a primary goal, with 83% of those claiming that selling at a profit is their main incentive.
The top 2 answers for why they started their business were that “It was a passion of mine” and “I knew it would eventually sell well and had exit in mind.” All of the study participants said that they wished they had an exact way to know the value of their business and more than half said they had no real way of knowing the value of their business.
If you are starting a business with a main goal of selling the business for profit, it is essential to know your valuation so that you get a fair price.Read More
Far too many prospective business buyers and sellers overlook just how important negotiations can be. But they can also be tricky. In general, there are three approaches to negotiations. Thinking through your negotiation strategies well before the time to buy or sell is a savvy and prudent move.
Negotiation Tactic #1 Take It or Just Leave It
In this negotiating tactic, the buyer makes an offer and the seller makes a counter-offer, then both sides leave it there. If the deal works fine. If it doesn’t work, that’s fine too.
It is usually smart to step back and ask yourself if you are comfortable with this approach. Sometimes a small degree of flexibility can go a long way towards turning a proposed deal into a reality.
Negotiation Tactic #2 Maybe Consider Splitting the Difference
Another negotiating tactic is to simply offer to split the difference. This tactic is pretty straightforward and it demonstrates a good deal of flexibility; however, the financials may not always make sense for both sides.
As always, it is important to think about all the factors involved in allowing a deal to fall apart, such as how much time will it take to find another buyer or another business to buy? Showing a willingness to split the difference is often seen as a goodwill offer that can facilitate further negotiations within an environment of lower emotional intensity.
Remember, as long as the two sides are talking, a deal may be reached. But when communication ceases, then the deal is definitely finished and not in a good way.
Negotiation Tactic #3 Negotiation from What is Most Important to Each Party
Understanding what is most important to both parties is usually critical for a successful deal. Important areas can range from allowing a relative to stay with the business to moving the business to a new location. Not all key points are directly linked to money, and it is vital to understand this all-important negotiating fact.
Negotiation Tactic #4 Bring in a Pro
In negotiations there is an old adage, “Never negotiate your own deal.” Emotions can run high when it comes to buying or selling a business and then there is the problem of perspective. Buyers and sellers are often lack the perspective that an outsider can bring.
Opting for help and guidance from someone who buys and sells businesses for a living, can be a huge step in the right direction. Through a professional business broker, it is possible to not only establish a fair price but also address the array of intangibles that can go into buying and selling a business.
At the end of the day, deals are put together piece by piece, and skill is involved in the process. Working with others is at the heart of successful negotiation, and that means taking into consideration what the other side wants and what the other side needs.Read More
When it comes to selling a business, sellers simply must pay attention to red flags. Problems can always pop up, and that’s why they need to keep their eyes open.
Rarely does a “white knight” ride in and rescue a business with no questions asked. And if this were to happen, you should be asking, “Why?” Until a deal is officially inked, sellers need to evaluate every aspect of a transaction to make sure something isn’t happening that could wreck the deal.
Common Red Flags to Watch For
One example would be having a company express interest in your business but you are never able to directly contact key players, such as the President or CEO. The reason that this is a red flag is that it indicates that the interest level may not be as great as you initially hoped.
A second red flag example would be an individual buyer, with no experience in acquisitions or experience in your industry, looking to buy your business. The reason that this second example could prove problematic, is that even if the inexperienced buyer is enthusiastic as the deal progresses, he or she may become nervous upon learning what a deal would actually entail. In other words, the specifics and the reality of owning a business, or owning a business in your industry, could come as a shock to an inexperienced buyer.
Both of these examples above are examples of early-stage red flags. But what about issues that pop up at later stages? The simple fact is that red flags can come at any stage of the selling process.
A good example of a middle-stage red flag is when a seller is denied access to the buyer’s financial statements, which is of course essential to verify that the seller is able to actually make the acquisition. A final-stage red flag example is an apparent loss of momentum, as the buying and selling process can be a long one.
Business Sellers Need to Protect Their Assets
Sellers are usually very busy and don’t have time to waste; this is doubly true for owner/operators of businesses, as the time they invest with a prospective buyer is time that could be spent doing something else.
All too often, businesses begin to run into trouble when they place their business on the market. If this trouble negatively impacts the bottom line, then the business can become more difficult to sell and the final sale price will likely be lower.
That’s why it is so essential that sellers protect themselves from buyers that are not truly interested or are simply not a good fit. Working with a business broker is an easy and highly effective way for sellers to protect themselves from buyers that are simply not the right fit. A broker helps to “weed out” unfit candidates.
While red flags are never good, that doesn’t mean that a red flag means a deal is a definitely at an end. Especially with the guidance of an experienced business broker, many of these issues can be overcome.
In the end, if you, either as a buyer or seller, suspect that there is a problem, then you should take action. The problem will not simply go away. The single best way to deal with a red flag is to tackle it head on as soon as you recognize it.Read More
Buying or selling a business is one of the most important decisions that most people ever make. Before jumping in, there are several points that should be taken into consideration. Let’s take a moment to examine some of the key points involved in buying or selling a business.
Factor #1 – What are You Selling?
Whether buying or selling a business it is important to ask a few simple questions. What is for sale? What is not included with the buyer’s investment? Does the sale price include any real estate? Are vital assets, such as machinery, included in the sale price?
Factor # 2 – What are the Range of Assets?
It is very important to understand the range of assets that are included with a business. What is proprietary? Are there formulations, patents and software involved? These types of assets are often the core of the business and will be essential for its long-term success.
Factor # 3 – Evaluating Assets for Profitability
Not all assets are created equally. If assets are not earning money or are too expensive to maintain, then they should probably be sold. Determining which assets are a “drag” on a business’s bottom line takes due diligence and a degree of focus, but it is an important step and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Factor # 4 – Determining Competitive Advantage
What gives a business a competitive advantage? And for those looking to sell a business, if your business doesn’t have a competitive advantage, what can you do to give it an advantage? Buyers should understand where a business’s competitive advantage lies and how they can best exploit that advantage moving forward.
Factor # 5 – How Can the Business Be Grown?
Both buyers and sellers alike should strive to determine how a business can be grown. Sellers don’t necessarily need to have implemented business growth strategies upon placing a business up for sale, but they should be prepared to provide prospective buyers with ideas and potential strategies. If a business can’t be grown this is, of course, a factor that should be weighed very carefully.
Factor # 6 – Working Capital
Some businesses are far more capital intensive than others. Understand how much working capital you’ll need to run any prospective business.
Factor # 7 – Management Depth
Businesses are only as good as their people. It is important to ask just how deep your management team is, how experienced that team is and what you can expect from that team. How dependent is the business on the owner or manager? If the business may fall apart upon the leaving of the owner or a manager, then this is a fact you need to know.
Buying or selling a business is often more complex than people initially believe. There are many variables that must be taken into consideration, including a range of other factors not discussed in this article ranging from how financial reporting is undertaken to barriers of entry, labor relationships and more. Due diligence, asking the right questions and patience are all key in making your business a more attractive asset to buyers or for finding the right business for you.Read More
Personal goodwill can have a profound impact on both small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, it can even impact the sales of larger companies. Ultimately, understanding how personal goodwill is cultivated is of great value for any company.
During the process of building a business, a founder builds one or more of the following: a positive personal reputation, a personal relationship with key players such as large customers and suppliers and the founder’s reputation associated with the creation of products, inventions, designs and more.
What Creates Personal Goodwill?
Personal goodwill can be established in many ways, for example, professionals such as doctors, dentists and lawyers can all build personal goodwill with their clients, especially over extended periods of time. One of the most interesting aspects of building personal goodwill is that it is essentially non-transferable, as it is invariably attached to and associated with, a particular key figure, such as the founder of a company. Simply stated, personal goodwill can be a powerful force, but it does have one substantial drawback. This is as the saying goes, “the goodwill goes home at night.”
How Does It Impact Buying or Selling a Business?
Buying a business where personal goodwill has been a cornerstone of a business’s success and growth presents some obvious risks. Likewise, it can be difficult to sell a business where personal goodwill plays a key role in the business, as a buyer must take this important factor into consideration. Certain businesses such as medical, accounting or legal practices, for example, depend heavily on existing clients. If those clients don’t like the new owner, they simply may go elsewhere.
Now, with all of this stated, it is, of course, possible to sell a business built partially or mostly around personal goodwill. Oftentimes, buyers will want some protection in the event that the business faces serious problems if the seller departs.
Solutions that Work for Both Parties
One approach is to require the seller to stay with the business and remain a key public face for a period of time. An effective transition period can be pivotal for businesses built around personal goodwill. A second approach is to have some form of “earn-out.” In this model, at the end of the year lost business is factored in, and a percentage is then subtracted from monies owed to the seller. Another option is that the funds from the down payment are placed in escrow and adjustments are made to those funds. It is important to note that the courts have decided that a business does not own the goodwill, the owner of the business does.
No doubt, businesses in which personal goodwill plays a major role, present their own unique challenge. Working with an experienced professional, such as a business broker, is an exceptional way to proceed in buying or selling this type of business.Read More
A recent article posted on PR Newswire entitled “Business owners’ love of work may hinder succession planning” explains the parallels between the number of business owners with no plans to retire and the lack of succession planning. In a recent poll, over 70% of business owners said they are not planning to retire, don’t know when they will retire, or do not plan to retire for at least 11 years. The survey also reported that 2 out of 3 business owners do not have a succession plan or a clear understanding of the importance of one.
Even if there are no immediate plans for retiring, business owners should have a succession plan in place to protect the business, partners, employees and customers. If something were to suddenly happen to the business owner such as serious illness or an untimely death, a succession plan would help make sure everything goes smooth with the transition of the business.
To get started with creating an exit plan, business owners can take 5 simple steps:
- Set goals & objectives
- Determine the value of your business
- Consider options for the business in the case of disability, retirement or death
- Develop a plan and documentation with an advisor, attorney and accountant
- Fund the plan
You never know when something unexpected could occur, so it’s never too early to start creating a succession plan.
A recent article posted by Forbes entitled “Baby boomers are selling their businesses to millennial entrepreneurs, and it’s a brilliant idea” highlights the fact that many baby boomers will soon be looking to sell their businesses and this creates excellent business opportunities for millennials. Many of these baby boomer businesses are well established having no debt, loyal customers and proven business models which make them a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs to take over instead of letting the businesses close down.
Here are 7 places to start looking for these baby boomer businesses:
- Local chamber of commerce
- Local CPAs
- Local real estate brokers
- Local community bankers
- Business brokers
- Go directly to the business owner
- Craigslist or eBay
Overall, staying connected with local professionals in your area as well as being proactive in searching out businesses for sale will help you to find a great business opportunity. Once you find a legitimate business, find out if it’s making a profit. If so, ask why the owner wants to sell and if not, find out why.
A recent article from Forbes entitled “Selling your business in 3 to 5 years? Buy another company now” explains how acquiring another company can significantly increase the value of your business before you decide to sell. The first thing to understand is that the multiple of earnings paid for a company increases at an accelerating rate with size. Larger EBITDA means larger multiples, and larger companies are generally less risky so a buyer is willing to pay more.
Acquiring another business may also amount to cost savings and operational improvements when the companies are integrated. Combine these savings with organic revenue growth and a larger multiplier when the companies are combined, and this can add up to a huge increase in your company’s value. So if you’re thinking of selling within 3-5 years, this could be a good strategy to consider.
A recent article from the Denver Post entitled “Selling your business? Focus on the key business drivers so buyers pay top dollar” explains how focusing on certain key factors of your business can help you get the highest possible price when selling your business. Although many key business drivers vary among industries, there are four drivers that apply across the board:
- History of increasing revenues and profits over the past 3-5 years
- Strategic business plan that shows strong growth, competitive advantage, and products or services that can be sold across multiple industries
- Future cash flow including expected EBITDA performance, expected working capital investment requirements, and expected fixed-asset investment requirements
- Strong management team and strong operating systems in place
Business owners should get a detailed business audit and analysis from a business consultant so they can see where their business’s strengths and weaknesses are. This will show the owner what business drivers to focus on improving in order to get the highest price for their business.
A recent article posted on Divestopedia entitled “What Is Your Company Actually Worth?” explores how buyers and sellers often perceive a company’s worth differently and how business owners misjudge their company’s value. Private company valuation is a complex process and most owners have difficulty staying objective when it comes to a business in which they have put their life’s work into. On the other hand, to a buyer, the company is an asset to be acquired at the lowest possible price, which often leads to a large difference in perception between a buyer and seller.
An experience advisor can help negate these problems and make the sale process better for the owner for the following reasons:
- The business owner can focus on factors of the business which will increase the valuation such as EBITDA, sales, gross profit margins, customer growth and employee skills.
- The owner will get an extensive look at the financial health of their business from an advisor along with recommendations for improvement.
- An advisor will also be an experienced negotiator, helping the owner get the best sale price for the business.
The key to avoiding mistakes in selling a business starts off by getting an accurate valuation of the business and making sure everything is analyzed effectively to prepare for a profitable sale.Read More
If you are an independent business owner, you are most likely also an independent business seller–if not now, you will be somewhere down the road. The Small Business Administration reports that three to five years is a long enough stretch for many business owners and that one in every three plans to sell, many of them right from the outset. With fewer cases of a business being passed on to future generations, selling has become a fact of independent business life. No matter at what stage your own business life may be, prepare now to stay ahead in the selling game.
Perhaps one of the most important rules of the selling game is learning how not to “sell.” An apt anecdote from Cary Reich’s The Life of Nelson Rockefeller shows a pro at work doing (or not doing) just that:
When the indomitable J.P. Morgan was seeking the Rockefeller’s Mesabi iron ore properties to complete his assemblage of what was to become U.S. Steel, it was Junior [John D. Rockefeller, Jr.] who went head-to-head with the financier. “Well, what’s your price?” Morgan demanded, to which Junior coolly replied, “I think there must be some mistake. I did not come here to sell. I understand you wished to buy.” Morgan ended up with the properties, but at a steep cost.
As this anecdote shows, the best approach to succeeding at the selling game is to be less of a “seller” and more of a “player.” Take a look at these tips for keeping the score in your favor:
Let Others Do the Heavy Pitching
Selling a business is an intense emotional drain; at best, a distraction. Let professional advisors do the yeoman’s duty when selling a business. A business intermediary represents the seller and is experienced in completing the transaction in a timely manner and at a price and terms acceptable to the seller. Your business broker will also present and assess offers, and help in structuring the transaction itself. If you plan to use an attorney, engage one who is seasoned in the business selling process. A former Harvard Business Review associate editor once said, “Inexperienced lawyers are often reluctant to advise their clients to take any risks, whereas lawyers who have been through such negotiations a few times know what’s reasonable.”
Stay in the Game
With the right advisors on your side, you can do the all-important work of tending to the daily life of the business. There is a tendency for sellers to let things slip once the business is officially for sale. Keeping normal operating hours, maintaining inventory at constant levels, and attention to the appearance and general good repair of the premises are ways to make the right impression on prospective buyers. Most important of all, tending to the daily running of the business will help ward off deterioration of sales and earnings.
Keep Pricing and Evaluation in the Ballpark
Like all sellers, you will want the best possible price for your business. You have probably spent years building it and have dreamed about its worth, based on your “sweat equity.” You’ll need to keep in mind that the marketplace will determine the value of the business. Ignoring that standard by asking too high a price will drive prospective buyers away, or will at the least slow the process, and perhaps to a standstill.
Play Fair with Confidentiality
Your business broker will constantly stress confidentiality to the prospects to whom he or she shows your business. They will use nonspecific descriptions of the business, require signatures on strict confidentiality agreements, screen all prospects, and sometimes phase the release of information to match the growing evidence of buyer sincerity. As the seller you must also maintain confidentiality in your day-to-day business activities, never forgetting that a breach of confidentiality can wreck the deal.
Sell Before Striking Out
Don’t wait until you are forced to sell for any reason, whether financial or personal. Instead of selling impulsively, you should plan ahead carefully by cleaning up the balance sheet, settling any litigation, providing a list of loans against the business with amounts and payment schedule, tackling any environmental problems, and by gathering in one place all pertinent paperwork, such as franchise agreement (if applicable), the lease and any lease-related documents, and an approximation of inventory on-hand. In addition, you could increase the value of your business by up to 20 percent by providing audited financial statements for one or two years in advance of selling.
Think Twice Before Retiring Your “Number”
The trend is for sellers to assume they will retire after selling the business. But consider this: agreeing to stay on in some capacity can actually help you get a better price for your business. Many buyers will pay more to have the seller stay aboard, thus helping to reduce their risk.
Keep the Ball Rolling
You need to keep the negotiation ball rolling once an offer has been presented. Even if you don’t get your asking price, the offer may have other points that will offset that disappointment, such as higher payments or interest, a consulting agreement, more cash than you anticipated, or a buyer who seems “just right.” The right buyer may be better than a higher price, especially if there is seller financing involved, and there usually is. In many cases, the structure of the deal is more important than the price. And when the ball is rolling, allow it to pick up speed. Deals that drag are too often deals that fail to close.
By following these tips, and by working closely with your business broker, you can have confidence in being a seller who, like John D. Rockefeller, Jr., doesn’t “come here to sell.” You will play the selling game–and be a winner.