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Expectations for Business in 2023

BizBuySell just released its latest insight report, which tracked sales and growth in 2022 and compared it to the prior year. Overall, we are seeing a high demand for service-based businesses as well as an increase in restaurant business sales. The insight report also reveals what business brokers across the country are expecting for 2023 and beyond. 

Data on Service Business Sales

In 2022, 39% of the acquisitions tracked by BizBuySell were service businesses, and their transactions were 7% higher than 2021. The service sector typically includes predominantly financial and healthcare related businesses. These types of companies are usually considered to be low-risk. 

Across the map, buyers were willing to pay more for service businesses last year. In fact, the median sales price for service businesses rose 4% over 2021. It’s interesting to note that the sales prices were even higher than the pre-pandemic levels. Also, there is a trend towards buyers seeking out socially responsible and environmentally conscious businesses. 

Data on Restaurant Businesses 

Restaurant businesses also did quite well in 2022. In fact, the acquisitions of restaurants jumped 20% over 2021. They previously had plummeted 38% in 2020. While these numbers are strong, they are still 21% lower than before COVID. 

Restaurant businesses also had less time on the market. The median days were 169 instead of 176 the year before. Restaurants also sold for more money. The median revenue for closed transactions was up 7% and the cash flow was up 13%. It seems that the general consensus is that dining out is popular again after years of struggles due to people avoiding meals in public. 

Expectations for 2023

The conclusion of this data collected about 2022 is that buyers no longer will benefit from sitting it out. Higher interest rates are expected to be more and more of an impact for buyers in 2023. The good news is that most experts are expecting rates to get better in 2024. 

Business brokers surveyed by BizBuySell expect that the market in 2023 will continue at the same place as it did in 2022. Many sellers will seek to retire. The concern of a recession should also motivate more baby boomers to sell. In fact, 45% of owners are saying they are selling to retire. At the same time, buyers will be looking for profitable companies that will grow.

The data revealed by BizBuySell indicates that those who are buying businesses may currently have the upper hand. In fact, 47% of brokers say that their view is that the market has shifted towards buyers. They attribute this to rate increases. They are finding that the majority of buyers are saying that current businesses are overpriced. 

Sellers Must Be Flexible

The insight report shows that overall business brokers believe there is pressure on sellers to be more flexible in their pricing and terms. As always, seller financing is essential. In fact, 90% of buyers are saying it’s important for owners to offer this option to them. 95% of brokers echo this sentiment. 

It should come as no surprise that businesses with strong financials are in high demand. When these businesses are considered recession proof, this fact is even more true. But even sellers with the strongest businesses may still have to consider offering financing or adjust prices due to the higher rates. Sellers who want to sell in the near future, of course, should begin preparing their exit now. 

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 Ways that Sellers Can Focus on the Positives

When you are looking to sell, always focus on the positive aspects of your business. Many business owners fail to properly make a case for the benefits of their businesses to prospective buyers.  Be sure to make it clear that your business has stability and ample financial health. Let’s take a closer look. 

1. Prepare in Advance 

Preparing paperwork in advance will help to make sure that everything is in proper order and you’re not scrambling at the last moment. When your records are organized and correct, your prospective buyer will be able to truly see the value of your business. Buyers will also like to know that you have robust accounting processes that they can rely on in the future. 

You should also make sure that inventory is in stock and that any necessary upkeep has been done. All of these updates are part of the big picture when it comes to presenting your business in the best light to buyers. 

2. Reveal Your Methods of Operations 

You’ll also want to demonstrate that you have a solid formula for a successful business. Buyers love to see items in place like procedures manuals, as they reveal the routine tasks necessary to run the business. Anything you can provide that will help the buyer understand how to successfully run your business will help them understand its advantages. 

3. Keep Things Consistent

During the sales process, you’ll want to be sure to maintain regular operations. If prospective buyers see any kind of dip in success, this could negatively impact your deal. Selling a business is an all-encompassing process, and it can be next to impossible to handle all the associated tasks while still putting all the necessary time and energy into your business. 

Additionally, you will want to absolutely make sure confidentiality is maintained. A breach of confidentiality, whether to employees or to competitors, can quickly sabotage your deal. There are countless instances where a deal fell through due to a breach in confidentiality. 

4. Get an Outside Perspective

What is the best possible light for your business? Since you’re involved in the day to day running of the business, it is hard to have an outside perspective. Plus having never sold a business before, it can be hard to know what buyers will respond positively to. That is a great reason to work with a business broker or M&A advisor. They have years of experience knowing what attracts and deters buyers. They will help you to emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. 

While emphasizing the positives, you will of course want to be sure to be transparent about issues affecting your business. Otherwise, the lack of knowledge can come back to haunt you. When it comes to negative factors, your business broker or M&A advisor will work to help buyers to understand how some of these can be turned into positives once they take over the business. Or they can assist you to fix some of those weaknesses before putting your business on the market. 

5. Price Your Business Correctly

It should come as no surprise that if the price you set on your business is too high, you will lose interest from prospective buyers. That is another advantage to working with business brokers or M&A advisors. They will assist you to assign a fair market value to your buyers. When the price is optimal, the strengths of your business will stand out more. While it’s essential not to undervalue your business, you also want to make sure that you don’t overvalue it either. The good news is that brokerage professionals have experience and expertise at listing the optimal price. 

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The Top 3 Reasons Why Deals Fall Through

No one likes to think about the deals that didn’t succeed. However, the fact of the matter is that sometimes things go wrong during the process and a sale doesn’t successfully close. We have pinpointed the most common reasons why this happens into three main categories. By understanding the issues that can prevent a deal from finalizing, we are able to dramatically maximize the odds of success for clients. 

1. Issues with the Seller

If a seller lacks a strong reason for wanting to sell his or her business, that seller is often unable to be flexible on the terms of a deal. As a result, when complexities arise during the sales process, the seller doesn’t have the patience, commitment and/or stamina to work to overcome those issues. In many cases, a seller has presented an unrealistic price for the business and simply cannot be realistic about the true value the business will sell for on the market. Another common issue that arises with sellers is that they are not fully transparent with the potential buyer. For example, they might be neglecting to mention serious problems with the business, such as new competition on the horizon.

2. Issues with the Buyer

Just like circumstances surrounding the seller may interfere with the sale of a business, the same is true for buyers. In some cases, the buyer is just mildly interested in being a business owner. As a result, he or she doesn’t have the wherewithal to continue on and navigate the complexities that can arise during the stages leading up to a successful deal. There are other issues that often pop up with buyers as well. For example, they also may have unrealistic expectations regarding price. Some buyers are not willing to pay the fair market value for a given business. In other cases, once they find out the amount of work that will be required to make the business successful, they are unmotivated to continue.

3. Third Party Interference

In some instances, there is no issue regarding the buyer or seller. Instead, it is a third party that interferes. An example of this would be a landlord being unwilling to transfer a lease or grant a new one. Or unexpected issues with the federal or local government could cause problems. Another problem that involves a third party occurs when outside advisors, such as attorneys, overlook the fact that the goal is to put together a deal that will work. Instead, they get so caught up in protecting the best interests of their clients that they erect too many roadblocks for a deal to succeed. These types of problems are often completely unexpected by either the buyer or seller.

It is hard to argue with the fact that if a buyer isn’t really committed to selling, perhaps it is not the best choice for them in the long run. The good news is that if potential problems are handled at the appropriate stage of the deal, most business deals do come to a successful conclusion. Business brokers and M&A advisors are specialists when it comes to resolving and circumventing potential issues. 

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The Four Essential Stages of a Closing

When it comes to reaching a successful closing, there are four important stages to keep in mind. In this article, we will take a look at the process and what sellers can expect. If you are planning to sell a business, it is also helpful to understand in depth what the stages are from a buyer’s perspective. 

The Letter of Intent (LOI)

The letter of intent is one of the responsibilities that your business broker or M&A advisor will take on to assist you. Your letter of intent should include the price, terms, time frame anticipated as well as other factors, such as the seller’s transition and training. Details such as what is included and what is not included in the deal should always be addressed in this agreement. 

Due Diligence 

The due diligence process is also an essential step. Your business broker or M&A advisor will guide you during due diligence. All important facts and documentation should be evaluated, ranging from tax returns and internal P&Ls to leases, bank statements, and customer/employee lists.  Buyers who do not invest enough time and energy into due diligence can often have serious regrets after the deal has closed. Be sure to take your time with this stage. 

There are other areas of due diligence that should not be overlooked including the very important NDA, financial statements, credit reports and other factors. If you want to have a smooth closing (which clearly you do!), you will want to wisely invest your time in due diligence.

Financing Approval 

Financing approval is considered your lender’s responsibility. However, if you need advice and insights, your business broker or M&A advisor should be able to assist you. You may want to look into local SBA lenders or seller financing. 

Agreement Drafting

The final agreement drafting period must be taken seriously. This is a step where your attorney will be of tremendous assistance. Your written agreement should cover a wide range of aspects including everything from payment terms to assets and liabilities. Both the buyer and seller should know exactly what the arrangement will be. 

When these four stages are followed properly, your deal should close in a timely and effective manner. If you have any concerns or uncertainties about these parts of a closing, be sure to always ask the necessary questions. 

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Take Inventory of Your Company

Most business owners don’t give a second thought to the idea of going to the doctor for an annual physical. So why do they not give the same level of care and consideration to their company? The fact of the matter is that many executives literally go decades without giving their companies a “physical.” They only stop to truly evaluate their business when required by regulations or another matter forcing them to do so.

Consider an Annual Valuation 

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why business owners should get an annual valuation. The first issue concerns the curveballs life often throws at us. At any given time, you and your business could be unexpectedly hit with everything from partnership issues or life changes like a divorce to changes in bank relationships. When you keep careful track of the value of your business, you will know in advance how potential changes would affect you. Perhaps even more importantly, you will gain an understanding of the health of your business.  

Monitor Business Growth 

It’s critical to be aware of how your business compares from one year to the next. Are values definitely increasing? If not, you would surely want to know immediately and start making necessary adjustments. If a major problem were to surface, you would want to know about it right away so that you can take action. Otherwise, you might just let the years pass you by while this issue goes unchecked. This is the kind of data you will gain when you commit to regular valuations. 

Be Prepared for the Unknown

You might feel far from ready to sell. However, you should always be ready if the situation does present itself. What if an amazing opportunity showed up on your doorstep? On the flip side of the coin, what if a life issue like illness put you in a situation where a sale was suddenly necessary? If you are not ready both mentally and with the necessary paperwork for your business prepared, you might miss out on a legitimate opportunity. 

Statistics gathered from a prominent accounting firm showed that 65% of business owners do not know what their company is worth. However, at the same time 75% of the net worth of these business owners is tied up in their business. The problem with these statistics is quickly evident. Be sure to take as good of care of your business as you would take of yourself. 

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Selling Your Business — Some Key Questions and Answers

Selling your business is a major decision! You have devoted your time, money and energy to building, running and operating your business. It may well represent your life’s work. You have decided that now is the right time to sell, and you want the very best professional guidance available. This is when working in tandem with a professional business broker can make the difference between just getting rid of the business and selling it for the very best price and terms.

Below are some of the most common questions asked by sellers. The responses are based on both experience and knowledge. If you have questions of your own, ask your business broker professional.

What can business brokers do — and what can’t they do?

Business brokers are the professionals who can facilitate the successful sale of your business. It is important that you understand just what a professional business broker can do — as well as what they can’t. Business brokers can help sellers decide how to price a business and how to structure the sale so it makes sense for everyone – seller and buyer. They can find the right buyer for your business, work with you and the buyer in negotiating, and at every step of the way until the transaction is successfully closed. They can also assist the buyer in all the details of the business buying process.

A business broker professional is not, however, a magician who can sell an overpriced business. Most businesses are saleable if priced and structured properly. Sellers have to understand that only the marketplace can determine what a business will sell for. The amount of the down payment a seller is willing to accept, along with the terms of the seller financing, can greatly influence not only the ultimate selling price, but also the success of the sale itself.

How long does it take to sell my business?

It generally takes, on average, between five and six months to sell most businesses. Keep in mind that an average is just that. Some businesses will take longer to sell, while others will sell in a shorter period of time. The sooner the business brokerage firm has all the information needed to begin the marketing process, the shorter the time period should be. It is also important that the business be priced properly right from the start. Some sellers, operating under the premise that they can always come down in price, overprice their business. This theory often backfires, because buyers often will refuse to look at an overpriced business.

It has been shown that the amount of the down payment may be the key ingredient to a quick sale. The lower the down payment, generally 40 percent of the asking price or less, the shorter the time to a successful sale. A reasonable down payment also tells a potential buyer that the seller has confidence in the business’s ability to make the payments – and support the buyer and his or her family.

Why is seller financing so important to the sale of a business?

Surveys have shown that a seller, who asks for all cash, receives on average only about 70 percent of the asking price, while sellers who accept terms receive on average 86 percent of their asking price. In many cases, businesses that are listed for all cash just don’t sell. With reasonable terms, however, the chances of a business selling increase dramatically and the time period from listing to sale greatly decreases. Most sellers are unaware of how much interest they can receive by financing the sale of their business. In some cases it can greatly increase the amount received. And, again, it tells the buyer that the seller has enough confidence that the business can, indeed, pay for itself.

What happens when there is a buyer for my business?

When a buyer is sufficiently interested in your business, the business broker professional can help in the preparation of an offer or proposal. This offer or proposal may have one or more contingencies. Usually, they concern a detailed review of your financial records and may also include a review of your lease arrangements, franchise agreement (if there is one) or other pertinent details of the business. The buyer’s proposal will be presented to you for your consideration. You may accept the terms of the offer or you may make a counter-proposal. You should understand, however, that if you do not accept the buyer’s proposal, the buyer could withdraw it at any time.

Your business broker professional will submit all offers to you for your consideration. At first review, you may not pleased with a particular offer; however, it is important to look at it carefully. It may be lacking in some areas, but it might also have some pluses to seriously consider. There is an old adage that says, “The first offer is generally the best one the seller will receive.” This does not mean that you should accept the first, or any offer — just that all offers should be looked at carefully.

When you and the buyer are in agreement, the business broker will work with both of you to satisfy and remove the contingencies in the offer. It is important that you cooperate fully in this process. You don’t want the buyer to think that you are hiding anything. The buyer may, at this point, bring in outside advisors to help them review the information. When all the conditions have been met, final papers will be drawn and signed. Once the closing has been completed, money will be distributed and the new owner will take possession of the business. Your business broker professional will work with you throughout the entire sales process.

What can I do to help sell my business?

You can cooperate fully with your business broker professional and any other advisors that you are using. A buyer will want up-to-date financial information. If you use accountants, you can work with them to make current information available. If you are using an attorney, make sure he or she is familiar with the business closing process. You might also ask if their schedule will allow them to participate in the closing on very short notice. If you and the buyer want to close the sale quickly, usually within a few weeks, (unless there is an alcohol or other license involved that might delay things), you don’t want to wait until the attorney can make the time to prepare the documents or attend the closing. Time is of the essence in any business sale transaction. The failure to close on schedule permits the buyer to reconsider or make changes in the original proposal.

And, finally, your team of advisors must all be working towards the common goal of selling your business for the best price and terms available in the marketplace, and closing the sale as quickly as possible. Only by being as cooperative as possible with everyone involved can your business interests best be served.

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5 Elements for Buyers to Investigate

When you’re in the process of buying a business, it’s important to stay logical. No matter how good the opportunity may seem at first glance, be sure to carefully evaluate the business in a step-by-step manner. Regardless of how excited you might be about the prospect of ownership; you’ll want to have your guard up when you go through the due diligence process. Let’s take a look at 5 of the most important questions to ask yourself before signing on the dotted line.

1. Do you have a personal interest in the business? 

Needless to say, owners have made businesses successfully thrive even if they lack a personal interest in what is being sold. However, you might want to stop and ask yourself if you do indeed have a passion for the goods or services offered by the business in question. If you are uninterested, you may find it harder to make a long-time commitment. 

2. What is the business plan like? 

It’s helpful to see the goals of the current owner and evaluate which of these goals have actually been achieved. If there is no business plan, this should give you pause.  

3. How does the business perform?

Take a look at the business’s overall performance. Do you get the feeling that the business requires many hours of intensive work from the owner? If so, remember that this owner putting in all of those hours could be you in the near future. Is there a reliable manager to oversee operations in your absence?

4. What are the demographics? 

Who are the key customers? Are there several main accounts that the business depends upon or a wide variety of customers and clients? Needless to say, if the business relies on just a few key accounts, this could be problematic if things were to change. Further, do you see a clear way to add new customers in the future? Before you buy a business, you’ll want to feel confident that you can help it thrive and grow.

5. Are you satisfied with the financials?

Once you’ve successfully signed the necessary written agreements, you’ll want to take a deep dive into the business’s financials. Make sure that everything has been provided including:

  • Tax returns
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Bank statements

The bottom line is that you will want to be careful when purchasing a business and watch for any red flags. The last thing you want is to make a hasty decision that you regret later on.

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Defending Your Asking Price

When you’re putting your business on the market, one of the top considerations is your asking price. Once you have a fair price established, let’s take a closer look at how business brokers and M&A advisors work with their clients to back up that price with details concerning why it is justified. 

Telling the Story

A key aspect of defending your asking price is telling the story of your business. Your brokerage professional will help you go over the details of the story so it is properly conveyed to prospective buyers. Buyers, of course, will want to understand the story behind the business so that they can understand its history and why it is for sale. You will want to feel prepared to interact with prospective buyers and how to discuss details concerning its value. 

Your business broker or M&A advisor will put together written materials about your business. These also help buyers gain clarity on the story of your business and its sales message. 

Seeing Your Buyer’s Perspective

It goes without saying that a big part of coming up with your decision of the asking price is that you want something that sounds not only reasonable but also attractive to buyers. We recommend trying to view the entire transaction from the buyer’s perspective. The buyer must be able to see how they will successfully own and potentially operate the business, as this is essential for fostering a completed deal.

Another consideration is, how will they pay for the business? In many cases, it can tremendously benefit a transaction to offer assistance in the way of seller financing. Seller financing can speed up the process, as you will not be so reliant waiting for the bank loan process, which can drag out for months. 

The Complexities of Your Asking Price 

The process of establishing and then justifying your asking price is not always simple. It is a symphony of moving parts, and it’s important to feel educated and involved in the process. Ultimately justifying the asking price is the launching point of the process, but it is also just the beginning of the journey towards the completion of a successful deal.

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Common Legal Mistakes That Sellers Make

Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a business owner like a legal mistake. The best way to ensure that you will avoid serious legal issues is to work with a trusted and experienced team. Otherwise, it’s easy to accidentally miss necessary steps. 

When you’re selling a business, there are a lot of moving pieces, and that means that there are ample opportunities for things to go wrong. It’s always best to be prepared. When mistakes are made, it can not only mean a significant expenditure of your time, but also your money. These kinds of issues can also bring your sales process to a total halt and perhaps derail your deal completely.

There are more than a few sellers who overlooked the importance of working with an attorney. When you are selling a business, it should come as no surprise that there is a great deal of paperwork. Your attorney will guide you to make sure that all necessary preparations have been made from a legal perspective. When your prospective buyer sees that your legal “ducks are in a row,” he or she will feel more confident in your organization and level of professionalism.

One document that often is skipped is the Letter of Intent (LOI). Sellers assume that things will move along more quickly if they forego this document. Keep in mind that the LOI truly has its place in almost any deal. After all, it not only outlines both parties’ expectations in writing, it also works to protect your best interests. Once projective buyers have signed this document, it proves they are serious about the deal. That means it is not so easy for them to walk away without consequences. 

What if your deal falls through completely? Will your buyer then reveal to the public that your business was for sale and even the potential terms that were on the table? This could indeed occur if you were not backed up by an NDA. Don’t skip this very important document either. Your business broker or M&A advisor will be very well acquainted with NDAs and guide you in the best way possible. 

Warding off these kinds of issues is one great reason to be equipped with a small team of professionals to turn to for advice. This team should include your business broker or M&A advisor, accountant, and attorney. 

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What Does the Road Ahead Look Like?

Each quarter, the Market Pulse Report issues a report revealing information about market conditions The report is supported by M&A Source and the International Business Brokers Association. The data that is analyzed is based on a comprehensive survey of business brokers and M&A advisors. The report focuses on Main Street businesses (with values up to $2MM) and the lower middle market (values between $2MM and $50MM.) 

The research is conducted and then the report is published each quarter to reflect the state of the industry. In this article, we will look at some of the key takeaways of the report and what it reveals about the path ahead for buyers and sellers.

Tracking the Labor Shortage 

For the second quarter, the report revealed a variety of interesting information. One massive data point from the report is that the labor shortage continues to be a significant variable for business owners. A staggering 92% of report respondents state that the labor shortage has negatively impacted their business with 54% stating that the shortage has had a “very negative impact” and 35% stating that the impact is “somewhat negative.”

Closing Times

The report further indicated that it is taking about seven months for a business to close. They noted that it takes about six months to a year to sell a well-priced business or a well benchmarked business. The report noted that approximately 60-120 days are spent in the due diligence or execution stage, once the letter of intent has been signed. 

The Strongest Industries

In terms of what kinds of businesses are selling, the report points to restaurants making a solid comeback. It is interesting to note that restaurants valued from less than $500K to $1 million are enjoying a particularly strong rebound. Business services, personal services, construction and manufacturing remain steady. 

In Summary 

The latest Market Pulse Report is pointing in several directions. Currently, three factors are impacting business owners, namely, the labor shortage, inflation, and supply chain issues. Many businesses have had no choice but to give large raises to employees, and others have been able to pass the costs on to consumers and buyers.

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