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10 Mistakes that Sellers Make

1. Not knowing what the business should sell for

One of the most costly errors a business owner can make is not knowing the approximate price of his or her business prior to entering the selling process. Although the marketplace ultimately determines the final price, an owner needs to know what the approximate price his or her business is prior to placing the business on the market. Before making the decision to sell, owners should work with someone qualified to place a price on their company.

An experienced business broker has both the technical ability and the market experience to produce the most realistic pricing opinion. The business broker will also be the only alternative for supporting his or her opinion by selling the business.

Fair Market Value

Asking Price is what the seller wants

Selling Price is what the seller gets

Fair Market Value is the highest price the buyer is willing to pay and the lowest price the seller is willing to accept.

2. Not preparing the business for sale

Determining the starting price point is only the first step. Prior to exposing the business to the marketplace, preparation is necessary. A business is certainly not a house, but the same attention to appearance prior to sale is necessary. Financial and legal affairs should be current. Anything a potential purchaser might want to see should be up-to-date, accurate and available for review.

Momentum is very important in business transactions and can make or break a deal. The constant need to develop information for a serious prospect will destroy momentum and with it, possibly, the deal. Demonstrating preparedness places the business in a favorable light and prospective buyers will feel comfortable that everything is in order. Being unprepared can delay a closing, create costly expenditures to play catch-up, and cause prospective purchasers to lose confidence in the deal itself. Too much time almost always works against the deal happening.

3. Not being able to see their business through the eyes of a buyer

This can be very difficult for any seller. It is only natural to see one’s own business in a most favorable light and overlook the blemishes or problems inherent in any business. Sellers have to approach their business realistically, knowing that a potential buyer will be doing the same. By recognizing the deficiencies of their business, sellers are in a much better position to deal with the concerns of the buyer. In fact, the best way to handle any potential problem areas is to bring them up in the very beginning.

4. Not really knowing the buyer

The better you know the buyer, the smoother the transaction. By knowing the buyers, their motives, their interests and their backgrounds, the better equipped a seller is to make informed decisions about whether they are the right people to operate the business. When final negotiations begin, knowing the buyers can help resolve some of the issues that will arise. Are their interests the same as yours? If you, as the seller, are financing the deal, do you feel confident that they can make the payments? The more you know about why a buyer wants to buy your business, the better position you are in to know when to be firm in the negotiations and when to be flexible.

5. Trying to sell the company to a buyer who doesn’t want to buy

There are usually many more potential buyers than there are businesses for sale. The question is — how serious are they? A buyer may indicate a great deal of interest but when it gets down to the wire, he or she may back out of the deal. Some buyers want to buy only on their terms and conditions, some may have too many decision-makers to please, and others only want to buy the “perfect” business. Wasting time on those who aren’t serious about purchasing a business takes away valuable time from those buyers who really want to buy.

6. Being your own worst enemy

Many business owners feel that no one knows their business like they do. They think they can do a deal by themselves. They don’t need, or want, any help. They think they are lawyers, accountants, business brokers and outside advisors all rolled up into one person. Then when the going gets tough, they become impatient and inflexible. They then blame others, usually the buyer, when the deal blows up. As the old saying goes: “The attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client.” The same could be said for the business owner who thinks he can sell his or her own business. Not using outside advisors, such as a professional business broker, is a serious mistake.

7. Not understanding the structure of the deal

Regardless of the size of the deal this could be the scenario: an offer is presented, the seller takes one look at the price, immediately says “no” and refuses to look any further. The price, within reason, is immaterial. The real crux of the deal is how it is structured. Consider the negotiating axiom “You can name the price if I can name the terms.” The terms and conditions are important. A seller may be ecstatic about price only to find that the devil is in the details.

8. Not being able to walk away from the deal

Too many sellers get so involved in trying to put a deal together that they don’t see the big picture. They don’t realize that the deal isn’t a good one. In other words, it’s time to walk away from the deal and go on to the next one. Many sellers don’t want to let the deal get away. Since they have invested a lot of time and effort, and probably expenses, it’s often difficult to just end it. However, in some cases that’s exactly what must be done. If the deal isn’t right, and can’t be fixed, there is no other choice. It’s much better not to do the deal than to do a bad one!

9. Waiting too long to sell

Too many owners wait until the last minute to decide to sell their business. They wait until business is down, or they are completely burned-out, or their business partnership has soured completely. The time to sell is before the emergency happens. The time to sell is when business is good. The time to sell is prior to when exasperation hits. The old adage is that a business owner should think about and plan the eventual sale of the business the day after it is started or purchased.

10. Changing your mind

The sale is progressing nicely, the buyer is happy and the seller well, the seller is contemplating life without the business. He or she realizes that when the business is gone, they will have nothing to do. The business has been a major part of their life for many years. Just before the closing, the seller decides that he or she can’t live without the business and the deal starts to unravel. Sometimes, seller’s remorse arises because a business acquaintance says the price was too low, or there isn’t enough cash involved or offers some other uninformed reason. If it was a good deal in the beginning, don’t let well-meaning outsiders influence the sale. And, if there is even a speck of doubt about selling the business, don’t begin the process. Wait until there is not one shred of doubt.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Top Questions Business Buyers Want Answers To

If you are even thinking about selling your business, it’s important to know the questions that buyers generally want answers to. For example, the first question almost always asked by buyers is: If this is such a good business why is it for sale? How you answer this question can make or break a sale. A vague answer can discourage buyers from further consideration of your business, as they may assume the worst.

If you say you are “burned out” or just ready to try something new – that’s fine. If you’ve owned and operated the business for 10 to 15 years, buyers will most likely accept your reason for sale and continue their investigation. However, if you’ve only owned and operated the business for two years or less, a prospective buyer may find it concerning that you are already burned out or ready for something new.

If you’re sick, be open about what the problem is; otherwise buyers will think you are just sick of the business. The worst thing a seller can do is to fudge an answer or not provide a completely honest answer. Buyers will, most likely, see right through the given reason for sale and walk away. So, even if you really are tired of or just plain hate running your own business, be up front and explain why. Honesty is always the best policy.

It is also a good policy to engage the services of a professional business broker. Brokers have been through many transactions and can help a prospective seller deal with the reason for sale as well as the other questions a buyer may have. Here is a brief list of other questions buyers often ask and business brokers deal with all of the time:

•    Why should I buy an existing business rather than start one myself?
•    How are businesses priced?
•    What should I look for?
•    What does it take to be successful?
•    What happens if I find a business I want to buy?
•    Do I need outside advisors?

In addition, buyers often want answers to some more specific questions such as:

•    How long has the business been in business?
•    How long has the present owner owned the business
•    How much money is the business making?
•    Are the books and records readily available?
•    Will the new owner help me learn the business?

These and many other questions are ones that business brokers deal with every day, equipping them to help you prepare honest and useful answers.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Selling Your Business? Do-It-Yourself is Risky Business!

When the owner of a business makes the decision to sell, he or she is taking a giant step that involves the emotions as well as the marketplace, each with its own set of complexities. Those sellers who are tempted to undertake the transaction on their own should understand both the process and the emotional environment that this process is set against. The steps outlined below are just some of the items for a successful sale. While these might seem daunting to the do-it-yourselfer, by engaging the help of a business intermediary, the seller can feel confident about what is often one of the major decisions of a lifetime.

1. Set the stage.

What kind of impression will the business make on prospective buyers? The seller may be happy with a weathered sign (the rustic look) or weeds poking up through the pavement (the natural look), but the buyer might only think, “What a mess!” Equally problematic can be improvements planned by the seller that appeal to his or her sense of aesthetics but that will, in fact, do nothing to benefit the sale. Instead of guessing what might make a difference and what might not, sellers would be wise to seek the advice of a business broker–a professional with experience in dealing regularly with buyers and with an eye experienced in properly setting the business scene.

2. Get the record(s) straight.

Although outward appearance does count, what’s inside the books is even more important. Ultimately, a business will sell according to the numbers. The business broker can offer the seller invaluable assistance in the presentation of the financials.

3. Weigh price against value.

All sellers naturally want to get the best possible price for their business. However, they also need to be realistic. To determine the best price, a business broker will use industry-tested pricing techniques that include ratios based on sales of similar businesses, as well as historical data on the type of business for sale.

4. Market professionally.

Engaging the services of a business broker is the key to the successful marketing of a business. The business broker will prepare a marketing strategy and offer advice about essential marketing tools–everything from a business description to media advertising. Through their professional networks and access to data on prospective buyers, business brokers can get the word out about the business far more effectively than any owner could manage on an individual basis.

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What a Buyer May Really Be Looking At

Buyers, as part of their due diligence, usually employ accountants to check the numbers and attorneys to both look at legal issues and draft or review documents. Buyers may also bring in other professionals to look at the business’ operations. The prudent buyer is also looking behind the scenes to make sure there are not any “skeletons in the closet.” It makes sense for a seller to be just as prudent. Knowing what the prudent buyer may be checking can be a big help. A business intermediary professional is a good person to help a seller look at these issues. They are very familiar with what buyers are looking for when considering a company to purchase.

Here are some examples of things that a prudent buyer will be checking:

Finance

  • Is the business taking all of the trade discounts available or is it late in paying its bills? This could indicate poor cash management policies.
  • Checking the gross margins for the past several years might indicate a lack of control, price erosion or several other deficiencies.
  • Has the business used all of its bank credit lines? Does the bank or any creditor have the company on any kind of credit watch?
  • Does the company have monthly financial statements? Are the annual financials prepared on a timely basis?

Management

  • Is the owner constantly interrupted by telephone calls or demands that require immediate attention? This may indicate a business in crisis.
  • Has the business experienced a lot of management turnover over the past few years?
  • If there are any employees working in the business, do they take pride in what they do and in the business itself?

Manufacturing

  • What is the inventory turnover? Does the company have too many suppliers?
  • Is the business in a stagnant or dying market, and can it shift gears rapidly to make changes or enter new markets?

Marketing

  • Is the business introducing new products or services?
  • Is the business experiencing loss of market share, especially compared to the competition? Price increases may increase dollar sales, but the real measure is unit sales.

When business owners consider selling, it will pay big dividends for them to consider the areas listed above and make whatever changes are appropriate to deal with them. It makes good business sense to not only review them, but also to resolve as many of the issues outlined above as possible.

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Do You Have What It Takes to Find Success in the 21st Century?

There is no doubt that the times are definitely changing. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shift across many industries, and the simple fact is that many industries will never return to the old normal. Success in the 21st century will require a good deal of adaptation and the ability to evaluate where you stand today and where you need to be tomorrow.

Flexible Thinking

One of the cornerstones of being successful in life and in business is to embrace flexible thinking. A flexible approach to problems can lead to finding new and highly effective ways of tackling problems. Being able to find success in the 21st century is about much more than simply riding the next technological wave or trend. Instead, it is about being amongst the first to use flexible thinking to spot trends and developments ahead of the competition and exploit those developments first. Technology and the world are changing faster than ever. Being able to utilize fluid, flexible thinking to identify problems and then seek out cutting-edge solutions to those problems will be a key aspect for success in this century.

A Solid Plan

Flexible thinking is essential for success, but so is having a plan. Just as business leaders needed a plan to achieve final success two-thousand years ago, the same holds true today. In many ways, evolving technology has not reshaped basic logic. 

You’ll want your business plan to strike the right balance between being rigid and flexible. At the same time, you’ll need a solid business plan that includes specific written goals and concrete time frames.

Embracing Technology

The days of ignoring technology or “working around” it are simply gone. The modern business landscape has integrated not just digital marketing, but digital financial transactions as well. This trend is only going to become more pronounced in the coming years. 

The business landscape means understanding and embracing the fact that commerce now has a massive digital component at every level. The pandemic has served to accelerate this fact and has very likely permanently changed how business will be conducted in the future. Whether it is meeting clients or customers online for a Zoom or Skype meeting, embracing digital marketing, or a range of other changes, it is essential for business owners to recognize change and incorporate it into their business and their long-term plans.

You can try to fight the future, but in the end you will fail. Charting the right course for the future means having the right mindset and a great support team in your corner. Business Brokers and M&A Advisors are experts at helping business owners prepare their businesses for sale. Demonstrating that your business has adapted to the dynamic and ever-changing environment will help you make your business much more attractive to prospective buyers.

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What You Should Know About Selling Your Business

There can be no doubt that selling your business stands as one of the most complex and important decisions you’ll likely ever make. It is quite often the case that a business represents decades, or even a lifetime, of dedicated work. In this article, we’ll examine some of the key steps that you should take when it comes time to sell.

One of the most important steps that any seller can take is to begin the sales process far in advance of the date that he or she plans to put the business on the market. Working with an experienced business broker or M&A advisor (and doing so preferably years in advance) is one of the single best ways to ensure that you’ll be ready to sell your business when the time comes. It will also help you to avoid the numerous pitfalls that potentially await.

A good brokerage professional can also help identify weaknesses in your business and help you address those issues; however, this is only the beginning. Your broker can help you with everything from strategy and negotiations, maintaining confidentiality and establishing the market value of your business, to connecting you with other seasoned professionals, such as accountants and lawyers.

A third key point that all sellers should consider is their own psychology. It is vital that all sellers remain flexible in their approach to selling their business and also remain respectful of prospective buyers. It is important that you put yourself in the shoes of your buyer and try to think of what they will need to feel confident in their decision. 

The right seller psychology is also absolutely essential. Sellers should not attempt to rush or force a sale or overprice their business. In short, you need to keep “your head in the game” and as much as possible, keep your emotions out of the process. 

Sellers also need to realize that the statistics strongly indicate that seller financing is likely. Only 75% of sellers ultimately receive their asking price, and businesses that are listed as “all cash” generally don’t sell. Reasonable sales terms will greatly increase the chances of successfully selling a business. It is common that sellers fail to realize just how much interest they can generate by financing the sale of their business. A reasonable down payment is also another way to improve the odds of selling a business. Being willing to offer financing makes a clear statement to a prospective buyer that you believe in the business and its ability to generate revenue. From a buyer’s perspective an “all cash” demand can be a red flag.

At the end of the day, an open mind and steady temperament will increase your chances of selling. You may want to sell your business and completely move on to new things. But the reality of selling a business is such that “walking away” may not be feasible. Transitioning your business into the hands of a new owner is usually more of an ongoing process than a “sign on the dotted line and receive a check” type of situation. Understanding this fact, and working closely with a business broker or M&A advisor in advance of selling your business, will help to streamline the sales process and greatly improve your chances of a successful outcome.

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5 Tips for Dealing with Customer Complaints

Companies of all sizes frequently fail to handle customer complaints appropriately.  In the digital era, where complaints can be seen by hundreds, thousands or go viral to millions, it is essential that customer complaints, especially serious ones or ones backed by considerable emotion, are treated seriously and dealt with in a timely manner.

If you are failing to provide good customer service, this should be corrected.  After all, offering decent customer service is neither costly nor overly complicated.  At its core, good customer service can be reduced down to listening to the customer, letting the customer know that his or her complaint has been acknowledged and cataloged, and then working to remedy the situation if possible. 

A good positive attitude and staying calm when dealing with irritated or dissatisfied customers can go a long way towards keeping a customer happy and halting them from expressing their feelings in an online public forum.  Let’s look at five tips for dealing with customer complaints in an effective manner.

Tip #1 – Take a Proactive Stance 

A good attitude and a proactive stance can go a very long way towards diffusing an unhappy or angry customer.  A disappointed customer wants to know that he or she is being heard and that steps are being taken to remedy their situation.  Clearly communicating that you are working to fix the situation and doing so in a positive manner will diffuse most negative customer scenarios.

Tip #2 – Take Quick Action to Fix the Problem

Once a customer is calm and is feeling a little better about your company, there is still more work to do.  When you state that a problem will be addressed, it is essential that the problem is indeed addressed.  This is vitally important for the reputation of your company.  A failure to follow up on a promise to fix a situation could actually backfire and leave customers feeling as though they were initially manipulated.

Tip #3 – Always Stay Calm

If a customer is unhappy enough to write an email or post a negative review online, then they are obviously displeased.  However, if a customer is angry enough to pick up the phone and call, you can be fairly certain that the customer in question is rather upset.  This anger may boil over on the phone call. That’s why customer service people need to be ready to deal with that anger in a calm and collected fashion.  Customer service team members or salespeople should never match the anger of a customer.  Instead, they should focus on demonstrating that they are committed to fixing the problem.  It may benefit you to invest in employee training so that employees are ready to deal with angry or disappointed customers when the time arrives.

Tip #4 – Look for Customer Dissatisfaction Problem Patterns

If the same complaints and issues come up again and again, then it is very likely that there is a larger problem that must be addressed.  Numerous customer complaints from different customers shouldn’t be treated as a “headache.”  Instead, it should be viewed as a great opportunity to improve your goods and/or services.  Once you have detected a negative customer service pattern, be sure that you and your team move quickly to remedy the problem.  Your business will be stronger for doing so in the long run.

Tip #5 – Track Your Success

It is important to never assume that you have successfully addressed customer service issues until customers have, in fact, verified that the situation is resolved.  For this reason, it is wise to follow up with customers and ask for feedback via either questionnaires in the mail, email follow ups, or even phone calls.

Customer complaints that are not appropriately addressed can fester and become larger problems.  The time, effort, and money you invest in boosting the quality of your customer service team will yield significant positive results for the long-term.

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The Top Ten Ways to Avoid Wrecking a Deal

Finalizing a deal is usually a complex process, and there is a good deal of room for error, misunderstandings, miscalculations, and good old-fashioned wild cards.  That is why it is critical to carefully think through the deal process well in advance.  In this article, we’re going to explore the top ten steps you can take to avoid wrecking a good deal.

  1. Confidentiality – At the top of our “how not to wreck a deal list” is confidentiality.  It is vital that everyone involved in the deal takes steps to avoid a breach.  Experienced business brokers are experts at maintaining confidentiality.
  2. Flexibility  – The second tip on our list is to be flexible. A lack of flexibility can absolutely destroy a deal. You shouldn’t go into a deal expecting to have all of your terms met.
  3. Be Open to Negotiations – Just as it is critical to be flexible, it is also important to embrace the concept of negotiation.  Sellers are used to being their own bosses, but when it comes to successfully selling a business, no factor is quite as important as a willingness to negotiate.
  4. Advance Preparation – Next on our list of musts to avoid wrecking a deal is to prepare for the sale well in advance.  Sellers will want to make sure that they have several years of records as well as legal and accounting documentation ready and well-prepared.  You can be 100% certain that any serious buyer will want to see your records and take a look at your financials.
  5. A Reasonable Selling Price – An inflated price will decrease the number of buyers that take a serious look at a business.  Additionally, an unreasonable price may make a seller look uninformed.  Business brokers and M&A advisors are experts at handling valuations.  One of the single best ways to boost your chances of finalizing a sale is to establish a fair and justifiable price for your business.
  6. Maintain Operations – Far too often sellers lose track of the day-to-day operations once their business goes on the market.  It is absolutely vital that sellers continue operating their business as though it may never sell.  The bottom line is that it can take months, or even years to sell.  The last thing any seller wants is for their business to lose value when they are in the process of trying to sell.
  7. Keep up the Momentum – A lack of momentum can kill a deal.  Working with a business broker or M&A advisor is an easy way to make sure you maintain momentum throughout the process.
  8. Consider Your Buyer’s Needs – Serious buyers will need a variety of information from sellers in order to obtain financing.  You can expect buyers to need appraisals of assets, information on environmental regulations, and more.  Sellers should have this kind of key information ready and waiting.
  9. Encourage Competition – Another great way to avoid wrecking a deal is to achieve leverage via buyer competition.  In general, it is a good idea to create a competitive situation – one in which prospective buyers know that there is more than one interested party.  Brokerage industry professionals understand the delicacies of presenting this information.
  10.  Seller Participation – Finally, sellers must stay involved in the entire process, and that includes being willing to assist during the transition. Showing a willingness to help during the transition period will help to foster goodwill and trust.

There are many reasons why a deal could potentially fall apart.  You may not be able to control every single variable, but by following the ten key tips outlined in this article, you will be well on your way to increasing your chances of successfully completing a deal.

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“Hello” is a Key Part of Making the Right First Impression

Just as people will form judgments and ideas about you as a person based on first impressions, the same holds true for your company.  It is always best to put your “best foot forward,” and this is true whether we’re talking about your personal life or business.  Periodically, it is prudent for every company to step back and evaluate its initial point of communication with customers and clients.

In today’s digitally interconnected world, it is critical that customers and clients feel as though they are not just being listened to; they really want to be heard.  Emails must be responded to promptly.  This is true regardless of whether the email is from a customer requesting more information about your goods or services, or if it’s a message with a question or complaint.  If your company is unresponsive, this fact can quickly spread on social media.

Of course, customers and clients still pick up their phones and make calls.  While many people’s first impressions of your business are increasingly likely to be via your website, there is no denying the importance of the phone call experience.  When callers reach your business, it is vital that they receive a professional and warm reception.  Whether the point of contact is a live person or a message, the experience should be a trouble-free and low stress experience. 

Far too many businesses overlook this variable, but you can be quite certain that not all of their competitors are doing so.  If you have a navigation system, it should be easy to navigate.  If possible, there should be an option to talk to an operator so that callers don’t get lost within a labyrinthian phone maze filled with dead ends.  Callers might not remember a positive phone experience, but you can bet that they will remember a stressful one.

When a team member greets a caller, the response should be pleasant and should include some version of “How may I help you?”  Every operator should know company basics, such as your times of operation and the key names of your personnel.  They should also demonstrate a willingness to help.  Your team members should understand that their job depends on the success of the company and that they are on the frontlines of maintaining a positive business-customer relationship.  Professionalism is a must, and team members should never lose sight of this fact.

Finally, your key management executives should invest the time to experience your company’s sphere of communication.  What is it like to call your company and interact with team members?  What improvements could be made? 

In this very digital era, it is important to remember that there is still no replacement for human interaction.  When a caller reaches out to your company for information or assistance, it is best to use technology judiciously.  Try to opt for the human touch when possible.  While the person answering the phones at your business might not be the highest paid person on your payroll, always remember that their job is an essential part of your company’s image.

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Can Sellers Use Buyer Warning Signs to Their Advantage?

When buyers are looking to make a purchase, the most important step they can take is to perform due diligence on both the business and the seller.  Yet, it is important to note that a large percentage of sellers fail to do their due diligence on buyers. 

Deals fail all the time.  Sadly, this means that all parties lose a tremendous amount of time and effort.  Additionally, sellers not only waste time, but often lose money due to business disruptions during the process of working with a prospective buyer. 

Let’s dive in and look at a few warning signs that you should look for when dealing with a buyer.  The sooner you spot these red flags, the sooner you can avoid potential problems.

There are several key questions that sellers should ask. The list includes:

-What, if any, other businesses have you considered to date? 

-How much equity will you be committing? 

-Do you have any experience with my kind of business? 

It is important to look for warning signs early on, as this is the way that sellers can avoid wasting considerable time.  It should also be noted that sellers shouldn’t be afraid to listen to their gut instincts.  If you feel that a prospective buyer isn’t serious and may only be window shopping (or if you feel that the buyer is looking for a far greater deal than you are willing to provide), then simply move on.  When you cut your losses early on, this can free you up to focus on prospective buyers that are a better fit. 

What if your intermediary informs you that there has been no communication from the prospective buyer after they received the memorandum?  Simply stated, this lack of communication could mean that the prospective buyer has changed his or her mind, or was never that serious in the first place. 

Another red flag you might see is when the process is turned over to a junior member of the prospective buyer’s management team.  In other cases, the prospect may fail to provide details or information concerning their financial capability to successfully complete the deal.  If any of these three red flags pop up, you should consider being proactive.  You and your broker might want to reach out to the prospective buyer and ask to meet to discuss the situation. 

Warning signs can also occur just prior to closing.  Even after the letter of intent has been signed, there is still room for problems to arise.  An inexperienced attorney representing the buyer, one that simply doesn’t understand what is involved in a deal, can spell doom for what could have otherwise been a good deal. The same is true for an over aggressive attorney.  One potential remedy for this situation is for your own attorney to intervene and discuss the situation.

Spotting warning signs is about more than not wasting everyone’s time. When you can observe these indicators and act effectively to address them, it can help keep deals on track. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor is an excellent way to not only spot red flags, but also to know how to respond appropriately.  The end result will be more successfully completed deals. 

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