What Should You Evaluate When Buying a Business?

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Buying a business can be an exciting prospect.  For many prospective business owners, owning a business is the fulfillment of a decades long dream.  With all of that excitement comes considerable emotion.  For this reason, it is essential to step back and carefully evaluate several key factors to help you decide whether or not you are making the best financial and life decision for you.  In this article, we’ll examine five key factors you should consider before buying a business.

What is Being Sold?

If you hate the idea of owning a clothing store, then why buy one?  The bottom line is that you have to have a degree of enthusiasm about what you are buying otherwise you’ll experience burnout and lose interest in the business.

How Good is the Business Plan?

Before getting too excited about owning a business, you’ll want to take a look at the business plan.  You’ll want to know the current business owner’s goals and how they plan on going about achieving those goals.  If they’ve not been able to formulate a coherent business plan then that could be a red flag.

You need to see how a business can be grown in the future, and that means you need a business plan.  Additionally, a business plan will outline how products and services are marketed and how the business compares to other companies.

How is Overall Performance?

A key question to have answered before signing on the bottom line is “How well is a business performing overall?”  Wrapped up in this question are factors such as how many hours the owner has to work, whether or not a manager is used to oversee operations, how many employees are paid overtime, whether or not employees are living up to their potential and other factors.  Answering these questions will give you a better idea of what to expect if you buy the business.

What Do the Financials Look Like?

Clearly, it is essential to understand the financials of the business.  You’ll want to see everything from profit and loss statements and balance sheets to income tax returns and more.  In short, don’t leave any rock unturned.  Importantly, if you are not provided accurate financial information don’t hesitate, run the other way!

What are the Demographics?

Understanding your prospective customers is essential to understanding your business.  If the current owner doesn’t understand the business, that is a key problem.  It should be clear who the customers are, why they keep coming back and how you can potentially add and retain current customers in the future.  After all, at the end of the day, the customer is what your business is all about.

Don’t rush into buying a business.  Instead, carefully evaluate every aspect of the business and how owning the business will impact both your life and your long-term financial prospects.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Interested in Buying a Business? Check Out These 3 Commonly Overlooked Areas

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When it comes to buying a business, nothing is more important than the factor of due diligence.  For most people, this investment is the single largest financial decision that they will ever make.  And with this important fact in mind, you’ll want to leave absolutely no stone unturned.

Let’s examine the three most commonly overlooked areas when it comes to buying a business: retirement plans, 1099’s and W-2’s, and legal documents.

1. Examine All Legal Documents

While it may sound like a “pain” to investigate all the legal documents relating to a business that you are vetting for purchase, that is exactly what you have to do.  The very last thing you want is to buy a business only to have the corporate veil pierced.  Everything from trademarks and copyrights to other areas of intellectual property should be carefully examined.  You should be quite sure that you receive copies of everything from consulting agreements to documentation on intellectual property.

2. Retirement Plans

Don’t forget about retirement plans when you’re buying a business, as this mistake can quietly translate into disaster.  Before signing on the dotted line and taking ownership, be sure that both the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are 100% up to date with the Department of Labor and ready to go.

3. W-2’s and 1099’s

If 1099 forms were given out instead of W-2’s, you’ll want to know about that and be certain that it was done within the bounds of IRS rules.  Imagine for a moment that you fail to do your due diligence, buy a business and then discover that you have problems with the IRS.  No one wants IRS problems, but a failure to perform due diligence can quickly result in just that.  So do your homework!

Never forget what is at stake when you are buying a business.  If there has ever been a time to have laser-like focus, this is that time.  There can be many skeletons hiding in a business, and you want to be sure that you protect yourself from any unwanted surprises.  Not performing your due diligence can lead to a shockingly large array of problems.  One exceptional way to protect yourself is to work with a business broker.  A business broker knows what to look for when buying a business and what kinds of documents should be examined.  There is no replacement for the expertise and experience that a business broker brings to the table.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Key Elements for Every Partnership Agreement

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You should never forget that your partnership agreement is, in fact, one of the most important business documents you will ever sign.  Many people go into business with loved ones, relatives or lifelong friends only to discover (once it’s too late) that they should have had a partnership agreement.  A partnership agreement protects everyone involved and can help reduce problems that may arise.  Outlining what will happen during different potential situations and events in a legal framework can help your business keep running smoothly.

What Should Be in a Partnership Agreement?

Every business is, of course, different; however, with that stated, any partnership should outline, with as much clarity as possible, the rights and responsibilities of all involved.  A well written and carefully considered partnership agreement will keep small problems and disagreements from evolving into more elaborate and serious concerns.

There are times to take a DIY approach and then there are times when you should always opt for a professional.  When it comes to partnership agreements, it is best to opt for working with a lawyer.  Finding competent legal help for drafting your partnership agreement is simply a must.

What is Typically Addressed in a Partnership Agreement?

In theory, a partnership agreement can cover a wide-array of factors.  Here are a few points typically addressed in partnership agreements.

What Questions Will a Good Partnership Agreement Address?

  1. Which partner(s) are to receive a draw?
  2. How is money to be distributed?
  3. Who is contributing funds to get the business operational?
  4. What percentage will each partner receive?
  5. Who will be in charge of managerial work?
  6. What must be done in order to bring in new partners?
  7. What happens in the event of the death of a partner?
  8. How are business decisions made? Are decisions made by a unanimous vote or a majority vote?
  9. If a conflict cannot be resolved when must the conflict be resolved in court?

Thanks to partnership agreements, all partners involved can proceed and start a new business with fewer areas of concern.  The simple fact is that without a partnership agreement, your business can face a range of disruptions; these would be disruptions that could ultimately spell doom for your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Around the Web: A Month in Summary

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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.

Click here to read the full article.

 

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:

  1. Strategy – Poor strategic logic was used and it was not a good fit for integration
  2. Synergy – Potential synergy between the companies is overestimated or the complexity is underestimated
  3. Culture – Incompatibility between the companies, ineffective integration, or compromising the positive aspects of one business to create uniformity
  4. Leadership – Poor leadership, not enough participation in the transaction & integration process, clashes between leaders
  5. Transaction Parameters – Paying too much, inappropriate deal structure, negotiations taking too long
  6. Due Diligence – Not enough investigation is done beforehand, failure to act on findings
  7. Communications – Lack of proper communication can result in talent loss, customer loss, and many more problems which eventually lead to failure
  8. Key Talent – Failing to identify or retain key employees
  9. 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.

Click here to read the full article.

 

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.

Click here to read the full article.

 

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
  • Synergy
  • 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.

Click here to read the full article.

 

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.

Click here to read the full article.

 

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Buying? Selling? Seven Key Points to Consider

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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.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What is the Value of Your Business? It All Depends.

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The initial response to the question in the title really should be: “Why do you want to know the value of your business?” This response is not intended to be flippant, but is a question that really needs to be answered.

  • Does an owner need to know for estate purposes?
  • Does the bank want to know for lending purposes?
  • Is the owner entertaining bringing in a partner or partners?
  • Is the owner thinking of selling?
  • Is a divorce or partnership dispute occurring?
  • Is a valuation needed for a buy-sell agreement?

There are many other reasons why knowing the value of the business may be important.

Valuing a business can be dependent on why there is a need for it, since there are almost as many different definitions of valuation as there are reasons to obtain one. For example, in a divorce or partnership breakup, each side has a vested interest in the value of the business. If the husband is the owner, he wants as low a value as possible, while his spouse wants the highest value. Likewise, if a business partner is selling half of his business to the other partner, the departing partner would want as high a value as possible.

In the case of a business loan, a lender values the business based on what he could sell the business for in order to recapture the amount of the loan. This may be just the amount of the hard assets, namely fixtures and equipment, receivables, real estate or other similar assets.

In most cases, with the possible exception of the loan value, the applicable value definition would be Fair Market Value, normally defined as: “The price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller when the former is not under any compulsion to buy and the latter is not under any compulsion to sell, both parties having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.” This definition is used by most courts.

It is interesting that in the most common definition of value, it starts off with, “The price…” Most business owners, when using the term value, really mean price. They basically want to know, “How much can I get for it if I decide to sell?” Of course, if there are legal issues, a valuation is also likely needed. In most cases, however, what the owner is looking for is a price. Unfortunately, until the business sells, there really isn’t a price.

The International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) defines price as; “The total of all consideration passed at any time between the buyer and the seller for an ownership interest in a business enterprise and may include, but is not limited to, all remuneration for tangible and intangible assets such as furniture, equipment, supplies, inventory, working capital, non-competition agreements, employment, and/or consultation agreements, licenses, customer lists, franchise fees, assumed liabilities, stock options or stock redemptions, real estate, leases, royalties, earn-outs, and future considerations.”

In short, value is something that may have to be defended, and something on which not everyone may agree. Price is very simple – it is what something sold for. It may have been negotiated; it may be the seller’s or buyer’s perception of value and the point at which their perceptions coincided (at least enough for a closing to take place) or a court may have decided.

The moral here is for a business owner to be careful what he or she asks for. Do you need a valuation, or do you just want to know what someone thinks your business will sell for?

Business brokers can be a big help in establishing value or price.