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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Is It Time to Become a Business Owner? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself.

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Many people know that owning a business isn’t for them.  But for others, the appeal and lure of owning their own business can be powerful indeed.  If you are uncertain as to whether or not this path is for you, there are a few simple questions you can ask to gain almost instant clarity.  In this article, we will explore those key questions and help you determine if owning a business is in your future.

1. Are You Dedicated to Growing Your Income?

Quite often people like the idea of making more money, at least in the abstract.  But when presented with what it takes, many people realize that they don’t want to do what is involved.  Owning and operating a business can be a lot of work and it’s not for everyone.  Yet, those who embrace it can find it rewarding in a variety of ways.

Being a business owner is radically different than being an employee.  As an employee, you simply don’t exercise much control.  Summed up another way, your financial fate is clearly in the hands of someone else: your employer.

However, owning a business means that you can take steps to control your own financial destiny.  You can make decisions that will, ultimately, boost the success of your business and in turn increase your own income.

As an important note, statistics from 2010 show that the longer you own your business the more money you, as the business owner, will make.  It is typical for those who have owned a business for ten years or more to earn upwards of six figures per year.  If you have had more than one year of experience in running an organization, the yearly salary will likely range from $34,392 to $75,076.  However, if you’ve owned your business for more than a decade, you will likely earn more than $105,757 per year.

While there are no guarantees, owning a business can be a path to growing one’s income and wealth.

2. Would You Like Greater Control Over Your Life?

Many opt to start their own business because they want more control.  Business owners realize that unless they own their own business their financial fates rest in the hands of someone else.  Some people are comforted with this feeling or don’t see a way around it and others are not so comfortable with the realization.  If you want greater control over your life, then owning a business might be for you.

Owning a business increases the amount of control a business owner has over his or her life in many ways, not just financial.  For example, business owners have more control over how they spend their time, where they work, when they work and who they work with on a daily basis.  Instead of being part of a business, you help create, mold and shape it.  Clearly, this is a lot of work and it isn’t for everyone, but again the rewards can be diverse and great.

3. What is Your Personality Like?

Owning a business translates to great control, but that control comes with a degree of risk.  In the end, you’ll have to determine how comfortable you are in dealing with risk.  As a business owner the “buck” stops with you.  You’re risking your time, effort and, of course, money.  You also don’t get a paid vacation, sick days or any of the other benefits so often associated with being an employee.

Other traits identified during a study by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute showed there are other ideal personality traits for business owners.  These traits include collaboration, curiosity, focus on the future, and being self-fulfilled, tech savvy and action oriented.

Thinking about these three key questions is the perfect place to start when contemplating opening a business.  Additionally, working with a business broker can help you gain clarity and determine if owning a business is right for you.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Top Two Ways to Purchase a Business without Collateral

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Banks love collateral and for a very simple reason.  If you have collateral, then the bank has something it can take if you fail to repay your loan.  At its heart, collateral is a remarkably simple concept.  However, unfortunately, many people who want to start a business lack it.  All of this leads us to the simple question, “Can I start a business without a collateral.

1. Try the SBA

There are ways that you can start a business without collateral, but you will need some amount of money.  The larger the business, obviously the more money you’ll need.  Those interested in the zero collateral route will want to take a look at the SBA’s 7 (a) program.  This program incentivizes banks to make loans to prospective buyers.  Through this program, the SBA guarantees an impressive 75% of the loan amount.

Of course, the buyer still has to put up 25% of the money in order to buy the business, but for those looking to own a business without having to put up collateral, the SBA’s 7 (a) program is an impressive option.  Perhaps best of all, the cash buyers used can come from investors or even a gift, helping to make this program a potentially great one for first time business owners.

2. Think about Seller Financing

Another option is seller financing.  Sellers frequently get involved in financing.  When a seller is motivated to sell, due to retirement or some other factor, things can get interesting.  Most sellers do agree to offer some degree of financing, so asking for selling financing is not unheard of or insulting to a business owner.  Prospective business owners may even be able to combine seller financing with the SBA’s 7 (a) program.  Correctly used, this path could provide a powerful and useful option.

Speaking of retiring, according to The International Business Brokers Association (IBBA), M&A Source and the Pepperdine Private Capital Market Project, 33% of deals now take place when owners are retiring.  This clearly demonstrates how it is in the best interest of many sellers to consider seller financing.

While the SBA’s 7 (a) program is potentially very useful to buyers, it is important to note that under the program, the seller cannot receive any payments for two years.  Working around this potential problem may very well require some creativity and effort on the part of the prospective buyer.  In the end, it may be necessary to offer the business owner some incentive in order to justify waiting two years for his or her money.

Attempting to buy a business without collateral may, at first, sound like too large of an obstacle to overcome.  However, these kinds of purchases really do happen all the time.  By staying focused, persistent and understanding your options, you will increase your odds of success.  Finally, get as much professional help as possible.  Prospective business owners should consult with S.C.O.R.E., experienced business brokers and others to learn the best way to buy a business without collateral.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Around the Web: A Month in Summary

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A recent article posted on the Axial Forum entitled “What Do Buyers Look for in the Lower Middle Market?” explains how to make your business valuable to potential buyers and how to find the right buyers for your business. The buyers in the lower middle market are usually strategic buyers, financial buyers, private equity firms, and search fund advisors.

Buyers in this market are generally looking for the following characteristics:

  • A strong management team who has incentive and is prevented from competing against the company if their employment is terminated
  • Stability and predictability of revenue and cash flow
  • Low customer concentration
  • Other value drivers such as state-of-the-art operating systems
  • High level of preparedness

The article warns about the biggest obstacles for owners.  Business owners should consult with experienced deal attorneys and investment bankers before speaking to any buyers. They should also consult with advisors before the company goes on the market to make sure the business is properly prepared for sale. A business owner’s management team may also be subject to rigorous professional assessment and background checks if a private equity or financial buyer is interested.

Currently in the marketplace, buyers are offering amounts higher than the historical norms. This means that along with the higher sale prices, sellers are subject to more scrutiny through due diligence. This is all the more reason for a seller to be prepared and to work with experienced advisors to get their business ready for sale.

Click here to read the full article.

 

A recent article from the Axial Forum entitled “5 Ways Sell-Side Customer Diligence Can Maximize Sale Prices” explains how third-party sell-side customer diligence has become increasingly more common and why it can help sellers maximize and justify sale prices. Here are the 5 ways this due diligence can help you get the best sale price:

  1. Determine if it’s the right time for a sale – Positive customer feedback can help reinforce the decision to sell, and neutral or negative feedback can help improve the company so it will be better prepared for a sale.
  2. Attract and persuade buyers – Your confidential information memorandum (CIM) will show how strong customer relationships are, how your market share has grown, how the business has become more competitive, and more.  Thorough documentation of the health of customer relationships will also help attract buyers.
  3. Control the message – Having the seller contact their customers reduces the risk of anyone being tipped off about the sale and also allows for the seller to provide a better interpretation of the results.
  4. Prove there is a clear path for future growth – Pre-sale due diligence can help justify the ways in which the company can grow in the future.
  5. Accelerate the timeline – Having customer diligence done ahead of time will speed up the process so the buyer doesn’t have to do it.

Sell-side due diligence gives the buyer a good overall assessment of customer relationships while also allowing the seller to control the process of the findings and substantiate their asking price.

Click here to read the full article.

 

A recent article from Inc.com entitled “The Art of Finding the Right Buyer for Your Business” gives us three essential items to consider when selling a business.

 

  • Set goals – The first step is to set goals for the future of your business, yourself and your family. You’ll want to consider factors such as how the transaction will affect your employees, if you will continue on as a team member or transition out of the company, and what your overall goals for the company are. This will help you and your advisor customize the sale process.
  • Explore options – Be sure to know the difference between a private equity group and a strategic corporate buyer, and find out how they can benefit your business. There are also “family offices,” which are investors who manage the wealth of a family or multiple families, but they hold a business forever.
  • Keep an open mind – It’s especially important in the beginning to stay open to both types of buyers and find a good advisor who can help guide you towards the right buyer. Whether they are a financial buyer or a strategic buyer, you don’t know how they are going to handle the future of a company until you get to know them.

 

Click here to read the full article.

 

A recent article from the M&A Source entitled “Gold Rush: New Entrepreneurs Seek Search Funds to Finance Takeovers of Baby Boomer Businesses” explains how new entrepreneurs are looking for funding to take over businesses as the baby boomer generation starts to retire. There is currently an entrepreneurial generational gap with far less young entrepreneurs than there are baby boomers looking to sell. Healthy financial trends paired with recent tax reforms have contributed to making ideal conditions for the new generation of small business owners.

This new generation of entrepreneurs is coming from recent MBA graduates who are choosing to acquire a business instead of heading to Wall Street. Most notably, they are doing things differently when it comes to financing by turning to the search fund model which is seeing unprecedented growth as of late. This process known as entrepreneurship through acquisition (ETA) is also becoming increasingly popular in business schools which are now offering ETA programs.

It is believed that this trend is going to continue and that the timing is right. More schools are increasing awareness about it and the model will get easier as more baby boomers retire and sell their businesses. As more big money sources see this model gain popularity, there will be more money to support this growth as well.

Click here to read the full article.

 

A recent article posted by Divestopedia entitled “Avoiding the Biggest Deal Killer: Time” tells us that the key to a successful deal is preparation and momentum. This means that the seller should be fully ready when the business hits the marketplace, not when the first offer is made.

To keep the momentum going, there are 14 factors to consider:

  1. Know when it is a good time to sell your business
  2. Know why you want to sell
  3. Know the company’s strengths and weaknesses
  4. Know what you will do after you sell your business
  5. Know the value of your business
  6. Have a realistic asking price
  7. Be sure you are current on all taxes
  8. Make sure operational details are organized and recorded
  9. Know that the business can operate without you
  10. Know your company’s place in the market
  11. Be prepared with accurate financial statements, tax returns, and financial reports
  12. Know that your team of trusted advisors is ready
  13. Have a growth and marketing plan for your buyer
  14. Know what is most important to you so you can stay focused on the key issues and not worry too much over minor details

Click here to read the full article.

Copyright:Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Importance of the Term Sheet

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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.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Around the Web: A Month in Summary

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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:

  1. Set goals & objectives
  2. Determine the value of your business
  3. Consider options for the business in the case of disability, retirement or death
  4. Develop a plan and documentation with an advisor, attorney and accountant
  5. Fund the plan

You never know when something unexpected could occur, so it’s never too early to start creating a succession plan.

Click here to read the full article.

 

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:

  1. Local chamber of commerce
  2. Local CPAs
  3. Local real estate brokers
  4. Local community bankers
  5. Business brokers
  6. Go directly to the business owner
  7. 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.

Click here to read the full article.

 

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.

Click here to read the full article.

 

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:

  1. History of increasing revenues and profits over the past 3-5 years
  2. Strategic business plan that shows strong growth, competitive advantage, and products or services that can be sold across multiple industries
  3. Future cash flow including expected EBITDA performance, expected working capital investment requirements, and expected fixed-asset investment requirements
  4. 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.

Click here to read the full article.

 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The owner will get an extensive look at the financial health of their business from an advisor along with recommendations for improvement.
  3. 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.

Click here to read the full article.

 

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Considerations When Selling…Or Buying

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Important questions to ask when looking at a business…or preparing to have your business looked at by prospective buyers.

• What’s for sale?  What’s not for sale?  Does it include real estate? Are some of the machines leased instead of owned?

• What assets are not earning money? Perhaps these assets should be sold off.

• What is proprietary? Formulations, patents, software, etc.?

• What is their competitive advantage? A certain niche, superior marketing or better manufacturing.

• What is the barrier of entry? Capital, low labor, tight relationships.

• What about employment agreements/non-competes? Has the seller failed to secure these agreements from key employees?

• How does one grow the business? Maybe it can’t be grown.

• How much working capital does one need to run the business?

• What is the depth of management and how dependent is the business on the owner/manager?

• How is the financial reporting undertaken and recorded and how does management adjust the business accordingly?

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Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

The Deal Is Almost Done — Or Is It?

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The Letter of Intent has been signed by both buyer and seller and everything seems to be moving along just fine. It would seem that the deal is almost done. However, the due diligence process must now be completed. Due diligence is the process in which the buyer really decides to go forward with the deal, or, depending on what is discovered, to renegotiate the price – or even to withdraw from the deal. So, the deal may seem to be almost done, but it really isn’t – yet!

It is important that both sides to the transaction understand just what is going to take place in the due diligence process. The importance of the due diligence process cannot be underestimated. Stanley Foster Reed in his book, The Art of M&A, wrote, “The basic function 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.”

Prior to the due diligence process, buyers should assemble their experts to assist in this phase. These might include appraisers, accountants, lawyers, environmental experts, marketing personnel, etc. Many buyers fail to add an operational person familiar with the type of business under consideration. The legal and accounting side may be fine, but a good fix on the operations themselves is very important as a part of the due diligence process. After all, this is what the buyer is really buying.

Since the due diligence phase does involve both buyer and seller, here is a brief checklist of some of the main items for both parties to consider.

Industry Structure

Figure the percentage of sales by product line, review pricing policies, consider discount structure and product warranties; and if possible check against industry guidelines.

Human Resources

Review names, positions and responsibilities of the key management staff. Also, check the relationships, if appropriate, with labor, employee turnover, and incentive and bonus arrangements.

Marketing

Get a list of the major customers and arrive at a sales breakdown by region, and country, if exporting. Compare the company’s market share to the competition, if possible.

Operations

Review the current financial statements and compare to the budget. Check the incoming sales, analyze the backlog and the prospects for future sales.

Balance Sheet

Accounts receivables should be checked for aging, who’s paying and who isn’t, bad debt and the reserves. Inventory should be checked for work-in-process, finished goods along with turnover, non-usable inventory and the policy for returns and/or write-offs.

Environmental Issues

This is a new but quite complicated process. Ground contamination, ground water, lead paint and asbestos issues are all reasons for deals not closing, or at best not closing in a timely manner.

Manufacturing

This is where an operational expert can be invaluable. Does the facility work efficiently? How old and serviceable is the machinery and equipment? Is the technology still current? What is it really worth? Other areas, such as the manufacturing time by product, outsourcing in place, key suppliers – all of these should be checked.

Trademarks, Patents & Copyrights

Are these intangible assets transferable, and whose name are they in. If they are in an individual name – can they be transferred to the buyer? In today’s business world where intangible assets may be the backbone of the company, the deal is generally based on the satisfactory transfer of these assets.

Due diligence can determine whether the buyer goes through with the deal or begins a new round of negotiations. By completing the due diligence process, the buyer process insures, as far as possible, that the buyer is getting what he or she bargained for. The executed Letter of Intent is, in many ways, just the beginning.

Buying a Business – Some Key Consideration

  • What’s for sale? What’s not for sale? Is real estate included? Is some of the machinery and/or equipment leased?
  • Is there anything proprietary such as patents, copyrights or trademarks?
  • Are there any barriers of entry? Is it capital, labor, intellectual property, personal relationships, location – or what?
  • What is the company’s competitive advantage – special niche, great marketing, state-of-the-art manufacturing capability, well-known brands, etc.?
  • Are there any assets not generating income and can they be sold?
  • Are agreements in place with key employees and if not – why not?
  • How can the business grow?  Or, can it grow?
  • Is the business dependent on the owner? Is there any depth to the management team?
  • How is the financial reporting handled? Is it sufficient for the business? How does management utilize it?

What Do Buyers Really Want to Know?

Before answering the question, it makes sense to first ask why people want to be in business for themselves. What are their motives? There have been many surveys addressing this question. The words may be different, but the idea behind them and the order in which they are listed are almost always the same.

  1. Want to do their own thing; to control their own destiny, so to speak.
  2. Do not want to work for anyone else.
  3. Want to make better use of their skills and abilities.
  4. Want to make money.

These surveys indicate that by far the biggest reason people want to be in business for themselves is to be their own boss. The first three reasons listed revolve around this theme. Some may be frustrated in their current job or position. Others may not like their current boss or employer, while still others feel that their abilities are not being used properly or sufficiently.

The important item to note is that money is reason number four. Although making money is certainly important and necessary, it is not the primary issue. Once a person decides to go into business for himself or herself, he or she has to explore the options. Starting a business is certainly one option, but it is an option fraught with risk. Buying an existing business is the method most people prefer. Purchasing a known entity reduces the risks substantially.

There are some key questions buyers want, or should want, answers to, once the decision to purchase an existing business has been made. Below are the primary ones; although a prospective buyer may not want answers to all of them, the seller should be prepared to respond to each one.

  • How much is the down payment?  Most buyers are limited in the amount of cash they have for a down payment on a business. After all, if cash were not an issue, they probably wouldn’t be looking to purchase a business in the first place.
  • Will the seller finance the sale of the business?  It can be difficult to finance the sale of a business; therefore, if the seller isn’t willing, he or she must find a buyer who is prepared to pay all cash. This is very difficult to do.
  • Why is the seller selling?  This is a very important question. Buyers want assurance that the reason is legitimate and not because of the business itself.
  • Will the owner stay and train or work with a new owner?  Many people buy a franchise because of the assistance offered. A seller who is willing, at no cost, to stay and to help with the transition is a big plus.
  • How much income can a new owner expect?  This may not be the main criterion, but it is obviously an important issue. A new owner has to be able to pay the bills – both business-wise and personally. And just as important as the income is the seller’s ability to substantiate it with financial statements or tax returns.
  • What makes the business different, unique or special?  Most buyers want to take pride in the business they purchase.
  • How can the business grow?  New owners are full of enthusiasm and want to increase the business. Some buyers are willing to buy a business that is currently only marginal if they feel there is a real opportunity for growth.
  • What doesn’t the buyer know?  Buyers, and sellers too, don’t like surprises. They want to know the good – and the bad – out front. Buyers understand, or should understand, that there is no such thing as a perfect business.

Years ago, it could be said that prospective buyers of businesses had only four questions:

  1. Where is the business?
  2. How much is it?
  3. How much can I make?
  4. Why is it for sale?

In addition to asking basic questions, today’s buyer wants to know much more before investing in his or her own business. Sellers have to able to answer not only the four basic questions, but also be able to address the wider range of questions outlined above.

Despite all of the questions and answers, what most buyers really want is an opportunity to achieve the Great American Dream – owning one’s own business!