Is Now the Right Time to Sell Your Company?

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Like many things in life, timing can be everything when it comes to selling your company.  Every day more and more baby-boomers are now reaching retirement age.  Soon, the market will likely be flooded with companies looking to sell.

According to a 2016 survey of business brokers, 54% plan to exit in the next ten years.  We may be on the verge of a massive wave of businesses hitting the market.  Getting out in front of that wave could be in your best interests. Now very well may be the time to sell.

Are You Suffering from Burnout?

If you’ve been running your business for many years, it is quite possible that you are suffering from burnout.  This issue is remarkably common with business owners and it is also very dangerous.  Owners suffering from burnout don’t invest as much of themselves and their creative energy into their businesses, and that has a range of implications.

Everything from losing customers to failing to keep up with the competition are all possibilities when an owner feels ready to throw in the towel.  The end result is that owners, through poor decisions and inaction, can inadvertently decrease the value of their businesses.  Combine this fact with the fact that a wave of businesses may soon be hitting the market and selling may start looking more and more attractive.

Jump into a Strong Economy

Further, today’s strong economy means that new and unexpected competitors may soon enter the picture.  It is difficult to predict how the marketplace may change in the coming years, but a strong economy means both more opportunities for existing businesses and the potential for greater competition.

Interest rates have remained at historic lows and that could definitely help you sell your business.  Working with an experienced business broker is one way to test the waters.  You may determine that now is the perfect time to sell your business.  There are many factors involved in selling your business, and a skilled broker can help you look at the overall situation at hand and determine when it is the right time to sell.

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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Red Flags are Not a Pretty Sight

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When it comes to selling a business, sellers simply must pay attention to red flags.  Problems can always pop up, and that’s why they need to keep their eyes open.

Rarely does a “white knight” ride in and rescue a business with no questions asked.  And if this were to happen, you should be asking, “Why?”  Until a deal is officially inked, sellers need to evaluate every aspect of a transaction to make sure something isn’t happening that could wreck the deal.

Common Red Flags to Watch For

One example would be having a company express interest in your business but you are never able to directly contact key players, such as the President or CEO.  The reason that this is a red flag is that it indicates that the interest level may not be as great as you initially hoped.

A second red flag example would be an individual buyer, with no experience in acquisitions or experience in your industry, looking to buy your business.  The reason that this second example could prove problematic, is that even if the inexperienced buyer is enthusiastic as the deal progresses, he or she may become nervous upon learning what a deal would actually entail.  In other words, the specifics and the reality of owning a business, or owning a business in your industry, could come as a shock to an inexperienced buyer.

Both of these examples above are examples of early-stage red flags.  But what about issues that pop up at later stages?  The simple fact is that red flags can come at any stage of the selling process.

A good example of a middle-stage red flag is when a seller is denied access to the buyer’s financial statements, which is of course essential to verify that the seller is able to actually make the acquisition.  A final-stage red flag example is an apparent loss of momentum, as the buying and selling process can be a long one.

Business Sellers Need to Protect Their Assets  

Sellers are usually very busy and don’t have time to waste; this is doubly true for owner/operators of businesses, as the time they invest with a prospective buyer is time that could be spent doing something else.

All too often, businesses begin to run into trouble when they place their business on the market.  If this trouble negatively impacts the bottom line, then the business can become more difficult to sell and the final sale price will likely be lower.

That’s why it is so essential that sellers protect themselves from buyers that are not truly interested or are simply not a good fit.  Working with a business broker is an easy and highly effective way for sellers to protect themselves from buyers that are simply not the right fit.  A broker helps to “weed out” unfit candidates.

While red flags are never good, that doesn’t mean that a red flag means a deal is a definitely at an end.  Especially with the guidance of an experienced business broker, many of these issues can be overcome.

In the end, if you, either as a buyer or seller, suspect that there is a problem, then you should take action.  The problem will not simply go away.  The single best way to deal with a red flag is to tackle it head on as soon as you recognize it.

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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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?