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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.


When Selling Your Business, Play to Win


If you are an independent business owner, you are most likely also an independent business seller--if not now, you will be somewhere down the road.  The Small Business Administration reports that three to five years is a long enough stretch for many business owners and that one in every three plans to sell, many of them right from the outset.  With fewer cases of a business being passed on to future generations, selling has become a fact of independent business life.  No matter at what stage your own business life may be, prepare now to stay ahead in the selling game.

Perhaps one of the most important rules of the selling game is learning how not to "sell."  An apt anecdote from Cary Reich's The Life of Nelson Rockefeller shows a pro at work doing (or not doing) just that:

When the indomitable J.P. Morgan was seeking the Rockefeller's Mesabi iron ore properties to complete his assemblage of what was to become U.S. Steel, it was Junior [John D. Rockefeller, Jr.] who went head-to-head with the financier.  "Well, what's your price?" Morgan demanded, to which Junior coolly replied, "I think there must be some mistake.  I did not come here to sell.  I understand you wished to buy."  Morgan ended up with the properties, but at a steep cost.

As this anecdote shows, the best approach to succeeding at the selling game is to be less of a "seller" and more of a "player."  Take a look at these tips for keeping the score in your favor:

Let Others Do the Heavy Pitching

Selling a business is an intense emotional drain; at best, a distraction.  Let professional advisors do the yeoman's duty when selling a business.  A business intermediary represents the seller and is experienced in completing the transaction in a timely manner and at a price and terms acceptable to the seller.  Your business broker will also present and assess offers, and help in structuring the transaction itself.  If you plan to use an attorney, engage one who is seasoned in the business selling process.  A former Harvard Business Review associate editor once said, "Inexperienced lawyers are often reluctant to advise their clients to take any risks, whereas lawyers who have been through such negotiations a few times know what's reasonable."

Stay in the Game

With the right advisors on your side, you can do the all-important work of tending to the daily life of the business.  There is a tendency for sellers to let things slip once the business is officially for sale.  Keeping normal operating hours, maintaining inventory at constant levels, and attention to the appearance and general good repair of the premises are ways to make the right impression on prospective buyers.  Most important of all, tending to the daily running of the business will help ward off deterioration of sales and earnings.

Keep Pricing and Evaluation in the Ballpark

Like all sellers, you will want the best possible price for your business.  You have probably spent years building it and have dreamed about its worth, based on your "sweat equity."  You'll need to keep in mind that the marketplace will determine the value of the business.  Ignoring that standard by asking too high a price will drive prospective buyers away, or will at the least slow the process, and perhaps to a standstill.

Play Fair with Confidentiality

Your business broker will constantly stress confidentiality to the prospects to whom he or she shows your business.  They will use nonspecific descriptions of the business, require signatures on strict confidentiality agreements, screen all prospects, and sometimes phase the release of information to match the growing evidence of buyer sincerity.  As the seller you must also maintain confidentiality in your day-to-day business activities, never forgetting that a breach of confidentiality can wreck the deal.

Sell Before Striking Out

Don't wait until you are forced to sell for any reason, whether financial or personal.  Instead of selling impulsively, you should plan ahead carefully by cleaning up the balance sheet, settling any litigation, providing a list of loans against the business with amounts and payment schedule, tackling any environmental problems, and by gathering in one place all pertinent paperwork, such as franchise agreement (if applicable), the lease and any lease-related documents, and an approximation of inventory on-hand.  In addition, you could increase the value of your business by up to 20 percent by providing audited financial statements for one or two years in advance of selling.

Think Twice Before Retiring Your "Number"

The trend is for sellers to assume they will retire after selling the business.  But consider this: agreeing to stay on in some capacity can actually help you get a better price for your business.  Many buyers will pay more to have the seller stay aboard, thus helping to reduce their risk.

Keep the Ball Rolling

You need to keep the negotiation ball rolling once an offer has been presented.  Even if you don't get your asking price, the offer may have other points that will offset that disappointment, such as higher payments or interest, a consulting agreement, more cash than you anticipated, or a buyer who seems "just right."  The right buyer may be better than a higher price, especially if there is seller financing involved, and there usually is.  In many cases, the structure of the deal is more important than the price.  And when the ball is rolling, allow it to pick up speed.  Deals that drag are too often deals that fail to close.

By following these tips, and by working closely with your business broker, you can have confidence in being a seller who, like John D. Rockefeller, Jr., doesn't "come here to sell."  You will play the selling game--and be a winner.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.


What Do Buyers Want in a Company?

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Selling your business doesn’t have to feel like online dating, but for many sellers this is exactly what it can feel like.  Many sellers are left wondering, “What exactly do buyers want to see in order to buy my company?”  Working with a business broker is an excellent way to take some of the mystery out of this often elusive equation.  In general, there are three areas that buyers should give particular attention to in order to make their businesses more attractive to sellers.

Area #1 - The Quality of Earnings

The bottom line, no pun intended, is that many accountants and intermediaries can be rather aggressive when it comes to adding back one-time or non-recurring expenses.  Obviously, this can cause headaches for sellers.  Here are a few examples of non-recurring expenses: a building undergoing foundation repairs, expenses related to meeting new government guidelines or legal fees involving a lawsuit or actually paying for a major lawsuit.

Buyers will want to emphasize that a non-recurring expense is just that, a one-time expense that will not recur, and are not in fact, a drain on the actual, real earnings of a company.  The simple fact is that virtually every business has some level of non-recurring expenses each and every year; this is just the nature of business.  However, by adding back these one-time expenses, an accountant or business appraiser can greatly complicate a deal as he or she is not allowing for extraordinary expenses that occur almost every year.  Add-backs can work to inflate the earnings and lead to a failure to reflect the real earning power of the business.

Area #2 - Buyers Want to See Sustainability of Earnings

It is only understandable that any new owner will be concerned that the business in question will have sustainable earnings after the purchase.  No one wants to buy a business only to see it fail due to a lack of earnings a short time later or buy a business that is at the height of its earnings or buy a business whose earnings are the result of a one-time contract.  Sellers can expect that buyers will carefully examine whether or not a business will grow in the same rate, or a faster rate, than it has in the past.

Area #3 - Buyers Will Verify Information

Finally, sellers can expect that buyers will want to verify that all information provided is accurate.  No buyer wants an unexpected surprise after they have purchased a business.  Sellers should expect buyers to dig deep in an effort to ensure that there are no skeletons hiding in the closet. Whether its potential litigation issues or potential product returns or a range of other potential issues, you can be certain that serious buyers will carefully evaluate your business and verify all the information you’ve provided.

By stepping back and putting yourself in the shoes of a prospective buyer, you can go a long way towards helping ensure that the deal is finalized.  Further, working with an experienced business broker is another way to help ensure that you anticipate what a buyer will want to see well in advance.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.


Strong Selling Points: Let Your Strengths Work for You


"Independent business owner" is a phrase with two meanings.  Of course, it means being the owner of an independent business.  But another way to look at "independent business owner" is to let this phrase define the very personality of the person at the helm.  Independent.  Confident. Self-assured.  Strong-willed.  These are vital entrepreneurial attributes, but, ironically, they can sometimes work against the business owner when it comes time to sell.

Since business owners are the type who know about selling -- either products or services-- and about making deals -- haven't they had to cope with suppliers, customers, and competitors throughout their business careers? -- it's not surprising that owners approach selling their businesses with these tried-and-true tactics and ideas.  Sellers who have spent years building a business are often unaware of how completely different the process of selling a business is.

Savvy sellers, realizing the importance of a selling approach equal to this very important task, will depend on the guidance of a business intermediary.  With professional guidance, sellers can benefit from their personal strengths instead of letting them get in the way of the selling process.  The following "strong" selling points are signposts on the road leading to a successful transaction.

Price Your Business To Sell

Sellers are good "business people;" they naturally are after the best possible price for their business.  Realistic pricing is perhaps the most important factor in selling from a point of strength.  Understanding the marketplace, up-to-the-minute and not some high mark just past or in the possible future, is key.

The pricing of a business, different from the simpler means of valuing based on goods or services, depends on industry-tested valuation techniques, with intangibles incorporated to ensure that the business will not be underpriced.  The price of a business is arrived at by a variety of factors, one of the chief of which is the intensity of a buyers interest in a particular business.

Know Your Buyer

The seller, although good at "psyching out" customers and vendors, may not be as adept at sizing up potential buyers.  Some buyers are professional window-shoppers; talking a good game but never really ready to play. There are also the buyers who would play ball -- if they only knew where the action was!  First locating and then qualifying buyers is a key function of business brokers.  They will use computerized data bases, professional associations and other networks nationally and internationally -- all to increase the chances of selling a business at top value.

In addition, the business broker will determine the right buyer for the right business, focusing on those prospects who are financially qualified as well as genuinely (or potentially) interested in the business for sale.  As part of qualifying buyers, to take the "fear" out of the likely need for seller financing, the business broker will assess the ability of a particular buyer to run a business successfully.  This invaluable work by the broker not only locates the best buyers, it also frees the seller to concentrate on his role in the selling process.

Prepare Your Business for Sale

In addition to the obvious need for the business to appear clean and cared-for, there are important steps the seller must take in advance of putting the business on the market.  In most cases, a business will sell based on the numbers.  Your business broker will help you create a clear financial picture -- in timely fashion -- and to prepare statements suitable for presentation to a prospective buyer.  Remember that buyers may be willing to buy potential, but they don't want to pay for it.  In fact, sellers should be open to about all aspects of the business that might affect the sale; otherwise, once the real facts are revealed, the deal may self-destruct.

Business owners are accustomed to coping with paperwork, but few have had exposure to the specialized contracts and forms required both before and during the selling process.  The business broker, an expert at transaction details, will help guard against delays, problems, and premature (or inappropriate) disclosure of information.

Maintain Normal Operations

Another vital activity for the seller is to keep on top of the day-to-day running of the business.  When a business intermediary is on hand to focus on the marketing of the business, the seller can focus on keeping daily operations on-target.  Sellers are "people people," and may have visions of wooing buyers with their great presentation of the business.  Even if this were to happen, these sellers fail to visualize the number of buyers they would have to "woo-and-win" if handling the sale on their own.


An adjunct to maintaining the status quo is the important task of maintaining confidentiality.  Until a purchase-and-sale agreement has been signed, most sellers do not want to disturb (or jeopardize) the normal interaction with customers and employees; nor do they want to alert the competition.  A business broker helps by using nonspecific descriptions of the business, requiring signed confidentiality agreements, and performing a careful screening of all prospects.

To keep the sale of your business on firm ground, be sure that your "strengths" as an independent business owner aren't actually weakening the sale.  Using these key selling points along with the expertise of a business intermediary will keep the process going strong.


Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.


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?

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Keys to a Successful Closing

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The closing is the formal transfer of a business. It usually also represents the successful culmination of many months of hard work, extensive negotiations, lots of give and take, and ultimately a satisfactory meeting of the minds.  The document governing the closing is the Purchase and Sale Agreement.  It generally covers the following:

• A description of the transaction – Is it a stock or asset sale?

• Terms of the agreement – This covers the price and terms and how it is to be paid.  It should also include the status of any management that will remain with the business.

• Representations and Warranties – These are usually negotiated after the Letter of Intent is agreed upon.  Both buyer and seller want protection from any misrepresentations.  The warranties provide assurances that everything is as represented.

•  Conditions and Covenants – These include non-competes and agreements to do or not to do certain things.

There are four key steps that must be undertaken before the sale of a business can close:

1. The seller must show satisfactory evidence that he or she has the legal right to act on behalf of the selling company and the legal authority to sell the business.

2. The buyer’s representatives must have completed the due diligence process, and claims and representations made by the seller must have been substantiated.

3. The necessary financing must have been secured, and the proper paperwork and appropriate liens must be in place so funds can be released.

4. All representations and warranties must be in place, with remedies made available to the buyer in case of seller’s breech.

There are two major elements of the closing that take place simultaneously:

• Corporate Closing: The actual transfer of the corporate stock or assets based on the provisions of the Purchase and Sale Agreement.  Stockholder approvals are in, litigation and environmental issues satisfied, representations and warranties signed, leases transferred, employee and board member resignations, etc. completed, and necessary covenants and conditions performed.  In other words, all of the paperwork outlined in the Purchase and Sale Agreement has been completed.

• Financial Closing: The paperwork and legal documentation necessary to provide funding has been executed. Once all of the conditions of funding have been met, titles and assets are transferred to the purchaser, and the funds delivered to the seller.

It is best if a pre-closing is held a week or so prior to the actual closing.  Documents can be reviewed and agreed upon, loose ends tied up, and any open matters closed.  By doing a pre-closing, the actual closing becomes a mere formality, rather than requiring more negotiation and discussion.

The closing is not a time to cut costs – or corners.  Since mistakes can be very expensive, both sides require expert advice.  Hopefully, both sides are in complete agreement and any disagreements were resolved at the pre-closing meeting.  A closing should be a time for celebration!


Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

The Confidentiality Myth


When it comes time to sell the company, a seller's prime concern is one of confidentiality. Owners are afraid that "if the word gets out" they will lose employees, customers and suppliers. Not to downplay confidentiality, but these incidents seldom happen if the process is properly managed. There is always the chance that a "leak" will occur, but when handled correctly, serious damage is unlikely. Nevertheless, a seller should still be very careful about maintaining confidentiality since avoiding problems is always better than dealing with them. Here are some suggestions:

  • Understand that there is a "Catch 22" involved. The seller wants the highest price and the best deal, and this usually means contacting numerous potential buyers. Obviously, the more prospective buyers that are contacted, the greater the opportunity for a breach of confidentiality to occur. Business intermediaries understand that buyers have to be contacted, but they also realize the importance of confidentiality and have the procedures in place to reduce the risk of a breach. Another alternative is to work with just a few buyers. This, however, does reduce the chances of obtaining the best price.
  • Another way to avoid this breach is to try to keep a short timetable between going to market and a closing. The shorter the timetable, the less the chance for the word to get out. One way to keep a short timetable is to gather all of the information necessary for the buyer's due diligence ahead of time. Create a place where all of this material can be consolidated. This can be as simple as a set of secured file drawers. Such documentation as: customer and vendor contracts, leases and real estate records, financial statements and supporting schedules (assets, receivables, payables), conditions of employment agreements, organization charts and pay schedules, summary of benefit programs, patents, etc. should be gathered. It is not unusual for due diligence examinations to look back 3 to 5 years, so there could be a lot of records.
  • The above means that the seller has to get organized. Selling one's business is fraught with paperwork. Set up some three-ring binders so all of the relevant paperwork and resulting documentation has a place. These binders should be kept in a secure location.
  • The seller's employees should be conditioned to having strange people (potential buyers) walk through the facility. One way to avoid suspicion is to arrange to have unrelated people, for example - customers, suppliers, advisors - tour the company facilities prior to placing the business on the market.
  • If sellers have not prepared their employees for strangers walking through the facilities as suggested above, awkward situations can develop. A valued employee may question why tours are being conducted. The seller is then placed in the position of explaining what is happening or covering the question with a "smokescreen." A seller could reply by saying that the strangers are possible investors in the company. If asked directly if the business is for sale, the seller could respond by saying that if General Electric wants to pay a bundle for it - anything is for sale. Once in the selling process, it is also important to minimize traffic by only allowing serious, qualified prospects to tour the operation.
  • Keep in mind that confidentiality leaks can emanate from many sources. For example, an errant email ends up on someone else's email. A fax gets sent to the wrong fax machine or UPS or FedEx deliveries go to the wrong people. Establish methods ahead of time on how to communicate with potential buyers or an intermediary.
  • The key to handling confidentiality is for the seller to retain a third party intermediary. They will insist that all potential buyers sign a confidentiality agreement. They will also be able to advise the seller on how to handle the "company tours" and can insure that only qualified buyers are shown the facilities.
  • The "myth" is that confidentiality issues can make or break a deal, or cause serious damage to the seller's business. The reality is that breaches seldom occur when an intermediary is involved, and if they do occur and are handled properly, there is little damage to the business or a potential transaction.


Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

A Selling Memorandum


A sellers memorandum includes all those points one would normally expect to see in any business plan, to wit: an executive summary, a business description, financial requirements, target market niche, identification of top management, an operations review, analysis of strengths and weaknesses, and current financial statements and projections.

Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions published by PPC

A proposed sale of a middle-market company almost always begins with a selling memorandum. This document is called many things, including offering memorandum, confidential descriptive memorandum or simply the book. Regardless of what you choose to call it, its purpose is to encourage prospective buyers to take a further look at the company.

For the seller, it has a secondary side benefit. It forces them to take a hard look at the company, its strengths and its weaknesses. Upon reviewing the information necessary to prepare a selling memorandum, the seller may, in fact, decide that it's not such a bad company after all and elect to keep it. On the other hand, the seller could decide that the current condition of the company needs to be improved before attempting to sell it. Looking at the company through the eyes of a buyer, could also prompt the seller to try to increase the value prior to selling. This may be done, for example, by building a stronger brand loyalty, by entering into employee contracts with key managers, or perhaps by diversifying the customer base.

Assuming, however, that the decision to sell has been made, the importance of the selling memorandum can not be emphasized enough. It is like a strong advertisement for the company and it must tell a good story. It should highlight the positive parts of the company, add value for the buyer, and show the negatives as opportunities. The selling memorandum has to make a good first impression. A seller wants to attract qualified buyers and bring value to the company being sold. This means that the selling memorandum has to be prepared and written by a professional. It is too important a document to do it any other way. It is also the basis of a strong marketing program to attract the best buyer at the best price.

What makes up a strong selling memorandum? It includes quite a few different elements. But, first a few caveats:

  • Don't include confidential company information or reveal trade secrets. Although the document may be intended for qualified buyers only, once it is disseminated it really becomes a public document. Professional intermediaries and investment bankers do make prospective buyers sign a confidentiality agreement, which does help in this area. Still, with copy machines and email services readily available, it never hurts to maintain confidential information until much further in the negotiations.
  • Make sure that a prospective buyer knows exactly what you are selling. It is assumed unless otherwise mentioned that it is the entire company that is for sale. You don't want prospects to think that they can purchase just the most profitable portions of the company. Obviously, a seller wants to show-off the excellent parts of the company, but this should not be done at the expense of the not-so-good parts. These can be presented as excellent opportunities.
  • The selling memorandum should not be aimed at the right prospects. If the business requires technical language to best explain it, use it. A buyer, who doesn't understand it, probably isn't a buyer.
  • There should be an explanation of how the company works so a prospective acquirer can read through the lines about the selling company's corporate culture. This element can make or break a sale and it's best to discover it at the outset.
  • There is always a tendency to include too much information - don't. Don't over-sell. You don't need to include the names of customers and vendors and the names of all the employees.
  • Be sure to also include the blemishes. If there is a pending lawsuit, include. The bad news should be revealed early on - no one likes surprises, especially later in the negotiations.
  • And, finally, and probably, most important, the selling memorandum should be easy to read.

Now, what about the various elements of the selling memorandum. Here are the areas that should be covered in it.

Business Profile (or Executive Summary) - This may be the most important element of the selling memorandum. The entire offering should be covered in brief - no more than four-pages, at most. Many are done in one page. Remember, the sole purpose of the business profile is to generate excitement and interest. It is a selling piece! It should include:

  • Ownership
  • The Business
  • Financial highlights
  • Products and/or services
  • Markets
  • The opportunities
  • Reason for sale (Why is it for sale?)

This business profile is usually sent to possible purchasers. If the prospect is interested further, they sign a confidentiality agreement before receiving the entire selling memorandum. The selling memorandum includes detailed information on the key elements of the company and usually covers the following:

  • Business overview - In other words, who and what is the company? This is the place where everything about the company is summarized: it's history, the employees (in general), the management team, the locations, any important intangible assets, and the outlook for the business.
  • Company strengths - What does the company do well? This should cover those strengths that bring value to this particular company.
  • Markets - Who are the customers/clients? What and how does the company sell its products or market its services.
  • The Risks - What are they? If there are risks in the business, they should be described and then an explanation of how the company solves them.
  • Financial data - Is the company making money? Cash flow statements are important. Current thinking is that the seller doesn't have to include all of the available financial data - which the prospective buyer will go through all the financial history as the deal moves forward.

The selling memorandum should include any relevant corporate and/or product brochures as attachments. Prior to putting the business on the market, it is important that an outside valuation be performed. However, the price and terms are not usually a part of the selling memorandum - the marketplace will dictate the price. The purpose of the entire selling memorandum is to generate sufficient interest so that a prospective acquirer will make an offer.

Building Value

Prior to putting a company on the market for sale, the question of value has to be addressed. Increasing the value should, in fact, be considered a year, preferably two, prior to sale. Value is based on profitability, cash flow, management and the overall quality of the operation itself. Here are some considerations in building value, whether the business is going to be sold or not.

  • Are the company's pricing policies set too low, creating low margins? Perhaps they were set some time ago in order to boost sales. Now might be a good time to review them to make sure they are in keeping with current market conditions.
  • Is the inventory level too high? How about work-in-progress or finished goods? Increasing the turns in inventory can increase cash flow.
  • Are you paying too much for raw material? Talk to your vendors and suppliers, you might be able to get some better prices or terms. Take a look at all of the expenses: utilities, telephone, technology, office expenses - it all adds up.
  • Are there services that could be outsourced for increased savings?
  • Increasing the quality of customer service may entice customers or clients to pay their bill promptly.
  • Are all the employees working together to improve the operation and profitability of the company?

These are just a few of the areas that can and should be reviewed. Although profits are important, there is an old expression that cash is king. The time to take a look at the overall company operations is now.

Measuring the Value of a Company

Consider the following important areas of a company. How does your company stack up in these critical areas? If you were to rank them on a 1 to 4 scale, for instance, what would your score be? The higher the score the more valuable the company! They are considered value drivers - in other words, they are important to a prospective buyer.

  • Profitability
  • Type of business
  • History of company and industry
  • Business growth
  • Customers/Clients
  • Market share
  • Return on investment
  • Quality of financial statements
  • Size
  • Management
  • Terms of sale

For example, in looking at a company's financial data - are the statements audited or merely compiled? Is the growth of the company slow or is it growing quickly? How about the customer base - is it based on several major ones, or is it spread out over many customers? The time to consider these critical value drivers is now!


Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Are You Ready to Exit?

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If you've gone this far, then selling your business has aroused enough curiosity that you are taking the first step. You don't have to make a commitment at this point; you are just getting informed about what is necessary to successfully sell your business. This section should answer a lot of your questions and help you through the maze of the process itself.

Question 1
The first question almost every seller asks is: "What is my business worth?" Quite frankly, if we were selling our business, that is the first thing we would want to know. However, we're going to put this very important issue off for a bit and cover some of the things you need to know before you get to that point. Before you ask that question, you have to be ready to sell for what the market is willing to pay. If money is the only reason you want to sell, then you're not really ready to sell.

*Insider Tip:
It doesn't make any difference what you think your business is worth, or what you want for it. It also doesn't make any difference what your accountant, banker, attorney, or best friend thinks your business is worth. Only the marketplace can decide what its value is.

Question 2
The second question you have to consider is: Do you really want to sell this business? If you're really serious and have a solid reason (or reasons) why you want to sell, it will most likely happen. You can increase your chances of selling if you can answer yes to the second question: Do you have reasonable expectations? The yes answer to these two questions means you are serious about selling.

The First Steps

Okay, let's assume that you have decided to at least take the first few steps to actually sell your business. Before you even think about placing your business for sale, there are some things you should do first.The first thing you have to do is to gather information about the business.

Here's a checklist of the items you should get together:

  • Three years' profit and loss statements
  • Federal Income tax returns for the business
  • List of fixtures and equipment
  • The lease and lease-related documents
  • A list of the loans against the business (amounts and payment schedule)
  • Copies of any equipment leases
  • A copy of the franchise agreement, if applicable
  • An approximate amount of the inventory on hand, if applicable
  • The names of any outside advisors

If you're like many small business owners you'll have to search for some of these items. After you gather all of the above items, you should spend some time updating the information and filling in the blanks. You most likely have forgotten much of this information, so it's a good idea to really take a hard look at all of this. Have all of the above put in a neat, orderly format as if you were going to present it to a prospective purchaser. Everything starts with this information.

Make sure the financial statements of the business are current and as accurate as you can get them. If you're halfway through the current year, make sure you have last year's figures and tax returns, and also year-to-date figures. Make all of your financial statements presentable. It will pay in the long run to get outside professional help, if necessary, to put the statements in order. You want to present the business well "on paper". As you will see later, pricing a small business usually is based on cash flow. This includes the profit of the business, but also, the owner's salary and benefits, the depreciation, and other non-cash items. So don't panic because the bottom line isn't what you think it should be. By the time all of the appropriate figures are added to the bottom line, the cash flow may look pretty good.

Prospective buyers eventually want to review your financial figures. A Balance Sheet is not normally necessary unless the sale price of your business would be well over the $1 million figure. Buyers want to see income and expenses. They want to know if they can make the payments on the business, and still make a living. Let's face it, if your business is not making a living wage for someone, it probably can't be sold. You may be able to find a buyer who is willing to take the risk, or an experienced industry professional who only looks for location, etc., and feels that he or she can increase business.

*Insider Tip
The big question is not really how much your business will sell for, but how much of it can you keep. The Federal Tax Laws do determine how much money you will actually be able to put in the bank. How your business is legally formed can be important in determining your tax status when selling your business. For example: Is your business a corporation, partnership or proprietorship? If you are incorporated, is the business a C corporation or a sub-chapter S corporation? The point of all of this is that before you consider price or even selling your business, it is important that you discuss the tax implications of a sale of your business with a tax advisor. You don't want to be in the middle of a transaction with a solid buyer and discover that the tax implications of the sale are going to net you much less than you had figured.



Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Expanding Your Business


The term “growing the business” seems to be the term of choice for business people who discuss expansion. Unfortunately, in too many cases, this growing never goes beyond the seedling stage. Business people also talk about “thinking outside the box.” Again, that concept encompasses so much – what box? How far outside? – that it really can be an unfocused way of planning. So many random ideas can come out of such discussions and thinking that nothing really gets accomplished.

It might be a much better idea to focus on one small thing that would increase business. For example, you feel strongly that mailing a circular to your existing customer base or to the immediate neighborhood would increase business, but you never seem to have the time to do it. Why not plan on mailing 1,000 circulars to possible customers over the next 30 days? This means devoting about one hour, two or three times a week, to take this project to fruition. Don’t worry about next month – take one month at a time.

Since it’s said to take about 21 days to create a habit, several months should set the stage for the rest of the year. This will also help predict whether a mailing will indeed increase business. If it doesn’t, take the same time you did to work on the mailing and come up with another idea. What you have done is to “bank” the time you created for the mailing program so that it’s there for you to develop and implement the next plan.

A caveat: don’t work on something that you know you won’t finish, no matter how great the idea. For example, calling all the prospects for your product or service may be a great idea and one that would most likely expand the business. However, you know that is not what you like to do – so, forget it.

Implementing just one plan at a time and staying focused on it is the key. It may be easier to come up with 25 ideas outside the box, but if none ever get implemented, they might as well have stayed inside the box and never have been exposed to the light of day. Work on what you consider to be the best idea, and spend the same time you did on the mailing and develop it. It’s the habit of spending the one hour for two to three times a week that is critical. This creates time for a true growing of the business.

Copyright: iqoncept/