A Listing Agreement is More than Just a Piece of Paper

In order to sell one’s business using the services of a business broker, a listing agreement is almost always required. For the owner of the business, signing the agreement legally authorizes the sale of the business. This simple act of signing represents the end of ownership. For some business owners, it means heading into uncharted territory after the business is sold. For many it also signifies the end of a dream. The business owner may have started the business from scratch and/or taken it to the next level. A little of the business owner may always be in that business. The business, in many cases, has been like a part of the family. For buyers, the signed listing agreement is the beginning of a dream, an opportunity for independence and the start of business ownership. The buyer looks at the business as the next phase in his or her life. Pride of ownership builds. So, that simple piece of paper – the listing agreement – is the bridge for both the seller and the buyer. The … [Read more...]

What a Buyer May Really Be Looking At

Buyers, as part of their due diligence, usually employ accountants to check the numbers and attorneys to both look at legal issues and draft or review documents. Buyers may also bring in other professionals to look at the business’ operations. The prudent buyer is also looking behind the scenes to make sure there are not any “skeletons in the closet.” It makes sense for a seller to be just as prudent. Knowing what the prudent buyer may be checking can be a big help. A business intermediary professional is a good person to help a seller look at these issues. They are very familiar with what buyers are looking for when considering a company to purchase. Here are some examples of things that a prudent buyer will be checking: Finance Is the business taking all of the trade discounts available or is it late in paying its bills? This could indicate poor cash management policies. Checking the gross margins for the past several years might indicate a lack of control, price erosion … [Read more...]

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

The initial response to the question in the title really should be: “Why do you want to know the value of your business?” This response is not intended to be flippant, but is a question that really needs to be answered. Does an owner need to know for estate purposes? Does the bank want to know for lending purposes? Is the owner entertaining bringing in a partner or partners? Is the owner thinking of selling? Is a divorce or partnership dispute occurring? Is a valuation needed for a buy-sell agreement? There are many other reasons why knowing the value of the business may be important. Valuing a business can be dependent on why there is a need for it, since there are almost as many different definitions of valuation as there are reasons to obtain one. For example, in a divorce or partnership breakup, each side has a vested interest in the value of the business. If the husband is the owner, he wants as low a value as possible, while his spouse wants the highest value. … [Read more...]

A “Pig in a Poke"

Once a buyer has negotiated a deal and secured the necessary financing, he or she is ready for the due diligence phase of the sale. The serious buyer will have retained an accounting firm to verify inventory, accounts receivable and payables; and retained a law firm to deal with the legalities of the sale. What’s left for the buyer to do is to make sure that there are no “skeletons in the closet,” so he or she is not buying the proverbial “pig in a poke.” The four main areas of concern are: business' finances, management, buyer's finances, and marketing. Buyers are usually at a disadvantage as they may not know the real reason the business is for sale. This is especially true for buyers purchasing a business in an industry they are not familiar with. The seller, because of his or her experience in a specific industry, has probably developed a “sixth sense” of when the business has peaked or is “heading south.” The buyer has to perform the due diligence necessary to smoke out the … [Read more...]

Creating Value in Privately Held Companies

“As shocking as it may sound, I believe that most owners of middle market private companies do not really know the value of their company and what it takes to create greater value in their company … Oh sure, the owner tracks sales and earnings on a regular basis, but there is much more to creating company value than just sales and earnings”      Russ Robb, Editor, M&A Today Creating value in the privately held company makes sense whether the owner is considering selling the business, plans on continuing to operate the business, or hopes to have the company remain in the family.  (It is interesting to note that, of the businesses held within the family, only about 30 percent survive the second generation, 11 percent survive the third generation and only 3 percent survive the fourth generation and beyond). Building value in a company should focus on the following six components: the industry the management products or services customers competitors comparative … [Read more...]

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. Want to do their own thing; to control their own destiny, so to speak. Do not want to work for anyone else. Want to make better use of their skills and abilities. 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 … [Read more...]

The Pre-Sale Business Tune-Up

Owners are often asked, "do you think you will ever sell your business?" The answer varies from, "when I can get my price" to "never" to "I don't really know" to everything in between. Most sellers may think to themselves when asked this question, "I'll sell when the time is right." Obviously, misfortune can force the decision to sell. Despite the questions, most business owners just go merrily along their way conducting business as usual. They seem to believe in the old expression that basically states, "it is a good idea to sell your horse before it dies." Four Ways to Leave Your Business There are really only four ways to leave your business. (1) Transfer ownership to your children or other family members. Unfortunately, many children do not want to become involved in the family business, or may not have the capability to operate it successfully. (2) Sell the business to an employee or key manager. Usually, they don't have enough cash, or interest, to purchase the business. … [Read more...]

What Would Your Business Sell For?

There is the old anecdote about the immigrant who opened his own business in the United States. Like many small business owners, he had his own bookkeeping system. He kept his accounts payable in a cigar box on the left side of his cash register, his daily receipts – cash and credit card receipts – in the cash register, and his invoices and paid bills in a cigar box on the right side of his cash register. When his youngest son graduated as a CPA, he was appalled by his father’s primitive bookkeeping system. “I don’t know how you can run a business that way,” his son said. “How do you know what your profits are?” “Well, son,” the father replied, “when I came to this country, I had nothing but the clothes I was wearing. Today, your brother is a doctor, your sister is a lawyer, and you are an accountant. Your mother and I have a nice car, a city house and a place at the beach. We have a good business and everything is paid for. Add that all together, subtract the clothes, and there’s … [Read more...]

Burnout: An Ever-Present Threat

Burnout is an often-used reason for an owner selling his or her business. Potential buyers may have trouble accepting this as a valid reason for sale. However, burnout is a valid reason for selling one’s business. A business owner can experience burnout even with a business that’s successful and growing. Many independent business owners feel they’ve worked hard, made their money, and now is a good time to cash out and move on, before burnout endangers the health of the business. The following warning signs should remind a business owner that cashing out beats burning out: You are overwhelmed on a daily basis. When a business owner is a one-man show, even small tasks and minor decisions can seem bigger than Mount Everest. These owners have been shouldering the burden alone for too long, and the isolation has taken its toll. You sense a failure of imagination. Burnt-out owners are so close to their work that they lose perspective. Prioritizing becomes a major daily … [Read more...]

How Long Does It Take to Sell a Business?

Recent studies indicate that it now takes, on average, about eight to ten months to sell a small business. This figure seems to increase yearly. Why does it take so long to sell a business? Price and terms are the biggest reasons!  It is very important not to overprice the business at the beginning of the sales process. A business will also sell more quickly if there is a reasonable down payment with the seller carrying the balance.  Having all of the necessary information right from the beginning can also greatly reduce the time period.  Finally, being prepared for the information a buyer may want to review or having the answers available for the questions a buyer may want answered is another key. Here is the basic information a prospective acquirer will want to review and a seller should have prepared to help facilitate a quicker sale: Copies of the financials for the past three years. A copy of the lease and any assignments of the lease from previous sales. A list of … [Read more...]