How should the purchase of a business be structured? This is a point that you’ll want to address early in the sale process. For most people, buying or selling a business is one of the most, if not the most, important business decision that they will ever make. For this reason, it is vital not to wait until the last minute to structure your deal. Let’s turn our attention to the most significant questions that you need to answer when entering the sales process.
1. What is My Lowest Price?
The first question you should ask yourself is, “What is the lowest price I’m willing to take?” If an offer is made, the last thing you want is to be sitting around trying to decide if you can take a given offer at a given price. You need to be ready to jump if the right offer is made.
2. What are the Tax Implications?
Secondly, you’ll want to seriously consider the tax consequences of any sale. Taxes are always a fact of life and you need to work with a professional, such as an accountant or business broker, to understand the tax implication of any decision you make.
3. What are the Interest Rates?
The third factor you want to consider is interest rates. If you get a buyer, what is an acceptable interest rate for a seller financed sale?
4. Are there Additional Costs Involved?
A fourth key question to ask yourself is do you have any unsecured creditors that have not been paid off? Additionally, you’ll also want to determine whether or not the seller plans on paying for a part of the closing costs.
5. Will the Buyer Need to Assume Debt?
Finally, will the buyer need to assume any long-term or secured debt? The issue of long term and/or secured debt is no small issue. Be sure to clarify this important point well in advance. Also keep in mind that favorable terms typically translate to a higher sales price.
Business brokers are experts at buying and selling all kinds of businesses. When it comes time to structure a deal that benefits both the buyer and the seller, business brokers can prove to be invaluable. At the end of the day, working with a business broker is one of the single biggest steps you can take to ensure that your business is sold and sold as quickly as possible.
In a recent December 2018 article in Divestopedia entitled, “Options for Business Real Estate When Selling a Company,” the topic of business real estate was explored at length.
One of the key points of the article was that understanding one’s business real estate options would ultimately help in achieving “the goals desired in a transaction.” The article is correct to point out that many, or even arguably most, business owners simply don’t know what real estate options are available to them when it comes time to sell the company.
In particular, there are two big options:
- Sell everything including the real estate.
- Hold onto the real estate for the rental income.
In the Divestopedia article, the authors correctly point out that if you, as the business owner, personally own the real estate in a separate entity, then you are good to go. You should have a “clear path to valuation.”
However, if your company owns the real estate, then things get a little more complicated. If this is the situation you’ll want to have a third-party appraisal of the real estate so that its value is clear. The article also points out that if your business is a C-Corp and your business also owns the real estate, then it’s a good idea to talk to your accountant as there will be differences in taxation.
Every situation is different. Many buyers will prefer to acquire the real estate along with the business. On the other hand, many buyers may prefer a lease, as they don’t want everything that comes along with owning real estate. Communicating with the buyer regarding his or her preference is a savvy move.
Now, as Divestopedia points out, if you do plan to retain the building, then you’ll want to be certain that a strong lease is in place. Ask any business broker about the importance of having a strong lease, and you’ll get some pretty clear-cut feedback. Namely, you always want to have a strong lease.
Issues such as who repairs what and why should all be spelled out in the lease. It should leave nothing to chance. One of the best points made in the Divestopedia article is that you will want a strong lease for another key reason. When the time comes to sell the property, you want to show you have a lease that is generating good income.
Real estate and the sale of your business are not one-dimensional topics. There are many variables that go into selling when real estate is involved. It is important to consider all of the variables and work with a business broker who can help guide you through this potentially complex topic.
The business sale process can be complex, which is part of the reason why it makes sense to have expert help in the form of a business broker. Legal mistakes can be very costly mistakes. A legal mistake can also bring the entire sale process to a sudden and complete halt. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to avoid these kinds of issues when selling your business.
Major Mistake 1 – You Skipped the Non-Disclosure Agreement
Nothing quite invites trouble like skipping the non-disclosure agreement. If a deal falls through, then you have the NDA backing you up. This document ensures that the prospective buyer doesn’t tell the world that your business is up for sale. Never assume that a deal is going through until it actually is 100% complete. Buying or selling a business is a complex process with lots of moving parts. There is plenty of room for things to go wrong, and that is why you always need to have an NDA in place.
Major Mistake 2 – You Don’t Work with an Attorney
Let’s be very blunt here, if you are selling a business, then you need an attorney. Just as there is no replacement for an NDA, the same holds true for working with a lawyer. It is also vital that you properly prep your business for sale, which means getting paperwork organized and making sure that you have legally checked all your boxes. Working with an experienced and proven attorney will help you ensure that your business is ready for sale. If you’re not prepared for the deal, it can make buyers nervous.
Major Mistake 3 – You Failed to Get a Letter of Intent
A letter of intent is a valuable, and necessary, legal document. Some sellers are reluctant to use it, fearing that it will slow down the momentum of the deal. However, since this letter works to protect your interest and outlines expectations, this step should not be skipped. For example, a letter of intent details the termination fee for the buyer, meaning that the buyer can’t walk away without consequences simply because he or she is having a bad day. Importantly, a letter of intent ensures that you are only dealing with serious buyers.
Many things can go wrong while selling a business. The more prepared you are before you begin the process, the greater the chances that you will not only avoid headaches, but also be successful. Long before you put your business on the market, you should begin working with a capable business broker and attorney. Their input and advice will prove to be invaluable and help you avoid a range of costly and time-consuming issues.Read More
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.Read More
It is always important to try and put yourself “in the other person’s shoes.” This fact is of paramount importance when dealing with prospective buyers. Thinking like a prospective buyer could, in fact, be the difference between selling your business and not selling your business. Yet, it is important to continue to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes during the entire sales process.
It is easy to think that because everything is going smoothly with the sale of your business that the tough part is behind you. That may be true, but then again there could still be problems ahead. Issues can come up at a moment’s notice when either your prospective buyer or his or her advisor raises a red flag. Additionally, the larger the business, the greater the complexity. This translates to the greater the risk of problems arising.
The “Little Things” that Could End Up Quite Big
Financial statements are of considerable importance. Quite often you’ll see contingencies regarding financial statements and/or business tax returns, so be ready and be organized. Lease issues is another common category for contingencies. Falling under the lease issue umbrella are topics such as whether or not the seller has agreed to stay on, or issues regarding the property or needs associated with the property if it is a rental.
Other common contingencies can include issues arising from equipment and fixtures that are being included with the sale. These are areas that could be easy to overlook, but they can serve to throw a major wrench into the workings of a deal. The so-called “little things” can cause a deal to fall apart.
3 Key Steps for Preventing Disruptions from Contingencies
Step One – Create a Comprehensive List
One easy move you can make to prevent disruptions from contingencies is to make a list of all FF&E or furniture as well as fixtures, equipment or any other items that could be included with the sale. If an item is not included be sure to remove it entirely.
Likewise, if an item is inoperable then repair it ahead of time. Or at the bare minimum, you could make a list of items that are currently inoperable and include those items in your list. Remember, you don’t want a last-minute surprise or misunderstanding to jeopardize your sale.
Step Two – Check Your Leases
Problems with leases can send deals spiraling out of control. It is a prudent investment of your time to look at things like your leases. You’ll want to make certain that there are no issues that could be viewed as problematic. If there are issues, then it is in the best interest of the deal that you disclose this information at the start of any deal. After all, you don’t want to waste anyone’s time, including your own.
Step Three – Predict Questions and Have Answers Ready
The time you invest in predicting potential questions and having the answers to those questions ready is time very well spent. You’ll look prepared and that helps build trust.
Be ready to answer questions that are likely to arise such as are you going to stay on with the business for a given period of time and what will be the cost, if any, of you doing so? What about employees staying on? Are there legal issues that should be considered? Being able to answer these kinds of questions is a prudent step.
Considering the needs of your prospective buyer will help you make a sale. In selling a business, there is no replacement for being organized and prepared.Read More
It has long been a well-known fact that business brokers can help improve closing rates. In this article, we will take a closer look at the five top reasons why having a business broker on your side can make all the difference in the world.
#1 – They Reach the Most Buyers
What seller isn’t looking to reach more buyers? When more candidates are reviewing your business, the odds of selling for your desired price only go up. The simple fact is that business brokers reach the most buyers. In fact, they usually have a long list of prospective buyers waiting.
#2 – Business Brokers Know How to Navigate Negotiation Hurdles
As the old saying states, “there is no replacement for experience,” and this definitely holds true for business brokers. Business brokers know what it takes to circumvent negotiation hurdles. Their years of hands on experience means they can spot problems long before they occur, and this dramatically helps them to successfully boost closing rates.
#3 – They Know How to Present Your Business
Once again, experience matters. Business brokers specialize in buying and selling, and this means that they understand how to best present those businesses. Showcasing your business in the best light possible and working to eliminate weaknesses in presentation is a vital part of the sales process. Business brokers put their experience to work helping sellers achieve the best presentation possible.
#4 – They Stay Focused
Business brokers sell businesses for a living. You, however, by contrast have to worry about the day to day state of your business until all the paperwork is signed.
Additionally, since you are unfamiliar with the process of selling a business, you very well may become bogged down in the process; this is more dangerous than it may seem. Sellers who spend too much time getting involved in the “ins and outs” of the deal may accidentally start to neglect their own business operations. The last thing you want in the time period leading up to a sale is for your business to suddenly flounder.
#5 – Business Brokers Are Highly Invested in Your Success
Business brokers only get paid if your business sells. That means they too have a vested interest in your success. You can expect them to do everything possible to ensure that the sale of your business goes through.
Added together, these five factors help to explain why business brokers have historically enjoyed high closing rates. If you want to improve your chances of selling a business, don’t try to do it alone.Read More
Family-owned businesses do have some options when it comes time to sell. Selling the entire business may not be the best choice when there are no other family members involved. Here are some choices to be considered:
- Hire a CEO – This approach is a management exit strategy in which the owner retires, lives off the company’s dividends and possibly sells the company many years later.
- Transition ownership within the family – Keeping the business in the family is a noble endeavor, but the parent seldom liquefies his investment in the short-term, and the son or daughter may run the company into the ground.
- Recapitalization – By recapitalizing the company by increasing the debt to as much as 70 percent of the capitalization, the owner(s) is/are able to liquefy most of their investment now with the intent to pay down the debt and sell the company later on.
- Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) – Many types of companies such as construction, engineering, and architectural are difficult to sell to a third party, because the employees are the major asset. ESOPs are a useful vehicle in this regard, but are usually sold in stages over a time period as long as ten years.
- Third party sale – The process could take six months to a year to complete. This method should produce a high valuation, sometimes all cash at closing and often the ability of the owner to walk away right after the closing.
- Complete sale over time – The owner can sell a minority interest now with the balance sold after maybe five years. Such an approach allows the owner to liquefy some of his investment now, continue to run the company, and hopefully receive a higher valuation for the company years later.
- Management buy-outs (MBOs) – Selling to the owners’ key employee(s) is an easy transaction and a way to reward them for years of hard work. Often the owner does not maximize the selling price, and usually the owner participates in the financing.
- Initial public offering (IPO) – In today’s marketplace, a company should have revenues of $100+ million to become a viable candidate. IPOs receive the highest valuation, but management must remain to run the company.
Source: “Buying & Selling Companies,” a presentation by Russ Robb, Editor, M&A Today
Due diligence is generally considered an activity that takes place as part of the selling process. It might be wise to take a look at the business from a buyer’s perspective in performing due diligence as part of an annual review of the business. Performing due diligence does two things: (1) It provides a valuable assessment of the business by company management, and (2) It offers the company an accurate profile of itself, just in case the decision is made to sell, or an acquirer suddenly appears at the door.
This process, when performed by a serious acquirer, is generally broken down into five basic areas:
• Marketing due diligence
• Financial due diligence
• Legal due diligence
• Environmental due diligence
• Management/Employee due diligence
It has been said that many company officers/CEOs have never taken a look at the broad picture of their industry; in other words, they know their customers, but not their industry. For example, here are just a few questions concerning the market that due diligence will help answer:
• What is the size of the market?
• Who are the industry leaders?
• Does the product or service have a life cycle?
• Who are the customers/clients, and what is the relationship?
• What’s the downside and the upside of the product/service? What is the risk and potential?
Two important questions have to be answered before getting down to the basics of the financials: (1) Do the numbers really work? and (2) Are the seller’s claims supported by the figures? If the answer to both is yes, the following should be carefully reviewed:
• The accounts receivables
• The accounts payable
• The inventory
Are contracts and agreements current? Are products patented, if necessary? How about copyrights and trademarks? What is the current status of any litigation? Are there any possible law suits on the horizon? What would an astute attorney representing a buyer want to see and would it be acceptable?
Not too long ago this area would have been a non-issue. Not any more! Current governmental guidelines can levy responsibility regarding environmental issues that existed prior to the current occupancy or ownership of the real estate. Possible acquirers – and lenders – are really “gun-shy” about these types of problems.
What employment agreements are in force? What family members are on the payroll? Who are the key people? In other words, who does what, why, and how much are they paid?
The company should have a clear program covering how their products are handled from raw material to “out the door.” Service companies should also have a program covering how services are delivered from initial customer contact through delivery of the services.
The question is, do you give your company a “physical” now, or do you wait until someone else does it for you – with a lot riding on the line?