The time you spend evaluating your company’s weaknesses is, as it turns out, one of the single best investments you can hope to make. No one should understand your company better than you. But to fully understand your company, it is essential that you invest the time to understand your company’s various strengths and weakness.
Your company, from the beginning, has been an investment. It’s an investment in your time, your mental energy and, of course, your financial resources. The time and effort you expend to locate, understand and then fix your businesses’ weaknesses is time very well spent. Addressing and remedying your businesses’ weakness will not only pay dividends in the here and now, but will also help get your business ready to sell. Let’s turn our attention to some of the key areas of weakness that can cause some buyers to look elsewhere.
An Industry in Decline
A declining market can serve as a major red flag for buyers. You as a businessowner must be savvy enough to understand market situations and respond accordingly.
If you spot a troubling trend and realize that a major source of your revenue is declining or will decline, then you must branch out in new directions, offer new goods and/or services, find new customers and also find new ways to get your existing customers to buy more. Taking these steps shows that your business is a vibrant and dynamic one.
You Face an Aging Workforce
It has been well publicized that young people, for example, are not entering the trades. Many trades such as tool and die makers will be left with a substantial shortage of skilled workers as a result. No doubt, technology will replace some, but not all, of these workers.
This is an example of how an aging workforce can impact the health and stability of a business. If your business potentially relies upon an aging workforce then it is essential that you find a way to address this issue long before you put your business up for sale.
You Only Have, or Primarily Rely Upon a Single Product
Being a “one-trick pony” is never a good thing, even if that trick is exceptionally good. Diversification increases the chances of stability and can even help you find new customers. Additional goods and services allow you to weather unexpected storms such as a supply chain disruption while at the same time provide access to new customers and thus new revenue.
The Factor of Customer Concentration
Many buyers are concerned about customer concentration. If your business has only one or two customers, then your business is highly vulnerable and almost every prospective buyer will realize this fact. While it is an investment to find new customers, it is well worth the time and money.
A business broker can help you evaluate your company and, in the process, address its weaknesses. Remedying your businesses weakness before you put your business up for sale and you will be rewarded.
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.
It is no great secret that sellers often aim high. The logic sellers use is simple, “I can always reduce my price.” While that is true, sellers do need to remember that if the asking price is initially too high, buyers won’t even take a serious look. In short, your selling price must be bound by reality and what the market will bear.
Pricing Does Matter
When an asking price is too high buyers will simply move on. But in the meantime, you may have lost a qualified buyer that would have been very interested at a lower price. Pricing isn’t a factor that should be played with, instead it should always be treated in as professional of a manner as possible.
Instant Millionaire? Maybe and Maybe Not
Some sellers want to become instant millionaires and sell their business for top dollar. Sometimes this is warranted and sometimes the numbers don’t support lofty valuations. Every situation and every business is different. It pays to be realistic.
Studies have shown that there is usually about a 15% difference between what sellers want and what the market will bear. For example, when a business is over $1 million, sellers usually sell for 90% of their asking price. Smaller businesses, valued under a million, usually sell for about 85% of their initial asking price. (Now, that stated, it is important to keep in mind that only data on sold businesses factors into this statistic.)
Business Brokers Help Determine an Accurate Valuation
A business broker has considerably expertise when it comes time to calculate a reasonable asking price for a business. They know that it is essential that they come up with a price that is fair. As a result, business brokers take many diverse issues into consideration. A few of the factors that business brokers consider are location, competition and annual sales variations.
Prospective Buyers Can’t Read Your Mind
An experienced business broker can help you determine the right value for your business and determining the right value is key. The last thing you want is to have an evaluation that is far too high as you will immediately eliminate many prospective buyers. While you may know that you are willing to negotiate and perhaps even reduce your asking price substantially, prospective buyers do not know this fact. A realistic and appropriate asking price is of paramount importance and a business broker can help guide you towards the best decision.
Market Forces Have the Ultimate Say
In the end, it is the market, not the seller, that determines the correct selling price. If no one is willing to pay a certain price than a given business is overpriced. That may be a brutal fact, but it is also quite true.Read More
At first glance the idea of buying a business with no collateral may seem impossible, but in reality it can be done. Let’s examine your options. When it comes to achieving this goal, your greatest assets are an open mind and a commitment to hanging in there despite the odds.
The Small Business Association’s 7 (a) Program is Your Friend
One possible avenue for buying a business with zero collateral is to opt for the SBA’s 7 (a) program, which works to incentivize the bank to make a loan to a prospective buyer. Under this program, the SBA guarantees 75%. The buyer still has to put in 25%; however, this money doesn’t necessarily have to be his or her money. This is where things really get interesting. The cash that the buyer uses can come from investors or even be a gift from parents in the case of young buyers. These possibilities all fall within the SBA’s guidelines.
Look into Seller Financing, You Might Be Surprised
There is a second way to buy a business with no collateral, and that comes in the form of finding a seller who is willing to finance. Again, this might seem counter intuitive at first glance. But the facts are that a large percentage of sellers do agree to offer some level of financing. So in other words, seller financing is not unheard of and stands as a viable way for a prospective buyer to buy without collateral.
Combining Seller Financing and the SBA’s 7 (a) Program
Combining the SBA’s 7 (a) program with seller financing can prove to be a powerful combination. It is important to note, however, that if you do use the SBA’s 7 (a) program the seller cannot receive his or her repayment for two years.
Ultimately, you will likely need to be rather persistent when trying to find a bank. Rejection is likely. But if you are persistent, it is possible to make the SBA’s 7 (a) program work for you.
One key way to keep yourself motivated is to constantly remember that jumping through some hurdles is all part of the process since you’re trying to circumvent the traditional route of using collateral. But working relentlessly may be worth it because if you are successful, you have acquired a tangible asset without any collateral of your own. That is no small accomplishment.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from S.C.O.R.E., the Small Business Administration (SBA), or an experienced business broker. While it might sound very unlikely that you’ll be able to buy a business without collateral, plenty of people have successfully done so.Read More