Buying a business can be an exciting prospect. For many prospective business owners, owning a business is the fulfillment of a decades long dream. With all of that excitement comes considerable emotion. For this reason, it is essential to step back and carefully evaluate several key factors to help you decide whether or not you are making the best financial and life decision for you. In this article, we’ll examine five key factors you should consider before buying a business.
What is Being Sold?
If you hate the idea of owning a clothing store, then why buy one? The bottom line is that you have to have a degree of enthusiasm about what you are buying otherwise you’ll experience burnout and lose interest in the business.
How Good is the Business Plan?
Before getting too excited about owning a business, you’ll want to take a look at the business plan. You’ll want to know the current business owner’s goals and how they plan on going about achieving those goals. If they’ve not been able to formulate a coherent business plan then that could be a red flag.
You need to see how a business can be grown in the future, and that means you need a business plan. Additionally, a business plan will outline how products and services are marketed and how the business compares to other companies.
How is Overall Performance?
A key question to have answered before signing on the bottom line is “How well is a business performing overall?” Wrapped up in this question are factors such as how many hours the owner has to work, whether or not a manager is used to oversee operations, how many employees are paid overtime, whether or not employees are living up to their potential and other factors. Answering these questions will give you a better idea of what to expect if you buy the business.
What Do the Financials Look Like?
Clearly, it is essential to understand the financials of the business. You’ll want to see everything from profit and loss statements and balance sheets to income tax returns and more. In short, don’t leave any rock unturned. Importantly, if you are not provided accurate financial information don’t hesitate, run the other way!
What are the Demographics?
Understanding your prospective customers is essential to understanding your business. If the current owner doesn’t understand the business, that is a key problem. It should be clear who the customers are, why they keep coming back and how you can potentially add and retain current customers in the future. After all, at the end of the day, the customer is what your business is all about.
Don’t rush into buying a business. Instead, carefully evaluate every aspect of the business and how owning the business will impact both your life and your long-term financial prospects.
When it comes to buying a business, nothing is more important than the factor of due diligence. For most people, this investment is the single largest financial decision that they will ever make. And with this important fact in mind, you’ll want to leave absolutely no stone unturned.
Let’s examine the three most commonly overlooked areas when it comes to buying a business: retirement plans, 1099’s and W-2’s, and legal documents.
1. Examine All Legal Documents
While it may sound like a “pain” to investigate all the legal documents relating to a business that you are vetting for purchase, that is exactly what you have to do. The very last thing you want is to buy a business only to have the corporate veil pierced. Everything from trademarks and copyrights to other areas of intellectual property should be carefully examined. You should be quite sure that you receive copies of everything from consulting agreements to documentation on intellectual property.
2. Retirement Plans
Don’t forget about retirement plans when you’re buying a business, as this mistake can quietly translate into disaster. Before signing on the dotted line and taking ownership, be sure that both the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are 100% up to date with the Department of Labor and ready to go.
3. W-2’s and 1099’s
If 1099 forms were given out instead of W-2’s, you’ll want to know about that and be certain that it was done within the bounds of IRS rules. Imagine for a moment that you fail to do your due diligence, buy a business and then discover that you have problems with the IRS. No one wants IRS problems, but a failure to perform due diligence can quickly result in just that. So do your homework!
Never forget what is at stake when you are buying a business. If there has ever been a time to have laser-like focus, this is that time. There can be many skeletons hiding in a business, and you want to be sure that you protect yourself from any unwanted surprises. Not performing your due diligence can lead to a shockingly large array of problems. One exceptional way to protect yourself is to work with a business broker. A business broker knows what to look for when buying a business and what kinds of documents should be examined. There is no replacement for the expertise and experience that a business broker brings to the table.Read More
The odds are that you’ve put a great deal of yourself into your business. Inevitably, the day will come when you have no choice but to walk away from your business and begin a new chapter of your life. Quite often, businesses are transferred from one family member to another. In this article, we will examine 5 of the key factors you’ll want to consider when transferring your business to a family member.
Factor #1 Gifting Can Have Numerous Benefits
Will you be selling your business to a family member or simply gifting that business? Gifting comes with several major advantages, for example, this approach can reduce your real estate taxes. Also, the gifting process can allow you to maintain a level of control if the agreement is written properly.
Factor #2 The Buy-Sell Agreement
Don’t overlook the importance of the buy-sell agreement, which works to put everything in writing. You may be tempted to forgo a contract since you are dealing with a family member, but this is a mistake, no matter how close you might be with your loved ones. A buy-sell agreement adds clarity to the process, which can help to keep confusion levels low and the chances of success high. When the time comes to transfer your business to a relative, you’ll want an expert to create a document that outlines all relevant details. It should feature everything from the value of the business and the amount being paid for the business to who will be kept on the payroll to what level of involvement you’ll have once the process is finished.
Factor #3 Seller Financing
Seller financing is quite common among sellers, and when relatives are involved it becomes even more common. One option is to consider a private annuity. A private annuity allows for payments to be spread out for many years and can even extend until the end of your life.
Factor #4 Considering the Self-Cancelling Installment Note
In the installment note, it is possible to feature a self-cancelling clause, which can definitely benefit your family in the future. This part of the paperwork will confirm that if you were to pass away before all the payments have been made, the remaining debt can be attached directly to your will. If you are a parent selling a business to a child, then one of the key benefits of an installment note is that it keeps your other children from paying excess income tax on your estate.
Factor #5 Transferring a Business to a Relative and the IRS
You can expect the IRS to take a second look when you sell a business to a family member. The IRS does this to make sure that everything is above board, due to the fact that many past business owners have acted in an unethical manner. You’ll want to be very sure that every aspect of the sale is done professionally and that you have all your paperwork in order.
A business broker can help you deal the unique particulars that come along with selling a business to a relative. Every business is different, and every sale is different too. A professional business broker can help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.Read More
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.Read More
The simple fact is that family businesses are different. After all, a family business means working with family and all the good and bad that comes with it.
While an estimated 80% to 90% of all businesses are family owned, relatively few are properly planning for what happens when it comes time to sell. According to one study, a whopping 72% of family businesses lack a developed succession plan which is, of course, a recipe for confusion and potentially disaster. Additionally, there are many complicating factors, for example, studies indicate that 40% to 60% of owners of family businesses want the business to remain in the family, but only 40% of businesses are passed to a second generation and a mere 10% are passed down to a third generation.
Let’s turn our attention to a few of the key points that family business owners should consider when selling a business.
- Confidentiality should be placed at the top of your “to do” list. When it comes to selling a family business, it is vital that confidential is strictly observed.
- Remember that it may be necessary to lower your asking price if maintaining the jobs of family members is a key concern for you.
- Family members who stay on after the sale of the business must realize that they will no longer be in charge. In other words, after the sale of the business the power dynamic will be radically different, meaning that family members will now have to answer to new management, outside investors and an outside board of directors.
- Family members will want to appoint a single family member to speak for them in the negotiation process. A failure to appoint a family member could lead to confusion, poor decision making and ultimately the destruction of deals.
- When hiring a team to help you with selling your business, it is critical that your lawyer, accountant and business broker are all experienced and proven.
- Don’t hold meetings with potential buyers on-site.
- Every family member, regardless of whether they are an employee or an investor, must be in agreement regarding the sale of the company. Again, one of your primary goals is to avoid confusion.
- Family employees and family investors must be in agreement regarding the sale price or there could be problems.
Working with an experienced business broker is a savvy move, especially when it comes to selling a family business. Business brokers know what it takes to make deals happen. Being able to point to a business brokers’ past success will help reduce family member resistance to adopting the strategies necessary to successfully sell a business.Read More
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:
- The Business
- Financial highlights
- Products and/or services
- 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.
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.
- Type of business
- History of company and industry
- Business growth
- Market share
- Return on investment
- Quality of financial statements
- 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!Read More