When it comes to selling a business, sellers simply must pay attention to red flags. Problems can always pop up, and that’s why they need to keep their eyes open.
Rarely does a “white knight” ride in and rescue a business with no questions asked. And if this were to happen, you should be asking, “Why?” Until a deal is officially inked, sellers need to evaluate every aspect of a transaction to make sure something isn’t happening that could wreck the deal.
Common Red Flags to Watch For
One example would be having a company express interest in your business but you are never able to directly contact key players, such as the President or CEO. The reason that this is a red flag is that it indicates that the interest level may not be as great as you initially hoped.
A second red flag example would be an individual buyer, with no experience in acquisitions or experience in your industry, looking to buy your business. The reason that this second example could prove problematic, is that even if the inexperienced buyer is enthusiastic as the deal progresses, he or she may become nervous upon learning what a deal would actually entail. In other words, the specifics and the reality of owning a business, or owning a business in your industry, could come as a shock to an inexperienced buyer.
Both of these examples above are examples of early-stage red flags. But what about issues that pop up at later stages? The simple fact is that red flags can come at any stage of the selling process.
A good example of a middle-stage red flag is when a seller is denied access to the buyer’s financial statements, which is of course essential to verify that the seller is able to actually make the acquisition. A final-stage red flag example is an apparent loss of momentum, as the buying and selling process can be a long one.
Business Sellers Need to Protect Their Assets
Sellers are usually very busy and don’t have time to waste; this is doubly true for owner/operators of businesses, as the time they invest with a prospective buyer is time that could be spent doing something else.
All too often, businesses begin to run into trouble when they place their business on the market. If this trouble negatively impacts the bottom line, then the business can become more difficult to sell and the final sale price will likely be lower.
That’s why it is so essential that sellers protect themselves from buyers that are not truly interested or are simply not a good fit. Working with a business broker is an easy and highly effective way for sellers to protect themselves from buyers that are simply not the right fit. A broker helps to “weed out” unfit candidates.
While red flags are never good, that doesn’t mean that a red flag means a deal is a definitely at an end. Especially with the guidance of an experienced business broker, many of these issues can be overcome.
In the end, if you, either as a buyer or seller, suspect that there is a problem, then you should take action. The problem will not simply go away. The single best way to deal with a red flag is to tackle it head on as soon as you recognize it.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
What is so special about “Baby Boomer” business owners? Well, there are a lot of them. It is estimated 52 percent of businesses are owned by people between 50 and 88 years of age. This equates to 9 million businesses in the United States. Put it another way, a business owner is turning 65 every 57 seconds.
So, why is this important? Typical of most business owners, the value of their business amounts to 50 to 75 percent of their net worth (if not more); the remainder in personal real estate and financial investments. Ordinarily, the business owner has only one chance to monetize his or her largest asset through the sale of the business.
It is estimated that 11,000 people are turning 65 years old every day, with this trend continuing for the next 18 years. Being that many of these Baby Boomers are also business owners, one would suspect that every year for the next two decades more and more business owners will be wanting to sell their businesses to cash out and fund their retirements. These businesses amount to some $10 trillion worth of assets.
Yet while more and more businesses go up for sale, the audience of buyers is decreasing. Today, the highest segment of business buyers is the same Baby Boomers in the age range of 55 to 64 years old. The 80 million millennials in the U.S. make up a larger demographic, though their abilities to purchase these businesses are quite low.
Applying the law of supply and demand, there is going to be a growing inventory of businesses for sale each year, while the number of qualified buyers is decreasing each of those years. The law of supply and demand would suggest there will be pricing pressure on these businesses. In addition, overall only 1 out of 4 businesses actually sell after being put on the market; however, the success rate increases to 1 in 3 for businesses with sales of $10 million, and the sale success rate grows to 1 in 2 for businesses with sales greater than $10 million.
The PriceWaterhouseCoopers accounting firm estimates more than 75 percent of business owners have done little planning for their single biggest financial asset. It is sad to say, but business owners spend more time planning their next vacation than planning for their exit into retirement.
Business owners should start the exit planning process today. Serious consideration should be given to creating a timeframe to place the business in the best position to be sold at the highest possible valuation.
Fortunately, the window of opportunity is quite good. Current conditions of rock bottom interest rates, low inflation, historically low capital gain taxes and overall high business valuations make this an ideal time to sell a business. In real estate it is all about “location, location, location,” whereas in business it is all about “timing, timing, timing.” Now is the time to cash in.
Exit planning, however, is a process that requires a significant amount of work. Most important, business owners need to assemble a team of professional advisors to assist them in this process. The team may consist of all or some of these professionals: a business intermediary firm, CPA/accountant, business attorney, financial planner, investment advisor, insurance advisor, valuation specialist, investment banker, banker and business consultant.
Using the analogy of an actual roadmap, this process can be broken down into five exits:
Exit 1: Making the Decision to Sell
Exit 2: Exit Planning Process
Exit 3: Maximizing Business Value
Exit 4: Preparing the Business for Sale
Exit 5: The Deal Process
The actual Planning Process often includes the following seven steps:
1. Identify Exit Objectives
2. Quantify Business & Personal Financial Resources
3. Maximize & Protect Business Value
4. Ownership Transfer to Third Parties
5. Ownership Transfer to Insiders
6. Business Continuity
7. Personal Wealth & Estate Planning
There is no time better than right now to start planning an exit, whether that is tomorrow, next month, next year or the next decade. Just be careful not to miss your EXIT…else you will hear your GPS (or significant other) say, “when possible turnaround” or as my GPS would say, “you idiot, you missed your exit…proceed on this road for another 20 miles.”
This article appeared in the November 2015 edition of Traverse City Business News.Read More