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Business Sellers


What are the benefits of using a broker to sell my business?

Confidentiality. A business broker will protect the identity of the company and contact only owner approved buyers through a blind profile – a document describing the company without revealing its identity.

Business Continuity. Selling a business is time-consuming for an owner, and with a business broker, the owner can maintain a focus on running the business when a broker is working on the sale.

Reaching potential buyers. Business brokers have the tools and resources to reach the largest possible base of buyers.

Marketing. A business broker can help present your company in the best light to maximize the sale price. He or she has an understanding of the key values that buyers are looking for and can assist in identifying changes that can lead to a better selling price.

Valuing your Business. Putting a value on a business is far more difficult and complex than valuing a house. Every business is different, with hundreds of variables that have an impact on the value. Business brokers have access to business transaction databases that can be used as guidelines or reference points. But the best way for a business owner to truly feel comfortable that he got the best deal is to have several financially viable parties bidding for his business, which is much more likely using the resources of a professional business broker.

Balance of Experience. Most corporate buyers have acquired multiple businesses while sellers usually have only one sale. An experienced business broker can level the playing field for a business owner making his one-and-only business sale.

Closing a Deal. Since the business broker’s sole function is to sell the business, there’s a much better chance that a deal will be closed in less time. The faster the sale, the lower the risk of employee problems, customer defection and predatory competition.

How can I maximize the fair market value of my business’ intangible assets?

To maximize the fair market value of your business, it’s vital that you capitalize on intangible assets.

Develop key employees. Buyers generally aren’t interested in paying a premium if the business relies on you for its success. Remember to delegate responsibility to key employees and involve your key staff members in the decision making process. Demonstrating that your company’s success is reliant on your capable, well-trained employees – not just you – will pay off at the time of sale.

Document what you do. Be sure that job descriptions, operational processes, and strategic plans are documented. Documented records and plans give a buyer greater comfort that he or she will be able to emulate your successful growth and will help your buyer obtain financing. Also, be sure to keep business records like sales and expense reports, internal profit and loss statements/balance sheet, and tax returns.

Build relationships. Name recognition, customer awareness and your reputation are all a part of your business value. Even if your company doesn’t have many hard assets, your relationships are key. Consider diversifying both supplier and customer accounts.

Improve cash flows. A potential buyer wants to see the “true cash flow.” And, of course, in the business world, cash is king. Be sure you are driving all income to the bottom line.

Review your assets. Sell off or dispose of unproductive assets or unsalable inventory. Remove or buy off any assets that are primarily for your personal use.

Find and build your niche. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. Buyers will pay a premium for a niche that has barriers to competitive entry.

Remodel, clean, and organize. What’s the first thing anyone does when they put their home on the market? They spruce things up and make sure everything is in its right place. Yet, in business, that’s rarely considered. A well-maintained facility will get the best price. Even businesses that lease space can benefit from a thorough cleaning and organization to convey a feeling of quality and efficiency.

What Is Balance Sheet Value?

There are several balance sheet valuation methods, including adjusted book value, book value and liquidation value. The adjusted book value is determined by revising the asset’s book value to reflect the cost it would take to replace the assets in their current condition. This method requires the total values to be offset against the sum of the liabilities.

The book value considers the figures from the company’s financial records, as depreciated at the time of the sale. The book value can pose some difficulties for sellers, particularly if the seller has depreciated the assets to gain prior tax advantages.

The liquidation value is the amount that could be realized if all assets – equipment, furnishings and inventory – were sold separately. This value is typically much lower since it doesn’t consider a company’s intrinsic value.

What is the Income Approach to valuing a business?

The income approach takes into consideration the company’s level of earnings using a capitalization rate, discount rate or multiplier. Several income approach methods are frequently used. Each method requires a level of earnings and a conversion factor to translate the earnings into a company’s value. Selecting the proper level of earnings – after-tax, pretax, discretionary or cash flow – and matching it with the proper conversion factor – discount rate, cap rate or a multiplier – is critical to calculating a reasonable value.

What is the Market Approach to valuing a business?

The market approach sets a value based on the values of other businesses that have been sold. Setting the market value involves researching the sale prices for similar businesses in a geographic area. In some cases, however, finding a company that is similar in many ways to your company may be difficult.

Whatever your goal, you want a good advisor to help you assess the value of your company. Question your advisor on the effects of deal structure and how multiples are used. A business owner should never accept a computer-generated valuation or a one-size-fits-all approach when selling the business. And don’t be impressed by the person who presents the highest value – you may only be setting yourself up for failure during the sale process.

What are common business sales myths?

The typical business owner will only sell a business once. Understanding the complex process involved will help produce the best results, but don’t fall prey to the myths that can derail or seriously affect a potential sale.

Myth #1 – I Can Sell It Myself

The market approach sets a value based on the values of other businesses that have been sold. Setting the market value involves researching the sale prices for similar businesses in a geographic area. In some cases, however, finding a company that is similar in many ways to your company may be difficult.

Whatever your goal, you want a good advisor to help you assess the value of your company. Question your advisor on the effects of deal structure and how multiples are used. A business owner should never accept a computer-generated valuation or a one-size-fits-all approach when selling the business. And don’t be impressed by the person who presents the highest value – you may only be setting yourself up for failure during the sale process.

Myth #2 – I’ll Sell When I’m Ready

Certainly, an owner wants to be sure he or she is mentally and emotionally prepared to sell. But personal readiness is just one factor. Economic factors can have a significant impact on the sale of a business.

Sale prices can be affected by industry consolidation, interest rates, unemployment and many other economic measures. Talk with a professional and aim to sell when your personal goals and market conditions align.

Myth #3 – I Know What it is Worth

Some owners will base the company value on what they need for retirement. Others will tell you they want $100,000/year for “sweat equity.”

A third party valuation is a good idea for anyone seriously considering the sale of their business. An outside valuation will include a thorough analysis of the business and the market it operates in. This will provide a solid understanding of the company’s growth potential, not some vague industry average.

Myth #4 – It’s Like Selling a House

Selling a company is much more complex than selling a house. A successful business sale usually requires a great deal of pre-planning, at least a year and maybe as long as three years to drive sales, develop key staff, document the operations and control expenses.

The average house will sell in less than four months, while the average business sale is nine months to a year.

Even after the business is sold, the seller can be expected to put in at least a few months, and possibly years of transition time, helping to make the new owner a success.

Why should I work with a Certified Business Intermediary (CBI)?

Selling your business will likely be one of the biggest decisions of your business life.

No doubt you have a good idea of what your business is worth. But there are many factors to consider when putting your company on the market. Is now the best time to sell? Should I look for a cash deal or should I consider certain terms? What about confidentiality?

Working with a professional business intermediary will provide the expertise to help you make those decisions. Consider teaming with a Certified Business Intermediary (CBI), a professional who fully understands what it takes to successfully sell a business. A CBI can bring significant value to the complex process and help you complete a sale that will include the best possible value and some peace of mind.

A Certified Business Intermediary, or CBI, is the designation awarded by the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) to members that have met certain educational requirements and ethical standards. IBBA is the largest international, non-profit association operating exclusively for the benefit of people and firms engaged in the various aspects of business brokerage and mergers and acquisitions.

A CBI is an experienced, proven professional whose claim of competence is supported and documented. With the skills necessary to handle the marketing, negotiations and complex details involved, a CBI can successfully complete the purchase or sale of your business.

To earn the CBI designation, an IBBA intermediary must meet the following requirements:

Education – A CBI must complete a minimum of 68 class hours of business brokerage courses offered through IBBA and must demonstrate an ongoing commitment to professional development through continuing education and recertification.

Experience – A CBI must demonstrate competence in the application of knowledge gained through practical experience with a combined minimum of three years experience and education in business brokerage.

Knowledge – A CBI has to demonstrate a high degree of knowledge garnered through the completion of required courses and the passing of the comprehensive CBI examination.

Ethics – A CBI must thoroughly understand the IBBA’s Code of Ethics and apply the code to his or her business practices.

A higher level of education and training means that a CBI will have more access to people and information than other business brokers. A CBI has professional affiliations with hundreds of other intermediaries in addition to the most current industry information regarding taxes, government and legislation.

A CBI’s experience and knowledge of current marketplace conditions is critically important for anyone looking to sell a business. If you are considering the sale of your business, you need every advantage you can garner, primarily preparation, experience and knowledge.

 

Business Buyers


What are the key steps to a successful business search process?

Buying a business is a process that takes time. It can sometimes take years to find the right opportunity. There are some key steps to follow in the business search process:

Start with a self assessment:

Ask yourself why you want to buy a business. What types of work activities do you like and what kind of lifestyle do you want to pursue? It’s important to understand that there may be more work and longer hours for an owner in some industries. Be sure to include your family in the assessment.

Establish financial expectations:

Determine how much money you need and want to earn. Make sure your expectations are in line with the types of businesses you are targeting and the return they can produce.

Put together a personal financial statement:

Outline your assets and liabilities. Identify what you can use for your initial investment. The personal financial statement serves as proof of your financial wherewithal, so be prepared to share this document with a seller’s intermediary.

Update your résumé:

Sellers want to be sure that their business will continue to be a success. They’re looking for someone with the experience necessary to continue their legacy and take care of the staff. Ultimately, you’re selling yourself to the current owner(s), the lender, and the professionals representing them.

Outline your acquisition criteria:

Define the parameters of your search. Ideally it should include your targeted industries, geographic area, and transaction size. Your motivation, lifestyle, expectations, financial statement and résumé will help you develop your acquisition criteria.

Search multiple sources and enlist help:

Let your professional advisors (e.g. attorney, accountant, financial planner) know you are looking for a business. Most importantly, contact business intermediaries who represent businesses within your targeted market. They will notify you of available companies that meet your criteria and qualifications. Most business brokers or intermediaries work for the seller and are paid by the seller. That means you can enjoy the luxury of their services at no cost. The intermediary is looking out for the seller’s best interests, so you should have experienced council to represent you in any transaction.

What is the due diligence process?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines due diligence as “research and analysis of a company or organization done in preparation for a business transaction.” Ultimately, due diligence is the process of being sure that things are as they appear before a deal is sealed. For someone considering a merger or the purchase of an existing business, the review of documentation and the answers to your due diligence questions are critical. There’s no doubt it is a complex process that can be time-consuming, but with so much on the line with any merger or acquisition, you don’t want to make a decision without all of the information. You want to be sure everything is reviewed and all questions are answered to your satisfaction.

During the due diligence process, an often lengthy list of documents should be provided. The list of documents should cover a range of areas, including:

  • Legal structure and incorporation of the company
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) records
  • Insurance policy information
  • Organizational structure
  • Personnel policies
  • Operations
  • Capital and real estate
  • Contracts, licenses, agreements and affiliations
  • Technology and Intellectual Property
  • Current or potential legal liabilities
  • Marketing materials

Today more than ever, buyers are putting more emphasis on the due diligence process, and while the financial aspect is a key component, the due diligence process should also consider organizational items. Be sure to seek documentation and ask important questions about the company’s culture, strategy, leadership and competencies.

Although the due diligence process may take considerable time, it’s a critical part of any transaction and should be considered the foundation of the entire deal.

What are some creative financing options?

The evaporation of small business capital markets and other economic factors have made creative financing the norm for today’s business buyer. There are a number of creative financing options that you can consider.

  1. Seller Financing – Increasingly, buyers and lenders are looking to the seller for financing as they try to put a transaction together. In such a scenario, the seller will hold a note at an agreed upon interest rate for a specific term or amortization – generally ranging from five to 10 years. The terms of the sale may include a balloon payment three to five years after the purchase date. It’s a way of giving the buyer time to get up and running and to establish a successful track record with the business. Seller financing makes the bank more comfortable with the transaction. Lenders know they have a seller who has a vested interest in the success of the business rather than one who will take their money and run. There are a number of benefits for business owners who are considering seller financing:
    • Fast sale
    • Flexibility
    • Tax Breaks
    • Protections
  2. SBA Loans – In business sales, conventional bank loans may not be available, so a buyer may want to consider going to a Small Business Administration (SBA) lender, which has a number of loan options. The SBA guarantees a portion of the loan. The buyer pays an SBA loan fee that allows him or her to get funding for a loan the bank couldn’t do conventionally. If an SBA guaranteed loan goes into default, the SBA will pay the lending institution up to 75 percent of any deficit left after liquidating the collateral. There have been several changes to the Small Business Administration’s lending guidelines and standard operating procedures. You will want to speak with an advisor who is familiar with these recent changes.
  3. Earnouts – Earnout financing involves a certain dollar amount agreed on by the buyer and seller to be paid to the seller based on the performance of the company after the transaction is completed. Earnouts can be structured in a variety of ways and can be based on different financial benchmarks such as a company’s revenues, gross profits or net income. Earnout financing is often used for companies that are in a turnaround situation or when buyers are purchasing on potential, rather than on historical cash flow.
  4. Mezzanine Financing – In mergers and acquisitions, mezzanine financing is another alternative for a buyer looking for capital where the financing package may include interest rates of 20 to 30 percent. The lenders in this situation are typically high net worth individuals who are expecting a larger return on their investment. They are lending in a junior lien or a position behind the bank and seller financing. The loans are typically made with limited sources of collateral, thus the request for higher interest rates. Again, this financing is often used in funding goodwill or reputation in an acquisition.
  5. Funding Scenario – In a million dollar transaction, the buyer would be expected to have a 20 percent down payment. The seller may hold an additional 10 to 20 percent in seller financing, and the lending institution would offer a combination of conventional or SBA financing to cover the difference, depending on collateral available. A buyer and the lending institution must evaluate a company’s cash flow and determine if it is adequate to cover their debt service and provide a reasonable return on their investment. Lending institutions will also be examining whether a buyer’s coverage ratio, or excess cash flow after all debt is paid, is adequate to cover their needs.
What are the benefits of buying a business instead of starting one?

So you want to be your own boss. There are certainly pros and cons to both buying and starting a business. If you do a careful analysis, you’ll learn what many seasoned entrepreneurs have discovered…the risk-to-reward ratio is tipped in your favor when you purchase an existing business.Starting a business of your own can pay great dividends, but it’s important to understand that the risks are significant. Most start-up businesses will falter and eventually die. According to Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, 40 percent of new businesses fail in the first year and 80 percent fail within five years.On the other hand, purchasing an existing business reduces an entrepreneur’s risk while creating opportunities for tremendous profit. There are a number of reasons to consider the purchase of an existing business rather that starting one:

  • Proven Concept. Buying an established business is less risky – as a buyer you already know the process or concept works. Financing a purchase is often easier than securing funding for a start-up business for that very reason—the business has a track record.
  • Brand. You’re buying a brand name. The on-going benefits of any marketing or networking the prior owner has done will transfer to you. When you have an established name in the business community, it’s easier to place cold calls and attract new business than with an unproven start up.
  • Relationships. With the purchase of an existing business, you will also be buying an existing customer base and vendor base that took years to build. It’s very common for the seller to stay on and transition with the business for a short time to transfer those relationships to the buyer.
  • Focus. When you buy a business, you can start working immediately and focus on improving and growing the business immediately. The seller has already laid the foundation and taken care of the time-consuming, tedious start up work. Starting a new business means spending a lot of time and money on basic items like computers, telephones, furniture and policies that don’t directly generate cash flow.
  • People. In an acquisition, one of the most valuable and important assets you’re buying is the people. It took the seller time to find those employees, develop them and assimilate them into the company culture. With the right team in place, just about anything is possible and you will have an easier time implementing growth strategies. Plus, with trained people in place you will have more liberty to take vacation, spend time with family, or work on other business ventures. When start-up owners and independent contractors go on vacation, the business goes too.
  • Cash Flow. Typically, a sale is structured so you can cover the debt service, take a reasonable salary, and have some left over to take the business to the next level. Start up owners, on the other hand, often “starve” at first. Some experts say start-ups aren’t expected to make money for the first three years.
  • Risk. Even with all these advantages, some entrepreneurs believe it is cheaper, and therefore less risky, to start a business than to buy one. But risk is relative. A buyer may pay $1 million, for example, for an established business with strong cash flows of approximately $200,000 to $300,000. A lending institution funds the transaction because historical revenues show the cash flow can support the purchase price. For many people, however, that is far less risky than taking out a $300,000 loan with an unproven concept and projections that may or may not be realized.

Becoming your own boss always involves a risk. When you buy a business, you take a calculated risk that eliminates a lot of the pitfalls and potential for failure that come with a start up.

 

 

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