Why Deals Fall Apart — Loss of Momentum

Deals fall apart for many reasons – some reasonable, others unreasonable. For example: • The seller doesn't have all his financials up to date. • The seller doesn't have his legal/environmental/administrative affairs up to date. • The buyer can't come up with the necessary financing. • The well known “surprise” surfaces causing the deal to fall apart. The list could go on and on and this subject has been covered many times. However, there are more hidden reasons that threaten to end a deal usually half to three-quarters of the way to closing. These hidden reasons silently lead to a lack of or loss of momentum. This essentially means a lack of forward progress. No one notices at first. Even the advisors who are busy doing the necessary due diligence and paperwork don't notice the waning or missing momentum. Even though a slow-down in momentum may not be noticeable at first, an experienced business intermediary will catch it. Let's say a buyer can't get through to the seller. The buyer … [Read more...]

Personal Goodwill: Who Owns It?

Personal Goodwill has always been a fascinating subject, impacting the sale of many small to medium-sized businesses – and possibly even larger companies. How is personal goodwill developed? An individual starts a business and, during the process, builds one or more of the following: • A positive personal reputation • A personal relationship with many of the largest customers and/or suppliers • Company products, publications, etc., as the sole author, designer, or inventor The creation of personal goodwill occurs far beyond just customers and suppliers. Over the years, personal goodwill has been established through relationships with tax advisors, doctors, dentists, attorneys, and other personal service providers. While these relationships are wonderful benefits, they are, unfortunately, non-transferable. There is an old saying: In businesses built around personal goodwill, the goodwill goes home at night. It can be difficult to sell a business, regardless of size, where personal … [Read more...]

The Three Ways to Negotiate

Basically, there are three major negotiation methods. 1. Take it or leave it. A buyer makes an offer or a seller makes a counter-offer – both sides can let the “chips fall where they may.” 2. Split the difference. The buyer and seller, one or the other, or both, decide to split the difference between what the buyer is willing to offer and what the seller is willing to accept. A real oversimplification, but often used. 3. This for that. Both buyer and seller have to find out what is important to each. So many of these important areas are non-monetary and involve personal things such as allowing the owner's son to continue employment with the firm. The buyer may want to move the business. There is an old adage that advises, “Never negotiate your own deal!” The first thing both sides have to decide on is who will represent them. Will they have their attorney, their intermediary or will they go it alone? Intermediaries are a good choice for a seller. They have done it before, are good … [Read more...]

Due Diligence — Do It Now!

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 Marketing Issues 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 … [Read more...]

Considerations When Selling…Or Buying

Important questions to ask when looking at a business…or preparing to have your business looked at by prospective buyers. • What's for sale? What's not for sale? Does it include real estate? Are some of the machines leased instead of owned? • What assets are not earning money? Perhaps these assets should be sold off. • What is proprietary? Formulations, patents, software, etc.? • What is their competitive advantage? A certain niche, superior marketing or better manufacturing. • What is the barrier of entry? Capital, low labor, tight relationships. • What about employment agreements/non-competes? Has the seller failed to secure these agreements from key employees? • How does one grow the business? Maybe it can't be grown. • How much working capital does one need to run the business? • What is the depth of management and how dependent is the business on the owner/manager? • How is the financial reporting undertaken and recorded and how does management adjust the business … [Read more...]

A Buyer’s Quandary

Statistics reveal that out of about 15 would-be business buyers, only one will actually buy a business. It is important that potential sellers be knowledgeable on what buyers go through to actually become business owners. This is especially true for those who have started their own business or have forgotten what they went thorough prior to buying their business. If a prospective business buyer is employed, he or she has to make the decision to leave that job and go into business for and by himself. There is also the financial commitment necessary to actually invest in a business and any subsequent loans that are a result of the purchase. The new owner will likely need to execute a lease or assume an existing one, which is another financial commitment. These financial obligations are almost always guaranteed personally by the new owner. The prospective business owner must also be willing to make that “leap of faith” that is so necessary to becoming a business owner. There is also the … [Read more...]

The Confidentiality Agreement

When considering selling their companies, many owners become paranoid regarding the issue of confidentiality. They don't want anyone to know the company is for sale, but at the same time, they want the highest price possible in the shortest period of time. This means, of course, that the company must be presented to quite a few prospects to accomplish this. A business cannot be sold in a vacuum. The following are some of the questions that a seller should expect a confidentiality agreement to cover: What type of information can and can not be disclosed? Are the negotiations open or secret? What is the time frame for which the agreement is binding? The seller should seek a permanently binding agreement. What is the patent right protection in the event the buyer, for example, learns about inventions when checking out the operation? Which state's laws will apply to the agreement if the other party is based in a different state? Where will disputes be heard? What recourse do you have if … [Read more...]

The Devil May Be in the Details

When the sale of a business falls apart, everyone involved in the transaction is disappointed – usually. Sometimes the reasons are insurmountable, and other times they are minuscule – even personal. Some intermediaries report a closure rate of 80 percent; others say it is even lower. Still other intermediaries claim to close 80 percent or higher. When asked how, this last group responded that they require a three-year exclusive engagement period to sell the company. The theory is that the longer an intermediary has to work on selling the company, the better the chance they will sell it. No one can argue with this theory. However, most sellers would find this unacceptable. In many cases, prior to placing anything in a written document, the parties have to agree on price and some basic terms. However, once these important issues are agreed upon, the devil may be in the details. For example, the Reps and Warranties may kill the deal. Other areas such as employment contracts, non-compete … [Read more...]

Family Businesses

A recent study revealed that only about 28 percent of family businesses have developed a succession plan. Here are a few tips for family-owned businesses to ponder when considering selling the business: You may have to consider a lower price if maintaining jobs for family members is important. Make sure that your legal and accounting representatives have “deal” experience. Too many times, the outside advisers have been with the business since the beginning and just are not “deal” savvy. Keep in mind that family members who stay with the buyer(s) will most likely have to answer to new management, an outside board of directors and/or outside investors. All family members involved either as employees and/or investors in the business must be in agreement regarding the sale of the company. They must also be in agreement about price and terms of the sale. Confidentiality in the sale of a family business is a must. Meetings should be held off-site and selling documentation kept off-site, if … [Read more...]

Two Similar Companies ~ Big Difference in Value

Consider two different companies in virtually the same industry. Both companies have an EBITDA of $6 million – but, they have very different valuations. One is valued at five times EBITDA, pricing it at $30 million. The other is valued at seven times EBITDA, making it $42 million. What's the difference? One can look at the usual checklist for the answer, such as: The Market Management/Employees Uniqueness/Proprietary Systems/Controls Revenue Size Profitability Regional/Global Distribution Capital Equipment Requirements Intangibles (brand/patents/etc.) Growth Rate There is the key, at the very end of the checklist – the growth rate. This value driver is a major consideration when buyers are considering value. For example, the seven times EBITDA company has a growth rate of 50 percent, while the five times EBITDA company has a growth rate of only 12 percent. In order to arrive at the real growth story, some important questions need to be answered. For example: Are the company's … [Read more...]