The Pre-Sale Business Tune-Up

Owners are often asked, "do you think you will ever sell your business?" The answer varies from, "when I can get my price" to "never" to "I don't really know" to everything in between. Most sellers may think to themselves when asked this question, "I'll sell when the time is right." Obviously, misfortune can force the decision to sell. Despite the questions, most business owners just go merrily along their way conducting business as usual. They seem to believe in the old expression that basically states, "it is a good idea to sell your horse before it dies." Four Ways to Leave Your Business There are really only four ways to leave your business. (1) Transfer ownership to your children or other family members. Unfortunately, many children do not want to become involved in the family business, or may not have the capability to operate it successfully. (2) Sell the business to an employee or key manager. Usually, they don't have enough cash, or interest, to purchase the business. … [Read more...]

Considering Selling? Some Things to Consider

Know what your business is worth. Don’t even think about selling until you know what your business should sell for. Are you prepared to lower your price if necessary? Prepare now. There is an often-quoted statement in the business world: “The time to prepare your business to sell is the day you buy it or start it.” Easy to say, but very seldom adhered to. Now really is the time to think about the day you will sell and to prepare for that day. Sell when business is good. The old quote: “The time to sell your business is when it is doing well” should also be adhered to. It very seldom is – most sellers wait until things are not going well. Know the tax implications. Ask your accountant about the tax impact of selling your business. Do this on an annual basis just in case. However, the tax impact is only one area to consider and a sale should not be predicated on this issue alone. Keep up the business. Continuing to manage the business is a full-time job. Retaining the best … [Read more...]

Can You Really Afford to Sell?

In many cases, the sale of a small company is “event” driven. That is, the reason for sale is often an event such as a health decline or illness, divorce, partnership issues, or even a decline in business. A much more difficult reason for selling is one in which the owners simply want to retire and live happily ever after. Here is the problem: Suppose the owners have a very prosperous distribution business. They each draw about $200,000 annually from the business plus cars and other benefits. If the company sold for $2 million, let’s say after debt, taxes and closing expenses, the net proceeds would be $1.5 million. Sounds good, until you realize that the net proceeds only represent about 3 1/2 years of income for each (and that doesn’t include the cars, health insurance, etc.). Then what? The above scenario is not atypical, especially in small companies. These are solid companies that provide a very comfortable living for two owners. In the above example, the owners obviously … [Read more...]

Surprises CEOs Face When Selling Their Companies

Surprise #1: Substantial Time Commitment In the real estate business, once the owner engages the broker there is very little for the owner to do until the broker presents the various offers from the potential buyers.  In the M&A business, there is a substantial time commitment required of the CEO/Owner in order to complete the sale properly, professionally and thoroughly. The following examples are worth noting: Offering Memorandum: This 30 + page document is the cornerstone of the selling process because most business intermediaries expect the potential acquirers to submit their initial price range based on the information presented in this memorandum.  The intermediary will heavily depend on the CEO/Owner to supply him or her with all the necessary facts. Suggestions of Potential Acquirers: Chances are that the sales manager is the only person who knows the best companies to contact and those not to contact (competitors).  Arguably, this information should be … [Read more...]

Buying or Selling a Business: The External View

There is the oft-told story about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds. Before he approached the McDonald brothers at their California hamburger restaurant, he spent quite a few days sitting in his car watching the business. Only when he was convinced that the business and the concept worked, did he make an offer that the brothers could not refuse. The rest, as they say, is history. The point, however, for both buyer and seller, is that it is important for both to sit across the proverbial street and watch the business. Buyers will get a lot of important information. For example, the buyer will learn about the customer base. How many customers does the business serve? How often? When are customers served? What is the make-up of the customer base? What are the busy days and times? The owner, as well, can sometimes gain new insights on his or her business by taking a look at the business from the perspective of a potential seller, by taking an “across the street look.” Both owners … [Read more...]

What Would Your Business Sell For?

There is the old anecdote about the immigrant who opened his own business in the United States. Like many small business owners, he had his own bookkeeping system. He kept his accounts payable in a cigar box on the left side of his cash register, his daily receipts – cash and credit card receipts – in the cash register, and his invoices and paid bills in a cigar box on the right side of his cash register. When his youngest son graduated as a CPA, he was appalled by his father’s primitive bookkeeping system. “I don’t know how you can run a business that way,” his son said. “How do you know what your profits are?” “Well, son,” the father replied, “when I came to this country, I had nothing but the clothes I was wearing. Today, your brother is a doctor, your sister is a lawyer, and you are an accountant. Your mother and I have a nice car, a city house and a place at the beach. We have a good business and everything is paid for. Add that all together, subtract the clothes, and there’s … [Read more...]

Burnout: An Ever-Present Threat

Burnout is an often-used reason for an owner selling his or her business. Potential buyers may have trouble accepting this as a valid reason for sale. However, burnout is a valid reason for selling one’s business. A business owner can experience burnout even with a business that’s successful and growing. Many independent business owners feel they’ve worked hard, made their money, and now is a good time to cash out and move on, before burnout endangers the health of the business. The following warning signs should remind a business owner that cashing out beats burning out: You are overwhelmed on a daily basis. When a business owner is a one-man show, even small tasks and minor decisions can seem bigger than Mount Everest. These owners have been shouldering the burden alone for too long, and the isolation has taken its toll. You sense a failure of imagination. Burnt-out owners are so close to their work that they lose perspective. Prioritizing becomes a major daily … [Read more...]

How Long Does It Take to Sell a Business?

Recent studies indicate that it now takes, on average, about eight to ten months to sell a small business. This figure seems to increase yearly. Why does it take so long to sell a business? Price and terms are the biggest reasons!  It is very important not to overprice the business at the beginning of the sales process. A business will also sell more quickly if there is a reasonable down payment with the seller carrying the balance.  Having all of the necessary information right from the beginning can also greatly reduce the time period.  Finally, being prepared for the information a buyer may want to review or having the answers available for the questions a buyer may want answered is another key. Here is the basic information a prospective acquirer will want to review and a seller should have prepared to help facilitate a quicker sale: Copies of the financials for the past three years. A copy of the lease and any assignments of the lease from previous sales. A list of … [Read more...]

When to Create an Exit Strategy

There is the old saying that the time to develop an exit strategy is the day you open for business. Sounds good, but it’s not very realistic. Further, it also isn’t very optimistic. On the day you open for business, thoughts about how you get out of it aren’t pleasant, or helpful, thoughts. However, as you get the business to a place where you have a bit of extra time to plan, you will find that the things you need to do to improve your business are some of the very things you will need to work on to plan an exit strategy. You can’t predict misfortune, but you can plan for it. One never knows when an accident or illness will force one to sell. When the drive to your business becomes filled with dread, maybe it’s time to consider selling. The following ideas will improve your business, even if you’re not currently considering selling. Dealing with these areas will also supply the information a buyer will most likely be looking at when the time does come to sell. Buyers want cash … [Read more...]

Seller Financing: The Basics

Seller financing has always been a mainstay of business brokerage.  Buyers don’t have the capital necessary to pay cash, are unable to borrow the money, or are reluctant to use all of their capital.  Buyers also feel that a business should pay for itself and are wary of a seller who wants all cash or who wants the carry-back note secured by additional collateral. What sellers seem to be saying, at least as perceived by the buyer, is that they don’t have a lot of confidence in the business or in the buyer or perhaps both.  However, if you look at statistics, it’s apparent that sellers usually receive a much higher purchase price if they accept terms. Studies reveal that, on average, a seller who sells for all cash receives only about 80 percent of the asking price.  Sellers who are willing to accept terms receive, on average, 86 percent of the asking price. The seller who asks for all cash receives, on average, a purchase price of 36 percent of annual sales while the seller who will … [Read more...]