Your Deal is Almost Done, Then Again, Maybe Not

Having a letter of intent signed by both the buyer and the seller can be a very good feeling. Everything can seem as though it is moving along just fine, but the due diligence process must still be completed. It is during due diligence that a seller decides whether he or she is going to finalize the deal. Much depends on what is discovered during this important process, so remember the deal isn't done until it is truly finalized. In his book, The Art of M&A, Stanley Forster Reed noted that the purpose of due diligence is to “Assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present and predictable future of the business to be purchased.” Summed up another way, due diligence is quite comprehensive. It probably comes as no surprise that this is when deals often fall apart. Before diving in, it is critically important that you meet with such key people as appraisers, accountants, lawyers, a marketing team and other … [Read more...]

Three Easy & Effective Ways to Negotiate

Far too many prospective business buyers and sellers overlook just how important negotiations can be. But they can also be tricky. In general, there are three approaches to negotiations. Thinking through your negotiation strategies well before the time to buy or sell is a savvy and prudent move. Negotiation Tactic #1 Take It or Just Leave It In this negotiating tactic, the buyer makes an offer and the seller makes a counter-offer, then both sides leave it there. If the deal works fine. If it doesn't work, that's fine too. It is usually smart to step back and ask yourself if you are comfortable with this approach. Sometimes a small degree of flexibility can go a long way towards turning a proposed deal into a reality. Negotiation Tactic #2 Maybe Consider Splitting the Difference Another negotiating tactic is to simply offer to split the difference. This tactic is pretty straightforward and it demonstrates a good deal of flexibility; however, the financials may not always make … [Read more...]

Red Flags are Not a Pretty Sight

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 … [Read more...]

When Selling Your Business, Play to Win

If you are an independent business owner, you are most likely also an independent business seller–if not now, you will be somewhere down the road. The Small Business Administration reports that three to five years is a long enough stretch for many business owners and that one in every three plans to sell, many of them right from the outset. With fewer cases of a business being passed on to future generations, selling has become a fact of independent business life. No matter at what stage your own business life may be, prepare now to stay ahead in the selling game. Perhaps one of the most important rules of the selling game is learning how not to “sell.” An apt anecdote from Cary Reich's The Life of Nelson Rockefeller shows a pro at work doing (or not doing) just that: When the indomitable J.P. Morgan was seeking the Rockefeller's Mesabi iron ore properties to complete his assemblage of what was to become U.S. Steel, it was Junior [John D. Rockefeller, Jr.] who went head-to-head … [Read more...]

There’s No Business Quite Like a Family Business

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 … [Read more...]

The Difficult Issues Often Attached to Valuing a Business

There is little doubt that valuing a business is often complex. In part, this complexity is due to the fact that business evaluation is subjective. The simple fact is that the value of a business is often left to the mercy of the person conducting the evaluation. Adding yet another level of complexity is the fact that the person conducting the valuation has no choice but to assume that all the information provided is, in fact, correct and accurate. In this article, we will explore the six key issues that must be considered when determining the value of a business. As you will see, determining the value of a business involves taking in several factors. Factor #1 – Intangible Assets Intangible assets can make determining the value of a business quite tricky. Intellectual property ranging from patents to trademarks and copyrights can impact the value of a business. These intangible assets are notoriously difficult to value. Factor #2 – Product Diversity One of the truisms of valuing … [Read more...]

What Do Buyers Want in a Company?

Selling your business doesn't have to feel like online dating, but for many sellers this is exactly what it can feel like. Many sellers are left wondering, “What exactly do buyers want to see in order to buy my company?” Working with a business broker is an excellent way to take some of the mystery out of this often elusive equation. In general, there are three areas that buyers should give particular attention to in order to make their businesses more attractive to sellers. Area #1 – The Quality of Earnings The bottom line, no pun intended, is that many accountants and intermediaries can be rather aggressive when it comes to adding back one-time or non-recurring expenses. Obviously, this can cause headaches for sellers. Here are a few examples of non-recurring expenses: a building undergoing foundation repairs, expenses related to meeting new government guidelines or legal fees involving a lawsuit or actually paying for a major lawsuit. Buyers will want to emphasize that a … [Read more...]

A Short Story All Family-Owned Businesses Should Read

When it comes to selling a family-owned business there are no shortage of complicating factors, but one in particular pops up quite often. This article contains a true story about a popular family business that was built up from the ground up only to later meet a very sad ending. While this is just one story, there are countless similar situations all across the country. Once upon a time, there was a family-owned pizza dough company that had millions in sales. They sold their pizza dough to a range of businesses including restaurants and supermarkets. The founder had five children and split the business equally amongst them. Complicating matters was the fact that the children didn't feel compelled to work in the family business. As a result, they turned the operation of the business over to two members of the third generation. Once the founder's children reached retirement age, they decided that they wanted to sell. So, they hired a business broker. The business broker began … [Read more...]

When Two Million Dollars is Just Not Enough

Not everyone wants to sell when they feel as though they have to sell. Life changes, such as divorce or illness, can trigger the sale of a business. Everything from declining business revenue to partnership problems and more can send business owners scrambling for the exit sign. However, selling isn't always an option, especially for small businesses. In this article, we will take a closer look at just such a situation. The business under consideration is a successful distribution business, which is also a classic example of a value-enhanced business. The two owners each draw several hundred thousand from the business each year to go along with a range of other benefits. If hypothetically, the business was to sell for $2 million dollars, each of the owners would receive approximately $1 million. Of course, this sounds like a sizable amount. So, what is the problem? When one stops to factor in such variables as taxes, closing expenses and debt, that $1 million-dollar number has … [Read more...]

Three Common Errors Caused by Inexperience

The old saying that “there is no replacement for experience” is a truism that has stood the test of time. The simple fact is that a lack of experience can dismantle your deal. Consider the following scenario – a business owner nearing retirement owns a multi-location retail operation that is doing several million in annual sales. He interviews a well-respected and experienced intermediary and is impressed. However, the business owner's niece has recently received her MBA and has told her uncle that she can handle the sale of his business and in the process, save him a bundle. On paper, everything sounds fine, but as it turns out the lack of experience gives this business owner less than optimal results. Let's take a look at a few problems that recently arose with our nameless, but successful, business owner and his well-meaning and smart, but inexperienced niece. Error #1 No Confidentiality Agreements One problem is that the business owner and his niece don't use confidentiality … [Read more...]