Effectively Utilizing Confidentiality Agreements

Every year countless great deals, deals that would have otherwise gone through, are undone due to a failure to properly utilize and follow confidentiality agreements.  A failure to adhere to this essential contract can lead to a myriad of problems.  These issues range from employees discovering that a business is going to be sold and quitting to key customers learning of the potential sale and taking their business elsewhere.  Needless to say, issues such as these can stand in the way of a sale successfully going through.  Maintaining confidentiality throughout the sales process is of paramount importance.

Utilizing a confidentiality agreement, often referred to as a non-disclosure agreement, is a common practice and one that you should fully embrace.  There are many and diverse benefits to working with a business broker; one of those benefits is that business brokers know how to properly use confidentiality agreements and what should be contained within them.

By using a confidentiality agreement, the seller gains protection from a prospective buyer disclosing confidential information during the sales process.  Originally, confidentiality agreements were utilized to prevent prospective buyers from letting the world at large know that a business was for sale. 

Today, these contracts have evolved and now cover an array of potential seller concerns.  A good confidentiality agreement will help to ensure that a prospective buyer doesn’t disclose proprietary information, trade secrets or key information learned about the business during the sales process.

Creating a solid confidentiality agreement is serious business and should not be rushed into.  They should include, first and foremost, what areas are to be covered by the agreement, or in other words what is, and is not confidential.  Additional areas of concern, such as how confidential information will be shared and marked, the remedy for breaches of confidentiality and the terms of the agreement, for example, how long the agreement is to remain enforced, should also be addressed. 

A key area that should not be overlooked when creating a confidentiality agreement is that the prospective buyer will not hire any key people away from the selling company.  Every business and every situation is different.  As a result, confidentiality agreements must be tailored to each business and each situation.

 When it comes to selling a business, few factors are as critical as establishing and maintaining confidentiality.  The last thing any business wants is for its confidential information to land in the hands of a key competitor.  Business brokers understand the value of maintaining confidentiality and know what steps to take to ensure that it is maintained throughout the sales process.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Hidden Benefits of Planning Your Succession Strategy

Succession planning is something that many business owners fail to think about; however, it turns out there are benefits to succession planning that might not be immediately obvious upon first glance.  In this article, we’ll explore a recent Accountancy Daily article, “Succession Planning for Business Owners,” which details the wisdom and benefits of succession planning.

Accountancy Daily polled 500 SME owners and uncovered a variety of interesting facts.  At the top of the list is that one-third of owners felt more confident about the future of their businesses when they had a coherent succession strategy. 

In what can only be deemed a surprising finding, the poll discovered that 17% of respondents noted that succession planning actually brought them closer to their families.  In short, the Accountancy Daily poll found that succession planning came with a variety of unexpected benefits.  In other words, it is about more than preparing to hand one’s business over to a new party.

Author Glen Foster makes the point that business owners frequently underestimate the level of effort and time needed to sell a business.  The fact is that selling a business is usually a layered process that can even take years to complete.  Importantly, business owners must understand that in the time it takes to sell, the market may have changed or their own financial or personal situations may have changed as well.  Additionally, selling can be an emotional and stressful process which further complicates the entire matter. 

For most business owners, selling a business represents the single greatest financial move of their lives.  As such, it is often accompanied with significant stress and anxiety.  It is essential not to underestimate the emotional and psychological side of the sales equation.  Properly planning years in advance for the sale of a business will help business owners prepare for the emotional and psychological stress that can result from both the sales process and the eventual sale itself. 

A key part of the stress of selling a business is that business owners are often left wondering “what comes next?” after selling.  Developing a succession strategy is a way to think through such issues well in advance.

Another key aspect of succession planning is to take the steps necessary to make sure that your business is ready to be sold.  As Foster points out, you wouldn’t put a home on the market with significant problems, and the same holds true for your business.  If you want to receive the optimal price for your business, then your business should be in tip-top shape.  This means diving into your books and records and getting everything in order.  Working with an accountant or an experienced business broker can be invaluable in this process.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Business Owners Can’t Always Sell When They Wish

A recent and insightful Forbes article, “Study Shows Why Many Business Owners Can’t Sell When They Want To” penned by Mary Ellen Biery, generates some thought-provoking ideas.  The article discusses an Exit Planning Institute (EPI) study that outlined the reality that many business owners can’t control when they are able to sell.  Many business owners expect to be able to sell whenever they like.  However, the reality, as outlined by the EPI study, revealed that the truth is that for business owners, selling is often easier said than done.

In the article, Christopher Snider, President and CEO of EPI, noted that a large percentage of business owners have no exit planning in place.  This fact is made all the more striking by the revelation that most owners have up to 90% of their assets tied up in their businesses.  Snider’s view is that most business owners will have to sell within the next 10 to 15 years, and yet, are unprepared to do so.  According to the EPI only 20% to 30% of businesses that go on the market will actually sell.  Snider believes that at the heart of the problem is there are not enough good businesses available for sell.  In short, the problem is one of quality.

As of 2016, Baby Boomer business owners, who were expected to begin selling in record numbers, are waiting to sell.  As Snider stated in Biery’s Fortune article, “Baby Boomers don’t really want to leave their businesses, and they’re not going to move the business until they have to, which is probably when they are in their early 70s.”

The EPI survey of 200+ San Diego business owners found that 53% had given little or no attention to their transition plan, 88% had no written transition to transition to the next owner, and a whopping 80% had never even sought professional advice regarding their transition.  Further, a mere 58% currently had handled any form of estate planning. 

Adding to the concern was the fact that most surveyed business owners don’t know the value of their business.  Summed up another way, a large percentage of the business owners who will be selling their businesses are Baby Boomers who plan on holding onto their businesses until they are older.  They have not charted out an exit strategy or transition plan and have no tangible idea as to the true worth of their respective businesses. 

In Snider’s view, the survey indicates that many business owners are not “maximizing the transferable value of their business,” and additionally that they are not “in a position to transfer successfully so that they can harvest the wealth locked in their business.”

All business owners should be thinking about the day when they will have to sell their business.  Now is the time to begin working with a broker to formulate your strategy so as to maximize your business’s value.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Q2 Small Business Transactions Take a Dip but Strong Market Remains

Small business transactions have been enjoying record numbers.  But as of the second quarter of 2019, the numbers have begun to take a small dip.  Experts feel that the trade war with China is playing a role, according to a recent article, “Q2 Small Business Transactions Down as Trade War Questions Remain.”

The numbers don’t lie, as the number of transactions stood at 2,444 for Q2, which is a drop of 9.6%.  But the simple fact remains that businesses are still selling at record levels.  As BizBuySell points out, there were 4,948 transactions reported in just the first half of 2019.  That means that 2019 could be the second most active business-for-sale market since BizBuySell began tracking data back in 2007.  In other words, the Q2 9.6% drop certainly doesn’t mean that the sky is falling. 

Deals per broker are declining, and many are looking to the current trade war between the U.S. and China for answers.  Increased tariffs and associated worries are, according to many experts, behind the Q2 dip. 

A recent BizBuySell poll of business owners noted that 43% are experiencing rising costs as a result of tariffs on Chinese goods.  Summed up another way, the trade war with China is impacting small businesses across the board. 

Ultimately, consumers will also feel the pinch as well with a whopping 64% of businesses noting that they will raise prices in order to address rising supplier costs.  Another attention-grabbing statistic is that 65% of small business owners are considering switching to suppliers not based in China, and 54% are looking for U.S. based supplies.  If this trend continues it could mark a dramatic shift.

There is, however, ample good news.  According to BizBuySell, buyers looking for a business will discover that the supply of quality listings on the market is increasing.  In short, now is a good time to buy a business, as the number of businesses listed as “for sale” grew by a healthy 5.2% in Q2 when compared to the same time last year. 

The “business for sale” inventory is growing.  According to Bob House, President of BizBuySell, “Businesses are performing better than ever.”

Some of the top performing markets by sales included Baltimore, Portland, Seattle, Austin and Dallas.  Those interested in buying a business will find that now is truly a historically good time to do so.  Working with a seasoned business broker can help you find a business that is right for you.  While the trade war has injected some uncertainty into the overall climate, there is no doubt that now is a historically unique time to buy a business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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A Closer Look at 3 Major Factors to Consider When You Buy a Business

The simple but undeniable fact is buying a business is one of the single greatest financial decisions a person can make.  Buying a business can lead to great financial success or great financial failure.  This fact helps to underscore why it is so important to work with an experienced broker who can help guide you through the often labyrinthian process of buying a business.

In a July 2019 article from Smallbusiness.co.uk, author Kyle Carins explores three key factors that everyone should consider before they buy a business.  The first factor covered in Carins’ article, “3 Things to Consider When Buying a Business,” is appeal vs. viability. 

Appeal Vs. Viability

Not surprising, the most important variable for most prospective owners is that the business is indeed viable.  Not being able to differentiate between an appealing business and one that is viable can lead to financial disaster. 

As Carins points out, “Do you want to make money or do you want to fulfill a dream?”  Sometimes those two variables can intersect, but not always and not often.  In the end, it is vital to know whether a given business is, in fact, potentially lucrative. 

However, as Carins points out, it is also important that you choose a business that you will enjoy.  Nothing can be more spirit crushing than running a business that you truly hate, even if it is lucrative.  Selecting the right business for you is something of a balancing act that must take in a variety of often competing variables.

Considering Hidden Costs

The second factor that Carins looks at is the issue of “hidden costs.”  One of the key reasons that it is so important to work with a business broker is that a business broker understands these kinds of factors that you might otherwise overlook.  Due diligence is amazingly important.  For those who have never bought a business before, working with a business broker offers substantial protection against making a potentially serious mistake.

Second Opinions

The third factor examined in Carins article is “Getting a second opinion.”  For Carins, getting a second opinion is actually linked to due diligence.  He feels that additional opinions regarding a given business should go beyond working with professionals and should also include talking to friends and family who know you well.  Additional opinions can help one see angles that might otherwise be missed. 

Again, buying a business is complicated and will take up a good deal of one’s time and mental energy.  Your friends and relatives, understand your personality and your wants and desires.  Their input can be particularly beneficial.

Finding an experienced business broker can help you do more than simply establish whether or not a given business is a “good deal.”  Brokers with years of proven experience can also help you determine whether or not a specific business is a good fit for you and your lifestyle.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Is Your Business Really Worth Handing Over to the Next Generation?

Before you begin your business, you should be thinking about how you will hand that business over to someone else.  No one runs a business forever.  Whether you sell your business or let a relative inherit it, at some point you will need to step away. 

When you finally do separate from your business, it is critical that you are certain that it is worth handing over.  In his January 2019 article in Forbes magazine entitled “Make Sure Your Business is Worth Handing Over,” author Francois Botha dives in and explores this very topic.

In this article, Botha emphasizes that family businesses should not “fall into the trap of prioritizing job creation for their children.”  Instead, that the priority should be to perpetuate the business.  Botha cites the co-founder and chairman of The Leadership Pipeline Institute, Stephen Drotter, who feels that the main goal of any business needs to be its suitability.

Drotter established five principles designed to assist family businesses as they seek to prepare for succession.  The first principle is to “Identify and Fix Your Problems.”  Current ownership should deal promptly with any business problems before passing a business on to a new generation.

The second principle Drotter covers is to “Adjust Your Management to the Strategic Evolution of Your Business.”  Businesses evolve from the creation of a product to sell to focusing on sales, marketing and distribution to finally addressing a plateau in sales which facilitates the need for multi-functional management.

The third principle cited by Drotter is “Talk to Your People About Them.”  In this principle, communication with employees is key.  Getting to know and understand employees is vital.

“Be on the Lookout for Talent Everywhere,” is the fourth principle.  There is no replacement for skilled and motivated employees, and you never know where you may find them.

Finally, the fifth principle, “Provide Development” emphasizes that “almost everything is learned, and somebody often taught that which is learned.”  Employee skill must be seen as a key priority.

Making sure that a business is ready for transition to the next generation involves careful preparation and a good deal of advanced planning.  The sooner that you begin asking the right kind of thoughtful questions about the current state of your business and what will benefit it moving forward, the better off everyone will be.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Erase the Stress of Selling Your Business by Finding the Right Buyer

There is no denying the fact that life is much, much easier when one can find the right buyer for his or her business.  Buying or selling a business can be a stressful affair, but much of that stress can be eliminated by getting the right support.

The Concept of the “Right Buyer” 

In the recent Inc. article entitled, “How to Find the Right Buyer for Your Business and Avoid Negative Consequences,” Bob House builds his article around a relatively simple and straightforward, but powerful, concept.  House’s notion is, “the right buyer is worth more than a big check.”

House correctly points out that far too many sellers become fixated on exiting their business and grabbing a big pay day.  In their focused interest in the sum they will receive, these sellers ignore a range of other important details.  In part, sellers often miss the single greatest variable in the entire process: finding the most qualified buyer.  The simple fact is that if sellers want to reduce their long-term stress, then there is no replacement for finding the most qualified buyer, as the wrong buyer can be “headache city!”

Plan in Advance

As House points out, it is only prudent to determine what you want out of a buyer well before you put your business up for sale.  For example, if you don’t want to offer financing, then that is a decision you need to make well before you begin the process. 

Additionally, House wisely places considerable interest on pre-screening potential buyers.  Pre-screening is a great reason to work with an experienced and proven business broker who can assist with the process.  As a business owner your time is precious.  The last thing you want are a lot of window shoppers wasting your time. 

Keep Your Focus on Your Business 

Remember, while your business is up for sale, you still have to run your business.  Quite often, business owners have difficulty running their business and navigating the complex sales process simultaneously.  The end result can be disastrous, as revenue can drop and business problems can arise.

Working with a business broker means that you are dramatically reducing your potential stressors throughout the sales process.  A business broker will ensure that potential buyers are pre-screened and that only serious buyers are brought to you for consideration. 

Currently, the market conditions are great for sellers.  If you are considering selling, now is the time to find a business broker and jump into the market!

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Do You Know What Kind of Business Owner You Really Are?

Does your business have real, long-lasting longevity or is your business a temporary entity that will vanish the second you stop working on it?  In his insightful article in The Business Journals entitled, “Are You Living for Today as a Business Owner or Building Value?” author Kent Bernhard asks a very important question of readers, “Are you a lifestyle business owner or a value accelerator?” 

Many business owners have never stopped to ask this very important, yet basic, question regarding their businesses.  So, let’s turn our attention to this key question that all business owners must stop and ask at some point.

As Bernhard points out the core issue here is how a given business owner defines the idea of success for him or herself.  As Chuck Richards, the CEO of CoreValue Software notes, “At the end of the day, a lifestyle business is just a job.” 

Richards goes on to note that this is fine for many people.  But if this is the case, it is a choice that one is making.  Therefore, lifestyle business owners should be aware that they are, in fact, clearly making a choice.

Business owners who are lawyers, consultants and accountants often fall into the category of those with a “business as a job.”  They fail to accumulate enough assets for their business to really be more than a job.  Summed up in another fashion, the business generates enough revenue to provide a comfortable lifestyle.  However, it does not have the infrastructure or equity to remain profitable, or even in existence, once they walk away.  As the owner and operator of the business, they are vital to its very existence.  This means that the business only has value so long as the owner is working in the business on a regular basis.  As a result, the owner may never really be able to exit the business.

As Bernhard points out, “To build a business as an asset, you have to become a value accelerator who looks beyond whether the business’ profits are sufficient to maintain your lifestyle.  It means looking at the business as an entity outside yourself.”  Those who fall into the value accelerator category, focus on figuring out creating value for the business as a financial asset that can operate independently. 

Making sure that your business can continue on without you means that you have to build it, and that involves having a coherent and focused plan.  Plan in advance and know how you will exit your business.  To ultimately create value for the business entity itself, a plan must be in place that allows for your successful exit.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Business Buyers Can Leverage SBA Lending

Finding the money to start your own small business can be a challenge.  Over the decades, countless people have turned to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for help.  A recent Inc. Magazine article, “Kickstart Your Business Dreams with SBA Lending,” by BizBuySell President, Bob House, explored how SBA lending can be used to the buyer’s advantage.

The article covers the basics of an SBA loan and who should try to get one.  House notes that the SBA doesn’t provide loans itself, but instead facilitates lending and even micro-lending with a range of partners.  The loans are backed by the government, which means that lenders are more willing to offer a loan to an entrepreneur who might not typically qualify for one.  The fact is that the SBA will cover 75% of a lender’s loss if the loan goes into default. 

Entrepreneurs can benefit tremendously from this program.  In some cases, an SBA loan even means skipping the need for collateral.  SBA loans can be used for those looking to open a business, expand their existing business or open a franchise.

House points out that getting an SBA loan has much in common with receiving other types of loans.  For example, it is necessary to be “bank ready.”  By “bank ready,” House means that all of your financial documentation should be organized, clear to understand and ready to go. 

Next, a buyer would need to check that he or she qualifies, find a lender and fill out the necessary SBA forms.  In order to be eligible for an SBA loan, it is necessary that the business is a for-profit venture and that it will do business in the United States.  Once the necessary forms have been submitted, it can take between 2 to 3 months for an application to be processed and potentially approved.  

The simple fact is that the SBA helps thousands of people every year.  If you are looking to buy a business or expand your current business, then working with the SBA could be exactly what you need.  Of course, business brokers are experts on what it takes to buy.  Working with a broker stands as one of the single best ways to turn the dream of owning a business into a reality.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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How Employees Factor into the Success of Your Business

Quality employees are essential for the long-term success and growth of any business.  Many entrepreneurs learn this simple fact far too late.  Regardless of what kind of business you own, a handful of key employees can either make or break you.  Sadly, businesses have been destroyed by employees that don’t care, or even worse, are actually working to undermine the business that employs them.  In short, the more you evaluate your employees, the better off you and your business will be.

Forbes’ article “Identifying Key Employees When Buying a Business”, from Richard Parker does a fine job in encouraging entrepreneurs to think more about how their employees impact their businesses and the importance of factoring in employees when considering the purchase of a business. 

As Parker states, “One of the most important components when evaluating a business for sale is investigating its employees.”  This statement does not only apply to buyers.  Of course, with this fact in mind, sellers should take every step possible to build a great team long before a business is placed on the market.

There are many variables to consider when evaluating employees.  It is critical, as Parker points out, to determine exactly how much of the work burden the owner of the business is shouldering.  If an owner is trying to “do it all, all the time” then buyers must determine who can help shoulder some of the responsibility, as this is key for growth.

In Parker’s view, one of the first steps in the buyer’s due diligence process is to identify key employees.  Parker strongly encourages buyers to determine how the business will fair if these employees were to leave or cross over to a competitor.  Assessing if an employee is valuable involves more than simply evaluating an employee’s current benefit.  Their future value and potential damage they could cause upon leaving are all factors that must be weighed.  Wisely, Parker recommends having a test period where you can evaluate employees and the business before entering into a formal agreement.

It is key to never forget that your employees help you build your business.  The importance of specific employees to any given business varies widely.  But sellers should understand what employees are key and why.  Additionally, sellers should be able to articulate how key employees can be replaced and even have a plan for doing so.  Since, savvy buyers will understand the importance of key employees and evaluate them, it is essential that sellers are prepared to have their employees placed under the microscope along with the rest of their business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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