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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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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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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Could the Red-Hot Market for Businesses Be Cooling Down

The economy is red hot, and that fact is translating over to lots of activity in businesses being sold.  However, it is possible that this record-breaking number of sales could cool down in the near future. In a recent article in Inc. entitled, “The Hot Market for Businesses is Likely to Cool, According to This New Survey,” the idea that the market for selling business is cooling down is explored in depth.  Rather dramatically, the article’s sub header states, “Entrepreneurs who are considering selling their companies say they’re worried about the future of the economy.”

The recent study conducted by Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business as well as the International Business Brokers Association and the M&A Source surveyed 319 business brokers as well as mergers and acquisitions advisers.  And the results were less than rosy.

A whopping 83% of survey participants believed that the strong M&A market will come to end in just two years.  Perhaps more jarring is the fact that almost one-third of participants believe that the market would cool down before the end of 2019.

The participants believe that the economy will begin to slow down, and this change will negatively impact businesses.  As the economy slows down, businesses, in turn, will see a drop in their profits. This, of course, will serve to make them more challenging to sell.

The Inc. article quotes Laura Ward, a managing partner at M&A advisory firm Kingsbridge Capital Partners, “People are thinking about getting out before the next recession,” says Ward.  The Pepperdine survey noted that a full 80% of companies priced in the $1 million to $2 million range are now heading into retirement. In sharp contrast, 42% of companies priced in the $500,000 to $1 million range are heading into retirement.  Clearly, retirement remains a major reason why businesses are being sold.

Is now the time to sell your business?  For many, the answer is a clear “yes.” If the economy as a whole begins to slow down, then it is only logical to conclude that selling a business could become tougher as well.

The experts seem to agree that whether it is in one year or perhaps two, there will be a shift in the number of businesses being sold.  Now may very well be the right time for you to jump into the market and sell. The best way of making this conclusion is to work with a proven and experienced business broker.  Your broker will help you to analyze the various factors involved and make the best decision.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What Kind of Buyers are You Most Likely to Meet?

Selling a business can be an exciting and rather lucrative time.  But going through the sales process means embracing the notion that you’ll have to be very prepared for whatever might be thrown your way.  A key aspect of preparing to sell your business is to know what types of buyers you’re likely to encounter.

It is only logical to anticipate the types of buyers you may be dealing with in advance.  That will allow you to plan how you might potentially work with them.  Remember that each buyer comes with his or her own unique desires and objectives.

The Business Competitor

Competitors buy each other all the time.  Frequently, when a business is looking to sell, the owner or owners quickly turn to their competitors.  Turning to one’s competitors when it comes time to sell makes a good deal of sense; after all, they are in the same business, understand the industry and are more likely to understand the value of what you are offering.  With these prospective buyers, a great confidentiality agreement is, of course, a must.

Selling to Family Members

It is not at all uncommon for businesses to be sold to family members.  These buyers are often very familiar with the business, the industry as a whole and understand what is involved in owning and operating the business in question.

Often, family members are prepared and groomed years in advance to take over the operation of a business.  These are all pluses.  But there are some potential pitfalls as well, such as family members not having enough cash to buy or not being fully prepared to run the business.

Foreign Buyers

Quite often, foreign buyers have the funds needed to buy an existing business.  However, foreign buyers may face a range of difficulties including overcoming a language barrier and licensing issues.

Individual Buyers

Dealing with an individual buyer has many benefits.  These buyers tend to be a little older, ranging in age from 40 to 60.  For these buyers, owning a business is often a dream come true, and they frequently bring with them real-world corporate experience.  Dealing with a single buyer can also help expedite the process as you will have fewer individuals to negotiate with.

Financial Buyers

Financial buyers are often the most complicated buyers to deal with, as they can come with a long list of demands.  That stated, you should not dismiss financial buyers.  But just remember that they want to buy your business strictly for financial reasons.  That means they are not looking for a job or fulfilling a lifelong dream.  For financial buyers, the key point is that your business is generating adequate revenue.

Synergistic Buyers

A synergistic buyer can be an excellent candidate.  The reason that synergistic buyers can be such a good fit is that their business in some way complements yours.  In other words, there is a synergy between the businesses.  The main idea here is that by combining the two businesses they will reap a range of benefits, such as access to a new and very much aligned customer base.

Different types of buyers bring different types of issues to the table.  The good news is that business brokers know what different types of buyers are likely to expect out of a deal.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Confidentiality Agreements: What are the Most Important Elements?

Every business has to be concerned about maintaining confidentiality.  In fact, it is common for business owners to become somewhat obsessed with confidentiality when they are getting ready to sell their business.

It goes without saying that owners don’t want the word that they are selling to spread to the public, employees or most certainly their competitors.  Yet, there is something of a tug of war between the natural desire for confidentiality and the desire to sell a business for the highest amount possible.  At the end of the day, any business owner looking to sell his or her business will have to let prospective buyers “peek behind the curtain.”  Let’s explore some key points that any good confidentiality agreement should cover.

At the top of your confidentiality list should be the type of negotiations.  This aspect of the confidentiality agreement is, in fact, quite important as it stipulates whether the negotiations are secret or open.  Importantly, this part of the confidentiality agreement will outline what information can be revealed and what cannot be revealed.

Also consider the duration of the agreement.  Your agreement must be 100% clear as to how long the agreement is in effect.  If possible, your confidentiality agreement should be permanently binding.

You will undoubtedly want to outline what steps will be taken in the event that a breach does occur.  Having a confidentiality agreement that spells out what steps you can, and may, take if a breach does occur will help to enhance the effectiveness of your contract.  You want your prospective buyers to take the document very seriously, and this step will help make that a reality.

When it comes to “special considerations” category, this should be elements that apply to the business in question.  Patents are a good example.  A buyer could learn about inventions while “kicking the tires,” and you’ll want to be quite certain that any prospective buyer realizes that he or she must maintain confidentiality regarding any patent related information.

Of course, do not forget to include any applicable state laws.  If the prospective buyer is located outside of your state, then that is an issue that must be adequately addressed.

A confidentiality agreement is a legally binding agreement.  And it is important that all parties involved understand this critical fact.  Investing the money and time to create a professional confidentiality agreement is time and money very well spent.  An experienced business broker can prove invaluable in helping you navigate not just the confidentiality process, but also the process of buying and selling in general.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Sale of a Business May Actually Excite Employees

Many sellers worry that employees might “hit the panic button” when they learn that a business is up for sale.  Yet, in a recent article from mergers and acquisitions specialist Barbara Taylor entitled, “Selling Your Business?  3 Reasons Why Your Employees Will Be Thrilled,” Taylor brings up some thought-provoking points on why employees might actually be glad to hear this news.  Let’s take a closer look at the three reasons that Taylor believes employees might actually be pretty excited by the prospect of a sale.

Taylor is 100% correct in her assertion that employees may indeed get nervous when they hear that a business is up for sale.  She recounts her own experience selling a business in which she was concerned that her employees might “pack up their bags and leave once we (the owners) had permanently left the building.”  As it turns out, this wasn’t the case, as the employees did in fact stay on after the sale.

Interestingly, Taylor points to something of a paradox.  While employees may sometimes worry that a new owner will “come in and fire everyone” the opposite is usually the case.  Usually, the new owner is worried that everyone will quit and tries to ensure the opposite outcome.

Here Taylor brings up an excellent point for business owners to relay to their employees.  A new owner will likely mean enhanced job security, as the new owner is truly dependent on the expertise, know-how and experience that the current employees bring to the table.

A second reason that employees may be excited with the prospect of a new owner is their potential career advancement.  The size of your business will, to an extent, dictate the opportunities for advancement.  However, if a larger entity buys your business then it is suddenly possible for your employees to have a range of new career advancement opportunities.  As Taylor points out, if your business goes from a “mom and pop operation” to a mid-sized company overnight, then your employees will suddenly have new opportunities before them.

Finally, selling a business could mean “new growth, energy and ideas.”  Taylor discusses how she had worked with a 72-year-old business owner that was exhausted and simply didn’t have the energy to run the business.  This business owner felt that a new owner would bring new ideas and new energy and, as a result, the option for new growth.

There is no way around it, Taylor’s article definitely provides ample food for thought.  It underscores the fact that how information is presented is critical.  It is not prudent to assume that your employees may panic if you sell your business.  The simple fact is that if you provide them with the right information, your employees may see a wealth of opportunity in the sale of your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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