Experts recommend that sellers prepare years before they plan to put their businesses up for sale, and there are many good reasons why they make this recommendation. A wide range of factors can interfere with the sale of a business, ranging from life changes like divorce and burnout to a new competitor moving into town. Preparing to sell your business in advance will help prepare you for the day you need to sell, whenever that day may be. Now, let’s take a look at a few of the surprises that sellers may face when selling their company.
Topping the list of surprises that sellers often face is the time commitment involved. As almost any business owner will tell you, it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort just to run a business. Adding the additional variable of putting a business up for sale can be a real strain on a business owner’s time and resources. The idea that one can simply put a business up for sale and “the rest will take care of itself” is very rarely the case.
Most businesses take many months or even years to sell even with considerable effort put into the process by both the business owner and brokerage professionals. Prospective buyers can take up a considerable amount of time to deal with, and this is one of the many reasons it is important to work with a business broker or M&A advisor. A competent brokerage professional has expertise in determining if a potential buyer is worth the time, effort and money it will cost by you and licensed Deal Team professionals such as attorneys and CPAs – vetting a buyer’s ability to close on the sale of your business – saving you a great deal of time and aggravation.
Sellers are often unaware of just how much documentation must be compiled for the Confidential Business Review (CBR) alone. However, the CBR is key in the selling process. If you’re selling your business in the near future, be prepared to compile, create and review a lot of documents.
Shared Decision Making
Of course, there are many other variables that must be considered when a seller makes the decision to sell their business. Minority stockholders or family members with an interest in the business must be taken into consideration.
Typically, sellers are accustomed to handling most of the key decisions regarding their business. This approach might work for running a business, but it can be quite challenging when it comes time to sell. Everyone from members of the management team to lawyers, accountants, and, of course, business brokers or M&A advisors, must be involved in the process.
Owners simply cannot realistically handle every aspect of getting a business ready to be sold. Usually, the requirements of the sale process are too diverse and complex to be handled effectively by one individual.
While the above-mentioned surprises are often the most common, a wide range of other factors can often be unexpected. These factors range from sellers accidentally decreasing the value of their businesses due to failing to maintain normal business operations during the sale which can decrease the value of the business to confidentiality leaks.
Selling a business is a complex process. Many business owners feel that since they are accustomed to the complexities of operating a business that they can handle the complexities of selling a business. The reality of the situation is quite different.
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Selling any business can be complicated. Finding the right buyer is one hurdle that must be overcome. However, even once the right buyer has been found, there are still many reasons why a deal can collapse.
It is important to realize that you can do everything perfectly and “acts of fate” can still intervene and impede the success of your deal. For example, one issue is that you might not be able to satisfy the buyer in regards to demonstrating the earnings of the business.
A second issue is that during the sales process problems may arise with federal, state and/or local government bodies and agencies. Many of these problems may be quite difficult to predict in advance. A third issue is that the buyer’s investigation ultimately reveals some problem regarding the business that was previously unknown.
Simply stated, a seller cannot guard against every single possible unforeseen act of fate. The best any seller can do is look for potential problems and try to remedy them in advance. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor can be an excellent way to identify all types of business problems and adjust accordingly.
Another major reason that deals can fall through are issues with the buyer. Many sellers are just “testing the waters” or lack the commitment and resolve to see the sales process through, which is often much more complicated than many sellers realize. This issue marks the importance of working with an experienced business broker or M&A advisor who hopefully can weed out these uncommitted buyers in the beginning.
Often buyers will fail to be honest about their situation or how capable they are of buying the business. Business brokers are experts at assessing the potential of interested buyers, and that means they can typically save sellers a great deal of time and aggravation. But even with the best brokerage professionals on your side, it’s important to realize that buyers can still be unpredictable.
A particular source of deal killing frustration can be that buyers are influenced by third-parties who are opposed to the purchasing of the business, for a variety of reasons, and will work to kill the deal regardless of its merits. Everyone from landlords who may not want to transfer a lease or grant a new one to outside business consultants, such as attorneys, may all intentionally or unintentionally create a range of problems that interfere with the success of the sale.
There are many pitfalls that can derail the successful sale of a business. Identifying those kinds of issues far in advance is one way to dramatically boost your chances of a successful sale. Working with an experienced business broker or M&A advisor can help to dramatically increase the odds of finding the right buyer for your business.
No business is perfect, but when you are preparing your business to be sold, it is imperative that you lead with your strengths. That’s why it is important to work with a business broker or M&A advisor to identify, catalog and work to remedy any weaknesses. When presenting your business to prospective buyers, focus on your key selling points first and what makes you really stand out from the crowd. You want to sell a prospective buyer on the value of your business and its long-term potential before addressing any shortcomings or areas that need to be improved.
Most business owners who are selling a business are doing so for the first time. If you’ve never sold a business before then there are many mistakes and traps that can befall you. Selling a business is typically not a fast and easy process, but can instead take many months or even years.
Working with a business broker is one way to ensure that the process goes smoothly, but there are other steps that you can take to help ensure that your business sells. At the top of the list of steps business owners can take to help their business sell is to maintain normal operations. Again, it is very unlikely that your business will sell as soon as it hits the market. To protect the value of your business and to avoid financial trouble, you have to maintain normal business operations throughout the sales process.
The next key step to take is to get your business ready. It likely took years, or even decades, to get your business to where it is today. You shouldn’t expect that preparing your business to be placed on the market should be an overnight process. One of the best ways to properly present your business is to inspect every aspect of your business and its operations. In this way, you’ll discover what areas need work and what strengths are best to promote.
Brokerage professionals know where the competitive advantages of businesses reside and have an understanding of what buyers really want. An incorrectly priced business can scare away otherwise excellent potential buyers. The same holds true for poorly organized paperwork and financial records. In short, the preparation you make now to sell your business later can be invaluable for achieving the results you seek.
At the end of the day, you must remember that selling your business is a financial transaction. Like all kinds of sales, you must understand not only what the buyer needs but what they want as well. Not every business is right for every buyer.
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Truly understanding a business is much like understanding the condition of a car. It is necessary for a skilled mechanic to “pop the hood” to access the true condition of a car. In much the same way, you and your team of experts need to “pop the hood” of the business in order to understand the business’s long-term health and viability. Here are four things to consider before signing on the dotted line.
Will You Enjoy the Work?
Owning a business, especially if you are planning on being an owner-operator, can be a demanding path. You will likely have to log many hours, especially in the beginning. For this reason, you’ll want to select a business that you will enjoy owning.
Life is too short to own a business that you would not want to be involved in. Importantly, if you do not like the business you own, the odds of facing burnout and losing interest are higher. It goes without saying that these kinds of obstacles can dramatically harm your business. Think long and hard before selecting a business to buy, as it is a decision that you will have to live with for years to come.
Did You Examine the Business Plan?
A second factor to consider is that there is no replacement for a good business plan. When you are considering buying a business, you’ll want to dive in and understand every aspect of the current owner’s business plan. If the business plan has major holes or just doesn’t seem to be adding up, you should move on.
Do You Understand the Financials?
Similar to understanding the particulars of a business’s business plan, it is also critical that you have a very precise and clear view of a business’s financials. You should look over everything from profit and loss statements to tax returns and more. It is a smart idea to consult your accountant and a brokerage professional regarding what financial documents you should review. Before you buy a business is the time to understand every small detail of a business’s financial health, not after.
How is the Business Performing?
A fourth factor to consider when evaluating a business is the business’s overall performance. It is possible for a business to have a good business plan (at least on paper) and strong financials and yet it could still have a less than stellar future. Oftentimes, the true health of a business lies beyond the business plan and the current financials.
You’ll need to know about a wide variety of factors including how vulnerable the business is to competition, changes in market forces, the status of key management and employees, the relationship with key suppliers and customers, and any pending litigation. When buying a business, you simply can’t afford to overlook any area.
If you keep an eye on these four key areas, and work closely with experienced professionals like business brokers or M&A advisors, your odds of finding the right business for you will skyrocket. Owning a business that you love will greatly increase your chances of success, so don’t underestimate the emotional factor in the equation.
If you’re buying a business, you might be feeling overwhelmed about all the details that are involved, especially if it’s your first business. Buying a business is certainly no small task, and that’s why you’ll want to dive into the process headfirst and make sure that you’ve carefully examined the business.
Here are some of the most important elements to consider. While some of these aspects don’t immediately come to buyer’s minds, they should be high on your list of considerations.
Reviewing legal documents might not seem like the most enjoyable task, but this activity should be one of the first things you will want to do before buying a business. Most worthwhile businesses will have a long list of legal documents to show, ranging from documents showing trademarks and copyrights to consulting agreements.
When it comes to paperwork, tax documents are obviously also a necessary element to review. Some things that you should be watching for are forms that do not adhere to the IRS rules. It goes without saying that you don’t want to be the one taking responsibility for a previous owner’s error.
Business & Retirement Documents
The list of documents you’ll want to review doesn’t end there, as you’ll also want to check into retirement documents such as balance sheets, investment statements, and income statements. You’ll want to ensure that all of the qualified and non-qualified retirement programs run by the business are up to date. You might need to check the parameters of the Department of Labor’s rules.
Work with a Business Brokerage Professional
Your business broker or M&A advisor will take you through the due diligence process to help you make sure that all aspects of the business have been reviewed thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line. Be sure to work with an experienced individual who is proactive when it comes to making sure all of your questions have been answered to your satisfaction.
The items on your to-do list might seem overwhelming at first, but remember that a lot of focus and effort now will save you a ton of hassles and issues later. And you might end up dodging a bullet by spotting a serious issue that causes you to change your mind about a business. Always be sure to protect yourself and your best interests.
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