Considering Selling? Some Important Questions

Some years ago, when Ted Kennedy was running for president of the United States, a commentator asked him why he wanted to be president. Senator Kennedy stumbled through his answer, almost ending his presidential run. Business owners, when asked questions by potential buyers, need to be prepared to provide forthright answers without stumbling. Here are three questions that potential buyers will ask: Why do you want to sell the business? What should a new owner do to grow the business? What makes this company different from its competitors? Then, there are two questions that sellers must ask themselves: What is your bottom-line price after taxes and closing costs? What are the best terms you are willing to offer and then accept? You need to be able to answer the questions a prospective buyer will ask without any “puffing” or coming across as overly anxious. In answering the questions you must ask yourself, remember that complete honesty is the only … [Read more...]

Is Your “Normalized” P&L Statement Normal?

Normalized Financial Statements – Statements that have been adjusted for items not representative of the current status of the business. Normalizing statements could include such adjustments as a non-recurring event, such as attorney fees expended in litigation. Another non-recurring event might be a plant closing or adjustments of abnormal depreciation. Sometimes, owner’s compensation and benefits need to be restated to reflect a competitive market value. Privately held companies, when tax time comes around, want to show as little profit as possible. However, when it comes time to borrow money or sell the business, they want to show just the opposite. Lenders and prospective acquirers want to see a strong bottom line. The best way to do this is to normalize, or recast, the profit and loss statement. The figures added back to the profit and loss statement are usually termed “add backs.” They are adjustments added back to the statement to increase the profit of the company. For … [Read more...]

The Devil May Be in the Details

When the sale of a business falls apart, everyone involved in the transaction is disappointed – usually. Sometimes the reasons are insurmountable, and other times they are minuscule – even personal. Some intermediaries report a closure rate of 80 percent; others say it is even lower. Still other intermediaries claim to close 80 percent or higher. When asked how, this last group responded that they require a three-year exclusive engagement period to sell the company. The theory is that the longer an intermediary has to work on selling the company, the better the chance they will sell it. No one can argue with this theory. However, most sellers would find this unacceptable. In many cases, prior to placing anything in a written document, the parties have to agree on price and some basic terms. However, once these important issues are agreed upon, the devil may be in the details. For example, the Reps and Warranties may kill the deal. Other areas such as employment contracts, … [Read more...]

Family Businesses

A recent study revealed that only about 28 percent of family businesses have developed a succession plan. Here are a few tips for family-owned businesses to ponder when considering selling the business: You may have to consider a lower price if maintaining jobs for family members is important. Make sure that your legal and accounting representatives have “deal” experience. Too many times, the outside advisers have been with the business since the beginning and just are not “deal” savvy. Keep in mind that family members who stay with the buyer(s) will most likely have to answer to new management, an outside board of directors and/or outside investors. All family members involved either as employees and/or investors in the business must be in agreement regarding the sale of the company. They must also be in agreement about price and terms of the sale. Confidentiality in the sale of a family business is a must. Meetings should be held off-site and selling … [Read more...]

What Are Buyers Looking for in a Company?

It has often been said that valuing companies is an art, not a science. When a buyer considers the purchase of a company, three main things are almost always considered when arriving at an offering price. Quality of the Earnings Some accountants and intermediaries are very aggressive when adding back, for example, what might be considered one-time or non-recurring expenses. A non-recurring expense could be: meeting some new governmental guidelines, paying for a major lawsuit, or adding a new roof on the factory. The argument is made that a non-recurring expense is a one-time drain on the “real” earnings of the company. Unfortunately, a non-recurring expense is almost an oxymoron. Almost every business has a non-recurring expense every year. By adding back these one-time expenses, the accountant or business appraiser is not allowing for the extraordinary expense (or expenses) that come up almost every year. These add-backs can inflate the earnings, resulting in a … [Read more...]

A Reasonable Price for Private Companies

Putting a price on privately-held companies is more complicated than placing a value or price on a publicly-held one. For one thing, many privately-held businesses do not have audited financial statements; these statements are very expensive and not required. Public companies also have to reveal a lot more about their financial issues and other information than the privately-held ones. This makes digging out information for a privately-held company difficult for a prospective purchaser. So, a seller should gather as much information as possible, and have their accountant put the numbers in a usable format if they are not already. Another expert has said that when the seller of a privately-held company decides to sell, there are four estimates of price or value: A value placed on the company by an outside appraiser or expert. This can be either formal or informal. The seller’s “wish price.” This is the price the seller would really like to receive – best case scenario. The … [Read more...]

Why Sell Your Company?

Selling one's business can be a traumatic and emotional event. In fact, "seller's remorse" is one of the major reasons that deals don't close. The business may have been in the family for generations. The owner may have built it from scratch or bought it and made it very successful. However, there are times when selling is the best course to take. Here are a few of them. Burnout - This is a major reason, according to industry experts, why owners consider selling their business. The long hours and 7-day workweeks can take their toll. In other cases, the business may just become boring - the challenge gone. Losing interest in one's business usually indicates that it is time to sell. No one to take over - Sons and daughters can be disenchanted with the family business by the time it's their turn to take over. Family members often wish to move on to their own lives and careers. Personal problems - Events such as illness, divorce, and partnership issues do occur and many times force … [Read more...]

Five Kinds of Buyers

Buyers are generally categorized as belonging to one of the following groups although, in reality, most buyers fit into more than one. The Individual Buyer This is typically an individual with substantial financial resources, and with the type of background or experience necessary for leading a particular operation. The individual buyer usually seeks a business that is financially healthy, indicating a sound return on the investment of both money and time. The Strategic Buyer This buyer is almost always a company with a specific goal in mind -- entry into new markets, increasing market share, gaining new technology, or eliminating some element of competition. The Synergistic Buyer The synergistic category of buyer, like the strategic type, is usually a company. Synergy means that the joining of the two companies will produce more, or be worth more, than just the sum of their parts. The Industry Buyer Sometimes known as “the buyer of last resort,” this type is … [Read more...]

Why Deals Don’t Close

Sellers Don’t have a valid reason for selling. Are testing the waters to check the market and the price. (They are similar to the buyer who is “just shopping.”) Are completely unrealistic about the price and the market for their business. Are not honest about their business or their situation. The reason they want to sell is that the business is not viable, it has environmental problems or some other serious issues that the seller has not revealed, or new competition is entering the market. Don’t disclose that there is more than one owner and they are not all in agreement. Have not checked with their outside advisors about possible financial, tax or legal implications of selling their business. Are unprepared to accept seller financing or now unwilling to accept it. Buyers Don’t have a valid reason to buy a business, or the reason is not strong enough to overcome the fear. Have unrealistic expectations regarding price, the business buying process, and/or small … [Read more...]