Is It Time to Become a Business Owner? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself.

Many people know that owning a business isn't for them. But for others, the appeal and lure of owning their own business can be powerful indeed. If you are uncertain as to whether or not this path is for you, there are a few simple questions you can ask to gain almost instant clarity. In this article, we will explore those key questions and help you determine if owning a business is in your future. 1. Are You Dedicated to Growing Your Income? Quite often people like the idea of making more money, at least in the abstract. But when presented with what it takes, many people realize that they don't want to do what is involved. Owning and operating a business can be a lot of work and it's not for everyone. Yet, those who embrace it can find it rewarding in a variety of ways. Being a business owner is radically different than being an employee. As an employee, you simply don't exercise much control. Summed up another way, your financial fate is clearly in the hands of someone else: … [Read more...]

The Top Two Ways to Purchase a Business without Collateral

Banks love collateral and for a very simple reason. If you have collateral, then the bank has something it can take if you fail to repay your loan. At its heart, collateral is a remarkably simple concept. However, unfortunately, many people who want to start a business lack it. All of this leads us to the simple question, “Can I start a business without a collateral. 1. Try the SBA There are ways that you can start a business without collateral, but you will need some amount of money. The larger the business, obviously the more money you'll need. Those interested in the zero collateral route will want to take a look at the SBA's 7 (a) program. This program incentivizes banks to make loans to prospective buyers. Through this program, the SBA guarantees an impressive 75% of the loan amount. Of course, the buyer still has to put up 25% of the money in order to buy the business, but for those looking to own a business without having to put up collateral, the SBA's 7 (a) program is … [Read more...]

Fairness Opinions

Since one often hears the term “fair value” or “fair market value,” it would be easy to assume that “fairness opinion” means the same thing. A fairness opinion may be based to some degree on fair market value, but there the similarities end. Assume that you are president of a family business and the other members are not active in the business, but are stockholders; or you are president of a privately held company that has several investors/stockholders. The decision is made to sell the company; and you as president are charged with that responsibility. A buyer is found; the deal is set; it is ready to close — and, then, one of the minority stockholders comes out of the woodwork and claims the price is too low. Or, worse, the deal closes, then the minority stockholder decides to sue the president, which is you, claiming the selling price was too low. A fairness opinion may avoid this or protect you, the president, from any litigation. A fairness opinion is a letter, usually only … [Read more...]

Are You Asking a Reasonable Price for Your Privately Held Company?

Placing a price on a privately-held company is usually more complex than placing a value, or a price, on a publicly-held company. There are many reasons for this fact, but one of the top reasons is that privately-held companies don't have audited financial statements. Why are Audited Financial Statements Lacking in Privately-Held Companies? Preparing an audited financial statement is expensive and, as a result, many companies that have not gone public simply forego the expense. On the other hand, publicly held companies reveal much more information regarding their finances as well as a range of other kinds of information. Compared to a privately-held company, a publicly held company can often seem like an “open book.” Buyers are left with the proposition of having to dig out a lot more information from a privately-held company in order to assess whether or not a valuation or price is accurate. What Can You Do to Overcome this Factor? You, as the seller, can help streamline this … [Read more...]

Examining the Mind of the Serious Buyer – 5 Points to Consider

Are you looking for a way to perfect your presentation? Understanding what the typical serious buyer wants will help you get your business ready for selling. Let's turn our attention to looking at what these types of individuals and entities really want. After all, your time is precious. 1. An Interest in the Industry First, prospective buyers will want to have a better understanding of your industry. Any serious buyer will want to understand the industry as a whole, as well as your existing customers, prospective customers and the strengths and weaknesses of your business. Key factors, such as threats from competition, will also be a major factor for prospective buyers. 2. Seeking Knowledge about Discretionary Costs Secondly, expect buyers to take a long look at discretionary costs. Sellers will often look to reduce their expenses in a range of discretionary areas including advertising, research and development and public relations; this is done to help make a business appear … [Read more...]

Is Now the Right Time to Sell Your Company?

Like many things in life, timing can be everything when it comes to selling your company. Every day more and more baby-boomers are now reaching retirement age. Soon, the market will likely be flooded with companies looking to sell. According to a 2016 survey of business brokers, 54% plan to exit in the next ten years. We may be on the verge of a massive wave of businesses hitting the market. Getting out in front of that wave could be in your best interests. Now very well may be the time to sell. Are You Suffering from Burnout? If you've been running your business for many years, it is quite possible that you are suffering from burnout. This issue is remarkably common with business owners and it is also very dangerous. Owners suffering from burnout don't invest as much of themselves and their creative energy into their businesses, and that has a range of implications. Everything from losing customers to failing to keep up with the competition are all possibilities when an owner … [Read more...]

If You’re Selling, Get Ready to Expect the Unexpected!

Many experts agree that the best time to prepare to sell your business is when you start your business. That may sound extreme. However, few business owners reach that level of preparedness. A simple fact of life and owning a business is that most sales are event-driven. Factors such as problems with a partnership, health issues, burnout or even divorce can drive a business owner to sell. Once you've made the decision to sell, it is essential that you realize one key fact. Unexpected events and factors will always rise to the surface. In this article, we'll explore four key questions that you'll need to address before selling your business. 1. What is the Value of Your Time? Meeting with prospective buyers can be a serious time sponge. One of the key benefits of working with a business broker is that a broker can take some of the pressure off of you. They can interact with buyers on your behalf. A large percentage of business owners are also deeply involved in the day-to-day … [Read more...]

How Your Employees Can Boost Profits and Values

The simple fact is that without employees, you don't have a business. Given the tremendous importance of your employees, it is important to step back and reflect on the value associated with keeping those employees happy. There is a direct relationship between happy employees and happy customers. A happy employee takes steps to ensure that your customers are satisfied. This approach in turn leads to a higher level of customer retention and helps in attracting new customers. On the flip side, unhappy employees can be quite dangerous to your company's bottom line. The hiring process is a key process for the health of your business and should never be overlooked or treated as a secondary process within your business. Cultivating happy employees begins at this point. Hiring can and will either make or break your business. Offering great pay and benefits is only one important factor in keeping employees happy. A more overlooked important factor is to appreciate the contributions that … [Read more...]

Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article posted on the Axial Forum entitled “What Do Buyers Look for in the Lower Middle Market?” explains how to make your business valuable to potential buyers and how to find the right buyers for your business. The buyers in the lower middle market are usually strategic buyers, financial buyers, private equity firms, and search fund advisors. Buyers in this market are generally looking for the following characteristics: A strong management team who has incentive and is prevented from competing against the company if their employment is terminated Stability and predictability of revenue and cash flow Low customer concentration Other value drivers such as state-of-the-art operating systems High level of preparedness The article warns about the biggest obstacles for owners. Business owners should consult with experienced deal attorneys and investment bankers before speaking to any buyers. They should also consult with advisors before the company goes on the market to make … [Read more...]

Don’t Let the Dust Settle on Your Lease: 8 Factors to Consider

Owners often neglect understanding their leases and this can be problematic. If your business is location-sensitive, then the status of your lease could be of paramount importance. Restaurants and retail businesses, for example, are usually location-dependent and need to pay special attention to their leases. But with that stated, every business should understand in detail the terms of its leases. There are many key factors involving leases that should not be ignored or overlooked. If you adhere to these guidelines, you'll be much more likely to control your outcomes. At the top of the list is the factor of length. Usually, the longer your lease the better. Secondly, if the property does become available, then it is often in an owner's best interest to try and buy the property or he or she may be forced to move. When negotiating a lease, it is best to negotiate a way out of the lease if possible; this is particularly important for new businesses where the fate of your business … [Read more...]

The Importance of the Term Sheet

The value of the term sheet shouldn't be overlooked. From buyers and sellers to advisors and intermediaries, the term sheet is often used before the creation of an actual purchase or sale agreement. That stated, it is important that the term sheet is actually explained in detail. Let's take a closer look at its importance. What is a Term Sheet? Even though term sheets are quite important, they are rarely mentioned in books about the M&A process. In the book, Streetwise Selling Your Business by Russ Robb, a term sheet is defined as, “Stating a price range with a basic structure of the deal and whether or not it includes real estate.” Another way of looking at a term sheet, according to attorney and author Jean Sifleet, is that a term sheet serves to answer to four key questions: Who? What? Where? And How Much? Creating the Right Environment A good term sheet can help keep negotiations on target and everyone focused on what is important. Sifleet warns against advisors, … [Read more...]

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...]

Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article from Small Business Trends entitled “41% of Entrepreneurs Will Leave Their Small Business Behind in 5 Years” summarizes a report by a global financial services firm that looks at business ownership and entrepreneurialism in modern America. The report found that almost 60% of wealthy investors would consider starting their own business while more than 40 percent of current business owners are planning to exit their business. Of the 41% of business owners who are planning to leave their business in the next 5 years, half of them plan to sell their business. The report highlights how heirs in the family are often reluctant to take over the family business and that many business owners underestimate what they need to reach a successful sale. The report notes that 58% of business owners have never had their business appraised and 48% have no formal exit strategy. One of the main takeaways from this should be that small business owners need to prepare for selling their … [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...]

Buying? Selling? Seven Key Points to Consider

Buying or selling a business is one of the most important decisions that most people ever make. Before jumping in, there are several points that should be taken into consideration. Let's take a moment to examine some of the key points involved in buying or selling a business. Factor #1 - What are You Selling? Whether buying or selling a business it is important to ask a few simple questions. What is for sale? What is not included with the buyer's investment? Does the sale price include any real estate? Are vital assets, such as machinery, included in the sale price? Factor # 2 - What are the Range of Assets? It is very important to understand the range of assets that are included with a business. What is proprietary? Are there formulations, patents and software involved? These types of assets are often the core of the business and will be essential for its long-term success. Factor # 3 - Evaluating Assets for Profitability Not all assets are created equally. If assets are not … [Read more...]

Who Exactly Owns Personal Goodwill and Why Does it Matter?

Personal goodwill can have a profound impact on both small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, it can even impact the sales of larger companies. Ultimately, understanding how personal goodwill is cultivated is of great value for any company. During the process of building a business, a founder builds one or more of the following: a positive personal reputation, a personal relationship with key players such as large customers and suppliers and the founder's reputation associated with the creation of products, inventions, designs and more. What Creates Personal Goodwill? Personal goodwill can be established in many ways, for example, professionals such as doctors, dentists and lawyers can all build personal goodwill with their clients, especially over extended periods of time. One of the most interesting aspects of building personal goodwill is that it is essentially non-transferable, as it is invariably attached to and associated with, a particular key figure, such as the founder … [Read more...]

Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article posted on PR Newswire entitled “Business owners' love of work may hinder succession planning” explains the parallels between the number of business owners with no plans to retire and the lack of succession planning. In a recent poll, over 70% of business owners said they are not planning to retire, don't know when they will retire, or do not plan to retire for at least 11 years. The survey also reported that 2 out of 3 business owners do not have a succession plan or a clear understanding of the importance of one. Even if there are no immediate plans for retiring, business owners should have a succession plan in place to protect the business, partners, employees and customers. If something were to suddenly happen to the business owner such as serious illness or an untimely death, a succession plan would help make sure everything goes smooth with the transition of the business. To get started with creating an exit plan, business owners can take 5 simple steps: Set … [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...]

Similar Companies Can Have Huge Value Differences

Can two companies in the same industry have very different valuations? In short, the answer is a resounding, yes. Let's take an example of two companies that both have an EBITDA of $6 million but with two very different values. In fact, Business One is valued at five times EBITDA, which prices it at $30 million whereas Business Two is valued at seven times EBITDA, meaning it has a value of $42 million. Value Difference Checklist Revenue Size Profitability The Market Growth Rate Regional/Global Distribution Management & Employees Capital Equipment Requirements Systems/Controls Uniqueness/Proprietary Intangibles (Intellectual property/patents/brand, etc.) There are quite a few variables on the above checklist that stand out, with the top one being that of growth rate. Growth rate is a major value driver when buyers are considering value. Business Two, for example, with its seven times EBITDA has a growth rate of 50%, whereas Business One, with its five times EBITDA has a growth … [Read more...]