Are You Ready to Exit?

If you've gone this far, then selling your business has aroused enough curiosity that you are taking the first step. You don't have to make a commitment at this point; you are just getting informed about what is necessary to successfully sell your business. This section should answer a lot of your questions and help you through the maze of the process itself. Question 1 The first question almost every seller asks is: “What is my business worth?” Quite frankly, if we were selling our business, that is the first thing we would want to know. However, we're going to put this very important issue off for a bit and cover some of the things you need to know before you get to that point. Before you ask that question, you have to be ready to sell for what the market is willing to pay. If money is the only reason you want to sell, then you're not really ready to sell. *Insider Tip:It doesn't make any difference what you think your business is worth, or what you want for it. It also doesn't make … [Read more...]

10 Tips for a Successful Sale

1.Sellers should find out the loan value of the fixtures, equipment and machinery prior to a sale. Many buyers will count on using it for loan or collateral purposes. No one wants to find out at the last minute that the value of the machinery won't support the debt needed to put the deal together. 2.Sellers should resolve all litigation and environmental issues before putting the company on the market. 3.Sellers should be flexible about any real estate involved. Most buyers want to invest in the business, and real estate usually doesn't make money for an operating company. 4.Sellers should be prepared to accept lower valuation multiples for lack of management depth, regional versus national distribution, and a reliance on just a few large customers. 5.If a buyer indicates that he or she will be submitting a Letter of Intent, or even a Term Sheet, the seller should inform them up-front what is to be included: price and terms what assets and liabilities are to be assumed, if it is to be … [Read more...]

The Term Sheet

Buyers, sellers, intermediaries and advisors often mention the use of a term sheet prior to the creation of an actual purchase and sale agreement. However, very rarely do you ever hear this document explained. It sounds good but what is it specifically? Very few books about the M&A process even mention term sheet. Russ Robb's book Streetwise Selling Your Business defines term sheet as follows: “A term sheet merely states a price range with a basic structure of the deal and whether or not it includes the real estate.” Attorney and author Jean Sifleet offers this explanation: “A one page ‘term sheet' or simply answering the questions: Who? What? Where? and How Much? helps focus the negotiations on what's important to the parties. Lawyers, accountants and other advisors can then review the term sheet and discuss the issues.” She cautions, “Be wary of professional advisors who use lots of boilerplate documents, take extreme positions or use tactics that are adversarial. Strive always … [Read more...]

What Makes Your Company Unique?

There are unique attributes of a company that make it more attractive to a possible acquirer and/or more valuable. Certainly, the numbers are important, but potential buyers will also look beyond them. Factors that make your company special or unique can often not only make the difference in a possible sale or merger, but also can dramatically increase value. Review the following to see if any of them apply to your company and if they are transferable to new ownership. Brand name or identity Do any of your products have a well recognizable name? It doesn't have to be Kleenex or Coke, but a name that might be well known in a specific geographic region, or a name that is identified with a specific product. A product with a unique appearance, taste, or image is also a big plus. For example, Cape Cod Potato Chips have a unique regional identity, and also a distinctive taste. Both factors are big pluses when it comes time to sell. Dominant market position A company doesn't have to be a … [Read more...]

Is This the Right Time to Sell?

“Whatever the reason, there should be something other than dollars that motivates you to explore a sale. After all, if it weren't more valuable to own the business than to sell it, no one would ever buy it.” Mike Sharp, M&A Today, November 2002 The owner of a successful company is considering selling, thinking now may be a good time. However, he is told by an outside advisor that business is good and that if he holds on to it for several more years he will get a much higher price. On the surface, this makes a lot of sense. After all, when an advisor tells the owner that if he keeps it for three more years the price will double, that's a terrific incentive to keep plugging away. However, there is another side to what would appear to be sound advice. The most dramatic downside would be that the business could go downhill rather than uphill as the advisor predicted. Although no one can predict what the economy will do, there are a couple of possible scenarios. The industry itself … [Read more...]

Tips on Avoiding the Dealbreakers

One of the most important steps is to hire the right advisors. This begins with the right professional business broker/ M&A specialist. The right attorney should be added to the team. The right one is an attorney who has been through the sales process many times – one who is a deal maker seeking solutions, not a deal breaker seeking “why not to” reasons. The accountants must be deal oriented, and if they are the firm's outside advisor, they should be aware that they may not be retained by the buyer, and must still be willing to work in the best interest of putting the deal together. Getting through due diligence One of the three or four times a deal can fall apart is half-way into the due diligence phase, when the buyer finds something he or she did not expect. No one likes surprises, and they can't all be anticipated. An experienced buyer will probably work his way through it, but a novice may walk away. Although sellers too often hope a potential problem doesn't surface, it … [Read more...]

Do You Have an Exit Plan?

“Exit strategies may allow you to get out before the bottom falls out of your industry. Well-planned exits allow you to get a better price for your business.” From: Selling Your Business by Russ Robb, published by Adams Media Corporation Whether you plan to sell out in one year, five years, or never, you need an exit strategy. As the term suggests, an exit strategy is a plan for leaving your business, and every business should have one, if not two. The first is useful as a guide to a smooth exit from your business. The second is for emergencies that could come about due to poor health or partnership problems. You may never plan to sell, but you never know! The first step in creating an exit plan is to develop what is basically an exit policy and procedure manual. It may end up being only on a few sheets of paper, but it should outline your thoughts on how to exit the business when the time comes. There are some important questions to wrestle with in creating a basic plan and … [Read more...]

What Is Burnout?

Burnout can come with a business that's successful as well as with one that's failing to grow. The right time to sell is before the syndrome becomes a threat to the effective management of a business. What are the warning signs of burnout? • That isolated feeling. The burnt-out owner has been “chief cook and bottle washer” for such an extended period of time that even routine acts of decision-making and action-taking seem like Sisyphean tasks. These owners have been shouldering the burdens alone too long. • Fuzzy perspective. Burnt-out owners are so close to their work that they lose perspective. Prioritizing becomes a major daily challenge, and problem-solving sometimes goes no further than the application of business Band-Aids that cost money in the long run rather than increase profits. • No more fun. Of course, owning a business is hard work, but it should also include an element of enjoyment. The owner who drags himself or herself through every day, with a sense of dread – or … [Read more...]

Happy Employees Can Increase Profits…and Value

Happy employees mean happy customers and clients. An unhappy employee can mean loss of business or worse. How does a business owner create happy and contented employees? It all starts with the hiring process – hiring positive people to start with certainly helps. Offering as many benefits as your business can afford is also a plus. However, one of the big keys is simply for the business owner to treat employees well, and appreciate their contributions. Some owners expect their employees to have the same dedication to the business as they do. They are not owners and don't have the same privileges as an owner does. In most cases, the business is an owner's life, whereas the employee has a life outside of the business. It is important that the owner understands this difference. In the long run, positive and happy owners have happy employees. But if being a good role model doesn't do the job with workers who remain negative, your only recourse is to get rid of them. Reward your people with … [Read more...]

Take a Look at Your Lease

If your business is not location-sensitive, that is, if your business location is immaterial to its success, then the following may not be important. However, lease information is usually helpful no matter what the situation. The business owner whose business is very dependent on its current location should certainly read on. If your business is location-sensitive, which is almost always true for a restaurant, a retail operation, or, in fact, any business that depends on customers finding you (or coming upon you, as is often the case with a well-located gift shop) – the lease is critical. It may be too late if you already have executed it, but the following might be helpful in your next lease negotiation. Obviously, a very important factor is the length of the lease, usually the longer the better. If the property ever becomes available – do whatever it takes to purchase it. However, if you are negotiating a lease for a new business, you might want to make sure you can get out of … [Read more...]

Rating Today’s Business Buyers

Once the decision to sell has been made, the business owner should be aware of the variety of possible business buyers. Just as small business itself has become more sophisticated, the people interested in buying them have also become more divergent and complex. The following are some of today's most active categories of business buyers: Family Members Members of the seller's own family form a traditional category of business buyer: tried but not always “true.” The notion of a family member taking over is amenable to many of the parties involved because they envision continuity, seeing that as a prime advantage. And it can be, given that the family member treats the role as something akin to a hierarchical responsibility. This can mean years of planning and diligent preparation, involving all or many members of the family in deciding who will be the “heir to the throne.” If this has been done, the family member may be the best type of buyer. Too often, however, the difficulty with the … [Read more...]

A Buyer’s Quandary

Statistics reveal that out of about 15 would-be business buyers, only one will actually buy a business. It is important that potential sellers be knowledgeable on what buyers go through to actually become business owners. This is especially true for those who have started their own business or have forgotten what they went thorough prior to buying their business. If a prospective business buyer is employed, he or she has to make the decision to leave that job and go into business for and by himself. There is also the financial commitment necessary to actually invest in a business and any subsequent loans that are a result of the purchase. The new owner will likely need to execute a lease or assume an existing one, which is another financial commitment. These financial obligations are almost always guaranteed personally by the new owner. The prospective business owner must also be willing to make that “leap of faith” that is so necessary to becoming a business owner. There is also the … [Read more...]

Why Your Company Needs a Physical

Many executives of both public and private firms get a physical check-up once a year. Many of these same executives think nothing of having their investments checked over at least once a year – probably more often. Yet, these same prudent executives never consider giving their company an annual physical, unless they are required to by company rules, ESOP regulations or some other necessary reason. A leading CPA firm conducted a survey that revealed: 65% of business owners do not know what their company is worth; 75% of their net worth is tied up in their business; and 85% have no exit strategy There are many obvious reasons why a business owner should get a valuation of his or her company every year such as partnership issues, estate planning or a divorce; buy/sell agreements; banking relationships; etc. No matter what the reason, the importance of getting a valuation cannot be over-emphasized:An astute business owner should like to know the current value of his or her company as … [Read more...]

Should You Be Selling Your Company…Now?

The answer to the question asked in the title is, “It all depends!” There are all sorts of studies, surveys and the like suggesting that as more and more “baby-boomers” reach retirement age, the market will be flooded with companies for sale. The consensus is that with these privately-held company owners reaching and nearing retirement age, the time to sell is now. In one survey, 57 percent of business owners said that their age was the motivating factor for exiting their business. In another one, 75 percent of owners with revenues between $1 million and $150 million stated that they looked to sell within the next three years. Reading all of this information, one gets the feeling that over the next few years almost every privately-held business will be on the market. While there are always going to be those who feel that Armageddon is coming, or that all of these companies are going to be on the market on the day that baby-boomer owners hit 65, there are some compelling reasons to sell … [Read more...]

How Does Your Business Compare?

When considering the value of your company, there are basic value drivers. While it is difficult to place a specific value on them, one can take a look and make a “ballpark” judgment on each. How does your company look? Value DriverLowMediumHigh Business TypeLittle DemandSome DemandHigh Demand Business Growth LowSteadyHigh & Steady Market Share SmallSteady GrowthLarge & Growing ProfitsUnsteadyConsistentGood & Steady Management Under StaffedOkayAbove Average FinancialsCompiledReviewedAudited Customer BaseNot SteadyFairly SteadyWide & Growing Litigation SomeOccasionallyNone in Years SalesNo GrowthSome GrowthGood Growth Industry TrendOkaySome GrowthGood Growth The possible value drivers are almost endless, but a close look at the ones above should give you some idea of where your business stands. Don't just compare against businesses in general, but specifically consider the competition. As part of your overall exit strategy, what can you do to improve your company? © … [Read more...]

The Confidentiality Agreement

When considering selling their companies, many owners become paranoid regarding the issue of confidentiality. They don't want anyone to know the company is for sale, but at the same time, they want the highest price possible in the shortest period of time. This means, of course, that the company must be presented to quite a few prospects to accomplish this. A business cannot be sold in a vacuum. The following are some of the questions that a seller should expect a confidentiality agreement to cover: What type of information can and can not be disclosed? Are the negotiations open or secret? What is the time frame for which the agreement is binding? The seller should seek a permanently binding agreement. What is the patent right protection in the event the buyer, for example, learns about inventions when checking out the operation? Which state's laws will apply to the agreement if the other party is based in a different state? Where will disputes be heard? What recourse do you have if … [Read more...]

Common Reasons for Selling

It has been said that the sale of a business is usually event driven. Very few owners of businesses, whether small or large, wake up one morning and think, “Today I am going to sell my company.” It is usually a decision made after considerable thought and usually also prompted by some event. Here are a few common “events” that may prompt the decision to sell: Boredom or “Burn-out” – Many business owners, especially those who started their companies and have spent years building and running them, find that the “batteries are starting to run low.” Divorce or Illness – Both divorce and illness can cause a rapid change in one's life. Either of these events, or a similar personal tragedy, can prompt a business owner to decide that selling is the best course of action. Outside Investors – Outside investors may include family, friends, or just plain outside investors. These outside investors may be putting pressure on the owner/majority owner in order to recoup their investment. No Heir … [Read more...]

Valuing the Business: Some Difficult Issues

Business valuations are almost always difficult and often complex. A valuation is also frequently subject to the judgment of the person conducting it. In addition, the person conducting the valuation must assume that the information furnished to him or her is accurate. Here are some issues that must be considered when arriving at a value for the business: Product Diversity – Firms with just a single product or service are subject to a much greater risk than multiproduct firms. Customer Concentration – Many small companies have just one or two major customers or clients; losing one would be a major issue. Intangible Assets – Patents, trademarks and copyrights can be important assets, but are very difficult to value. Critical Supply Sources – If a firm uses just a single supplier to obtain a low-cost competitive edge, that competitive edge is more subject to change; or if the supplier is in a foreign country, the supply is more at risk for delivery interruption. ESOP Ownership – A … [Read more...]

What Do Buyers Really Want to Know?

Before answering the question, it makes sense to first ask why people want to be in business for themselves. What are their motives? There have been many surveys addressing this question. The words may be different, but the idea behind them and the order in which they are listed are almost always the same. Want to do their own thing; to control their own destiny, so to speak. Do not want to work for anyone else. Want to make better use of their skills and abilities. Want to make money. These surveys indicate that by far the biggest reason people want to be in business for themselves is to be their own boss. The first three reasons listed revolve around this theme. Some may be frustrated in their current job or position. Others may not like their current boss or employer, while still others feel that their abilities are not being used properly or sufficiently. The important item to note is that money is reason number four. Although making money is certainly important and … [Read more...]

How to Sell Your Business Successfuly

How to Successfully Sell Your Business 1. PRICE IT RIGHT Some Merger & Acquisition Advisors just can’t bring themselves to tell you that your price is too high. Don’t shoot your Merger & Acquisition Advisor for valuing your business so that it is priced realistically and don’t choose a Merger & Acquisition Advisor on the basis of which one values your business at the highest price so they can get a listing. The price of your business needs to be realistic. The best way to accomplish this is to have your business valued by a third party valuator that is knowledgeable in both the science of valuations as well as the art (market forces) that shape the valuation. Businesses that use a third party business valuation have an 80% chance of selling at a much higher price. Those who do not use a professional business broker and a third party evaluation only have a 10% chance of selling. Your tendency will be to overprice your business. When you do, the time it takes to … [Read more...]