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...]

There’s No Business Quite Like a Family Business

The simple fact is that family businesses are different. After all, a family business means working with family and all the good and bad that comes with it. While an estimated 80% to 90% of all businesses are family owned, relatively few are properly planning for what happens when it comes time to sell. According to one study, a whopping 72% of family businesses lack a developed succession plan which is, of course, a recipe for confusion and potentially disaster. Additionally, there are many complicating factors, for example, studies indicate that 40% to 60% of owners of family businesses want the business to remain in the family, but only 40% of businesses are passed to a second generation and a mere 10% are passed down to a third generation. Let's turn our attention to a few of the key points that family business owners should consider when selling a business. Confidentiality should be placed at the top of your “to do” list. When it comes to selling a family business, it is … [Read more...]

Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article posted by The National Law Review entitled “Thinking of Selling? Start Early, Build Your Team” explains the importance of putting together a good team of trusted advisors well in advance of selling your business. Your team should include an attorney, accountant, investment banker, and wealth manager. This team will help you with various aspects of selling your business such as: Setting a realistic valuation on the business Finding potential buyers Handling due diligence and information requests from buyers Structuring a transaction for tax & liability protection Dealing with the sale proceeds and making sure your goals are met It is a good idea to put this team together as soon as possible if you're thinking of selling, so everyone has time to prepare. There are so many aspects to a business sale and it is essential to have an experienced team of professionals to guide you in the process. Click here to read the full article. A recent article from The San Angelo … [Read more...]

The Difficult Issues Often Attached to Valuing a Business

There is little doubt that valuing a business is often complex. In part, this complexity is due to the fact that business evaluation is subjective. The simple fact is that the value of a business is often left to the mercy of the person conducting the evaluation. Adding yet another level of complexity is the fact that the person conducting the valuation has no choice but to assume that all the information provided is, in fact, correct and accurate. In this article, we will explore the six key issues that must be considered when determining the value of a business. As you will see, determining the value of a business involves taking in several factors. Factor #1 – Intangible Assets Intangible assets can make determining the value of a business quite tricky. Intellectual property ranging from patents to trademarks and copyrights can impact the value of a business. These intangible assets are notoriously difficult to value. Factor #2 – Product Diversity One of the truisms of valuing … [Read more...]

What Do Buyers Want in a Company?

Selling your business doesn't have to feel like online dating, but for many sellers this is exactly what it can feel like. Many sellers are left wondering, “What exactly do buyers want to see in order to buy my company?” Working with a business broker is an excellent way to take some of the mystery out of this often elusive equation. In general, there are three areas that buyers should give particular attention to in order to make their businesses more attractive to sellers. Area #1 – The Quality of Earnings The bottom line, no pun intended, is that many accountants and intermediaries can be rather aggressive when it comes to adding back one-time or non-recurring expenses. Obviously, this can cause headaches for sellers. Here are a few examples of non-recurring expenses: a building undergoing foundation repairs, expenses related to meeting new government guidelines or legal fees involving a lawsuit or actually paying for a major lawsuit. Buyers will want to emphasize that a … [Read more...]

A Short Story All Family-Owned Businesses Should Read

When it comes to selling a family-owned business there are no shortage of complicating factors, but one in particular pops up quite often. This article contains a true story about a popular family business that was built up from the ground up only to later meet a very sad ending. While this is just one story, there are countless similar situations all across the country. Once upon a time, there was a family-owned pizza dough company that had millions in sales. They sold their pizza dough to a range of businesses including restaurants and supermarkets. The founder had five children and split the business equally amongst them. Complicating matters was the fact that the children didn't feel compelled to work in the family business. As a result, they turned the operation of the business over to two members of the third generation. Once the founder's children reached retirement age, they decided that they wanted to sell. So, they hired a business broker. The business broker began … [Read more...]

Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article from Divestopedia entitled “To Sell Your Business, Start with the End in Mind” explains the importance of planning your exit strategy in the early stages of your business. The article points out that emotion plays a big part in humans' decision making process, and when a potential buyer perceives that the owner has not prepared a company for sale, they associate this with uncertainty, effort and stress that will accompany rebuilding the business. Focusing on building your company's culture is also very important for exit planning because a well-established company culture will continue to endure after you're gone. Creating a self-sustaining culture that involves talented employees, succession plans for key people, talent acquisition and talent retention can help your business be seen as more valuable in the future. Click here to read the full article. A recent article posted on BizJournals.com entitled “How to know when the ride is over and it's time to get off” … [Read more...]

Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article posted on BizJournals.com entitled “Top 5 rules on preparing your company for sale” explains how the best time to begin preparing your business for sale is right now. The article highlights these main rules to follow: Start auditing your financial statements now as these will be required by the purchaser. Keep appropriate, complete corporate books and records so everything is ready to be presented to a buyer when the time comes. Obtain a professional valuation of your company so you can use this as a roadmap for growing your company and ultimately maximizing the exit price. Use the valuation of your company to determine what assets are superfluous and will not be valued. This can also help you make future decisions with your business strategy. Start the process now for finding a second in command who could easily replace the founder of the company. This will be very valuable to the future buyer after the sale is made. Starting to prepare your business for sale now will … [Read more...]

When Two Million Dollars is Just Not Enough

Not everyone wants to sell when they feel as though they have to sell. Life changes, such as divorce or illness, can trigger the sale of a business. Everything from declining business revenue to partnership problems and more can send business owners scrambling for the exit sign. However, selling isn't always an option, especially for small businesses. In this article, we will take a closer look at just such a situation. The business under consideration is a successful distribution business, which is also a classic example of a value-enhanced business. The two owners each draw several hundred thousand from the business each year to go along with a range of other benefits. If hypothetically, the business was to sell for $2 million dollars, each of the owners would receive approximately $1 million. Of course, this sounds like a sizable amount. So, what is the problem? When one stops to factor in such variables as taxes, closing expenses and debt, that $1 million-dollar number has … [Read more...]