The Historic Levels of Small Businesses Being Sold Drops Slightly

The number of small business transitions continues to be strong for the first quarter of 2019.  In fact, despite a small decline, small business transitions remain at historically high levels.

Looking at the Statistics

According to a recent BizBuySell article entitled, “Number of Small Businesses Changing Hands Dips Slightly, But Market Remains Ripe for Buyers and Sellers,” now is still very much the time for both buying and selling a business.  It is true that the number of businesses sold in the first three months of 2019 dropped by 6.5% when compared to 2018.  Yet, it is important to keep in mind that the number of completed transactions remains very strong.  Likewise, inventory is increasing, with a 6.1% increase in listings in Q1 of 2019 when compared to the same period in 2018.

While the market is indeed strong, the BizBuySell article did note that some experts feel that there are signs that the market could become more challenging moving forward.  In part, this is due to the prospect that interest rates and financing could become increasingly challenging and more expensive.  These factors indicate that now is a smart time to both buy and sell a business.

Likewise, the financials of sold businesses in Q1 remains strong.  In fact, the median revenue of sold businesses jumped 6.5% when compared to Q1 2018.  Now, the median revenue stands at $540,000.  However, cash flow continues to hover around the $100,000 for five years in a row.

What are the Top Regions?

Currently, the top markets by closed small business transition are Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington.  The top markets by median sale price are Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Denver-Aurora and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington.

A Consistently Strong Market

Overall, the experts at BizBuySell believe that the market remains very strong and active.  They believe that the wave of retiring baby boomers looking to exit their businesses, historically low interest rates and the rise of the next generation of entrepreneurs are helping to fuel a great deal of activity.

According to Matt Coletta, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, M&A Business Advisors, “We are seeing more quality businesses coming on the market with good, clean books than I have seen in my 25+ years in the business.”

If you are considering buying or selling a business, then now is an excellent time to jump in.  Working with a business broker is a great way to ensure that you find the right business for you at the right price.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey Report Predicts Major Changes

The IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey Report for the fourth quarter of 2018 has a range of interesting insights.  The survey’s purpose is to provide an “accurate understanding of market conditions for businesses being sold in Main Street (values $0-$2MM) and the Lower Middle Market (values $2MM-$50MM).  This national survey was designed as a tool for business owners and their advisors and has the support of both the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Projects and the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.

One of the most striking facts to leap out of the report is the fact that a full one-third of advisors fully expect the strong market to end this year.  Overall, advisors are not optimistic that the current climate will continue through 2020.  In fact, advisors are encouraging sellers to consider placing their businesses on the market now, while the market is still strong.  This is according to Craig Everett, PhD and Assistant Professor of Finance and Director of the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project.

One fact from the report that could be overlooked is that only a mere 8% of advisors expect the current climate to last for 48 months or more.  Additionally, only 9% believe that the current climate will last between 24 to 48 months.  Perhaps most striking of all is the fact that 60% of advisors feel that the current climate will end within the next two years.

Business owners who are considering selling should be advised that almost two-thirds of advisors now feel that there will be a significant shift in the next two years.  Considering that it can take a year or more to sell a business, business owners would be wise to consider this important fact.

The report sites Neal Isaacs, Owner of VR Business Brokers of the Triangle who states, “Deals are taking longer in due diligence as buyers work hard to validate their investment and make sure that what they’re buying is worth the premium price today’s sellers are commanding.”

So, is now the time to sell?  Many experts feel that it is possible to lose a sizable amount of value if one waits too long to sell.  Even just a few months can make a huge difference in terms of perceived value and the ultimate sales price.  Working with a proven business broker is a key way to ensure that you are selling at the right time and secure the best possible price.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 M&A Myths and How to Deal with Them

Where your money is concerned, myths can do damage.  A recent Divestopedia article from Tammie Miller entitled, Crazy M&A Myths You Need to Stop Believing Now, Miller explores 5 big M&A myths that can get you in trouble.  Miller points out that many of these myths are believed by CEOs, but that they have zero basis in reality.

Myth 1

The first major myth Miller explores is the idea that the “negotiating is over once you sign the LOI.”  The letter of intention is, of course, important. However, this is by no means the end of the negotiations and it is potentially dangerous to think otherwise.  The negotiations are not concluded until there is a purchasing agreement in place. As Miller points out, there is a great deal that can go wrong during the due diligence process.  For this reason, it is important to not see the LOI as the “end of the road.”

Myth 2

Another myth that Miller wants you to be aware of is that you don’t have to take a company’s debt as part of the purchase price.  Many business brokers, such as Miller, recommend that buyers don’t take seller paper.

Myth 3

A third myth that Miller explorers is a particularly dangerous one.  The idea that everyone who makes an offer has the money to follow through is, unfortunately, simply not true.  Oftentimes, people will make offers without securing the money to actually buy the business.  No doubt, this wastes everyone’s time.  As the business owner, it can derail your progress.  If you are not careful, it could actually prevent you from finding a qualified buyer.

Myth 4

Another myth is built around the notion that sellers don’t need a deal team in order to sell their business.  Again, this is another myth that has no real foundation in reality.  While it may be possible to sell your business without the assistance of an experienced M&A attorney or business broker, the odds are excellent that doing so will come at a price.  According to Miller, those working with an investment banker or business broker can expect, on average, 20% more transaction value!

Additionally, there are other dangers in not having a deal team in place.  A business broker can handle many of the time-consuming aspects of selling a business, so that you can keep running your business.  It is not uncommon for business owners to get stretched too thin while trying to both run and sell a business and this can ultimately harm its value.

Myth 5

Miller’s final myth to consider is that you must sell your entire business.  It is true that most buyers will want to buy 100% of a business, but a minority ownership position is still an option.  There are many reasons to consider selling a minority stake, so don’t assume that selling your business is an “all or nothing” affair.

Ultimately, Miller lays out an exceptional case for the importance of working with business brokers when selling or buying a business.  Business brokers can help you avoid myths.  In the end, they know the lay of the land.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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10 Questions Everyone Should Ask Before Signing on the Dotted Line

Before buying any business, a seller must ask questions, lots of questions.  If there is ever a time where one should not be shy, it is when buying a business.  In a recent article from Entrepreneur magazine entitled, “10 Questions You Must Ask Before Buying a Business”, author Jan Porter explores 10 of the single most important questions prospective buyers should be asking before signing on the dotted line.   She points out to remember that “there are no stupid questions.”

The first question highlighted in this article is “What are your biggest challenges right now?”  The fact is this is one of the single most prudent questions one could ask.  If you want to reduce potential surprises, then ask this question.

“What would you have done differently?” is another question that can lead to great insights.  Every business owner should be an expert regarding his or her own business.  It only makes sense to tap into that expertise when one has the opportunity.  The answers to this question may also illuminate areas of potential growth.

How a seller arrives at his or her asking price can reveal a great deal.  Having to defend and outline why a business is worth a given price is a great way to determine whether or not the asking price is fair.  In other words, a seller should be able to clearly defend the financials.

Porter’s fourth question is, “If you can’t sell, what will you do instead?”  The answer to this question can give you insight into just how much bargaining power you may have.

A business’ financials couldn’t be any more important and will play a key role during due diligence.  The question, “How will you document the financials of the business?” is key and should be asked and answered very early in the process.  A clear paper trail is essential.

Buying a business isn’t all about the business or its owner.  At first glance, this may sound like a strange statement, but the simple fact is that a business has to be a good fit for its buyer.  That is why, Porter’s recommended question, “What skills or qualities do I need to run this business effectively?” couldn’t be any more important.  A prospective buyer must be a good fit for a business or otherwise failure could result.

Now, here is a big question: “Do you have any past, pending or potential lawsuits?”  Knowing whether or not you could be buying future headaches is clearly of enormous importance.

Porter believes that other key questions include: “How well documented are the procedures of the business?” and “How much does your business depend on a key customer or vendor?” as well as “What will employees do after the sale?”

When it comes to buying a business, questions are your friend.  The more questions you ask, the more information you’ll have.  The author quotes an experienced business owner who noted, “The more questions you ask, the less risk there will be.”

Business brokers are experts at knowing what kinds of questions to ask and when to ask them.  This will help you obtain the right information so that you can ultimately make the best possible decision.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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A Step by Step Overview of the First Time Buyer Process

A recent article on Businessbroker.net entitled, First Time Buyer Processes by business broker Pat Jones explores the process of buying a business in a precise step-by-step fashion.  Jones notes that there are many reasons that people buy businesses including the desire to be one’s own boss.  However, he is also quick to point out that buyers should refrain from buying a business that they simply don’t like.  In the quest for profits, many prospective owners may opt to do this, but it could ultimately lead to failure.

Step One – Information Gathering

For Jones, there are seven steps in the business buying process.  At the top of the list is to gather information on businesses so that one has an idea of what kind of businesses are appealing.

Step Two – Your Broker

The second key step is to begin working with a business broker.  This point makes tremendous sense; after all, those new to the business buying process will benefit greatly from working with a guide with so much experience.  Business brokers can gain access to information that prospective business owners simply cannot.

Step Three – Confidentiality and Questions

The third step in the process is to sign a confidentiality agreement so that you can learn more about a business that you find interesting.  Once you have the businesses marketing package, you’ll want to have your broker schedule an appointment with the seller. It is vitally important that you prepare a list of questions on a range of topics.  There is much more to buying a business than the final price tag.  By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to learn more about the business and its long-term potential.

Step Four – Evaluation

In the fourth step of the business buying process, you’ll want to evaluate all the information that you have received from the seller.  Once again, a business broker can be simply invaluable, thanks to years of hands-on experience, he or she will know how to evaluate a seller’s information.

Step Five – The Decision

In the fifth step, you’ll need to decide whether or not you are making an offer.  If you are making an offer, you will, of course, want it to be written and include contingencies.

If your offer is accepted, then the process of due diligence begins.  During due diligence, you and your business broker will look at everything from financial statements to tax returns.  You will evaluate the company’s assets.  Again business brokers are experts at the due diligence process.

Buying a business is an enormous commitment.  Making certain that you’ve selected the right business for you is one of the most critical decisions of your life.  Having as much competent and experienced help as possible is of paramount importance.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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A Must Read Article on Having Children Take Over the Family Business

In a recent Divestopedia article entitled, “Kids Take Over the Business? 8 Things to Consider,” author Josh Patrick examines what every business owner should know about having their children take over their business.  He points out that there are no modern and accurate numbers on what percentage of businesses will be taken over by the children of their owners.  But clearly the number is substantial.

Patrick emphasizes as point number one that allowing a child to take over a business right after finishing his or her education could be a huge mistake.  After all, how can a parent be sure that a child can handle operating the business without some proven experience under his or her belt?

Point number two is that businesses frequently create jobs for the children of owners.  The flaw in this logic is pretty easy to see. This job, regardless of its responsibilities, isn’t in fact a real job.  Senior decision-making roles should be earned and not handed out as a birthright. The end result of this approach could create a range of diverse problems.

The third point Patrick addresses is that pay should be competitive and fair when having children take over a business.  Quite often, the pay is either far too high or far too low. This factor in and of itself is likely to lead to yet more problems.

Business growth must always be kept in mind.  When having your children take over a business, it is essential that they have the ability to not just maintain the business but grow it as well.  If they can’t handle the job then, as Patrick highlights, you are not doing them any favors. Perhaps it is time to sell.

Another issue Patrick covers is whether or not children should own stock.  If there are several children involved, then he feels it is important that all children own stock.  Otherwise, some children will feel invested in the business and others will not. In turn, this issue can become a significant problem once you, as the business owner, either retire or pass away.

In his sixth point, Patrick recommends that a business should only be sold to children and not given outright.  If a child is simply given a business, then that business may not have any perceived value. Additionally, if a child or children buy the business, then estate planning becomes much more straightforward.

In point seven, Patrick astutely recommends that once a parent has sold their business to their child, the parent must “let go.”  At some point, you will have to retire. Regardless of the outcome, you’ll ultimately have to step back and let your children take charge.

Finally, it is important to remember that your children will change how things are done.  This fact is simply unavoidable and should be embraced.

Working with an experienced business broker is a great way to ensure that selling a business to your child or children is a successful venture.  The experience that a business broker can bring to this kind of business transfer is quite invaluable.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Embracing Technology to Boost Your Business

Forbes author Keith Gregg’s, February 8, 2019 article, “Using Tech to Enhance and Sell a Business,” has a range of interesting ideas that business owners should explore and embrace.  Gregg looks at three big ways that business owners can use technology to help them get the most out of the sale of the business.  He explains how important it is to address these three areas before placing your business on the market.

Upgrading Systems

The first tip Gregg explores is to upgrade systems.  Upgrading systems can be particularly important for attracting younger buyers.  It is common for businesses to be successful without proprietary technology or procedures, but that doesn’t mean that technology should be ignored.

Important information should be digitized, as this data will be vital for the new owner to grow the business over the long haul.  Incorporating software that can track and analyze data across the business is likewise valuable. Using software, such as customer relationship management and financial management software, will showcase that your business has been modernized.

Business Valuations

Determining the value of your business can be tricky and laborious.  Gregg recommends opting for a business valuation, as he feels, “business valuation calculations can remove much of the guesswork from the process.”

You should expect a business valuation calculator to include everything from verified data on comparable business deals, including gross income and cash flow figures and more.  There are even industry-specific calculations that can be used as well. The main point that Gregg wants to convey is that business owners should use tangible and proven data to sell their businesses.  Like upgrading systems appeals to younger buyers, the same holds true for using verified data to sell.

Take Advantage of the Digital Marketplace

Gregg’s view is that perhaps the single greatest technology for business owners to leverage is that of the digital marketplace.  Sites that link businesses with prospective buyers can help to streamline and expedite the sales process. Through such sites, it is possible to go deeper than a specific industry and even explore sub-sectors, thus enhancing the chances of finding the right buyer.

Technology can be used to help sell businesses in a variety of ways.  An experienced and proven business broker will leverage a whole range of tools to assist business owners when selling their businesses.  When you opt for a proven business broker, you can expect to receive offers from serious and vetted buyers and, in the process, save a great deal of time while maintaining confidentiality.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Thinking About Succession Planning

If you haven’t been thinking about succession planning, the bottom line is that you should be. In the February 20, 2019 Divestopia article, “All Companies Need to Look at Succession Planning,” author Brad Cherniak examines the importance of succession planning. Owning and/or operating a business can be a great deal of work, but it is imperative to take the time to develop a succession plan.

Succession Planning is for Businesses of All Sizes

Author Cherniak wants every business owner to realize that succession planning isn’t just for big businesses. Yet, Cherniak points out that the majority of small-to-medium sized businesses, as well as their senior managers, simply don’t focus much on succession planning at all.

Many business owners see succession planning as essentially being the same as exiting a business. Cherniak is quick to point out that while the two can be linked and may, in fact, overlap, they are by no means the same thing. They should not be treated as such.

Following an Arc Pattern

Importantly, Cherniak notes, “Succession planning should also be linked to your strategic planning.” He feels that both entrepreneurs and businesses managers follow an arc pattern where their “creativity, energy and effectiveness” are all concerned. As circumstances change, entrepreneurs and business managers can become exhausted and even a liability.

The arc can also change due to a company’s changing circumstances. All of these factors point to “coordinating the arcs of business,” which includes “startup, ramp-up, growth, consolidation, renewed growth and maturity,” with whomever is running the business at the time. In this way, succession planning is not one-dimensional. Instead it should be viewed as quite a dynamic process.

Evaluating Each Company Individually

Cherniak highlights the importance of making sure that the team matches the needs of a company as well as its stages of development. Who is running a company and setting its direction? Answering these questions is important. It also is of paramount importance to make sure that the right person is in charge at the optimal time.

Companies and their circumstances can change. This change can often occur without much notice. As Cherniak points out, few small-to-medium sized businesses focus on succession planning, and this is potentially to their detriment.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Importance of Understanding Leases

Leases should never be overlooked when it comes to buying or selling a business.  After all, where your business is located and how long you can stay at that location plays a key role in the overall health of your business.  It is easy to get lost with “larger” issues when buying or selling a business.  But in terms of stability, few factors rank as high as that of a lease.  Let’s explore some of the key facts you’ll want to keep in mind where leases are concerned.

The Different Kinds of Leases

In general, there are three different kinds of leases: sub-lease, new lease and the assignment of the lease.  These leases clearly differ from one another, and each will impact a business in different ways.

A sub-lease is a lease within a lease.  If you have a sub-lease then another party holds the original lease.  It is very important to remember that in this situation the seller is the landlord.  In general, sub-leasing will require that permission is granted by the original landlord.  With a new lease, a lease has expired and the buyer must obtain a new lease from the landlord.  Buyers will want to be certain that they have a lease in place before buying a new business otherwise they may have to relocate the business if the landlord refuses to offer a new lease.

The third lease option is the assignment of lease.  Assignment of lease is the most common type of lease when it comes to selling a business.  Under the assignment of lease, the buyer is granted the use of the location where the business is currently operating.  In short, the seller assigns to the buyer the rights of the lease.  It is important to note that the seller does not act as the landlord in this situation.

Understand All Lease Issues to Avoid Surprises

Early on in the buying process, buyers should work to understand all aspects of a business’s lease.  No one wants an unwelcomed surprise when buying a business, for example, discovering that a business must be relocated due to lease issues.

Summed up, don’t ignore the critical importance of a business’s leasing situation.  Whether you are buying or selling a business, it is in your best interest to clearly understand your lease situation.  Buyers want stable leases with clearly defined rules and so do sellers, as sellers can use a stable leasing agreement as a strong sales tool.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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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 procedures.

The plan should start with outlining the circumstances under which a sale or merger might occur, other than the obvious financial difficulties or other economic pressures. The reason for selling or merging might then be the obvious one – retirement – or another non-emergency situation. Competition issues might be a reason – or perhaps there is a merger under consideration to grow the company. No matter what the circumstance, an exit plan or procedure is something that should be developed even if a reason is not immediately on the horizon.

Next, any existing agreements with other partners or shareholders that could influence any exit plans should be reviewed. If there are partners or shareholders, there should be buy-sell agreements in place. If not, these should be prepared. Any subsequent acquisition of the company will most likely be for the entire business. Everyone involved in the decision to sell, legally or otherwise, should be involved in the exit procedures. This group can then determine under what circumstances the company might be offered for sale.

The next step to consider is which, if any, of the partners, shareholders or key managers will play an actual part in any exit strategy and who will handle what. A legal advisor can be called upon to answer any of the legal issues, and the company’s financial officer or outside accounting firm can develop and resolve any financial issues. Obviously, no one can predict the future, but basic legal and accounting “what-ifs” can be anticipated and answered in advance.

A similar issue to consider is who will be responsible for representing the company in negotiations. It is generally best if one key manager or owner represents the company in the sale process and is accountable for the execution of the procedures in place in the exit plan. This might also be a good time to talk to an M&A intermediary firm for advice about the process itself. Your M&A advisor can provide samples of the documents that will most likely be executed as part of the sale process; e.g., confidentiality agreements, term sheets, letters of intent, and typical closing documents. The M&A advisor can also answer questions relating to fees and charges.

One of the most important tasks is determining how to value the company. Certainly, an appraisal done today will not reflect the value of the company in the future. However, a plan of how the company will be valued for sale purposes should be outlined. For example, tax implications can be considered: Who should do the valuation?  Are any synergistic benefits outlined that might impact the value?  How would a potential buyer look at the value of the company?

An integral part of the plan is to address the due diligence issues that will be a critical part of any sale. The time to address the due diligence process and possible contentious issues is before a sale plan is formalized. The best way to address the potential “skeletons in the closet” is to shake them at this point and resolve the problems. What are the key problems or issues that could cause concern to a potential acquirer? Are agreements with large customers and suppliers in writing? Are there contracts with key employees? Are the leases, if any, on equipment and real estate current and long enough to meet an acquirer’s requirements?

The time to address selling the company is now. Creating the basic procedures that will be followed makes good business sense and, although they may not be put into action for a long time, they should be in place and updated periodically.