Business Intermediary explains what’s involved in the selling process. Questions of the seller are answered regarding the business operation, history and future prospects of the seller’s firm.
GLBA representative begins “recasting” technique to determine owner’s discretionary cash flow of the company. Spreadsheet analysis is then used to compare the three previous years of financial operations and the current year to date.
Once the financial review is complete the your GLBA representative works to assign applicable multipliers to the owner’s cash flow and to determine the applicable deal structure. Care is taken to use multiple standardized valuation techniques to determine a recommended selling price to the seller in addition to researching industry comps.
The GLBA representative drafts the listing agreement for seller or seller's attorney to review and discuss any concerns. Once the details are worked out, both parties sign the listing agreement.
After the listing agreement is fully executed, the next step by GLBA representative is to obtain a comprehensive list of documents from the seller to develop the marketing materials for purchasers. A business questionnaire, fixed asset list, copies of building lease and other documents are requested by the Business Intermediary to complete the marketing materials.
Create a marketing ad that we use to advertise the business without giving any confidential information. We will create a marketing piece with pictures and more details about the history of the company, employees, management, financials and anything else that would interest a buyer.
List the company on the GLBA Inc. website, BizBuySell, Linked In and many other websites we have partnerships with. We will email our list of current buyers who are actively searching for businesses to purchase. Contact synergistic businesses that might be a good fit for the seller's business.
Interested buyers are screened through our interview process where we gather financial information and require the buyers to sign the non-disclosure agreement. If they are qualified buyers, then arranged a meeting with the business owner.
The most used technique to start the actual negotiations is the Letter of Intent to purchase (LOI). This document, although non-binding, is the roadmap by which negotiations follow. It will usually lead the parties through the due diligence process, the funding options of the buyer, and the final purchase contract which is generally drawn up just prior to closing.
The GLBA Business Intermediary is responsible for keeping the negotiating process moving forward, and maintaining an arms-length transaction between parties.
The basic deal points of price and deal structure usually lead the way in negotiations and will be the first items to get handled between the parties. Frequently, the LOI document will be changed several times before being signed by all involved.
Third party lenders have their own due diligence checklists which often stretch the closing process. Other financing vehicles such as conventional loans are usually quicker. Seller financing, where applicable is usually the quickest of all funding methods often only taking weeks to a closing.
Both parties should have their own legal and tax representatives contribute to review the final purchase agreement. As one would surmise, this process can take time to get all parties to reach agreement about the final “definitive agreement.”
GLBA Business Intermediaries are responsible for setting up the closing at a venue acceptable to all parties. Each party will receive a buyer and seller’s closing statement outlining the proceeds/expense of sale. The closing will also encompass the buyer finalizing the loan process with any third party lenders. Closing generally takes one to three hours and is the final step in the sales process.
Is it time to sell your business? Selling your business is a major decision! You have devoted your time, money, and energy into building, running, and operating your business. It may well represent your life’s work. If you have already decided that now is the right time to sell, you want the very best professional guidance you can get. This is when working in tandem with a professional business broker can make the difference between just getting rid of the business and selling it for the very best price and terms!
Following are some of the most common topics and questions frequently brought up by sellers. If you have any questions that we have not covered, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
For Business Sellers
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.
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.
It doesn’t make any difference what you think your business is worth, or what you want for it. It also doesn’t make any difference what your accountant, banker, attorney, or best friend thinks your business is worth. Only the marketplace can decide what the value of your business is.
The second question you must consider is: “Do you really want to sell this business?” If you’re really serious and have a solid reason (or reasons) why you want to sell, it will most likely happen. You can increase your chances of selling if you can answer yes to the second part of this question: “Do you have reasonable expectations?” A yes answer to these two questions means you are serious about selling.
The First Steps
Okay, let’s assume that you have decided to at least take the first few steps to actually sell your business. Before you even think about placing your business for sale, there are some things you should do first. The first thing you must do is to gather information about the business for sale.
Here’s a checklist of the items you should get together:
If you’re like many small business owners, you’ll have to search for some of these items. After you gather all the above items, you should spend some time updating the information and filling in the blanks. You most likely have forgotten much of this information, so it’s a good idea to really take a hard look at all of this. Have all the above put in a neat, orderly format as if you were going to present it to a prospective purchaser. Everything starts with this information.
Make sure the financial statements of the business for sale are current and as accurate as you can get them. If you’re half way through the current year, make sure you have last year’s figures, tax returns, and year-to-date (YTD) figures. Make all your financial statements are presentable. It is worth the money in the long run to get outside professional help, if necessary, to put the statements in order. You want to present the business well “on paper.” As you will see later, pricing a small business usually is based on cash flow or seller discretionary earnings (SDE). This includes the profit of the business, the owner’s salary and benefits, depreciation, and other non-cash items. So, don’t panic because the bottom line isn’t what you think it should be. By the time all the appropriate figures are added to the bottom line, the cash flow may look pretty good.
Prospective buyers eventually will want to review your financial figures. A Balance Sheet is not normally necessary unless the sale price of your business would be well over the $1 million figure. Buyers want to see income and expenses. They want to know if they can make the payments on the business (more on this later) and still make a living. Let’s face it, if your business is not making a living wage for someone, it probably can’t be sold. You may be able to find a buyer who is willing to take the risk, or an experienced industry professional who only looks for location, etc. and feels that he or she can increase business.
The big question is not how much your business will sell for, but how much of it can you keep? The Federal Tax Laws determine how much money you will actually be able to put in the bank. How your business is legally formed can be important in determining your tax status when selling your business. For example: Is your business a corporation, partnership or proprietorship? If you are incorporated, is the business a C corporation or a sub-chapter S corporation? There are also tax rules that impact certain businesses on seller financing. The point of all of this is that before you consider price or even selling your business, it is important that you discuss the tax implications of a sale of your business with a tax advisor. You don’t want to be in the middle of a transaction with a solid buyer and discover that the tax implications of the sale are going to net you much less than you had figured.
Who are the Buyers?
Buyers buy businesses for many of the same reasons that sellers sell businesses. It is important that the buyer is as serious as the seller when it comes time to buying a business. If the buyer is not serious, the sale will never close. Here are just a few of the reasons that buyers buy businesses:
Here is a look at the make-up of the average individual buyer looking to replace a lost job or wanting to get out of an uncomfortable job situation. Almost 50 percent will have less than $100,000 in which to invest in the purchase of a business. In many cases, the funds or part of them, will come from personal savings followed by financial assistance from family members. The buyer will be looking for bank financing usually through the assistance of the Small Business Administration (SBA) or seller financing. The buyer will never have owned a business before and most likely will buy a business in an industry they have work experience. About 20% of the time, the buyer is looking to make a career exit from the industry they are familiar with because of business trends or personal preference.
Their primary reason for going into business is to get out of their present situation, be it unemployment or job disagreement (or discouragement). Prospective buyers want to do their own thing and control their own destiny, and they don’t want to work for anyone. Money is important, but it’s not at the top of the list. In fact, it probably is in fourth or fifth place in the overall list. In order to pursue the dream of owning one’s own business, the buyer must be able to make that “leap of faith” necessary to take the risk of purchasing and operating a business.
Buyers who want to go into business strictly for the money usually are not realistic buyers for small businesses. Keep in mind the following traits of a willing buyer:
Private Equity (PE)-Industry Specific
This buyer is more sophisticated, and they are looking for certain types of businesses like day care centers, auto repair shops, RV dealers, equipment rental, appliance repair, etc. These are just examples of the types of businesses that have been combined in the past, but there is usually a new trend every year. They search for a specific SIC code and attempt to buy 2-10 businesses in an area, then roll them up under one brand name and scale locally, regionally, nationally and sometimes internationally. This might be a situation when the seller could be offered the opportunity to participate in the expansion after the sale of the business and take a leadership role with the larger company. PE buyers usually will pay cash because they are well funded, and they will not waste much time in making a purchase, if your company meets their criteria.
Competitors or similar customer base
This buyer is looking for growth through acquisition and they believe it is easier to scale their company by purchasing their competition or similar customer base. This is happening extensively in the skilled trades like plumbing, HVAC and electrical. Plumbing companies are buying HVAC companies or vice versa because they service the same customer. If the plumber buys the HVAC company, they can sell their plumbing services to all their newly acquired HVAC customers and the same with their current plumbing customers for HVAC. They keep their loyal customers and sell them more services. There is value in a company that has 3 or more skilled technicians because these larger companies have the sales but need more technicians to serve their customers. The average age of a skilled plumber is 57 years old and the younger generations are not interested in getting dirty. Buyers are purchasing companies for their most important asset, quality employees. This buyer could have more cash for the down payment, but likely will look for seller or bank financing. If the buyer has an established and well-run business, financing will not be a problem.
What Buyers Want
This may be a bit premature if you not have decided to sell a business, but it may help in your decision-making process to understand not only who the buyer is, but also what he or she will want to know in order to buy your business. Here are some questions that you might be asked – and, should be prepared to answer:
Buyers Want Cash Flow
The first thing to keep in mind is the vast majority of buyers want to buy cash flow. Sit down with your accountant or bookkeeper and begin to get your financial statements in order. Cash flow is not the same thing as profit. Most buyers look at the profit and loss statement or tax return, as well as Seller’s Discretionary Earnings (SDE). They will consider any excess compensation to employees and family. Buyers will also look at large, one-time expenses such as a new computer system or remodeling. They will consider non-cash items like depreciation and amortization. Interest expenses will be reviewed, as will owner prerequisites. These are items that a professional business broker considers when advising a business owner on a selling price.
What about the Internet? The Internet is a real “buzz” word – and if its use is appropriate for your business, then developing a web site is important not only to your on-going business, but also to a buyer. Many buyers are conscious of what the Internet is doing for many businesses. If you have a web site for your business, it could be a big plus.
What Can You Do?
Everything Has Value
There are other things that add value to your business. Don’t discount the value of customer lists, proprietary products and/or techniques, well-maintained equipment, secret recipes, customized software programs, or good employees. These are termed “off-balance sheet items,” and although not used in most pricing models, they add to value. Look at your business very carefully, so you don’t overlook those items that make your business more attractive to the buyer.
Appearances Do Count
The time to replace that old worn-out piece of equipment is before you decide to sell a business. Don’t assume that a new owner will want to do it or that the price will just be slightly lower because you haven’t replaced it. The time to “spiff up” the business is now, even if you aren’t selling. Fix the sign, replace the carpet, paint the place – make it look good. Even if you’re not selling, it’s just plain good for business and you never know when the time to sell will occur. Keep in mind that anything that increases sales also increases profits and the all-important cash flow!
Eliminate the Surprises
Long before you sell a business, eliminate the surprises! Review every facet of the business and remedy any problems that could appear during the sale process. No one likes surprises – most of all potential buyers. Whether legal, accounting, environmental, or anything else – solve it now.
This may sound like something that should have been done when the business first started, so it may be “after-the-fact”. You should create an operation’s manual. You may already have one, or started one years ago, or simply, have thought of doing one. Now is the time! It may actually create added value to the business. Even if it doesn’t, it will impress buyers that you have your business “act” together and should help you sell more quickly and effectively. Preparing a manual on how to operate your business can also be helpful even if you don’t want to sell. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just cover the basics. A collection of ads that you have placed in a catalog or sample of products, publications, or menus (if the business is food related) is also impressive. Include anything to do with the business that might be helpful for a new owner. However, don’t include anything that is proprietary, such as customer lists, suppliers or secret recipes, etc.
We look forward to working with you in finding a suitable buyer for your business. You, as the seller, are an integral part of the total marketing program. Below you will find a few friendly recommendations that will help in our marketing efforts when you decide you are ready to sell.
It might also be helpful if you took a good look at your business from the perspective of a buyer. Try to put yourself in the place of a prospective purchaser of the business. What would you do to make it more attractive or more saleable? Obviously, the financial records of your business are critical to the selling a business, but how it looks is also important. First impressions really count! If a potential buyer doesn’t like the appearance of your business for sale, the rest of it may never get a chance. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us. We look forward to hearing from you!
How long does it take to sell my business?
It generally takes, on average, between five to eight months to sell a business. Keep in mind that an average is just that. Some businesses will take longer to sell, while others sell in a shorter period of time. The sooner you have all the information needed to begin the marketing process, the shorter the time period should be. It is also important that the business be priced properly right from the start. Some sellers, operating under the premise that they can always come down in price, overprice their business. This theory often “backfires,” because buyers often will refuse to look at an overpriced business. It has been shown that the amount of the down payment may be the key ingredient to a quick sale. The lower the down payment, generally 40 percent of the asking price or less, the shorter the time to a successful sale. A reasonable down payment also tells a potential buyer that the seller has confidence in the business’s ability to make the payments.
Why is seller financing so important to selling a business?
Surveys have shown that a seller who asks for all cash, receives on average only 70 percent of his or her asking price, while sellers who accept terms receive on average 86 percent of their asking price. That’s a difference of 16 percent! In many cases, businesses for sale for all cash just don’t sell. With reasonable terms, however, the chances of selling a business increase dramatically and the time period from listing to sale greatly decreases. Most sellers are unaware of how much interest they can receive by financing the sale of their business. In some cases it can greatly increase the amount received. And, again, it tells the buyer that the seller has enough confidence that the business can, indeed, pay for itself.
What can business broker do and , what can't brokers do?
Business brokers are the professionals who will facilitate the successful sale of your business. It is important that you understand just what a professional business broker can do — as well as what they can’t. They can help you decide how to price your business with a business valuation and how to structure the sale so it makes sense for everyone — you and the buyer. They can find the right buyer for your business, work with you and the buyer in negotiating and along every other step of the way until the transaction is successfully closed. They can also help the buyer in all the details of the process of buying a business.
A business broker is not, however, a magician who can sell an overpriced business. Most businesses are saleable if priced and structured properly. You should understand that only the marketplace can determine what a business will sell for. The amount of the down payment you are willing to accept, along with the terms of the seller financing, can greatly influence not only the ultimate selling price, but also the success of the sale itself.
What can I do to help sell my business?
A buyer will want up-to-date financial information of the business for sale. If you use accountants, you can work with them on making current information available. If you are using an attorney, make sure they are familiar with the business closing process and the laws of your particular state. You might also ask if their schedule will allow them to participate in the closing on very short notice. If you and the buyer want to close the sale quickly, usually within a few weeks, unless there is an alcohol or other license involved that might delay things, you don’t want to wait until the attorney can make the time to prepare the documents or attend the closing. Time is of the essence in any business sale transaction. The failure to close on schedule permits the buyer to reconsider or make changes in the original proposal.
What happens when there is a buyer for my business?
When a buyer is sufficiently interested in your business for sale, he or she will, or should, submit an offer in writing. This offer or proposal may have one or more contingencies. Usually, the contingencies concern a detailed review of your financial records and may also include a review of your lease arrangements, franchise agreement (if there is one), or other pertinent details of the business. You may accept the terms of the offer or you may make a counter-proposal. You should understand, however, that if you do not accept the buyer’s proposal, the buyer can withdraw it at any time. At first review, you may not be pleased with a particular offer; however, it is important to look at it carefully. It may be lacking in some areas, but it might also have some pluses to seriously consider. There is an old adage that says, “The first offer is generally the best one the seller will receive.” This does not mean that you should accept the first, or any offer — just that all offers should be looked at carefully.
Once you and the buyer are in agreement, both of you should work to satisfy and remove the contingencies in the offer. It is important that you cooperate fully in this process. You don’t want the buyer to think that you are hiding anything. The buyer may, at this point, bring in outside advisors to help them review the information. When all the conditions have been met, final papers will be drawn and signed. Once the closing has been completed, money will be distributed and the new owner will take possession of the business.