Red Flags are Not a Pretty Sight

When it comes to selling a business, sellers simply must pay attention to red flags.  Problems 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 … [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 and understanding how this is cultivated is of great value to any owner. 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 of a company. Simply stated, personal goodwill can be a powerful force, but it … [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. At a minimum, your team should include an attorney and accountant.  For sufficiently large businesses you should also include a wealth manager and investment banker. 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 … [Read more...]

The Difficult Issues Often Attached to Valuing a Business

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. This article explores six key issues that must be considered when determining the value of a business. 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 a business is that businesses with only one product or service are at much greater risk than a business that has multiple … [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...]