4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Business

When in the process of buying a business, some buyers have accidentally overlooked important questions that need to be asked. However, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you wish you’d found out details that would have impacted your decision-making. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some often-overlooked inquiries. 

1. What Is Included in the Sale?

It is possible to get so focused on the purchase of the business itself, that you overlook key details such as what is included. Don’t just assume that you’ll also receive important assets such as real estate, inventory, or machinery. All of this must be carefully outlined and documented. You will want to know exactly what you’ll be getting for your investment. 

2. What Assets Are Included?

You’ll want to get the ins and outs of the proprietary materials and ensure that they are included with the business. If there is intellectual property, such as patents and copyrights, formulations, or software, you’ll want to ensure it is included. If it’s not included in the sale, you’ll want to know why. After all, the success of the business could depend on these. 

3. How Can You Grow the Business?

Before you buy a business, it’s a good idea to ask yourself about its potential for growth. Many sellers will be prepared to provide you with ideas and strategies. If it is deemed that the growth for the business is limited, this is something you’ll want to determine in advance. Also, it is important to think about the amount of working capital you’ll need to not only run the business, but also to make any necessary changes. 

4. What is the Staffing Situation?

You’ll want to think about how dependent the business is on the current owner or manager. If and when the current owner leaves, how much will that impact operations? You’ll also want to know in-depth information about who the management team is and how experienced they are. It is essential that your expectations are in line with reality. 

As you can see, many variables must be taken into consideration before you sign on the dotted line. Much of this will be handled during the due diligence process. However, it is essential that you ask the right questions and speak up whenever you need clarity on an issue. When a business is properly vetted, you’ll not only be satisfied, but you’ll also be more successful. 

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Takeaways from the Latest BizBuySell Insight Report

Whether you are thinking of buying or selling a business, it’s worth taking a look at the quarterly BizBuySell reports. The findings from these publications are taken from analysis of sales and listing prices of approximately 50,000 businesses across the United States. The report covers the statistics of sales prices and successful transactions. It also discusses the trends that are at play. Regardless of your role in the business world, these trends likely will have some sort of impact on you. 

A Boom for Sellers 

The latest BizBuySell report, which covers Q4 of 2021, found that now is a very positive time for sellers. Q4 actually surpassed the pre-pandemic numbers of the fourth quarter of 2019. Of course, this is a major shift away from the sales numbers in 2020. It is typical to see transitions dip in the fourth quarter; however, 74% of brokers stated that their sales were steady during this time period. Experts say that this strength has carried into early 2022. 

Other notable sales statistics include the following:

  • 8,647 closed transactions were reported in 2021, an increase from 7,612 in 2020
  • Sales prices increased 16% year-over-year 
  • Median cash flow grew 10% year-over-year

Buyers are Looking for Quality

In terms of what buyers are currently looking for, 60% of surveyed buyers indicated that strong financials were simply a “must have” when they were considering a business. This number is in stark contrast to 18% of buyers who responded that discounted opportunities were a top consideration. 

Labor Shortages a Factor

The BizBuySell report also discussed the prevalent factor of labor shortages. In fact, 64% of owners surveyed say that this issue has impacted them. Business brokers agree that labor shortage is currently the largest problem for small businesses. Another corresponding issue is that of supply chain disruptions, which 75% of the business owners responding to the survey said had an impact on them. 

A More Balanced Landscape

In the survey, brokers were asked if they believed that owners were more or less likely to sell their business in 2022 versus 2021. The general trend was towards brokers believing that there would be more businesses sold this year as compared to last year. Last year, the view was that buyers had the edge over sellers. However, now it seems as though brokers feel that the landscape has shifted and become more balanced overall.

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Is Your Deal Really Done?

Once you get to the stage of your deal where you have a signed letter of intent, you may already be feeling a sense of relief that your deal is near finalization. But remember that the due diligence stage is typically yet to come. This stage includes everything from financial and legal investigations to a review of specific information regarding how a business is run. 

The due diligence process can be quite comprehensive and it often reveals some surprises. Because it is important for sellers to know what to prepare and for buyers to know what to look for, let’s examine some of the categories that are reviewed during this process.

Trademarks and Copyrights

Will assets like trademarks, patents and copyrights be transferred?  This is a point that has certainly interfered with some deals being successful. Due to the fact that trademarks, patents, and copyrights are often essential parts of a business, they cannot be overlooked. 

Products and Industry 

Due diligence will likely include analysis of product lines and the respective percentage of sales that they make up. If the business in question is a manufacturing business, then all aspects of the process will be examined. For example, buyers will be looking for age and value of the equipment, information about suppliers, etc. 

Financial Statements

It goes without saying that financial statements should be poured over during due diligence. Current statements and incoming sales should be carefully reviewed.  Review of financial information will also include balance sheets. Is there bad debt? Is there work in progress? These kinds of issues will be evaluated. 

Customer Lists

If you are selling a business, you should be prepared to share lists of major customers. Buyers may also want to compare your market share to that of your competitors. 

Key Employees

Buyers should be looking for information on key personnel, as well as data on any potential employee turnover. If you are selling a business, it’s important to try to fix any staffing problems that might interfere with a buyer’s ability to properly run the business. 

A key goal of the due diligence process is to find potential problems, such as liabilities and contractual issues. But on the upside, due diligence also includes investigation into assets and benefits. The end result should be that the selling price of the business is justified and both parties walk away satisfied. As stated above, it is very common for problems and issues to pop up during due diligence, so it’s important to stay proactive and be open to negotiation until the deal is finalized.

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Questions to Ask When Negotiating a Deal

Almost every sale of a business involves a high degree of negotiation between buyers and sellers. In this article, we share some of the questions you can ask yourself to prepare for this part of the process. After all, optimal outcomes are typically only achieved through proper negotiation strategies. Keep in mind that one of the key strengths possessed by Business Brokers and M&A Advisors is expertise and skills in negotiating deals. 

Can Both Parties Split the Difference?

If the buyer and seller can’t agree on a number, one negotiating tactic is to have them split the difference. This is a tactic that is simple to understand, and it shows both parties that the other is willing to be flexible. This reveals a good degree of goodwill and can serve to not only keep both parties talking, but also lower any pre-existing tensions. When both parties are still at the table, there is still hope that a deal can be reached. This tactic serves to continue the discussions and can often be highly beneficial.

Can the Buyer and Seller Better Understand One Another?

When it comes to good negotiations, one of the goals is for both parties to seek to understand one another. Sometimes a buyer or seller’s needs don’t even involve the numbers on paper. Instead, they may be seeking to adjust terms to make them more conducive to their overall goals. If you can keep an open mind and seek to better understand what the other party is ultimately looking for, it can go a long way in making the deal happen.

Can You Bring in a Professional?

There is an old saying that says “Never negotiate your own deal.” One of the benefits of bringing in a brokerage professional is that this third party won’t have the same level of emotional investment. This means that he or she can keep a neutral perspective and be more apt to see things from both sides. Sometimes a new perspective can work wonders. Further, a brokerage professional will understand the myriad of complex factors that must be successfully resolved before the deal is finalized. A Business Broker or M&A Advisor will have tips and techniques that can only be gained from years of first hand exposure to making deals happen. 

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Current Insights Regarding the Labor Shortage

BizBuySell’s Insight Report is filled with key statistics and information on a range of topics, including the labor shortage and hiring problems that many businesses currently face. Visit BizBuySell for more information about the findings that they recently reported for the third quarter of 2021. This website also offers an archive of past quarterly reports dating back to 2013. 

The pandemic has “reshuffled the deck,” causing many to reassess their positions in corporate America. At this point in 2021, businesses are recovering, but the pandemic continues to play a role in business operations. 71% of business owners surveyed noted that they are facing higher costs than before the pandemic. Most respondents indicated that labor shortages have been having a significant impact on their businesses. There are issues both in hiring and retaining employees. 

As the report explains, “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, retail spending in September increased 13.9% over the previous year. However, many businesses still struggle to attract or retain employees. In fact, 49% of owners say the labor shortage is impacting their business, while Business Brokers see it as the number one concern facing small businesses.

Some of the problems related to the issue of labor shortage are not immediately obvious. As it has become common knowledge that employers are having trouble filling positions and are having to increase pay in order to attract new employees, existing employees are taking note. Since existing employees realize that new hires are being hired at higher wages, they are themselves often expecting raises. In turn, operational costs are going up for many businesses.

The fact is that the business owners are still selling and for a variety of reasons. BizBuySell’s statistics also indicate that of buyers who are planning to sell, 20% cite retirement as their main reason for selling, whereas 38% cite burnout as the primary reason.

According to the data collected by BizBuySell, transactions are up 17% over the last quarter, but are still 7% below pre-pandemic levels. However, it is expected that the number of transactions will grow to be well above their pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

Buyers and sellers alike should remember that the pandemic has changed business and will continue to do so in the near future. In short, the business landscape continues to evolve. 

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How to Purchase a Business Without Collateral

Many prospective business owners believe that it is impossible to purchase a business without collateral. The simple fact is that banks do expect collateral when making a loan. Since this is the core reality of the business world, it means that many who are eager to own a business will ultimately not be able to acquire one. However, while it is true that banks want collateral for loans, there are some ways that would-be business owners can still progress towards their goal of owning a business. In this article, we will explore a couple of the ways that a prospective business owner can still succeed. 

First, we must make a key distinction: there is a difference between not having collateral and having no funds whatsoever. It is key to note that the larger the business you plan to buy, the more money you will ultimately need. 

A great place to begin the process of buying a business without collateral is to talk to the SBA. The SBA’s 7 (a) program offers up incentives to banks to make loans to potential buyers. The SBA’s 7 (a) program is a simply fantastic program for those without collateral, as the program will cover a whopping seventy-five percent of the loan amount; this means that you, as the business owner, only need to have twenty-five percent of the price of the business. As though this program was exciting enough, the SBA’s 7 (a) program also allows prospective buyers to use money from investors or gifts towards the needed funds. Thanks to this great SBA program, you may qualify for a collateral free loan option.

A second option is seller financing. Seller financing is actually quite common in various forms. If you can find a motivated seller, such as one who is eager to retire, then seller financing becomes a potentially viable option. It may even be possible to combine seller financing with the SBA’s 7 (a) program for a powerful one-two punch. In this situation, a key part of the process is to find the right business and the right seller. 

Working with a Business Broker or M&A Advisor can serve as a massive shortcut towards finding just such a business and seller. Brokerage professionals have databases of businesses for sale along with unique insights. A Business Broker or M&A Advisor may instantly know of a business that is a good fit for buyers without collateral.

Ultimately, prospective business owners shouldn’t be dissuaded by the challenges that a lack of collateral represents. It’s true that a lack of collateral is an obstacle, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable problem. By teaming with an experienced brokerage professional, it is possible to find a path towards owning a business even without having collateral. 

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The Most Important Factors in Any Partnership Agreement

Every business has an array of important legal documents. However, the partnership agreement holds a unique and important place in your business and its future. 

The facts are that many people choose to go into business with close friends or family members, and often these personal relationships lead to a forgoing of the partnership agreement. Don’t go this route, as it would be a major mistake. As a business owner, you have a responsibility to protect, maintain, and grow your business. 

A well-written partnership agreement can greatly reduce the number of potential problems that your business can face down the road. Establishing a legal framework for the operation of your business is a must.

A good partnership agreement is one in which every major aspect of how the partnership should run is outlined and spelled out in detail. At the end of the day, your partnership agreement should be viewed as a legal document that serves as a key guidepost for the operation of your business. Since a partnership agreement is a legal document, it is essential that you work with a lawyer to create a contract that is specific to your company.

This type of agreement is often a more complex agreement than many business owners would initially expect, and for good reason. Due to the wide scope that a partnership can entail, the partnership agreement can address many different points. 

It is important to remember that partnership agreements are designed to minimize misunderstandings and outline how the business should function. Issues such as how money is distributed, what percentage each partner will receive, and which partners are to receive a draw, should all be covered. 

However, a partnership agreement does more than simply address how money is to be distributed. It should also outline key operational factors such as what happens in the event of the death of a partner. If that were to occur, for example, who will be in charge of managerial work? Issues such as how business decisions should be made, and how conflicts are to be resolved, are additional important issues that should be addressed. 

A good partnership agreement, one that strives to foresee as many problems as possible, serves to protect your business against future disruptions. Every successful operation or enterprise has rules by which it operates, and your business should be no exception.

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Are You Truly Ready to Become a Business Owner?

People frequently dream of owning their own business, as ownership has a range of perks and benefits. However, it is important for prospective business owners to step back and consider if they are truly ready. In this article, we will explore three essential questions that you need to answer before taking the next step and buying a business.

Question One – Do You Have the Right Personality Type?

Truly not everyone has the right personality type to enjoy being a business owner, and it is best that you understand if you have the right set of traits before attempting a purchase. For example, you must be comfortable assuming a certain degree of risk. 

Risk and business go hand-in-hand. This is true no matter how well your business may be operated. Not everyone is comfortable with this level of risk. Owning a business means that you are not only taking financial risks, but you are also giving up the stability that can come with just being an employee. Summed up, you must have the right mindset to operate a business.

Question Two – Are You Determined to Grow Your Income?

Owning and operating a business means that you’ll have to put in a great deal of work and potentially longer hours than you are accustomed to. This is typically necessary in order to build your business and increase your income. It is key that you ask yourself if you are ready for the amount of work that typically comes along with owning and operating a business. Statistics show that the longer you own a business, the more money you will generally earn.

Question Three – Are You Comfortable with Achieving More Control in Your Life?

At first glance, many people may instantly feel that they want more control over their professional lives. Yet in reality, this is not always the situation. Being a business owner means that you have far more control over your professional and business life. Most people will view this as a very good thing. Not having someone else control your fate is a good feeling, as you’ll be able to allocate your time as you see fit. As a business owner, you are not just part of a business, but instead are the person controlling, modeling. and guiding it. At the end of the day, there is nothing quite like being your own boss.

If you are ready for the amount of work and risk that goes along with owning a business, then it might be time to take the next step. One of the easiest ways to move forward, and begin the process of owning your own business, is to work with a Business Broker or M&A Advisor. These types of professionals have years of hands-on experience in the buying and selling of businesses and can help determine what kind of business is the best for you.

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Overlooked Areas to Consider When Buying a Business

Without a doubt, there are a multitude of factors that go into buying a business. Since there are so many variables involved, it is easy to potentially neglect some important aspects. In this article, we will explore some of the key areas that can be overlooked when buying a business. Three areas in particular warrant special attention.

#1 Legal Documents

Upon first glance, it might seem obvious that all legal documents should be evaluated; however, many buyers forget that all legal documents are important and should be given weight. In short, there is no such thing as an irrelevant legal document, as one never knows what problems could be lurking within any given legal document. 

For this reason, you’ll want to carefully examine any legal document before making a purchase. The stakes are simply too high to not evaluate everything from trademarks and copyrights to leasing agreements.

#2 W-2 and 1099 Forms

It is important to note whether or not 1099 forms were given out instead of W-2 forms. The reason is that the IRS has very specific rules regarding these forms. The last thing that any buyer of a business wants is to sign on the dotted line only to discover that there are problems with the IRS. Taking ownership of a new business only to learn that there are IRS issues is something that should clearly be avoided.

#3 Retirement Plans

Just as it is vital to look over all financial documents, including W-2 and 1099 forms, the same holds true to evaluating retirement plans. You shouldn’t buy a business unless you know if the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are completely up to date with the Department of Labor. A failure to properly evaluate a given company’s retirement plans can be a very costly mistake.

Ultimately, there are many potential topics that can be overlooked when buying a business. In this article, we outlined three areas, but in reality, there are many more. This fact underscores the tremendous importance of working closely with a business broker, as well as other trusted professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, in order to properly vet any business that you are considering. One of the key steps in buying any business is to take every possible step to perform due diligence. No business is a flawless enterprise, but a seasoned business broker or M&A advisor can help you to successfully chart a path forward.

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The Importance of Quality Negotiations

When it comes to finalizing deals, successful negotiations are at the heart of the matter. It only makes sense to think about how to improve your communication skills and to choose a Business Broker or M&A Advisor who is well versed in the art of negotiation. 

Cultivating Win-Win Situations

Achieving a win-win for all parties is essential, and there are many components involved. It’s essential to understand what the other party is seeking and to help them also feel as though they succeeded in the deal. 

One tried and tested strategy is to lead people through a series of “yeses” by starting with topics and points that can be agreed upon and then working forward. In the beginning of this negotiating strategy, the yeses may come from getting others to agree on what may be seen as trivial things. However, this step works to create the right climate for moving forward so that yeses can be obtained on more important issues.

Maintaining the Flow of Information

The flow of information is a critical aspect of the negotiation process. For this reason, it’s best for negotiations between buyers and sellers to go through their brokerage professionals, rather than conducted directly.  

The simple fact is that otherwise there are too many variables and opportunities for something to go wrong, ranging from egos getting in the way to miscommunications. When you choose a qualified Business Broker or M&A Advisor, you’ll be able to place trust in that person to achieve optimal outcomes.  

Understand One Another

It is important to keep the other side talking and show that you understand their perspective and the issues they may have. It is in this way that you can encourage cooperation and diffuse resistance in advance. 

Ultimately, great negotiations stem from proper strategy, preparation, proper education, enhanced communication, and understanding the other party’s needs. When you and your Business Broker or M&A Advisor foster good communications with the other party, it will enhance the chances of achieving the kind of cooperation you are seeking. This in turn, dramatically increases the chances of achieving win-win outcomes.

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