What Is Burnout?

Burnout can come with a business that’s successful as well as with one that’s failing to grow. The right time to sell is before the syndrome becomes a threat to the effective management of a business. What are the warning signs of burnout? • That isolated feeling. The burnt-out owner has been “chief cook and bottle washer” for such an extended period of time that even routine acts of decision-making and action-taking seem like Sisyphean tasks. These owners have been shouldering the burdens alone too long. • Fuzzy perspective. Burnt-out owners are so close to their work that they lose perspective. Prioritizing becomes a major daily challenge, and problem-solving sometimes goes no further than the application of business Band-Aids that cost money in the long run rather than increase profits. • No more fun. Of course, owning a business is hard work, but it should also include an element of enjoyment. The owner who drags himself or herself through every day, with a sense of dread … [Read more...]

Rating Today’s Business Buyers

Once the decision to sell has been made, the business owner should be aware of the variety of possible business buyers. Just as small business itself has become more sophisticated, the people interested in buying them have also become more divergent and complex. The following are some of today’s most active categories of business buyers: Family Members Members of the seller’s own family form a traditional category of business buyer: tried but not always “true.” The notion of a family member taking over is amenable to many of the parties involved because they envision continuity, seeing that as a prime advantage. And it can be, given that the family member treats the role as something akin to a hierarchical responsibility. This can mean years of planning and diligent preparation, involving all or many members of the family in deciding who will be the “heir to the throne.” If this has been done, the family member may be the best type of buyer. Too often, however, the difficulty … [Read more...]

A Buyer’s Quandary

Statistics reveal that out of about 15 would-be business buyers, only one will actually buy a business. It's important that potential sellers be knowledgeable on what buyers go through to actually become business owners. This is especially true for those who have started their own business or have forgotten what they went thorough prior to buying their business. If a prospective business buyer is employed, they have to make the decision to leave that job and go into business for and by themselves. There is also the financial commitment necessary to actually invest in a business and any subsequent loans that are a result of the purchase. The new owner will likely need to execute a lease or assume an existing one, which is another financial commitment. These financial obligations are almost always guaranteed personally by the new owner. The prospective business owner must also be willing to make that “leap of faith” that is so necessary to becoming a business owner. There is also … [Read more...]

Should You Be Selling Your Company…Now?

The answer to the question asked in the title is, “It all depends!” There are all sorts of studies, surveys and the like suggesting that as more and more “baby-boomers” reach retirement age, the market will be flooded with companies for sale. The consensus is that with these privately-held company owners reaching and nearing retirement age, the time to sell is now. In one survey, 57 percent of business owners said that their age was the motivating factor for exiting their business. In another one, 75 percent of owners with revenues between $1 million and $150 million stated that they looked to sell within the next three years. Reading all of this information, one gets the feeling that over the next few years almost every privately-held business will be on the market. While there are always going to be those who feel that Armageddon is coming, or that all of these companies are going to be on the market on the day that baby-boomer owners hit 65, there are some compelling reasons to … [Read more...]

About Multiples of Revenue

People talk about multiples of revenue. Sure, one can take any price and divide it by the annual revenue of a business and obtain a revenue multiple. A $1 million sale price divided by $750,000 in annual revenue equals a 1.33 revenue multiple. Right? Nothing inherently right or wrong in talking about multiples of revenue. But revenue is a very poor indicator of value. It’s like talking about price per square foot for a home. Sure, price per square foot is interesting, and one way to conceptualize value or price, but the square footage itself does not drive the value (if you follow me). The price per square foot value of a home is driven by OTHER factors, such as the age, construction materials and quality, lot size, condition, neighborhood, and geographic location. Location of a home is the primary driver of value. And so the value per square foot could swing from $10 to $1,000. So you want me to source buyers for you that will make offers to buy your business? Okay, the buyers … [Read more...]

Real Estate Agents – Independent Contractors Versus Employee Status

This issue has been raised many times. Although the majority of states do not require a real estate license (or any for that matter any license except possibly a business license) for the sale of a business, but the similarity is such that business brokers might fall into such legislation. Certainly, those states that do require a license would include business brokers who are now independent contractors. Agents Can Be Classified as Contractors – Boston Globe “The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Massachusetts real estate brokerages can continue to classify their works as independent contractors, ruling against agents who claimed they were treated like traditional employees and should have received hourly pay and benefits. The decision, issued Wednesday, appeared to put to rest concerns among real estate industry groups that brokerages could be on the hook for back payments to their agents, plus damages, and subject to higher expenses going forward. Boston Globe, June 7, … [Read more...]

Dispelling a Buyer Myth

Most prospective business buyers really don’t know from the outset the exact type of business they want to buy. Experienced business brokers and intermediaries know that many business buyers end up with what is sometimes a far cry from what first captured their imagination. Take, for example, the old story of the buyer who saw (and probably smelled) a doughnut shop in his business dreams. This was the business he was sure he wanted to own and operate – until he discovered that someone, most likely him, had to get up at 3 a.m. to make the day’s baked goods. It is important that, before making the dream a reality, those prospective buyers understand just what the business is and how it fits their personalities – what they want to do and what they don’t want to do! Obviously, if getting a good night’s sleep is important, owning a doughnut shop is not a good idea. In searching for the right business, here are some of the crucial questions a prospective business buyer might ask … [Read more...]

The Confidentiality Agreement

When considering selling their companies, many owners become paranoid regarding the issue of confidentiality. They don’t want anyone to know the company is for sale, but at the same time, they want the highest price possible in the shortest period of time. This means, of course, that the company must be presented to quite a few prospects to accomplish this. A business cannot be sold in a vacuum. The following are some of the questions that a seller should expect a confidentiality agreement to cover: What type of information can and can not be disclosed? Are the negotiations open or secret? What is the time frame for which the agreement is binding? The seller should seek a permanently binding agreement. What is the patent right protection in the event the buyer, for example, learns about inventions when checking out the operation? Which state’s laws will apply to the agreement if the other party is based in a different state? Where will disputes be heard? What recourse … [Read more...]

You Want How Much for Your Business?

You want how much for your business? This is often a prospective buyer’s first response when given the price of a seller’s business. This is especially true today when many excellent and profitable businesses have few hard or physical assets. For years, buyers, and even business appraisers, have called the difference between the actual physical assets and the asking price as “blue sky.” Goodwill has often been a prime force behind the blue sky concept, and it is one of the reasons a potential buyer might feel that the seller is asking an “arm and a leg” for the business. Goodwill has been called many things – very few of them good. However, today’s goodwill is more than just the hard work and effort a business owner has put into building the business. The Web site name alone may be worth a lot of money. Think “Google,” which by now may have achieved the same name recognition as Kleenex. If another search engine company could use that name, the business could be worth millions – even … [Read more...]

Common Reasons For Selling a Business

It has been said that selling a business is usually event driven. Very few owners of businesses, whether small or large, wake up one morning and think, “Today I am going to sell my company.” It is usually a decision made after considerable thought and usually also prompted by some event. Here are a few common “events” that may prompt the decision to sell: Boredom or “Burn-out” – Many business owners, especially those who started their companies and have spent years building and running them, find that the “batteries are starting to run low.” Divorce or Illness – Both divorce and illness can cause a rapid change in one’s life. Either of these events, or a similar personal tragedy, can prompt a business owner to decide that selling is the best course of action. Outside Investors – Outside investors may include family, friends, or just plain outside investors. These outside investors may be putting pressure on the owner/majority owner in order to recoup their investment. No … [Read more...]