A “Pig in a Poke” – The Importance of Due Diligence

Once a buyer has negotiated a deal and secured the necessary financing, he or she is ready for the due diligence phase of the sale. The serious buyer will have retained an accounting firm to verify inventory, accounts receivable and payables; and retained a law firm to deal with the legalities of the sale. What’s left for the buyer to do is to make sure that there are no “skeletons in the closet,” so he or she is not buying the proverbial “pig in a poke.” The four main areas of concern are: business’ finances, management, buyer’s finances, and marketing. Buyers are usually at a disadvantage as they may not know the real reason the business is for sale. This is especially true for buyers purchasing a business in an industry they are not familiar with. The seller, because of his or her experience in a specific industry, has probably developed a “sixth sense” of when the business has peaked or is “heading south.” The buyer has to perform the due diligence necessary to smoke out the real … [Read more...]

Confidentiality Agreement

“Confidentiality Agreement – A pact that forbids buyers, sellers, and their agents in a given business deal from disclosing information about the transaction to others.” The M&A Dictionary It is common practice for the seller, or his or her intermediary, to require a prospective buyer to sign a confidentiality agreement, sometimes referred to as a non-disclosure agreement. This is almost always done prior to the seller providing any important or proprietary information to a prospective buyer. The purpose is to protect the seller and his or her business from the buyer disclosing or using any of the information provided by the seller and restricted by the confidentiality agreement. These agreements, most likely, were originally used so that a prospective buyer wouldn’t tell the world that the business was for sale. Their purpose now covers a multitude of items to protect the seller. A seller’s primary concerns are to insure that a potential buyer doesn’t capitalize on trade … [Read more...]

Seller Financing — How a Broker Can Help

Another important factor relating to the asking price is the amount of cash involved in the sale. There is an old saying that the higher the full-price, the lower the down payment – and vice-versa. The sale of almost any business involves some seller financing. The smaller the down payment, the higher likelihood of a quick sale. No seller wants to take back his or her business because the buyer wasn’t successful. On the other hand, a buyer wants to make sure that the business will not only pay for itself, but also provide sufficient income for his or her family’s needs. What it all boils down to is that the seller wants the buyer to be successful and the buyer wants to buy a successful business. With the amount of capital required in today’s market to buy a business, sellers should feel optimistic that they are dealing with successful buyers. A Valuable Service Screening and qualifying buyer prospects is perhaps the business broker’s most valuable service. Business brokerage … [Read more...]

Keys to a Successful Closing

The closing is the formal transfer of a business. It usually also represents the successful culmination of many months of hard work, extensive negotiations, lots of give and take, and ultimately a satisfactory meeting of the minds.  The document governing the closing is the Purchase and Sale Agreement.  It generally covers the following: • A description of the transaction – Is it a stock or asset sale? • Terms of the agreement – This covers the price and terms and how it is to be paid.  It should also include the status of any management that will remain with the business. • Representations and Warranties – These are usually negotiated after the Letter of Intent is agreed upon.  Both buyer and seller want protection from any misrepresentations.  The warranties provide assurances that everything is as represented. •  Conditions and Covenants – These include non-competes and agreements to do or not to do certain things. There are four key steps that must be undertaken … [Read more...]

What Do Buyers Really Want to Know?

Before answering the question, it makes sense to first ask why people want to be in business for themselves. What are their motives? There have been many surveys addressing this question. The words may be different, but the idea behind them and the order in which they are listed are almost always the same. Want to do their own thing; to control their own destiny, so to speak. Do not want to work for anyone else. Want to make better use of their skills and abilities. Want to make money. These surveys indicate that by far the biggest reason people want to be in business for themselves is to be their own boss. The first three reasons listed revolve around this theme. Some may be frustrated in their current job or position. Others may not like their current boss or employer, while still others feel that their abilities are not being used properly or sufficiently. The important item to note is that money is reason number four. Although making money is certainly important and … [Read more...]

Due Diligence – Do It Now!

Due diligence is generally considered an activity that takes place as part of the selling process. It might be wise to take a look at the business from a buyer’s perspective in performing due diligence as part of an annual review of the business.  Performing due diligence does two things: (1) It provides a valuable assessment of the business by company management, and (2) It offers the company an accurate profile of itself, just in case the decision is made to sell, or an acquirer suddenly appears at the door. This process, when performed by a serious acquirer, is generally broken down into five basic areas: • Marketing due diligence • Financial due diligence • Legal due diligence • Environmental due diligence • Management/Employee due diligence Marketing Issues It has been said that many company officers/CEOs have never taken a look at the broad picture of their industry; in other words, they know their customers, but not their industry.  For example, here are just a few … [Read more...]

The Three Ways to Negotiate

Basically, there are three major negotiation methods. 1. Take it or leave it. A buyer makes an offer or a seller makes a counter-offer – both sides can let the “chips fall where they may.” 2. Split the difference. The buyer and seller, one or the other, or both, decide to split the difference between what the buyer is willing to offer and what the seller is willing to accept. A real oversimplification, but often used. 3. This for that. Both buyer and seller have to find out what is important to each.  So many of these important areas are non-monetary and involve personal things such as allowing the owner’s son to continue employment with the firm.  The buyer may want to move the business. There is an old adage that advises, “Never negotiate your own deal!” The first thing both sides have to decide on is who will represent them.  Will they have their attorney, their intermediary or will they go it alone?  Intermediaries are a good choice for a seller.  They have done it … [Read more...]

Financing the Business Purchase

  Where can buyers turn for help with what is likely to be the largest single investment of their lives? For most small to mid-sized business acquisitions, here are the best ways to go: Personal Equity Typically, anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of cash needed to buy a business comes from the buyer and his or her family. Buyers who invest their own capital (usually an amount between $50,000 and $150,000) are positively influencing other investors or lenders to participate in financing. Seller Financing This is one of the simplest and best ways to finance the acquisition, with sellers financing 50 to 60 percent–or more–of the selling price, with an interest rate below current bank rates, and with a far longer amortization. Many sellers actively prefer to do the financing themselves, thereby increasing the chances for a successful sale and the best possible price. Venture Capital Venture capitalists are becoming increasingly interested in established, existing … [Read more...]

Key Factors on the Acquirer’s Side

There are several key factors on the acquirer’s side of a sale, most of which are necessary to achieve a successful closing. Just as a seller has to deal with quite a few factors, the acquirer must also. Some of the more important ones on the acquisition side are: Sufficient financial resources to complete the deal as specified. Depth of capable staff to run the existing business and also execute an acquisition at the same time. A rational approach to the type, size and geographic location of target companies. The willingness to “pay-up” for acquisitions such as 6x EBITDA and, if necessary, the willingness to pay 100% cash, whether the sale is one of assets or a stock transaction. Assuming the acquisition search generates satisfactory deal flow, a willingness to stay the course for 6 to 12 months in the search process. A confirmation by the board of directors of their commitment to complete a deal. A “point person” in the search process, preferably the CEO, CFO or … [Read more...]

The Process of Buying a Business

Buying a business is a multiple step process that is complex and can take a few months to complete. Business brokers guide their buyer through the nooks and crannies of the business in question before closing a deal. The main steps to buying a business include: Signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) This is the beginning stage of a potential deal. A buyer usually discovers a business for sale on a broker’s website or through the multiple listings sites that the particular broker uses. A buyer signs an NDA with the broker if he/she wants more detailed information about a business such as financials and business name and location. An NDA protects the seller from having any sensitive information about his/her business being leaked. Meeting between Buyer, Seller, and Broker At this point the broker gets the potential buyer and seller together for a meeting. This meeting is crucial because the potential buyer and seller are able to get a feel for each other and are able to … [Read more...]