Is This the Right Time to Sell?

“Whatever the reason, there should be something other than dollars that motivates you to explore a sale. After all, if it weren’t more valuable to own the business than to sell it, no one would ever buy it.” Mike Sharp, M&A Today, November 2002 The owner of a successful company is considering selling, thinking now may be a good time. However, he is told by an outside advisor that business is good and that if he holds on to it for several more years he will get a much higher price. On the surface, this makes a lot of sense. After all, when an advisor tells the owner that if he keeps it for three more years the price will double, that’s a terrific incentive to keep plugging away. However, there is another side to what would appear to be sound advice. The most dramatic downside would be that the business could go downhill rather than uphill as the advisor predicted. Although no one can predict what the economy will do, there are a couple of possible scenarios. The industry … [Read more...]

Tips On Avoiding The Dealbreakers

One of the most important steps is to hire the right advisors. This begins with the right professional business broker/ M&A specialist. The right attorney should be added to the team. The right one is an attorney who has been through the sales process many times – one who is a deal maker seeking solutions, not a deal breaker seeking “why not to” reasons. The accountants must be deal oriented, and if they are the firm’s outside advisor, they should be aware that they may not be retained by the buyer, and must still be willing to work in the best interest of putting the deal together. Getting through due diligence One of the three or four times a deal can fall apart is half-way into the due diligence phase, when the buyer finds something he or she did not expect. No one likes surprises, and they can’t all be anticipated. An experienced buyer will probably work his way through it, but a novice may walk away. Although sellers too often hope a potential problem doesn’t surface, it … [Read more...]

Take A Look At Your Lease

If your business is not location-sensitive, that is, if your business location is immaterial to its success, then the following may not be important.  However, lease information is usually helpful no matter what the situation.  The business owner whose business is very dependent on its current location should certainly read on. If your business is location-sensitive, which is almost always true for a restaurant, a retail operation, or, in fact, any business that depends on customers finding you (or coming upon you, as is often the case with a well-located gift shop) – the lease is critical.  It may be too late if you already have executed it, but the following might be helpful in your next lease negotiation. Obviously, a very important factor is the length of the lease, usually the longer the better.  If the property ever becomes available – do whatever it takes to purchase it.  However, if you are negotiating a lease for a new business, you might want to make sure you can get … [Read more...]

Do You Have An Exit Plan?

“Exit strategies may allow you to get out before the bottom falls out of your industry. Well-planned exits allow you to get a better price for your business.” From: Selling Your Business by Russ Robb, published by Adams Media Corporation Whether you plan to sell out in one year, five years, or never, you need an exit strategy. As the term suggests, an exit strategy is a plan for leaving your business, and every business should have one, if not two. The first is useful as a guide to a smooth exit from your business. The second is for emergencies that could come about due to poor health or partnership problems. You may never plan to sell, but you never know! The first step in creating an exit plan is to develop what is basically an exit policy and procedure manual. It may end up being only on a few sheets of paper, but it should outline your thoughts on how to exit the business when the time comes. There are some important questions to wrestle with in creating a basic plan and … [Read more...]

Expanding Your Business

The term “growing the business” seems to be the term of choice for business people who discuss expansion. Unfortunately, in too many cases, this growing never goes beyond the seedling stage. Business people also talk about “thinking outside the box.” Again, that concept encompasses so much – what box? How far outside? – that it really can be an unfocused way of planning. So many random ideas can come out of such discussions and thinking that nothing really gets accomplished. It might be a much better idea to focus on one small thing that would increase business. For example, you feel strongly that mailing a circular to your existing customer base or to the immediate neighborhood would increase business, but you never seem to have the time to do it. Why not plan on mailing 1,000 circulars to possible customers over the next 30 days? This means devoting about one hour, two or three times a week, to take this project to fruition. Don’t worry about next month – take one month at a … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

Small Company Growth Trends

The median sales of a company going public has gone from an average $15 million in 1999 and 2000 to $164 million in 2004.  Smaller companies have decided not to go public as often as in years past, and they reap the quick – and cheap – money as a result of that decision.  The question is “why?” A company with only $15 million in annual revenues would most likely not want to have an IPO and absorb all of the attendant costs and the on-going fees related to going public.  They also would not want to have to spend the money necessary to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley regulations.  Smaller companies have to pay a hefty price to go public – and remain public.  In fact, a recent Business Week article reported that “Bankers expect a record number of U.S. companies to go private this year, topping last year’s 86.” Many CEOs, in order to rapidly grow their businesses, merge or acquire other companies.  However, many of these do not work out and the acquired entities eventually get sold … [Read more...]

How Many Businesses Are There?

We suspect that the answer to this question depends on who you ask! The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports that they received some 24.8 million business tax returns for the year 1999. We can hear the joyful sounds emanating from new business brokers and those considering the profession. Wow, almost 25 million businesses! We can hear them adding up the commission dollars. This is a very misleading figure. Many of these tax returns are for hobby-type businesses, one-person consultants, writers, artists and the like. In fact, one source reports that there are 18 million non-employee businesses, and they account for only 2 percent of total sales. INC, in their Small Business issue, reports that Sole Owners generate only 3.3 percent of all revenues and have annual sales of about $38,000. Home-Based Businesses According to INC magazine, 61 percent of the firms in their 500 fastest-growing companies list started out as home-based businesses. And, on average, 15 months after they … [Read more...]