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Business Sales & Acquisitions

Seller Financing — How a Broker Can Help

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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 industry statistics indicate that over 90 percent of buyer prospects who call on business-for-sale ads are unqualified for some reason. The successful business broker survives by mastering qualifying and screening techniques!

Maintaining Confidentiality

Confidentiality is always a major concern. Sellers feel that maintaining confidentiality is important in safeguarding the current business. They don’t want the word to leak out to customers, suppliers, competitors – and especially the employees. This is an area where a business broker professional can be especially helpful. They use non-specific descriptions, screen and qualify buyers and require buyers to sign confidentiality agreements before showing businesses or providing specific information.

However, even under the best of circumstances, rumors can fly. There are basically two ways sellers can muffle the business-for-sale problem. The first is to explain that over the years there have been people who have inquired about whether the business might be for sale. These inquiries are unavoidable and they do happen.

The other way is to handle the matter directly and to explain that you have been considering retiring and now may be the right time. The employees, especially the key ones, should be told prior to putting the business on the market so they don’t hear the rumors second-hand. They should be told that they are very important to the business’s success and that a new owner would most likely be happy to retain them. When the sale is complete, they can be offered a bonus for helping in the process. Sellers should do whatever it takes to keep the employees from deserting the ship and keep them on deck to maintain business as usual. Once employees have been dealt with openly and fairly, they will understand that discretion will help protect their future.

The Future of the Business

Sellers may feel that they have built the platform for the future growth of the business. It is only natural for them to want to share in any extraordinary profits in what they feel they have helped create. Sometimes, if the price is low enough and it allows a buyer to purchase the business, he or she may be willing to provide some type of earn-out or royalty based on any substantial increase in sales. The professional business broker can offer advice on how to make this work for everyone. However, everyone has to agree that no one can predict the future. As mentioned earlier, the buyer is hoping to buy the future, but is not willing to pay for it.

What Buyers Think

Many buyers think that the business they buy should be able to pay for itself. They are wary of sellers who demand all cash. Is the seller really saying that the business can’t support any debt, or is he or she saying that the business isn’t any good and I want my cash out of it now, just in case?