When Two Million Dollars is Just Not Enough

Not everyone wants to sell when they feel as though they have to sell. Life changes, such as divorce or illness, can trigger the sale of a business. Everything from declining business revenue to partnership problems and more can send business owners scrambling for the exit sign. However, selling isn’t always an option, especially for small businesses. In this article, we will take a closer look at just such a situation.

The business under consideration is a successful distribution business, which is also a classic example of a value-enhanced business. The two owners each draw several hundred thousand from the business each year to go along with a range of other benefits. If hypothetically, the business was to sell for $2 million dollars, each of the owners would receive approximately $1 million. Of course, this sounds like a sizable amount. So, what is the problem?

When one stops to factor in such variables as taxes, closing expenses and debt, that $1 million-dollar number has shrunk dramatically, leaving each owner with much less, perhaps as little as just two years of income. In such a situation, selling isn’t a great idea. Many owners of small companies want to “cash in” and retire only to discover that their business isn’t worth enough to do so.

Owners who want to retire but can’t afford to do so are in a difficult position. Such owners may have already “checked out” mentally and in the process, have lost their focus resulting in a failure to both invest financially and creatively in the business. In turn, this decreases the value of the business even more, as competitors may likely move in to fill the void.

So, what does all of this mean for business owners? Business owners don’t want to get stuck in the position we discussed thus far. Instead, business owners want to sell at the optimal moment, when a business is at its high point and the owners are not considering retiring and feel as though they have to sell.

Determining when is the best time to sell can be one of the single smartest business decisions that a business owner ever makes. Working with a professional and experienced business broker is a fast and simple way to determine if the time is right to sell your business or if you should wait. Waiting until the optimal moment to sell has passed you by could be a painful experience.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Three Common Errors Caused by Inexperience

The old saying that “there is no replacement for experience” is a truism that has stood the test of time. The simple fact is that a lack of experience can dismantle your deal.

Consider the following scenario – a business owner nearing retirement owns a multi-location retail operation that is doing several million in annual sales. He interviews a well-respected and experienced intermediary and is impressed.

However, the business owner’s niece has recently received her MBA and has told her uncle that she can handle the sale of his business and in the process, save him a bundle. On paper, everything sounds fine, but as it turns out the lack of experience gives this business owner less than optimal results.

Let’s take a look at a few problems that recently arose with our nameless, but successful, business owner and his well-meaning and smart, but inexperienced niece.

Error #1 No Confidentiality Agreements

One problem is that the business owner and his niece don’t use confidentiality agreements with prospective buyers. As a result, competitors, suppliers, employees and customers all learn that the business is available for sale. Of course, learning that the business is for sale could cause a range of problems, as both employees and suppliers get nervous about what the sale could mean. Ultimately, this could undermine the sale of the business.

Error #2 Incorrect Financials

Another problem is that the inexperienced MBA was supposed to prepare an offering memorandum. In the process, she compiled some financials together that had not been audited. While on paper this seemed like a small mistake, it failed to include several hundred thousand dollars the owner took. He simply forgot to mention this piece of information to his niece. Clearly this mishap dramatically impacted the numbers. Additionally, this lack of information would likely result in lower offers as well as lower bids, or even decrease overall prospective buyer interest.

Error #3 Failing to Include the CFO

A third key mistake in this unfortunate story was a failure to bring in the CFO. The niece felt that she could handle the financial details, but in the end, her assumption was incorrect. The owner and the niece failed to realize that prospective buyers would want to meet with their CFO, and that he would be involved in the due diligence process. In short, not bringing the CFO on board early in the process was a blunder that greatly complicated the process.

The problem is clear. Selling a business, any business, is far too important for an amateur. When it comes time to sell your business, you want an experienced business broker with a great track record. Again, there is no replacing experience.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article posted on Forbes.com entitled “Small Business Owners Are Retiring, And Millennials May Not Fill The Gap On America’s Main Street” uses the closing of a 235-year-old hardware store to prove a startling fact: the Millennial generation may not be suited to take over small business ownership like the generations before them. In the case of Elwood Adams Hardware, which has seen a multitude of owners over the last almost two and a half centuries, the current owner simply couldn’t find a buyer.

While student loan debt and an inclination to pursue work in the gig economy may be factors in this unwillingness to take on small business ownership, their age may actually be the driving factor. The article mentions that the sweet spot for entrepreneurship is typically the 40’s, so it may take some time to truly see if millennials are suited for small business ownership.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article from the Axial Forum entitled “Five Due Diligence Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them” outlines some common mistakes and pitfalls that are made during the due diligence process and gives tips on how to navigate the due diligence waters. The pitfalls include:

  1. Missed Opportunities
  2. Pointless Provisions
  3. Red Flags at the 11th Hour
  4. Poor Communication
  5. Leaving Money on the Table

Avoiding these five things won’t guarantee success, but doing so can definitely help give an owner the best chance at success. Buying a business is not an easy process, but knowing what to expect, what to avoid, and how to maximize the value of a dollar can go a long way.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted on Divestopedia.com entitled “The Investment Banking Landscape: Different Types of M&A Firms” gives an overview of the different types of M&A firms as well as how they can be useful in different situations. Owners interested in selling should know how each type of firm works and how each could be of use to them during the sale of their business. The following represent these different types of firm:

  1. Boutique Investment Firms
  2. Regional Investment Banks
  3. Bulge Bracket Investment Banks
  4. M&A Advisory Firms
  5. Business Brokerage

Each of these types of M&A firms has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it is very important for an owner to understand and explore the options available to them before settling on one.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted on BizBuySell.com entitled “Small Business Transactions Reach Record High As Buyers Shrug Off Amazon Effect” explores business transaction data from the third quarter of 2017. As outlined by the report, closed transactions numbered 2,589 in the third quarter, up 24% from the same time period last year. This quarter continues the overall trend of quarter-over-quarter growth in reported transactions going back two years.

Increases in median revenue and cash flow of sold businesses as well as a decrease in the median time to sell a business show a strengthening small business sector and an improving overall market. Although retail has taken a hit from the “Amazon Effect,” retail transactions are actually up 23% since this time last year. Read the full report by clicking the link below.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted on BizJournals.com entitled “Closely-held Businesses Head Toward a Slippery Slope” explores a startling truth about small businesses in the United States: around 60 percent of owners will likely retire within the next 10 years. On the surface, this may sound unimportant or irrelevant to the small business world. But just beyond the surface lies the fact that almost 70 percent of successions fail. But still, what does this mean for the small business sector?

Finding a suitable well-trained successor will be of absolute necessity within the next 10 years for these 60 percent of retiring owners. Failure is inherently more common than success post-transition, so finding qualified individuals to take over will be paramount to continued small business success in the United States.

Click here to read the full article.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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It’s Time To Embrace CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)

If you are unfamiliar with CSR or corporate social responsibility, you are certainly not alone. In the coming years, you’ll be hearing a lot about CSR. In this article, we’ll look at CSR and how, when implemented with sincerity, it can positively impact your company and its operation.

Building Your CSR Locally

One of the key ways that you can build your CSR is to think about ways to help your community. Contributing to local community programs, for example, is a great place to start. Everything from personal involvement to direct financial support can help build your company’s reputation within your community.

Your Connection to the Environment

A second way to build your CSR is to show that your company is thinking about its impact on the environment. Recycling is important but so is using eco-friendly packaging and containers. Additionally, embracing low-emission and high mileage vehicles is another good step as this lowers your company’s carbon footprint.

Advertising and Good PR

A third area to consider is how your company interacts with the marketplace. Using responsible advertising, business conduct and public relations is a savvy move. Likewise, providing fair treatment of your shareholders, suppliers and vendors and contractors will all help to improve your CSR.

Yet, one of the single most important areas of corporate social responsibility occurs in the workplace. The advent of social media has helped fuel the dispersal of information. If your business isn’t treating its employees in a fair manner and/or has unsafe work conditions or unfair employment practices, the word will eventually get out. There has never been a more important time to treat your employees well.

Embracing CSR serves to increase shareholder and investor interest. In short, it is expected. Socially-conscious companies are considered smart and stable investments. A company that has fully embraced CSR will find greater buyer interest and even a higher selling price when the time comes to sell. Most buyers want excellent customer loyalty with no skeletons hiding in a company’s closet. They also are seeking happy and loyal employees, low employee turnover and for a company to have a good reputation within a community. CSR helps achieve all of these goals and more.

Ultimately, corporate social responsibility works to create additional value. When you invest in CSR, you are investing in achieving a higher selling price and making your business more attractive to sellers. Summed up another way, you can’t afford not to think about this topic.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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You Know the Old Saying About Loose Lips? How Does It Impact You?

The saying “loose lips sink ships,” doesn’t have ancient origins. While it sounds like one of those sayings that has been around forever, the saying was actually invented during World War II. It was taken quite literally. The idea was that a lack of secrecy could lead to the loses of actual ships or other wartime deaths. So in other words, this saying was serious business. It should come as no surprise that this saying is alive and well in the business world.


Few things are more important than safeguarding your business from leaks. Leaks can, simply stated, spell disaster for your business. Leaks can be particularly damaging if you are looking to or are in the process of selling business. A leak that you are planning on selling your business can have a range of consequences. Everyone from employees to customers, suppliers and, of course, prospective buyers and competitors could all take notice and this could have ramifications.

Yet, confidentiality stands as a bit of a Catch-22 situation. Sellers want to get to the best price possible for their business and that means letting prospective buyers know that the business is for sale. The greater the number of potential buyers contacted, the greater the chances of receiving top dollar. However, the more potential buyers that know you are interested in selling, the greater the risk of a leak. Clearly, this situation represents a considerable dilemma.

As a buyer, you may discover that owners can be overly, perhaps even irrationally concerned, about leaks. It is important to remember that for most owners, the business represents their largest asset and often their greatest professional accomplishment in life. In other words, they have a lot riding on their business. It is important to remind sellers that the less time a business is on the market the lower the risk of a leak. Also, the longer the negotiations go on, the greater the risk of a leak.

Sellers should always remember to keep all important documents related to the potential sale or sale literally under lock and key. Everything should be considered confidential and only transferred to buyers in a highly secure fashion. Confidential information shouldn’t be emailed or faxed, as this makes a leak much easier. Sellers and buyers alike should remember that they shouldn’t discuss the sale or potential sale with anyone. Confidentiality should be stressed at all times.

Working with a business broker is one way to dramatically reduce the risk of a leak occurring. For business brokers, confidentiality is a cornerstone of their operations. Business intermediaries require buyers to sign very strict non-disclosure agreements. While loose lips may sink “ships,” there is no reason that your business, or the one you are interested in buying, has to be one of those ships.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Bidding War

How to Trigger an M&A Bidding War When Selling Your Business

How To Trigger A Bidding War For Your Business

Cody Weaver , CONTRIBUTOR

I write about improving the value of your business. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

One of the toughest things about selling your business is attracting an acquisition offer and creating a bidding war without putting a metaphorical “FOR SALE” sign on your company’s front lawn. My day job is running a company called Business Acqusition Experts, where we help companies build corporate value through exit planning. With the end goal of taking the businesses to market and monetizing their equity aka “their life’s hard work” through a sale to a stratetegic or financial buyer. One of the key tenets of our methodology is the idea that, to get a premium valuation, you need buyers coming to you, not the other way around.

John Dorsey

How do you get buyers keen to make an offer and lure them into A Bidding War without telling them you’re for sale? If you sound too keen to sell, a buyer will assume there is something wrong with your company. At the same time, if you appear standoffish, an acquirer may assume approaching you would be a waste of their time.

 

 

The Magic Letter

In 2001, John Dorsey started an safety consulting firm called Safety One Advisors, Inc in Newark, New Jersey. Dorsey grew Safety One to be a successful, consulting practice. He was an active marketer and sponsored local sports teams and events, making him a well-known figure in the area.

In 2016, Dorsey received an unsolicited offer to buy his firm from a competitor he respected. As Dorsey told me when I spoke to him in our initial conversation, he was not planning to sell, but warmed to the idea as he imagined moving on to a new chapter in his life. When the deal fell through because of a financing glitch on the buyer’s side, Dorsey was disappointed. He had become emotionally committed to selling, but no longer had a buyer. What’s more, he operated in an area and a niche industry where they were only a handful of competitors, so getting the word out he was interested in selling without spooking his clients and employees would be tricky.

Dorsey eventually hired us and together we surveyed the landscape of competitors and strategic buyer’s operating within his market vertical. And identified a couple of firms that he respected and we sent the owner’s a letter. The note simply stated that Dorsey had received an unsolicited offer to buy his firm which he had been seriously considering; before making any final decisions, we wanted to know if the other owner’s would also be interested in making a bid.

The letter sets the right tone for a few reasons:

  1. It’s truthful. He had been seriously considering an offer
  2. It doesn’t sound desperate. Dorsey had been sought out
  3. It’s non-committal. It doesn’t say he is for sale, or that he is going to sell for certain, merely that he was seriously considering an offer

In the end, several of the  recipient’s  of Dorsey’s letter were interested in expanding and simultaneously made offers which put us in a prime position for a bidding war. One buyer eventually won the bidding war and acquired Safety One for 1.25 gross revenue—most of which was paid at closing with a few smaller payments due over time. Professional services firms like Safety One usually sell with a significant portion of the consideration in an earn-out, a bonus scheme that puts a portion of the sale price at risk and it only becomes available if the seller stays on and helps the buyer achieve their goals in the future. With our guidance, Dorsey was also able to avoid an earn-out in part because the buyer knew—thanks to the letter —his firm was in demand, giving Dorsey a little more leverage to get the terms he wanted.

If you’re keen to sell, consider a variation of Dorsey’s letter, which strikes the right tone between confidence and openness.

For more information about How to get more $$$ for your business, Please read this article as well: http://acquisitionspro.com/high-business-sale-price/

 

 

 

If you’re considering selling your business in the future, please feel free to reach out to us for a free no-obligation consulation. www.acquisitionspro.com

 

 

Top Four Statistics You Need to Know About Ownership Transition

If you own a business, then ownership transition should definitely be a central topic in your planning. A few years ago, MassMutual Life Insurance Company conducted a very interesting and thought-provoking survey of family-owned businesses. Obviously, family-owned businesses have their own unique needs and challenges. The MassMutual Life Insurance Company survey certainly underscored this fact. While the survey was conducted a few years ago, the information it contained is more relevant and actionable than ever. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key conclusions and discoveries.

Founder Control

One of the most important findings of the survey was that a full 80% of family-owned businesses are still controlled by the founders. The survey also discovered that 90% of family-run businesses intend to stay family-owned in the future.

Lack of Leadership Plans

Leadership is another area of great interest. Strikingly, approximately 30% of family-owned businesses will in fact change leadership within just the next five years. Moreover, 55% of CEOs are 61 or older and have not chosen a successor. When a successor has been chosen that successor is a family member 85% of the time. Succession is often a murky area for family-owned businesses. A whopping 13% of CEOs stated that they will never retire.

Failure of Proper Valuations

According to the survey, valuation is another surprise area. 55% of companies fail to conduct regular evaluations, meaning that they are essentially flying blind in regards to the true value of their company. Adding to the potential confusion is the fact that 20% of family owned businesses have not completed any estate planning and 55% of family-owned businesses currently have no formal company valuation for estate tax estimates.

Lack of Proper Strategic Plans

The financials for family-owned businesses are often just murky as their succession issues. The MassMutual Life Insurance Company survey also discovered that 60% of family-owned businesses failed to have a written strategic plan and a whopping 48% of family-owned businesses were planning on using life insurance to cover estate taxes.

Simply stated, many family-owned businesses are not organized properly and are, in the process, not fully taking advantage of their opportunities. In short, family-owned businesses are frequently insular in their approach to a wide range of vital topics ranging from succession and leadership to valuation, planning and more. In the long term, these vulnerabilities may serve to undermine the business making it harder to sell when the time comes or opening it up to other problems and issues. Family-owned businesses are strongly advised to work with professionals, such as experienced accountants and business brokers, to ensure the long term profitability and continuity of their businesses.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Reasons for Sale

The reasons for selling a business can be divided into two main categories. The first is a sale that is planned almost from the beginning or by an owner who knows that selling is or should be a planned event. The second is exactly the opposite – unplanned; the sale is motivated by a specific event such as health, divorce, business crises, etc. However, in between the two major reasons, are a host of unpredictable ones.

A seller may not even be thinking of selling when he or she is approached by an individual, group or another company, and an attractive offer is made. The owner of a business may die, and the heirs have no interest in operating it. A company may bring in new management who decides to sell off a division or two; or maybe even decides that selling the entire business is in the best interests of everyone.

A major competitor may enter the market, forcing an owner to elect to sell. And the competition may not just be another company. The owner of a business may realize that an external threat is such that the company will lose a competitive advantage. New technology by a competitor may outdate the way a company produces its products. Two competitors may merge, placing new pressures on a company. The growth of franchising and big box stores can promote themselves on a much larger scale than a single business, no matter how good it is. National advertising can create the perception that a large business’s pricing, inventory or service is better than the smaller competitor, even if it isn’t.

Although these issues may not push a business owner or company management to consider selling, they are certainly causes for consideration. Unfortunately, most sellers fail to create an exit strategy until they are forced to. Professional athletes want to go out on top of their game, and business owners should do the same.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Entrepreneurial Exit Strategy — Prepare Yourself

The Entrepreneurial Exit Strategy — Prepare Yourself

Candace SjogrenCandace Sjogren – VIP CONTRIBUTOR

When you started your businesses early on, you were not likely planning to sell it. You had a big idea, a skill that no one else could quite match, a passion for changing the world in some way. And if any investor asked you about your exit strategy, you would placate them by noting the three giants in your industry, but would likely be clear to state, “but I intend to execute against my business plan. As long as my business is making money, there is no need to exit.”

I wholeheartedly believe that nearly every founder feels this way in the beginning. But running a business is hard work. It requires untold hours of blood, sweat and tears and has no sympathy for its founder’s illnesses, family needs or mental stress.

It is inevitable that you, founder, will one day retire or pass (let’s hope you have some easy days before you go). Knowing that you cannot run your business forever, and assuming that your company will be wildly successful, it is good to begin planning for succession earlier rather than later in your company’s life cycle.

Follow these four tips for building good habits early on so you have an easy exit when you are ready to pass the reigns:

1. Form a board of directors or advisors from Day 1.
It may seem a bit harrowing to set up a board in the early days when you are launching. Once you take on investor dollars, this will be required, but if you are bootstrapping, you likely want to maintain complete control for as long as possible. Inviting directors prior to a fundraise would unnecessarily create a reporting and decision-making structure that you and future investors do not want.

However, setting up a board of advisors and treating it as if it were a board of directors can be quite useful in later years. Structure your board so that your advisors do not have voting power, but offer them small compensation or equity instead, and treat them seriously. Schedule monthly board meetings and come to your board with a meaningful agenda around key inflection points your company will need to meet in order to succeed.

Organizing a board will help build accountability into your business model and will organize your business according to goals that can be tracked in the future.

2. Send monthly investor/board updates and take meeting minutes.
Writing down your meaningful milestones is just as important as making yourself accountable to a board of peers. If you don’t write down your goals and accomplishments, it is hard to prove, at a later point in time, that you accomplished them in the first place.

Consider sending a monthly investor and/or board update, outlining your successes from the previous month, upcoming inflection points and key hires and needs from your board. Not only will this garner favor with investors and show openness and responsibility; it will also give you a written report card to include in any potential acquisition package down the road.

3. Make friends with your competitors.
If you are in a cutting-edge new industry, you are likely not alone. And if you are spinning off from a previous employer, you know exactly who else serves your customer. You should not only do your research to know exactly who your competitors are and how you differentiate. You should also take the time to get to know each of the founders in your industry. Attend industry events and shows. Seek out opportunities to joint venture or create industry trade groups.

Should your company take a turn for the worse in the future, your competitors are most likely to seek out your assets. And should you succeed, you may want theirs. Either way, building strength in your industry through openness and communication can help you significantly at the time of exit.

4. Train your staff to seek out upward mobility and offer employee ownership.
When we craft our exit strategy in our business plan or add the exit slide to our investor deck, we often look outward for a potential acquirer. However, companies are purchased by their employees quite often, and employee-acquired businesses are growing by 10% each year.

Offering stock to your employees builds loyalty within the company and helps you to diversify potential future buyers over time. Whether you plan on selling your business or not, you will want to build trust and investment with your team, and offering some form of an employee stock ownership program (ESOP) and internal promotion structure are two ways to build this opportunity for yourself.

In the end, you will want to follow the tips suggested above whether you ultimately sell your company or not. Building good habits now will only help you to succeed later, whether that success comes while sitting at the helm of your business or sending it off under new control.

You’re Experiencing Burnout, Now What?

A large percentage of business owners are not just owners, but also operators. Owning a business can be exciting and rewarding, but it is also a tremendous amount of unending work. In the end, the “buck” stops with you. With that realization comes a significant amount of stress. It goes without saying that stress can lead to burnout.

A business with a burnt-out owner can spell doom. Even if you are lucky and have invested the time to surround yourself with an amazing team, you will only have so much time before you have to jump back in and be very proactive. Otherwise your business will begin to suffer.

Let’s face it, as the owner, you can take a vacation. But your burnout might not let you even enjoy said vacation. This is even more true if you are stuck checking your texts and your computer all day long, trying to manage things from out of town.

The First Step is Acceptance

When dealing with burnout the first, and most important step, is to admit that you are in fact, burnt out. This condition may be the result of mental and physical fatigue. While most people might not immediately connect issues, such as health and diet, with burnout, there is often a connection.

Start Taking Care of Yourself

Owning a business means work and lots of it. That may mean that you are not taking enough time or thinking enough about your own health and well-being. Consider improving your diet to include more fresh foods and reduce or even eliminate fast food, which has been proven to negatively impact health. You should also consider investing in air and water purification systems. A recent medical study showed that indoor air pollution can harm not just the lungs but even the kidneys as well.

In the end, you are the key element in the success or failure of your business. If you are suffering from aches and pains, headaches and fatigue, then you, as the heart of the business, are ultimately harming the business. Putting your health first is a way for you to safeguard the health of your business.

Consider Putting a #2 Person in Place

Many business owners have a great “right hand person” that can take over if the owner becomes sick, but that is not always the case. Keep in mind that when it comes to selling your business, having that key team member will be essential to your potential buyer. If it’s possible to start cultivating that person now, by all means do so.

You may be saying, “But I’m a health nut and I still feel burnt out.” Again, owning a business is demanding, and the years can weigh heavily. It is important, especially before burnout sets in, to step back and look for ways to streamline your operations and delegate responsibilities. Small changes can have a big long-term impact. Additionally, streamlining your operations will make your business more attractive when it comes time to sell.

In the end, if taking a vacation, streamlining your operations, and improving your health regime doesn’t yield big results, it might be time to consider selling your business. There is no rule that states that you must operate your business until retirement. Don’t be afraid to walk away if necessary.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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