A recent article posted by The National Law Review entitled “Thinking of Selling? Start Early, Build Your Team” explains the importance of putting together a good team of trusted advisors well in advance of selling your business. Your team should include an attorney, accountant, investment banker, and wealth manager. This team will help you with various aspects of selling your business such as:
- Setting a realistic valuation on the business
- Finding potential buyers
- Handling due diligence and information requests from buyers
- Structuring a transaction for tax & liability protection
- Dealing with the sale proceeds and making sure your goals are met
It is a good idea to put this team together as soon as possible if you’re thinking of selling, so everyone has time to prepare. There are so many aspects to a business sale and it is essential to have an experienced team of professionals to guide you in the process.
A recent article from The San Angelo Standard-Times entitled “Business tips: Don’t neglect due diligence when buying a business” emphasizes the important of due diligence when buying a business, which consists of looking into and understanding the important aspects and fine details of the business before closing.
The first aspect to consider is if the business is right for you and your personal circumstances. Taking over a new business will require some help from the previous owner who has knowledge of the business and the industry. You will also want to take into account how many hours are needed, if the job will involve a lot of physical work, and if your family supports you in the purchase of this type of business.
Reviewing and analyzing the seller’s numbers and documents is also a huge part of due diligence. Consider using the help of a CPA, consultant or business broker to go over the financials of the business. You will also want to look into things such as if there are any claims on the business or if the business owes back taxes. Doing your due diligence now will ensure that there are no surprises later on in the process.
A recent article posted by the Smart Business Network entitled “Planning an exit when a succession plan isn’t an option” explains that selling your business should be part of your exit strategy when creating a succession plan is not an option. To prepare a business for sale, the business owner should recognize the strengths of the business which would appeal to potential buyers and should also have a good understanding of the business’ financials.
Business owners may also want to work with a bank that is experienced in exit planning. The bank can assist with providing insight into how buyers will view their business and what obstacles may occur while a buyer is trying to finance the acquisition. Banks will also be able to work with the buyer in assisting them with financing.
It’s important for a business owner to work with experienced professionals who have worked with sales, acquisitions and exit strategies to help them prepare for a business sale.
A recent article posted by Business.com entitled “Why It’s Prime Time to Buy a Business from a Retiring Baby Boomer” gives several good reasons why it is a good idea to consider purchasing an existing business, as a flood of baby boomers will be looking to sell their businesses and retire over the next decade.
There are many benefits to purchasing an existing business:
- Minimal upfront costs and you not only purchase the business but also the brand, customer-base, management policies and more.
- Low risk because the business is already established and has a proven track record.
- Steady cash flow along with employees and equipment.
With the generation of baby boomers looking to sell, there will be ample opportunities available for buyers. It’s important to stay in the loop and keep an eye out on available businesses by staying connected to your professional network, brushing up on local & industry publications, looking at online marketplaces, and working with a business broker.
A recent article written by Live Oak Bank entitled “6 Business Acquisition Tips from SBA Loan Experts” outlines six factors that lenders review for loans financing mergers and acquisitions.
- Stable or Positive Trend – Not only a positive trend but stability in these trends are what lenders look at to make sure that any recent growth or improvement is sustainable. A decrease in revenue is a red flag and a negative trend should be stabilized or reversed.
- Business Plan – Buyers need to have a business and transition plan for the business they are acquiring so lenders can see they have a good understanding of the business and plans for improvement.
- Key Employees – Lenders like to see that key employees will stay on with the new owner, which helps lower the risk and make the transition easier.
- Seller Transition Period – Make sure you have a transition plan in place where the seller is able to help train and assist the new owner.
- Seller Financing – The seller financing a portion of the deal shows the lender that they are confident in the new owner and lowers the risk factors.
- Working Capital – M&A lenders will review the financials of the business to see what working capital is needed. The buyer should demonstrate a clear understanding of how much and what type of working capital is needed for the business transition.
How do you avoid not being disappointed with the money you make from the sale of your company?
Perhaps you’ve heard that companies like yours trade using an industry rule of thumb or that companies of your size sell within a specific range, and you want to get at least what your peers have received.
While these metrics can be useful for tax planning or working out a messy divorce, they may not be the best ways to value your company.
The Only Valuation Technique That Really Matters
In reality, the only valuation technique that will ensure you are happy with your exit is for you to place your own value on your business. What’s it worth to you to keep it? What is all your sweat equity worth? Only when you’re clear on that will you ensure your satisfaction with the sale of your business.
Take Hank Goddard as an example. He started a software company called Mainspring Healthcare Solutions back in 2007. They provided a way for hospitals to keep track of their equipment and evolved into a slick application that hospital workers used to order supplies.
Goddard and his partner started the business by asking some friends and family to invest. The business grew, but there were challenges along the way: Goddard had to fire his entire management team in the early days, product issues needed to be solved and operational issues needed to be resolved.
At times, it was a grind, so when it came time to sell in 2016, Goddard reasoned that he had invested more than half of his career in Mainspring and he wanted to get paid for his life’s work. He also wanted to ensure his original investors got a decent return on their money.
He was approached by Accruent, a company in the same industry, who made Goddard and his partners an offer of one times revenue. Accruent had recently acquired one of Goddard’s competitors for a similar value, so presumably thought this was a fair offer.
Goddard brushed it off as completely unworkable. Goddard had decided he wanted five times revenue for his business. Even for a growing software company, five times revenue was a stretch, but Goddard stuck to his guns. That’s what it was worth to him to sell.
A year after they first approached Goddard, Accruent came back with an offer of two times revenue and, again, Goddard demurred.
Mainspring had developed a new application that was quickly gaining traction and he knew how hard it was to sell to the hospitals he already counted as customers.
He told Accruent his number was five times revenue in cash.
Eventually Goddard got his number.
Being clear on what your number is before going into a negotiation to sell your business can be helpful when emotions start to take over. Rather than rely on industry benchmarks, the best way to ensure you’re not disappointed with the sale of your business is to decide up front what it’s worth to you.
There is little doubt that valuing a business is often a very complex process. In part, this complexity is due to the fact that business evaluation is somewhat subjective. The simple fact is that the value of a business is often left to the mercy of the person conducting the evaluation. Adding yet another level of complexity is the fact that the person conducting the valuation has no choice but to assume that all the information provided is, in fact, correct and accurate.
In this article, we will explore six key issues that must be considered when determining the value of a business. As you will see, determining the value of a business involves taking in several factors.
Factor #1 – Intangible Assets
Intangible assets can make determining the value of a business quite tricky. Intellectual property ranging from patents to trademarks and copyrights can impact the value of a business. These intangible assets are notoriously difficult to value.
Factor #2 – Product Diversity
One of the truisms of valuing a business is that businesses with only one product or service are at much greater risk than a business that has multiple products or services. Product or service diversity will play a role in most valuations.
Factor #3 – ESOP Ownership
A company that is owned by its employees can present evaluators with a real challenge. Whether partially or completely owned by employees, this situation can restrict marketability and in turn impact value.
Factor #4 – Critical Supply Sources
If a business is particularly vulnerable to supply disruptions, for example, using a single supplier in order to achieve a low-cost competitive advance, then expect the evaluator to take notice. The reason is that a supply disruption could mean that a business’ competitive edge is subject to change and thus vulnerable. When supply is at risk then there could be a disruption of delivery and evaluators will notice this factor.
Factor #5 – Customer Concentration
If a company has just one or two key customers, which is often the situation with many small businesses, this can be seen as a serious problem.
Factor #6 – Company or Industry Life Cycle
A business, who by its very nature, may be reaching the end of an industry life cycle, for example, typewriter repair, will also face challenges during the evaluation process. A business that is facing obsolescence usually has bleak prospects.
There are other issues that can also impact the valuation of a company. Some factors can include out of date inventory, as well as reliance on short contracts and factors such as third-party or franchise approvals being necessary for selling a company. The list of factors that can negatively impact the value of a company is indeed long. Working with a business broker is one way to address these potential problems before placing a business up for sale.
Find out the value of your business and see how you score on the Eight Factors that Drive Your Company’s Value by completing the Value Builder Questionnaire here:
Selling your business doesn’t have to feel like online dating, but for many sellers this is exactly what it can feel like. Many sellers are left wondering, “What exactly do buyers want to see in order to buy my company?” Working with a business broker is an excellent way to take some of the mystery out of this often elusive equation. In general, there are three areas that buyers should give particular attention to in order to make their businesses more attractive to sellers.
Area #1 – The Quality of Earnings
The bottom line, no pun intended, is that many accountants and intermediaries can be rather aggressive when it comes to adding back one-time or non-recurring expenses. Obviously, this can cause headaches for sellers. Here are a few examples of non-recurring expenses: a building undergoing foundation repairs, expenses related to meeting new government guidelines or legal fees involving a lawsuit or actually paying for a major lawsuit.
Buyers will want to emphasize that a non-recurring expense is just that, a one-time expense that will not recur, and are not in fact, a drain on the actual, real earnings of a company. The simple fact is that virtually every business has some level of non-recurring expenses each and every year; this is just the nature of business. However, by adding back these one-time expenses, an accountant or business appraiser can greatly complicate a deal as he or she is not allowing for extraordinary expenses that occur almost every year. Add-backs can work to inflate the earnings and lead to a failure to reflect the real earning power of the business.
Area #2 – Buyers Want to See Sustainability of Earnings
It is only understandable that any new owner will be concerned that the business in question will have sustainable earnings after the purchase. No one wants to buy a business only to see it fail due to a lack of earnings a short time later or buy a business that is at the height of its earnings or buy a business whose earnings are the result of a one-time contract. Sellers can expect that buyers will carefully examine whether or not a business will grow in the same rate, or a faster rate, than it has in the past.
Area #3 – Buyers Will Verify Information
Finally, sellers can expect that buyers will want to verify that all information provided is accurate. No buyer wants an unexpected surprise after they have purchased a business. Sellers should expect buyers to dig deep in an effort to ensure that there are no skeletons hiding in the closet. Whether its potential litigation issues or potential product returns or a range of other potential issues, you can be certain that serious buyers will carefully evaluate your business and verify all the information you’ve provided.
By stepping back and putting yourself in the shoes of a prospective buyer, you can go a long way towards helping ensure that the deal is finalized. Further, working with an experienced business broker is another way to help ensure that you anticipate what a buyer will want to see well in advance.
Four years ago Nexalogy CEO Claude Théoret was counting the employees he had to lay off. His company had burned through their $600,000 seed round of investment and he was running out of cash. An ugly split with a former co-founder had divided his team, and Théoret had to turn to his wife for a $40,000 loan.
Jump ahead to today and things are a little different for Théoret, who just agreed to be acquired by Datametrex AI Limited for $5.75 million.
In this episode of Built to Sell radio, you’ll learn:
– The hidden reason many founders can’t raise venture capital
– How to evaluate what it will be like to work for your acquirer before you agree to be purchased
– The types of issues that often derail an acquisition at the last minute
– What Théoret means when he says ‘the devil is going to get his 12%’
Find out how you score on the eight factors that drive your company’s value by completing the Value Builder Questionnaire:
If you’re trying to figure out what your business might be worth, it’s helpful to consider what
acquirers are paying for companies like yours these days. A little internet research will probably reveal that a business like yours trades for a multiple of your pre-tax profit, which is Sellers Discretionary Earnings (SDE) for a small business and Earnings Before Interest Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) for a slightly larger business.
Obsessing Over Your Multiple
This multiple can transfix entrepreneurs. Many owners want to know their multiple and how
they can jack it up. After all, if your business has $500,000 in profit, and it trades for four
times profit, it’s worth $2 million; if the same business trades for eight times profit, it’s worth
Obviously, your multiple will have a profound impact on the haul you take from the sale of
your business, but there is another number worthy of your consideration as well: the
number your multiple is multiplying.
How Profitability Is Open To Interpretation
Most entrepreneurs think of profit as an objective measure, calculated by an accountant,
but when it comes to the sale of your business, profit is far from objective. Your profit will
go through a set of “adjustments” designed to estimate how profitable your business will
be under a new owner.
This process of adjusting—and how you defend these adjustments to an acquirer—is
where you can dramatically spike your company’s value.
Let’s take a simple example to illustrate. Imagine you run a company with $3 million in
revenue and you pay yourself a salary of $200,000 a year. Further, let’s assume you could
get a competent manager to run your business as a division of an acquirer for $100,000
per year. You could safely make the case to an acquirer that under their ownership, your
business would generate an extra $100,000 in profit. If they are paying you five times profit
for your business, that one adjustment has the potential to earn you an extra $500,000.
You should be able to make a case for several adjustments that will boost your profit and,
by extension, the value of your business. This is more art than science, and you need to be
prepared to defend your case for each adjustment. It is important that you make a good
case for how profitable your business will be in the hands of an acquirer.
Some of the most common adjustments relate to rent (common if you own the building
your company operates from and your company is paying higher-than-market rent), start–
up costs, one-off lawsuits or insurance claims and one-time professional services fees.
Your multiple is important, but the subjective art of adjusting your EBITDA is where a lot of
extra money can be made when selling your business.
Find out how you score on the eight factors that drive your company’s multiple by completing the Value Builder Questionnaire:
When it comes to selling a family-owned business there are no shortage of complicating factors, but one in particular pops up quite often. This article contains a true story about a popular family business that was built up from the ground up only to later meet a very sad ending. While this is just one story, there are countless similar situations all across the country.
Once upon a time, there was a family-owned pizza dough company that had millions in sales. They sold their pizza dough to a range of businesses including restaurants and supermarkets. The founder had five children and split the business equally amongst them. Complicating matters was the fact that the children didn’t feel compelled to work in the family business. As a result, they turned the operation of the business over to two members of the third generation.
Once the founder’s children reached retirement age, they decided that they wanted to sell. So, they hired a business broker. The business broker began the search for an appropriate buyer, however, there was little interest. After considerable effort, the business broker found a successful businessman who offered to buy the pizza dough business for 50% of the sales, which was a good price. The business broker took the offer to the five owners and that is when the problems began.
A huge family argument was unleashed and the business broker was cut out of the loop. Later the offer was turned down flat and worst of all there was no counter-proposal, no attempt to negotiate price, terms, conditions or anything else. In short, the offer was finished and done. In the end, the business broker had lost several months of hard work.
Wondering what had happened, the business broker learned that two of the third-generation members who had been operating the business didn’t want to sell out of fear of losing their jobs. Over two decades later, the business has experienced almost no growth and is essentially breaking even. The owners, now in their 70s will likely never receive anything for their equity.
What you have just read is a true story, although the specific business type has been changed. This story serves to outline the problems that can arise when it comes time to sell a family business, especially if there is no agreement in place. Passing on this deal meant that the five children lost a considerable amount of money; this would have of course been money that could have made their retirement much more pleasant.
The story is both tragic and cautionary, in that this great business built from scratch by its founder was, in the end, left to flounder.
There is a moral to this story. Family-owned businesses need to have strict guidelines in place concerning issues such as salaries, benefits, what happens when one member wants to cash out and more. Such issues should be worked out with professionals, such as business brokers, years in advance.
Courtney Reum left Goldman Sachs in 2007 to start a Vodka business. He built VEEV up to more than $10 million in annual sales before he sold the company for more than seven times revenue.
Reum has gone on to start and invest in a number of businesses through his M13 venture firm, and in this episode you will learn:
- – Why Reum believes Time is the new money
- – Reum’s secrets for avoiding dilution when raising money
- – The danger of “so what” sales
- – The biggest mistake he sees founders make
- – Why every company should be built to sell
- – How to “pre-court” your strategic acquirers
- – Why you should always sell with lots of “runway” left
- – About getting “crammed down” and why that’s a bad thing
- – How venture capital firms rig deals in their favor using preferred shares
This one is jam-packed with knowledge bombs. I think you’ll like it.
The Latest ‘Built to Sell’ Forbes Column
How To Lure A Giant Like Facebook Into Buying Your Company – You know you’re not supposed to say you want to sell your business, so how do you get someone interested in wanting to buy it?
Find out how you score on the eight factors that drive your company’s value by completing the Value Builder Questionnaire:
A recent article from Divestopedia entitled “To Sell Your Business, Start with the End in Mind” explains the importance of planning your exit strategy in the early stages of your business. The article points out that emotion plays a big part in humans’ decision making process, and when a potential buyer perceives that the owner has not prepared a company for sale, they associate this with uncertainty, effort and stress that will accompany rebuilding the business.
Focusing on building your company’s culture is also very important for exit planning because a well-established company culture will continue to endure after you’re gone. Creating a self-sustaining culture that involves talented employees, succession plans for key people, talent acquisition and talent retention can help your business be seen as more valuable in the future.
A recent article posted on BizJournals.com entitled “How to know when the ride is over and it’s time to get off” gives an overview of how to know when to exit your business and how to be prepared when the time is right. Here are 4 signs that it might be time to sell your business:
- Your health is declining or your business is negatively affecting your health
- You’ve lost your passion for the business
- Your priorities have changed and the business is no longer your top priority
- You are hesitant or unable to invest money in the growth of your business
Business owners should periodically review these factors and ask themselves if they are still the right person for the job. It’s also good to consult with a trusted advisor to start planning an exit strategy now so you’re prepared when the time comes to sell all or part of your business.
A recent article posted on Forbes.com entitled “Business Value And Lottery Tickets” explains how you have to be realistic about your goals for your business especially in how they relate to your exit plan in the future. Take a look at how your business is doing and then quantify your goals for your business by asking yourself questions such as “How much money do I need to have when I leave my business?”
Next, you need to figure out a plan for your business to grow enough to reach those goals. The article states three common problems that owners have in this situation:
- Relying on assumptions instead of consulting with an exit-planning advisor
- Trying to do everything instead of delegating
- Remaining stagnant instead of taking on new roles to ignite change in the business
It is also important to have a good management team in place to help you achieve your goals. It’s not luck, and you have to look at the numbers and facts to get your business where you need it to be for a successful exit.
A recent article from the Axial Forum entitled “How to Handle Risky Customer Concentration in an M&A Target” explains the best practices to follow if a potential acquisition has a lot of customer concentration. In many companies, it’s common for 20% of customers to account for 80% of the company’s revenue. In this case, it is vital to talk to multiple people within these important accounts and ask a variety of questions to make sure you find out how their relationship with the company is really structured.
Most importantly, you want to ask the contact how likely they would be to recommend the target company to another colleague, which in turn will help you determine the Net Promoter Score (NPS) rating of the company. The NPS is very useful because it has statistically shown that higher rated companies are more profitable, outpace their competitors, and have stronger cross-selling opportunities.
It’s a good practice to look deeper into a company’s relationships with its customers when acquiring a business that you’ll want to eventually grow.
A recent article posted on The Standard entitled “Do you have a business you are eyeing? Consider these tips before taking the leap” explores a variety of factors to take into consideration before buying a business. Here are some things to think about when making the decision to buy:
- Evaluate yourself and make sure you have the skills to take on the specific type of business
- Find out why the business is being sold
- Carry out due diligence in screening the business so there’s no surprises along the way
- Obtain a professional valuation of the business
- Close the deal and consider using a legal officer for the final process
Always be sure to find out the good and the bad before you decide to purchase a business.