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Why You Should Exit Your Business While You’re Ahead – A Cautionary Tale

The very best time to sell your business is when someone wants to buy it.  While it can be tempting to continue to grow your business forever – particularly when things are going well — that decision comes with a significant downside.

Take a look at the story of Rand Fishkin who started his entrepreneurial journey when he joined his mother’s marketing agency as a partner.

When Fishkin realized how much his Mom’s customers were struggling to get Google to display their company in a search, he immersed himself in the emerging field of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

He began writing a blog called SEO Moz, which led to an SEO consulting and software company. By 2007, Moz was generating revenue of $850,000 a year when Fishkin decided to drop consulting to become solely a software business.

The company began to grow 100% per year and by 2010, Moz was generating around $650,000 in revenue each month, attracting the attention of Brian Halligan, co-founder of marketing software giant HubSpot.

HubSpot wanted to buy Moz and was offering $25 million of cash and HubSpot stock – an offer almost five times Moz’s $5.7 million of revenue in its last complete financial year.

But Fishkin wasn’t satisfied. He believed a fast growth Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company was worth four times future revenue and was confident Moz would hit $10 million by the end of that year.

Fishkin counter offered, saying he would be willing to accept $40 million. HubSpot declined.

New Plans Ahead

Instead of selling Moz, Fishkin raised a round of venture capital and started to diversify away from SEO tools into a broader set of marketing offerings. The further Moz veered away from its core in SEO, the more money his business began to lose.

By 2014, Moz was in full crisis mode, and Fishkin had begun suffering from a bout of depression. He decided to step down as CEO, describing his resignation as a “lot of sadness, a heap of regrets and a smattering of resentment.”

Fishkin became a minority shareholder in a company he no longer controlled where the venture capitalists had preferred rights in a liquidity event.

A Lesson Learned

In the ensuing years since turning down Halligan’s offer, HubSpot went public on the New York Stock Exchange and had been worth nearly 20 times as much.

Fishkin revealed that today, his liquid net worth is $800,000 – much of which he was about to spend on elder care for his grandparents. The Moz stock he holds may or may not have value after the venture capitalist get their preferred return. At the same time, Fishkin estimated HubSpot’s offer of $25 million in cash and HubSpot stock would now be worth more than $100 million (based on the increased value of HubSpot’s stock).

Fishkin’s tale is a cautionary reminder why the best time to sell your company is when someone wants to buy it – a story that is shared in his book Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World.

What if an offer was made for your business today? Would you be ready to sell? Would you regret if you said no?

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Do you want to improve the value of your business?

Start by taking our Value Builder Questionnaire, click here for access.

IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey Report Predicts Major Changes

The IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey Report for the fourth quarter of 2018 has a range of interesting insights.  The survey’s purpose is to provide an “accurate understanding of market conditions for businesses being sold in Main Street (values $0-$2MM) and the Lower Middle Market (values $2MM-$50MM).  This national survey was designed as a tool for business owners and their advisors and has the support of both the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Projects and the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.

One of the most striking facts to leap out of the report is the fact that a full one-third of advisors fully expect the strong market to end this year.  Overall, advisors are not optimistic that the current climate will continue through 2020.  In fact, advisors are encouraging sellers to consider placing their businesses on the market now, while the market is still strong.  This is according to Craig Everett, PhD and Assistant Professor of Finance and Director of the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project.

One fact from the report that could be overlooked is that only a mere 8% of advisors expect the current climate to last for 48 months or more.  Additionally, only 9% believe that the current climate will last between 24 to 48 months.  Perhaps most striking of all is the fact that 60% of advisors feel that the current climate will end within the next two years.

Business owners who are considering selling should be advised that almost two-thirds of advisors now feel that there will be a significant shift in the next two years.  Considering that it can take a year or more to sell a business, business owners would be wise to consider this important fact.

The report sites Neal Isaacs, Owner of VR Business Brokers of the Triangle who states, “Deals are taking longer in due diligence as buyers work hard to validate their investment and make sure that what they’re buying is worth the premium price today’s sellers are commanding.”

So, is now the time to sell?  Many experts feel that it is possible to lose a sizable amount of value if one waits too long to sell.  Even just a few months can make a huge difference in terms of perceived value and the ultimate sales price.  Working with a proven business broker is a key way to ensure that you are selling at the right time and secure the best possible price.

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Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 M&A Myths and How to Deal with Them

Where your money is concerned, myths can do damage.  A recent Divestopedia article from Tammie Miller entitled, Crazy M&A Myths You Need to Stop Believing Now, Miller explores 5 big M&A myths that can get you in trouble.  Miller points out that many of these myths are believed by CEO’s, but that they have zero basis in reality.

Myth 1

The first major myth Miller explores is the idea that the “negotiating is over once you sign the LOI.”  The letter of intention is, of course, important. However, this is by no means the end of the negotiations and it is potentially dangerous to think otherwise.  The negotiations are not concluded until there is a purchasing agreement in place. As Miller points out, there is a great deal that can go wrong during the due diligence process.  For this reason, it is important to not see the LOI as the “end of the road.”

Myth 2

Another myth that Miller wants you to be aware of is that you don’t have to take a company’s debt as part of the purchase price.  Many business brokers, such as Miller, recommend that buyers don’t take seller paper.

Myth 3

A third myth that Miller explorers is a particularly dangerous one.  The idea that everyone who makes an offer has the money to follow through is, unfortunately, simply not true.  Oftentimes, people will make offers without securing the money to actually buy the business.  No doubt, this wastes everyone’s time.  As the business owner, it can derail your progress.  If you are not careful, it could actually prevent you from finding a qualified buyer.

Myth 4

Another myth is built around the notion that sellers don’t need a deal team in order to sell their business.  Again, this is another myth that has no real foundation in reality.  While it may be possible to sell your business without the assistance of an experienced M&A attorney or business broker, the odds are excellent that doing so will come at a price.  According to Miller, those working with an investment banker or business broker can expect, on average, 20% more transaction value!

Additionally, there are other dangers in not having a deal team in place.  A business broker can handle many of the time-consuming aspects of selling a business, so that you can keep running your business.  It is not uncommon for business owners to get stretched too thin while trying to both run and sell a business and this can ultimately harm its value.

Myth 5

Miller’s final myth to consider is that you must sell your entire business.  It is true that most buyers will want to buy 100% of a business, but a minority ownership position is still an option.  There are many reasons to consider selling a minority stake, so don’t assume that selling your business is an “all or nothing” affair.

Ultimately, Miller lays out an exceptional case for the importance of working with business brokers when selling or buying a business.  Business brokers can help you avoid myths.  In the end, they know the lay of the land.

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Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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8 Things That Drive the Value of Your Company

If you’re like a lot of entrepreneurs, you use your Profit & Loss statement as your report card at the end of the year.  You may even use your P&L to figure out what your company is worth by applying a multiple to your profit.  But having worked with and surveyed more than 40,000 entrepreneurs, we have seen examples of companies that fetch up to three times more than the average price for companies in their industry.  Likewise, we’ve seen cases where company’s business value is worth less than half the average multiple of their peer group.

Why would one company be worth two or three times more than a similar company in the same industry?

We have discovered that there are eight factors that actually impact your company’s value more than the industry you’re in.

Schedule a free strategy session where you’ll learn how to:

– Optimize the eight drivers of company value;

– Maximize your company’s overall value;

– Find strategic buyers for your business;

– Structure your business to maximize its value;

– Accelerate the pace of positive word-of-mouth for your business using the same technique as companies like Eventbrite, Intuit, Google and Apple;

– Boost your company’s cash flow in the same way Harley Davidson finances its business;

– Differentiate your business using the same methodology Warren Buffet looks for in the companies he invests in;

– Minimize your company’s reliance on your personal involvement using some of the strategies Tim Ferriss used to reduce the time he spent in this business to just four hours a week.

Do you want to improve the value of your business?  Call us today at (443) 982-7332 or schedule your free strategy session here.

10 Questions Everyone Should Ask Before Signing on the Dotted Line

Before buying any business, a seller must ask questions, lots of questions.  If there is ever a time where one should not be shy, it is when buying a business.  In a recent article from Entrepreneur magazine entitled, “10 Questions You Must Ask Before Buying a Business”, author Jan Porter explores 10 of the single most important questions prospective buyers should be asking before signing on the dotted line.   She points out to remember that “there are no stupid questions.”

The first question highlighted in this article is “What are your biggest challenges right now?”  The fact is this is one of the single most prudent questions one could ask.  If you want to reduce potential surprises, then ask this question.

“What would you have done differently?” is another question that can lead to great insights.  Every business owner should be an expert regarding his or her own business.  It only makes sense to tap into that expertise when one has the opportunity.  The answers to this question may also illuminate areas of potential growth.

How a seller arrives at his or her asking price can reveal a great deal.  Having to defend and outline why a business is worth a given price is a great way to determine whether or not the asking price is fair.  In other words, a seller should be able to clearly defend the financials.

Porter’s fourth question is, “If you can’t sell, what will you do instead?”  The answer to this question can give you insight into just how much bargaining power you may have.

A business’ financials couldn’t be any more important and will play a key role during due diligence.  The question, “How will you document the financials of the business?” is key and should be asked and answered very early in the process.  A clear paper trail is essential.

Buying a business isn’t all about the business or its owner.  At first glance, this may sound like a strange statement, but the simple fact is that a business has to be a good fit for its buyer.  That is why, Porter’s recommended question, “What skills or qualities do I need to run this business effectively?” couldn’t be any more important.  A prospective buyer must be a good fit for a business or otherwise failure could result.

Now, here is a big question: “Do you have any past, pending or potential lawsuits?”  Knowing whether or not you could be buying future headaches is clearly of enormous importance.

Porter believes that other key questions include: “How well documented are the procedures of the business?” and “How much does your business depend on a key customer or vendor?” as well as “What will employees do after the sale?”

When it comes to buying a business, questions are your friend.  The more questions you ask, the more information you’ll have.  The author quotes an experienced business owner who noted, “The more questions you ask, the less risk there will be.”

Business brokers are experts at knowing what kinds of questions to ask and when to ask them.  This will help you obtain the right information so that you can ultimately make the best possible decision.

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Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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A Step by Step Overview of the First Time Buyer Process

A recent article on Businessbroker.net entitled, First Time Buyer Processes by business broker Pat Jones explores the process of buying a business in a precise step-by-step fashion.  Jones notes that there are many reasons that people buy businesses including the desire to be one’s own boss.  However, he is also quick to point out that buyers should refrain from buying a business that they simply don’t like.  In the quest for profits, many prospective owners may opt to do this, but it could ultimately lead to failure.

Step One – Information Gathering

For Jones, there are seven steps in the business buying process.  At the top of the list is to gather information on businesses so that one has an idea of what kind of businesses are appealing.

Step Two – Your Broker

The second key step is to begin working with a business broker.  This point makes tremendous sense; after all, those new to the business buying process will benefit greatly from working with a guide with so much experience.  Business brokers can gain access to information that prospective business owners simply cannot.

Step Three – Confidentiality and Questions

The third step in the process is to sign a confidentiality agreement so that you can learn more about a business that you find interesting.  Once you have the businesses marketing package, you’ll want to have your broker schedule an appointment with the seller. It is vitally important that you prepare a list of questions on a range of topics.  There is much more to buying a business than the final price tag.  By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to learn more about the business and its long-term potential.

Step Four – Evaluation

In the fourth step of the business buying process, you’ll want to evaluate all the information that you have received from the seller.  Once again, a business broker can be simply invaluable, thanks to years of hands-on experience, he or she will know how to evaluate a seller’s information.

Step Five – The Decision

In the fifth step, you’ll need to decide whether or not you are making an offer.  If you are making an offer, you will, of course, want it to be written and include contingencies.

If your offer is accepted, then the process of due diligence begins.  During due diligence, you and your business broker will look at everything from financial statements to tax returns.  You will evaluate the company’s assets.  Again business brokers are experts at the due diligence process.

Buying a business is an enormous commitment.  Making certain that you’ve selected the right business for you is one of the most critical decisions of your life.  Having as much competent and experienced help as possible is of paramount importance.

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Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 Reasons Why Your Business Is Too Dependent On You

If you were to draw a picture that visually represents your role in your business, what would it look like? Are you at the top of an organizational chart, or stuck in the middle of your business like a hub in a bicycle wheel?

The Hub & Spoke model of The Value Builder System™ is a driver that shows how dependent your business is on you for survival. The Hub & Spoke model can only be as strong as the hub. The moment the hub is overwhelmed, the entire system fails. Acquirers generally avoid these types of managed businesses because they understand the dangers of buying a company too dependent on the owner.

Here’s a list of the 5 top warning signs that show your business could be too dependent on you.

1. You are the only signing authority

Most business owners give themselves final authority… all the time. But what happens if you’re away for a couple of days and an important supplier needs to be paid? Consider giving an employee signing authority for an amount you’re comfortable with, and then change the mailing address on your bank statements so they are mailed to your home (not the office). That way, you can review everything coming out of your account and make sure the privilege isn’t being abused.

2. Your revenue is flat when compared to last year’s 

Flat revenue from one year to the next can be a sign you are a hub in a hub-and-spoke model. Like forcing water through a hose, you have only so much capacity. No matter how efficient you are, every business dependent on its owner reaches capacity at some point. Consider narrowing your product and service line by eliminating technically complex offers that require your personal involvement, and instead focus on selling fewer things to more people.

3. Your vacations… don’t feel like vacations

If you spend your vacations dispatching orders from your mobile, it’s time to cut the tether. Start by taking one day off and seeing how your company does without you. Build systems for failure points. Work up to a point where you can take a few weeks off without affecting your business.

4. You know all of your customers by first name 

It’s good to have the pulse of your market, but knowing every single customer by first name can be a sign that you’re relying too heavily on your personal relationships being the glue that holds your business together. Consider replacing yourself as a rain maker by hiring a sales team, and as inefficient as it seems, have a trusted employee shadow you when you meet customers so over time your customers get used to dealing with someone else.

5. You get cc’d on more than five e-mails a day 

Employees, customers and suppliers constantly cc’ing you on e-mails can be a sign that they are looking for your tacit approval or that you have not made clear when you want to be involved in their work. Start by asking your employees to stop using the cc line in an e-mail; ask them to add you to the “to” line if you really must be made aware of something – and only if they need a specific action from you.

Do you want to improve the value of your business?  Call us today at (443) 982-7332 for a free Strategy Session.

A Must Read Article on Having Children Take Over the Family Business

 

In a recent Divestopedia article entitled, “Kids Take Over the Business? 8 Things to Consider,” author Josh Patrick examines what every business owner should know about having their children take over their business.  He points out that there are no modern and accurate numbers on what percentage of businesses will be taken over by the children of their owners.  But clearly the number is substantial.

Patrick emphasizes as point number one that allowing a child to take over a business right after finishing his or her education could be a huge mistake.  After all, how can a parent be sure that a child can handle operating the business without some proven experience under his or her belt?

Point number two is that businesses frequently create jobs for the children of owners.  The flaw in this logic is pretty easy to see. This job, regardless of its responsibilities, isn’t in fact a real job.  Senior decision-making roles should be earned and not handed out as a birthright. The end result of this approach could create a range of diverse problems.

The third point Patrick addresses is that pay should be competitive and fair when having children take over a business.  Quite often, the pay is either far too high or far too low. This factor in and of itself is likely to lead to yet more problems.

Business growth must always be kept in mind.  When having your children take over a business, it is essential that they have the ability to not just maintain the business but grow it as well.  If they can’t handle the job then, as Patrick highlights, you are not doing them any favors. Perhaps it is time to sell.

Another issue Patrick covers is whether or not children should own stock.  If there are several children involved, then he feels it is important that all children own stock.  Otherwise, some children will feel invested in the business and others will not. In turn, this issue can become a significant problem once you, as the business owner, either retire or pass away.

In his sixth point, Patrick recommends that a business should only be sold to children and not given outright.  If a child is simply given a business, then that business may not have any perceived value. Additionally, if a child or children buy the business, then estate planning becomes much more straightforward.

In point seven, Patrick astutely recommends that once a parent has sold their business to their child, the parent must “let go.”  At some point, you will have to retire. Regardless of the outcome, you’ll ultimately have to step back and let your children take charge.

Finally, it is important to remember that your children will change how things are done.  This fact is simply unavoidable and should be embraced.

Working with an experienced business broker is a great way to ensure that selling a business to your child or children is a successful venture.  The experience that a business broker can bring to this kind of business transfer is quite invaluable.

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Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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How To Avoid The Idiot Tax

Kenan Hopkins spent 7 years paying what he calls “the idiot tax”, until he learned the more efficient way to run a business.

Kenan Hopkins founded his delivery food service company, Blue Ridge To Go, with no real management skills, no idea how to run a business, a lump of personal credit card debt, and the worst branding ever – all his words.

Though off to a rough start, he was able to transform his messy company into a new brand – Valet Gourmet – and by 2016 was approaching $4 million in revenue with the lowest delivery driver turnover across the industry.

When he was ready to sell, find out how Hopkins’ talent for industry forecasting, along with a quick text message to an industry friend led to a successful deal.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to avoid paying the ‘idiot tax’ for years
  • The one reason your employee turnover rate is likely high
  • How your brand can impact the value of your company
  • Why a seven-figure exit can be a lonely place

Listen Now

Hopkins received the price he wanted by confidently being able to show his interested buyer how much Valet Gourmet was expected to grow in the next year. How to quantify your Growth Potential is explored in Module 4 of The Value Builder System™. Get started for free right now by getting your score.

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If you’re interested in improving the value of your business, take our questionnaire or contact Colonial Business Brokerage today at 443-982-7332.

Embracing Technology to Boost Your Business

Forbes author Keith Gregg’s, February 8, 2019 article, “Using Tech to Enhance and Sell a Business,” has a range of interesting ideas that business owners should explore and embrace.  Gregg looks at three big ways that business owners can use technology to help them get the most out of the sale of the business.  He explains how important it is to address these three areas before placing your business on the market.

Upgrading Systems

The first tip Gregg explores is to upgrade systems.  Upgrading systems can be particularly important for attracting younger buyers.  It is common for businesses to be successful without proprietary technology or procedures, but that doesn’t mean that technology should be ignored.

Important information should be digitized, as this data will be vital for the new owner to grow the business over the long haul.  Incorporating software that can track and analyze data across the business is likewise valuable. Using software, such as customer relationship management and financial management software, will showcase that your business has been modernized.

Business Valuations

Determining the value of your business can be tricky and laborious.  Gregg recommends opting for a business valuation, as he feels, “business valuation calculations can remove much of the guesswork from the process.”

You should expect a business valuation calculator to include everything from verified data on comparable business deals, including gross income and cash flow figures and more.  There are even industry-specific calculations that can be used as well. The main point that Gregg wants to convey is that business owners should use tangible and proven data to sell their businesses.  Like upgrading systems appeals to younger buyers, the same holds true for using verified data to sell.

Take Advantage of the Digital Marketplace

Gregg’s view is that perhaps the single greatest technology for business owners to leverage is that of the digital marketplace.  Sites that link businesses with prospective buyers can help to streamline and expedite the sales process. Through such sites, it is possible to go deeper than a specific industry and even explore sub-sectors, thus enhancing the chances of finding the right buyer.

Technology can be used to help sell businesses in a variety of ways.  An experienced and proven business broker will leverage a whole range of tools to assist business owners when selling their businesses.  When you opt for a proven business broker, you can expect to receive offers from serious and vetted buyers and, in the process, save a great deal of time while maintaining confidentiality.

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Whether you are looking to exit your privately held business, represent an acquisition-minded corporation, value your business, or are personally interested in owning or building value in your own company or franchise, Colonial Business Brokerage offers the professional services that successfully bring buyers and sellers together.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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