If you are buying a business, you will have many questions – for yourself, for your business broker and finally for the business seller themselves.
Many business buyers go into the first meeting with the current business owner with a fairly lengthy and standard set of questions. Big lists like these might get you some of the information you need, but they typically cause more harm than good because no seller wants to be endlessly grilled with questions that could easily be answered by looking at the numbers or by reading the current lease. If you irritate a seller on day one, it will make the journey to a closing table that much harder.
Instead, you should go into that first meeting having done your homework. Go over the information you’ve been provided, do a little research on your own and come up with a few really good questions. Think quality over quantity. Many good questions can even serve multiple purposes. Here’s one:
If You Weren’t Selling, How Would You Grow The Business?
This is one of the best questions a business buyer can ask if they want insight into how their new business might be able to grow as well as key them in on any potential problems that have been ignored. Why? No one knows the guts of a business better than the current owner – and growth should be at the top of the priority list for any business.
If you want to make this question even more powerful, add a caveat. The caveat “if you had unlimited funds, time and resources” added to the question of business growth can reveal a wish list of possibly great ideas that the current owner, for whatever reason, wasn’t able to make happen. Here’s an example:
If you are looking at buying a successful, but small, ice cream shop – the current owner might tell you that they would have loved to open another location in a busy downtown area nearby, but they were never able to come up with the funds for a second location build-out because they spent the majority of their profits on a personal medical issue. This lets you know that there might be an immediate opportunity to grow the business once you take over. It also lets you know that the current owners had their eye on growth – they just couldn’t make it happen.
Answers to this question can also reveal potential problems brought about by owner neglect. If the current owner was capable of making a change to grow the business, why didn’t they? And what other aspects of the business have been left to slide?
If we revisit the ice cream shop scenario – say the current owner of a different ice cream shop says they probably could have done more marketing but they didn’t have time. Further investigation in to why there was no time for marketing reveals the owner spends very little time at their business and essentially leaves it (and the employees) to run on it’s own.
The point here is an owner who cares about the growth of their business has probably done a better job of running their business than someone who lets things slide. Asking this question will give you a good deal of insight into the health of the business you are considering. Do your homework – ask good questions.
Are you thinking about buying a business and are curious about how you can grow your new purchase right out of the gate? Would you like to now what other types of questions would be good to ask? Please leave any questions or comments and we would be happy to help.
Want to read about additional good questions? Click here:
Ask Good Questions: A Business Buyer Must – What Does The Seller Want Out Of The Deal?
Ask Good Questions: A Business Buyer Must – How’d You Come Up With That Price?
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