The Pros Of Buying An Existing Business
Posted in Become a Business Owner, Buyers Articles
If you’ve dreamed of starting life as an entrepreneur then you’ve likely conjured images of the startup in your garage, endless hours and scrounging for capital while you work as hard as you can to get your business idea off the ground. While many a Fortune 500 company began this way, it isn’t the only path to entrepreneurship.
What’s another path? Buying an existing business.
Wait, people sell businesses? Yes, existing businesses are bought and sold every day. Sometimes it’s because an owner has reached retirement. Maybe they’ve decided to undertake a different venture. Perhaps there’s something in their life that has created a situation where they can no longer own and operate their business the way they’d like to.
In other cases a seller has reached a particular metric – maybe they bought a smaller business that needed new growth strategies and now the business is at the point where they’re ready to sell and start again with a new project.
Whatever the reason for the sale, there are great businesses on the market every day – businesses that would meet the goals you have for business ownership.
But I have a couple of my own business ideas, why should I consider buying an existing business instead? There are many benefits to buying an existing business that just don’t exist if you’re starting on your own.
What are the pros?
A proven concept. While you might have a great idea, it’s just that – an idea. It hasn’t been proven. This is why the failure rate of startup businesses is so high – sometimes a great idea just falls flat when it’s introduced to the world. With an existing business someone else has laid the groundwork for you. The fact that the business exists today means the concept works.
An existing customer base. Customers are the obvious life blood of a business, and with an existing business you will still have new customer acquisition as a priority – but you don’t have to start from square one. A loyal and established customer base exist the day you take over.
Better financing opportunities. Traditional lending institutions are very gun-shy about supporting start-ups. You’ll likely have a hard time getting funding. When you buy an existing business there tend to be better options for financing your purchase, like the Small Business Administration (SBA) or seller financing.
Immediate cash flow. When you start out on your own you end up spending a ton of money before you ever generate any kind of cash flow. When you buy an existing, operating business the cash flow is there the day you get the keys.
The message here is business ownership and an entrepreneurial life don’t have to start in your garage. You can buy an existing business and reap the benefits of someone else laying the groundwork for you.
Have you always wanted to start your own business but the idea seems too daunting? Would you like to know what businesses currently for sale could meet your goals for business ownership? Ask us, or search current business listings here! Leave any questions or comments and we would be happy to help.
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Buying A Business? Why Research & Questions Should Be Your Top Priority
Posted in Become a Business Owner, Business Broker Why & How, Buyers Articles
We get it. Once you’ve decided that you are ready to make the leap and buy a business it can be hard to keep from going directly to the shopping phase. It’s fun to look at business listings and envision yourself as the owner. Guess what? Shopping for businesses in this way is unproductive and ultimately won’t get you what you’re hoping for from business ownership.
Any business, large or small, can be condensed down to one major thing. A business is cash flow. You are providing goods or services that you pay for and then your customers pay you. It’s the money in and money out that makes a business successful, and hopefully you’re making more than you’re spending.
If a business is essentially just cash flow it really doesn’t matter what color the walls are. Looking at pictures of businesses on the internet isn’t telling you much of the story. Neither is perusing vague P&L statements.
What you really need to know about a business is does it generate (or have the potential to generate) the amount of cash flow I need to live day to day as the owner – and is it possible for me to be successful in this industry.
How do you figure that out? Research and questions.
Research the areas where you’d like your business to be. Can you afford to live there? How much would you need to make to have that be possible? Will the area work for you and your family? If you’d love to live on the beach, but your target area has zero schools for your kids you might need to redirect your target area.
Research the different industry sectors possible in that area. Do you have any practical experience or education that would make a particular industry better for you than another? Will the industries available in your target area match with your skills? If you’ve always wanted to own a big restaurant but have never spent a single day in the restaurant industry, then looking at food service industry business is likely a mistake.
Once you’ve done some research, start asking questions. Have a conversation with an experienced and qualified business broker about the areas you’re considering, your practical experience and education, your goals for business ownership and the amount of capital you have to invest. Ask lots of questions – about the area, about the industries that do well in that area, about what types of businesses would both fit with your experience and with what you hope to get out of owning your own business.
Notice something? So far we haven’t said “look at listings” because it isn’t helpful until you know where you want to be and what you need to be successful.
Don’t waste a ton of time scouring the internet for your future business. Do some research and then get in touch with a business broker.
Do you have questions about the process to buy a business? Would you like to know what types of businesses would match your practical experience? Ask us! Leave any questions or comments and we would be happy to help.
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Buying A Business And Legal Advice: When To Take It With A Grain Of Salt
Posted in Become a Business Owner, Buyers Articles
Buying a business is a huge deal. Businesses are complicated, there’s a lot of money changing hands, contracts can be long and need to be carefully negotiated. As a buyer you should absolutely have legal council and they should absolutely go over anything and everything you sign.
So why are we saying you might want to take legal advice with a grain of salt?
First and foremost, business ownership is inherently risky. Entrepreneurship can be rough and there’s no guarantee that the contract you put together for the purchase of a business is going to ensure that you as the new owner will be successful. Purchase contracts are also heavily negotiated, meaning one party (you) will not get everything you want. There will be concessions with the seller if you want a business transaction to happen.
Think about the job you’ve hired your attorney to do. Their job is to protect you from any and all risk. Their job is to make sure you get everything you want. See where the problem is?
Here’s another issue. There will be some documents that you need to sign that are industry standards, like the non-disclosure agreements necessary to receive most information on businesses for sale. These industry standard documents can’t be changed, so if your attorney asks to make changes the answer is likely going to be no. You will have to sign the agreement as-is or not get the information you’ve requested.
It’s also important to remember that there are many, many specialties in the legal field. Your family attorney who helped you with your uncle’s estate and the probate process isn’t likely to know very much about the legalities of a business transaction. It’s why you don’t go to your kid’s pediatrician if you have arthritis in your knee. You would be better suited hiring an attorney who works in the business transaction arena as they will know how to best protect you without hampering your ability to buy a business.
We aren’t saying you shouldn’t take your attorney’s advice. You definitely should. What we are saying that you need to take that advice as it is meant – to completely and totally protect you. You also need to be sure you are hiring the right type of attorney to give you the best advice possible.
Are you considering business ownership and hadn’t thought about finding a business transaction attorney? Would you like to know more about the documents that you’ll need your attorney to review as part of the business buying process? Leave us any questions or comments, we would be happy to help.
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Why Sellers Need To Work On Confidentiality Too
Posted in Sellers Articles
If you are selling your business you probably know how damaging it can be if your staff, customers or frankly anyone finds out that the business is on the market.
Employees can panic and quit en masse, taking their regulars with them. Customers can stop coming in, worried about how much the business might change under new ownership. The community at large might think you’re selling to get yourself clear of a sinking ship (as the misconception that a business for sale is a business on the brink is both pervasive and in the vast majority of cases – false).
While your business is for sale maintaining confidentiality is paramount, but not just in terms of the for-sale status. There are parts of your business that a buyer will need to see – your tax returns, your employee records, your vendor contracts, your client contracts and the like that are also critically important. Your business records and proprietary information need to stay confidential too.
That’s why it’s a good idea to hire the right help – a business broker. Business brokers are able to safely and confidentially market your business to buyers, at first through a purposefully vague listing and then only disclosing any identifying information after a prospective buyer has signed the appropriate non-disclosure agreement (NDA). The NDA also protects the records and information a buyer will have access to from disclosure so you don’t need to worry about confidential information ending up in the wrong hands.
While your business broker and buyers who have signed the NDA do their part to keep the confidentiality of your business transaction in place, you as a seller also need to be careful so you don’t burst your own confidentiality bubble. It happens more than it should, and often it’s the product of an seemingly innocent conversation.
Here’s an example. A business seller flies to see their parents on vacation, and while on the plane headed out of state they strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to them. The conversation turns, as it often does, to what you do for a living. The seller tells this stranger that he owns a waterfront restaurant that he’s currently selling. Later in the conversation he lets slip that this restaurant is in a specific community, one where there’s only one waterfront restaurant. Unbeknownst to the seller, this casual stranger not only lives in this community, they’re very involved in the community’s social scene and have many friends who frequent his restaurant. As soon as the plane lands, the gossip begins, as phone calls to friends include “did you hear the restaurant is for sale?” By the time the seller is on his return flight the damage is done and the entire community knows about his for-sale status.
The point here is you wouldn’t carry around a copy of your business tax returns to show every stranger you meet, so you need to work just as hard as your broker and the buyers who sign the NDA to keep your for-sale status under wraps. Don’t tell strangers, don’t tell your friends, don’t tell your neighbors – you get the idea.
Are you considering selling your business and hadn’t thought about how important confidentiality is? Would you like to know more about how we market your business while maintaining confidentiality? Ask us! Leave any questions or comments and we would be happy to help.
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Why Business Buyers Should Consider Customer Diversity
Posted in Become a Business Owner, Buyers Articles
When you are looking at buying a business, one aspect of any business you will need to consider is the size of the customer base. Ideally, you should look for businesses with a large number of clients spread out over many accounts where each client makes up only a small portion of the total revenue.
Why is this important?
A company that has one (or just a few) large client(s) who make(s) up a very large percentage of revenue can be problematic.
Here’s an example. A lawn service company has a handful of independent regular clients, but the majority of their business is for a large real estate firm that has a contract with them to maintain the lawns of homes that are on the market. This one client makes up 70% of their revenue. Say you purchase this business, and then three months into ownership the real estate firm is bought out by another company who already has a lawn service contract in place. In one swift move, 70% of your revenue goes up in smoke.
The way to avoid this pitfall is to look for a diverse customer base when you are screening prospective businesses. Ask yourself these questions as you consider a business:
What does the customer list look like?
How does the business acquire new customers?
What is the cost of customer acquisition?
What kind of customer retention does the business currently have?
On the other hand, what if you find a business that you really like, but the customer list isn’t very diverse? Does that mean you shouldn’t buy it? No, but it does mean that creating customer diversity needs to be priority #1 the day you take over as owner.
Only you can decide which business is ultimately right for you and for the goals you are hoping to achieve. You just need to be aware of the inherent perils that exist when you are buying a business with a very small customer base.
Are you looking at buying a business, but are curious about what a diverse customer base would look like for a particular industry? Do you have concerns about a business you are already considering? Ask us! Please feel free to leave a comment or question here, and we will be happy to help.
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