We live in an amazing time. You can order something from your phone and have it almost immediately. If you have any question about anything in the world, the answer is at your fingertips. The sheer speed at which life can happen has turned us into people who are not only used to instant gratification – we expect it. If you are buying a business, the expectation of instant gratification can be a big problem.
There aren’t many things in the business buying process that can be rushed.
I’m about to spend a ton of money, why do I need to be patient?
There are a lot of reasons. Here’s a few:
A business broker can send you a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), a standard in all business sales, electronically for you to sign on your phone – but you aren’t going to get that NDA from a decent broker until they’ve had a chance to actually talk to you. Signing a NDA for a business that would never work for you is a colossal waste of your time, so any broker worth their salt is going to ask you about your goals for business ownership, the amount of capital you have to invest and your practical experience. They’ll use that information to put together a list of available business listings for you to look over. If there’s one (or more) that catches your eye, then they’ll send you the e-sign NDA.
Once you’ve looked at the marketing package for a business most buyers immediately want to see the physical location. This isn’t a good next step, and it’s also nearly impossible to do an impromptu site visit. Businesses survive the for-sale process because the entire process is kept quiet except for those who need to know and have signed the appropriate non-disclosure documents. A site visit usually requires seeing the business either before or after business hours when no staff or customers are present and also needs to be coordinated between the schedules of the seller, the seller’s broker, the buyer and the buyer’s broker. A better next step is to come up with a list of questions and schedule a conference call or meeting with the seller off-site and see if the business would be the right fit – long before you step foot in the physical location.
If you like the business, then you can put together an offer and submit it to the seller. You probably aren’t going to get an immediate response. Purchase contracts/offers are usually fairly complex and a seller has to be given time to fully review what you’ve submitted and time to come up with a counter-offer if that’s the path they want to take. The back-and-forth of negotiations also needs to pass through the business brokers on both sides to keep the deal on track (by eliminating the possibility of one side taking offence to the other and killing the deal). This takes some time as broker emails and phone calls from one client can’t (and shouldn’t) be answered while in a meeting or on a call with another client.
If you and seller come to an agreement on a purchase contract due diligence can begin. This part of the process involves you requesting to see things like tax returns, contracts, inventory lists and the like. Due diligence doesn’t typically begin until you’ve received all of the documentation you asked for, so you shouldn’t need to worry about the clock starting on the due diligence period you’ve agreed on (typically 2 weeks) if it takes the seller a bit to fulfill your list. Remember that they are still running what you hope will be your new business. You probably don’t want them to take their focus off your future business so they can gather documents when they should be helping customers.
See a theme?
Buying a business isn’t like walking into a car dealership and driving off the lot the same day. Business deals take time, they involve a lot of moving parts and need to accommodate the schedules of many people. To be successful in your business ownership journey you need to come into the process understanding that a good deal of the process is out of your hands – and that a healthy dose of patience will serve you well.
Have you been looking for businesses to buy and have been frustrated by the pace of the process? Do you have questions about what a reasonable timetable should look like? Ask us! Please leave any questions or comments and we would be happy to help.