If you think you might be ready to take the entrepreneurial leap, but don’t have a genius start-up idea you can work on in your garage – you don’t need one! Existing businesses get bought and sold everyday, some 500,000+ a year (a number that is on the rise as baby boomer owners enter retirement and list their businesses for sale). These existing businesses can instantly turn you into an entrepreneur, no start-up required.
If you’ve always wanted to be your own boss and think buying an existing business might be for you – the process is fairly straightforward.
Here’s step two: Find businesses that fit with the goals you established in step one.
Once you know what you’re looking for, the search itself becomes relatively easy. You can peruse business listings on your own (click here to do that now) and your business broker will also find you listings to consider that might fit with what you’re looking for.
Here’s a very important part of your search. You must, must, must give your broker feedback on the listings they’ve sent you. If you love a business, tell them. If you hate one, tell them that too. It’s not going to hurt your broker’s feelings if you don’t love every single listing they share with you. The only way a broker can curate a list of businesses that will get you to your end goal of business ownership is if they know what you want. You should not only give a simple thumbs up or down to a potential business – tell them why as well. Did you like the location but weren’t a fan of the current inventory? Does a business you really don’t like have a couple of features that you would love to see in your future business? The more specific and detailed you can be, the better. Nothing is more counterproductive during a business search than flipping through 10 listings and just saying “no thanks” with no feedback.
Once you’ve found a few listings that seem intriguing you can then sign the nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) for those business listings so you can find out exactly where and what they are. If you’re unfamiliar with this type of NDA – here’s the short version. They’re a major part of the business purchase process because an existing business needs its for-sale status to remain confidential. The only people who should know the name and location of a business for sale are the seller, the business brokers involved and any prospective buyers who have signed the NDA. That’s it. This need-to-know list will protect the business from catastrophes like an entire staff quitting en-masse when they find out the business is for sale.
A note here. You can’t change the NDA. It’s an industry standard document. If you refuse to sign it, no one is going to work with you. Period. What you provide for the NDA (your legal name, physical address) pales in comparison to the proprietary and confidential information you will be privy to once it’s signed – so it’s a more than fair arrangement.
Once the NDA is signed you will be sent some cursory information. Typically that information will include the name and physical location of the business, some cursory financial information and details about things like staff/vehicles/equipment. We need to put a caveat on listing packages here. Like any industry there are great business brokers, terrible business brokers and everything in between. When you first start receiving listing packages it will become blatantly obvious who is doing their job. Some brokers put together comprehensive packages that give you a great understanding of the business you are considering. Some brokers send you two over-copied and blurry images of tax returns. Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do when you are given terrible cursory information other than ask for more. Your broker will be able to help you decipher cryptic tax returns and the like, and will also (hopefully) be able to get more information from the seller’s broker. Know going in that a terrible listing package is not a reflection of the business itself. It’s a reflection of the broker who listed it.
Ready to take the second step towards business ownership? Do you have questions about the NDA? Would you like to see an example of the comprehensive business packages we create for our listings? Ask us! Please leave us questions and comments, we would be happy to help.
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