If you’re excited about buying a business it might be tempting to spend your days scouring the internet for business listings and then requesting information on everything that even slightly matches what you’re looking for.
Don’t do that. Here’s why:
Businesses are bought and sold under a veil of confidentiality. That confidentiality exists to protect the business while it is being sold (you can read more about why here). What this means for you as a buyer is you can’t just look up a listing and immediately get all of the information on a business for sale. There’s a layer of legal protection that you need to get past before you can gain access to the information you need. That layer involves signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
Signing the NDA means you can’t disclose the name of a business, the location of a business, any proprietary information you will now have access to – even the for-sale status of a business. You will have to sign a NDA for each business listing individually. If the business brokers involved are doing their job, you shouldn’t be able to sign the NDA until you’ve had a conversation about why this business fits with your goals for business ownership and if you actually have the funds necessary to make a sale happen. The importance of keeping the for-sale status of a business under wraps means a broker should only be allowing NDAs to be signed by potential buyers who could actually be buyers – not hundreds of random tire-kickers.
The necessity of confidentiality might initially seem frustrating as a buyer, but it’s not just the business itself this process helps. As a buyer, you don’t need to be wasting your time signing dozens and dozens of NDAs for businesses that would never have suited you in the first place. It’s a colossal waste of your own time and energy.
Here’s what you should do instead. Call a few business brokers. Have conversations with them about what you hope to get out of business ownership. Talk to them honestly about the amount of funds you have available for your new venture. See if you think you and a broker would work well together.
This initial conversation will help a good broker find listings that will actually check all of your boxes. Then you can efficiently sign NDAs for businesses that may work for you.
A very important note here. Once you have a broker you like – don’t go and sign NDAs on any listings without them. Once you’ve signed another broker’s NDA your broker can’t help you anymore. NDAs are tied to specific businesses, and are therefore tied to the listing and the listing broker. Your broker can request the NDA on your behalf for a listing that isn’t theirs and still maintain the buyer-broker relationship with you. If you go around your broker and sign a NDA they didn’t request they legally and ethically can’t even give you advice. The relationship has now shifted to whatever broker has the listing – a broker you don’t know and who doesn’t know you.
The message here is although the process of searching for businesses has a few more steps than other big purchases like a house or car – those steps exist to make the process more efficient for everyone – including you. Find yourself a good broker, maintain that relationship by only having your broker request NDAs and be patient with the process.
Are you shopping for businesses and weren’t aware that signing NDAs tied you to listing brokers? Do you have questions about what businesses currently for sale you meet your goals for business ownership? Ask us! Leave any questions or comments and we would be happy to help you on your business search.
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