When you are in the market to buy a business, you will likely see a few before you find the one you ultimately purchase. These first visits are important for a number of reasons. You will want to see the physical state of the business, what equipment and furnishings you will be inheriting and perhaps even how the business functions during normal operations.
One often overlooked indicator of the health of a business is the actions of the ownership.
Whether you are in for a surreptitious visit where no one is aware you are a buyer, or if you are in a meeting with the seller for the first time – watch their actions. The phrase “actions speak louder than words” plays heavily in the small business world.
Here’s an example: A restaurant owner who spends an entire dinner service at the bar drinking while the food quality lags will be able to tell you a lot about how the rest of the business probably functions.
An owner who is checked-out like this will likely not own a business that is as profitable as it could be. The financial state of the restaurant may not be up to par, but this kind of information is not always bad news for a buyer.
Simple fixes that an engaged new owner can implement, like holding staff accountable or changing food suppliers and/or the menu can get you a business for less than you might have thought with a fairly quick opportunity for growth.
You can find all of this out just from observing the owner.
On the other end of the spectrum, an owner who is punctual to all meetings with a buyer, who is meticulously organized, and whose staff snaps to attention as they enter a room likely runs a tight ship.
What you will inherit is a well-oiled machine that is likely in great financial shape, but you will likely have to pay a bit more than for the business in our first example.
In the initial stages of the business buying process – pay attention. You can get a general idea of the state of affairs just by carefully noticing the actions of ownership.
Are you a buyer who would like to know more about what to watch for when visiting a business? Would you like to know the kinds of questions you should be asking a seller in the first meeting? Ask us! Please feel free to leave a comment or question here and we will be happy to help.