If you are looking for businesses to buy, then you are probably frustrated by the paltry amount of information you are initially offered when a business peaks your interest. You sign a non-disclosure agreement and you may get nothing more than a few years of P&L statements and a highly abbreviated tax return.
How are you supposed to decide if a business is right for you if you can’t find anything out about the business you want to buy?
Due diligence is the period of time after an initial offer is accepted where you as a buyer get to go through the business with a fine-toothed comb. Business sales are conducted this way because unlike other purchases – like a home or car – information about an operating business is often proprietary and needs to be kept strictly confidential in order to protect the business itself throughout the sales process (more information about why confidentiality is important can be found here). During due diligence you will be provided with basic business documentation and will also be given a chance to request other documentation you deem necessary.
How long do I have once due diligence starts?
The due diligence period is typically two weeks – plenty of time if you are using your time wisely. Two weeks is also plenty of time because due diligence doesn’t officially begin until AFTER all of your requested documentation is provided.
Two weeks? Are you serious? That hardly seems like enough time.
It absolutely is. By the time you get to the due diligence period, you will have had conference calls with the seller, face-to-face meetings, cursory information and initial questions already answered – the due diligence period is strictly a deep dive. Two weeks will be more than enough, especially if (as often happens) you are given a good chunk of the information you requested and it takes a week or two to get the rest. That will lengthen your due diligence period considerably and give you ample opportunity to decide if the business is right for you.
If, during your due diligence period, you decide that you don’t want to buy the business – you can walk away. This is another reason due diligence is relatively short. This period pulls a business off the market, so holding a business this way for an unnecessary length of time isn’t fair to the seller or to other buyers in the market who are also interested.
The message here is trying to force a seller to agree to a long due diligence period isn’t going to help you decide if a business is right for you. Using your time wisely during a two week due diligence period absolutely is. Ask your business broker about your concerns, and use their guidance during your due diligence period to get the most out of your time.
Are you considering buying a business but still don’t think two weeks is enough time for a proper due diligence? Would you like to know what types of special circumstances would lead to a longer due diligence period? Please ask us! Leave any questions or comments and we would be happy to help.