If you are buying a business, you will have many questions – for yourself, for your business broker and finally for the business seller themselves.
Many business buyers go into the first meeting with the current business owner with a fairly lengthy and standard set of questions. Big lists like these might get you some of the information you need, but they typically cause more harm than good because no seller wants to be endlessly grilled with questions that could easily be answered by looking at the numbers or by reading the current lease. If you irritate a seller on day one, it will make the journey to a closing table that much harder.
Instead, you should go into that first meeting having done your homework. Go over the information you’ve been provided, do a little research on your own and come up with a few really good questions. Think quality over quantity. Many good questions can even serve multiple purposes. Here’s one:
How’d you come up with that price?
As long as a listing price isn’t crazy, most buyers don’t tend to care how a seller came up with their price because a buyer will do their own valuation of the business during the due diligence period. While it is true that you as a buyer will be judging the value of the business on your own, you should consider why the current owner priced the business the way they did.
Why? The method used to come up with a listing price can vary. Sometimes multiples of earnings are used, sometimes the value of the business is based more on the assets – but there are many others as well. A typical seller will have an idea in their head of what they think they would like to get out of the sale of their business, then that number is tweaked to match the current cash flow of the business, the assets and inventory, the current market, etc.
While most valuation methods are pretty straight forward, like multiples of earnings, the method a seller used can tell you a lot about what parts of the business they find important and can help you understand where the sticking points of negotiations might be. For example, did they put a lot of value on the assets? Be prepared to give a little if you disagree with the seller on what those assets are worth.
The point here is although the question “What’s it listed for?” is important, the “Why?” is important too. It will tell you what parts of a business an owner focused on and it will better prepare you to sit down at a negotiation table.
Are you searching for a business to buy and are wondering how a seller came up with a price? Do you have more questions about the negotiation process? Ask us! Please feel free to leave comments or questions here and we would be happy to help.
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