If you are looking at businesses to buy, then the first things you will encounter that will tell you about the business are the financial records – likely a P&L and/or tax returns.
While financial records can tell you a great deal about the stability and health of a business – there are some other less obvious ways to determine how a business is really doing.
Watch The Owner
Some owners mentally check out the moment they list their business, some mentally checked out long ago. Owners who are consistently late to meetings, consistently sluggish on answering questions or constantly procrastinating with requested information are probably that way in the day to day operations of their business. A business with an owner who habitually doesn’t stay on top of things probably isn’t in the best shape.
How does the owner treat you when you visit? If they are condescending or rude to a potential buyer – someone who may write them an enormous check in the near future, then they are probably even worse to their employees, vendors and customers.
You might need to take these with a grain of salt, especially if it is a business with only a handful of reviews. The internet creates a veil of anonymity that some use to blast businesses for almost no slight at all. Some people just love to complain.
What reviews should you take seriously? If a business has 300 reviews and 80% are horrible, then there is definitely an issue. If there are only a few reviews that seem to be written by chronic complainers – but they all follow the same vein, like terrible customer service from wait staff, then that can give you a pretty good idea of what you’ll need to change the moment you get the keys.
Watch For A Mess
When you tour a business, you can find out very quickly if the current owner is someone who excels at attention to detail. A business that is filthy or has equipment in various stages of disrepair is probably lacking ownership attention in other non-physical areas of the business as well.
When you are in the market to buy a business, don’t just rely on the financial numbers when deciding whether to purchase or how much to offer. You can use other indicators, like owner behavior or the state of equipment, to determine if the business is right for the price and for the goals you are hoping to achieve.
If you are looking for a business that is more of a fixer-upper – then bad reviews, poor cleanliness and a disconnected owner might be good signs that you will be able to negotiate for a price that leaves you the capital you’ll need to turn it around. If you are looking for more of a turn-key business, then you’ll want to find the non-financial aspects of the business in good shape.
Do you have questions about other non-financial clues you should be watching for when considering businesses to buy? Do you have one that we didn’t mention that you’d like to share? Please leave your questions and comments – we would be happy to help!
5111 Ocean Boulevard, Suite E
Siesta Key, FL 34242