If you’ve seen the show Shark Tank, then you know the typical drill. An entrepreneur knows their concept inside and out, but can’t get an investment from the Sharks because they can’t answer basic financial questions. Guess what? This happens in the small business market too.
If you take a step out of your business seller’s mindset and take a look at what buyers see in the market, you might be shocked.
Most listings for businesses for sale contain sketchy financial information at best, and if they contain any semblance of numbers at all they typically don’t make sense and don’t jive with the price the sellers are asking.
Where do these discrepancies come from?
While in a few cases the discrepancies come from good old fashioned dishonesty, for the most part the lack of consensus in numbers occurs because the seller simply doesn’t know. Small business owners are great at what they do, but in some cases they are not great at accounting or organizing their financial information.
We come across business owners more often than we should who can’t answer questions like “which product or service is the most profitable?” or “what is the cost to acquire a new client?”. If you are considering selling at any time in the near future, then you need to make the effort to get a handle on your financials long before you are being asked to justify a price.
What things should I be looking at?
Profitability of Products or Services
Many business owners who haven’t broken down the numbers may just assume that the most expensive item or service that they offer is the most profitable – but this is probably not the case. By tracking your products and services individually and then comparing them to the breakdown of what it costs you to provide that product or service, you may discover that your bread and butter comes from a low price item or service that you sell more than anything else. If not just for selling your business, this breakdown will also be immensely helpful when deciding where to put your marketing efforts.
Small business owners are famous for paying for expenses out of pocket and never writing it down, or for jamming receipts for expenses in a box under the desk and never looking at them again. When selling your business, you may even think that disguising some of your expenses will make the business look more appealing and more profitable to buyers. This isn’t the case. First of all, there are a few expenses that will get added back before you set a listing price. Second, a business with very low expenses will look suspect to a discerning buyer. Really nailing down your expenses will not only help with selling your business, it will likely allow you to see where your money is going and give you an opportunity to streamline those expenses.
Don’t be a Shark Tank cautionary tale. If you are looking to sell, you need to get your financial ducks in a row, if not for buyers but for your own use to strengthen your numbers, focus your marketing efforts and streamline your expenses. Having a good handle on where your business is and where it needs to be will be instrumental in the negotiation process of your business sale. Strong and organized documentation of all of your financial information will also be very helpful in attracting buyers who are accustomed to the sketchy financials that are typical in the business scene.
Are you thinking about selling but are guilty of shoving receipts in a box? Do you have absolutely no clue what it costs you to aquire a new client and want help getting your ducks in a row before listing your business? Please feel free to leave questions or comments here!
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