When you put your business up for sale, you obviously want to present the work you’ve done and your assets in the best light. What you don’t want to do is overdue it. It is incredibly important to avoid the mistake of trying to make the business look good by falsifying, leaving out, or misrepresenting your financial information. Not only can these “creative” financials be illegal, it is always incredibly unethical.
As a buyer, you obviously don’t want to end up with a business whose numbers are no where near what was described.
For both sides of the transaction, the due diligence phase will be the great equalizer. This part of the transaction is where the buyer gets to go over the books. If you are a seller who has tried to tweak your numbers, this is where your tactics will be discovered. When buyers find out that the numbers aren’t true, the deal will more than likely fall apart.
Here are some common instances of creative number tweaking that sellers should avoid and buyers should look out for:
Don’t try to over value any assets in the business. If you bought the kitchen hood five years ago, you are not going to be able to put today’s retail price for the new model on your asset list. Be realistic, and use the help of your business broker and your transaction accountant to put price tags on the business assets. Only use a business transaction CPA for this, as a CPA unfamiliar with the ins and outs of a business transaction will always give you values that don’t jive with the current business market.
Don’t undervalue any liabilities, tax debts, etc. This will cause the net worth of the business to appear much larger than it actually is. The buyer will more than likely find out, and then they will be unable to trust anything you say moving forward.
As a seller, the temptation might be there to make your business appear more stable or profitable than it already is, but what you need to know is even unprofitable businesses sell. If a buyer is ready, willing and able to make the necessary changes you have been unable to make, your business will be a great buy for them.
As a buyer, you need to be vigilant during the transaction process, especially during the due diligence phase. If something seems wrong, it probably is. The same holds true for businesses that appear too good to be true. Use the services of a business broker and a business transaction accountant to help you decide if the numbers really are what the seller claims they are.
The conclusion? Be honest and deal-killing issues will not arise later.
Are you a buyer who is suspicious of the numbers you were presented with? Are you a seller who is concerned about revealing your true numbers to buyers? Talk to us today! Please feel free to leave us a question or comment here, and we will be happy to help.