When you first list your business one of the major points of discussion will be the delicate balance of where to set your listing price. Set the number too high and good buyers will pass your business by in favor of those more reasonably priced. Price it too low and you won’t be getting the best return on your investment.
You probably have a dream number in your head – an amount you’d love to get. Here’s the thing. That dream number may or may not be realistic – and isn’t something you should stick to come hell or high water. Instead, consider a threshold where you would still be comfortable making a deal – then add a bit to reach your full listing price. Businesses rarely sell for this full listing price, so the buffer between your threshold and the listing price is the sweet spot where negotiation can happen.
Ok, I’ve got a buyer and we’ve been negotiating for weeks. So far their offer is still below my threshold. Do I take the offer or walk away?
You can always walk away, but ask yourself these questions first:
One, is what they are offering unfair – or is it just not ideal? If you haven’t been able to reach a middle ground with your buyer, ask yourself “why aren’t they coming up?” Is there something about your business that will be expensive to fix or overhaul the day they walk in the door? Are they worried about a customer who makes up a large percent of your bottom line leaving once the business changes hands? Are you asking for your inventory or equipment to be valued as new even though it’s a few years old? If you were the buyer – would what they’re offering make sense? If so, maybe you need to come down a bit instead of trying to force them to come up.
Second, is there a way to meet in the middle by making a creative deal? Could you offer seller financing? Is there a way to structure a deal that will hold back money in escrow based on certain markers over a period of time? Every small business deal is different, and it’s this individual nature that allows for creative purchase contracts to come together. If you and your buyer are really deadlocked on price, maybe there’s a creative way to reach a deal anyway.
Finally, are you willing to walk away and start over with a new buyer? Selling a business takes time. A lot of time. It also takes a huge amount of effort. If you’ve been negotiating with a buyer for weeks or months and there’s a gap between what you would want in an ideal world and what they are willing to offer – is it going to be worth it to you to start over? Unless the gap is huge – probably not. It can be difficult to end a negotiation by letting the other side “win”, but how many weeks or months will it take you to find another buyer? Will that new buyer be willing to offer you substantially more, or are they likely to come to a similar conclusion and offer something like your current buyer is? You should also think about your deal in terms of the difference in price. For example – is the difference $5,000 or $10,000 in a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? Does it make sense to kill a deal for a relatively small difference in price? In most cases, the answer will probably be no.
Here’s where we’re going with this. How close is close enough? You might not be getting that ideal number in your head, or the offer might be under a threshold where you would love to be – but does it make sense to walk away for the difference? In a lot of cases you can bridge the gap with your buyer by using a creative deal, or by looking at the offer objectively from a buyer’s point of view.
Are you considering selling your business and have questions about what a fair listing price might be? Would you like to know more about creative deals we’ve put together in the past? Ask us! Leave any questions or comments and we would be happy to help.
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