Buying? How You Should Look At A Business


When most first-time business buyers first call us, they have only one requestthey want to go see some businesses. They want to drive by, pop in and take a tour.


This is exactly the opposite of what a new buyer should ask for. You are buying a business, not a house – and the differences between the two are huge.


A house is four walls and the stuff inside. To make a judgement about whether or not a particular house is a good investment, you need to walk around and have a look at those four walls and the stuff inside.


An operating business is not four walls and the stuff inside.


The four walls are usually leased from someone else and the equipment and furnishings are the assets of the business – not the business itself. Yes, when you buy a business you also buy the assets, but that isn’t all you are getting. You are getting cash flow.


You can’t drive by, pop in or take a tour of cash flow. You learn whether or not a business is a good investment by looking at the numbers, by talking to the seller, by going over inventory lists and by examining contracts.


The depreciated value of the equipment, the furnishings, the vehicles, even the color of the paint have very little to do with how a business is priced and should have very little to do with how you judge the price of a business. As such, tours are really not that important. Aesthetics can be easily changed once you take over – so focus on how the business makes money instead.


A better way to look at businesses starts with a conversation with an experienced and qualified business broker. In this initial conversation you and your broker will talk about what your goals are for business ownership and then search for businesses based on those goals. Once you have a few businesses in mind your broker can help you decide if the price is fair based on the numbers and also help you decide if you want to pursue more information.


Want to take a quick peek at what types of business are currently for sale? Use our Business Search Tool by clicking here.


Have more questions about buying a business? Ask us! Please leave any questions or comments here and we would be happy to help.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907


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Buying A Business? Patience Is A Must

We’ve talked about this issue a handful of times, but it is so prevalent in the day-to-day of buying and selling businesses it merits revisiting from time to time. A great business broker spends their work day keeping business deals on track and moving towards a closing table, but they are only one part of a very complicated process.



As such, you as a buyer may get frustrated by the pace of your transaction – but in many cases there is absolutely nothing your broker can do.


What you need to remember is the only cure for tied hands is patience.


Here’s an example:


You are a motivated buyer who is very interested in a particular business and have put a decent offer on the table. You request through the seller’s business broker that the seller send over the information required for due diligence, like financial records, tax returns, etc.


Then you wait. And you wait.


Then the seller sends over partial records, which get forwarded to you from your broker, but the rest of the information you requested has yet to be produced. So you wait.


You constantly call and email your broker, and all they can tell you is they haven’t received the information from the seller so their hands are tied


Why does this happen?


Some sellers go on the market with the initial intention of reaching a closing table, but once they are in the process they realize that selling their business requires a ton of work on top of what is already required for the day-to-day operation of their business (producing information and being available for questions/meetings). Then they completely panic because are shortly going to be out of a job.


These realizations can cause some sellers to develop a decent case of cold feet. It can also cause a seller to be defensive, as constant requests for more financial information can give the impression that the buyer is trying to dig up dirt on the business.


This, of course, is not the case. Buying a business is a huge decision, and most buyers are going to want a thorough look at any business before they pull the trigger.


So how do you figure out if the problem is your broker or the seller?


If your broker is really good about answering your questions, is prompt with returning phone calls and emails and has been forthcoming about the issues they may be having with the other side – then their hands are probably are tied. If it takes your broker ten days to return your phone calls, then the problem is probably the broker.


As with everything in a business transaction, a good dose of patience will go a long way. This does not mean, however, that you have to sit around and wait for a seller to deliver information they have no intention of ever giving you. Talk to your broker if you have concerns about time frame issues, and understand that sometimes there really isn’t anything a broker can do to speed up the process.


Are you a buyer who is having a hard time getting information out of sellers? Are you concerned that the issue may be with your current broker and not with the seller? Please feel free to leave us a comment or question here, and we will be happy to assist you.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907

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The Garage Start Up? Why Buying A Business Is Better


When you think about famous entrepreneurs, it often brings thoughts of a person who came up with an inspired idea and built a successful and thriving business from the ground up – with the romantic twist of doing so out of a garage with little to no seed money. While this may be the path for a few very driven and lucky individuals, the path for most entrepreneurs begins quite differently, with the purchase of an existing business.


Wait, what? Buy an already existing business? Why would I do that instead of starting my own business?


Typically, buying a business is a safer bet than building one from scratch. You get to take over as owner of an already built-out and proven location with trained employees and a ready-to-go set of operating procedures. This can be a great way to get into business ownership because it skips all of the disadvantages a start-up will encounter – like establishing a customer base, building cash flow, paying for build-outs, establishing marketing practices, training a brand-new staff, obtaining initial permits and licenses – to name just a few.


It is not, however, a fool-proof way to enter the world of business ownership. You need to choose a business that is profitable, or one that has easily-remedied issues that will make it profitable quickly. You need to choose a business that will fit with your goals for business ownership and one where you have some practical knowledge or experience. You also need to choose a business that has room for growth.


I have a lot of questions, who should I ask?


The smartest step any budding entrepreneur can make is to hire an experienced and qualified business broker. A broker will be a great asset, as they can help you find businesses that are right for you.


In your initial conversation with your broker you should talk about your previous work experience. You don’t want to have to learn a whole new industry at the same time you are learning how to operate a business.  You should also talk about your goals for business ownership. Your goals will determine what industries would be best for you. For instance, buying a bar with the goal of having evenings off isn’t going to work. Be a bit opened minded about the businesses that are available – you might be surprised to find a business that perfectly fits your goals in an industry you would never have thought of on your own.


The message here is entrepreneurship isn’t an impossible goal, and you don’t have to come up with a genius idea in your garage to get there. There are a myriad of businesses available everyday, and with help from a good business broker you can find the right one for you.


Have you always wanted to own your own business, but were unsure of where to start? Do you have questions about what a business broker does? Ask us! Leave any questions or comments here, we would be happy to help.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907


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Are You Compulsive With NDAs? The Wrong Approach

Are you a buyer like this? Have you requested information on dozens of businesses and then when asked a question about one of these listings – you can’t remember which one we’re talking about?



Are you requesting and then signing Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) like it’s going out of style? Guess what? You are probably NEVER going to buy a business. Never. Not going to happen. Why?


Dozens and dozens of NDAs is not the way a successful buyer finds and then buys a business.


Buying a business requires that you keep your eye on the goal successful business ownership.


What do we mean by that?


First and foremost, signing the NDA should come after you’ve already made some decisions about whether of not a particular business is really what you’re looking for. You shouldn’t buy a business based on where it is, how it looks, or what the tax returns say. This is the information you will be able to access after you’ve signed the NDA. Sure, these are all important parts of a business, but as a buyer you need to be focused on whether a particular business is going to meet your goals for business ownership. The major mistake that unsuccessful business buyers and unsuccessful business owners make is they never considered what they want out of business ownership.


If your goal for business ownership is to have more time to spend with your family and the ability to do things like coach your kid’s soccer team – then buying the bar you think you’ve always wanted isn’t going to work – you’ll have to work seven nights a week. If your goal for business ownership is to make more money than you do at your current job, then buying a huge restaurant with zero restaurant industry experience isn’t going to work – you’ll be bankrupt in six months.


The path to a successful business purchase starts with a conversation. You and your business broker should have a talk about what your goals for business ownership are, about your prior work experience and about the amount of money you are looking to invest in a business. Then, and only then, should you sign NDAs for the businesses that will actually meet those goals. You might be surprised that a business you never would have considered on your own could be the perfect fit.


Narrow down your search, then request the information you need. This will help you keep your eye on the goal of business ownership.


Are you looking for businesses to buy but haven’t had a conversation about what your goals for business ownership are? Do you want to know more about how to successfully buy a business? Ask us! Please feel free to leave any questions or comments here and we would be happy to help.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907


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Buying A Business? Why A Terrible Business Seller Isn’t A Bad Thing

If you’re new to the process of buying a business, you might wonder why business brokers exist. Can’t reasonable buyers and sellers get together and get a transaction all the way to the closing table?


The reality of the business game is there is very little chance of success when buyers and sellers go it alone. Why? Buyers and sellers don’t buy and sell businesses for a living.


If you are in the market for a business, then the person you most want sitting across from you at the closing table isn’t a seller at all. You want a business owner instead.


A business owner is someone who cares about the business they are selling. Their top priority isn’t how fast they can get out the door – it’s their bottom line. A business owner is focused on growth and getting the most money possible for their successful small business.



A business seller, on the other hand, is a temporary title. It involves gathering and assembling documentation and information about the business, being available to answer questions or requests and negotiation skills.


Someone who is a successful small business owner will not necessarily make a great and/or cooperative seller because selling isn’t their focus and it’s something they’ve never done before.


This is where the role of a business broker is critical and patience on your part as a buyer is a must. The person on the other side of the table isn’t a professional business seller, they are a professional business owner.


If it takes some time to have questions answered or get requested documents you shouldn’t be frustrated, you should be glad that they are focused on the running of the business you are about to buy. A business owner who doesn’t care about the day-to-day operation of their business could potentially be leaving you with a disaster the day you get handed the keys.


Your business broker is there to ensure the process goes smoothly, to keep the lines of communication open and apply the right amount of motivation to a seller so that they can both successfully run and sell their business. Have patience with the process – and with the business owner across the table. 


Are you considering buying a business but have more questions about how the process works? Would you like to know how long it typically takes to get to a closing table? Ask us! Please leave questions or comments here and we will be happy to help.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907


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Tips for Business Buyers: The Negotiation

If you are thinking about buying a business, then you probably already know that one major step on your path will be the negotiation of a purchase price and the negotiation of the purchase contract.



If you’ve ever been involved with the purchase of a house or a car, then you already know a little bit about how the negotiation phase is going to go. A buyer offers a price, the seller counters – and after a bit of back and forth the deal is done.


The major difference with business sales? There will be many, many more moving parts.


The best way to deal with these moving parts is to prepare yourself for the negotiation process:


Find and use a business broker


Buying a business is no small task. There are large amounts of money changing hands, a purchase contract that needs to be drafted and negotiated, licensing and permitting requirements that must be met, a new commercial lease that must be negotiated – the list goes on. A business buyer will be far better off with an experienced adviser by their side – and your broker also acts as an all-important buffer between you and the seller. Asking the wrong kind of question, asking too many questions, coming in too low with an offer – all of these things can offend a seller. By using an intermediary like a broker you can keep the deal moving while simultaneously keeping the other side of the negotiating table happy.


Make your offer realistic


You absolutely don’t want to overpay for your new business, and you want to keep as much of your cash as possible to ensure you have enough working capital the day you take over as owner – but that doesn’t mean you should insult the seller by offering a rock-bottom price. Unless the business is listed as an asset sale, don’t treat it like one. An operating business is so much more than the depreciated value of the equipment and inventory. You need to remember that to the seller this business is a huge deal. Most sellers are very emotionally attached to their businesses because the business has been an enormous part of their life. Low-balling a seller will almost assuredly offend them – some to the point where they will refuse to work with you. Make your initial offer fair and be able to justify that number when asked.


As a side note, if you are a buyer who is making an all-cash offer, you may be in a better spot to negotiate for a lower price than someone who is looking for seller financing to be a part of the deal. If you do need seller financing, consider the situation from the seller’s point of view. You probably wouldn’t give someone a big discount on the purchase price of your business if you were going to be taking a big risk and financing part of the deal.


Be 100% prepared for compromise


One last and very important point to make regarding negotiations – the final purchase price and purchase contract will be a compromise for both sides. Go into this process understanding the reality that you are not going to get everything that you want, no matter what side of the table you are on. Many deals have died because one side (or both) refused to budge over something tiny, like the value of a piece of equipment or the closing date. Stay calm, patient and willing to compromise if you want to have a chance of reaching the closing table.


Are you considering buying a business but have more questions about the negotiating process? Would you like to know what types of businesses are currently out there in your price range? Ask us! Please feel free to leave comments or questions here and we would be happy to help.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907



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The Toxic Myth Of The Perfect Business – How To Handle Messy Books

It is a very common complaint in the world of business sales. A buyer comes to the market with money in hand and ready to buy the right business – but every time they request financial documentation what they get is poorly assembled numbers, difficult to understand tax returns and no current financials of any kind.


Do they want to sell their business or not?


What you have to remember about the small business world is owning your own business is a tough and time-intensive enterprise. Small business owners are great at what they do, but most are not trained accountants. Many times record keeping and financial documentation fall down the priority list, and what a buyer is left with is what the seller was able put together in the short time the business has been listed.



When we take on a listing for a small business we often get handed nothing more than a big box of crumpled papers and register tapes – and have to figure out the numbers from there. This is not true of all small businesses, as some owners are better record keepers than others – but you have to remember that even a great business may not have the world’s most organized books.


It is also typically true that the larger the business is, the more likely it is that they have an accountant on payroll and therefore the more complete the records will be – but if you are in the market for a small business you probably don’t have the couple of million dollars you would need to buy one of these higher-priced and more-complete-records businesses.


What should I do then? How can I decide with seemingly incomplete records?


Have patience, and understand that you will never get perfectly organized books. What you will get is the opportunity to look at all of the financial records of a business once you have entered the due diligence phase. Your business broker will be there to help you, and if the books really are a mess then perhaps an accountant familiar with business transactions will be brought in.


What you can do as a buyer is use that not-so-pretty cursory information you get with your first requests – like P&L statements and tax returns – to weed out businesses that don’t suit you and focus a more thorough look on on the ones that do.


Are you in the market to buy a business, but are disappointed with the information you’ve been sent so far? Would you like to know more about how we as brokers turn that jumbled box of paperwork into use-able numbers? Please feel free to leave any questions or comments here, we would be happy to help.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907


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Am I Buying The Building? Commercial Leases And Business Buyers

If you are new to the world of buying a business, then you likely have some basic questions that need to be answered before you really get rolling. One very common question we get from the curious future entrepreneur when discussing businesses to buy is:


Do I have to buy the building too?



The answer to this question is almost always no, as commercial leases are the norm in the small business world.


What do I need to know about commercial leases when I’m looking to buy a business?


First and foremost, you can’t simply look at the amount of rent the current owner pays and the length of time left on the current owner’s lease to understand the nuances of the commercial lease market. It is also very important to understand that while you as a new owner will get a new lease, the rent amount itself is unlikely to change in a major way (and if it does change it will probably go up, not down) – especially if the current lease has quite a bit of time left. The property owner already has someone who is committed to paying that rate for the remainder of the lease term, so they have no motivation to change the terms of the lease for a new owner.


Commercial lease rates depend on a large number of factors, but in general it will depend on where the business is located. In some parts of town you may be able to get a commercial lease at $8 per square foot, while in another part of town not far away the typical lease rate will be more like $40 per square foot. A property on a main street or in a plaza with a strong anchor business will fetch higher rent than a business somewhere off the beaten path. A location on the water will also have a higher rent rate.


If you are in the initial phases of searching for a business and think a particular rent rate looks ridiculous, don’t make a judgment on the business or the lease until after you have spoken to your business broker. They will be able to tell you if a lease rate is truly ridiculous, or (more likely) if a lease rate is in line with the current location of the business. It is also far more important to look at the cash flow of a business than to get hung up on the lease.


In terms of renegotiating the lease rate, it will depend on a number of factors – like the length of time left on the current lease and other factors (like location) that we’ve already discussed. In some business transactions there will be a little wiggle room on price – but for the most part a property owner is not going to cut a lease rate significantly for a new business owner.


While you won’t be able to cut the lease rate in half, you will more than likely get a chance to renegotiate other parts of the lease, like the length. For instance, if the current owner only has six months left on their commercial lease, you certainly can’t be expected to pay $100,000 for a business with no guarantee on the current location for anything more than that short amount of time. Your lease will likely be renegotiated for a much longer term, sometimes 5 or 10 years. Each situation and each property is different – so you will need the expertise of your business broker for this part of the renegotiation.


If you are new to the process of buying a business, don’t get hung up on seemingly high lease rates or on short lease terms. Your business broker is there to help you understand any lease and also to renegotiate a lease to best suit your interests as the new owner of a business.


Are you searching for businesses and have questions about why certain lease rates are so high? Do you want to know which areas typically have lower lease rates? Ask us! Please leave any questions or comments here and we will be happy to help.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907



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Business Buyer? Must-Haves – The Right Help


If you are considering taking the plunge into entrepreneurship by buying a business, you should know that the best way to be a successful business buyer is by using all of the resources available to you – namely the experts who can help you along your path.


Why do I need help? Aren’t experts expensive? Wouldn’t I be saving a ton of money by buying a business on my own?


You absolutely, positively need to have the right help when making a purchase as large and life-encompassing as buying a business. That help needs to be experienced in their field and have the knowledge to properly guide you through the business transaction process.


Going it alone may seem like a good idea because there aren’t any fees or commissions to pay, but you will more than likely end up in hot water if you don’t know what you are doing – and that can mean way more money spent cleaning up the mess on the back end than you ever would have spent hiring the right help.


What kind of hot water could you end up in? You could be shut down if you don’t handle licensing and permitting issues correctly, you could end up signing a purchase contract that doesn’t cover what you thought it did, you could end up discovering surprise debts the business owes after you’ve signed on the dotted line and that business is now your problem alone – just to name a few. In addition, most businesses you buy do not come with the corresponding real estate, so a commercial lease will need to be negotiated – and commercial property managers are notorious for being difficult, more so if they feel like you don’t know what you are doing.


What should you do instead? Employ the right help, they will be worth their weight in gold.


What help might I need


A Business Broker


This person will be the main adviser you use for the purchase of a business. They will assist you with your search, help you obtain the information needed for due diligence, help you make sense of the numbers, negotiate with the sellers for the best price, negotiate and play middle-man with the landlords and property managers, help you get the appropriate licenses and permits, help you transfer utilities and vendor contracts – the list goes on. A good, experienced business broker has already seen everything that could possibly go wrong in a business transaction, so they can help you avoid the pitfalls and come out with the right business for you.


A Business Transaction Attorney


Notice we didn’t just say “attorney”. A family law attorney will do you no good in a business transaction in the same way a plastic surgeon isn’t going to be of much help if you have back pain. An attorney who specializes in business transactions will be best equipped to help you navigate your purchase contract and help you on closing day.


A Business Transaction CPA


Again, we didn’t say just “CPA”. Not all accountants are familiar with the very tangled web of numbers one finds in a small business. The one or two numbers on the bottom of a tax return are not going to tell you everything you need to know about how much money the business makes. For example – has depreciation been taken into account, have the personal benefits of vehicles and cell phones been added back, has the value of the inventory been accounted for? Having a CPA who has business transaction experience will be your best bet for understanding the numbers.


The moral of the story? Your best bet for the successful purchase of the best business for you is to have the right help along the way.


Have more questions? Don’t believe us? Leave questions, comments or concerns here and we will be happy to talk to you more.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907

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Buying A Seasonal Business? Understanding And Surviving The Off-Season

Here in Southwest Florida, we have a very unique business climate, but our lessons about seasonality in the business market translate to just about anywhere that sees a seasonal fluctuation.


Our area is known as a fantastic place to retire and also as a family-friendly vacation spot, so throughout the year our local businesses see a fairly regular fluctuation in the amount of business they do month to month. Our beautiful wintertime weather means that from October to April our population swells as retirees from the northern states come down to ride out the bad weather in our sunshine.


You can blatantly see this fluctuation if you visit at different times of the year. For instance, going to dinner on a Saturday night during “season” (October to April) means a 2-3 hour wait, go to the same restaurant in July and you will likely be one of only two tables in the whole place.



What does this mean if you are thinking of buying a business in this area (or in any area with seasonal fluctuation)?


It means you will need to be a bit open-minded when looking at the numbers, and compare multiple years of numbers instead of looking at only the last several months. In a place without much seasonal fluctuation the most recent numbers may be sufficient, but in our area or any like it – recent numbers won’t tell you the whole story. For instance, if you are looking at buying a business April, then the numbers from January to April will not be a reflection of the next handful of months in the summer. Likewise, if you are considering a business in September, abysmal numbers here might mean the business is doing just fine – you are only looking at the very slow summer months.


How do you figure out how to navigate these types of fluctuations? Find a knowledgeable and experienced local business broker who can help you to understand the seasonal fluctuations and can assist you with determining if a business is dealing with a seasonal slump or is in real trouble overall.


Another major seasonal business consideration? Keeping some cash on hand. If you are buying a business in Southwest Florida in the spring, then you had better find out how much capital the sellers have needed in previous years to weather the sparse summer and save some money for getting yourself through the lean times. Once business picks up and then explodes in the fall, you will also need to know what staffing considerations you will have to address (like bringing on new staff or bringing back the former owner’s seasonal workers).


Your business broker will be invaluable in helping you ask these pivotal questions of the sellers while you are in the negotiating process, and will also ensure you have a proper training period with the former owners post-sale to cover all of the bases.


Do you have more questions about how to look at the numbers of seasonal businesses? Would you like to know what types of seasonal businesses are for sale in this area? Ask us! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions here and we will be happy to help.




Michael Monnot

12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907



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Michael Monnot


12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907


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