Although unfortunate, it does happen. Business buyers get their hands on a profitable business and within six months they are calling us to sell because they are literally days away from complete and utter failure – like having to lock the doors and walk away.
How does this happen?
There are four big mistakes that can cause you to pull the rug right out from under your own feet, but they can easily be avoided if you know what they are and apply some common sense to your new venture.
Spending All Of Your Cash
You might have $100,000 to spend on a business, but that doesn’t mean that you should be shopping for businesses that are listed for $100,000. Buying a business and launching yourself into business ownership is an expensive adventure, and you will need to reserve enough of your capital to keep yourself in the black long enough to get the business generating a profit with you at the helm. You will need cash for licensing fees, for your new commercial lease, for inventory and payroll in your first few weeks as owner – only to name a few. When deciding what you can and can’t afford, be honest with your business broker about the money you have available and they can better assist you with finding a business that will reserve some of your cash.
Ignoring Red Tape
Yes, bureaucracy is annoying. Licensing requirements are confusing, expensive and time-consuming – but that doesn’t mean that you can skate around the requirements. You need to be sure that you are operating your business in accordance with the licensing requirements of your industry, state, county and city. If you aren’t, it is only a matter of time before you are caught – and the consequences can be devastating (think the loss of a liquor license or major fines and penalties, for example). Pay attention to the red tape.
Coasting Too Early (Or Ever)
You found a great little business, and from day one you were lucky enough to be pulling a profit, so you take your foot off the gas and let the business essentially run itself. This always ends in disaster. Think about why this business was great in the first place. The former owner worked incredibly hard to maintain what worked and continually focused on the future growth of the business. That simple formula, always maintaining and growing your business, is the key to success. Owners that stop trying always stop succeeding.
You bought a profitable restaurant, but you hate everything about it. The decor is dated, the equipment isn’t the top of the line and the menu doesn’t appeal to your vision of restaurant ownership. You spend your first six months of ownership completely gutting the kitchen and dining room, a massively expensive renovation. Then you come up with an entirely new menu that is a huge divergence from what the restaurant used to serve. While you are at it, you also change vendors and essentially every operating procedure. After all of this massive upheaval, you are shocked that you can’t get customers in the door and that all of your staff jumped ship. Where did everybody go? The old phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” goes a long way in explaining this most expensive of mistakes. The restaurant in this example was successful because it had a regular clientele who loved the menu and quaint decor and a happy staff who were good at their jobs. New owners who change things before they give themselves the time to understand why certain aspects of the business work (or why they don’t work) are setting themselves up for failure. A new owner is far better off following in the footsteps of the prior owner until they are sure the changes they want to make are changes that will actually improve the business, not hurt it.
If you are looking at businesses to buy – be aware that you need to be careful of too many changes, you need to keep the business growing, you need to stay on top of red-tape issues and you need to be careful with your cash if you want to be successful.
Are you in the business market and are curious about what businesses you could afford with the cash you have available? Do you have more questions about how to avoid the pitfalls we talked about here? Ask us! Leave any questions or comments here and we would be happy to help.
12995 South Cleveland Avenue, Suite 249
Fort Myers, FL 33907