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.
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