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So, you’re considering selling your business. If you haven’t done it before, most likely, you’re not aware of all options and possibilities of selling. Let me help you to organize your thoughts and make the right choice.
First, you have to decide whether you’re going to do it on your own or hire a broker. You have to be aware that the process of selling a business takes a lot of time and knowledge. Simply placing ad on Craigslist won’t do you any good. If you, like most business owners, have pretty hectic schedule, it will be very hard to combine running a business with servicing buyers. Every buyer assumes that she is the only one and requires your undivided attention. With every buyer you have to do the following.
- pre-qualify financially and professionally
- provide your business’ profile and financial statements. Additional information may be requested
- follow-up, follow-up, follow-up…
- schedule business tour
- negotiate terms of the purchase agreement
- prepare documentation and submit to escrow
- maintain a log of activities and current status for every buyer
In the current buyer’s market you have to be very prompt with your communication otherwise buyers lose interest, turn around and start looking for other opportunities. When they turned away, it’s practically impossible to win them back.
If it seems like too much work to combine with running your business, you have to seriously consider hiring a business broker. Qualified business broker will take over all the above activities and considerably minimize your interaction with buyers, as well as helping you with their expertise. Obviously, you have to pay commissions for broker’s services, around 10-12% for businesses priced under $1 million, with declining percentage as price goes up.
BEWARE OF HIRING A REAL ESTATE AGENT WHO OCCASIONALLY SELLS BUSINESSES. THEY DON’T KNOW SPECIFICS OF SELLING BUSINESSES AND WON’T BE MUCH HELP TO YOU. ASK AGENTS IF SELLING BUSINESSES IS THEIR FULL TIME JOB.
Now, lets review services offered by business brokers,
- The process starts with business valuation (appraisal) and analysis. It is very important to correctly determine the purchase price. On one hand, you don’t want to overprice the business because it won’t sell. Do not try to “test waters”, it never works. Only correctly-priced business will sell. On the other hand, you don’t want leaving any money on the table either. Some business brokerage firms offer business valuation services free of charge to the clients who decided to list with them.
- Our statistics reveals that it pays off to spend more time on preparing business for sale. It increases chances of selling and conditions of sale are much more favorable to the business owner. Our business brokers work very closely with business sellers gathering necessary information, preparing Business Profile and re-casting financial statements, thus presenting your business in the most attractive way.
- Means of advertising vary greatly depending on business type, size and geographical coverage. Majority of businesses are advertised with internet business listing services, like bizbuysell.com and businessesforsale.com. However, sometimes it may require to advertise with trade magazines or contact potential buyers directly. Marketing team of business brokerage firm creates descriptive advertisement and determines the best advertising strategy for each client individually. It’s worth mentioning that advertising with one business listing service can easily run about $40-70 per month. Good business broker publishes ads with 8-10 business listing services at no additional cost to clients.
- Having intermediary involved is very important for preserving confidentiality of the transaction. You don’t want business buyers starting questioning your employees, vendors or customers for information about your business operation. It may start a rumor mill, cause vendors to revoke credit terms, employees starting looking for new employment, etc. Professional business broker never reveals client’s business name or location until proper confidentiality agreement is signed by the buyer.
- It’s not a secret that around 50% of buyers inquiring about a business for sale are not qualified to buy it, one way or the other. Multiply it times 25-30+ buyers and you can see how much time can be wasted. It is very important to pre-qualify every buyer early and eliminate tire-kickers.
- One would assume that once inquiring about your business for sale buyer will continue their communication until he or she makes final decision. One week later, still not hearing anything back from the buyer, you start wondering what’s going on: if she is still interested, did she get the information that you sent her via email, etc. You would probably call and ask, however, you may be afraid that your call may be considered as a sign of despair, and you would expect that buyer should be calling you, not the other way around. Besides, if you’re working concurrently with several buyers, you have to keep a very clean record of each communication, current status and follow-up activities. Yes, follow-up is very important, and organized record keeping is very important too. Business brokers use proprietary database for record keeping and scheduling follow-up activities. As a neutral third party they can communicate with both sides without weakening your position.
- It’s not a secret that all business owners are trying to minimize their tax liability. Sometimes small business owners charge their personal or family expenses to the business too. It may work to their benefit while they’re running the business, however works against them when they decide to sell. When selling, you’d like to maximize your income, thus increasing the purchase price. Business brokers do necessary adjustments to your financial statements, reflecting correct unbiased performance of your business. Business intermediaries will professionally prepare Confidential Business Profile, recast financial statements and compile all necessary information about your business that may be requested by buyers.
- Properly orchestrated negotiation can make a difference between deal and no deal. There is a lot of tension and agitation when people discuss money. Simple misunderstanding may cause an argument and terminate the deal. Having business intermediary as neutral third party mediating your negotiations will bring calm, business-like atmosphere and assure successful outcome.
- After purchase agreement is executed by both parties most business sale transactions are finalized through escrow. Majority of escrow companies do not perform “bulk sale transfer” operations, under which business sale is processed. There are only a few selected ones with no more than one escrow officer qualified to perform this duty. Having knowledgeable and responsive escrow officer is very important. She can not only save you money, but also help with drafting necessary documentation and keep informed about escrow progress. Experienced business broker can suggest you well-tested escrow company.
Finding knowledgeable and dedicated business broker isn’t easy. Don’t rely entirely on reputation of the firm because, after all, you’re working with a particular person and your success depends on her and her alone. Ask the agent how many deals he or she closed within last year and ask for references. Ask if you have the right to terminate the agreement if you’re not satisfied with their service. Walk away if you don’t have such right. Ask to report to you every … “Hooold on, we’re getting to the next topic.” How to select a business broker will be subject of my next article.