Pepperjam CTO, Greg Shepard recently published “Planning Your Exit Should Begin When You Launch” in Entrepreneur magazine. In this article, Shepard puts forward a variety of thought-provoking ideas including that entrepreneurs should be thinking about partnering early on with those they believe will ultimately want to buy their business.
Much of Shepard’s thinking centers around the fact that a large percentage of startups end in acquisitions. In particular, he notes that in 2017, “mergers and acquisitions accounted for 93 percent of the 809 ventures capital-backed exits, yielding a total of $45.6 billion in disclosed exit value.” Not too surprising, he also points out that according to a recent Silicon Valley Bank survey, over 50% of all startups are “hoping for an acquisition.”
For this reason, Shepard points out that entrepreneurs should be thinking about who may potentially acquire them from day one. In particular, startups will want to build their companies in such a way that they will be attractive for acquisition at a later date.
Making one’s startup attractive for acquisition means thinking about such details as the Ideal Customer Profile, Ideal Employee Profile, and Ideal Buyer Profile. This will help startups build the most attractive acquisition friendly company possible. According to Crunchbase, exit opportunities frequently present themselves well before a company’s Series B funding.
Building Successful Strategies
Startups simply must understand who their customer is and why their particular product is attractive to that customer. Likewise, having the right kind of employees with the right kind of training and know how is key. Hiring the best talent is definitely a way for a startup to make itself more attractive for a potential future acquisition.
Shepard believes that once you understand your customer and have the right team to support your vision, you’ll want to focus in on companies that are most likely to be interested and construct an “optimal buyer pool.” Finding this optimal buyer pool means finding businesses that serve similar markets and then making sure that your product, as well as your business model, both address an overlooked need within the existing customer base. Combine all of these variables together, and your company will be more attractive for an acquisition.
Let Innovation Drive You
Another key point in Shepard’s article is that startups will want to provide products or services that potential buyers are currently not providing to their customers. Additionally, he states that “Disruptors should seek out companies that are truly driven by innovation-perhaps those that have already established or partnered with innovative labs or accelerators.”
Ultimately, it is critical for startups to understand where they could fit within a larger organization. Understanding this will help entrepreneurs make their company more acquisition friendly.
There are a myriad of reasons why the sale of a business doesn’t close successfully; these multiple causes can, however, be broken down into four categories: those caused by the seller, those caused by the buyer, those that just happen (“acts of fate”), and those caused by third parties. The following examines the part each of these components can play in contributing to the wrecked deal:
1. In some instances, the seller doesn’t have a valid reason for entering into the sale process. Without a strong reason for selling, he or she has neither the willingness to negotiate nor the flexibility to see the sale to a conclusion. Without such a commitment, the desire to sell is not powerful enough to overcome the many complexities necessary to finalize the sales process.
2. Some sellers are merely testing the waters. As detailed above, they are not at that “hungry” stage that provides the push toward a successful transaction. These sellers merely want to see if anyone wants to buy their business at the price they would like to receive.
3. Many sellers are unrealistic about the price they want for their business. They may be sincere about wanting to sell, but they are unable to be realistic about how the marketplace will value the business. The demand for their business may not be there.
4. Some sellers fail to be honest about their business or its situation. They may be hiding the fact that new competition is entering the market, that the business has serious problems or some other reason the business is not salable under existing circumstances. Even worse, some sellers do not disclose that there is more than one owner and that they are not all in agreement about selling the business.
5. A seller may decide to wait until a buyer is found and then check with their outside advisors about the tax and/or legal consequences. At this point, the terms of the deal have to be altered, and the buyer won’t agree. Sellers should deal with these complications ahead of time. Nobody likes changes–especially buyers!
1. The buyer may not have an urgent need or a strong desire to go into business. In many cases the buyer may begin with positive intentions, but then doesn’t have the courage to make “the leap of faith” necessary to go through with the sale.
2 Some buyers, like sellers, have very unrealistic expectations regarding the price of businesses. They are also uneducated about the nature of small business in general.
3. Many buyers are not willing to put in the hours or do the type of work necessary to operate a business successfully.
4. Buyers can be influenced by others who are opposed to the purchase of a business. Many people don’t or can’t understand the need to be “your own boss.”
Acts of Fate
These are the situations that “just happen,” causing deals to fall through. Even considering the strong hand of fate, many of these situations could have been prevented.
1. A buyer’s investigation reveals some unmentioned or unknown problem, such as an environmental situation. Or, perhaps there are financial deficiencies discovered by the buyer. Unfortunately, these should have been on the table from the beginning of the selling process.
2. The seller may not be able to substantiate, at least to the buyer’s satisfaction, the earnings of the business.
3. Problems may arise, unknown to both the seller and the buyer, with federal, state, or local governmental agencies.
1. Landlords may become difficult about transferring the lease or granting a new one.
2. Buyers and/or sellers may receive overly-aggressive advice from outside advisors, usually attorneys. Attorneys, in their zeal to represent their clients, forget that the goal is to put the deal together. In some cases, they erect so many roadblocks that the deal can only fall apart.
Most of the problems outlined here could have been resolved before the selling process was too far advanced. There are also some problems that could not have been avoided–people do sometimes enter situations with the best of intentions only to find out that this is not the right answer for them after all. These are the exceptions, however. Most business sales can have happy endings if potential difficulties are handled at the appropriate time.
Business brokers are aware of the various ways a deal may fall through. They are experienced in resolving issues before the business goes onto the market or before a buyer is introduced to the business. To buy or sell a business successfully, sellers should resolve any potential deal-wreckers, following the advice of a professional business broker.
Although business brokers cannot provide legal advice, they are familiar with the intricacies of the business sale. They are also familiar with local attorneys who specialize in the details of these transactions. These attorneys will usually be more efficient, and therefore more cost-effective, than the attorney who handles a general practice.
Putting your strengths first will help you sell your business. While this may seem obvious, a surprising number of business owners will either improperly index the strengths of their business or fail to emphasize those strengths adequately. In this article, we will examine five key business strengths that you should focus on when it comes time to sell.
Understand Your Buyer
You know your business, but you don’t necessarily know what buyer is best for it in the long run. If you’ve never sold a business before (and most business owners haven’t), then you may not know how to best position and present your business for sale.
A business broker is immensely valuable in this regard. These professionals are very good at determining which prospective buyers are serious and which ones are not. Additionally, a business broker will use their own databases of prospective and vetted buyers and try to match your business up with the prospective buyers that are most likely to be a good fit. When dealing with a buyer, a seasoned business broker will put emphasis on your strengths whenever possible.
Be Sure to Maintain Normal Operations
Selling a business can be very demanding and underscores, once again, the value of working with a business broker. A business broker will focus on selling your business so that you have more time to focus on the day-to-day of running your business.
The last thing you want is to waste your time on buyers who are not serious. Remember, if your business suffers as a result of the time you spend away from your business in the sale process, then the value of your business to prospective buyers could suffer.
Determining the Best Price
If you incorrectly price your business, you could dramatically reduce the interest. Business brokers are experts at pricing businesses and can help you determine the best possible price. Many business owners have unrealistic valuations and others may even undervalue their businesses or they fail to incorporate all aspects of their business. Working with a professional business broker can help you quickly achieve the best price. The best price possible will work to maximize the strengths of your business.
Getting Your Business Ready for Sale
There is a lot that goes into getting your business ready to sell. The simple fact is that getting your business ready to sell isn’t a one-dimensional process, but instead involves every aspect of your business. Getting your business ready to sell isn’t about making it look presentable and putting a “new coat of paint” on things, although this is a factor.
Instead it is necessary to have every aspect of your business in order. From paperwork such as tax returns, contracts and forms to a business plan and more, it is important to consider every aspect of your business. You should consider what you would want to see if you were the one looking to buy the business. Be sure to do everything possible to build up your strengths.
If word gets out that your business is up for sale, there could be a range of problems. Employees, including key management, could begin looking for other jobs and suppliers and key buyers could begin to look elsewhere. In short, a breach of confidentiality could lead to chaos.
Getting your business ready for sale means factoring in the strengths and weakness of your business then fixing weaknesses whenever possible and building upon your strengths. Working with a business broker can help you address every point covered in this article and more.
The time you spend evaluating your company’s weaknesses is, as it turns out, one of the single best investments you can hope to make. No one should understand your company better than you. But to fully understand your company, it is essential that you invest the time to understand your company’s various strengths and weakness.
Your company, from the beginning, has been an investment. It’s an investment in your time, your mental energy and, of course, your financial resources. The time and effort you expend to locate, understand and then fix your businesses’ weaknesses is time very well spent. Addressing and remedying your businesses’ weakness will not only pay dividends in the here and now, but will also help get your business ready to sell. Let’s turn our attention to some of the key areas of weakness that can cause some buyers to look elsewhere.
An Industry in Decline
A declining market can serve as a major red flag for buyers. You as a businessowner must be savvy enough to understand market situations and respond accordingly.
If you spot a troubling trend and realize that a major source of your revenue is declining or will decline, then you must branch out in new directions, offer new goods and/or services, find new customers and also find new ways to get your existing customers to buy more. Taking these steps shows that your business is a vibrant and dynamic one.
You Face an Aging Workforce
It has been well publicized that young people, for example, are not entering the trades. Many trades such as tool and die makers will be left with a substantial shortage of skilled workers as a result. No doubt, technology will replace some, but not all, of these workers.
This is an example of how an aging workforce can impact the health and stability of a business. If your business potentially relies upon an aging workforce then it is essential that you find a way to address this issue long before you put your business up for sale.
You Only Have, or Primarily Rely Upon a Single Product
Being a “one-trick pony” is never a good thing, even if that trick is exceptionally good. Diversification increases the chances of stability and can even help you find new customers. Additional goods and services allow you to weather unexpected storms such as a supply chain disruption while at the same time provide access to new customers and thus new revenue.
The Factor of Customer Concentration
Many buyers are concerned about customer concentration. If your business has only one or two customers, then your business is highly vulnerable and almost every prospective buyer will realize this fact. While it is an investment to find new customers, it is well worth the time and money.
A business broker can help you evaluate your company and, in the process, address its weaknesses. Remedying your businesses weakness before you put your business up for sale and you will be rewarded.
Buying a business can be an exciting prospect. For many prospective business owners, owning a business is the fulfillment of a decades long dream. With all of that excitement comes considerable emotion. For this reason, it is essential to step back and carefully evaluate several key factors to help you decide whether or not you are making the best financial and life decision for you. In this article, we’ll examine five key factors you should consider before buying a business.
What is Being Sold?
If you hate the idea of owning a clothing store, then why buy one? The bottom line is that you have to have a degree of enthusiasm about what you are buying otherwise you’ll experience burnout and lose interest in the business.
How Good is the Business Plan?
Before getting too excited about owning a business, you’ll want to take a look at the business plan. You’ll want to know the current business owner’s goals and how they plan on going about achieving those goals. If they’ve not been able to formulate a coherent business plan then that could be a red flag.
You need to see how a business can be grown in the future, and that means you need a business plan. Additionally, a business plan will outline how products and services are marketed and how the business compares to other companies.
How is Overall Performance?
A key question to have answered before signing on the bottom line is “How well is a business performing overall?” Wrapped up in this question are factors such as how many hours the owner has to work, whether or not a manager is used to oversee operations, how many employees are paid overtime, whether or not employees are living up to their potential and other factors. Answering these questions will give you a better idea of what to expect if you buy the business.
What Do the Financials Look Like?
Clearly, it is essential to understand the financials of the business. You’ll want to see everything from profit and loss statements and balance sheets to income tax returns and more. In short, don’t leave any rock unturned. Importantly, if you are not provided accurate financial information don’t hesitate, run the other way!
What are the Demographics?
Understanding your prospective customers is essential to understanding your business. If the current owner doesn’t understand the business, that is a key problem. It should be clear who the customers are, why they keep coming back and how you can potentially add and retain current customers in the future. After all, at the end of the day, the customer is what your business is all about.
Don’t rush into buying a business. Instead, carefully evaluate every aspect of the business and how owning the business will impact both your life and your long-term financial prospects.
The business sale process can be complex, which is part of the reason why it makes sense to have expert help in the form of a business broker. Legal mistakes can be very costly mistakes. A legal mistake can also bring the entire sale process to a sudden and complete halt. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to avoid these kinds of issues when selling your business.
Major Mistake 1 – You Skipped the Non-Disclosure Agreement
Nothing quite invites trouble like skipping the non-disclosure agreement. If a deal falls through, then you have the NDA backing you up. This document ensures that the prospective buyer doesn’t tell the world that your business is up for sale. Never assume that a deal is going through until it actually is 100% complete. Buying or selling a business is a complex process with lots of moving parts. There is plenty of room for things to go wrong, and that is why you always need to have an NDA in place.
Major Mistake 2 – You Don’t Work with an Attorney
Let’s be very blunt here, if you are selling a business, then you need an attorney. Just as there is no replacement for an NDA, the same holds true for working with a lawyer. It is also vital that you properly prep your business for sale, which means getting paperwork organized and making sure that you have legally checked all your boxes. Working with an experienced and proven attorney will help you ensure that your business is ready for sale. If you’re not prepared for the deal, it can make buyers nervous.
Major Mistake 3 – You Failed to Get a Letter of Intent
A letter of intent is a valuable, and necessary, legal document. Some sellers are reluctant to use it, fearing that it will slow down the momentum of the deal. However, since this letter works to protect your interest and outlines expectations, this step should not be skipped. For example, a letter of intent details the termination fee for the buyer, meaning that the buyer can’t walk away without consequences simply because he or she is having a bad day. Importantly, a letter of intent ensures that you are only dealing with serious buyers.
Many things can go wrong while selling a business. The more prepared you are before you begin the process, the greater the chances that you will not only avoid headaches, but also be successful. Long before you put your business on the market, you should begin working with a capable business broker and attorney. Their input and advice will prove to be invaluable and help you avoid a range of costly and time-consuming issues.Read More
When it comes to buying a business, nothing is more important than the factor of due diligence. For most people, this investment is the single largest financial decision that they will ever make. And with this important fact in mind, you’ll want to leave absolutely no stone unturned.
Let’s examine the three most commonly overlooked areas when it comes to buying a business: retirement plans, 1099’s and W-2’s, and legal documents.
1. Examine All Legal Documents
While it may sound like a “pain” to investigate all the legal documents relating to a business that you are vetting for purchase, that is exactly what you have to do. The very last thing you want is to buy a business only to have the corporate veil pierced. Everything from trademarks and copyrights to other areas of intellectual property should be carefully examined. You should be quite sure that you receive copies of everything from consulting agreements to documentation on intellectual property.
2. Retirement Plans
Don’t forget about retirement plans when you’re buying a business, as this mistake can quietly translate into disaster. Before signing on the dotted line and taking ownership, be sure that both the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are 100% up to date with the Department of Labor and ready to go.
3. W-2’s and 1099’s
If 1099 forms were given out instead of W-2’s, you’ll want to know about that and be certain that it was done within the bounds of IRS rules. Imagine for a moment that you fail to do your due diligence, buy a business and then discover that you have problems with the IRS. No one wants IRS problems, but a failure to perform due diligence can quickly result in just that. So do your homework!
Never forget what is at stake when you are buying a business. If there has ever been a time to have laser-like focus, this is that time. There can be many skeletons hiding in a business, and you want to be sure that you protect yourself from any unwanted surprises. Not performing your due diligence can lead to a shockingly large array of problems. One exceptional way to protect yourself is to work with a business broker. A business broker knows what to look for when buying a business and what kinds of documents should be examined. There is no replacement for the expertise and experience that a business broker brings to the table.Read More
The odds are that you’ve put a great deal of yourself into your business. Inevitably, the day will come when you have no choice but to walk away from your business and begin a new chapter of your life. Quite often, businesses are transferred from one family member to another. In this article, we will examine 5 of the key factors you’ll want to consider when transferring your business to a family member.
Factor #1 Gifting Can Have Numerous Benefits
Will you be selling your business to a family member or simply gifting that business? Gifting comes with several major advantages, for example, this approach can reduce your real estate taxes. Also, the gifting process can allow you to maintain a level of control if the agreement is written properly.
Factor #2 The Buy-Sell Agreement
Don’t overlook the importance of the buy-sell agreement, which works to put everything in writing. You may be tempted to forgo a contract since you are dealing with a family member, but this is a mistake, no matter how close you might be with your loved ones. A buy-sell agreement adds clarity to the process, which can help to keep confusion levels low and the chances of success high. When the time comes to transfer your business to a relative, you’ll want an expert to create a document that outlines all relevant details. It should feature everything from the value of the business and the amount being paid for the business to who will be kept on the payroll to what level of involvement you’ll have once the process is finished.
Factor #3 Seller Financing
Seller financing is quite common among sellers, and when relatives are involved it becomes even more common. One option is to consider a private annuity. A private annuity allows for payments to be spread out for many years and can even extend until the end of your life.
Factor #4 Considering the Self-Cancelling Installment Note
In the installment note, it is possible to feature a self-cancelling clause, which can definitely benefit your family in the future. This part of the paperwork will confirm that if you were to pass away before all the payments have been made, the remaining debt can be attached directly to your will. If you are a parent selling a business to a child, then one of the key benefits of an installment note is that it keeps your other children from paying excess income tax on your estate.
Factor #5 Transferring a Business to a Relative and the IRS
You can expect the IRS to take a second look when you sell a business to a family member. The IRS does this to make sure that everything is above board, due to the fact that many past business owners have acted in an unethical manner. You’ll want to be very sure that every aspect of the sale is done professionally and that you have all your paperwork in order.
A business broker can help you deal the unique particulars that come along with selling a business to a relative. Every business is different, and every sale is different too. A professional business broker can help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.Read More
There are two key ingredients when it comes to selling a business: professionalism and confidentiality. If either of these two ingredients are lacking, then you’ll most likely run into problems. Sadly, many sellers see their deals fall apart due to a breach of confidentiality. You certainly don’t want to be among their ranks.
The simple fact is that a breach in confidentiality can negatively impact everyone from suppliers and vendors to creditors. For example, vendors could change their terms and this, in turn, could have a major, negative impact on cash flow. There can be a chain reaction of events that spirals out of control.
The potential negative outcomes of a breach in confidentiality are quite numerous, for example, employees and customers alike could begin to worry about the future of the business. Employees could begin to worry about the safety of their jobs and begin looking for a new position. Dangerously, this situation could lead to changes in management and the loss of key employees. Likewise, customers, fearing instability with the business, could also decide to take the business elsewhere, leading to revenue problems.
Yet another complicating factor comes in the form of the competition. If the competition hears that your business is up for sale, they could sense blood in the water and look to steal your customers.
Ultimately, a breach could give potential buyers cold feet. At this point, it should be very clear that protecting confidentiality is a must. One of the single best ways to ensure that confidentiality is maintained is to opt for an experienced and proven business broker. Business brokers understand the simply tremendous value of keeping things under wraps.
It may be tempting to try and sell your business on your own, but it is vital to understand that doing so can damage your businesses’ reputation. A good business broker knows how to shield your business from breaches of confidentiality. By working with a business broker, not only are confidentiality agreements signed and taken seriously, but also you’ll know that prospective buyers are vetted and fully pre-qualified. According to an article on Inc.com, broker feedback has revealed 9 out of 10 interested parties who respond to “business for sale” ads are not qualified to make the purchase. Why would you want to risk giving away key details to these parties?
In short, you’ll have a much better idea of who you are dealing with and how serious they are about buying your business. At the end of the day, there is no replacement for maintaining confidentiality.Read More
You should never forget that your partnership agreement is, in fact, one of the most important business documents you will ever sign. Many people go into business with loved ones, relatives or lifelong friends only to discover (once it’s too late) that they should have had a partnership agreement. A partnership agreement protects everyone involved and can help reduce problems that may arise. Outlining what will happen during different potential situations and events in a legal framework can help your business keep running smoothly.
What Should Be in a Partnership Agreement?
Every business is, of course, different; however, with that stated, any partnership should outline, with as much clarity as possible, the rights and responsibilities of all involved. A well written and carefully considered partnership agreement will keep small problems and disagreements from evolving into more elaborate and serious concerns.
There are times to take a DIY approach and then there are times when you should always opt for a professional. When it comes to partnership agreements, it is best to opt for working with a lawyer. Finding competent legal help for drafting your partnership agreement is simply a must.
What is Typically Addressed in a Partnership Agreement?
In theory, a partnership agreement can cover a wide-array of factors. Here are a few points typically addressed in partnership agreements.
What Questions Will a Good Partnership Agreement Address?
- Which partner(s) are to receive a draw?
- How is money to be distributed?
- Who is contributing funds to get the business operational?
- What percentage will each partner receive?
- Who will be in charge of managerial work?
- What must be done in order to bring in new partners?
- What happens in the event of the death of a partner?
- How are business decisions made? Are decisions made by a unanimous vote or a majority vote?
- If a conflict cannot be resolved when must the conflict be resolved in court?
Thanks to partnership agreements, all partners involved can proceed and start a new business with fewer areas of concern. The simple fact is that without a partnership agreement, your business can face a range of disruptions; these would be disruptions that could ultimately spell doom for your business.Read More