Performing due diligence as a part of your company’s annual review is a smart move and one that can help your business in a range of ways. Through this means, if the day comes that you need or want to sell, then you’re ready to go. There are six key areas of due diligence that you’ll want to consider. These are aspects that most serious buyers will consider when buying a business.
You can expect any savvy buyer to focus on the following during due diligence if they are truly interested in acquiring your business. Problems in any of these areas could spell serious trouble in the sales process.
In terms of legal issues, you’ll want to carefully evaluate whether or not your contracts and agreements are all current. Issues such as copyrights, trademarks and patents should all be examined. Most importantly, if there is any pending litigation it would be best to resolve the matter if possible. Likewise, if there are any potential legal issues, such as lawsuits, looming on the horizon, those issues should be addressed as well. Try and think about what your own lawyer or legal team would want to see out of a business before recommending that you ink a deal. Obviously, these types of legal issues should not and will not simply be overlooked.
Marketing issues should be dealt with as well. Business owners should understand not just their business, but the industry as a whole.
Consider the following questions:
- Who are the industry leaders?
- What is the size of the market?
- Who are your current and future customers?
- What are the upsides and risks of your products or services?
You should demonstrate to a prospective buyer that you understand the “lay of the land.” You should be able to convey a strong grasp of how the business is currently positioned and how it may be positioned in the future.
One serious environmental issue can derail a deal or even destroy a business. Prospective buyers are very wary of potential environmental issues. Identifying and addressing environmental issues, if possible, should be a key part of your preparation for due diligence.
Another key area to evaluate is operational issues. Your company should have an easy to understand program for how products or services are handled at every point of the process. How your goods or services are delivered to the customer shouldn’t be a mystery, but should instead be clearly defined to a prospective buyer.
As there is clarity in how your goods or services reach consumers, the same holds true for financial issues. You do not want your finances to seem mysterious. Everything from your inventory and supply chain to your accounts receivable and accounts payable should be well laid out, accessible and easy to understand.
Employees and Management
Problems with employees or management can spell doom for any company. You’ll want to take steps to cover any potential issues in these areas well before selling.
Working to address these six key areas will help keep your business in a ready to sell posture. While you might not plan on selling today or tomorrow, there is no way to know what the future may bring. It’s best to be prepared.
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There is no denying the fact that for most people, the decision to buy or sell a business is one of the most important professional and financial decisions that they will ever make. Let’s turn our attention to some of the key questions you’ll need to ask.
1. What is really for sale?
You’ll need to determine what is, and is not, for sale. If you own machinery or real estate associated with the business, are those items to be included in the sale?
2. What assets bring in revenue?
One important factor to consider when preparing a business to be sold is what assets are earning money. If you have assets that are not earning money, then it may or may not be prudent to sell those assets.
3. What is proprietary?
Buyers and sellers alike will want to consider what is proprietary. Anything from software and patents to formulations can be extremely valuable. Sellers will want to give substantial thought to how to best frame any proprietary property that they have in the best light. Buyers will want to carefully evaluate proprietary property to try to ascertain an accurate value. Outside experts may be needed to make an accurate assessment.
4. What’s your competitive advantage?
A business’s competitive advantage should be of importance to buyers and sellers. A seller should focus on understanding their competitive advantage, whether it is a certain niche, a superior manufacturing process or product, better marketing or a range of other factors. Properly framing your competitive advantage can help buyers see the full, and even untapped, value of your business.
5. What is your growth potential?
Buyers will want to consider factors such as whether or not the business has the potential to grow. If the business can’t be grown, then buyers should include this fact in their final decision and/or offer.
6. What agreements do you have in place?
Other factors such as employee agreements, non-competes, and the depth of management are all areas of concern for a prospective buyer. Buyers will want to consider if the seller has secured agreements from key employees and how dependent the business is on an owner/manager.
7. What relevant financial information will a buyer want to know?
Understanding how much working capital is needed to run the business and how financial reporting is undertaken are other factors that should not be glossed over.
If you are preparing to sell your business it is worth the time to pause and think about what your business might look like to a buyer. In short, what would you think of your business if you were the buyer and what questions would you ask?
Buying or selling a business is complex. Every single business is different and that means there is no 100% standardized approach and route towards success. A seasoned, experienced and professional business broker or M&A advisor can help guide buyers and sellers alike towards optimal outcomes.
The closing is a pivotal moment in the history of a business as it marks the formal transfer of a business from one party to the next. Behind every successful closing is months of focus and hard work. Simply stated, a successful closing doesn’t just happen, but is instead the byproduct of extensive negotiations.
One key document to utilize in the closing process is the Purchase and Sales Agreement. There are four key aspects to this document.
- First are the terms of the agreement, which typically cover the price as well as detailed terms on how the business is to be paid. In the Purchase and Sales Agreement, you will find the status of any management that will be staying with the business.
- This document also should contain conditions and covenants which include non-competes as well as agreements on what to do and what not to do moving forward.
- Any good Purchase and Sales Agreement will, of course, include a description of the transaction. In other words, is the transaction a stock or asset sale?
- Finally, the agreement will cover representations and warranties. This is typically negotiated after the Letter of Intent is agreed upon. In short, the warranties will provide that everything is as it has been represented.
Now, let’s look at the four key steps that are a must before the sale of a business can close.
- Topping the list, is that the seller must provide satisfactory evidence that they have the full legal right to act on the behalf of the selling company. Additionally, the seller must show evidence that they have full legal authority to sell the business.
- Secondly, all representations and warranties must be in place. Importantly, this will also include clearly stated remedies that are available to the buyer in the case of a seller’s breach.
- Third, the buyer’s representative should have completed the due diligence process. A key part of the due diligence process is that any claims and representations made by the seller have been clearly substantiated and addressed.
- Last, but certainly not least, necessary financing should have been secured. A critical part of the process is that all of the proper paperwork, as well as the appropriate liens, should be in place, as no funds can be released until these conditions have been met.
It is also important to note that there are two significant elements of closing that will take place simultaneously.
- The first is the corporate closing which is the actual transfer of the corporate stock or assets. This step is based on the provisions set forth in the Purchase and Sales Agreement. All the paperwork that was carefully laid out in the Purchase and Sales Agreement has been completed.
- The second major element is the financial closing. In the financial closing all the paperwork, as well as the legal documents needed to provide funding have successfully been executed.
While there is no doubt that closing is a joyous time, it is also vital to remember that the period leading up to closing is the time to have a laser-like focus. This is the most important time to avoid mistakes. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor can dramatically reduce your chances of experiencing mistakes during the all-important closing process.
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Most business owners are experts at running their specific businesses. They are not necessarily experts at selling businesses. This is where working with a seasoned brokerage professional can prove to be invaluable.
As it turns out, there are endless examples of people trying to save money by simply finding an MBA to handle the sale of their business. Owners often will trust this person despite whether or not they have direct experience selling businesses. Sadly, the results from this decision can be very poor.
Let’s take the example of a business owner who opted to let his nephew with a freshly minted MBA oversee the sale of his multi-location retail operation. The idea was that his nephew would help him save a great deal of money. Unfortunately, this idea simply didn’t work. His well-intended nephew’s inexperience proved to be a liability.
Let’s take a look at some of the main problems that this business owner and his nephew faced:
Missing Legal Arrangements
One of the first problems is that neither the business owner nor the nephew realized how important confidentiality agreements were to the process of selling a business. This led to competitors learning that the business was for sale. Likewise, the lack of confidentiality agreements meant that everyone from key employees to clients, customers and suppliers could learn that the business was for sale.
Further, the nephew opted to use the company’s attorney instead of finding an attorney with experience in business transactions. The company attorney had never handled the sale of a large business before.
Another problem was that the nephew prepared what was supposed to be a Confidential Business Review/Confidential Information Summary – CBR/CIM. The review/summary prepared by the nephew failed to include proper financials, including a large sum taken by the owner. Importantly, there were no projections, ratios and other important information. This lack of information could easily lower the bids or simply cause prospective buyers to lose interest.
The way that the business owner and nephew handled the CFO was also an issue. They failed to bring in the CFO and did not execute a “stay” agreement. The nephew was confident that he could handle the financial details on his own. However, neither the owner nor the nephew realized that prospective buyers expected to meet the CFO as part of the due diligence process.
Failure to Properly Screen Candidates
Finally, not only did the nephew not understand the importance of confidentiality agreements or the due diligence process, but he also failed to understand the importance of the screening process. The nephew failed to interview prospective buyers to discover whether or not they were serious and had the resources to buy the business. The failure to have a proper screening process served to both waste valuable time and spread the word that the business was for sale.
For most people, selling a business is the single most important financial decision of their lives. For this reason, it is critical to find experienced and competent assistance for the process. An experienced business broker or M&A advisor understands what is involved in selling a business. In other words, your nephew may be a great guy and he may want to help you, but without years of experience selling businesses, he simply isn’t the right person for the job.
The post Lack of Experience Can Be a True Deal Killer appeared first on Deal Studio – Automate, accelerate and elevate your deal making.
No business owner will be able to stay with their business indefinitely. For this reason, you will either have to eventually sell or hand your business off to the next generation. Let’s take a closer look at the concept of handing a business over to a family member and how you can make sure that the business is in optimal shape when the time comes.
If you want your business to be prepared for succession and the next generation, you’ll want to repair any key problems before handing it over. Some experts advise putting your focus on evolving the business. One key recommendation is to focus on sales, marketing and distribution in the coming years, so that troublesome issues, such as sales plateaus, are properly addressed and hopefully circumvented.
Also, you’ll want to consider boosting communication with key employees so that current management understands where all the employees stand. Skilled and motivated employees are rare commodities, and they are absolutely critical to the future success of any business. For any business owner considering handing over their business to their children, employee skill level, motivation and commitment will be essential to the success of the business during a potential transition period.
Some people see their business as a form of job creation for their children, instead of being what it truly is, a business. For a wide variety of reasons, it may not be feasible for your descendants and relatives to take over the business. They may not be capable of the demands or they may simply have no interest. But if you are able to successfully pass it down, you’ll want to optimize their chances for success.
Just as buying or selling a business involves preparation, the same holds true for handing the baton to the next generation. There is no replacement for advance planning. The sooner that you begin thinking about, and taking tangible steps to prepare for the next generation taking over the reins, the better off everyone will be.
The last thing that any business owner wants is for a sale to fall through over something that was completely preventable. The good news is that with proper preparation and planning, these mistakes can be minimized or avoided altogether.
One of the top mistakes that business owners can make is allowing for an unstable workforce. It should come as no surprise that prospective buyers want to buy a business that produces consistent results. A key part of business stability resides in a stable workforce. Having a great product or service and then knowing that you have good dependable people to deliver those goods and services is essential. Buyers will be looking for this when they make their buying decisions.
You can be very certain that any serious buyer will want to examine your books for the last several years. It is only prudent to expect that a prospective buyer will look at every part of your financials, including everything from your operating costs to your sales history. Proper recordkeeping will help convey the message that you are a responsible business owner, and this in turn, will increase the perceived value of your business.
Delaying key investments and improvements may sound good for the foreseeable future, but it can be costly in the long run. It also points to a lack of vision and planning on the part of business owners. If you’d like to maintain your business’ value for when it is time to sell, you must constantly invest in your future. This will help your business thrive today and grow in the future.
Another mistake that business owners can make is to fail to innovate. In a sense, this failure often goes hand-in-hand with a failure to invest in the business. A business that is not innovative is one that may be seen as a business that is not well positioned for the future.
Of course, every industry is different. For this reason, it is important that business owners evaluate their business, the competition, and what opportunities exist if they embrace a constant stream of innovation. It is key to note that innovation is not always about making grandiose and costly moves. Quite often, innovation is the result of adopting a different mindset and finding small ways to boost customer or client satisfaction and reach new customers.
Failing to Work with Professionals
Business brokers and M&A advisors understand all of these variables. They understand the mistakes that business owners can make when preparing to sell their business. Just as importantly, they understand the steps necessary to circumvent them. Working with a brokerage professional well before putting your business up for sale will dramatically increase your odds of a successful outcome. You’ll also want a solid team of other professionals including an experienced attorney and accountant.
The post What Can Negatively Impact Your Chances of a Sale? appeared first on Deal Studio – Automate, accelerate and elevate your deal making.