At some point, every business owner will need to think about selling his or her business. This means you’ll need to be ready to overcome a range of obstacles, as the process of selling a business can be both confusing and time-consuming. This is especially true for those who have not gone through the process before. Let’s turn our attention to some of the key reasons why deals can fall apart.
Buyers, like sellers, enter the process with a variety of preconceived notions about how the process should work, as well as what they consider to be “a great deal.” The psychological factors involved in selling a business shouldn’t be overlooked.
Sellers need to understand the specific wants and desires of the buyer as well as their own psychology.
Even serious buyers may have highly unrealistic expectations regarding various aspects of a business, ranging from its price to its opportunities for future growth. In some cases, they may stall due to the fact they are not quite ready to buy a business and see no urgency in the matter.
Buyers can also be influenced by outside parties, whether advisors or friends and family. In short, sellers may discover that, for all practical purposes, buyers may actually be several people who are forming a collective opinion on issues regarding the business.
A seller’s own psychology can play a huge role in whether or not a business is successfully sold. Many sellers enter into the process without a full understanding of what is involved. This factor, of course, underscores the tremendous importance of working with professionals months, if not years, before you actually place your business on the market. These professionals should include an M&A Advisor or Business Broker.
Another major obstacle is that many sellers have unrealistic expectations about both price and the time frame in which their business can be sold. Sellers should enter the selling process with their eyes open and realistic expectations in place. Be sure to establish a fair price. It’s also important to understand that it may take a year or longer before a buyer is found.
Acts of Fate
Sellers should remember that there are many “acts of fate” that can disrupt a deal. A deal may seem like everything is moving along without problems, only to discover at the last minute that the buyer isn’t able to secure the needed funds as expected.
It is important for all parties involved to realize that until a deal is finalized, problems can still arise. In fact, they can arise from unexpected directions. But it is difficult to anticipate and spot every potential disruption. The complexity of selling a business is one of the main reasons why so many business owners opt to work with a brokerage professional.
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When it comes to finalizing deals, successful negotiations are at the heart of the matter. It only makes sense to think about how to improve your communication skills and to choose a Business Broker or M&A Advisor who is well versed in the art of negotiation.
Cultivating Win-Win Situations
Achieving a win-win for all parties is essential, and there are many components involved. It’s essential to understand what the other party is seeking and to help them also feel as though they succeeded in the deal.
One tried and tested strategy is to lead people through a series of “yeses” by starting with topics and points that can be agreed upon and then working forward. In the beginning of this negotiating strategy, the yeses may come from getting others to agree on what may be seen as trivial things. However, this step works to create the right climate for moving forward so that yeses can be obtained on more important issues.
Maintaining the Flow of Information
The flow of information is a critical aspect of the negotiation process. For this reason, it’s best for negotiations between buyers and sellers to go through their brokerage professionals, rather than conducted directly.
The simple fact is that otherwise there are too many variables and opportunities for something to go wrong, ranging from egos getting in the way to miscommunications. When you choose a qualified Business Broker or M&A Advisor, you’ll be able to place trust in that person to achieve optimal outcomes.
Understand One Another
It is important to keep the other side talking and show that you understand their perspective and the issues they may have. It is in this way that you can encourage cooperation and diffuse resistance in advance.
Ultimately, great negotiations stem from proper strategy, preparation, proper education, enhanced communication, and understanding the other party’s needs. When you and your Business Broker or M&A Advisor foster good communications with the other party, it will enhance the chances of achieving the kind of cooperation you are seeking. This in turn, dramatically increases the chances of achieving win-win outcomes.
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Recently, the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) released its Q2 survey report, The IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse. This survey features feedback from an impressive 301 brokerage professionals across 44 states with 266 transactions taking place in the quarter. The report had numerous key findings that will be of interest to those looking to buy or sell a business.
The Emergence of Covid-Proof Businesses
One key fact of interest is that a full 25% of businesses are still operating below capacity due to the pandemic’s enduring impact. The Market Pulse survey concluded that a quarter of all small and medium sized businesses are either in a position where they are temporarily closed or are operating below capacity. On the other side of the equation, the survey noted that 29% of businesses have either emerged as “Covid proof” or have actually benefited from the pandemic.
For sellers with Covid resistant businesses, now could be an excellent time to sell. For buyers, there are potential deals to be had, especially for those who are willing to look beyond the current pandemic fueled environment and towards the future.
Why are Sellers Selling?
The report also noted that burnout is a major factor impacting deal activity. Retirement continues to be the leading reason why businesses are selling, but burnout has become a quickly rising secondary reason.
The top five reasons that sellers are putting their business on the market are: retirement (35%), burnout (27%), health (15%), tax increases (7%) and general Covid fatigue (7%). The pandemic is still likely playing a role in the minds of many business owners who are looking to sell, which means that buyers could find good deals due to the pandemic. It is important for buyers to note that as pandemic conditions improve, many of today’s good deals will likely vanish.
While the IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse report noted that over the last year it took longer for deals to close in most sections, there were exceptions to that rule. For example, in the $5 million to $50 million sector, there has actually been an acceleration. On average, deals in that range are taking a mere ten months to close.
Top Buyers in 5 Sectors
Sellers will be pleased to hear that the report concludes that buyers are indeed active, noting that in the Main Street market, personal services were trending. In the lower middle market, it was manufacturing and construction/engineering that dominated industry transactions.
The top buyers in the $0 to $500,000 sector were first time buyers (39%), in the $500K to $1MM range, the top buyers were first time buyers (37%), and in the $1MM to $2MM range, entrepreneurs (29%) lead the way. For the $2MM to $5MM range, it was first time buyers (36%) and serial entrepreneurs (28%) who led the way. For the $5MM to $50MM range, PE firms seeking a platform deal (33%) were the most represented group of buyers. It is interesting to note that with the exception of the $5MM to $50MM range, first time buyers topped the list.
Buyers and sellers will be pleased to learn that the IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse report clearly outlines just how much the climate has changed from 2020 to 2021. Today’s market conditions are different than they were a year ago. If you’re looking to purchase a business, you can still find great deals. Those looking to sell should find increased interest from an array of buyers, especially first-time buyers.
Created in 2012, the IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey was created to provide business owners and their advisors with a clear understanding of ever-changing market conditions.
Through this survey, it is possible to gain clarity on businesses being sold in Main Street (values $0-$2MM) and the lower middle market (values $2MM -$50MM). Scott Bushkie served as the originator of the Market Pulse Report with IBBA and M&A Source and has continued to play a key role since the report’s inception.
A core finding of the IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey for Q2 was that there has been a big shift between the turmoil of 2020 and the climate of 2021. Across the spectrum of sizes and price ranges of businesses, sellers now have an advantage or are at least in a better position to sell their business. This is quite different from the situation in 2020.
The market has shifted towards being a seller’s market for a variety of reasons including the fact that many private equity groups are now looking for ways to grow their money. Acquiring an existing business has become an increasingly attractive option to buyers due to the current labor pool conditions.
Buyers are now looking at existing companies as a way to bypass attracting talent. Instead, they can secure that talent via acquiring a new business. In short, many buyers are looking to buy versus organically build to meet their talent needs.
Another reason that now is a good time for sellers is that many buyers are looking to leave corporate America. This situation has likely been accelerated by the pandemic and people seeking to control their own destiny. The increase in global uncertainty has made the idea of becoming a business owner increasingly attractive.
The shift in climate from 2020 to 2021 underscores the value of the IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey. Through this revealing survey, it is possible for business owners and their advisors to gain a clearer understanding of market conditions and what to expect.
There is no doubt that buying a business can be a very exciting idea; however, it is critical that prospective buyers don’t lose track of what is truly important. Let’s explore the five most important steps that any buyer needs to take when evaluating a business. The simple fact is that as a buyer, you have no choice but to look beyond the sizzle and work to find the steak. In other words, it’s essential to determine the true worth of a given business.
#1 – Evaluate What is Actually Being Sold
No buyer should assume that he or she understands everything that is, or is not, being sold when buying a business. One of the most important tasks for any buyer is to carefully evaluate the business under consideration and invest the time to understand what the business does and what is included in the sale. This is a task that your Business Broker or M&A Advisor will perform as well.
#2 – Understand Business Performance
Understanding the performance of a business can be more complex than it initially appears. On one hand, the numbers don’t lie, and it is possible to quickly evaluate the bottom line.
However, in the process of evaluating the business, you and your Business Broker or M&A Advisor might discover that there are many flexible factors that could quickly alter how well the business performs. For example, you’ll want to take into account the number of hours the current business owner is working and if key employees are contributing enough to the business. These are just two of a wide variety of factors that could influence overall performance.
#3 – Look at the Financials
Ultimately, there is no replacement for understanding the current financials of a business. Perhaps a business has all the potential in the world, and you can easily see that potential. However, remember that almost all buyers must obtain financing; this means that it is usually critical that the business has strong financials in its current state. Before considering any business, you and your team of professionals will want to carefully evaluate profit and loss statements, tax returns, balance sheets, and other important financial documents.
#4 – Evaluate the Business Plan
Understanding the current owner’s goals and what steps they’ve outlined to achieve those goals is a key step. As a new owner, you’ll want to know that there is a path forward for growing your business, and a business plan is essential for achieving that goal.
#5 – Look at the Demographics
One of the single best ways to grow your business is to understand your customers. For this reason, it is important that you have a clear understanding of the demographics of the business and why customers should remain loyal. If there are challenges on the horizon, such as an expanding competitor or new competitor entering the arena, then you’ll want to know this information as well.
Evaluating a business is not a simple process. Working closely with a brokerage professional who has years of experience in evaluating all types of businesses is essential. This is an excellent first step towards buying the right business for your needs.
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