Selling a Small Business With a Business Broker

If you are a business owner thinking that the time is right to sell, there are a few options that are open to you. Usually though, it boils down to selling the business privately or using the services of a business broker. This article will focus on a few items to bear in mind if you do decide to sell your business with a business broker.

Patience. It takes time to sell a business. Most reputable business brokers are constantly being approached by small business owners who would like to sell a business. Unfortunately, many of these businesses are losing money or are very difficult to sell for a host of other reasons. Business brokers usually turn down more business listings than they take on. Even with this being the case, it usually takes several months for a business brokerage to find a buyer for a company listed for sale. Many times, business owners that have “just listed” their business with a professional business intermediary expect rapid response and a lineup of buyers hoping to view the business. Things don’t usually work this way, unfortunately. If you have decided to list your company with a business brokerage then there are many positive benefits you can expect from the relationship. However, please do be patient.

Multiple Showings. After you enlist the services of a business brokerage to sell your small business, don’t expect the first buyer to be shown your business to be “the one”. Often, it takes showings to 10-12 different ‘qualified’ buyers before a purchaser of found. Sellers tend to get excited at the first showing of the business to a prospect but the reality is that it many take many different people to see the business. There are times, however, where the first person who sees the business ends up buying it so please take these comments with a grain of salt.

Expect False Starts. Selling a business sometimes means being expected for a few false starts. When a business is sold, the first step is (usually) the conditional sale agreement. Typically then, buyers enter into a conditional due diligence period where the operations and financials of the business are scrutinized. In this scenario, the business buyer can walk away from the deal at any time. Sellers are usually quite disappointed if this happens since they put so much time and effort into the deal and now they must start again at square one and start the process over to find a new buyer.

Deal Must Be “Win Win”. In a business sale, the dynamic between the buyers and the sellers must be such that both parties to the transaction feel comfortable with the terms. Unlike some real estate transactions, a business sale must not be confrontational in order to successfully come to a close. The process in a business transaction, especially small business sales, can be quite emotional. The buyer must feel good about the seller and vice versa. The process is much too long and there are too many “outs” along the way for both parties that if a confrontational or aggressive negotiating stance is taken that the deal process could potentially fall apart. The role of the business broker is to ‘reign in’ the emotions of both sides. Be prepared for frank discussions with a business brokerage professional if negotiations (or emotions) get heated.

Selling a small business with a business broker is a good decision that should increase your chances of selling significantly.

Selling a Small Business – Why Selling a Smaller Business is Different

If you are a business owner thinking of selling a small business, the process is somewhat different than selling a much larger, more involved company.

Smaller businesses are bought by investors for different reasons and, depending on the size of the company, attract completely different buyer profiles. This article looks at some of the differences in selling a small business from the owner’s point of view.

Micro-Businesses
What is meant by “micro businesses” are businesses that are valued at less than $100,000. There are many different types of micro-businesses and each can attract a different buyer profile. For instance, if you own a small, home-based business valued at $75,000 or so, this usually attracts a potential buyer that is completely different than the person looking for a business valued up to $250,000. To expand, businesses valued under $100,000 or so usually fall into a number of categories. They can be home-based businesses where a good buyer candidate can be a stay-at-home parent looking to augment an income. At this lower price range the business may also be a service based business such as landscaping or home inspection, as an example. This type of business is attractive to the “do it yourselfer” who is purely looking to ‘buy a job’ and a book of existing accounts. The $100,000 and under price range might also reflect a business that could be larger but has suffered a setback and has the potential for stronger earnings going forward, with right management in place. Micro businesses do not necessarily mean ‘micro earnings’. Many smaller companies have excellent income potential and could make a great investment for the right buyer. The point is, when you are selling a small business (especially a micro business) please don’t merely characterize the type of potential buyer based on price. Smaller businesses are attractive to many people for many different reasons.

Small businesses valued in the $300,000 price range
The price point of $300,000 is a ‘sweet spot’ for selling a business in that it is a price that is ‘doable’ by a relatively large pool of buyers. Businesses valued at approximately $300,000 (typically) earn an income to an owner/operator that is over $100,000. This size of business is attractive in that it allows an owner to operate it and pay off debt and earn a comfortable living off of the business income. That price range is within reach for many people, especially home owners who can finance a portion of the business purchase with home equity. If you own a small business in the $300,000 range and if your business is profitable, priced right, stable and showing consistent returns, there should be a relatively large pool of buyers for your business.

Small businesses valued up to $750,000
If you own a business valued in the neighbourhood of $750,000 this is still characterized as a “small business” but it would attract a completely different type of buyer (or investor) to your company. Selling a small business in this higher price range usually attracts a buyer with more financial resources or perhaps a partnership or group of buyers. Many times, the idea with buying a business at this price range is that it can earn enough income to justify hiring a manager with enough cashflow left over to pay the debt and earn a return for the buyers.

If you are thinking of selling a small business think about the type of buyer that would be ‘ideal’ to purchase your company. Think in terms of price and financial ability but also pay attention to things like aptitude and lifestyle choice. There are many small business resources on the internet to answer some of your questions. Talk to a business broker to help you sell a smaller business.

Choosing the Right Business Brokers

Whether you’re buying or selling a business, having a broker on your side can make the difference between a successful outcome and a nightmare. However, not all business brokers will be suitable for your specific situation. Use the tips below to choose the right broker for your needs.

Start by asking for referrals from your inner circle of business advisers and colleagues. Have any used a business broker in the past? Were they satisfied? Does the broker handle the type of transaction you have in mind?

You may need to widen your net to find a pool of qualified business brokers that specialize in brokering deals such as yours. Once you have several potential brokers, it’s time to get down to business and narrow the field down. Below are several key factors to consider:

– Is the individual or firm professional? Professionalism shows in numerous ways including personal appearance, the presentation of marketing materials, website, language, mannerisms, and expertise. Use both objectivity and your gut instinct. Remember, the broker you choose will be representing your business so make sure you’re fully comfortable with the person and firm you choose.

– Does the broker have experience working with businesses like yours? While it’s not necessary for the business broker to have specific experience in your exact niche, it’s helpful for the broker to understand the nature of your business and have experience brokering deals with similar characteristics. For example, if you run a family-owned microbrewery, a broker with a successful track record brokering deals for small wineries, family-owned specialty food manufacturers, or small brewpubs may not know the finer points of brewing beers but could be an excellent choice thanks to experience with similar businesses.

– What qualifications does the broker have? Look for licensing, education, certification, experience, and membership in professional associations.

– Is the broker well prepared? In other words, did the business broker do his or her research prior to your initial meeting? Brokers use comparable sales, business and industry reports, and other tools to price businesses. Your business broker should be able to support any suggested listing prices, which should be presented in writing, with documentation.

– If you are selling your business, find out how the broker intends to market your business. Brokers have many marketing tools available to market their business listings. However, some prefer to use specific marketing techniques over others. Make sure to ask the broker to present a detailed marketing plan.

– What type of businesses does the broker work with? For example, if your business has annual revenues in the $50 million range, you’ll need a special type of buyer making it important to choose a business broker capable of attracting those high net worth individuals and investors.

– Check references. No matter how professional, personable, experienced, qualified, and prepared potential broker appear, cover your bases by checking references. Ideally, the broker should give you references from businesses with similarities to yours.

Choosing the right broker to sell your business or help you find a business to buy is a process. Do your part to ensure a successful outcome by choosing wisely.