Tips to Successfully Sell a Small Business

When you started your business you planned to grow it as a lifetime enterprise. Now, for whatever reason you have decided to sell your business and cash in on all your hard work. Maybe you want to stock up all over again in another field of business or maybe you just want to put up your feet and relax. Since selling a business is normally a once in a lifetime venture, it is unlikely that you would have any prior experience unless you have started or sold several small businesses in the past. Here is some good advice to get you started with selling your small business:

Defining your business sell expectations
In order to conclude a successful sale of your small business you need to plan the sale meticulously and the first step is to define your expectations:

  • Do you want to sell your business for cash or will you accept payment in another form such as stock or debt instruments?
  • What is your price expectation
  • What expectations do you have of the buyer in terms of business continuity and tradition?
  • Do you want to sell out to the public in an IPO or to your employees in a ESOPs scheme?

Timing and financing
It can sometimes take a long time to negotiate and conclude a sale of a business especially if there is complicated tax issues involved. The majority of small business sales involve some form of seller financing such as deferred payments so that you may not see a large lump sum of cash payment up front. Give some thought to the risk and how you would like to structure the small business seller financing.

Valuing the sell of your small business
You would need a detailed and sensible valuation of your business in order to justify the price that you will be asking for it. Decide on the method that you’ll use since methods may vary with the kind of business involved. The judgment on whether you will use asset value, replacement cost, or capitalization of earning or some combination thereof depends largely on your judgment and what a potential buyer will accept.

Re-doing your small business financial statements
As long as you are running your business, how you present your financial situation is largely dictated by tax considerations so as to minimize your tax bill. You will probably need to recast your accounts to show the true earning potential to backup any business valuation that you undertake. Though you should probably be cautious as to whom you show these records and consult an attorney in the process.

Sell small a business with privacy
It’s a good idea to sell your business with concerns for privacy. You should conduct all your sale negotiations in secret and restrict people in the know to as few information as possible. If word gets out that you are selling, you will find key employees leaving the company or being recruited by competitors, you’ll also find suppliers pulling lines of credit. This will simply impair your ability to get a decent price for your small business. The sale of a business usually screams financial troubles, you don’t want the wrong perception to get out in the public about your small business.

Use a competent small business broker
If possible use a competent business broker. Get referrals, shop around, and research. S/he will help you set a realistic price, identify and approach potential buyers in the strictest of confidence. Remember that s/he has a vested interest in getting the highest possible price since their rate for services rely on commissions of the sale.

Selling a business can take time, but due diligence will prove to breed success. One can expect a sale of their business if they’ve took the needed measures to ensure that their small business is aligned in a direction of growth and they are able to prove such statistics.

7 Tips For Selecting the Best Small Business Brokers to Sell Your Business

Are you thinking about selling your business? Have you ever gone through the process before? Are you confidant that you can do it yourself? Where would your time be better spent, running your business at peak performance while trying to sell it, or focused on the advertising campaign, networking, negotiating, and coordinating the closure of the sale of your business? Maybe you should consider doing what you do best, running the business, and search out small business brokers and let them do what they do best, sell businesses. If you go that route, here are 7 tips to choosing a business broker that makes sense for you.

1. Don’t get lost in the shuffle

You want your broker to have a proven record and a great reputation but you don’t want the organization to be so big that your deal is passed off to a junior staffer. You want the active involvement of the principals.

2. Do your due diligence

You’re about to engage the services of someone that is going to have a big impact on your financial life. Make sure you are comfortable with the relationship. Check with the International Business Brokers Association and see if your broker is a member in good standing. Follow up on the references provided and determine just how satisfied past clients are. Check with your local better business bureau and see if there are any unresolved complaints.

3. Use a specialist

Real estate agents and other professionals sometimes hold themselves out as business brokers on a part time basis. You want someone who makes their entire living selling businesses full time. Preferably somebody who has experience in your particular industry and someone who can point to successful sales they have made for your competitors.

4. Avoid heavy up front fee structures

Typically a business broker will charge between 10% and 15% of the sale price as a fee. While it is customary for them to ask for some up front fees to initiate the process, avoid those brokers who are looking for greater than a third. Also make sure that the up front fee is deductible from the sales fee when the business sells. Following this advice will save you from having to invest a ton of cash before you actually sell the business.

5. Only contract for the business selling services

Smaller business brokers will offer accounting and legal services that you will need during closing for an additional fee and these services are typically outsourced by the broker. It may be to your advantage to contract for those services directly leaving the broker with only the requirement to focus on the selling process and not generating add on fees.

6. Share your expectations

Before you select a broker you should have at least a general idea of what you want to accomplish by selling your business. You should have a rough valuation number and you should know if you want a cash sale or stock. Share this with the broker and see if he agrees with your plan. While there probably will be differences in valuation, your broker should be in tune with the rest of your objectives. If he’s reluctant or believes that it will be difficult to achieve your goals, find another broker.

7. Keep the whole process confidential

The last thing you want to do is let the word that you are seeking a business broker or that you are in negotiations with a buyer leak out. Once it becomes common knowledge that you are selling, your relationships with your employees, customers, vendors and bankers could be adversely affected. Have an exit plan for after the sale that includes sharing the news with all those listed above.

Using business brokers to help sell a business is usually the smart route to take for any business of substance. You want your organization to have as much “curb appeal” as possible during the process and that means you should be focusing your time on optimizing the business not chasing down buyers.

Business Brokers – How to Choose the Right One

The vast majority of small businesses are sold without the assistance of business brokers.

But if you do decide the hire a broker, here are some suggestions on how to pick the right one and how to structure the agreement in your favor.

What Business Is The Broker Actually In?

In many states there is no training or certification needed to become a business broker. In other states, brokers are required to hold a real estate license.

In these states it’s common to find real estate agents that do business brokering as a side business. If you deal with a broker who is also a real estate agent, make sure that being a business broker is more than just his hobby.

You will pay a pretty penny for the broker’s expertise and experience – you should make sure they have that experience when it comes to selling businesses and not just experience selling houses.

Questions To Ask

If you hire a broker you will be working with them closely for months to come; they will have access to your most confidential business records; the amount of money you put in your pocket at closing will be influenced heavily by the quality of work they do.

Therefore, you absolutely must check them out.

Here are some questions you should ask any prospective broker before hiring him:

1. How long have you been a broker?
2. Have you ever owned a business?
3. How many businesses similar to mine have you helped sell?
4. Can I see a blank version of your Listing Agreement?
5. What percentage of you income comes from brokering and how much from real estate (If applicable)

Ask them to provide you with references from previous clients. Then, I suggest you do something very unusual: Actually call the broker’s references!
I know a lot of people ask for references just to see how the person will react when asked (and to see if they actuality have any). But you can learn a lot about the broker’s reliability and professionalism by talking to people who dealt with that broker when they were in the exact same spot you are in.

Business Broker Fees

There are two benefits a broker can provide the business seller. First, he can locate potential buyers while maintaining the seller’s confidentiality. And second, a broker will qualify these potential business buyers so the seller saves time by not having to deal with weak prospects.

The big negative of dealing with a business broker is his fee, which averages 10-12% of the sale price. This fee is charged to the seller.

There is also a minimum fee. A very small business will pay a flat amount, typically $8-$10,000, instead of the commission. For a business worth $50,000 this minimum fee actually works out to be a higher percentage than the 10-12% industry average. But as a matter of practice, brokers usually won’t be interested in your business unless the asking price is above $100,000.

These fees are the reason most business owners choose to sell their business themselves and rely on their lawyers and accountants for the professional assistance they need.

The Broker Agreement

If you decide to use a broker you’ll be asked to sign a broker agreement which will detail the his fees. If possible, have your agreement include the following clauses:

Timing of Payments – Have it written into the agreement that the broker’s fee will be paid at the time you receive the purchase price – not at the time the sale is closed. This way, if you finance part of the sale price over a number of years, you pay the business broker as you get the money, not all up front.

Length Of Agreement – Your listing agreement should be for a limited time. If the broker locates the buyer within that time he gets paid. Be careful of lengthy agreements that lock you in with one business broker for more than 6 months. If he doesn’t produce, you want to be able to try other options. A 6 month business broker agreement is the longest you should allow. However, because selling a business can be a lengthy process, 3 months is usually too little time for the broker to find the right buyer. Try to settle on something between 3 and 6 months. If after six months, you haven’t closed the deal but you think the broker has done a good job, you’re always free to extend the agreement. But you want to be free to decide on an extension 6 months from now, not today.

Broker’s Guarantee – Include a paragraph stating that if you find the buyer, you don’t have to pay the commission. Without this clause, the broker is usually paid no matter who locates the buyer. Before signing any listing agreement, it is best to have your attorney review it to make sure your interests are protected.

Why 2013 Saw a Rise in Small Business Sales in California

If you are contemplating selling your business in the state of California, it may interest you to know that business sales for 2013 were up from 2012. Selling a business is a big and sometimes difficult decision. Even so, many business owners find this recent increase in sales to be quite comforting, especially if they want some security to know that there is a stronger market out there for selling. In fact, many potential buyers hope that these positive numbers will induce more businesses on the fence about listing their business will knowing that the market is in a healthier place for business sales in the state.

Small Business Sales Increase in California

The rate of small business sale has increased throughout the Golden State. In 2012, reports show that 14,368 small business operations were sold in total. In 2013, that number grew to 14,764 completed sale transactions. Of course, experts suggest that the increase may not be felt as substantially in some counties as others, which is typically to be expected, but that overall these good numbers reflect a new trend in upward sales that is likely to continue in 2014. Many factors appear to be linked to the increase, but one of the main reasons why these sales are going through is because buyers have better access to funding sources.

Sales in Large Counties Mixed

Some of California’s largest counties may not be feeling the increase yet, but that likelihood could change as more California businesses may be hitting the market for sale in 2014. Certainly, large counties like Los Angeles County are hoping to see more sales as a thriving business-for-sale market is a strong indication of an overall strong economy. Increased business sales are linked to better job growth too. The increase is doubly important in light of the fact that the state was losing businesses at a rate of about five percent.

What is Triggering the Rise?

While better access to money is at the heart of the increase, there may be other factors involved. For instance, experts believe that an improving house market as well as an improved stock market may also be supporting the increase in California business sales. Many small business owners also appeared to be waiting to list their business for sale in California until the market began to shape up.

Do You Have a California Business for Sale or Want to Buy One?

Increases or decreases aside, it can help the process of buying and selling to contract with a business broker. Their services can help viable buyers and sellers to sync up more quickly and effectively. Business brokers stay current with the sale market and understand the ins and outs of the buying and selling process. Their expertise can certainly impact the nature of the sale and the time frame in which a sale can be made. Contact a business broker if you plan to sell your California business or hope to purchase one.