A business that is available for sale is often handled like selling a residential property or house – except they are totally different. In some states in the United States, for a professional third party or a broker to represent the seller of the house they are required to have a real estate license. That real estate license allows that person to sell a house, a commercial property, and in some cases, provide mortgage loans and assist in the transaction of selling a business.
As I mentioned above, however, all have similarities but there are major differences. When selling a house both seller and their broker want everyone to know the house is for sale whereas with a business, the sale is kept confidential to protect the business, the employees and other parties.
Here are 5 tips to help an owner thinking of selling their business.
First, most businesses rent their facility. However, if the business includes commercial real estate it should have a separate value and not be included in the purchase price of the business. It doesn’t mean the same buyer cannot buy both, it means that a separate value should be struck for the real estate in its own right and a separate value done for the business taking into account the fair market value of renting or leasing the real estate. It is wrong logic to value the real estate, value the business and not allow for fair market rent and then add both together to arrive at one listing price for everything.
Second, bring together a team of advisors or at least have them identified in case they are needed. The team should include an accountant and attorney while there is room for a personal financial planner.
Third, the most important components to a buyer are cash flow and potential. If the business doesn’t have a cash flow, the buyer may as well start the business from scratch and do things their way. The exception would be where the assets of the business are already in place such as for a restaurant, manufacturing site or other asset dependent business.
Fourth, an extension of the above point is to make sure that whatever price is asked, it has been properly valued. Most businesses being sold by the business owner are overpriced. A business owner becomes attached to the business and what it took to get it where it is. They therefore think it’s worth more than it is. The best approach is to have the business or its assets valued by a professional independent third party. There are different professional appraisers for different types of valuation. For example, there are different appraisers that specialize in valuing a business as opposed to valuing hard assets such as machinery and equipment versus someone who appraises intellectual property or commercial real estate.
Fifth and finally, make sure it’s clear who the buyer is and any down payment they are bringing. If the buyer says they are buying the business and have an investor, the first thing to do is ask to meet the investor. As a matter of course, it should be the investor making the inquiry as they have the money and will therefore make any final decision. Be careful how much you share until its clear the buyer has the potential to buy the business; not just dream about it.
Selling a business comes with complications. It is rarely a simple and straight forward process. One of the most important things to do is for the seller to put themselves in the shoes of the buyer. Being able to do this will greatly improve the chances of success in selling the business.
Andrew is a 5-time business owner that helps entrepreneurs exit or enter business ownership. His services include helping owners sell and/or buyers purchase an existing business or consult on purchasing a franchise. He also provides certified machinery and equipment appraisals and business valuations.