Selling a Business – Woes to Heroes

Challenge: Reporting Financials / Partner Disputes

Due to partnership conflicts, a client went from being a passive minority investor to an active majority owner in a short amount of time. This was in an industry where they had limited knowledge. To further complicate the selling process, late paying customers and a non-traditional accounting approach made year-end financials appear drastically different from the health of the business, which would cause great pause for lenders. Given that a majority of business transfer deals are financed through some type of third-party financing, and saddled with the financial limitations of the company, it was obvious that the buyer pool could be limited, which in turn could increase the time to close. However, the seller was anxious to sell quickly, so we had to balance the seller, the business hurdles, and marketplace.

Approach: Expanded Deal Structure / Demonstrated Value

Established Expectations – Because of the late-paying customer and non-traditional accounting methods, we understood the lending climate would be limited at best if not non-existent. For this reason, we informed the seller that a significant amount of seller financing would potentially be involved. We provided an estimate of value as well as an expected deal structure before engagement ensuring the seller would be open to all types of offers and to lay the foundation that a full-price all-cash offer would be the exception and not the norm.

Told the Story – While every buyer could see the financials were on a decline, the company still had some great assets. 1) The company still had multiple strong accounts, 2) they were focused in a very niche industry within the IT sector, and 3) they still had multiple channels of revenue. The core of the company was still intact and with a focused growth strategy, a new buyer could easily return the company to producing higher revenues.

Focused Marketing Search – Given the issues of the company, we understood a generic buyer probably would not be the best buyer to target. We knew we either needed a strategic partner who understood the assets of the company and could create synergies or an IT professional who wanted to run his own operation.

Result: 
Received 3 competing offers | Closed in 4 ½ months | Seller received 94% of asking price

  • An IT professional purchased the company using a ROBS (Rollover for Business Startups).
  • The purchase price comprised of equity from the buyer and a seller note.
  • Since no outside banks were used, we were able to have a quick close and save time.

 

 


Unlock Your Business’s Potential

The value of a small business is primarily driven by its profitability. In most small businesses, there are numerous opportunities to enhance revenues, increase gross margins, and reduce costs. Improvements in each of these areas can result in significant increases in the value of your business. For many small businesses, every dollar in increased profitability will produce approximately three dollars in increased business valuation.

Many small business owners do not have the capability to re-evaluate their whole business on their own. However, a quick way to start, if an advisor is not in the budget is to look at a business’s waste. This can be in the form of raw materials or time. A reduction in waste almost always directly correlates to a reduction in costs and an increase in revenue. Looking at a business from this perspective often leads to other insights for process improvements resulting in higher revenue.

Although many changes can be made quickly, to maximize the benefits of the business sale process, the improved profitability has to be reflected in the financial statements for at least two (2) years before the sale. In other words, if you begin to implement changes only three (3) months before selling, the business valuation will not reflect the positive changes of your last three (3) months. It is never too early to implement profitability improvement efforts, but it is best to try to do so at least four (4) to five (5) years in advance of a business sale.

To gain a better understanding of how small businesses can improve their margins thus improving their business valuations, please consider reading this article: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Profit Margins

 

 


The first step in the right direction is deciding to use a business broker because you don’t know what you don’t know!

Ask questions, expect questions and review standard documentation.

Be Bold and Ask Questions

This is your business and selling it should be handled professionally and with transparency.

Credentials such as being affiliated with the national IBBA and local state associations such as TABB in Texas are marks of a knowledgeable broker. However, this information is not always right out in the open. Ask if they have any affiliations. If they are not of these, look up the ones they provide.

Prior business ownership, regardless of the exact type of business, is a foundation of understanding from both sides of the process. Though not necessary, our firm believes in having that connection to better facilitate the transfer.

Expect and be Ready to Answer Questions

The right broker will have a solid understanding of financial analysis and more specifically, an explanation of their own financial analysis process. If they cannot do this…walk away. The first meeting should include them asking you about your business’s financial health and how they plan to market to the right buyers. They should be able to explain these two topics logically and ethically. If they cannot do this…run away. This is not an area of “feeling” the numbers but rather there should be a clear and coherent way they can explain to the seller how they plan to market a business for the price that is dictated by financial and transparent market analysis. From this, options for the deal structure should be presented. The seller should not be railroaded into one plan of attack. Ask about past closed deals and how they were closed, especially for ones that mimic the current company for sale.

First Impressions Really Do Matter

When meeting a prospective buyer, will your business broker be presentable? Will the location or office? Set up a meeting early on to see what the prospective buyer will see. During your meeting, do not be afraid to ask for copies of blank documents such as LOIs, Listing Agreements, Confidentiality Agreements (CA) and Sample Marketing Packages/Plans. These can make or break a deal before negotiations begin. Are they visually presentable? Do they contain viable and valuable content for the buyer?

A major topic of your first meeting or even prior to your first meeting should be that of confidentiality. The broker should initiate this conversation early on. The timing of when it is brought up is indicative of how it is handled in general throughout a deal and even after a deal is closed.

Lastly, References…References…References

To choose the right business broker to sell your business, be prepared with your questions and with the deliverables the broker should bring up to you. If you cannot check off those boxes in your first meeting, continue your business broker search.

 

To learn more about choosing the right broker for you, get EXIT – A Business Owner’s Guide To Selling a Company, by Alex Vantarakis.

 


Murphy’s Law – “If something can go wrong, it will.”

In this case, a deal killer or Murphy’s Law surrounds the concepts of communication and being mindful of a proven process.

The Vant Group was engaged to assist the buyer in a business transfer purchase. They hired us to find a business, and quickly, the buyer ended up finding a business on his own through another source as it was not yet on the market for sale. We met with the buyer and seller and had a great meeting. We indicated at the meeting that we would offer him full price, and the seller was pleased with this arrangement.

The seller, who was not our client, called us back the same day and told us that he was very impressed with the meeting and wanted to know if he could use our services moving forward in the future or at least utilize us for advice. Every aspect of this business transfer deal was going quite smooth.

Here is where Murphy’s Law comes into play, and here is how one simple step can kill a deal.

We, our team at The Vant Group, assumed (and assuming will always make an ass out of you and me) that the seller understood that we wanted the business and would provide the LOI to the seller after we had done some very preliminary work up front. The meeting and follow-up had been effortless and with the business not even being on the market, we felt we were already ahead of the game. Well, the assumption was incorrect. Because he did not hear from us, and he did not want to be pushy to call us for our letter of intent, he did not know that we had an LOI already written up. We were under the impression that we were all on the same page.

Since we did not keep up our usual constant communication with him for where we were in the process, another buyer came along and offered him full price, and he signed the deal. So, though from our end, we did everything within a reasonable amount of time, what we did not do is make a simple phone call or send an email saying, “We are on it, let us know if you have any questions. We will get you an LOI.”

Murphy’s Law (as we state here, it is communication or lack thereof that kills deals) came into effect; because if we had done things in our usual manner, even though we were under the impression that it was a done deal, it would not have slipped through our fingers.


– Like Anything In Life, There Are Pros And Cons

Franchise Advantages

Buying a franchise provides resources that can bridge the gap between learning a new business and industry by having a franchise system in place which ensures the likelihood of success through the initial transition years.

The largest benefit of buying a franchise is having that proven system and training for the new owner and their employees. As a franchisee, you don’t have to be the idea man; just follow the system that has the proven success record.

One of the other great advantages is customer exposure by the way of location. One of the resources of almost any franchise is site selection assistance with a professional real estate marketing partner. Having access to a tried and proven demographic model will greatly improve the probability of success.

Franchise Disadvantages

Other than the initial purchase period, and depending on the particular franchise, the franchisor may not provide much assistance or value for the franchisee. The monthly franchise fee, which is between 3-7 percent of gross sales, is mostly allocated to the approved advertising budget. This usually focuses on a national audience and can sometimes be ineffective for the franchisees business and/or area if it doesn’t take into account for current local market trends.

Another disadvantage is the restrictive nature of expanding the business. As the franchisee develops their business, the franchise opportunity often begins to feel confining to an entrepreneurial spirit. Traditionally, it is not possible to implement unique branding or issue process changes into the franchise system.

It is important to ask questions up-front of other owners, vendors, or see an existing franchise location to help answer any of the questions associated with what the owner is willing to accept when moving forward with a franchise purchase.

Exit Strategies Available

Many franchisors have buyout options for franchisees that have outgrown the program. The guidelines of a franchise, the Uniform Franchise Offering Circular (UFOC), will have the procedures for buying out or selling the franchise.
Some franchise programs will even have a transition team that helps sell the franchise, which is often the best opportunity to obtain the highest price when selling the business.

To learn more about franchise business pros and cons get “ENTRANCE“– A Business Owner’s Guide To Buying a Business”, by Alex Vantarakis,


When surveying buyers on why they decided to buy a business, the most common answer is, “I’m tired of working for someone else”.

While being your own boss can be a very rewarding experience, the desire to become a business owner does not automatically mean you should. As an employee with a steady and mostly consistent paycheck, a person can typically just focus on their role in the company and not have to worry about the other facets of running a company.

When becoming a business owner, every decision and responsibility now falls to this person. Being a business owner takes a certain mindset and skillset, and sometimes buyers think they can buy their way to success. Like anything else, buying a business is a process and asking the right questions and creating the right timing for action is critical, even when buying an existing successful business.

Here’s a great article for buyers looking to purchase a business. It details the top questions a person should ask before buying a business.

 


Keeping the Business Deal Alive

Recently, a wealth management professional approached us about a client of his.  This client owned a large industrial distribution business and was being courted over a long period of time by a private equity-backed competitor.  She was interested in selling but wanted to make sure it was the right deal for the right price.  She also did not want to overspend on fees and transaction expenses so she decided to rely only on her attorney to handle all aspects of the transaction.

For over a year, the attorney managed the process of gathering due diligence items, negotiating terms, and preparing transaction paperwork.  This attorney is an excellent and highly-skilled professional, but over time, the process got bogged down as “opposing counsel” scrutinized every item submitted or requested.

The client’s wealth manager had seen this happen before.  When the two parties in a transaction are communicating exclusively through attorneys, it is often impossible to have the necessary open, and off-the-record dialogue to bring a deal to close.

Enter The Vant Group

The wealth manager knew The Vant Group (TVG) and our expertise in avoiding deal killers to bring transactions to a quick and successful closure, and so he introduced us to his client.  Over the course of multiple meetings, we listened to the client and really got to know her and her situation.  We also got to know the buyer to learn their strategy and long-term vision.  Because we have a deep understanding due to extensive experience representing both buyers and sellers, we were able to speak freely with both sides to get past any roadblocks to ensure that our seller got the best deal possible.

From there, we worked with the seller, her financial planner, the buyer, the buyer’s audit firm, and the attorneys from both sides.  Incidentally, the seller’s original attorney was involved throughout the transaction.  Since TVG was quarterbacking the deal, we were able to focus on the multitude of deal details, while the attorneys were able to focus on papering the transaction in the manner that best protected their clients.  The transaction closed, and all parties were happy with the outcome.

After closing, the wealth manager thanked us and told us that the deal “would have never happened” without The Vant Group’s leadership.


Selling a business takes effort and time; a business broker ensures confidentiality, financially qualified prospects, deal negotiations, and a successful closing. 

Pricing a business

In conjunction with a CPA, a business broker conducts a thorough market analysis, determining the best price for your business.

Buyer prospecting

Once a business owner has decided to sell his business and all the pertinent documents have been prepared, a business broker qualifies all potential buyers.

Confidentiality

Preserving confidentiality is one of the main reasons to hire a business broker. Brokers manage the requirement of financial statements and confidentiality agreements of all potential buyers before your company name and location are provided.

Higher sale price

A business broker brings a highly honed skill set to ensure the seller obtains the highest price for a business, such as evaluation experience, market awareness, and knowledge of deal structure to name a few.

Handling the support team

Having a support team in place facilitates a smooth business transfer. A CPA, attorney, lender, and controller are needed in the sales process and the business broker is the natural point person that coordinates your winning team.

The closing process

The closing process is usually the most strenuous and stressful steps involved in the sale of a business. A seasoned business broker has the experience of working with closing attorneys and escrow companies, ensuring your interests are protected as the deal closes and relieving the seller of handling any problems on their own.

Services provided by a qualified Business broker 

· Consultation and review of seller’s documentation

· Review of seller’s financial statements

· Market analysis

· Listing agreement, seller’s disclosure & file

· Marketing plan development

· Buyer qualification, interview, and screening

· Business showings and follow-up

· Buyer Letter of Intent and seller presentation

· Meetings with buyer/seller to coordinate buyer due diligence

· Consultations with buyer/seller and outside team advisors

· Consultation with parties regarding transfer of licenses, utilities, etc.

· Attending the closing and subsequent transfer of the business

To learn more about selling a business, get this book by Alex Vantarakis, “Exit– A Business Owner’s Guide To Selling A Company”.


It has been well documented that only a low number of small businesses listed actually sell. While there is a myriad of reasons why overpriced businesses are quite common thus accounting for a high percentage of them going unsold. Anyone who studies markets knows that markets can swing. Sometimes the markets are bullish, and prices can be pushed to a premium and sometimes the markets can be bearish, and prices are discounted.

It is very important for sellers to set realistic price expectations when selling their business. For example, let us take a real estate transaction. If all homes in your neighborhood with the same square footage, bedrooms, and amenities sold for $300,000; it would not be prudent to list yours for $600,000 and expect a lot of buyers.

The same is true for business transfers. Buyers are becoming more astute and will benchmark your company against other similar listings. If you are charging too much of a premium, buyers will seek other opportunities.

Markets often change quickly, and as a seller, you do not want to run the risk of missing a bull market just to squeeze an extra dollar or two from the buyer, especially if the underlying fundamentals of the company do not merit the increase in value. The TVG Valuation Services can get a business over this hurdle. Business owners are also able to take advantage of the AOBT event discussions, which are geared toward attendee requested topics.

Here is an article that further explains the importance of setting a realistic price when selling a business:https://www.axial.net/forum/red-flags-bear-market-come-sellers-respond/

 


Challenge:  There was a significant change in the profit and loss (P&L) statement from the seller after TVG had already marketed an EBITDA number and found a Buyer based on the original inaccurate data.

Since, the seller was unaware of his own financial numbers and not familiar with how to read financial statements, he gave the documents to TVG stating that they were complete and final statements from their CPA.  At that point, their tax returns were not yet filed for that year, so TVG used the P&L for the current year in the EBITDA calculations.  The full EBITDA number was calculated using two years of prior tax returns and one year of the current P&L.  The current P&L was weighted at 50% towards the marketed EBITDA number to most closely mimic trends in their business.  However, the CPA was a year behind on entering expenses due to the seller/owner’s delay of delivering credit card statements.  This produced a grossly overstated profit statement.

Approach:  When the bookkeeping was complete, the final and correct P&L was delivered. TVG was able to explain to the buyer the reason for the changing numbers.   It was agreed that the sale price would be adjusted accordingly.  The same multiple that was applied on the incorrect EBITDA was applied to the new EBITDA, and the buyer was satisfied with the adjustments.  With a proper explanation of the error,  he proceeded in buying the business.   TVG used a weighted average of three years of EBITDA so the change in the current year EBITDA was only weighted at 50%.  Therefore, the impact on the new sale price was only 50% of the corrected EBITDA numbers.  Whereas, had TVG used the current year P&L EBITDA 100%, the effect on the sale price would have been much more significant.

Result:  Buyer was happy with the approach to the adjusted sale price and TVG was able to close the deal.

 

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