Listing agreements are very common when it comes to selling a business. In order to sell a business using a business broker, a listing agreement is usually required. In this article, we will explore this essential agreement and why it is so critical.
Signing a listing agreement legally authorizes the sale of a business. The fact is that signing a listing agreement serves to represent the end of ownership, which for many business owners, means heading into new territory. Quite often owning a business is more than “owning a business,” as the business represented a dream and/or a way of life.
Walking away from the dream or lifestyle represents a significant change. For many owners this is the end of a dream. It is not uncommon for many business owners to have started a business from “scratch,” and it is also only human to feel at least somewhat attached to the creation. Phrased another way, walking away from a business that one has worked on and cared for is often easier said than done. Businesses become integrated into the lives of their owners in a myriad of ways. Walking away is usually easier in theory than in practice.
Now, on the flipside of the coin, a signed listing agreement is a totally different animal for buyers. It represents the beginning of a dream. The lure of owning a business may come from a desire to achieve greater personal and financial independence, a sense of pride in owning and building something, a desire to always be an owner or a combination of all three. Buyers see the business as the next phase of their lives whereas sellers see the business as the past.
The listing agreement may seem simple enough, but what it represents is an important bridge between the seller and buyer. It is the job of the business broker to understand and consider the situation of both the seller and the buyer respectively and, in the process, work closely with both parties.
The lives of both the buyer and the seller will change greatly once the sale is completed, but in radically different ways. No one understands this simple, but very important fact, better and with more clarity than a business broker.Read More
When it comes to your deal being completed, having a signed Letter of Intent is great. While everything may seem as though it is moving along just fine, it is vital to remember that the deal isn’t done until many boxes have been checked.
The due diligence process should never be overlooked. It is during due diligence that a buyer truly decides whether or not to move forward with a given deal. Depending on what is discovered, a buyer may want to renegotiate the price or even withdraw from the deal altogether.
In short, it is key that both sides in the transaction understand the importance of the due diligence process. Stanley Foster Reed in his book, The Art of M&A, wrote, “The basic function of due diligence is to assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present, and predictable future of the business to be purchased.”
Before the due diligence process begins, there are several steps buyers must take. First of all, buyers need to assemble experts to help them. These experts include everyone from the more obvious experts such as appraisers, accountants and lawyers to often less obvious picks including environmental experts, marketing personnel and more. All too often, buyers fail to add an operational person, one familiar with the type of business they are considering buying.
Due diligence involves both the buyer and the seller. Listed below is an easy to use checklist of some of the main items that both buyers and sellers should consider during the due diligence process.
Understanding industry structure is vital to the success of a deal. Take the time to determine the percentage of sales by product lines. Review pricing policies and consider discount structure and product warranties. Additionally, when possible, it is prudent to check against industry guidelines.
Accountants’ receivables should be checked closely. In particular, you’ll want to look for issues such as bad debt. Discover who’s paying and who isn’t. Also be sure to analyze inventory.
There is no replacement for knowing your key customers, so you’ll want to get a list as soon as possible.
Just as there is no replacement for knowing who a business’s key customers are, the same can be stated for understanding the current financial situation of a business. You’ll want to review the current financial statements and compare it to the budget. Checking incoming sales and evaluating the prospects for future sales is a must.
The human resources aspect of due diligence should never be overlooked. You’ll want to review key management staff and their responsibilities.
Other issues that should be taken into consideration range from environmental and manufacturing issues (such as determining how old machinery and equipment are) to issues relating to trademarks, patents and copyrights. For example, are these tangible assets transferable?
Ultimately, buying a business involves a range of key considerations including the following:
- What is for sale
- Barriers to entry
- Your company’s competitive advantage
- Assets that can be sold
- Potential growth for the business
- Whether or not a business is owner dependent
Proper due diligence takes effort and time, but in the end it is time and effort well-spent.
It is common for executives at companies to undergo an annual physical. Likewise, these same executives will likely examine their own investments at least once a year, if not more often. However, rather perplexingly, these same capable and responsible executives never consider giving their company an annual physical unless required to do so by rule or regulations.
Most Business Owners Don’t Know
Recently, a leading CPA firm undertook a study that was quite revealing. In particular, this study concluded that a whopping 65% of business owners don’t know the value of their company and 75% of the surveyed business owners had their net worth tied up in their businesses. Phrased another way, 75% of business owners don’t know how much they are worth! Perhaps most striking of all was the fact that a full 85% of business owners have no exit strategy whatsoever.
Having Recurrent Valuations is a Must
Business owners should know what their businesses are worth at least on an annual basis. Situations, both personal as well as in the economy at large, can change very rapidly. A failure to have a valuation leaves one exposed if issues suddenly arise involving estate planning or divorce or even partnership issues. These are just two examples of potential problems.
It is also vital to understand how your business compares to last year and previous years; after all, valuations should be increasing not decreasing. A valuation can also help you understand how your business compares to other businesses. Perhaps most importantly, an annual valuation can help you spot and fix problems.
“Buy, Sell or Get Out of the Way”
If you don’t know your valuation, then you truly don’t know where you are headed. As former Chrysler CEO, Lee Iacocca once stated, “Buy, sell or get out of the way.”
Standing still isn’t an option. You need to know your valuation in order to take full advantage of opportunities. You may feel that an acquisition isn’t the right move at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready! Having a current valuation means you’re ready to go if opportunity does, in fact, knock!
You never know when a potential acquirer may enter the picture. Imagine missing out on a tremendous opportunity because you didn’t have a valuation in place. Often hot offers and hot opportunities depend on speed. The time it takes to get a valuation could mean that the opportunity is no longer available. An accurate annual valuation of your business provides a valuable option whether you choose to exercise it or not.Read More