Monday, September 26, 2011

Selling a Business

Biggest Mistakes that a Seller Makes.

1.     Wrong price
This is without a doubt the main reason businesses don't sell.  If your price is too high, buyers don't take you seriously and won't bother to investigate further. If it is too low you will leave something on the table. Most sellers don't know the value of their business. Ask a broker, get a valuation. Ask an intermediary that is experienced in selling your type of business. Having a firm idea of what you would like to achieve is ideal but keep it within reason.

2.     Inadequate financial records & information
Private businesses are set up to minimize tax, not show maximum profits. However, profit is one of the principal yardsticks of valuation. Low Profits = Low Valuation. If there is a good reason for low profitability and you can demonstrate solid results, make sure you document this. Nothing kills a deal quicker than failure to produce accurate, up-to-date, financial information or not answering queries quickly and efficiently.

3.     Lack of a firm decision to sell

Why do you want to sell? This will be one of the first questions a buyer asks you. Give some serious thought to why you want to sell. Common reasons include retirement, health, capitalization or a career change. If the buyer isn’t comfortable with your reason they will simply walk away. If you have not made a firm decision to sell, whatever your motivation - don't. Wait until you’re sure it’s what you want to do and have a firm idea of what you want to achieve.

4.     No preparation
Unbelievably, many businesses come to the market without a single idea of what is involved in the sales process and what they want to get out of the sale. It is vital that you understand these aspects and have a firm plan for what you would like to achieve. If you are poorly prepared, it will show, frustrate buyers and waste everybody’s time. The end result is NO SALE. Do not underestimate the amount of time and effort it will take to get a positive result.

5.     The right buyer
Usually the best deals arise when a buyer has a real motivation to buy - such as: when they will be gaining skilled staff, a proprietary product, a new geographic location / sales territory or lucrative contracts. These strategic buyers are driven by more than just profitability, which usually means they can offer better value for the business.

6.     Demanding an all cash deal
Some buyers are naturally suspicious of sellers who demand total cash settlement. What is being hidden? How much faith does the Vendor have in his business? Buyers may pay a substantial premium for an element of seller finance. Keep an open mind and you might get a better deal.

7.     Trying to sell yourself
Selling a business is a complex and time-consuming process. It is very easy to underestimate the process and think you can do it all. You wouldn’t be the first or last to take your eye off the ball while trying to sell, letting your business suffer – weakening your sales proposition.
A buyer will automatically assume a position of advantage if they see you have chosen not to take professional help, especially if they equip themselves with an army of experts. Beware. Using a broker means that you will benefit from an experienced professional who understands what it takes to make a deal happen – controlling the process from start to completion. Not convinced? One of the best reasons to use a broker is to act as a buffer between you and the purchaser. There will be times when you’ll want to adopt a tough negotiating position - a broker makes this possible without antagonising the buyer. Remember, you might have to work with a new owner during a handover.

8.     Timing
The best time to sell your business is when you don't have to. Sell when your sales and profits are at, or near, their best. It can be hard to justify a great price and do a deal when your sales volume and profitability are in decline. Plan your sale in advance make sure all the right elements are in place, especially tax advice. Being well prepared can really make the world of difference in terms of the money going into your pocket.
There is also a definite timescale to closing a deal. Buyers can quickly lose interest and move on if they feel they are not making progress or not getting accurate information efficiently. Using a good broker should address this problem.

9.     Lack of a business plan

Buyers buy based on their perception of the future revenue stream of the business. The buyer, as part of the evaluation process will prepare a business plan. The seller is much better positioned to project market potential and costs than the buyer. A business plan with well-reasoned and documented operational information will go a long way in convincing a buyer of the long-term future of the company.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Business Agility

Does your business have the agility to react quickly?

Business Agility allows a company to react quickly to external forces or the marketplace. This can result in minimizing damage from competitive threats or to enjoy the benefits of responding to new opportunities.

The marketplace changes much faster now and a company that is successful and stays on top characteristically reacts quickly. Identifying new trends and creating a product or service to satisfy consumers can produce very large benefits both in short term profits and long term market share advantages. Expansion with new product can lead to a new segment or direction for the business.

Companies that are proactive rather than reactive generally are the industry leaders.

Agile companies remain reactive rather than fixating on long, efficient production runs and standard brands. Rather than bloating with long inventories efficiently made, a nimble company may be better able to deal with changing markets, client needs and competition.

It is important to understand the strengths the business has that can be leveraged as a competitive advantage. The strengths can be products, processes, key personnel or a network than can be used to enhance the business. Understand how to turn the advantage into profit.

Simplifying operations where possible increases flexibility and increases agility or response time to market changes. Organizations that monitor and manage costs without sacrificing quality are in an improved position to change direction when necessary.

Part of simplifying operations is reducing unneeded administrative overhead and information reporting. It is useful to continuously review processes for improvement and to eliminate out-dated procedures. This requires a continued monitoring of internal and external environments to ensure policy are updated. Information needed for strategic reasons should not be eliminated but enhanced to ensure vitality is improved.

Market intelligence becomes a key factor and should be an area of focus to drive the organization and keep it on its toes.

These steps can keep the business highly energized and exciting as it maintains a position of responsiveness to the market, customers, and competition.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Business Planning mistakes

Business Plans are a useful tool in managing and growing the business. The complexity of the plan varies with the size and nature of the business but here are a few ideas to avoid in planning.

1.     Don’t delay.

Too many business owners only create a plan when banks or investors insist on it. Find the time even if you are too busy getting things done. The busier you are the more you need a plan. Don’t spend all the time just putting out fires; the entire business may be lost if you focus on one burning issue.

2.     Cash Flow insensitivity.

Most business owners seem to focus on profits instead of cash. The reality is that businesses spend cash to operate, not profits. Understanding cash flow is critical. If you only get one report to manage the business make sure it is a cash flow chart.

3.     Planning fear.

Preparation of business plan is not that hard. This is not a doctoral thesis or a book that has to be written. Help can be secured from books, small business development centres, local university business schools and planning software from the internet.

4.     Undefined goals.

Plans should omit vague undefined goals that are just hype. The purpose of the plan is to define specific goals that are achievable and measurable. Follow guidelines for specific milestones and hold people accountable for results.

5.     Lack of priority.

A business plan should provide focus. The plan can include objectives for operations, finance, sales, or personnel but a priority list of 15-20 items will lack focus and importance.

6.     Overly optimistic projections.

Revenue projections that accelerate too quickly create a false impression and unrealistic expectations. Generally more conservative projections are easier to defend with bankers or other potential sources of financing and also may prevent the owners from overspending with the anticipation of generating income that may not occur.

A good business plan presents an overview of the business -- now, in the short term, and in the long term. However, it doesn't just describe what the business looks like at each of those stages; it also describes how you'll get from one stage to the next. In other words, the plan provides a "roadmap" for the business, a roadmap that should be as specific as possible.