Professional Advice & Insights

At The Nery Corporation, we know that selling a business, accurately valuing a company, and completing a merger or acquisition, is complicated. These articles are useful for understanding the steps that go into a successful transaction and will familiarize you with many aspects of the process. If you would like to discuss any of these resources further, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Tackling Growth Delusions When Buying a Business

December 24, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Tackling Growth Delusions When Buying a Business

There is no doubt about it, it can be exciting to buy a new business. However, in the process, it is very important that you don't become unrealistic about future growth. Keep in mind that in the vast majority of cases, if a business is poised to quickly grow substantially, the seller would be far less interested in selling.

Richard Parker's recent article for Forbes entitled "Don't Be Delusional About Growth When Buying a Business" seeks to instill a smart degree of caution into prospective buyers. Parker notes that when evaluating a business and talking to the owner, many buyers come away with a sense that enormous growth is just "sitting there" waiting to be seized. In particular, Parker cautions those buyers who are buying into an industry that they know nothing about; those individuals should be very careful.

When buying into an industry where one has no familiarity, there can be a range of problems. The opportunities that you see may not have been tapped into by the existing owner for a range of reasons. You couldn't possibly guess what these reasons might be without more of a knowledge base. Since you are an outsider, you likely lack the proper perspective and understanding. In turn, this means you may see growth opportunities that may not exist, as the seller may have already tried and failed. Summed up another way, until you actually own the business and are running it on a day to day basis, you simply can't make a proper assessment of how best to grow that business.

The seductive lure of growth shouldn't be the determining factor when you are looking for a business. A far more important and ultimately reliable factor is stability. The real question, the foundation of whether or not a business is a good purchase option, is whether or not the business will maintain its revenue and profit levels once you've signed on the dotted line and taken over. You want to be sure that the business doesn't have to grow to remain viable.

As Parker points out, the majority of small business buyers will buy in a sector where they don't have much experience, and that is fine. What is not fine is assuming that you can greatly grow the business. Of course, if new buyers can achieve that goal, that is great and certainly icing on the cake. But don't depend on that growth.

In the end, everyone has some ideas that work and some that don't. You may take over a business and, thanks to having a different perspective than the previous owner, are able to find ways to make that business grow. But realize that many of your ideas for growing the business may fail completely.

A professional business advisor will be able to help you determine what business is best for you. A business advisor will help keep you focused on what matters most and steer you clear of the mistakes that buyers frequently make when buying a business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

November 16, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

If you don't exactly understand what corporate social responsibility (CSR) means, don't worry. We'll cover the main points you need to know. CSR is increasingly seen as something that companies of all sizes need to be aware of, so let's take a closer look at a few of the finer points.

There are 4 basic pillars in CSR: the community, the environment, the marketplace and the workplace. The community pillar of CSR refers to your company's contribution to the local community; this contribution can take a variety of forms ranging from financial support to personal involvement.

The second pillar of CSR is the environment. The simple fact is that people around the world are becoming much more environmentally aware. You can be quite certain that a percentage of your customers and/or clients have environmental concerns.

Increasingly, consumers want to know that the companies that they are purchasing from have good environmental practices. There are many ways that businesses can show that they are environmentally aware. They range from recycling and using low-emission and high-mileage vehicles whenever possible to adopting packaging and containers that are environmentally friendly.

The third pillar of CSR is the marketplace. Proper corporate social responsibility includes the responsible utilization of advertising, public relations, and ethical business conduct. Another key element in the marketplace pillar is adopting fair treatment policies towards suppliers and vendors, contractors and shareholders. In other words, the marketplace aspect of CSR means rejecting exploitative business practices in favor of fairer and more equitable business practices.

The final pillar of CSR concerns the workplace. In the workplace pillar, CSR encourages the implementation of fair and equitable treatment of employees, as well as observing workplace safety protocols and embracing equal opportunity employment and labor standards.

Adopting CSR practices in today's business climate is a prudent decision, as it serves to increase both shareholder and investor interest, while simultaneously encouraging a company's value. Likewise, embracing CSR practices can make it easier to attract a buyer and that party may be willing to pay a higher selling price.

Typically, buyers want a business that has many of the attributes supported by the four pillars of CSR. Buyers want businesses that enjoy a high level of customer loyalty and have good overall relations with the local community. Additionally, buyers want businesses that have quality relationships with their suppliers and vendors as well as loyal and dependable employees.

Sellers must realize that buyers want products, goods and services that are in line with the current trends of the marketplace and have an eye towards future trends. Finally, buyers want as little "baggage" as possible. You can be certain that buyers don't want to find any skeletons lurking about in the company closet. The proper utilization of CSR can address all of these concerns and, in the process, make your business more attractive to a potential buyer.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Key Mistakes that Could Impact Your Sale

November 16, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Key Mistakes that Could Impact Your Sale

The old saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," most definitely applies to any business owner that believes he or she will someday want to sell his or her business. The bottom line is that every business owner has to transition out of ownership at some point. In a recent Inc. article, "Four Mistakes That Could Lower Your Business's Value and Weaken Its Salability," author Bob House explores 4 mistakes that could spell trouble for business owners looking to sell.

No doubt House explores some excellent points in his article, such as that you should always have what he calls, "a selling mindset." The reason this mindset is potentially invaluable for a business owner is that when operating in this way, sellers are essentially forced to stay on their toes.

Or as House writes, "a selling mindset encourages continual innovation, growth, and investment, helping your business stay ahead of the competition and at the top of its potential." Having a "selling mindset" means that business owners have no choice but to perform periodic reality checks and access the strengths and weaknesses of their businesses.

Mistake #1: Poor Record Keeping

For House, poor record-keeping tops the list of big mistakes that business owners need to address. As House points out, both potential buyers and brokers will want to examine your books for the last few years. The odds are excellent that before anyone buys your business, they will look very closely at every aspect of your financials, ranging from your sales history to your operating costs.

Mistake #2: Failure to Innovate

The next potential mistake that business owners need to avoid is a failure to innovate. House notes that a lack of tech-savviness could make your business less attractive to prospective buyers. The simple fact is that virtually every business is now impacted in some way by its online presence, whether it is the quality of that presence or lack of it altogether.

For House, a failure to maintain an active online presence could be associated with a failure to innovate. Even if your company is innovative, if you do not maintain a coherent and robust online presence, this could portray your company in a negative light.

Mistake #3: Unstable Workforce

House also feels that having an unstable workforce could spell trouble for your business's value and negatively impact its salability. Most prospective buyers will not be very eager to buy a business that they know has a lot of employee turnover. In general, new business owners crave stability. Attracting and keeping great employees could make all the difference when it comes time to sell your business.

Mistake #4: Delayed Investments

The final factor that House notes as a potential issue for those looking to sell their business is delaying investments and improvements. House states that it is important for owners to continue to invest even if they know they are going to sell. Investing in your business can help it expand, grow and showcase its potential future growth.

Another excellent way to prevent making mistakes that could interfere with your ability to sell your business is to begin working with a business intermediary. A top-notch business advisor knows what mistakes you should avoid. This experience will not only save you countless headaches but also help you preserve the value of your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Exploring the Offering Memorandum

November 9, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Exploring the Offering Memorandum

Are you a business owner who is interested in selling? If so, there are some strategies you should undoubtedly use. At the top of the list is the all-important offering memorandum. The offering memorandum, often referred to as a selling memorandum, is a straightforward but highly effective way to help you obtain the highest possible selling price.

Shaping the Executive Summary

The offering memorandum must be factual. However, at the same time, this memorandum allows for a bit of business promotion and selling, which can be included in the executive summary portion of the document. After all, potential buyers will want to know more about your business and why buying it would be a savvy decision.

In short, the executive summary section of the offering memorandum goes over the highlights of your company. It should include an outline of several key factors. Everything from an outline of the ownership and management structure, description of the business and financial highlights to a general review of your company's products and/or services should all be covered. Additional points to include would be variables, such as information about your market, and the reason that the business is for sale.

Your executive summary, simply stated, is extremely important. A coherent and compelling executive summary will motivate prospective buyers to learn more. In short, you want the executive summary of your offering memorandum to shine. It should capture the attention and the imagination of anyone that reads it.

Other Essential Elements to Include

Some elements are absolutely a must to have in your offering memorandum. An overview of your company and its history as well as its markets and products are all good places to begin your offering memorandum. Other key elements ranging from distribution, customers or clients and the competition should also be included.

Factors such as management, financials and growth strategies should not be overlooked, as many prospective investors may flip to those sections first. Finally, be sure to include any competitive advantages you may have as well as a well-written conclusion and exhibits. The more polished and professional your offering memorandum, the better off you'll be.

An easy way to improve the overall quality of your offering memorandum is to work with a seasoned business professional. A professional business advisor knows what information should be included in your offering memorandum. He or she will also know what not to include. Remember that your offering memorandum may be the first point of contact between you and many prospective buyers. You'll only get one chance to make a first impression.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Hidden Benefits of Planning Your Succession Strategy

October 19, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

The Hidden Benefits of Planning Your Succession Strategy

Succession planning is something that many business owners fail to think about; however, it turns out there are benefits to succession planning that might not be immediately obvious upon first glance. In this article, we'll explore a recent Accountancy Daily article, "Succession Planning for Business Owners," which details the wisdom and benefits of succession planning.

Accountancy Daily polled 500 SME owners and uncovered a variety of interesting facts. At the top of the list is that one-third of owners felt more confident about the future of their businesses when they had a coherent succession strategy.

In what can only be deemed a surprising finding, the poll discovered that 17% of respondents noted that succession planning actually brought them closer to their families. In short, the Accountancy Daily poll found that succession planning came with a variety of unexpected benefits. In other words, it is about more than preparing to hand one's business over to a new party.

Author Glen Foster makes the point that business owners frequently underestimate the level of effort and time needed to sell a business. The fact is that selling a business is usually a layered process that can even take years to complete. Importantly, business owners must understand that in the time it takes to sell, the market may have changed or their own financial or personal situations may have changed as well. Additionally, selling can be an emotional and stressful process which further complicates the entire matter.

For most business owners, selling a business represents the single greatest financial move of their lives. As such, it is often accompanied with significant stress and anxiety. It is essential not to underestimate the emotional and psychological side of the sales equation. Properly planning years in advance for the sale of a business will help business owners prepare for the emotional and psychological stress that can result from both the sales process and the eventual sale itself.

A key part of the stress of selling a business is that business owners are often left wondering "what comes next?" after selling. Developing a succession strategy is a way to think through such issues well in advance.

Another key aspect of succession planning is to take the steps necessary to make sure that your business is ready to be sold. As Foster points out, you wouldn't put a home on the market with significant problems, and the same holds true for your business. If you want to receive the optimal price for your business, then your business should be in tip-top shape. This means diving into your books and records and getting everything in order. Working with an accountant or an experienced business professional can be invaluable in this process.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Great Tips for Helping You Find a Buyer for Your Businesss

October 5, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Great Tips for Helping You Find a Buyer for Your Businesss

No one keeps a business forever. At some point, you'll either want to sell your business or have to retire. When the time comes to sell, it is important to streamline the process, experience as little stress as possible and also receive top dollar. In Alejandro Cremades's recent Forbes magazine article, "How to Find a Buyer for Your Business," Cremades explores the most important steps business owners should take when looking to sell.

Like so many things in life, finding a buyer for your business is about preparation. As Cremades notes, you should think about selling your business on the day you found your company. Creating a business but having no exit strategy is simply not a good idea, and it's certainly not a safe strategy either. Instead you should "build and plan to be acquired."

For Cremades, it is vital to decide in the beginning if your preferred exit strategy is to be acquired. If you know from the beginning that you wish to be acquired, then you should build your business accordingly from day one. That means it's essential to understand your market and know what prospective buyers would be looking for.

According to the Leadership Development Program, Kauffman Fellows, acquirers buy businesses for a range of reasons including:

  • Driving their own growth
  • Expanding their market
  • Accelerating time to market
  • Consolidating the market

Some of the more potentially interesting reasons that acquirers buy a business include to reinvent their own business and even to respond to a disruption. At the end of the day, there is no one monolithic reason why a given party decides to buy a business. But there are indeed some general factors that acquirers are known to commonly seek out.

Additionally, Cremades believes that for those serious about finding a buyer, it is critical to make connections. Or as Cremades states, "strategic acquisitions are about who you know, and who knows you. Start making those connections early." He also points out that buyers are not always who one expects in the beginning of the process. Keeping this fact in mind, it is important to stay open and always look to build solid relationships and keep those relationships up to date regarding your status. Getting your company acquired won't happen overnight. Instead, it is a process that can take years. Therefore, networking years in advance is a must.

Like many seasoned business professionals, Cremades realizes how important it is to work with a business broker. If you have failed to network properly over the years, then a broker is an amazingly valuable ally. They are about more than offering sage advice, as business advisors can also make potentially invaluable introductions and help you navigate every stage of the acquisition process.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Q2 Small Business Transactions Take a Dip, but Strong Market Remains

September 28, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Q2 Small Business Transactions Take a Dip, but Strong Market Remains

Small business transactions have been enjoying record numbers. But as of the second quarter of 2019, the numbers have begun to take a small dip. Experts feel that the trade war with China is playing a role, according to a recent article, "Q2 Small Business Transactions Down as Trade War Questions Remain."

The numbers don't lie, as the number of transactions stood at 2,444 for Q2, which is a drop of 9.6%. But the simple fact remains that businesses are still selling at record levels. As BizBuySell points out, there were 4,948 transactions reported in just the first half of 2019. That means that 2019 could be the second most active business-for-sale market since BizBuySell began tracking data back in 2007. In other words, the Q2 9.6% drop certainly doesn't mean that the sky is falling.

Deals per broker are declining, and many are looking to the current trade war between the U.S. and China for answers. Increased tariffs and associated worries are, according to many experts, behind the Q2 dip.

A recent BizBuySell poll of business owners noted that 43% are experiencing rising costs as a result of tariffs on Chinese goods. Summed up another way, the trade war with China is impacting small businesses across the board.

Ultimately, consumers will also feel the pinch as well with a whopping 64% of businesses noting that they will raise prices in order to address rising supplier costs. Another attention-grabbing statistic is that 65% of small business owners are considering switching to suppliers not based in China, and 54% are looking for U.S. based supplies. If this trend continues it could mark a dramatic shift.

There is, however, ample good news. According to BizBuySell, buyers looking for a business will discover that the supply of quality listings on the market is increasing. In short, now is a good time to buy a business, as the number of businesses listed as "for sale" grew by a healthy 5.2% in Q2 when compared to the same time last year.

The "business for sale" inventory is growing. According to Bob House, President of BizBuySell, "Businesses are performing better than ever."

Some of the top performing markets by sales included Baltimore, Portland, Seattle, Austin and Dallas. Those interested in buying a business will find that now is truly a historically good time to do so. Working with a seasoned business broker can help you find a business that is right for you. While the trade war has injected some uncertainty into the overall climate, there is no doubt that now is a historically unique time to buy a business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Variety of Variables Involved in Selling Your Business

September 21, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

The Variety of Variables Involved in Selling Your Business

Selling a business is more than a big decision, as it is also quite complex. Finding the right buyer for a business is at the heart of the matter. In the recent Forbes article, "Ready to Sell Your Business? Follow These 3 Tips to Find the Best Buyer," author Serenity Gibbons outlines that selling a business is a multifaceted process with a lot of moving parts.

A central variable for those looking to sell a business is to have a coherent and well thought out exit strategy in place. She points out that at the top of your to-do list should be selling your business the right way, and that means having a great exit strategy in place. In fact, many experts feel that you should have an exit strategy in place even when you first open your business.

Another key variable to keep in mind is that, according to Gibbons, only an estimated 20% to 30% of businesses on the market actually find buyers. This important fact means that business owners, who usually have a large percentage of their wealth tied up in their businesses, are vulnerable if they can't sell. It is vital for business owners to make their businesses as attractive as possible to buyers for when the time comes to sell.

This article points to author Michael Lefkowitz's book "Where's the Exit." This book outlines what business owners need to do to get their business ready for their exit. Updating your books, ensuring that a good team is in place and ready to go and taking steps to "polish the appeal of your brand" are some of the important topics covered.

Gibbons notes that "not every buyer with cash in hand is the right buyer for your company." Mentioned are three key variables that must be addressed when looking to find the right buyer: consider your successor, explore your broker options and find a pre-qualified buyer.

In the end, working with a business broker is the fastest and easiest way to check off all three boxes. An experienced professional knows the importance of working exclusively with serious, pre-qualified buyers. Since a good business broker only works with serious buyers, that means business brokers can greatly expedite the process of selling your business.

In her article, Gibbons supports the fact that working with a business broker is a smart move. Those looking to get their business sold and reduce an array of potential headaches along the way, will find that there is no replacement for a good business broker.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Dealing with Inexperience Can Ruin the Deal

August 24, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Dealing with Inexperience Can Ruin the Deal

The 65-year old owner of a multi-location retail operation doing $30 million in annual sales decided to retire. He interviewed a highly recommended intermediary and was impressed. However, he had a nephew who had just received his MBA and who told his uncle that he could handle the sale and save him some money. He would do it for half of what the intermediary said his fee would be - so the uncle decided to use his nephew. Now, his nephew was a nice young man, educated at one of the top business schools, but he had never been involved in a middle market deal. He had read a lot of case studies and was confident that he could "do the deal."

Inexperience # 1 - The owner and the nephew agreed not to bring the CFO into the picture, nor execute a "stay" agreement. The nephew felt he could handle the financial details. Neither one of them realized that a potential purchaser would expect to meet with the CFO when it came to the finances of the business, and certainly would expect the CFO to be involved in the due diligence process.

Inexperience # 2 - It never occurred to the owner or his nephew that revealing just the name of the company to prospective buyers would send competitors and only mildly interested prospects to the various locations. There was no mention of Confidentiality Agreements. Since the owner was not in a big hurry, there were no time limits set for offers or even term sheets. It would only be a matter of time before the word that the business was on the market would be out.

Inexperience # 3 - The owner wanted to spend some time with each prospective purchaser. Confidentiality didn't seem to be an issue. There was no screening process, no interview by the nephew.

Inexperience # 4 - The nephew prepared what was supposed to be an Offering Memorandum. He threw some financials together that had not been audited, which included a missing $500,000 that the owner took and forgot to inform his nephew about. This obviously impacted the numbers. There were no projections, no ratios, etc. This lack of information would most likely result in lower offers or bids or just plain lack of buyer interest. In addition, the mention of a pending lawsuit that could influence the sale was hidden in the Memorandum.

Inexperience # 5 - The owner and nephew both decided that their company attorney could handle the details of a sale if it ever got that far. Unfortunately, although competent, the attorney had never been involved in a business sale transaction, especially one in the $15 million range.

Results - The seller was placing almost his entire net worth in the hands of his nephew and an attorney who had no experience in putting transactions together. The owner decided to call most of the shots without any advice from an experienced deal-maker. Any one of these "inexperiences" could not only "blow" a sale, but also create the possibility of a leak. The discovery that the company was for sale could be catastrophic, whether discovered by the competition, an employee, a major customer or a supplier.

The facts in the above story are true!

The moral of the story - Nephews are wonderful, but inexperience is fraught with danger. When considering the sale of a major asset, it is foolhardy not to employ experienced, knowledgeable professionals. A professional intermediary is a necessity, as is an experienced transaction attorney.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Variables that Drive and Influence Business Valuations

August 17, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

The Variables that Drive and Influence Business Valuations

If you've never bought or sold a business before, then the factors that drive and influence business valuations likely seem a bit murky. In a recent Divestopedia article from Kevin Ramsier entitled, "A Closer Look at What Drives and Influences Business Valuations," Ramsier takes a closer look at this important topic.

Business brokers and M&A advisors play a key role in helping business owners understand why their business receives the valuation that it does. No doubt, the final assessed value is based on a wide array of variables. But with some effort, clarity is possible.

In his article, Ramsier points out that "value means different things to different buyers" and that the "perceived value depends on the circumstances, interpretation and the role that is played in a transition." It is important to remember that no two businesses are alike. For that reason, what goes into a given valuation will vary, often greatly.

Looking to EBITDA

Ramier points to several metrics including return on assets, return on equity and return on investment. Another important valuable for companies with positive cash flow is a multiple of EBITDA, which stands for "earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization." EBITDA is widely used in determining value. On the flip side of the coin, if the company in question has a negative cash flow, then the liquidation value of the business will play a large role in determining its value.

Primary Drivers to Consider

Ramsier provides a guideline of Primary Drivers of Valuation, Secondary Drivers of Valuation and Other Potential Drivers of Valuation. In total there are 25 different variables listed, which underscores the overall potential complexity of accurately determining valuation.

In the Primary Drivers of Valuation list, Ramsier includes everything from the size of revenue and revenue stability to historical and projected EBITDA as well as potential growth and margin percentages. Other variables, ones that could easily be overlooked, such as the local talent pool and people training are also listed as variables that should be considered.

Support for the Business Owner

The bottom line is that determining valuation is not a one-dimensional affair, but is instead a dynamic and complex process. One of the single best moves any business owner can make is to reach out to an experienced business broker or M&A Advisor. They are experts in determining valuation and owners working with brokers will know what to expect when the time comes to sell.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Do You Know What Kind of Business Owner You Really Are?

July 20, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Do You Know What Kind of Business Owner You Really Are?

Does your business have real, long-lasting longevity or is your business a temporary entity that will vanish the second you stop working on it? In his insightful article in The Business Journals entitled, "Are You Living for Today as a Business Owner or Building Value?" author Kent Bernhard asks a very important question of readers, "Are you a lifestyle business owner or a value accelerator?"

Many business owners have never stopped to ask this very important, yet basic, question regarding their businesses. So, let's turn our attention to this key question that all business owners must stop and ask at some point.

As Bernhard points out the core issue here is how a given business owner defines the idea of success for him or herself. As Chuck Richards, the CEO of CoreValue Software notes, "At the end of the day, a lifestyle business is just a job."

Richards goes on to note that this is fine for many people. But if this is the case, it is a choice that one is making. Therefore, lifestyle business owners should be aware that they are, in fact, clearly making a choice.

Business owners who are lawyers, consultants and accountants often fall into the category of those with a "business as a job." They fail to accumulate enough assets for their business to really be more than a job. Summed up in another fashion, the business generates enough revenue to provide a comfortable lifestyle. However, it does not have the infrastructure or equity to remain profitable, or even in existence, once they walk away. As the owner and operator of the business, they are vital to its very existence. This means that the business only has value so long as the owner is working in the business on a regular basis. As a result, the owner may never really be able to exit the business.

As Bernhard points out, "To build a business as an asset, you have to become a value accelerator who looks beyond whether the business' profits are sufficient to maintain your lifestyle. It means looking at the business as an entity outside yourself." Those who fall into the value accelerator category, focus on figuring out creating value for the business as a financial asset that can operate independently.

Making sure that your business can continue on without you means that you have to build it, and that involves having a coherent and focused plan. Plan in advance and know how you will exit your business. To ultimately create value for the business entity itself, a plan must be in place that allows for your successful exit.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey Report Predicts Major Changes

June 1, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey Report Predicts Major Changes

The IBBA and M&A Source Market Pulse Survey Report for the fourth quarter of 2018 has a range of interesting insights. The survey's purpose is to provide an "accurate understanding of market conditions for businesses being sold in Main Street (values $0-$2MM) and the Lower Middle Market (values $2MM-$50MM)." This national survey was designed as a tool for business owners and their advisors and has the support of both the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Projects and the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.

One of the most striking facts to leap out of the report is the fact that a full one-third of advisors fully expect the strong market to end this year. Overall, advisors are not optimistic that the current climate will continue through 2020. In fact, advisors are encouraging sellers to consider placing their businesses on the market now, while the market is still strong. This is according to Craig Everett, PhD and Assistant Professor of Finance and Director of the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project.

One fact from the report that could be overlooked is that only a mere 8% of advisors expect the current climate to last for 48 months or more. Additionally, only 9% believe that the current climate will last between 24 to 48 months. Perhaps most striking of all is the fact that 60% of advisors feel that the current climate will end within the next two years.

Business owners who are considering selling should be advised that almost two-thirds of advisors now feel that there will be a significant shift in the next two years. Considering that it can take a year or more to sell a business, business owners would be wise to consider this important fact.

The report sites Neal Isaacs, Owner of VR Business Brokers of the Triangle who states, "Deals are taking longer in due diligence as buyers work hard to validate their investment and make sure that what they're buying is worth the premium price today's sellers are commanding."

So, is now the time to sell? Many experts feel that it is possible to lose a sizable amount of value if one waits too long to sell. Even just a few months can make a huge difference in terms of perceived value and the ultimate sales price. Working with a proven business broker is a key way to ensure that you are selling at the right time and secure the best possible price.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Thinking About Succession Planning

April 20, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Thinking About Succession Planning

If you haven't been thinking about succession planning, the bottom line is that you should be. In the February 20, 2019 Divestopia article, "All Companies Need to Look at Succession Planning," author Brad Cherniak examines the importance of succession planning. Owning and/or operating a business can be a great deal of work, but it is imperative to take the time to develop a succession plan.

Succession Planning is for Businesses of All Sizes

Author Cherniak wants every business owner to realize that succession planning isn't just for big businesses. Yet, Cherniak points out that the majority of small-to-medium sized businesses, as well as their senior managers, simply don't focus much on succession planning at all.

Many business owners see succession planning as essentially being the same as exiting a business. Cherniak is quick to point out that while the two can be linked and may, in fact, overlap, they are by no means the same thing. They should not be treated as such.

Following an Arc Pattern

Importantly, Cherniak notes, "Succession planning should also be linked to your strategic planning." He feels that both entrepreneurs and businesses managers follow an arc pattern where their "creativity, energy and effectiveness" are all concerned. As circumstances change, entrepreneurs and business managers can become exhausted and even a liability.

The arc can also change due to a company's changing circumstances. All of these factors point to "coordinating the arcs of business," which includes "startup, ramp-up, growth, consolidation, renewed growth and maturity," with whomever is running the business at the time. In this way, succession planning is not one-dimensional. Instead it should be viewed as quite a dynamic process.

Evaluating Each Company Individually

Cherniak highlights the importance of making sure that the team matches the needs of a company as well as its stages of development. Who is running a company and setting its direction? Answering these questions is important. It also is of paramount importance to make sure that the right person is in charge at the optimal time.

Companies and their circumstances can change. This change can often occur without much notice. As Cherniak points out, few small-to-medium sized businesses focus on succession planning, and this is potentially to their detriment.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Confidentiality Agreements: What are the Most Important Elements?

March 6, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Confidentiality Agreements: What are the Most Important Elements?

Every business has to be concerned about maintaining confidentiality. In fact, it is common for business owners to become somewhat obsessed with confidentiality when they are getting ready to sell their business.

It goes without saying that owners don't want the word that they are selling to spread to the public, employees or most certainly their competitors. Yet, there is something of a tug of war between the natural desire for confidentiality and the desire to sell a business for the highest amount possible. At the end of the day, any business owner looking to sell his or her business will have to let prospective buyers "peek behind the curtain." Let's explore some key points that any good confidentiality agreement should cover.

At the top of your confidentiality list should be the type of negotiations. This aspect of the confidentiality agreement is, in fact, quite important as it stipulates whether the negotiations are secret or open. Importantly, this part of the confidentiality agreement will outline what information can be revealed and what cannot be revealed.

Also consider the duration of the agreement. Your agreement must be 100% clear as to how long the agreement is in effect. If possible, your confidentiality agreement should be permanently binding.

You will undoubtedly want to outline what steps will be taken in the event that a breach does occur. Having a confidentiality agreement that spells out what steps you can, and may, take if a breach does occur will help to enhance the effectiveness of your contract. You want your prospective buyers to take the document very seriously, and this step will help make that a reality.

When it comes to "special considerations" category, this should be elements that apply to the business in question. Patents are a good example. A buyer could learn about inventions while "kicking the tires," and you'll want to be quite certain that any prospective buyer realizes that he or she must maintain confidentiality regarding any patent related information.

Of course, do not forget to include any applicable state laws. If the prospective buyer is located outside of your state, then that is an issue that must be adequately addressed.

A confidentiality agreement is a legally binding agreement. And it is important that all parties involved understand this critical fact. Investing the money and time to create a professional confidentiality agreement is time and money very well spent. An experienced business broker can prove invaluable in helping you navigate not just the confidentiality process, but also the process of buying and selling in general.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Goodwill and Its Importance to Your Business

February 27, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Goodwill and Its Importance to Your Business

What exactly does the term "goodwill" mean when it comes to buying or selling a business? Usually, the term "goodwill" is a reference to all the effort that a seller puts into a business over the years that he or she operates that business. In a sense, goodwill is the difference between an array of intangible, but important, assets and the total purchase price of the business. It is important not to underestimate the value of goodwill as it relates to both the long-term and short-term success of any given business.

According to the M&A Dictionary, an intangible asset can be thought of as asset that is carried on the balance sheet, and it may include a company's reputation or a recognized name in the market. If a company is purchased for more than its book value, then the odds are excellent that goodwill has played a role.

Goodwill most definitely contrasts and should not be confused with "going concern value." Going concern value is usually defined as the fact that a business will continue to operate in a fashion that is consistent with its original intended purpose instead of failing and closing down.

Examples of goodwill can be quite varied. Listed below are some of the more common and interesting examples:

  • A strong reputation
  • Name recognition
  • A good location
  • Proprietary designs
  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights
  • Trade secrets
  • Specialized know-how
  • Existing contracts
  • Skilled employees
  • Customized advertising materials
  • Technologically advanced equipment
  • Custom-built factory
  • Specialized tooling
  • A loyal customer base
  • Mailing list
  • Supplier list
  • Royalty agreements

In short, goodwill in the business realm isn't exactly easy to define. The simple fact, is that goodwill can, and usually does, encompass a wide and diverse array of factors. There are, however, many other important elements to consider when evaluating and considering goodwill. For example, standards require that companies which have intangible assets, including goodwill, be valued by an outside expert on an annual basis. Essentially, a business owner simply can't claim anything under the sun as an intangible asset.

Whether you are buying or selling a business, you should leverage the know how of seasoned experts. An experienced business broker will be able to help guide you through the buying and selling process. Understanding what is a real and valuable intangible asset or example of goodwill can be a key factor in the buying and selling process. A business broker can act as your guide in both understanding and presenting goodwill variables.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Determining Your Company's Undocumented Value

January 16, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Determining Your Company's Undocumented Value

Business appraisals are not one-dimensional. In fact, a good business appraisal is one that factors in a wide range of variables in order to achieve an accurate result. Indisputable records ranging from comparables and projections to EBITDA multiples, discount rates and a good deal more are all factored in.

It is important to remember that while an appraiser may feel that he or she has all the information necessary, it is still possible they have overlooked key information. Business appraisers must understand the purpose of their appraisal before beginning the process. All too often appraisers are unaware of important additional factors and considerations that could enhance or even devalue a business's worth.

There Can Be Unwritten Value

Value isn't always "black and white." Instead, many factors can determine value. Prospective buyers may be looking at variables, such as profitability, depth of management and market share, but there can be more that determines value.

Here are some of the factors to consider when determining value: How much market competition is there? Does the business have potential beyond its current niche? Are there a variety of vendors? Does the company have easy access to its target audience? At the end of the day, what is the company's competitive advantage? Is pricing in line with the demographic served? These are just some of the key questions that you'll want to consider when evaluating a company.

There are Ways to Increase Both Valuation and Success

No doubt, successful businesses didn't get that way by accident. A successful business is one that is customer focused and has company-wide values. Brian Tracy's excellent book, "The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business," notes that it is critical for businesses to have a company-wide focus on three key pillars: marketing, sales and, of course, revenue generation. Tracy also points out that trends can be seen as the single most vital factor and bottom-line contributor to any company's success and, ultimately, valuation. For 2018 and beyond, projected trends include an increase in video marketing, the use of crowdfunding as a means of product validation and more.

No Replacement for Understanding Trends

If a company doesn't understand trends, then it can't understand both the market as it stands and as it may be tomorrow. Savvy business owners understand today's trends and strive to capitalize on the mistakes of their competitors while simultaneously learning from their competitors' successes.

Tracy accurately states that while there are many variables in determining value, finding and retaining the best people is absolutely essential. One of the greatest assets that any company has is, in the end, its people.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Considering All of Your Business Real Estate Options

January 9, 2019

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Considering All of Your Business Real Estate Options

In a recent December 2018 article in Divestopedia entitled, "Options for Business Real Estate When Selling a Company," the topic of business real estate was explored at length.

One of the key points of the article was that understanding one's business real estate options would ultimately help in achieving "the goals desired in a transaction." The article is correct to point out that many, or even arguably most, business owners simply don't know what real estate options are available to them when it comes time to sell the company.

In particular, there are two big options:

  1. Sell everything including the real estate.
  2. Hold onto the real estate for the rental income.

In the Divestopedia article, the authors correctly point out that if you, as the business owner, personally own the real estate in a separate entity, then you are good to go. You should have a "clear path to valuation."

However, if your company owns the real estate, then things get a little more complicated. If this is the situation you'll want to have a third-party appraisal of the real estate so that its value is clear. The article also points out that if your business is a C-Corp and your business also owns the real estate, then it's a good idea to talk to your accountant as there will be differences in taxation.

Every situation is different. Many buyers will prefer to acquire the real estate along with the business. On the other hand, many buyers may prefer a lease, as they don't want everything that comes along with owning real estate. Communicating with the buyer regarding his or her preference is a savvy move.

Now, as Divestopedia points out, if you do plan to retain the building, then you'll want to be certain that a strong lease is in place. Ask any business broker about the importance of having a strong lease, and you'll get some pretty clear-cut feedback. Namely, you always want to have a strong lease.

Issues such as who repairs what and why should all be spelled out in the lease. It should leave nothing to chance. One of the best points made in the Divestopedia article is that you will want a strong lease for another key reason. When the time comes to sell the property, you want to show you have a lease that is generating good income.

Real estate and the sale of your business are not one-dimensional topics. There are many variables that go into selling when real estate is involved. It is important to consider all of the variables and work with a business broker who can help guide you through this potentially complex topic.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Importance of Understanding Leases

December 5, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

The Importance of Understanding Leases

Leases should never be overlooked when it comes to buying or selling a business. After all, where your business is located and how long you can stay at that location plays a key role in the overall health of your business. It is easy to get lost with "larger" issues when buying or selling a business. But in terms of stability, few factors rank as high as that of a lease. Let's explore some of the key facts you'll want to keep in mind where leases are concerned.

The Different Kinds of Leases

In general, there are three different kinds of leases: sub-lease, new lease and the assignment of the lease. These leases clearly differ from one another, and each will impact a business in different ways.

A sub-lease is a lease within a lease. If you have a sub-lease then another party holds the original lease. It is very important to remember that in this situation the seller is the landlord. In general, sub-leasing will require that permission is granted by the original landlord. With a new lease, a lease has expired and the buyer must obtain a new lease from the landlord. Buyers will want to be certain that they have a lease in place before buying a new business otherwise they may have to relocate the business if the landlord refuses to offer a new lease.

The third lease option is the assignment of lease. Assignment of lease is the most common type of lease when it comes to selling a business. Under the assignment of lease, the buyer is granted the use of the location where the business is currently operating. In short, the seller assigns to the buyer the rights of the lease. It is important to note that the seller does not act as the landlord in this situation.

Understand All Lease Issues to Avoid Surprises

Early on in the buying process, buyers should work to understand all aspects of a business's lease. No one wants an unwelcomed surprise when buying a business, for example, discovering that a business must be relocated due to lease issues.

Summed up, don't ignore the critical importance of a business's leasing situation. Whether you are buying or selling a business, it is in your best interest to clearly understand your lease situation. Buyers want stable leases with clearly defined rules and so do sellers, as sellers can use a stable leasing agreement as a strong sales tool.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Day One is the Day to Prepare Your Exit

November 14, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Day One is the Day to Prepare Your Exit

Pepperjam CTO, Greg Shepard recently published "Planning Your Exit Should Begin When You Launch" in Entrepreneur magazine. In this article, Shepard puts forward a variety of thought-provoking ideas including that entrepreneurs should be thinking about partnering early on with those they believe will ultimately want to buy their business.

Thinking Ahead

Much of Shepard's thinking centers around the fact that a large percentage of startups end in acquisitions. In particular, he notes that in 2017, "mergers and acquisitions accounted for 93 percent of the 809 ventures capital-backed exits, yielding a total of $45.6 billion in disclosed exit value." Not too surprising, he also points out that according to a recent Silicon Valley Bank survey, over 50% of all startups are "hoping for an acquisition."

For this reason, Shepard points out that entrepreneurs should be thinking about who may potentially acquire them from day one. In particular, startups will want to build their companies in such a way that they will be attractive for acquisition at a later date.

Making one's startup attractive for acquisition means thinking about such details as the Ideal Customer Profile, Ideal Employee Profile, and Ideal Buyer Profile. This will help startups build the most attractive acquisition friendly company possible. According to Crunchbase, exit opportunities frequently present themselves well before a company's Series B funding.

Building Successful Strategies

Startups simply must understand who their customer is and why their particular product is attractive to that customer. Likewise, having the right kind of employees with the right kind of training and know how is key. Hiring the best talent is definitely a way for a startup to make itself more attractive for a potential future acquisition.

Shepard believes that once you understand your customer and have the right team to support your vision, you'll want to focus in on companies that are most likely to be interested and construct an "optimal buyer pool." Finding this optimal buyer pool means finding businesses that serve similar markets and then making sure that your product, as well as your business model, both address an overlooked need within the existing customer base. Combine all of these variables together, and your company will be more attractive for an acquisition.

Let Innovation Drive You

Another key point in Shepard's article is that startups will want to provide products or services that potential buyers are currently not providing to their customers. Additionally, he states that "Disruptors should seek out companies that are truly driven by innovation - perhaps those that have already established or partnered with innovative labs or accelerators."

Ultimately, it is critical for startups to understand where they could fit within a larger organization. Understanding this will help entrepreneurs make their company more acquisition friendly.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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What Makes the Sale of a Business Fall Through?

November 6, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

What Makes the Sale of a Business Fall Through?

There are a myriad of reasons why the sale of a business doesn't close successfully; these multiple causes can, however, be broken down into four categories: those caused by the seller, those caused by the buyer, those that just happen ("acts of fate"), and those caused by third parties. The following examines the part each of these components can play in contributing to the wrecked deal:

The Seller

  1. In some instances, the seller doesn't have a valid reason for entering into the sale process. Without a strong reason for selling, he or she has neither the willingness to negotiate nor the flexibility to see the sale to a conclusion. Without such a commitment, the desire to sell is not powerful enough to overcome the many complexities necessary to finalize the sales process.
  2. Some sellers are merely testing the waters. As detailed above, they are not at that "hungry" stage that provides the push toward a successful transaction. These sellers merely want to see if anyone wants to buy their business at the price they would like to receive.
  3. Many sellers are unrealistic about the price they want for their business. They may be sincere about wanting to sell, but they are unable to be realistic about how the marketplace will value the business. The demand for their business may not be there.
  4. Some sellers fail to be honest about their business or its situation. They may be hiding the fact that new competition is entering the market, that the business has serious problems or some other reason the business is not salable under existing circumstances. Even worse, some sellers do not disclose that there is more than one owner and that they are not all in agreement about selling the business.
  5. A seller may decide to wait until a buyer is found and then check with their outside advisors about the tax and/or legal consequences. At this point, the terms of the deal have to be altered, and the buyer won't agree. Sellers should deal with these complications ahead of time. Nobody likes changes - especially buyers!

The Buyer

  1. The buyer may not have an urgent need or a strong desire to go into business. In many cases the buyer may begin with positive intentions, but then doesn't have the courage to make "the leap of faith" necessary to go through with the sale.
  2. Some buyers, like sellers, have very unrealistic expectations regarding the price of businesses. They are also uneducated about the nature of small business in general.
  3. Many buyers are not willing to put in the hours or do the type of work necessary to operate a business successfully.
  4. Buyers can be influenced by others who are opposed to the purchase of a business. Many people don't or can't understand the need to be "your own boss."

Acts of Fate

These are the situations that "just happen," causing deals to fall through. Even considering the strong hand of fate, many of these situations could have been prevented.

  1. A buyer's investigation reveals some unmentioned or unknown problem, such as an environmental situation. Or, perhaps there are financial deficiencies discovered by the buyer. Unfortunately, these should have been on the table from the beginning of the selling process.
  2. The seller may not be able to substantiate, at least to the buyer's satisfaction, the earnings of the business.
  3. Problems may arise, unknown to both the seller and the buyer, with federal, state, or local governmental agencies.

Third Parties

  1. Landlords may become difficult about transferring the lease or granting a new one.
  2. Buyers and/or sellers may receive overly-aggressive advice from outside advisors, usually attorneys. Attorneys, in their zeal to represent their clients, forget that the goal is to put the deal together. In some cases, they erect so many roadblocks that the deal can only fall apart.

Most of the problems outlined here could have been resolved before the selling process was too far advanced. There are also some problems that could not have been avoided - people do sometimes enter situations with the best of intentions only to find out that this is not the right answer for them after all. These are the exceptions, however. Most business sales can have happy endings if potential difficulties are handled at the appropriate time.

Business brokers are aware of the various ways a deal may fall through. They are experienced in resolving issues before the business goes onto the market or before a buyer is introduced to the business. To buy or sell a business successfully, sellers should resolve any potential deal-wreckers, following the advice of a professional business broker.

Although business brokers cannot provide legal advice, they are familiar with the intricacies of the business sale. They are also familiar with local attorneys who specialize in the details of these transactions. These attorneys will usually be more efficient, and therefore more cost-effective, than the attorney who handles a general practice.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Interested in Buying a Business? Check Out These 3 Commonly Overlooked Areas

September 18, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Buying a Business? 3 Commonly Overlooked Areas

When it comes to buying a business, nothing is more important than the factor of due diligence. For most people, this investment is the single largest financial decision that they will ever make. And with this important fact in mind, you'll want to leave absolutely no stone unturned.

Let's examine the three most commonly overlooked areas when it comes to buying a business: retirement plans, 1099's and W-2's, and legal documents.

1. Examine All Legal Documents

While it may sound like a "pain" to investigate all the legal documents relating to a business that you are vetting for purchase, that is exactly what you have to do. The very last thing you want is to buy a business only to have the corporate veil pierced. Everything from trademarks and copyrights to other areas of intellectual property should be carefully examined. You should be quite sure that you receive copies of everything from consulting agreements to documentation on intellectual property.

2. Retirement Plans

Don't forget about retirement plans when you're buying a business, as this mistake can quietly translate into disaster. Before signing on the dotted line and taking ownership, be sure that both the business's qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are 100% up to date with the Department of Labor and ready to go.

3. W-2's and 1099's

If 1099 forms were given out instead of W-2's, you'll want to know about that and be certain that it was done within the bounds of IRS rules. Imagine for a moment that you fail to do your due diligence, buy a business and then discover that you have problems with the IRS. No one wants IRS problems, but a failure to perform due diligence can quickly result in just that. So do your homework!

Never forget what is at stake when you are buying a business. If there has ever been a time to have laser-like focus, this is that time. There can be many skeletons hiding in a business, and you want to be sure that you protect yourself from any unwanted surprises. Not performing your due diligence can lead to a shockingly large array of problems. One exceptional way to protect yourself is to work with a business broker. A business broker knows what to look for when buying a business and what kinds of documents should be examined. There is no replacement for the expertise and experience that a business broker brings to the table.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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5 Key Factors in Transferring Your Business to a Family Member

September 5, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

5 Key Factors in Transferring Your Business to a Family Member

The odds are that you've put a great deal of yourself into your business. Inevitably, the day will come when you have no choice but to walk away from your business and begin a new chapter of your life. Quite often, businesses are transferred from one family member to another. In this article, we will examine 5 of the key factors you'll want to consider when transferring your business to a family member.

Factor #1 Gifting Can Have Numerous Benefits

Will you be selling your business to a family member or simply gifting that business? Gifting comes with several major advantages, for example, this approach can reduce your real estate taxes. Also, the gifting process can allow you to maintain a level of control if the agreement is written properly.

Factor #2 The Buy-Sell Agreement

Don't overlook the importance of the buy-sell agreement, which works to put everything in writing. You may be tempted to forgo a contract since you are dealing with a family member, but this is a mistake, no matter how close you might be with your loved ones. A buy-sell agreement adds clarity to the process, which can help to keep confusion levels low and the chances of success high. When the time comes to transfer your business to a relative, you'll want an expert to create a document that outlines all relevant details. It should feature everything from the value of the business and the amount being paid for the business to who will be kept on the payroll to what level of involvement you'll have once the process is finished.

Factor #3 Seller Financing

Seller financing is quite common among sellers, and when relatives are involved it becomes even more common. One option is to consider a private annuity. A private annuity allows for payments to be spread out for many years and can even extend until the end of your life.

Factor #4 Considering the Self-Cancelling Installment Note

In the installment note, it is possible to feature a self-cancelling clause, which can definitely benefit your family in the future. This part of the paperwork will confirm that if you were to pass away before all the payments have been made, the remaining debt can be attached directly to your will. If you are a parent selling a business to a child, then one of the key benefits of an installment note is that it keeps your other children from paying excess income tax on your estate.

Factor #5 Transferring a Business to a Relative and the IRS

You can expect the IRS to take a second look when you sell a business to a family member. The IRS does this to make sure that everything is above board, due to the fact that many past business owners have acted in an unethical manner. You'll want to be very sure that every aspect of the sale is done professionally and that you have all your paperwork in order.

A business broker can help you deal the unique particulars that come along with selling a business to a relative. Every business is different, and every sale is different too. A professional business broker can help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Maintaining Confidentiality Throughout the Sale Process

August 28, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Maintaining Confidentiality Throughout the Sale Process

There are two key ingredients when it comes to selling a business: professionalism and confidentiality. If either of these two ingredients are lacking, then you'll most likely run into problems. Sadly, many sellers see their deals fall apart due to a breach of confidentiality. You certainly don't want to be among their ranks.

The simple fact is that a breach in confidentiality can negatively impact everyone from suppliers and vendors to creditors. For example, vendors could change their terms and this, in turn, could have a major, negative impact on cash flow. There can be a chain reaction of events that spirals out of control.

The potential negative outcomes of a breach in confidentiality are quite numerous, for example, employees and customers alike could begin to worry about the future of the business. Employees could begin to worry about the safety of their jobs and begin looking for a new position. Dangerously, this situation could lead to changes in management and the loss of key employees. Likewise, customers, fearing instability with the business, could also decide to take the business elsewhere, leading to revenue problems.

Yet another complicating factor comes in the form of the competition. If the competition hears that your business is up for sale, they could sense blood in the water and look to steal your customers.

Ultimately, a breach could give potential buyers cold feet. At this point, it should be very clear that protecting confidentiality is a must. One of the single best ways to ensure that confidentiality is maintained is to opt for an experienced and proven business broker. Business brokers understand the simply tremendous value of keeping things under wraps.

It may be tempting to try and sell your business on your own, but it is vital to understand that doing so can damage your businesses' reputation. A good business broker knows how to shield your business from breaches of confidentiality. By working with a business broker, not only are confidentiality agreements signed and taken seriously, but also you'll know that prospective buyers are vetted and fully pre-qualified. According to an article on, broker feedback has revealed 9 out of 10 interested parties who respond to "business for sale" ads are not qualified to make the purchase. Why would you want to risk giving away key details to these parties?

In short, you'll have a much better idea of who you are dealing with and how serious they are about buying your business. At the end of the day, there is no replacement for maintaining confidentiality.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Key Elements for Every Partnership Agreement

August 7, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Key Elements for Every Partnership Agreement

You should never forget that your partnership agreement is, in fact, one of the most important business documents you will ever sign. Many people go into business with loved ones, relatives or lifelong friends only to discover (once it's too late) that they should have had a partnership agreement. A partnership agreement protects everyone involved and can help reduce problems that may arise. Outlining what will happen during different potential situations and events in a legal framework can help your business keep running smoothly.

What Should Be in a Partnership Agreement?

Every business is, of course, different; however, with that stated, any partnership should outline, with as much clarity as possible, the rights and responsibilities of all involved. A well written and carefully considered partnership agreement will keep small problems and disagreements from evolving into more elaborate and serious concerns.

There are times to take a DIY approach and then there are times when you should always opt for a professional. When it comes to partnership agreements, it is best to opt for working with a lawyer. Finding competent legal help for drafting your partnership agreement is simply a must.

What is Typically Addressed in a Partnership Agreement?

In theory, a partnership agreement can cover a wide-array of factors. Here are a few points typically addressed in partnership agreements:

  1. Who is contributing funds to get the business operational?
  2. What percentage will each partner receive?
  3. Who will be in charge of managerial work?
  4. Which partner(s) are to receive a draw?
  5. How is money to be distributed?
  6. What must be done in order to bring in new partners?
  7. What happens in the event of the death of a partner?
  8. How will the business be valued?
  9. How will a buy out be executed?
  10. How are business decisions made? Are decisions made by a unanimous vote or a majority vote?
  11. If a conflict cannot be resolved, when must the conflict be resolved in court?

Thanks to partnership agreements, all partners involved can proceed and start a new business with fewer areas of concern. The simple fact is that without a partnership agreement, your business can face a range of disruptions; these would be disruptions that could ultimately spell doom for your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Examining the Mind of the Serious Buyer - 5 Points to Consider

June 15, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Examining the Mind of the Serious Buyer - 5 Points to Consider

Are you looking for a way to perfect your presentation? Understanding what the typical serious buyer wants will help you get your business ready for selling.

Let's turn our attention to looking at what these types of individuals and entities really want. After all, your time is precious.

1. An Interest in the Industry

First, prospective buyers will want to have a better understanding of your industry. Any serious buyer will want to understand the industry as a whole, as well as your existing customers, prospective customers and the strengths and weaknesses of your business. Key factors, such as threats from competition, will also be a major factor for prospective buyers.

2. Seeking Knowledge about Discretionary Costs

Secondly, expect buyers to take a long look at discretionary costs. Sellers will often look to reduce their expenses in a range of discretionary areas including advertising, research and development and public relations; this is done to help make a business appear more attractive to a buyer. However, it is important to note, that a savvy prospective buyer will notice reduction in discretionary expenses.

3. Inquiries about Wages and Salaries

Wages and salaries is another area that receives attention from buyers. If your business is paying minimum wage or offers a limited retirement program then employee turnover is likely to be high. Buyers may be concerned that employee stability may be low, which, of course, can potentially disrupt business.

4. Questions about Cash Flow and Inventory

No serious buyer will ignore the issue of cash flow. Any prospective buyer will want to know that the business they are considering buying will continue to generate profits both now and in the future.

Inventory is another area that will not be ignored. If your business is carrying a large amount of antiquated, unsalable or simply unusable inventory, then expect that to be factored into a prospective buyer's decision-making process. It is best to disclose such inventory instead of hiding it, as it will be discovered during due diligence.

5. Seeking Capital Expenditure Details

Finally, capital expenditures will be examined by buyers. You can expect buyers to carefully evaluate machinery and equipment to ensure that there will be no expensive surprises looming on the horizon.

These give areas are definitely not the only areas that buyers will explore and investigate. Everything from financial agreements and environmental concerns to government control will be examined in depth. You should invest some time thinking about the situation from the perspective of a buyer, as this will help you discover many potential problems and try to secure viable workarounds. Working closely with a business broker is another way to ensure that you can successfully anticipate the needs of buyers.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Don't Let the Dust Settle on Your Lease: 8 Factors to Consider

May 15, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Your Deal is Almost Done, Then Again, Maybe Not

Owners often neglect understanding their leases and this can be problematic. If your business is location-sensitive, then the status of your lease could be of paramount importance. Restaurants and retail businesses, for example, are usually location-dependent and need to pay special attention to their leases. But with that stated, every business should understand in detail the terms of its leases.

There are many key factors involving leases that should not be ignored or overlooked. If you adhere to these guidelines, you'll be much more likely to control your outcomes.

  1. At the top of the list is the factor of length. Usually, the longer your lease the better.
  2. Secondly, if the property does become available, then it is often in an owner's best interest to try and buy the property or he or she may be forced to move.
  3. When negotiating a lease, it is best to negotiate a way out of the lease if possible; this is particularly important for new businesses where the fate of your business is still an unknown. Experts recommend opting for a one-year lease with a long option period.
  4. You may want to sell your business at some point, and this is why it is important to see if your landlord will allow for the transfer of the lease and what his or her requirements are for the transfer.
  5. Look at the big picture when signing a lease. For example, what if your business is located in a shopping center? Then attempt to have it written into your lease that you're the only tenant that can engage in your type of business.
  6. If you're located in a shopping center, then try to outline in your agreement a reduction of your rent if an anchor store closes.
  7. Your lease should detail what your responsibilities are and what responsibilities your landlords hold. Keep in mind that if you are a new business, it is quite possible that your landlord will likely require a personal guarantee from you, the owner.
  8. The dollar amount is necessarily the most important factor in determining the quality of your lease. It is important to carefully assess every aspect of the lease and understand all of its terms.

There are many other issues that should be taken into consideration when considering a lease.

  • For example, what happens in the event of a natural disaster or fire? Who will pay to rebuild?
  • Is there a percentage clause and, if so, is that percentage clause reasonable?
  • How are real estate taxes, grounds-keeping fees and maintenance fees handled?

Investing the time to understand every aspect of your lease will not only save you headaches in the long run, but it will also help to preserve the integrity of your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Your Deal is Almost Done, Then Again, Maybe Not

April 24, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Your Deal is Almost Done, Then Again, Maybe Not

Having a letter of intent signed by both the buyer and the seller can be a very good feeling. Everything can seem as though it is moving along just fine, but the due diligence process must still be completed. It is during due diligence that a seller decides whether he or she is going to finalize the deal. Much depends on what is discovered during this important process, so remember the deal isn't done until it is truly finalized.

In his book, The Art of M&A, Stanley Forster Reed noted that the purpose 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."

Summed up another way, due diligence is quite comprehensive. It probably comes as no surprise that this is when deals often fall apart. Before diving in, it is critically important that you meet with such key people as appraisers, accountants, lawyers, a marketing team and other key people.

Let's take a look at some of the main items that both buyers and sellers should have on their respective checklists.

Industry Structure

You should determine the percentage of sales by product line. Additionally, take the time to review pricing policies, product warranties and check against industry guidelines.

Human Resources

Review your key people and determine what kind of employee turnover is likely.


If your business is involved in manufacturing then every aspect of the manufacturing process must be evaluated. Is the facility efficient? How old is the equipment? What is the equipment worth? Who are the key suppliers? How reliable will those suppliers be in the future?

Trademarks, Patents and Copyrights

Trademarks, patents and copyrights are intangible assets and it is important to know if those assets will be transferred. Intangible assets can be the key assets of a business.


Operations is key, so you'll want to review all current financial statements and compare those statements to the budget. You'll also want to check all incoming sales and at the same time analyze both the backlog and the prospects for future sales.

Environmental Issues

Environmental issues are often overlooked, but they can be very problematic. Issues such as lead paint and asbestos as well as ground and water contamination can all lead to time-consuming and costly fixes.


Have a list of major customers ready. You'll want to have a sales breakdown by region and country as well. If possible, you'll want to compare your company's market share with that of the competition.

The Balance Sheet

Accounts receivable will want to check for who is paying and who isn't. If there is bad debt, it is vital to find that debt. Inventory should also be checked for work-in-progress as well as finished goods. Non-usable inventory, the policy for returns and the policy for write-offs should all be documented.

Finally, when buying or selling a business, it is vital that you understand what is for sale, what is not for sale and what is included whether it is machinery or intangible assets such as intellectual property. Understanding the barriers to entry, the company's competitive advantage and what key agreements with employees and suppliers are already in place, will help ensure a smooth and stable transition. There are many important questions that must be answered during the due diligence process. Working closely with a business broker helps to ensure that none of these vital questions are overlooked.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

When Selling Your Business, Play to Win

March 7, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

When Selling Your Business, Play to Win

If you are an independent business owner, you are most likely also an independent business seller-if not now, you will be somewhere down the road. The Small Business Administration reports that three to five years is a long enough stretch for many business owners and that one in every three plans to sell, many of them right from the outset. With fewer cases of a business being passed on to future generations, selling has become a fact of independent business life. No matter at what stage your own business life may be, prepare now to stay ahead in the selling game.

Perhaps one of the most important rules of the selling game is learning how not to "sell." An apt anecdote from Cary Reich's The Life of Nelson Rockefeller shows a pro at work doing (or not doing) just that:

When the indomitable J.P. Morgan was seeking the Rockefeller's Mesabi iron ore properties to complete his assemblage of what was to become U.S. Steel, it was Junior [John D. Rockefeller, Jr.] who went head-to-head with the financier. "Well, what's your price?" Morgan demanded, to which Junior coolly replied, "I think there must be some mistake. I did not come here to sell. I understand you wished to buy." Morgan ended up with the properties, but at a steep cost.

As this anecdote shows, the best approach to succeeding at the selling game is to be less of a "seller" and more of a "player." Take a look at these tips for keeping the score in your favor:

Let Others Do the Heavy Pitching

Selling a business is an intense emotional drain; at best, a distraction. Let professional advisors do the yeoman's duty when selling a business. A business intermediary represents the seller and is experienced in completing the transaction in a timely manner and at a price and terms acceptable to the seller. Your business broker will also present and assess offers, and help in structuring the transaction itself. If you plan to use an attorney, engage one who is seasoned in the business selling process. A former Harvard Business Review associate editor once said, "Inexperienced lawyers are often reluctant to advise their clients to take any risks, whereas lawyers who have been through such negotiations a few times know what's reasonable."

Stay in the Game

With the right advisors on your side, you can do the all-important work of tending to the daily life of the business. There is a tendency for sellers to let things slip once the business is officially for sale. Keeping normal operating hours, maintaining inventory at constant levels, and attention to the appearance and general good repair of the premises are ways to make the right impression on prospective buyers. Most important of all, tending to the daily running of the business will help ward off deterioration of sales and earnings.

Keep Pricing and Evaluation in the Ballpark

Like all sellers, you will want the best possible price for your business. You have probably spent years building it and have dreamed about its worth, based on your "sweat equity." You'll need to keep in mind that the marketplace will determine the value of the business. Ignoring that standard by asking too high a price will drive prospective buyers away, or will at the least slow the process, and perhaps to a standstill.

Play Fair with Confidentiality

Your business broker will constantly stress confidentiality to the prospects to whom he or she shows your business. They will use nonspecific descriptions of the business, require signatures on strict confidentiality agreements, screen all prospects, and sometimes phase the release of information to match the growing evidence of buyer sincerity. As the seller you must also maintain confidentiality in your day-to-day business activities, never forgetting that a breach of confidentiality can wreck the deal.

Sell Before Striking Out

Don't wait until you are forced to sell for any reason, whether financial or personal. Instead of selling impulsively, you should plan ahead carefully by cleaning up the balance sheet, settling any litigation, providing a list of loans against the business with amounts and payment schedule, tackling any environmental problems, and by gathering in one place all pertinent paperwork, such as franchise agreement (if applicable), the lease and any lease-related documents, and an approximation of inventory on-hand. In addition, you could increase the value of your business by up to 20 percent by providing audited financial statements for one or two years in advance of selling.

Think Twice Before Retiring Your "Number"

The trend is for sellers to assume they will retire after selling the business. But consider this: agreeing to stay on in some capacity can actually help you get a better price for your business. Many buyers will pay more to have the seller stay aboard, thus helping to reduce their risk.

Keep the Ball Rolling

You need to keep the negotiation ball rolling once an offer has been presented. Even if you don't get your asking price, the offer may have other points that will offset that disappointment, such as higher payments or interest, a consulting agreement, more cash than you anticipated, or a buyer who seems "just right." The right buyer may be better than a higher price, especially if there is seller financing involved, and there usually is. In many cases, the structure of the deal is more important than the price. And when the ball is rolling, allow it to pick up speed. Deals that drag are too often deals that fail to close.

By following these tips, and by working closely with your business broker, you can have confidence in being a seller who, like John D. Rockefeller, Jr., doesn't "come here to sell." You will play the selling game-and be a winner.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

There's No Business Quite Like a Family Business

February 21, 2018

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

There's No Business Quite Like a Family Business

The simple fact is that family businesses are different. After all, a family business means working with family and all the good and bad that comes with it.

While an estimated 80% to 90% of all businesses are family owned, relatively few are properly planning for what happens when it comes time to sell. According to one study, a whopping 72% of family businesses lack a developed succession plan which is, of course, a recipe for confusion and potentially disaster. Additionally, there are many complicating factors, for example, studies indicate that 40% to 60% of owners of family businesses want the business to remain in the family, but only 40% of businesses are passed to a second generation and a mere 10% are passed down to a third generation.

Let's turn our attention to a few of the key points that family business owners should consider when selling a business.

  1. Confidentiality should be placed at the top of your "to do" list. When it comes to selling a family business, it is vital that confidential is strictly observed.
  2. Remember that it may be necessary to lower your asking price if maintaining the jobs of family members is a key concern for you.
  3. Family members who stay on after the sale of the business must realize that they will no longer be in charge. In other words, after the sale of the business the power dynamic will be radically different, meaning that family members will now have to answer to new management, outside investors and an outside board of directors.
  4. Family members will want to appoint a single family member to speak for them in the negotiation process. A failure to appoint a family member could lead to confusion, poor decision making and ultimately the destruction of deals.
  5. When hiring a team to help you with selling your business, it is critical that your lawyer, accountant and business broker are all experienced and proven.
  6. Don't hold meetings with potential buyers on-site.
  7. Every family member, regardless of whether they are an employee or an investor, must be in agreement regarding the sale of the company. Again, one of your primary goals is to avoid confusion.
  8. Family employees and family investors must be in agreement regarding the sale price or there could be problems.

Working with an experienced business broker is a savvy move, especially when it comes to selling a family business. Business brokers know what it takes to make deals happen. Being able to point to a business brokers' past success will help reduce family member resistance to adopting the strategies necessary to successfully sell a business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

It's Time To Embrace CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)

November 8, 2017

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

It's Time To Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility

If you are unfamiliar with CSR or corporate social responsibility, you are certainly not alone. In the coming years, you'll be hearing a lot about CSR. In this article, we'll look at CSR and how, when implemented with sincerity, it can positively impact your company and its operation.

Building Your CSR Locally

One of the key ways that you can build your CSR is to think about ways to help your community. Contributing to local community programs, for example, is a great place to start. Everything from personal involvement to direct financial support can help build your company's reputation within your community.

Your Connection to the Environment

A second way to build your CSR is to show that your company is thinking about its impact on the environment. Recycling is important but so is using eco-friendly packaging and containers. Additionally, embracing low-emission and high mileage vehicles is another good step as this lowers your company's carbon footprint.

Advertising and Good PR

A third area to consider is how your company interacts with the marketplace. Using responsible advertising, business conduct and public relations is a savvy move. Likewise, providing fair treatment of your shareholders, suppliers and vendors and contractors will all help to improve your CSR.

Yet, one of the single most important areas of corporate social responsibility occurs in the workplace. The advent of social media has helped fuel the dispersal of information. If your business isn't treating its employees in a fair manner and/or has unsafe work conditions or unfair employment practices, the word will eventually get out. There has never been a more important time to treat your employees well.

Embracing CSR serves to increase shareholder and investor interest. In short, it is expected. Socially-conscious companies are considered smart and stable investments. A company that has fully embraced CSR will find greater buyer interest and even a higher selling price when the time comes to sell. Most buyers want excellent customer loyalty with no skeletons hiding in a company's closet. They also are seeking happy and loyal employees, low employee turnover and for a company to have a good reputation within a community. CSR helps achieve all of these goals and more.

Ultimately, corporate social responsibility works to create additional value. When you invest in CSR, you are investing in achieving a higher selling price and making your business more attractive to sellers. Summed up another way, you can't afford not to think about this topic.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

You Know the Old Saying About Loose Lips? How Does It Impact You?

November 2, 2017

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Safeguard your business from leaks

The saying "loose lips sink ships," doesn't have ancient origins. While it sounds like one of those sayings that has been around forever, the saying was actually invented during World War II. It was taken quite literally. The idea was that a lack of secrecy could lead to the loses of actual ships or other wartime deaths. So in other words, this saying was serious business. It should come as no surprise that this saying is alive and well in the business world.

Few things are more important than safeguarding your business from leaks. Leaks can, simply stated, spell disaster for your business. Leaks can be particularly damaging if you are looking to or are in the process of selling business. A leak that you are planning on selling your business can have a range of consequences. Everyone from employees to customers, suppliers and, of course, prospective buyers and competitors could all take notice and this could have ramifications.

Yet, confidentiality stands as a bit of a Catch-22 situation. Sellers want to get to the best price possible for their business and that means letting prospective buyers know that the business is for sale. The greater the number of potential buyers contacted, the greater the chances of receiving top dollar. However, the more potential buyers that know you are interested in selling, the greater the risk of a leak. Clearly, this situation represents a considerable dilemma.

As a buyer, you may discover that owners can be overly, perhaps even irrationally concerned, about leaks. It is important to remember that for most owners, the business represents their largest asset and often their greatest professional accomplishment in life. In other words, they have a lot riding on their business. It is important to remind sellers that the less time a business is on the market the lower the risk of a leak. Also, the longer the negotiations go on, the greater the risk of a leak.

Sellers should always remember to keep all important documents related to the potential sale or sale literally under lock and key. Everything should be considered confidential and only transferred to buyers in a highly secure fashion. Confidential information shouldn't be emailed or faxed, as this makes a leak much easier. Sellers and buyers alike should remember that they shouldn't discuss the sale or potential sale with anyone. Confidentiality should be stressed at all times.

Working with a business broker is one way to dramatically reduce the risk of a leak occurring. For business brokers, confidentiality is a cornerstone of their operations. Business intermediaries require buyers to sign very strict non-disclosure agreements. While loose lips may sink "ships," there is no reason that your business, or the one you are interested in buying, has to be one of those ships.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Top Four Statistics You Need to Know About Ownership Transition

November 1, 2017

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Top Four Statistics You Need to Know About Ownership Transition

If you own a business, then ownership transition should definitely be a central topic in your planning. A few years ago, MassMutual Life Insurance Company conducted a very interesting and thought-provoking survey of family-owned businesses. Obviously, family-owned businesses have their own unique needs and challenges. The MassMutual Life Insurance Company survey certainly underscored this fact. While the survey was conducted a few years ago, the information it contained is more relevant and actionable than ever. Let's take a closer look at some of the key conclusions and discoveries.

Founder Control

One of the most important findings of the survey was that a full 80% of family-owned businesses are still controlled by the founders. The survey also discovered that 90% of family-run businesses intend to stay family-owned in the future.

Lack of Leadership Plans

Leadership is another area of great interest. Strikingly, approximately 30% of family-owned businesses will in fact change leadership within just the next five years. Moreover, 55% of CEOs are 61 or older and have not chosen a successor. When a successor has been chosen that successor is a family member 85% of the time. Succession is often a murky area for family-owned businesses. A whopping 13% of CEOs stated that they will never retire.

Failure of Proper Valuations

According to the survey, valuation is another surprise area. 55% of companies fail to conduct regular evaluations, meaning that they are essentially flying blind in regards to the true value of their company. Adding to the potential confusion is the fact that 20% of family owned businesses have not completed any estate planning and 55% of family-owned businesses currently have no formal company valuation for estate tax estimates.

Lack of Proper Strategic Plans

The financials for family-owned businesses are often just murky as their succession issues. The MassMutual Life Insurance Company survey also discovered that 60% of family-owned businesses failed to have a written strategic plan and a whopping 48% of family-owned businesses were planning on using life insurance to cover estate taxes.

Simply stated, many family-owned businesses are not organized properly and are, in the process, not fully taking advantage of their opportunities. In short, family-owned businesses are frequently insular in their approach to a wide range of vital topics ranging from succession and leadership to valuation, planning and more. In the long term, these vulnerabilities may serve to undermine the business making it harder to sell when the time comes or opening it up to other problems and issues. Family-owned businesses are strongly advised to work with professionals, such as experienced accountants and business brokers, to ensure the long term profitability and continuity of their businesses.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Reasons for Sale

October 11, 2017

Kevin A. Nery, CBB, CBI, M&AMI

Reasons for Sale

The reasons for selling a business can be divided into two main categories. The first is a sale that is planned almost from the beginning or by an owner who knows that selling is or should be a planned event. The second is exactly the opposite - unplanned; the sale is motivated by a specific event such as health, divorce, business crises, etc. However, in between the two major reasons, are a host of unpredictable ones.

A seller may not even be thinking of selling when he or she is approached by an individual, group or another company, and an attractive offer is made. The owner of a business may die, and the heirs have no interest in operating it. A company may bring in new management who decides to sell off a division or two; or maybe even decides that selling the entire business is in the best interests of everyone.

A major competitor may enter the market, forcing an owner to elect to sell. And the competition may not just be another company. The owner of a business may realize that an external threat is such that the company will lose a competitive advantage. New technology by a competitor may outdate the way a company produces its products. Two competitors may merge, placing new pressures on a company. The growth of franchising and big box stores can promote themselves on a much larger scale than a single business, no matter how good it is. National advertising can create the perception that a large business's pricing, inventory or service is better than the smaller competitor, even if it isn't.

Although these issues may not push a business owner or company management to consider selling, they are certainly causes for consideration. Unfortunately, most sellers fail to create an exit strategy until they are forced to. Professional athletes want to go out on top of their game, and business owners should do the same.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

Benefits of Working with a Business Broker

May 3, 2017

No matter what type of business you're selling, you want to do it right. Working with a business broker ensures you receive top-dollar for your business, as well as close the sale more quickly and with less stress.

Learn more about the benefits of working with a business broker!

5 Simple Strategies for Lowering Risk Before Technical Due Diligence

May 1, 2017

Preparation for a business sale demands many considerations. In addition to cleaning up the books, managing expenses, and getting operations under control, contemporary owners must also consider the role of technology in the business. Technology plays an increasingly prevalent role in virtually all businesses, so technical due diligence is a key part of a business sale. A few simple risk reduction strategies can reduce the risk that technological due diligence will negatively impact the sale.


Take an Inventory of Hardware and Software

Buyers want to know what they’re getting when they acquire a business. Technological acquisitions are not exceptions. Owners should create detailed inventories of hardware and software, including networks, software packages, servers, third-party software, hardware such as computers, and cloud vendors currently in use by the business. Note whether any hardware on the list is leased or owned, the costs of ownership or the lease, and whether there is a warranty or on-site service agreement.

A comprehensive IT system inventory prepared for due diligence expedites the process. It can also make a favorable impression on the acquirer, since businesses with organized inventories look more impressive on paper.


Audit Software Licenses

List licenses alongside the relevant software for each software item listed in your inventory. Software that has been purchased outright usually comes with a licensed key. Leased software from another vendor may have an access key. ERP software is frequently sold this way. Software as a service (SaaS), as well as some other software, may be charged on a monthly user agreement fee.

Some vendors, such as Microsoft, offer online portals that list software you have purchased. Your tech team should be able to create this list of software and licenses. This license audit can save time, as well as embarrassment. If you have pirated software, this looks bad to the acquirer, and can even land you in legal trouble.


Verify the Rights to Custom Code

Business often purchase customized software for internal management, services, or products. When you’re ready to sell, you must prove that you legally own these custom software products.

When the software is created by a contractor, verifying that you own the product may not be simple. You’ll need the work-for-hire or licensing agreement to prove your ownership, and this agreement should clearly state that you own the work product. You may also need to demonstrate that you paid the final amount owed.

With custom code, it can also be helpful to format source code files with a standard header that clearly shows ownership, copyright, and other purchasing details. Explicit proof that you own your custom software expedites the process of due diligence and bolsters the confidence of the purchaser.

Gather this documentation in anticipation of the sale.


Document Data Flow and Storage

Internal, consumer, and product data play key roles in due diligence for a sale. You must know which technologies your company uses, and where its most important data is housed. Make a list of any and all relevant data flows and stores, since this information can affect integration after the merger. Remember to list customer databases, finished good databases, accounting systems, manufacturing systems, and other relevant data.

Systems that integrate by conveying key data back and forth are useless without the flow diagram. Prepare this information in anticipation of due diligence.

Providing the acquirer with a complete and accurate list of vital data flows and stores the first time, without being nagged to do it, establishes trust. It also shows an attention to detail.


Review and Strengthen Security Practices and Policies

With millions of hack attempts each year, network and data security should be key considerations for all businesses. Hacking incidents can cost businesses millions, destroy reputations, and trigger legal difficulties. According to the National Cyber Security alliance, data breaches are so costly that 60% of small businesses are unable to remain afloat in the six months following a cybercrime attack. Buyers know this.

Your security policies and procedures directly impact the value of your business and the outcome of the sale. Verizon recently revised a purchase offer from $4.83 billion to $4.48 billion due to large data breaches at Yahoo.

Security training that is a regular part of corporate discussions can demonstrate your commitment to security. Make sure clear protocols are in place, and that your staff actually follows these protocols to protect your intellectual property and information technology assets.

Owners weighing a possible sale should perform a comprehensive information security audit. Use a reputable third-party firm who will offer unbiased information and provide the owner with a clear, detailed report. This allows management to take proactive steps that address any concerns in the report, potentially raising the value of the business to a would-be acquirer, and preparing for the process of technological due diligence.

Prepare Early for Due Diligence

November 26, 2016

Once you’ve agreed to the price and terms of a transaction with a potential acquirer or investor, the next step is typically the arduous process known as due diligence.

Due diligence is the confirmatory period where the party investing or acquiring your business seeks to understand every nook and cranny of the company. This entails pouring over financial statements to understand revenue and profitability trends as well as deeper details like cash flow, inventory turn and normalized working capital requirements. Due diligence also happens to be where most transactions fall apart. Buyers will also want copies of all contracts relating to the business including leases, employee agreements, software licenses, bonus plans, health coverage, royalty agreements, distribution agreements, supplier agreements and more.

If your head is not spinning yet, on top of that they will often want to see financial projections, defined growth opportunities and may even want to visit with members of the senior management team, major suppliers and key customers. While business owners in smaller, niche or local markets like Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut are often very protective of critical business information, once diligence starts, the business owner will need to comply in order to secure or defend the agreed upon value of the business.

This may seem like like a lot, but put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.

M&A is not like the stock market. What buyers are purchasing is non-liquid and they need to understand the business as clearly as possible so that they can mitigate risk and hopefully ensure their return is up to their standards or the standards of their investors. The result of this intense period of business scrutiny is that issues are often discovered that can limit value or, worse, derail the entire transaction.

The benefit of hiring a business intermediary to help you through the sale is that you can discover these issues early on by doing an extensive amount of pre-diligence. Properly executed pre-diligence can lead to fast close times and reduced cost of post LOI due diligence.

Prior to marketing your business to potential investors or acquirers, your business intermediary will essentially take you through the complete due diligence process as they learn about all aspects of your company through developing the Confidential Information Memorandum (CIM). This may seem tedious and gathering all of the data will take time, but catching any potential issues early on and strategizing with your investment banker or business intermediary on the best way to diffuse them will be invaluable later on.

Disclosing any issues and avoiding value-lessening surprises is a huge credibility booster in the eyes of buyer and investors, which is paramount to maximizing value.

Legal diligence is also something that handled on the front end of the transactions process. Ensuring that all contracts that need to be transferable or assignable are indeed transferable or assignable and that any litigation clouding the company is resolved can save a deal.

Environmental diligence can also be important, especially for businesses that involve chemicals, speciality materials or fossil fuels. Making sure the facility and process are all up to regulation is important. A major environmental issue that shuts down one or more facilities can certainly be a deal killer.

Employment issues can be tricky to head off early on, because in most cases you do not want your employees to know the company will possibly be sold. However, making sure all employee agreements are solid and ensuring there are no potential grievances will only make your transaction all the more smooth.

Pre-diligence, the process of preparing yourself for due diligence, will help mitigate the risk of deal failure and will better prepare you and your company for the involved process that closely follows accepting an offer.

What Makes Your Company Unique?

October 20, 2016

When it comes to selling your New England based business, one of the most important aspects to convey to any buyer is what separates your company from all the others in the same sector – the “magic,” of your particular company, if you will.

Sure your products or services may be similar to that of your competitors, but what specifically differentiates your company? Do you have proprietary processes, is your customer service far superior to anyone in the space, are your internal systems so finely honed that your business is virtually automated?

Of course, revenue, profitability, customer concentration, etc., are important to potential buyers, but intangibles can make your company highly valuable. Below are some important intangible aspects that can significantly add to the perceived value of your business:

  1. Uniqueness – Almost all businesses in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and the greater New England area have competitors, whether they are completely similar or just mildly tangential. However, even if you are selling or distributing the same product there is something that sets your company apart from the pack. This could be anything from a long-term well negotiated and easily transferrable lease, to a broad well-researched customer list that would be virtually impossible to duplicate.
  2. Identity – Your brand name may be worth far more than you actually believe it is. This is especially the case if you are in a niche segment of the market with relatively few competitors. Your brand may actually be worth more in the hands of a potential buyer than it is in yours. In smaller or localized markets like many in New England, buyers with the resources to fully exploit your brand will pay for the rights to own it.
  3. Positioning – Whether or not you are the dominant entity in your space or region there is most certainly another company, or group of companies, that would like to have access to your customer base. If you are the market leader, this makes you all the more valuable as buyers look for assets that have a large, diversified and loyal customer base. This holds true particularly for buyers looking to enter our local markets in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and the greater New England area.
  4. Buying/Pricing Power – If your business has been established for a long period of time and you have strong long-term relationships with your suppliers that enable to buy cheaply, sell your product at value prices, and still make a healthy margin you are all the more attractive to buyers. These types of relationships are very difficult to establish and cannot be duplicated easily. If you can charge less than your competitors, you already have a pretty significant advantage.
  5. Tax Advantages – Maybe you had a couple years in the past that were not particularly fruitful enabling you to mitigate taxes by carrying over net operating losses for a number of years down the road. These types of assets can be highly valuable, especially for buyers seeking ways to limit their tax burdens.
  6. Tribal Knowledge – If your staff and management team has deep industry knowledge and relationships that are key to revenue and profitability, a buyer will certain have to pay for that. Knowledge that cannot be easily transferred is a key competitive differentiator.
  7. Proprietary Systems – If your business has developed proprietary technology to make the business more efficient and streamlined this can positively affect sales and profit margins. A buyer will usually pay more for companies that have invested significant dollars to make their company run smoothly while lowering costs.

While buyers certainly look at historical financials as the primary indicator to determine value, the intangibles can be almost as important to achieving the true value that your company deserves. If you are considering selling your business in the in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and greater New England area you can maximize value by working with a business broker/intermediary that can maximize your intangible value by distilling ‘your magic’ into something saleable.

What Does Your M&A Advisor Expect From You

September 19, 2016

Starting the business sale process can be daunting. With new advisors, expectations and the hope of a fruitful exit, the process can start to get complex quickly. To this point, you’ve done everything correctly in preparing to sell your business:

  • Consulted your advisor network (Accountants, Lawyers etc.)
  • Interviewed multiple business sale intermediaries to facilitate the process
  • Selected the right firm to represent you based on track record, sector expertise, and geography served
  • Insured you have transferable management in place capable of running the business after you exit your business

Once your business broker/intermediary has actively prepared to confidentially market the sale of your business what are you supposed to? What is your role in the business sale process?

The answer is a lot simpler than you might imagine – do you job, like nothing has or will change.

That’s right, you may be mentally preparing for a significant change in your personal and professional life, but the best thing to do is to keep running your business. The business sale process may take longer than expected and buyers can be influenced by the current performance of the business, rather than exclusively focusing on historical performance. A potential buyer will want to see the business continuing to perform optimally throughout the entire process.

As your business broker/intermediary gets further along in the process of marketing the sale of your business, your responsibilities in the process will change as you participate in vetting potential buyers.

A few components of the business sale process may take you away from the day to day periodically as follows:

  • Introductory management calls – After your broker/intermediary has executed a nondisclosure agreement with a potential buyer, qualified them financially, and provided the needed marketing materials and documentation, parties interested in learning more will want to set up an introductory management call with the current owner(s). During these calls the potential buyers will want to confirm much of the information in the marketing materials and learn a bit more about your company, operations, financials and future business prospects. Do not expect to discuss transaction value on these calls. Additionally these calls are a good opportunity for sellers to learn about the potential buyer, their culture, industry experience etc.

  • Face time – After initial vetting on management calls, expect a long round of phone calls to narrow the pool of interested parties down to a group of serious potential buyers. At this time, these parties want to meet in person. To maintain confidentially, you may want to schedule these meetings off-site or after normal business hours.

  • After all the meetings are complete and you’ve signed an exclusive Letter of Intent with a well fitting buyer, the best thing you can is to continue running your business as efficiently and productively as possible. This stage of the process will involve generating documentation for due diligence and insuring the attorneys are preparing the documents correctly. During this time you can lean heavily on your business broker/intermediary to insulate you from the often overwhelming data requests which are common.

  • Post-closing – After the transaction closes most buyers will want previous ownership to stay on for a pre-determined period of time that can range anywhere from three months to years. This integration period will be very important for the new owner as they transition the business under their ownership. This period will entail introducing the new owners to current customers, suppliers and ingratiating them with the workforce.

A qualified business broker/intermediary like Nery Corporation can mitigate much of the demand put on a business owner during the sale process, you should enter the transaction with a goal above all others - continue running your business as if you were to continue to own the business indefinitely.

Do you really need a business broker or M&A advisor to sell your Rhode Island Or Massachusetts based business?

August 24, 2016

Middle market business owners in the competitive Rhode Island and Massachusetts markets who are looking to sell their businesses will likely find plenty of suitors from both the strategic and private equity sectors. After all, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are hubs for innovation, technology and healthcare industries making the area's businesses ripe targets for acquirers looking to deploy capital in good, profitable companies.

So what happens if you, a Rhode Island or Massachusetts business owner, get approached directly by a potential buyer with what seems to be a compelling offer to buy your business? You need to start by securing proper representation. Without a right team advocating on your behalf you invite a number of risks, including:

  1. Under valuation of your business.
  2. Sharing confidential information with competitors and tire kickers.
  3. Increased legal and financial exposure

1. Positioning – An M&A advisor or business broker will develop a Confidential Information Memorandum (CIM), which is a detailed technical document explaining the ins and outs of your business from operations to growth opportunities to financial performance. The key here is financial performance. An M&A advisor or business broker can help significantly improve the valuation of your business by recasting your financials (adding back one-time expenses and other anomalies to your EBITDA) to drive substantially higher multiples and values as well as packaging your business offering in a way that professional buyers are used. Without the positioning support of your advisor you may not truly understand your businesses value or how to market it to other potential buyers.

2. Process – That original buyer that approached you may still be the best buyer, but the only way to know for sure is to shop your business to multiple buyers, both strategic and financial. An M&A advisor or business broker will create a competitive environment with multiple buyers, which will, in turn, drive higher valuations as the interested present their best offers. The advisor manages the process including information controls, offers and communication. Until you have an in depth view of what the market thinks your business is worth you may not have the needed information to make the best decision.

3. Structure – Even if the overall value of your business sale is satisfactory, the structure of the deal may not be. The bulk of the payouts may be contingent, you may be asked to carry a percentage of the purchase price, there could be numerous parts of the deal structure that benefit the buyer more than you. An M&A advisor or business broker is there to advocate for you to ensure you get the highest value and the best structure possible.

Clearly, we encourage every business owner considering the sale of his or her business to work with a deal professional. With many firms working largely on fees generated by the successful sale of your business, the advisor wins when they have produced a quality final result. In short, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

If you have questions on how to sell your business and are located in the greater Rhode Island or Massachusetts area please contact us. We pride ourselves in our ability to help you navigate the complex transactional process and focus primarily on serving small and mid sized business owners in our hometown markets.

Please contact us for a confidential, complimentary consultation to further explore how The Nery Corporation will work together with you to successfully achieve your goals.

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