Buying a business can be a great move but it takes a lot of due diligence investigation. Due diligence is often thought of as “finding the bad stuff” but it is also important so that you understand what it will take to operate the business after you own it. OJT (on the job training) is helpful but preparation is even better.
Buying a Business: Know what to research
Keep in mind that these magnificent 7 aren’t the only things you need to investigate but they are 7 that are often overlooked or short-changed when buying a business.
Cash Cycle – understand the cash cycle from when you incur cost to when you collect cash. 10 days? 30 days? 60 days? Think through the stages, when do you spend money? When do you collect money? Every business has a cash cycle, dissect the steps to make sure you understand when cash is expensed and when you receive cash. If you have 10% profit you have 90% you owe other people. You’ll need to fill the “cash gap” with financing or cash injections from other sources.
Hidden Costs – know the “hidden” costs in the system, warranty, call backs, inventory losses, un-billable hours, and uncollected AR. Most business owners only think about these things at year end when the CPA does the business taxes but this effects your cash every day.
Specialized Knowledge – know the specialized knowledge of the current owner. Technical knowledge? Craft knowledge? Relationship knowledge? Supply source knowledge? The employees will judge you beginning day 1. Make sure you know what they expect you to know.
Cash Needs -know your cash per sales growth requirements; don’t grow yourself into poverty. For every dollar in sales you’ll need to have some dollars available to fund expenses and products until you collect the cash from the customer.
Pricing – understand how the current owner prices products and services. Markup? GM? Guesses? Competitive comparison? Is there room for improvement? Does current pricing have anything to do with the market? Who has special deals?
Insurance – understand the current insurance coverages and make sure your coverages reflect your risk tolerance levels. Get an insurance audit. Make sure you review every aspect of insurance you need. Often we find sellers are under insured. Getting proper insurance could effect the biz earnings and the amount you might be willing to pay to buy the business.
Licenses – make sure you research the licenses, permits and compliance requirements needed to operate the business. Don’t assume the seller knows everything. Buying a business not in compliance with current requirements is risky business.
While you may be itching to simply sign on the dotted line...
STOP: your preparation and due diligence will save you a great deal of hassle and surprise. Buying a business takes time, thought and research. As an entrepreneur, this is just your first step in creating a successful business.
Mr. Elliott is Managing Director of Sunbelt Texas Business Sales & Acquisitions with more than 20 years experience in mergers, acquisitions and business broker. Mr. Elliott purchased Sunbelt Houston in 1996 and has managed the sale of over 500 companies from very small businesses to companies with revenue of more than $30,000,000. Mr. Elliot has provided Business Broker and merger and acquisition adviser services to privately held business in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and throughout Texas.
Over a 20 year career, he has handled a wide range of industries including manufacturing, distribution, medical, machining, construction, and contractors. Mr. Elliott has completed transactions with Private Equity Groups, strategic buyers and a wide range of regional companies executed plans to grow through acquisitions.
Mr. Elliott has been recognized as a “Thought Leader” by Sunbelt Business Brokers Global Network. Mr. Elliott is frequently interviewed in various media and is considered an expert in the field of buying and selling privately held businesses.
Mr. Elliott has received the professional designations of Certified Business Intermediary (CBI) and Master Merger & Acquisitions Intermediary (MMAI).