6 Reasons to Buy an Existing Business

6 Reasons to Buy an Existing Business

6 Reasons to Buy an Existing Business

Buying an existing business with an established customer base, sales, financial history, supply chain, website, trained employees and many other attributes can actually generate a stronger foundation to grow much faster than a ground zero start-up could. Taking a business from $500K in sales to $1 million in sales is probably much less expensive and faster than getting from $0 sales to $1,000,000.

First generation entrepreneurs typically find that jumping in to an existing business is far more advantageous, personally gratifying and offers a quicker financial return than building from scratch. Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited found that 40 percent of new businesses fail in the first year, and 80 percent fail within five years. This would be a big leap of faith for most budding entrepreneurs.

If reducing the investment risk and creating opportunities for bigger profits sounds like your career path to be your own boss, then consider purchasing a successful, existing business.

Benefits of Buying an Existing Business

  1. Cash flow is king.

If you buy an existing and profitable business with a sensible deal structure, the business will generate a reasonable salary for you as well as some excess cash that you can invest in growing the business. Start-up businesses are famous for burning cash for years and most run out of cash before they get to breakeven.

  1. Financing

Buying a profitable business with proven cash flow for a fair price means you can likely buy the business with an SBA Loan Guaranty. This means, if you qualify, you could own the business for as little as a 15% down payment. A business selling for $400,000 could be purchased for $60k down or maybe less.

  1. Don’t repeat mistakes

The seller has likely made a lot of mistakes you won’t have to make. That takes some risk out of the deal, as well as pain.

  1. Apply your skills

In all likelihood you’ll bring some skills to the business the seller doesn’t have. Evaluate the business. Revise systems and processes. Keep the good and transform the bad and you could see a quick boost to profits. Most people think it’s easier to fix a business than start a business. I’ve done both and I agree.

  1. Customers

The seller has figured out what their customers want. You are buying an existing customer base that probably took years to cultivate.  Nurture these relationships. Embrace and foster new ones and you’ll experience an even wider community support base.

  1. Energy for Action

New energy applied to a stagnant business is a great opportunity. You as a buyer will likely be more motivated and enthusiastic than a seller who’s been clipping coupons for years. Energy is highly rewarded in businesses.

Buying an existing business can be a mass of confusing information and opinions but keep in mind, that you are taking a calculated risk which eliminates many potential challenges and the hazards associated with startups.

If you have the will to go through the process it could be the best move you make professionally. As someone once said:

Your worst day as a business owner is better than your best day as an employee.

Buying a Business:  What The Buyer Obtains

Buying a Business:  What The Buyer Obtains

The vast majority of business purchases are defined as “asset” purchases. On some occasions, a buyer will actually buy the stock of the corporation. For our purposes here we will outline an Asset Purchase transaction showing what the buyer obtains when buying a business. (For discussion purposes only. This is NOT legal or accounting advice.)

Asset Purchase

An asset purchase is a method of acquiring a business that specifically identifies the assets and liabilities that the buyer is purchasing or assuming. Most business owners own their assets inside of a corporation and the business owner actually owns the Stock in the corporation and does not own the assets directly. The corporation owns the assets and the business owner owns the stock. A buyer typically forms their own legal entity (LLC, S corp, etc) to purchase the assets from the seller’s corporation.

2 Types of Commonly Purchased  Assets

Typical tangible assets include inventory, equipment, machines, vehicles, furniture, computers, fixtures, etc. Typical intangible assets include business name, goodwill, customer lists, contracts, non-compete agreements, phone numbers, websites, trained employees, etc. Asking prices normally include all the Tangible and Intangible business assets (unless otherwise identified).

Exceptions

Cash and cash equivalents on hand and in checking or investment accounts, accounts receivable, prepaid items and deposits. Also included are any items in the seller’s corporation that are not used by the business (ex., personal cars, vacation homes, etc.).

Typical Liabilities Retained by the Seller

Accounts Payable and all debts. 

Typical Liabilities Assumed by the Buyer

Most buyers want the business to remain in the same location and will want to have the facility lease put in their name. Any contracts where the future benefit goes to the buyer. For instance, Yellow Page Advertising may be an annual contract to be paid monthly. The buyer would assume the remainder of contract payments due after closing. Buyer will want to keep the customer sales.
Often times the business has leases for equipment that the buyer will need to assume. These leases are common. The most common are the facility lease and a postage machine lease but there are many others: Brake machines in auto shops, printing presses in print shops, vehicles in delivery businesses, etc. Buyers should make certain they understand what assets they are buying and what liabilities they are assuming. Buyers should make certain that any liabilities to be assumed or assets not included are clearly identified prior to or at closing.

Real Estate

Sometimes the owner of the business corporation also owns the real estate personally and the corporation pays rent to the owner. This appears to be moving money from one pocket to another but is often done for tax purposes. When the real estate is available for sale from the same owner as the business it should be identified. Should buyer purchase the business and the real estate under these conditions the transaction will actually appear to be two transactions. Concurrently buyer would buy the assets of the business from the seller’s corporation and purchase the real estate from the seller personally.

Investigate these 7 Points When Buying a Business

Investigate these 7 Points When Buying a Business

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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..

Thinking about what businesses might be for sale?

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.

Business Sale: Tangible vs Intangible Assets a Quick Analysis

Business Sale: Tangible vs Intangible Assets a Quick Analysis

A mysterious part of buying a business is the intangible asset sale. We find a wide variety of views and preconceived notions about business value from individuals as they review a business sale. Most the time, the discussion turns quickly to the business assets. That inevitably leads to a discussion of Tangible and Intangible Assets.

Investors involved in a business sale generally have a reasonable understanding of tangible assets but usually a less than good understanding of an intangible asset. They have a tendency to use disparaging terms like “Blue Sky” or “air ball” when they don’t understand the true value of intangible assets.

First let’s try to reach common ground on some basic definitions that are commonly used but not always understood.

Tangible Assets

Tangible assets are really based on banking and lending definitions. A general definition is an asset that has a physical form. For instance a truck is a tangible asset. You can touch it, feel it and more importantly sell it. While a truck is a tangible asset that may be salable, there are other tangible assets that might have different characteristics. Suppose you own a widget shop and you have a special machine you invented that bends the widget a special way. You love the machine but it’s of no use to anyone but you. That is still a tangible asset but it has relatively low value to the outside world. The truck you can likely sell pretty easily but finding a buyer for the widget machine might be a whole different problem.

Intangible Assets

These are assets that don’t have a physical form. For instance the trademarked Nike swoosh is a very high value intangible asset. One way to think about tangible vs intangible assets is tangible assets are used to make or deliver the product or service and intangible assets are what are used to generate the demand for the product or service or create the system to produce the product or service efficiently.

A very well known intangible asset is the secret formula for Coca-Cola. That formula has no tangible form, it’s basically words written down somewhere (likely different parts of the formula in different places). But that intangible asset is worth much more than the cost of the machines (tangible assets) used to produce Coke.

Now that we have a basic idea of the assets, let’s talk about why we have assets at all and how they effect a business sale.

Assets in a business have only one purpose (or one purpose that makes sense), to generate profits.

So what value can be created in a transaction? A Tangible Asset Sale or an Intangible Asset Sale?

I’ll give you 2 simple but real life situations.

1) Let’s say you can buy a machine for $100 that will generate $25 more per year in profits. You decide that’s a good investment, so you invest the $100 and you’ll get your $25 per year profits for as long as the machine works. So now you have a $100 tangible asset (the machine) and a $25 cash flow from it.

2) Now let’s say you add an email capture tool to your website, it captures visitors’ email addresses which you can use to automatically send out specials and mailers. The email tool costs $100 and generates $25 in cash flow.

In this case you created 2 intangible assets:

a) the email tool on your website and b) the list of emails of people interested in your products.

The intangible asset sale with the highest value is the list of emails for people interested in your products. Anybody can buy the email tool for $100 but you have the specific list of people’s email addresses that represent potential sales, this list is an intangible asset.

Think of it this way. Two businesses are exactly the same except one has the email addresses for these customers and one business doesn’t, which business is worth more?

The moral of this story is that when investigating a business sale and determining the value of the business for purchase, the assets that have real value are the assets responsible for generating the business profit, regardless of if they are tangible or intangible asset sale. A smart buyer knows how to identify those assets and isn’t blinded by the tangible asset mantra preached by the bankers.

Buying a Business in Texas – Define Earnings and Profits First

Buying a Business in Texas – Define Earnings and Profits First

When looking at buying a business in Texas and other parts of the U.S. there are many different terms used and the same term can be defined differently depending on who is using the term.

In this post I’ll try to define some of the terms commonly used to represent the “earnings” or “profit” the business generates.

The terms below are attempting to describe the operating profit available to the new business owner when the selling business owner, and all of the selling business owner’s non-business expenses, leave the business. Keep in mind that the vast majority of small business owners do their accounting with a single intent, minimizing taxes owed.

Here are some common terms you will see when looking at businesses for sale:

Cash Flow (CF or C/F) – This is a commonly used term for representing the “earnings” of the business and is definitely not the same definition of cash flow that a CPA would use. A CPA would include changes in accounts receivables, accounts payable, capital expenditures and a number of other items when calculating the true “cash flow” of a business. When you see the term “cash flow” used on Business for Sale sites what they likely mean is the “Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation and Amortization” (EBITDA) plus Owner’s Compensation. Once you understand EBITDA and Owner’s Compensation you’ll have the code for the other definitions.

Net Income – Net income is a fuzzy one because lots of people include and exclude items that others might not find appropriate. You’ll have to have the person claiming the net income number explain EXACTLY what the source of the information is and what is included and excluded.

EBITDOC – This is a term I have created that I’m hoping the industry adopts. This was explained above when you piece together EBITDA and Owner’s Compensation. It’s the business earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation/amortization and owner’s compensation. With this definition it allows you to focus on the most critical of the elements which is proving the claims of the Owner’s Compensation, in all it’s forms. Many small business owners are very creative with their accounting. Make certain you understand the source and veracity of the numbers before you make any decisions.

EBITDA – This is a common measure of earnings in larger businesses but is less useful when buying a business in Texas. This earnings definition assumes that the “owner” or CEO of the company is receiving fair compensation for the job being performed and therefore no adjustments need to be made. This is rarely the case in small businesses for sale and therefore EBITDA, without Owner Compensation adjustment, is generally useless in evaluating the small businesses earnings. You will however see some representations of ebitda that make total sense as a stand alone number if embedded in that EBITDA number is an reconciliation for owners compensation. This number is often called Adjusted EBITDA.

Pre-Tax Income – This term is generally useless when evaluating the earnings of a small business. The problem is all of the non-cash entries and the owner compensation entries that happen before the pre-tax number is established. Often times this pre-tax number is manipulated so that the business owner reduces his taxable income.

The takeaway for this is that when evaluating buying a business in Texas or other places in the U.S. you need to take the time to understand how the advertised earnings were established and understand the items included. Don’t assume one business broker’s earnings is calculated the same way as another business broker, do your homework.

The Value Goes to the Prepared.

earnings of a small business.