You have been searching for various businesses for sale and now you have found that perfect business to buy. The business is represented by a reputable broker. You are comfortable with the terms, and now you wish to enter into contract and proceed with the due diligence phase. Everything you have been told by the seller and broker sounds good and feels right. So whats next? How deep do you need to dig?Deep my friend. Yes, most brokers are very reputable. But remember they only get paid when the deal closes. And remember also that the broker is representing the seller, not you. So what should you be digging for? Here is a partial list:1) Negative business trends;2) Negative industry trends;3) Expected but undisclosed competition;4) Any hint of a personal matter that would restrict the seller from selling;5) Any partner, spouse, shareholder, or related party that would restrict the seller from selling;6) Existing or past credit problems with banks or suppliers;7) Any pending litigation against the company;8) Any claims, liens, or encumbrances against the company or company real estate;9) Unpaid income, sales, FICA, unemployment insurance, or other taxes;10) Timely filing of all tax returns;11) Expected but undisclosed loss of one or more major accounts;12) A current disaster recovery plan;13) A current management succession plan;14) Stale or nonexistent policies and manuals (including personnel manual, training manual, safety manual, and sexual harassment policy)15) Retention of key employees;16) Retention of key accounts;17) Recent bad publicity;18) Expiring/ renewal of property lease;19) Leases that are not assignable;20) Restrictions on business or property expansion;21) Capital assets that are at or near their expected life;22) An established reserve for capital improvements;23) Obsolete equipment and machinery;24) Overvalued inventory;25) Product obsolescence;26) Expiring licenses, patents, franchise agreements, etc.27) Difficulty in obtaining raw materials, products, or services;28) Expiring vendor or supplier agreements;29) Recent increases in all types of insurance rates;30) Employee awareness regarding the business sale;31) Customer awareness regarding the business sale;32) Vendor and supplier awareness regarding the business sale;33) Non compliance with safety and environmental requirements;34) Potential labor union or other employee related issues;35) Any web site related issues.As you can see there are many issues that really need to be investigated. Many are very technical. You will likely need to enlist the help of other professionals for assistance. An attorney and an accountant are a must. Just remember, when you are searching "businesses for sale" , think ahead. Do not trust everything the broker and seller tell you. You are making a huge decision; make sure its a good one.
A growing number of small businesses that have previously faced obstacles getting working capital now have a practical solution they can bank on. They're taking a cash advance on future credit card receivables. This method of getting needed capital is gaining momentum, particularly in light of the inundation of Small Business Administration loan requests during recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast. The cash advances taken by these credit-worthy businesses are called Merchant Cash Advances and are completed without the time, documentation and availability issues associated with a traditional loan. Here's how it works. Companies such as AdvanceMe (www.advanceme.com), the nation's leading provider of merchant cash advances, purchase a portion of small- and mid-size businesses' future credit card sales. These assets, which traditional lenders and investors do not value, help business owners to access capital quickly and easily without leveraging their homes or other personal assets. Businesses simply sell AdvanceMe a portion of their future credit card sales at a discount in exchange for a lump sum of working capital today.The process has a number of advantages for merchants:• It helps small businesses manage their cash flow throughout the year. This is especially valuable to businesses whose day-to-day operations are impacted by seasonality, such as those in small college towns. It gives them access to the cash necessary to weather the seasons, whether or not it's their busy season.• Often, a Merchant Cash Advance is preferred over a traditional bank loan because payment of the obligation is directly tied to the merchant's revenue. In this way, the Merchant Cash Advance Vendor only gets paid when the business gets paid. • It provides business owners with the capital to fund marketing and advertising campaigns, purchase equipment, train employees and/or attend industry seminars, which they might otherwise not be able to do.
Finding proper business financing is not easy at the best of times for most small and medium sized business owners and managers. There are a number of reasons that collectively explain why the "business financing" market can be so difficult to understand and navigate. But probably the single biggest reason is the lack of useful information about how the business financing market actually works. Business financing information and education sources predominantly come in two forms: 1) institutional education material; 2) major bank advertising. If you've ever read through a educational finance text book or taken a business finance course, you already know how difficult it can be to apply the theories, principles, and strategies to a small or medium sized business scale. From a formal educational point of view, there is very little useful information provided as to how the market place works, how to plan for financing requirements, how to manage periods of growth, decline, transition, start up, etc. Sure academic books and courses can go through all these areas in great detail, but is the information practical, real world, something you can relate to and apply yourself as a manager or owner of a small or medium sized business? In most cases, the answer is a resounding NO. Most finance text books speak to big business financing dynamics that are not easily transferable to small and medium sized business scenarios. Outside of the formal education system, the next great source of business financing information is the information provided by the major banks, which they tend to make available to you by the boat load through there broad based marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, the information by itself seldom helps you determine if a particular institution would be able to provide you with financing, or what would be required to qualify for a loan. The massive brand advertising campaigns run by the major banks have told us for years that these institutions will take care of all our banking needs, and that basically all we have to do is show up on their door step and theyll take care of the rest. Depending on whose numbers you look at, in reality major banks provide less than 30% of the financing required by small and medium sized businesses and this number is on the decline. So, when equipped with little or no useful information, the average business owner or manager for a small or medium sized business will first approach their existing bank for financing. After all, you just need to show up at the door step of a major bank and they will take care of your needs, especially if you are a long time customer, right? Despite the branded messages to the contrary, major banks tend to be very selective when providing business financing to small and medium sized businesses. So, if your bank can't provide you with the business financing you require, what is your alternative? The good news is that business financing sources continue to grow in numbers as more and more lenders carve out a particular piece of the market to service. In order to take advantage of these alternatives, you need to have a solid approach in place when seeking business financing. Here's a short list of things to consider >>> Develop a thorough understanding of both your personal and business assets, income, and cash flow. Regardless of financing model, these elements will always come into play to some degree. A good practice to follow is to maintain a personal net worth statement and update it at least quarterly so that when you do need to access this information you don't have to dig through stock certificates, pension statements, life insurance policies, etc., to come up with a current value for the assets you own and the debts you owe. Your knowledge of your own business financials is also an indication of your ability to manage your business. >>> Monitor and manage your personal and business credit. Small and medium sized [*_*] is focused on both personal and business credit histories. Regular reviews of both personal and business credit reports from the credit reporting agencies are important to avoid errors and credit practices that can severly damage your borrowing power. >>> Develop your marketing position. Yes, seeking [*_*] is a marketing exercise. When applying for [*_*], you are marketing your business to lending sources. In order for them to seriously consider your application, they need to know what's in it for them. What will they make as a return? What is the risk of you not paying the money back? What are the business risks and how do you intend to manage them? When will they get their money back? How will you secure the loan, and so on. >>> Research Lending Sources Your goal when seeking [*_*] is to locate the amount of capital you require to accomplish a specific purpose from a financing source that meets your business needs. Again, there are lots of [*_*] sources. But there is also lots of variation in the types of business applications each one can consider. Broad based lenders reply on credit history and net worth. As you get more specific in terms of financing application and industry, lender applications become more narrow and can be harder to locate. Financing consulants and business loan brokers can be an excellent source of information. >>> Qualify The Lender Before you make a formal application, find out if the lender has the programs and lending track record to meet your specific needs. Too often, only the lender does any amount of qualification. Both sides should get comfortable with what each can offer the other before proceeding with a formal application process. >>> Compare your options Depending on the scenario, there can be several financing strategies that could work for your business. Make sure you take the time to compare before making a decision. The extra time spent could save you considerable time and money in the long run. >>> Start Today Regardless of what your [*_*] needs are right now, you should regularly invest time in staying on top of your business's financials and researching financing sources that fit your industry and potential future applications. When the time comes to acquire additional capital, your proactive efforts can make all the difference in getting the capital you require, when you need it, for terms that are acceptable to your business.
Many investors are only interested in investing money into an enterprise for a limited amount of time. They want to know when they will get their money back and what sort of return they will be receiving at that time. Both issues are closely linked. Therefore, when preparing your business plan, to pitch to potential investors, you will need to make sure that you have outlined your long term plans and a sound exit strategy.In order to do this properly you will have to ask yourself a few questions about your own personal plans regarding the business. Do you wish to stay involved in this business in the long run, or are you more interested in getting it off the ground and letting someone else take over then? These are the kinds of questions you should deal with in your "exit strategy" .You will also want to know a little about the investors you are pitching to and what their expectations are regarding the future of the investment:
- If you are dealing with venture capitalists you have to be aware that they are looking for a high return. They will generally be expecting the business to go public at the end of the period or make some other high profit move. The period they are willing to invest is about three to seven years so you will need some sort of high return exit strategy at the end of that period. However, you should not opt for going public unless you are confident that it is a realistic goal for your company. Public offerings are very rare for small businesses and the investors you are speaking to will be all too aware of that fact.
- If you are considering an angel investor then again they will be looking for a high return but will not be overly concerned with the type of exit strategy under consideration, as long as it seems sound. They will be less sophisticated than the venture capitalists or institutional investors you may deal with and are more likely to be involved because of a personal relationship to you or the business.
- The most basic exit strategy would be to simply bleed the business dry. This can be done by giving yourself a huge salary or other remuneration, regardless of the performance of the business. While it is not appropriate in most cases, there is no doubt that it can get a lot of your investment back out of the company in a short time.
- Another simple option is liquidation. Simply close the doors and wait for the company to be wound up. All debts will be paid off, and then whatever is left over will be clear to the shareholders.
- Another option could be selling to a friendly buyer. While you may have come to the end of your relationship with the business, there may be many people who would be saddened to see it end and may well be willing to step in to take over. This might include passing it on to another member of the family, or selling it to employees or customers. There are many businesses where this will be a realistic option, however it is difficult to predict it at the beginning of the venture.
- Another option is acquisition. This is when a rival firm, usually one wishing to expand, agrees to buy you out. You can negotiate the price and terms with the buyer and there is a good chance that both of you can come up with a very attractive price. You will get a good price because together with your assets, the buyer will be willing to pay for good will, market share, client contacts etc. This means you can get a very good price for the business.
- The IPOs that we previously talked about are the final option. These are potentially the most lucrative of all, but when reality kicks in, they might not seem like the dream you thought they were. In reality, a minuscule percent of companies manage to make it through an IPO. The process costs millions, includes lawyers, analysts, publicity agents and a lot of other costly professionals. The odds are against you ever making it. And if you do, you will probably be left with only a fraction share of the company you used to own.
Many people who are running a one man show businesses or even a small business believe that exhibiting at a tradeshow is out of their league because of financial considerations, because the large companies have large marketing departments with large budgets, because a tradeshow booth is not affordable, because they just don't have the vision on how to design a booth, how to transport and assemble one, how to work a tradeshow, etc.Except for the budgetary considerations of actually renting space on the tradeshow floor, everything else is untrue. In this article, I will show you why are tradeshows so important. I am writing this from my own experience, as someone who worked on designing trade show booths, actually set up "trade show" displays, worked the tradeshow floors as an exhibitor and as a visitor.Here are some of the reasons why it is important to attend and exhibit at trade shows, even if you are just starting your business or running a small company:1. Get competitive intelligenceAs an entrepreneur running a small company, it is very hard to get competitive intelligence, that is knowledge on how do you compare to your competitors, how do they do things, what makes them more successful that you or less successful than you. Don't forget to put some focus on the less successful scenario also, because you also want to have a list of all the mistakes others make, so you can avoid them.At a trade show, the easiest possible thing you can do is gather hands-on competitive intelligence. It really does not get more hands-on than that, as you have your competition at the tip of your finger. On the surface, they all seem to be extremely confident through their sales pitches and the flashiness of their marketing gimmicks, but they are in a tremendously vulnerable position, as they are giving everything they got and are also worried about *their* competition, which believe it or not... is you!Take advantage of this incredible position. The best thing to do is to walk the trade show at the very beginning - that is, before everybody gets to know everybody among exhibitors - and ask questions, ask many, many questions.Here are some of the things you can get from a simple walk around the exhibit hall:- A four pound synopsis of your market that you can review at your leisure, from the comfort of your couch that most likely includes a sackful (literally) of literature on suppliers and distributors in your very targeted and unique field, the trade press.- New market concepts.- You can also have yourself put on mailing lists, participate in market surveys and earn complimentary subscriptions to a handful of journals.- More coffee mugs, promotional mints, candy, pens, laminated business cards and free golf balls than you'll ever need.2. Learn about what your competition thinks about your product or serviceAgain, this is something to be done at the very beginning of a trade show and works best in larger exhibiting halls.Introduce yourself as someone else, interested in the product or service offered by you and your competitors. This is a perfect time for you to use your flirting techniques. Get creative, remember you have nothing to lose, you're in control and the ball is in your court.Get a complete review of your competitor's product line. You can then ask what they think of your company's products and services. Since they don't know who you really are, they'll tell you what they really think. It's actually quite enlightening to hear what your competition really says about you to prospects, remember you are acting as one of their prospects.This is competitive research as its grittiest and the trade show floor is the best place for it. Studies show that companies are more eager to open up and talk about their competition at a trade show than in any other environment (sure you could just call, but you will not get the same effect).At this point, if you are still reading this, you are probably wondering why, in the name of everything rational, I am talking about spying on your competition instead of the obvious reasons why trade shows exist, which is promoting a product or a service? Well, analysts and "small business" gurus say that investigating the competition is what these shows are really about.3. Meet your buyersShow your product or service to people who are hyper-qualified as buyers. Why? Well, because these are the people who have gone through the trouble of attending the show and are really interested in your type of business. You also get to meet current and potential customers and get real feedback and a feel for how is your product or service perceived, how it is really performing and what you can do to make it better, that is, more appealing and more useful for your customers.4. Meet the pressMeet with people from your industry's trade press. They always attend those events and you will probably never get a better chance to speak one-on-one with the top editorial staff.You also have a great opportunity to connect with distributors, with wholesalers, with brokers and others in your distribution channel.5. SellYou can also sell your product or service, right there, on the spot. Just make sure you have everything you need to do so in place.Plan ahead and allow for the opportunity for serious business. Most people who come to your booth will be tire-kickers. They'll grab a handful of pistachios, check out your promotional pens (or USB memory drives loaded with your marketing multimedia presentations - hint, hint), cherry pick your printed materials and move on to the next booth. But every once in a while, you'll bag a live one. Know how and where you'll talk to this person at length. Will it be a spot in the rear of the booth, a nearby conference room, a table in the concession area, a later meeting at your company suite? Folks, trust me on this, a wishy-washy "we'll get back to you" attitude will lose the sale. You have to be prepared, if they see you are not ready to close the transaction right there, on the spot (even if in this day and age the trend continues to move away from on-the-spot order writing on small business floors), they'll leave.6. Generate leadsThis is actually the meat of attending a small business - creating a follow up mailing list. This is what could (and should) potentially bring return on the major investment you made by attending the small business. Whether you just collect business cards, write names down on a piece of paper or use the more modern small business techniques such as scanning people's tags, you must build your mailing list and actually follow up immediately after the show is over, while your marketing effort is still fresh in people's minds.It really makes a good second impression if you follow up promptly, whether by just a call or sending additional literature and information. Your handling of requests for additional information will show potential clients you value their time and provide quality customer service.