Buying & Selling a Business
Call in the Professionals to Get the Job Done Right
Maybe you’ve contemplated buying a business because you have a dream to run your own company or a talent you want to showcase. Or maybe you’ve been running your own business and are ready to get out or retire and you’re looking to sell. Either way, buying or selling a business is no small feat. If you think you can handle it on your own, you might want to think again. It’s a life-changing transaction, and you need some experts on your side to help determine true value and potential for the business. The last thing you want to do is end up buying a business based on numbers from the seller that were plumped up or deficiencies that were not disclosed. It’s not a handshake kind of deal. If your business isn’t doing well and you’re thinking of closing your doors, don’t just take the loss, either. Work with someone to sell it. After all, something is better than walking away and getting nothing.
Reluctance has been demonstrated by many buyers lately, given the uncertainties of COVID, but now is actually a great time to buy or sell a business. We asked a professional business advisor for some insights.
“Now is a great time to buy a business,” said John Fullerton, real-estate and business broker for Transworld Business Advisors and Keller Williams. “It is really a strong buyer’s market right now.”
It’s also a good time to sell.
“Lots of people have been laid off or downsized, and have money to buy,” Fullerton said. “Also, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering special deals on loans; buyers can even get their first six SBA loan payments paid in full by the SBA!”
Transworld Business Advisors has more than 600 business brokers at 230 independently owned and operated local offices worldwide, including Omaha. As the world’s biggest business brokerage, Transworld has built world-class systems for selling businesses. Through Transworld’s multiple-listing service, the company’s business listings appear on more than 100 websites and their brokers undergo rigorous training using a 12-step system for selling businesses.
Transworld’s parent company, United Franchise Group, is a tremendous partner that provides resources that no other business brokerage can access. What’s more, Transworld brokers are continuously adding to their education. Fullerton says he is also looking for people who want to make good money as brokers.
“Our brokers have great resumes and talents that are truly exceptional and are the best-trained in the industry,” Fullerton continued. “We participate in classroom training, online training, online discussions, and monthly webinars, and we hold an annual expo and other continuing-education events.
Fullerton recommends business owners start planning to sell about three years beforehand.
“If you want to sell your business, please schedule a free consultation with me as soon as possible at (402) 213-9945 so you can begin grooming your company to sell for top dollar,” Fullerton said. “We do business valuations for free for any business that lists with us, and we also do formal valuations for a fee—something you should do at least every five years for insurance purposes.”
If you’re looking to purchase a business, one of the most crucial steps in the process is getting pre-approved with the right financing option, and there are several from which to choose. West Gate Bank Vice President of Commercial Lending Rob Glorvick said some of those options are traditional bank debt, Small Business Administration financing, and carryback financing from the seller.
“The best plan is to sit down with your trusted banker, accountant, and attorney figure out what option is the best for you, as each case is different,” Rob said. “Traditional bank financing tends to be the easiest transaction but it also has the most out-of-pocket money from the buyer. SBA financing is a great option for a new business or if the business you are buying has good will, or ‘blue sky.’ Benefits of SBA financing include putting less money down and having longer repayment periods on your debt. Finally, carryback financing occurs when the seller provides financing for the buyer. A carryback loan will vary on rate and length of terms. You can also do a combination of financing with any of these options.”
Like most aspects of our lives in 2020, Rob said COVID has caused a major disruption in the sale of businesses in the region. The uncertainty has slowed sales, though there has been a slight increase in transactions during the last 45 days or so.
“If COVID has affected the profitability of a company, this would cause a decrease in the sale price for the seller,” Rob said. “Sellers will tend to hold only their businesses rather than selling for a discount, but some sellers might not have that option to hold because they need the liquidity. Businesses are being forced to make those difficult decisions today in determining if they can weather the storm.”
West Gate Bank makes it a practice to build a relationship—not just a transaction—with every client. They also have all the financing options and servicing products of a big bank but pride themselves on being a community bank with local decision-makers. They will sit down with a potential buyer or seller and listen closely to what they are looking for, then put together the best plan to achieve their goals.
“Every bank can lend you money or assist with your deposit needs, but we want to know what else you need and want and see if we can assist with something outside of banking,” Rob said. “At the end of the day, we try to be the best advisor to our customers and put together options that fit them individually instead of using a one-size-fits-all mentality.”
If you’re a first-time business buyer or seller, just be sure to hire professionals who will make sure you’ve crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s—and take your time!
“Do your due-diligence and don’t rush into anything,” Rob warned. “Get a team together that you trust and that has your best interests at heart. Be prepared, and get everything you need to make a solid decision, whether it’s to buy or sell a business. If you are buying or selling, you must do what’s best for you. Ultimately, the final decision is based on your time and the effort you put into it. You need to put 110% into your business to get that return out of it.”
Finding Your True North
Stay-at-home orders sparked by COVID created a growing population of people sitting on their couches and shopping from their phones and tablets. In fact, research indicates that retail platforms enjoyed a 6% increase in global traffic increase in March 2020, registering 14.34 billion visits—up from 12.81 billion global visits in January 2020. One of the most important things you can do to increase the value of your business is to maximize your online presence. Oh, and don’t try to do it yourself. Free drag-and-drop website development tools aren’t going to get you far. They use templates that are generic and not specifically designed to meet your business needs.
“It’s a must that you invest in a revenue-generating website,” said Renee Sobotka, founder and CEO of True North Technologies. “It’s more critical than ever for your business to be able to found online. Whatever service you are offering—local, national, or international—people will go to Google to find you. If you’re looking to sell your business, the purchaser will require a high Google ranking and a large number of social-media followers. If you can be found easily, you’ll increase the value of your company.”
The main way to accomplish that is to increase your Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, which includes having the right keywords and meta-descriptions for every page.
“Google will verify that your heading matches your keywords, which gives you credibility,” Renee said. “With every page that earns credibility, you increase your ranking with Google. Every page counts. If you do it right, your website ranking can prove to buyers that you’ll have continued growth in sales.”
True North Technologies has been experiencing a growing number of calls for website redesign and SEO. Business owners are figuring out how crucial it is to not just have a website, but to have a website that converts traffic to customers. To help you grow your business in Omaha, True North Technologies will augment your local and global SEO. Their attention to detail will be a tremendous benefit for your business.
“A lot of people don’t know that you need to claim your business to create a pin on Apple and Google maps. It’s completely free, and an accurate business listing will help you get phone calls and walk-ins from potential customers.”
In addition, True North Technologies will increase your backlinks and third-party references on other websites, or citations, which creates even more credibility for your business with Google. They can also create mobile apps with a Google review campaign to obtain those highly coveted five-star reviews.
In short, True North Technologies is focused on helping people grow their businesses.
“We want you to succeed as much as you want to succeed. To increase salability, an excellent web presence lends stability to revenue and profit margins,” Renee said. “Our proven strategy will demonstrate that you have replicable revenue. By sharing online traffic statistics, you can demonstrate growth and increased engagement. We are our clients’ biggest fans, and we want to see them knock it out of the park!”
Value of Receivables
If you have found a business you’re considering buying, it’s crucial that you do a thorough evaluation of the company’s receivables before jumping in. AR Solutions, serving Omaha, has the tools to do just that.
“If you’re buying assets and liabilities, you need to know what those liabilities are and how likely it will be that you can collect them,” said AR Solutions President and CEO Aaron Newell. “We can analyze those receivables and check the age of them, whether there are any disputes, and what contractual obligations are tied to them. We can figure out the difficulty level of collecting those receivables and work to get disputes resolved. The value of the business is significantly less if it’s burdened with receivables where the collectability is low.”
As a collection agency, AR Solutions just might have more to offer than an accountant as you evaluate a business. They’ll work closely with you to know what the reason is for any nonpayment of receivables and find out how you’ve communicated with your customers to collect to help determine what you might expect to bring in from them.
“I’d argue that we would have a better handle on the true value of receivables than an accounting firm,” Aaron said, “because we do this every day and we could provide a better projection of collectability.”
Aaron said the bottom line for someone looking to purchase their first business is this: Know that not all 100% of the billings a business sends out will be paid. It’s crucial that you know that up-front and develop a policy for handling those cases of nonpayment. If you’ve owned a business before, AR Solutions can track and collect on receivables for you, so you can focus on what your business does to make money—and you don’t pay AR Solutions unless they collect the debt.
“If we don’t collect, we don’t eat,” Aaron said.
Plan for Growth
Some people jump into buying a business without the proper planning and goal-setting. That’s where ActionCOACH comes in.
Owner Jim Barger expressed the importance of having detailed research and a long-term vision.
“One of the first things we offer is business valuation,” Jim said. “We can help business owners find out what their business is really worth and help people looking to buy a business find one with true value. A business should pay its owner in two ways—operating profit and asset value growth—so we encourage a business owner to think about both. Too many people go and buy a job, but they need to go in with the idea that they’re going to buy an asset.”
In helping business owners with a valuation, ActionCOACH employs an online program that incorporates all of the tax information from the business. Then Jim meets with the business owner and talks about ways to increase the value.
“We work with owners to build a business that works without the owner. Cash-flow businesses don’t require the owner every day, and that increases the value of that business. If you’re thinking about selling your business, you’ve got to get it to that level first. Whether you’re thinking of buying or selling a business, we have a great six-month course called ActionCLUB, which will get your business there.”
Jim says it takes time to buy a business so you have plenty of time to go through the six-month course while you’re looking, evaluating, and negotiating. If you’re going to become a first-time business owner, do not assume you’re qualified because you probably have a lot to learn.
“You have to learn about business ownership. Sometimes we have corporate executives that assume they know what they need, but business ownership is a different animal in lots of ways. For starters, you don’t have all the backup departments to support you. That’s all your job now—accounting, HR, everything!”
ActionCOACH also works with owners who aren’t planning to sell their business immediately but want to be able to down the road. They help figure out what needs doing now to increase the value by the time they decide to sell, in five years or whenever. ActionCOACH can benefit business owners uniquely because they have a proven system that has worked for thousands and thousands of companies over 27 years, throughout the United States, and in Singapore, New Zealand, and more. Jim himself also has owned businesses, so he knows what he’s talking about.
In the end, he offers three major steps to take before buying a business. First, develop a clear vision about what you plan to do with the business, including what the opportunities are that you need to maximize. Second, put together a plan—not just a business plan for the bank but an operating business plan that addresses what you will do day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year.
“Plan your business like you would your wedding or vacation,” Jim said. “Get every detail set down to the tiniest little thing. You really need to take some time to seriously consider what is going to make your business unique. You have to have something special, and if you’re buying a business, make sure you buy into the culture, ethics, and everything the business is based on. Don’t just look at profits and losses. The third and final step is to put your operating business plan into action, and prepare yourself to stay on target and not get distracted by everyday stuff.”
Taking Care of Your Employees
Some of that “everyday stuff” includes doing payroll and human-resources activities, and if you’re not an accountant or HR specialist, it can quickly get overwhelming and hugely time-consuming. Consider adding Heartland Payment Systems to your business plan. Heartland Senior Product Advisor Joan Kurtenbach and her team can take the burden of managing these parts of your business off of your hands so you can focus on the core of your business.
“If you work with Heartland, you’ll be assigned to a personal service representative who will serve as your point person for all service-related needs,” Joan said. “For HR support, we provide our clients with access to HR professionals who are available for guidance on HR issues, state- and industry-specific labor-law questions and needs, and create customized documents for you.”
Heartland’s web-based payroll service is customized to accommodate each client’s specific needs, whether it’s process employee payroll, time and attendance, workers’ compensation, or offering a 401(k) plan. It’s a complete workforce-management solution that supports business owners in their current stage, while providing flexibility for future enhancements as the needs arise—and it won’t break the bank.
“We want our clients to be able to focus on revenue-generating areas of their business rather than monitoring their payroll invoices,” Joan said. “That’s why we provide clear, straightforward payroll pricing for our all-inclusive service without hidden fees or surprises. Our superior technology also allows your payroll data to be securely accessed by providers of banking services, benefit programs , or insurance providers for a variety of payroll-related services. Nothing is more important to us than your business, and we pledge to earn it every day.”
Heartland Payroll+HR is a turnkey payroll service with a full range of human-resources tools to support your business. They are proud to offer a three-year price lock, a single point of contact for payroll, and a virtual SHRM rep for those businesses that could use a little extra compliance help with handbooks, policies, and consulting. Their HR Support Center is a single source for critical HR materials, including customizable documents for hiring, managing, and paying employees. You’ll also receive personalized alerts on legal and regulatory changes that could affect your business, and they’ll always keep you compliant with labor-law posters, delivering updates that occur through the year and an annually updated poster. Finely, you can know that your employee files are always available and secure through Heartland’s build-in electronic employee file system.
“Balance your business time and attendance, human resources administration, tax reporting, and more in one online, integrated system,” Joan said. “Whether you’re looking for an easier way to pay employees or maintain compliance with your state’s HR laws, Heartland provides payroll services to businesses large and small with our customizable solutions.”
Buying or selling a business is a serious venture, for sure. After talking to these experts in the field, there’s one thing that’s absolutely unanimously clear: Hire professionals to help you maximize your prospects, regardless of whether you’re buying or selling.