This past week family & friends sat around Thanksgiving holiday tables sharing stories, updating each other on their lives, and debating which college football teams should make the final four bracket for the national championship. At most tables, someone drifted off into thought thinking , “I need to make a change in 2024 occupationally, I am not happy or achieving my life goals”.
Many people dream of business ownership in their lives. Entrepreneurship allows people to execute on a vision, assume control, lead, and achieve financial prosperity not found working for other people (https://www.entrepreneur.com/starting-a-business/will-entrepreneurship-make-you-rich-a-realistic/293512). The difference between a dream and reality is execution.
The following is a list of activities to initiate, if business ownership by acquisition is a 2024 objective:
The business a buyer will purchase is largely defined by three criteria. The first metric is location. This screening mechanism is influenced by place of residence, extended family, children in school, spouse employment, and community engagement. A person living in Beaverton, Oregon with kids in school, aging parents living in proximity, and a spouse working at Nike’s corporate headquarters is not likely to acquire a business in Bothell, Washington without significant buy-in from multiple people. Even business opportunities in the same metropolitan area can be a “bridge too far”, as the same party finding an attractive business for sale in Vancouver, Washington may eliminate it due to the daily commute. It is recommended that prior to commencing a business acquisition search that an individual define the area where they will consider acquisitions.
The second metric limiting acquisition opportunities for buyers is liquid capital. The average American has approximately $25,000 in liquid cash in their accounts ( https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/average-savings-account-balance/). Anyone having more capital than this amount available for a business acquisition is succeeding financially in life. Those that are successful have been accumulating liquid capital ready for deployment in their money market accounts (https://lplresearch.com/2023/08/25/cash-piling-up-on-the-sidelines/). 2024 is anticipated to be a robust year for investment as interest rates have appeared to have peaked and the inflation rate has been coming down during the past year. It is important for a buyer looking for business purchase opportunities to know how much of their liquid net worth they are willing to use for an acquisition and what support they have from investors and/or lending institutions before commencing purchase negotiations. A buyer with $500,000 of cash could purchase a cannabis industry company for $1 million from an owner who is willing to finance 50% of the transaction since there is very limited bank financing in that sector. The same buyer could also purchase a company for $5,000,000 with the same half million personal investment, $500,000 of seller financing, and a $4 million SBA loan.
The final criteria for business buyers to consider is the industry of the acquisition. It is recommended that buyers keep an open mind related to types of businesses they look at, as there are nearly as many entrepreneurial paths to financial prosperity and a sense of professional fulfillment as stars in the sky. In the past, IBA has sold a manufacturer of stainless steel equipment for processing fish; a wholesale distributor of mylar and latex balloons; a company that resold medical equipment on consignment for hospitals to rural & international medical facilities; an Ecommerce platform for prospecting & metal detecting equipment; a nursing staffing company that cared for people suffering from radiation sickness; a professional consulting firm that helped banks set up SBA loan departments; and a retail chain of hunting & fishing stores. I suspect none of those business models were on your bingo cards as targeted company acquisitions.
An alternative for an entrepreneur to buying an established business is to purchase a franchised business opportunity. The advantages of purchasing a franchise include the business model is time tested; corporate infrastructure exists for training, ongoing support, and marketing collaboration; and the business can generally be placed in a geographic location of preference. If acquiring a franchise is something under consideration, IBA’s team of licensed franchise brokers would welcome the opportunity to provide an overview of the opportunities in the market. No fees are charged to franchise buyers by IBA. All our fees for franchise sales are paid by franchisors for professionally vetting and identifying buyers to facilitate their growth. Additional information on IBA’s franchise sale division can be found on this page of our website ( https://ibainc.com/what-we-do/franchise-sales/). IBA is unique in the Pacific Northwest and nation in its ability to provide potential entrepreneurs with the opportunity to assess both quality business sale listings and franchise acquisition options at one firm.
Information on the industry sectors IBA serves as a business brokerage firm can be found on this page of our website: https://ibainc.com/industries-served/
A business purchase criteria established, the next step is to assemble an acquisition transaction team, so action can be taken aggressively when a target company is identified.
Assemble A Business Acquisition Team
A reality of the Pacific Northwest business brokerage marketplace, at least for the approximately 30 years in which I have been a M&A intermediary, is that the selection of quality companies available for purchase at a given time is commonly sparse. Buyers who have assembled a team of professionals to support their acquisition traditionally are better positioned to close transactions than those who have not. Most transaction teams include an accountant, to assist with valuation and due diligence, an attorney to address trailing liability and documentation for the deal, and a banker and/or investors to provide capital to support the acquisition. If you need a referral to a professional to support an acquisition or sale of a privately held company or family business, IBA is happy to provide one. We have a well-established ecosystem of quality parties ( https://ibainc.com/about-iba/referral-database-program/) eager to help.
A business buyer that knows what they are looking for in a purchase with an assembled team of professionals to support the activity is prepared to proactively pursue appropriate opportunities to acquire companies.
Pursue Opportunities Strategically, Employing Best Practices
Buyers seeking to acquire privately held companies and family-owned businesses should recognize that they are neither “special” or “unique”. As conveyed previously, there is a significant amount of “dry powder” on the sideline in the M&A world currently ready to engage and quality businesses for sale at a given time are limited in quantity. Buyers should enter all engagements with business brokers and their clients with the intention of making the best possible impression on both employing “best practices” whenever possible. People prefer to do business with parties they “know, like, and trust”. Day 1, a buyer should strive to become known and liked by a business broker representing a business they are interested in acquiring. Trust can be earned with time based on actions.
How does a business buyer become known & liked? The following are five ways they can set themselves apart from their competition for a company for sale.
- Communicate Timely Employing Multiple Methods – Email is an efficient method of communication. It also is a flat medium that does not adequately facilitate the dynamic exchange by a buyer of information, personality, motivation, and experience. Going “old school” and placing a call to talk with a business broker can allow for early development of rapport and enhanced knowledge. There is no better advocate to win for buying a business than the seller’s M&A intermediary.
- Present Yourself in the Strongest, Best Light Possible – Business sellers will desire to assess potential buyers prior to engaging in negotiations utilizing multiple metrics. A business buyer who supplies a business broker and their client with a strong document set including their resume, personal financial statement, and potentially a preapproval letter from a lender will pave the way to separate themselves from a pack of competition for a business.
- Schedule a Meeting with the Seller – The quicker a buyer can become a person and not a name with a seller, the better the opportunity to buy a business. If possible, try to meet in person at the business, so you can assess the location & tangible assets early in the process, plus get a feel for the seller as a possible negotiating party on the other side of the table. Recognizing common interests and backgrounds can be something used to set yourself apart from other buyers. Perhaps, you went to the same college, have season tickets for the same team, pursue similar hobbies, or like the same musicians. Shared interests beyond trying to do a deal can be a difference maker related to getting a transaction successfully to the finish line.
- Negotiate in Good Faith – Business purchases are different than all other transactions in that buyers and sellers typically work together post sale for weeks or months to facilitate a smooth transfer of ownership. This is generally not true when buying vehicles, yachts, real estate, investments, or art. The quality of the relationship between parties can make a significant difference in setting up a buyer for success. Both parties should seek a deal where the seller gets a fair price, and the buyer acquires a company with an expectation of future success receiving an appropriate return on investment for the associated risk.
- Problem Solve Collaboratively – Business purchase & sale transactions are sophisticated and nuanced. Each deal will have unique elements. A seller months from Medicare eligibility may need to remain on the company’s health insurance post sale. A buyer may need a seller promissory note to be on full standby or only receive interest payments to satisfy bank debt service coverage requirements. Open & honest communication between parties in a business sale transaction avoids unnecessary confrontation or confusion. Issues cannot be solved, if they are not articulated.
Traditionally, the most businesses are available for acquisition between January – June. This is true because after completion of year end financials is the best time to value a company, complete due diligence, and finance a business acquisition. IBA has sold more businesses, over 4300, than any other business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest. We welcome the opportunity to assist buyers with achieving their acquisition objectives. Please contact us, if you would like to learn how IBA works with buyers and what companies are currently on the market with the firm for sale. Business buyers who participate in IBA’s Buyer Database Program receive the first opportunity to evaluate new companies listed for sale exclusively with IBA. 20 – 25% of our representation projects sell to participants in this program. The documentation necessary to be part of IBA’s Buyer Database Program can be completed through DocuSign on this page of our website: https://ibainc.com/buy-a-business/
IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, legal, and accounting communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family-owned businesses. IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.