Selling Your Hospitality Business In A Recovering Marketplace

Jun 23, 2020

IBA, as the premier business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, is firmly established as a respected professional service firm in the legal, accounting, banking, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, and financial planning communities.  Periodically, we will post guest blogs from professionals with knowledge to share for the good of owners of privately held companies & family owned businesses. The following blog article has been provided by Oliver Kotelnikov. Mr. Kotelnikov specializes in the sale of hospitality businesses and is IBA’s representative in the Washington Hospitality Association (

Selling Your Hospitality Business In A Recovering Marketplace

The recent health pandemic has indiscriminately impacted every aspect of the global economy. With the reopening of the economy underway, the sheer volume of information intended to guide the process and forecast the near-term economic climate can be daunting.  Monitoring the daily news feed, we are left with all the clarity of having stared for hours at a Jackson Pollock painting.  Drawn in by its inherent “can’t look away” quality, interpretations are many and takeaways few.  What is one to make of a rising stock market, declining interest rates and oil prices, flattened curve of Corona cases in the neighboring state, sharp spike in national unemployment, and a recommendation to buy gold and hold residential real estate? Absent a crystal ball, making sense of the situation requires clearly defined goals, a thorough understanding of the specifics of the economic sector in question, accounting for regional differences, and reducing the information field to only what is essential.  To an entrepreneur wishing to buy or sell a hospitality business in 2020 or 2021, the general news feed is only marginally relevant.

Understanding Your Target Market

Entrepreneurs are a resilient bunch who operate from the mentality of abundance and strive to manifest “the possible.”  Times of flux signal opportunity.  A general downturn is a call to action.  Any crisis is too valuable to waste.  And if you’re with the crowd, you’re probably moving in the wrong direction.  Instinctively and intellectually, entrepreneurs recognize that even the strongest economy in the world is cyclical.  Buying in at the tail end of a downturn or on the heels of a unique event we are presently experiencing provides the longest runway ahead to grow the business in optimal conditions of prosperity.

Advantages Of Small Business Ownership In Current Market Conditions

Opportunities are selected based on the investor’s risk tolerance, potential reward, capital requirements, and control over the results.  Fair comparisons can be made and parallels drawn in the first three categories.  But when it comes to control, most investment vehicles will relegate the investor to a silent partner, awarding them with no more than a buy, sell, or hold button and all the agency of a dandelion in the wind in exchange for their dollars and vote of confidence in the business.  No other asset class endows entrepreneurs with the degree of control over the outcome like small business ownership.  In times of instability, investors will gravitate towards agile opportunities that allow for a say in the process to capitalize on emerging trends and the rapidly evolving consumer demand.

A Unique Marketplace

Just like stocks, commodities, and real estate, the mergers and acquisitions marketplace is a unique microclimate responding on a case-by-case basis to a specific set of circumstances and often defying conventional wisdom.  Unemployment, for instance, is not a bad thing for a business owner looking to transition and seeking a qualified buyer.  A rare pool of sufficiently capitalized, capable buyers traditionally absent from the marketplace is created as a result of a downturn.  Faced with unforeseen layoffs and long furloughs, career corporate employees and hospitality industry managers and supervisors are using the idle time to revisit and research the idea of small business ownership.   Returning to the corporate environment is weighed against leveraging extensive industry experience and a strong professional skill set to acquire and build a business that can be sold in the future to facilitate retirement.

The Usual Suspects

Private equity firms and institutional investors are unfazed by temporary disruptions and unique economic events.  Their primary criteria for acquisition remain to invest in quality businesses that perform well over the long haul.  Seen from this vantage point, temporary economic instability reduces competition and weeds out the herd.  Businesses able to weather the storm and return to the arena will possess increased market share and likely exceed historical performance coming out of a recession.  This class of buyers is also capable of fully funding their own transactions by leveraging cash reserves and mitigating uncertainties and time delays in the commercial lending environment.

The Strength Of The Regional Economy

Though not entirely immune to downturns, the Pacific Northwest economy is well equipped to recover and bounce back quickly.  Small businesses in the retail and hospitality sector will benefit from the strong regional economic engines such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon as the tide that lifts all boats as those companies come back to work.  The return of the hospitality businesses will be incremental, but the long-term outlook on our regional economy is characterized by optimism and confidence.  The combination of life-style choices, economic opportunity, and favorable customer demographics will continue to attract buyers and investors looking to purchase a business.

If you have questions relating to the content of this article, the process associated with preparing a business for sale, or selling a restaurant or hospitality business Oliver Kotelnikov would welcome the opportunity to talk with you.  Mr. Kotelnikov can be reached at (425) 454-3052 or

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, and real estate 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”.