When it comes to buying a business, nothing is more important than the factor of due diligence. For most people, this investment is the single largest financial decision that they will ever make. And with this important fact in mind, you’ll want to leave absolutely no stone unturned.
Let’s examine the three most commonly overlooked areas when it comes to buying a business: retirement plans, 1099’s and W-2’s, and legal documents.
1. Examine All Legal Documents
While it may sound like a “pain” to investigate all the legal documents relating to a business that you are vetting for purchase, that is exactly what you have to do. The very last thing you want is to buy a business only to have the corporate veil pierced. Everything from trademarks and copyrights to other areas of intellectual property should be carefully examined. You should be quite sure that you receive copies of everything from consulting agreements to documentation on intellectual property.
2. Retirement Plans
Don’t forget about retirement plans when you’re buying a business, as this mistake can quietly translate into disaster. Before signing on the dotted line and taking ownership, be sure that both the business’s qualified and non-qualified retirement plans are 100% up to date with the Department of Labor and ready to go.
3. W-2’s and 1099’s
If 1099 forms were given out instead of W-2’s, you’ll want to know about that and be certain that it was done within the bounds of IRS rules. Imagine for a moment that you fail to do your due diligence, buy a business and then discover that you have problems with the IRS. No one wants IRS problems, but a failure to perform due diligence can quickly result in just that. So do your homework!
Never forget what is at stake when you are buying a business. If there has ever been a time to have laser-like focus, this is that time. There can be many skeletons hiding in a business, and you want to be sure that you protect yourself from any unwanted surprises. Not performing your due diligence can lead to a shockingly large array of problems. One exceptional way to protect yourself is to work with a business broker. A business broker knows what to look for when buying a business and what kinds of documents should be examined. There is no replacement for the expertise and experience that a business broker brings to the table.Read More
You should never forget that your partnership agreement is, in fact, one of the most important business documents you will ever sign. Many people go into business with loved ones, relatives or lifelong friends only to discover (once it’s too late) that they should have had a partnership agreement. A partnership agreement protects everyone involved and can help reduce problems that may arise. Outlining what will happen during different potential situations and events in a legal framework can help your business keep running smoothly.
What Should Be in a Partnership Agreement?
Every business is, of course, different; however, with that stated, any partnership should outline, with as much clarity as possible, the rights and responsibilities of all involved. A well written and carefully considered partnership agreement will keep small problems and disagreements from evolving into more elaborate and serious concerns.
There are times to take a DIY approach and then there are times when you should always opt for a professional. When it comes to partnership agreements, it is best to opt for working with a lawyer. Finding competent legal help for drafting your partnership agreement is simply a must.
What is Typically Addressed in a Partnership Agreement?
In theory, a partnership agreement can cover a wide-array of factors. Here are a few points typically addressed in partnership agreements.
What Questions Will a Good Partnership Agreement Address?
- Which partner(s) are to receive a draw?
- How is money to be distributed?
- Who is contributing funds to get the business operational?
- What percentage will each partner receive?
- Who will be in charge of managerial work?
- What must be done in order to bring in new partners?
- What happens in the event of the death of a partner?
- How are business decisions made? Are decisions made by a unanimous vote or a majority vote?
- If a conflict cannot be resolved when must the conflict be resolved in court?
Thanks to partnership agreements, all partners involved can proceed and start a new business with fewer areas of concern. The simple fact is that without a partnership agreement, your business can face a range of disruptions; these would be disruptions that could ultimately spell doom for your business.Read More
Many people know that owning a business isn’t for them. But for others, the appeal and lure of owning their own business can be powerful indeed. If you are uncertain as to whether or not this path is for you, there are a few simple questions you can ask to gain almost instant clarity. In this article, we will explore those key questions and help you determine if owning a business is in your future.
1. Are You Dedicated to Growing Your Income?
Quite often people like the idea of making more money, at least in the abstract. But when presented with what it takes, many people realize that they don’t want to do what is involved. Owning and operating a business can be a lot of work and it’s not for everyone. Yet, those who embrace it can find it rewarding in a variety of ways.
Being a business owner is radically different than being an employee. As an employee, you simply don’t exercise much control. Summed up another way, your financial fate is clearly in the hands of someone else: your employer.
However, owning a business means that you can take steps to control your own financial destiny. You can make decisions that will, ultimately, boost the success of your business and in turn increase your own income.
As an important note, statistics from 2010 show that the longer you own your business the more money you, as the business owner, will make. It is typical for those who have owned a business for ten years or more to earn upwards of six figures per year. If you have had more than one year of experience in running an organization, the yearly salary will likely range from $34,392 to $75,076. However, if you’ve owned your business for more than a decade, you will likely earn more than $105,757 per year.
While there are no guarantees, owning a business can be a path to growing one’s income and wealth.
2. Would You Like Greater Control Over Your Life?
Many opt to start their own business because they want more control. Business owners realize that unless they own their own business their financial fates rest in the hands of someone else. Some people are comforted with this feeling or don’t see a way around it and others are not so comfortable with the realization. If you want greater control over your life, then owning a business might be for you.
Owning a business increases the amount of control a business owner has over his or her life in many ways, not just financial. For example, business owners have more control over how they spend their time, where they work, when they work and who they work with on a daily basis. Instead of being part of a business, you help create, mold and shape it. Clearly, this is a lot of work and it isn’t for everyone, but again the rewards can be diverse and great.
3. What is Your Personality Like?
Owning a business translates to great control, but that control comes with a degree of risk. In the end, you’ll have to determine how comfortable you are in dealing with risk. As a business owner the “buck” stops with you. You’re risking your time, effort and, of course, money. You also don’t get a paid vacation, sick days or any of the other benefits so often associated with being an employee.
Other traits identified during a study by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute showed there are other ideal personality traits for business owners. These traits include collaboration, curiosity, focus on the future, and being self-fulfilled, tech savvy and action oriented.
Thinking about these three key questions is the perfect place to start when contemplating opening a business. Additionally, working with a business broker can help you gain clarity and determine if owning a business is right for you.Read More
The value of the term sheet shouldn’t be overlooked. From buyers and sellers to advisors and intermediaries, the term sheet is often used before the creation of an actual purchase or sale agreement. That stated, it is important that the term sheet is actually explained in detail. Let’s take a closer look at its importance.
What is a Term Sheet?
Even though term sheets are quite important, they are rarely mentioned in books about the M&A process. In the book, Streetwise Selling Your Business by Russ Robb, a term sheet is defined as, “Stating a price range with a basic structure of the deal and whether or not it includes real estate.”
Another way of looking at a term sheet, according to attorney and author Jean Sifleet, is that a term sheet serves to answer to four key questions: Who? What? Where? And How Much?
Creating the Right Environment
A good term sheet can help keep negotiations on target and everyone focused on what is important. Sifleet warns against advisors, accountants and lawyers who rely heavily on boilerplate documents as well as those who adopt extreme positions or employ adversarial tactics. The main goal should be to maintain a “win-win” environment.
At the end of the day, if a buyer and a seller have a verbal agreement on price and terms, then it is important to put that agreement down on payment. Using the information can lead to a more formalized letter of intent. The term sheet functions to help both parties, as well as their respective advisors, begin to shape a deal, taking it from verbal discussions to the next level.
Make Sure Your Term Sheet Has the Right Components
In the end, a term sheet is basically a preliminary proposal containing a variety of key information. The term sheet outlines the price, as well as the terms and any major considerations. Major considerations can include everything from consulting and employment agreements to covenants not to compete.
Term sheets are a valuable tool and when used in a judicious fashion, they can yield impressive results and help to streamline the buying and selling process. Through the proper use of term sheets, an array of misunderstandings can be avoided and this, in turn, can help increase the chances of successfully finalizing a deal.Read More
Two businesses could report the same numeric value for earnings but that doesn’t always tell the whole story. As it turns out, there is far more to earnings than may initially meet the eye. While two businesses might have a similar sale price, that certainly doesn’t mean that they are of equal value.
In order to truly understand the value of a business, we must dig deeper and look at the three key factors of earnings. In this article, we’ll explore each of these three key earning factors and explore quality of earnings, sustainability of earnings after acquisition and what is involved in the verification of information.
Key Factor # 1 – Quality of Earnings
Determining the quality of earnings is essential. In determining the quality of earnings, you’ll want to figure out if earnings are, in fact, padded. Padded earnings come in the form of a large amount of “add backs” and one-time events. These factors can greatly change earnings. For example, a one-time event, such as a real estate sale, can completely alter figures, producing earnings that are simply not accurate and fail to represent the actual earning potential of the company.
Another important factor to consider is that it is not unusual for all kinds of companies to have some level of non-recurring expenses on an annual basis. These expenses can range from the expenditure for a new roof to the write-down of inventory to a lawsuit. It is your job to stay on guard against a business appraiser that restructures earnings without any allowances for extraordinary items.
Key Factor # 2 – Sustainability of Earnings After the Acquisition
Buyers are rightfully concerned about whether or not the business they are considering is at the apex of its business cycle or if the company will continue to grow at the previous rate. Just as professional sports teams must carefully weigh the signing of expensive free-agents, attempting to determine if an athlete is past his or her prime, the same holds true for those looking to buy a new business.
Key Factor # 3 – Verification of Information
Buyers can carefully weigh quality and earnings and the sustainability of earnings after acquisition and still run into serious problems. A failure to verify information can spell disaster. In short, buyers must verify that all information is accurate, timely and as unbiased as is reasonably possible. There are many questions that must be asked and answered in this regard, such as has the company allowed for possible product returns or noncollectable receivables and has the seller been honest. The last thing any buyer wants is to discover skeletons hiding in the closet only when it is too late.
By addressing these three key factors buyers can dramatically reduce their chances of being unpleasantly surprised. On paper, two businesses with very similar values may look essentially the same. However, by digging deeper and exercising caution, it is possible to reach very different conclusions as to the value of the businesses in question.Read More
When it comes to your deal being completed, having a signed Letter of Intent is great. While everything may seem as though it is moving along just fine, it is vital to remember that the deal isn’t done until many boxes have been checked.
The due diligence process should never be overlooked. It is during due diligence that a buyer truly decides whether or not to move forward with a given deal. Depending on what is discovered, a buyer may want to renegotiate the price or even withdraw from the deal altogether.
In short, it is key that both sides in the transaction understand the importance of the due diligence process. Stanley Foster Reed in his book, The Art of M&A, wrote, “The basic function of due diligence is to assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present, and predictable future of the business to be purchased.”
Before the due diligence process begins, there are several steps buyers must take. First of all, buyers need to assemble experts to help them. These experts include everyone from the more obvious experts such as appraisers, accountants and lawyers to often less obvious picks including environmental experts, marketing personnel and more. All too often, buyers fail to add an operational person, one familiar with the type of business they are considering buying.
Due diligence involves both the buyer and the seller. Listed below is an easy to use checklist of some of the main items that both buyers and sellers should consider during the due diligence process.
Understanding industry structure is vital to the success of a deal. Take the time to determine the percentage of sales by product lines. Review pricing policies and consider discount structure and product warranties. Additionally, when possible, it is prudent to check against industry guidelines.
Accountants’ receivables should be checked closely. In particular, you’ll want to look for issues such as bad debt. Discover who’s paying and who isn’t. Also be sure to analyze inventory.
There is no replacement for knowing your key customers, so you’ll want to get a list as soon as possible.
Just as there is no replacement for knowing who a business’s key customers are, the same can be stated for understanding the current financial situation of a business. You’ll want to review the current financial statements and compare it to the budget. Checking incoming sales and evaluating the prospects for future sales is a must.
The human resources aspect of due diligence should never be overlooked. You’ll want to review key management staff and their responsibilities.
Other issues that should be taken into consideration range from environmental and manufacturing issues (such as determining how old machinery and equipment are) to issues relating to trademarks, patents and copyrights. For example, are these tangible assets transferable?
Ultimately, buying a business involves a range of key considerations including the following:
- What is for sale
- Barriers to entry
- Your company’s competitive advantage
- Assets that can be sold
- Potential growth for the business
- Whether or not a business is owner dependent
Proper due diligence takes effort and time, but in the end it is time and effort well-spent.Read More