By Robin Gagnon, GABB Business Broker
When selling a restaurant or other business, the potential or opportunity for the future is seen as a reason that a buyer should invest. That’s because a business’s future prospects make the listing more attractive to buyers. The buyer will see the listing as a better long-term opportunity.
When it comes to pricing the business for sale, however, Business Brokers must set a price according to common lending practices and standard valuation methods. That means that “Blue Sky” or potential for the future is not something buyers are willing to pay for, nor are lenders going to loan money upon. A buyer will only pay for the past performance and a bank will only lend on past results.
Here’s why buyers will not pay for the “potential” in your business.
Lending is trickier.
Most lenders avoid any open and operating businesses built on a pro forma. This is the Latin words for “to form.” It is standard practice to develop a pro forma in a startup situation where there are no existing metrics to rely upon for sales and earnings. The commonly accepted definition of a pro forma is, “assumed or forecasted information presented in advance of the actual or formal. The objective of a pro forma business plan is to give a fair idea of the revenue, expenses and earnings in anticipation of the actual occurrence
If a business is not open, it’s easy to formulate underlying data points and put them into a business plan to forecast the pro forma earnings. The only problem with this method is that pro forma financial statements estimate how the actual statements will look if the underlying assumptions hold true.
For open and operating businesses, the underlying assumptions have already been put to the test. Now we have actual statements and actual performance. The underlying assumptions may be revealed as flawed or inaccurate. If a restaurant owner built a pro forma based on sales of $6000 per week and the actual performance is only $4500 in sales per week, that fact is now known and therefore, must materially adjust the pro forma.
Riskier for the Buyer
The second reason that “potential” cannot be factored into the selling price of a restaurant is that all the risk, effort and financial commitment to meet the business potential belongs to the buyer, not the seller. If the business sales don’t live up to the touted “potential,” it’s the buyer who is still going to have to pay the employees, the rent and the loan.
Potential to Improve the Business
That doesn’t mean that business owners shouldn’t work on their business’s potential. In our earlier example, there is “potential” is to increase the number of customers each day and improve the volume to the original forecasted point. That, however, may require any of the following conditions be met:
- Investment in Advertisement
- Investment in Marketing
- Change of Concept
- Improvement in Service
- Change in the ingress/egress to the business
- New Residential or Commercial Development
- Improved Signage
- And the list continues
For an open and operating business, that means the buyer must invest some level of energy, effort and/or financial resources to improve the current performance of the business. That investment and effort is on the part of the buyer, not the seller. Therefore, the “up-side” or “potential” is still unknown, can’t be quantified and thus, can’t be sold on the front end of the listing.
The next time you consider selling your restaurant or other business and offer up “potential” as a reason to buy, just remember, it cannot factor into the listing price. It is a definite selling point and makes a business more attractive, but is not part of the valuation model.
This article was adapted from the blog of Robin Gagnon, co-founder of We Sell Restaurants. Robin has completed the study and testing to attain her Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) designation offered through the International Franchise Association.Read More
The 65-year old owner of a multi-location retail operation doing $30 million in annual sales decided to retire. He interviewed a highly recommended intermediary and was impressed. However, he had a nephew who had just received his MBA and who told his uncle that he could handle the sale and save him some money. He would do it for half of what the intermediary said his fee would be – so the uncle decided to use his nephew. Now, his nephew was a nice young man, educated at one of the top business schools, but he had never been involved in a middle market deal. He had read a lot of case studies and was confident that he could “do the deal.”
Inexperience # 1 – The owner and the nephew agreed not to bring the CFO into the picture, nor execute a “stay” agreement. The nephew felt he could handle the financial details. Neither one of them realized that a potential purchaser would expect to meet with the CFO when it came to the finances of the business, and certainly would expect the CFO to be involved in the due diligence process.
Inexperience # 2 – It never occurred to the owner or his nephew that revealing just the name of the company to prospective buyers would send competitors and only mildly interested prospects to the various locations. There was no mention of Confidentiality Agreements. Since the owner was not in a big hurry, there were no time limits set for offers or even term sheets. It would only be a matter of time before the word that the business was on the market would be out.
Inexperience # 3 – The owner wanted to spend some time with each prospective purchaser. Confidentiality didn’t seem to be an issue. There was no screening process, no interview by the nephew.
Inexperience # 4 – The nephew prepared what was supposed to be an Offering Memorandum. He threw some financials together that had not been audited, which included a missing $500,000 that the owner took and forgot to inform his nephew about. This obviously impacted the numbers. There were no projections, no ratios, etc. This lack of information would most likely result in lower offers or bids or just plain lack of buyer interest. In addition, the mention of a pending lawsuit that could influence the sale was hidden in the Memorandum.
Inexperience # 5 – The owner and nephew both decided that their company attorney could handle the details of a sale if it ever got that far. Unfortunately, although competent, the attorney had never been involved in a business sale transaction, especially one in the $15 million range.
Results — The seller was placing almost his entire net worth in the hands of his nephew and an attorney who had no experience in putting transactions together. The owner decided to call most of the shots without any advice from an experienced deal-maker. Any one of these “inexperiences” could not only “blow” a sale, but also create the possibility of a leak. The discovery that the company was for sale could be catastrophic, whether discovered by the competition, an employee, a major customer or a supplier .
The facts in the above story are true!
The moral of the story – Nephews are wonderful, but inexperience is fraught with danger. When considering the sale of a major asset, it is foolhardy not to employ experienced, knowledgeable professionals. A professional intermediary is a necessity, as is an experienced transaction attorney.
Marketing expert Diane Conklin spoke to the Georgia Association of Business Brokers about better ways that entrepreneurs and small businessmen can market. She talked about the marketing triangle: message, market, medium. What is the message you’re trying to get out, what market are you in and what medium are you using? Your marketing should also be measurable, to be sure you’re getting results.
Watch Diane’s message here.Read More
If you’ve never bought or sold a business before, then the factors that drive and influence business valuations likely seem a bit murky. In a recent Divestopedia article from Kevin Ramsier entitled, “A Closer Look at What Drives and Influences Business Valuations,” Ramsier takes a closer look at this important topic.
Business brokers and M&A advisors play a key role in helping business owners understand why their business receives the valuation that it does. No doubt, the final assessed value is based on a wide array of variables. But with some effort, clarity is possible.
In his article, Ramsier points out that “value means different things to different buyers” and that the “perceived value depends on the circumstances, interpretation and the role that is played in a transition.” It is important to remember that no two businesses are alike. For that reason, what goes into a given valuation will vary, often greatly.
Looking to EBITDA
Ramier points to several metrics including return on assets, return on equity and return on investment. Another important valuable for companies with positive cash flow is a multiple of EBITDA, which stands for “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.” EBITDA is widely used in determining value. On the flip side of the coin, if the company in question has a negative cash flow, then the liquidation value of the business will play a large role in determining its value.
Primary Drivers to Consider
Ramsier provides a guideline of Primary Drivers of Valuation, Secondary Drivers of Valuation and Other Potential Drivers of Valuation. In total there are 25 different variables listed, which underscores the overall potential complexity of accurately determining valuation.
In the Primary Drivers of Valuation list, Ramsier includes everything from the size of revenue and revenue stability to historical and projected EBITDA as well as potential growth and margin percentages. Other variables, ones that could easily be overlooked, such as the local talent pool and people training are also listed as variables that should be considered.
Support for the Business Owner
The bottom line is that determining valuation is not a one-dimensional affair, but is instead a dynamic and complex process. One of the single best moves any business owner can make is to reach out to an experienced business broker. Since business brokers are experts in determining valuation, owners working with brokers will know what to expect when the time comes to sell.
I chat with various business owners every day and hear of a variety of businesses in nearly every imaginable business sector. The businesses that give the best first impression are those that appear well organized, are relatively clean, and where the business owner has books and records readily available. This gives me an indication that the business is most likely well run and that the owner has given some thought and preparation to the idea of selling his/her business.
What is the first thing people do when they decide to sell their car? Many take the car and have it professionally detailed. Those that don’t have it professionally detailed at least either take it to the car wash for a wash and wax, or spend the time and energy to wash and wax it themselves. Will anyone pay top dollar for a car with layers of dirt and bird droppings crusted into the paint? Not likely.
What do people do when they are going to sell their house? Many times they will paint the house, do a bit of landscaping and clean things up so the house shows well. Will anyone pay top dollar for a house that is dirty and cluttered with foot high weeds in the lawn? Not likely.
When it comes to business, the psychology is pretty much the same. I have seen manufacturing shops so clean you could eat off the floor. And, I have seen shops so filthy I didn’t want to sit, lean against, or touch anything. Interestingly enough it seems to be the latter where the business owners insist their business should command top dollar.
A buyer is not going to pay top dollar for a business that appears dirty, cluttered, disorganized and has either no books and records or records that make little to no sense.
GABB member Loren Schmerler recommends that before putting a business on the market, the owner should fix all interior and exterior problems. Fix parking lot holes, replace dead shrubbery, clean the windows, fix the roof and/or paint the exterior to enhance curb appeal. Fix stained ceilings, replace light bulbs, repair and repaint walls, get workers to clean their desks.
“When the buyer tours your business, you want them to visualize becoming the owner and being proud to do so,” advises Schmerler.
The bottom line is that as a business owner, investing a few thousand dollars to have a professional work with you in preparing your business for sale will in most cases give you tens of thousands of dollars or more in return.
This article is taken from the BizBen blog. Peter Siegel is the Founder & President Of BizBen.com & BizBenNetwork.com (National version). He consults daily with intermediaries, buyers, owner/sellers & advisors daily about buying and selling businesses.Read More