When you are buying or selling a business, you might very well end up making a deal with someone from another generation. Therefore, it only makes sense to take the time to understand that individual’s background and how that might change how they behave. It is important to understand their collective experiences and the trends that shaped their identities and perspectives. At the same time, you can identify your own biases, strengths and weaknesses that may be caused by your own upbringing.
The strategies in this article originated from Chuck Underwood who is considered a leading expert in the diversity of communication styles between generations. He is the author of a major book on the subject as well as host of the long-running “America’s Generations with Chuck Underwood” on PBS.
Underwood’s perspective is that people of each generation were molded by their unique formative years. The decisions that buyers and sellers make will be impacted by their generation. Mostly likely, the buyers or sellers you will be coming into contact with will be Baby Boomers, Generation Xers or Millennials.
Working with Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are a major force in the business world. While they often possess a patriotic passion to improve the country, they were also witness to a time of great change via many movements including the civil rights and women’s movement.
When you’re dealing with Baby Boomers, it is important to remember that they will want to build relationships and get to know you. Common courtesy is very important to Baby Boomers. That means they’ll expect you to show up on time and turn your phone off during meetings.
You’ll want to keep in mind that older Baby Boomers may be experiencing hearing and eyesight loss. As a result, you’ll want to keep your type and font size larger, and make text easy to read.
When you’re working with your clients, it only makes sense to pay attention to the generation during which they were raised and adapt your approach accordingly. Understanding generational differences will help you get a leg up on the competition while at the same time helping your clients achieve their goals.
What is Generation X?
Generation X (or Gen X) had a wildly different formative experience than the Baby Boomers. Generation X is generally defined as being born from 1965 to 1980. This generation spent its formative years from the 1970’s through the 1990’s. In stark contrast the relatively more pleasant and optimistic childhoods of the Baby Boomers, Gen X had a rougher ride.
America became more mobile during the time period during which Generation Xers grew up. As a result, many children were uprooted and separated from their friends, family and hometown roots. Growing up, these individuals witnessed a variety of scandals ranging from political and religious figures to sports figures. Gen Xers witnessed the systematic dismantling of the American middle class and with it a general lowering of quality of life, opportunities and confidence in corporations. In the end, Gen X was quite literally left home alone and lived as “latch key kids.” It is no wonder that this neglected generation has some issues.
Individuals growing up during this time learned early on that they had to be ready to fend for themselves. Since Gen Xers have been met with consistent and systematic disappointment and even wide scale institutional betrayal, this generation, on average, is more distrustful of organizations.
Gen Xers are self-reliant and independent and one of their core values is survival of the fittest. In his view, Gen Xers are self-focused, individualistic and want everyone to skip the nonsense and get to the point. They have no real interest in getting to know you or playing a round of golf.
Working with Millennials
Millennials spent their formative years in the 1980s and early 90s. They are a very optimistic and tech savvy generation. They are also the most classroom educated generation in history.
It is also very important to note that Millennials are the most adult-supervised generation in history. They are likely to be offspring of so-called “helicopter parents” who work to protect their children from setbacks. Employers find that Millennials are entering adulthood, but are still relying upon their parents to help them make decisions and even career choices.
Where Gen Xers are distrustful of the “wisdom of their elders,” Millennials actively seek out such advice. Likewise, Millennials tend to volunteer a good deal and look for ways to solve the world’s largest problems.
Millennials will enjoy building a relationship with you. Keep in mind these individuals tend to be quite socially conscious, and they may very well expect you to agree with their views. Additionally, there is a chance that they will have their parents involved in their business dealings.
Keep in mind that the de facto tech addiction, or at the very least acute overreliance on technology, has led to issues with Millennials’ soft skills. They can often lack the ability to read another person’s body language and adjust accordingly.
In the end, regardless of what generation you are working with, it is important that you continually adapt. This will greatly increase the odds of cementing a successful deal.
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When you are selling a business, your business broker or M&A Advisor will likely create a Comprehensive Business Review, or CBR. This comprehensive document can then be presented to prospective buyers once they have signed all necessary confidentiality documentation. It is essential that this document builds trust between both parties, as this will go a long way towards achieving a successful deal.
The bottom line is that your CBR will be 95% positive. The majority of the document will be dedicated to selling and promoting your business. Therefore, it only makes sense to disclose some potential problems. When handled correctly, the disclosure of problems can actually be a strong asset.
For example, current weaknesses of your business could become strengths in the mind of the buyer. A business with a very poor online presence represents a substantial opportunity for a buyer to improve marketing and communications. In other words, don’t be afraid to include negative information, especially if that information represents an opportunity.
It is important to create a sense of trust with the CBR’s seller section.
Buying a business is radically different from buying a home. When someone buys a home, they usually don’t care too much about the person who they are buying the home from. But buying a business is usually a different experience. Your buyer will want to feel as though they have a fairly clear understanding of who you are and what you are about.
In the seller’s section, the buyer should get a decent idea of who you are. Your broker or M&A Advisor will want to interview you to gain ample information to include in your CBR. Your broker may even want to find out about your family, hobbies, interests and more. You may even want to include photos of yourself and your family.
The bottom line is that a potential buyer should be able to pick up the CBR and get a good feel for what you are like. If no level of trust is ever established between the buyer and seller, then it will be much more challenging for the deal to be successful.
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There is a potentially lucrative group of buyers that many sellers don’t initially think about. We are talking about foreign buyers. While there are some hurdles to working with these types of buyers, it is important to note that there are many huge advantages as well. Let’s take a closer look.
How Are Foreign Buyers Different?
At the top of the list of ways in which foreign buyers are different is that they are often seeking a visa. Another commonality among foreign buyers, one that will surprise many, is that they may want access to the U.S. educational system.
It is common for foreign buyers to want to buy a business so that they can get their children into a particular U.S. school district or college. Sometimes the desire to be eligible for state tuition also plays a role in the selection of a business and the decision-making process. In this sense, business location takes on a level of importance that it might not have for domestic buyers.
It is important to keep in mind that there are cultural and business differences that play a role with foreign buyers. Everything from a different use of business terminology to expectations can play a role. This could impact negotiations.
What About Visas and Immigration?
One of the most important things to remember is that foreign buyers are often navigating the complex world of visas and immigration. Whether or not a visa is issued can dramatically impact whether or not a deal ultimately takes place. This fact is often built into agreements. For example, a purchase condition may be conditional upon visa approval. Nonrefundable deposits may also play a role in the process.
What Do Foreign Buyers Really Want?
Foreign buyers have been impacted by the pandemic too. Yet, some factors remain unchanged. Not too surprisingly, they will want to see that a business is profitable. In this regard, you should be able to showcase profitability in a clear fashion. You can expect foreign buyers to want to see tax returns and all the typical documentation that you’d need to provide to any buyer.
A second factor that foreign buyers are interested in is longevity. If your business has successfully operated for decades, this will be a major advantage.
Ultimately, most of what domestic buyers are looking for in a business will translate over to what foreign buyers are seeking as well. With that stated, however, there are factors that are often unique to foreign buyers. As mentioned above, navigating the often-complex visa process can add a wrinkle to the entire process.
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The buyer-seller meeting is often a “make or break” meeting. Your business broker or M&A Advisor will do everything possible to ensure that this meeting goes smoothly.
Understand that there is rarely any offer before buyers and sellers actually meet. The crucial offer usually comes directly after this all-important meeting. As a result, you want to ensure that meetings are as positive and productive as possible.
Buyers must understand how the process of selling a business works and what is expected of them from the process. Buyers also need to understand that following their broker’s advice will increase the chances of a successful outcome.
Sellers should be honest and forthcoming during the meeting. Strong-armed sales tactics are to be avoided.
Asking the Right Questions
If you are a buyer preparing to meet a business owner for the first time, you’ll want to make sure any questions you ask are appropriate and logical. It is important for buyers to place themselves in the shoes of the other party.
Buyers also shouldn’t show up to the buyer-seller meeting without having done their homework. So be sure to do a little planning ahead so that you are ready to go with good questions that show you understand the business.
Building a Positive Relationship
Buyers should, of course, plan to be polite and respectful. They should also be prepared to avoid discussing politics and religion, which often can be flashpoints for confrontation. When sellers don’t like prospective buyers, then the odds are good that they will also not place trust in them.
For most sellers, their business is a legacy. It quite often represents years, or even decades, of hard work. Needless to say, sellers value their businesses. Many will feel as though it reflects them personally, at least in some fashion. Buyers should keep these facts in mind when dealing with sellers. A failure to follow these guidelines could lead to ill will between buyers and sellers and negatively impact the chances of success.
Sellers Should Be Truthful
Sellers also have a significant role in the process. While it is true that sellers are trying to sell their business, they don’t want to come across as a salesperson. Instead, sellers should try to be as real and honest as possible.
Every business has some level of competition. With this in mind, sellers should not pretend that there is zero competition. A savvy buyer will be more than a little skeptical.
The key to a successful outcome is for business brokers and M&A Advisors to work with their buyers and sellers well in advance and make sure that they understand what is expected and how best to approach the buyer-seller meeting. With the right preparation, the odds of success will skyrocket.
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There is no doubt that the COVID-19 situation seems to change with each and every day. The disruption and chaos that the pandemic has injected into both daily life and business is mirrored in the government’s response.
In this article, we’ll turn our attention to an overlooked area of the government’s pandemic response and how businesses can use a whole new lending platform to navigate the choppy waters.
As the pandemic continues, you will want to be aware of the Main Street Lending Program, which is a whole new lending platform. The Federal Reserve established the Main Street Lending Program to support lending to small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofit organizations that were in sound financial condition before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Main Street Lending Program is quite attractive for an array of reasons. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this program almost too good to be true.
This lender-delivered program is a commercial loan. Unlike the PPP, there is no forgivable component. However, the Main Street Lending Program has one feature that makes it attractive to all kinds of businesses. It can be used to refinance existing debt at a rate of around 3%. However, businesses cannot refinance existing debt with the current lender. Instead, a new lender must be found. Generally, loans are a minimum of a quarter-million dollars and have a five-year term. Another attractive feature, there is a two-year payment deferment period. There is no penalty for prepayment.
To be eligible for a Main Street Lending Program loan, a business must:
- Have been established before March 13, 2020
- Not be an ineligible business according to Small Business Administration (SBA) regulations
- Have no more than 15,000 employees or 2019 annual revenues of no more than $5 billion
- The SBA’s affiliation rules apply in determining the employee and revenue count
- In counting employees, the Main Street Lending Program advises businesses to refer to SBA regulations by counting all full-time, part- time, seasonal, or otherwise employed persons, excluding volunteers and independent contractors
- Have been created or organized in the U.S. with significant operations in and a majority of its employees based in the U.S.
- Not also participate in one of the other Main Street loan facilities, as well as the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility
- Note: Businesses that received support through the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) are eligible to receive a Main Street loan
- Not have received specific support pursuant to the CARES Act (Subtitle A of Title IV for air carriers, air cargo, and businesses critical to national security)
The Main Street Lending Program is not just for refinancing existing debt. Lenders make the loans and then sell 95% of the loan value to the Fed. This of course means that the lender is only required to retain 5% of the loan on their balance sheet. The end result is that lenders can dramatically expand the amount of loans they can make.
Whether it is the PPP or a program like the Main Street Lending Program, there are solid options available to help you. Businesses looking to restructure debt or put an infusion of cash to good use may find that the program offers a very flexible loan with great interest rates.
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