By Greg Younts, CMAI, GABB Broker
A unique challenge of selling your business is that you cannot advertise certain confidential details about the business, and yet you have to target and attract the attention of the right buyers. Specific details about the business such as business name, exact location and unique products or services offered typically cannot be revealed to the public. It could be disastrous if employees, customers, competitors or other third parties discovered the business is for sale. So, how do you confidentially market your business for sale and attract the attention of the right buyers? In an article for the Atlanta Small Business Network, Greg described several possible options for developing a successful confidential marketing plan for taking your business to market, and you develop a custom plan that will best fit your unique business.
Your marketing plan and associated marketing documents should highlight what is unique about your business without revealing so much information that you risk compromising confidentiality. Second, you identify who would be the most likely buyers and structure your marketing plan and message to get the attention of these buyers. The right buyer could be an individual, another business, Private Equity Group and/or other possible groups of investors. And third, you determine the best strategy to get in front of your potential buyers.
If an appropriate method for taking your business to market is to advertise to the public; using business listing websites, business trade journals, trade shows or any other appropriate advertising medium can be effective. Or, a more targeted marketing strategy might be best for your business. You may know specific buyers who would be interested in your business, and industry research can be performed to identify a list of potential buyers within your industry. In this targeted approach, the best strategy may be a proactive direct mail and phone campaign to contact this group of buyer prospects. It also might be appropriate to execute a broader strategy that includes both public advertising and targeting a select group of buyer prospects.
Regardless of the marketing strategy that is right for your business, key tools that could be used in this process are some form of public advertisement and/or business profile that is often referred to as the “blind profile”. The profile is blind because it does not reveal confidential information, but does provide key facts about the operations and financial performance of the business that buyers need to see. Multiple versions of the blind profile might be required for your business if different types of buyer prospects are contacted. A blind profile typically contains more information about your business than a public ad. It is often sent to a buyer after they respond to an ad and is sometimes included with a letter in a direct mail campaign.
The most widely used form of public advertising for businesses on the market are the business listing websites. The Georgia Association of Business Brokers maintains a website where its members list businesses for sale in Georgia, and other businesses for sale by GABB brokers. This site and others allow business owners the flexibility to provide a comprehensive profile of their business without disclosing confidential information. Buyers mau search for businesses by criteria such as type of industry, geographic location, sale price, annual revenue, cash flow, availability of owner financing, etc.. And, there is the option to search by keywords to find a very specific type of business.
An experienced business broker knows how to write a listing site ad that will best describe your business such that it will be found and read by the right buyers. Too often, business owners provide a very poor description of their business. In my experience, business buyers are often frustrated by how difficult it is to find businesses that are accurately described with the key information they need to see if it is a business they want to pursue. This is one of the major reasons why some businesses do not generate strong buyer interest or catch the attention of the right buyers on listing sites.
Experienced business brokers and M&A professionals can help you develop a marketing plan and the related documents. They know how best to describe your business in an advertisement and blind profile, and make sure it reaches the right buyer audience. They know what appeals to buyers and how to make your business standout as an exceptional acquisition opportunity. They know how to impress and capture the attention of C-level executives, Private Equity Groups and individual buyers. And, as buyers express interest in the business, brokers know how to engage with buyers to further determine if they are qualified in terms of background, skills, experience, interest level and financial profile.
Top business brokerage and M&A firms have marketing and industry research staff to support their brokers in developing the marketing plan, blind profile and other marketing documents that will be used for their clients. They have access to various sources of industry data sometimes needed for identifying a list of potential buyers for a business. These firms have also developed several third party relationships that give their clients the best and broadest possible exposure to top buyers in the marketplace. They have relationships and affiliations with various state, national and international Business Brokerage and M&A associations. And, they are in contact with thousands of Private Equity Groups, corporations and other possible sources of buyers.
The successful confidential sale of your business largely depends on developing and executing the right marketing plan for your unique business. Failure to take a business to market the right way has resulted in businesses not selling or businesses being sold well below market value. If you are selling your business and need expert guidance through the confidential process, you should consider the services of a business broker. The investment in the services of a business broker could result in recognizing an after-tax gain on the sale of your business that will easily justify the broker’s fee.
Greg Younts is a Certified M&A Intermediary and has more than 30 years of experience working for companies in sales, marketing, and management capacities. He started his career in the information technology field where he focused on the design and sales of strategic technology solutions to meet the needs of companies that range in size from small business to the Fortune 100. He has served companies in every major industry throughout North America.Read More
Business owners who are preparing to sell their businesses always want to know how much their company will bring on the market. Often they have an idea of what they think the business is worth, but that price is often high.
There is the old anecdote about the immigrant who opened his own business in the United States. Like many small business owners, he had his own bookkeeping system. He kept his accounts payable in a cigar box on the left side of his cash register, his daily receipts – cash and credit card receipts – in the cash register, and his invoices and paid bills in a cigar box on the right side of his cash register.
When his youngest son graduated as a CPA, he was appalled by his father’s primitive bookkeeping system. “I don’t know how you can run a business that way,” his son said. “How do you know what your profits are?”
“Well, son,” the father replied, “when I came to this country, I had nothing but the clothes I was wearing. Today, your brother is a doctor, your sister is a lawyer, and you are an accountant. Your mother and I have a nice car, a city house and a place at the beach. We have a good business and everything is paid for. Add that all together, subtract the clothes, and there’s your profit.”
That accounting method won’t help you to sell your business, however,
A commonly accepted method to price a small business is to use Seller’s Discretionary Earnings (SDE). The International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) defines SDE as follows:
Discretionary Earnings – The earnings of a business enterprise prior to the following items:
nonrecurring income and expenses
non-operating income and expenses
depreciation and amortization
interest expense or income
owner’s total compensation for one owner/operator, after adjusting the total compensation of all other owners to market value
Here are some terms as defined by the IBBA:
Owner’s salary – The salary or wages paid to the owner, including related payroll tax burden.
Owner’s total compensation – Total of owner’s salary and perquisites.
Perquisites – Expenses incurred at the discretion of the owner which are unnecessary to the continued operation of the business.
Developing a Multiplier
Once the SDE has been calculated, a multiplier has to be developed. The following (just as a guideline) should be rated from 0 to 5 with 5 being the highest. For example, if the business is a highly desirable business in the current market, “desirability” would be rated a 4 or 5. If the business is in an industry that is quickly declining or nearly obsolete, “industry” would be given a 0 or 1 rating.
Age: Number of years the seller has owned and operated the business.
- Terms: Is the seller willing to offer terms? For example, will the seller accept 40 percent as a down payment with the seller carrying back 60 percent at terms the business can afford while still providing a living for the buyer?
- Competition: Consider the local market.
- Risk: Is the business itself risky?
- Growth trend of the business: Is it up or down?
- Desirability: How popular is the business in the current market?
- Industry: Is the industry itself declining or growing?
- Type of business: Is the business type easily duplicated?
The average business sells for about 1.8 to 2.5. Obviously, if the SDE is solid and the multiple is above average, the price will be higher. Keep in mind that the price outlined includes all of the assets including fixtures and equipment, goodwill, etc. It does not include real estate or saleable inventory. The price determined above assumes that the business will be delivered to the buyer free and clear of any debt.
When all else fails, the words of a veteran business broker will work.
Asking Price is what the seller wants.
Selling Price is what the seller gets.
Fair Market Value is the highest price the buyer is willing to pay and the lowest price the seller is willing to accept.
Sellers should keep in mind that the actual price of a small business is usually about 80 percent of the seller’s asking price. A professional business broker will be familiar with the best way to price your business so that it sells.Read More
Georgia Association of Business Brokers can now post business-for-sale listings on the new GABB website. But, as BizBuySell points out, it’s important to create a well-written online listing. You want to attract qualified buyers. According to BizBuySell’s latest demographic survey, business buyers tend to be college educated and earn over $100,000 per year. Buyers are more likely to respond to listings with these specific attributes, according to the website.
1. Specify a location.
Most buyers search for a business by state, many by a specific county. Confidential listings receive more views when they included a location.
2. The listing appears in their search category.
More than a third of prospective business buyers search in a specific category of business. You can improve that percentage by selecting two or more appropriate categories for your listing.
3. Include key financials.
Most buyers want to know the asking price, followedg by cash flow. Including these important financial details makes it easier for serious buyers to find your listing in a search and contact you.
4. A great headline.
“Profitable coffee shop in busy shopping mall,” and other headings with key details are better than “popular cafe.”
5. A well-written description.
A good description has all the essential facts, such as the business’s strengths and potential, number of employees, the owner’s reason for selling, and opportunities for expansion. Beware of exaggerations. A hyped-up listing will alienate serious buyers.
6. An attractive photo.
Even if you cannot use a photo of the actual business for confidentiality reasons, you should still post a stock photo. A good site to find generic, free stock photos is Pexels. The GABB administrator can also help you find photos. Buyers are more likely to notice listings with photos.
7. Seller financing!
Experienced business brokers know that financing is one obstacle in selling a business. So it’s a huge advantage if the owner is willing to carry part of the financing. Seller-financed businesses are more likely to sell than those that are not.
8. Broker contact details.
Your listing should include details on how to reach you easily. Every prospective buyer should receive a response from their inquiry within the first 24 hours. A slow response might mean you miss a qualified buyer.
The GABB website’s new listing feature is still undergoing improvements, so please let us know if you have suggestions for using this feature. To date, this feature is included in your GABB broker membership at no additional charge. For help with this feature, please contact GABB Executive Director Diane Loupe at email@example.com or GABB President Dean Burnette at 912-247-3209 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Read More
Learn the skills you need to be a better business broker at the Oct. 29, 2019 Fall Conference of the Georgia Association of Business Brokers.
The morning program, which is intended exclusively for Georgia Business Brokers who are real estate licensees, is focused on various ethics topics specific to the business brokerage profession, such as maintaining confidentiality, working with tax returns, loan applications, handling financial statements, client loyalty, using forms created by the Georgia Association of Business Brokers, and other topics.
During the afternoon program, attendees will learn about common issues in the management of a business brokering practice, including handling escrow accounts, setting commissions, co-brokering, keeping records, branding and marketing, maintaining a database for marketing and tracking clients, and other issues.
Brokers will earn a total of six continuing education credits courses certified by the Georgia Real Estate Commission. The class will be held at the Georgia Association of Realtors Conference center at 6065 Barfield Rd, Sandy Springs from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Lunch will be provided by Leigh Milton and Claudia Wilson of Center State Bank, and breakfast will be provided by Eva Farag of Oconee State Bank.
Registration for the conference will be $150, but GABB members can register for $99 if they register by Oct. 10. If you want to just take half a day of classes, that’s $85. Scroll to the bottom of the page to register.
GABB Code of Ethics and Ethical Concerns
Morning Session 9:00-12:00, 3 Continuing Education hours
Learning Objective: Attendees, all of whom are licensed real estate agents, will become familiar with the GABB code of ethics and how to handle various ethical concerns related to financial statements and other representations by clients.
Susan Kite, Senior Vice President, Government Guaranteed Lending at Georgia Primary Bank
Susan J. Kite has more than 30 years of experience in commercial and SBA lending. She began her career in Jacksonville, Florida, as Director of an SBA 504 lender, moving to Atlanta with Bank South in 1990. Susan has worked with several Atlanta banks including Crescent Bank, Brand Bank, and Renasant Bank before moving to Georgia Primary. She is skilled at SBA 7a Term loans, SBA 504 loans and SBA Express credit lines. She specializes in business acquisition lending. Susan has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Lender’s Quality Circle, a professional organization of SBA lenders in the Southeast. She also sits on the loan committee of Capital Partners Certified Development Company. Kite earned a bachelor’s in Business Administration from Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia.
Lawrence Domenico, Managing Partner Mozley, Finlayson & Loggins LLP
Mr. Domenico joined Mozley, Finlayson & Loggins in 1990 and practices in the areas of estate planning and probate, commercial and business litigation, and general litigation. Mr. Domenico also has extensive experience as a business lawyer in assisting start-up and existing businesses. In addition, Mr. Domenico has broad experience in alternate forms of dispute resolution including arbitration and mediation. Mr. Domenico was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 29, 1963. Mr. Domenico received a B.A., cum laude, from the University of the South in 1985. He attended the University of Georgia School of Law where he received a J.D., cum laude, in 1988. Mr. Domenico is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa honorary fraternities. He belongs to the Atlanta and American Bar Associations, the State Bar of Georgia, and the Defense Research Institute. Mr. Domenico is active in a number of civic organizations and is a member of the 1995 class of Leadership DeKalb and the Rotary Club of Dunwoody.
David Chambless, Business Broker, former President of the GABB Board, member of GABB’s Million Dollar Club., president of Abraxas Business Services. He has extensive experience in business development; finance; operations; sales; marketing; and international channel development and management. He has a Master of Business Administration in Finance degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Industrial and Systems Engineering degree from Georgia Tech. In 1982, he became a Certified Public Accountant.
1:00-4:00 p.m., 3 continuing education hours
Dean Burnette, Business Broker, President of the GABB Board, past member of GABB’s Multi-Million Dollar Club, Managing Broker of Best Business Brokers of Savannah. Mr. Burnette is a member of the Savannah Area Realtors – Real Estate Commercial Alliance (RCA), The Georgia Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors. He is a member of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, the Savannah CFO Council, Savannah Traffic Club, is a member and was the 2013-2014 President of the Savannah Small Business Chamber.
Jeff Merry, Business Broker, former President of the GABB Board, current GABB board member, platinum member of GABB’s Multi- Million Dollar Club, and founder and president of the BUSINESS HOUSE, inc.SM. As a Business Intermediary, Jeffery has been involved in more than 200 mergers and acquisitions that have ranged in acquisition price from $60,000.00 to more than $15,000,000.00. Jeffery specializes in serving the manufacturing, distribution, veterinary, service, and medical industries. Jeffery holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Mercer University, a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Illinois, and a Juris Doctorate from Atlanta Law School. Jeffery is also a licensed real estate broker in Georgia and Florida. Further, he is an Adjunct Professor of strategic management, accounting, and finance in MBA programs.
Mike Ramatowski, Business Broker, current member and Past President of the GABB Board, member of GABB’s Million Dollar Club. CBI, owner of RamBizGroup LLC, works with business owners, sellers and candidates for merger by acquisition from manufacturing, distribution, and service businesses. He has owned and managed businesses that included a real estate master franchise, a property management networking company, and a service business. As COO of a banking conglomerate he managed brokerage operations, title companies, home and service warranty programs, and a relocation company. Mr. Ramatowski has served on the board of directors of 12 different organizations with diverse specialties including real estate brokerage, mortgage companies, title insurance, banking, health care, fitness center operations, and office supply operations, providing marketing and organizational growth expertise. He served as an Electronic Specialist in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service. He attended Cleveland State University and Baldwin Wallace College. He has earned the Certified Business Intermediary professional designation by the International Business Brokers Association.
Jon Roman, Business Broker, Treasurer of the GABB Board, member of GABB’s Multi-Million Dollar Club, and owner of Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Perimeter, an award-winning group of ten agents, a Franchise Director, an office manager and a marketing sales specialist. For nearly 18 years, prior to Transworld, Jon had helped entrepreneurs to obtain funding when acquiring, selling or franchising businesses. He established, acquired, operated and sold his own businesses for over 20 years. Mr. Roman is a former commercial banker with experience in a multitude of deals. Throughout his career, Jon financed mergers and acquisitions, business expansions, construction and development projects. He evaluated businesses, built and consolidated financial records and shared opinions regarding business plans, and/or exit strategies. Jon is a multi-million-dollar member of the Georgia Association of Business Brokers (GABB) and is currently serving as a treasurer for GABB. Among other qualifications, Jon is a CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) since 2005.
This class has been organized by the Georgia Association of Business Brokers and the GREC certification is through the Capitus Real Estate Learning Center.
Entrepreneur Scott Ward has been on both sides of the negotiating table, both as a business buyer and a business seller. He discussed better ways to work with prospective business sellers, to prepare a business to sell and other insights at the Sept. 24 meeting of the Georgia Association of Business Brokers.
Ward said business brokers “enable people to succeed and bring in hard earned assets and turn it into cash.”
He said in the middle of negotiating a deal, sometimes he feels as though his client needs a marketing officer, a human resources officer, a financial analyst or even a psychiatrist, trying to work through some complex business and personal relationships.
“You’re so much more than just a business broker,” Ward told the members of GABB, the state’s largest professional organization dedicated to buying and selling Georgia businesses and franchises.
The key is for business brokers to build long-term relationships with business owners, what he called keeping your pipeline full.
“The number one thing with filling your pipeline and getting more people to think about you —because you guys have a long pipeline– you’re building relationships that sometimes take years before someone actually says, ‘You know I think I’m ready to sell this business,’ or ‘I’m ready to quit my corporate job.’ ” Ward said.
Watch the full presentation on the GABB’s YouTube Channel.
Scott is a long time multistore franchisee of Winmark Corporation, the franchisor for brands Play It Again Sports, Plato’s Closet Once Upon A Child, Music Go Round and Style Encore. After 28 years as a franchisee, Scott recently sold his last Play It Again Sports location and will speak about his strategic five year plan he executed to enhance value, create potential buyers and market to sell for a premium. Scott worked with and without brokers during this process.
Ward earned a grass roots MBA as a successful business owner for more than 20 years with proven ability to rapidly grow and profit despite enduring three recessions. He was a dedicated leader who mentored five employees to successfully own their own franchise businesses. He is especially skilled at gaining insight into stakeholders weaknesses and strengths through communication.
As the owner-operator of Play It Again Sports franchises, now publicly traded under Winmark Corporation, Ward maintained business growth through three recessions and contributed to the eventual stability of what is now one of the oldest and largest sporting goods entities in North America. He successfully sold his business for full valuation and continued to menter the new owner. Elected to the Winmark Corporation Franchise Advisory Council, he also was chosen chairman for seven years. He teaches speech writing, evaluation and idea generation for Toastmasters.
The GABB is the state’s largest and oldest association of professionals who specialize in brokering the purchase and sale of businesses and franchises. Broker members help owners determine the asking price of their business, create marketing plans and strategies for selling their business, identify and qualify buyers, and have the knowledge, experience and skills needed to help maintain the confidential nature of the process. The professionals of GABB relentlessly pursue professional development so they can provide superior, ethical services for all customers and clients. Affiliate members include bankers, lawyers, appraisers, insurers and other professionals who work closely with brokers to help owners and buyers get to the closing table.
For more information about GABB, please contact GABB President Dean Burnette at 912-247-3209 or email@example.com, or GABB Executive Director Diane Loupe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-374-3990.