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
By Peter Siegel, MBA, Founder and President of BizBen.com.
Almost everyone who owns a company wants to put it up for sale sooner or later. And if the owner doesn’t have employees or family members ready to put up the money and take over the business, the owner must find a buyer in the business-for-sale market. Sadly, only one-third of the hopeful sellers in this market will be successful.
That means two-thirds of owners unable to connect with a buyer will ultimately have to close the business or give it away. The problem may be that the business simply is not desirable. But just as frequently, the reason an owner can’t make a sale is because he or she is one of the many seller types who inevitably will fail.
If the seller can identify what type of seller they are, they can gauge their chances of successfully selling their business.
1. Make a Killing Mike: Also known as “Make a Million, Mike,” this individual believes his business is worth more than any sensible buyer will pay for it. There are a number of ways Mike justifies the asking price. A popular idea is that a similar business recently sold for the price Mike wants. But no two businesses are alike, and Mike doesn’t understand that the “similar” business is much more profitable and in a better location. The market may not reward Mike if he should eventually lower the price to a figure close to its value. Buyers often are not interested in investigating a business that has been on the market for a long time – whatever the reason.
2. Clarence Can’t Carry: An important selling feature of most any business offering is the willingness of the seller to “carry back” part of the purchase price. Along with a cash down payment, the seller receives a promissory note usually secured by the business assets, to be paid off by the buyer over a period of time. It’s reassuring for a buyer when the seller is willing to help finance, because it demonstrates that the seller believes in the business and in the buyer’s ability to operate it successfully. An offering that can only be purchased with all cash is almost always unappealing compared to other opportunities that come with seller financing.
3. Rita Rosy Picture: According to Rita, her business is about to become as much in demand as this week’s most popular show business celebrity. She has the best inventory in town, the most helpful and loyal employees, and greater prospects for the future than any buyer can imagine. Even a business that does excel in some respects has its problems and disadvantages. Buyers know that and often don’t feel secure about an opportunity that is described only in the most optimistic way. When meeting with a seller who doesn’t come across as honest and credible, many buyers get a negative feeling about the opportunity – the opposite of what the seller intended.
4. Nick Not Ready: Any prospective buyers meeting Nick will wonder how he could be trying to sell his business but not be able to produce current financial information, a list of assets to be included, or a definitive description about the premises lease that the landlord will provide to a new owner. Does the seller have something to hide? Is he really that disorganized? If so, what does that say about the condition of the business? Did he neglect to “get his stuff together” because he doesn’t really believe the business is salable? These are questions that occur to buyers as they decide they aren’t interested in what Nick has to offer.
5. Don’t Worry Dorothy: When Dorothy tells a prospective buyer that he or she shouldn’t worry, the buyer usually worries. Buyers want to know what happens if the customer who accounts for half the company’s income decides to do business elsewhere. They want to understand the consequences if a large competitor moves into the neighborhood. If the seller can’t answer these questions, the buyers really won’t worry about those issues. That’s because they’ll look for another business to buy.
6. Secret Sam: One of the things Sam likes to tell prospective buyers is how much of the company’s income goes directly into his pocket without being recorded on the books. He may be proud of his skimming habit. He may think he’s quite clever at fooling the taxing authorities. He might think the buyer will add the total of unreported cash to the reported income and decide the business is making enough money to justify the asking price. But he’s mistaken. The buyers who investigate Sam’s business soon realize he can’t be trusted and move on to find out about other opportunities.
7. Realistic Ralph: Since he is motivated to sell, Ralph wants to present his business in a way that will generate positive responses from buyers. He understands he needs to be proactive in preparing the business for sale. The asking price accurately reflects market conditions. His books are in order and ready to be investigated by qualified buyers. Ralph met with financial institutions with the help of a niche financial advisor who specializes in business purchase financing. The business has been prequalified for financing. And Ralph is willing to carry back 20% of the price with a note. And he’s hired a professional business broker from the Georgia Association of Business Brokers who can develop a confidential plan to market his business to qualified buyers. His approach is a clear recipe for selling success.
If you identify with any of the first six seller types, you’re limiting your chances of selling your business. But if you assume the characteristics of Realistic Ralph, your business is likely to be among the one-third of business offerings that result in a sale.
About The Author: Peter Siegel, MBA is the Founder and President of BizBen.com. He is a SBA SCORE Counselor, author, consultant/coach (ProBuy, ProSell Programs), and advocate on the topic of buying and selling small to mid-sized businesses in the California marketplace. Having writen three books and hundreds of publication articles he has assisted small business owners/sellers, business brokers, agents, and business buyers for over 25 years. This article was adapted from one that originally appeared on his blog.Read More
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or GABB Executive Director Diane Loupe at email@example.com or 404-374-3990.
Many business owners expect to be able to sell whenever they like. In reality, owners can’t control when they are able to sell, according to a recent insightful Forbes article, “Study Shows Why Many Business Owners Can’t Sell When They Want To” penned by Mary Ellen Biery. An Exit Planning Institute (EPI) study revealed that many business owners are “woefully unprepared” to sell.
Christopher Snider, President and CEO of EPI, says a large percentage of business owners have no exit planning in place. This fact is made all the more alarming because most owners have up to 90% of their assets tied up in their businesses. Snider says most business owners will have to sell within the next 10 to 15 years, and yet, are unprepared to do so. Only 20% to 30% of businesses that go on the market will actually sell, Snider says. So what’s the problem?
Snider thinks it’s one of quality. True, it has been a seller’s market for businesses in the last year or more, Snider says that’s due to unattractive supply rather than to strong demand. “Multiples are historically high, but I think that’s more because the private equity companies and the strategic buyers don’t have a lot of businesses to pick from,” he said. In short, Snider says there’s a lack of good quality businesses to buy.
As of 2016, Baby Boomer business owners, who were expected to begin selling in record numbers, are waiting to sell. “Baby Boomers don’t really want to leave their businesses, and they’re not going to move the business until they have to, which is probably when they are in their early 70s,” Snider said.
The EPI survey of 200+ San Diego business owners found that 53% had given little or no attention to their transition plan, 88% had no written transition to transition to the next owner, and a whopping 80% had never even sought professional advice regarding their transition. Further, a mere 58% currently had handled any form of estate planning.
Two-thirds said “Getting full value for my business to fund retirement or other business interests” was a primary goal, but fewer than 40 percent had a formal valuation conducted in the last three years, and 65 percent have never had their financial statements audited.
Adding to the concern was the fact that a third of owners had not even thought about management succession, and only 25 percent were comfortable that their managerial team would be successful if the owner wasn’t involved after the transition.
In Snider’s view, the survey indicates that many business owners are not “maximizing the transferable value of their business,” and additionally that they are not “in a position to transfer successfully so that they can harvest the wealth locked in their business.”
All business owners should be thinking about the day when they will have to sell their business. Now is the time to begin working with an experienced business broker to formulate your strategy so as to maximize your business’s value.
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