Buying A Business - The Basics
Whether you are starting your own business from scratch, going into a business opportunity, or buying a business, you need to have certain characteristics, traits, skills, and goals in order to succeed. So how do you know if you are ready to own a business? Basically, you need to ask yourself some hard questions and give yourself honest answers. If you don’t have the time and commitment to start a business, you need to look elsewhere for your income. You may be better served accepting a job with a company. There are those that need structure and a job is the place for them. But, if you are inclined to owning your own business, then lets discuss some necessary items. First, you need to have a plan. The plan can come from your own imagination, the franchisor, or the company offering the business opportunity. It doesn’t have to be something set in stone, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. It just needs to be a basic outline of what your business will be, what you will sell, how you will sell it, and what your operating costs will be. It is recommended that you include at least three months of operating expenses into your start up costs budget, which also needs to be determined in your plan. The next item is paramount to your success. It is the infamous 4 letter word and that is work.
On the face of it, it should be a lot less risky now than it used to be to buy a business from a stranger. Most (but not all) States and Governments in the developed world have brought in stringent disclosure rules which aim to even things up between the supposedly rapacious seller and the innocent purchaser.Certainly these rules will expose or prevent blatant fraud and misrepresentation, but they can also lull you into a false sense of security. The very worst thing you can think is "Oh well, if the figures don't turn out right I'll just take them to court and sue the pants off them".If you're stuck with a dud business as a result of being deliberately deceived you certainly can take them to court. But you don't need me to tell you of the costs of litigation, the time it takes (years!), and the very real chance you may not succeed anyway.And in the meantime you have to spend your days desperately running a business that may not generate enough to cover these legals. Remember also that lawyers will only take on work on a contingency basis when they think their chances of success are pretty good. It's way, way better to get it right in the first place.Even though most sellers usually turn out in the end to be nice ordinary honest people, I as a valuer always look at them and their businesses with a suspicious mind, and you should too. Because the truth of the matter is that they know far more about the business and what is happening in the industry than you do, and they are quite within their rights to not tell you everything. If you don't ask, you may not find out until it's too late. "Caveat Emptor" is the Latin for "Let the Buyer Beware" and it is still true today despite all the well-meaning but bureaucratic attempts to shield you. Some of the traps I have listed in this and following articles may be legislated against in some jurisdictions and others may have to be disclosed by the vendor. But it pays to know about them anyway.I'll give you these tips roughly in the sequence in which I would check them out. Let me tell you now that everything is wrong with the business I select, but of course I don't know that when I start out. And if it were real I would walk away very early in the piece.I have chosen a retail business to illustrate these traps, but most of them apply equally to service and manufacturing businesses. I have not specified what type of retail business it is, for very good reasons.First, the facts and figures have been made up and do not represent any particular type of business. Second, the same type of business can be totally different in the way it operates and in its risk level from one country to another and even from state to state. Third, I would not want to give any type of business the bad name that this (imaginary) one deserves.So let's assume it is a general type of retail business and call it the GRB (General Retail Business) Shop. Let's also assume that it is a reasonably secure type of business, though somewhat sensitive to competitionLocation is paramount for retail and most service businesses (though the internet is changing that) but less so for manufacturing enterprises.The business broker gives me a half dozen businesses to look at. I select one that seems to be in the right price range - the asking price is $230,000 plus S.A.V. (Stock, (or Inventory) at Value) - and not too far from home. So I pay a visit.It's in a small suburban shopping mall that looks about 20 years old. The mall is busy for early Monday morning, which is a good sign. The shop is well located within the mall with good traffic flow and prominent signage, but is a little bit tired in appearance. A quick check shows it is the only one of its type in the mall. The owners seem friendly and cooperative. I ask if they do home deliveries. They do and take me for a ride around the area covered. There is a new housing estate going up close by which they say will increase business in the future, and the next nearest business of its type is some distance away.Trap 1. Not Being Told of Known Competitor Plans:I leave and decide to have another look at the housing estate. At the far end of it I discover a large sign announcing the imminent construction of a mega shopping mall with a GRB type of business already signed up. So the business is under threat from new competition nearby.The message here is, don't just check the location, check what is happening in the area. Talk to other shopkeepers, talk to locals, visit the council, and look at the demographics to see if they match the market for your products or services. There may be a new highway going through in five years time resulting in a property resumption, or a diversion of traffic away from your site - or it could be good news as well.
Buying a Business - The Traps and How to Avoid Them - Part 1
It is everyone's dream: roll out of bed at the crack of noon, stumble to the front door in your PJ's, pick up the newspaper and check the mailbox. And in the mail, there is a check waiting for you - maybe it's $1,000, $10,000 or even $100,000!Such things only happen in fairy tales, right? Wrong! But there are some things that have to happen first:1. You must have the discipline to actually WORK in your business. Most people get up and go to a job. It becomes a habit, a safe routine. When you have your own business, there is no one telling you what to do or when to work. It's easy to get way laid. Many business owners create systems and a schedule to replace the routine for a 9-5 job.2. You must be willing to deal with the insecurity of no steady paycheck. It's usually a good idea to have at least 3 - 6 months reserve to cover living expenses while you're getting your business off the ground. Or phase out your 9-5 job gradually. 3. There are lots of details that you must learn about running a business that have nothing to do with making money: filing quarterly estimated IRS returns, business licenses, filing payroll taxes, withholding, unemployment, workmen's comp... The list goes on.4. By all means, read the book E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Owning a business is all about systems. Just because you love to bake, it doesn't mean you should own a bakery.5. Another 'MUST READ' recommendation: You Need To Be A Little Crazy - The Truth About Starting and Growing Your Business by Barry Moltz. Barry gives the inside story of the ups and downs of being a business owner. The toll of being a business owner effects not only you but your family as well. Barry describes the stress of being self-employed can have on your health and on your relationships.6. Be sure you not only know what you're getting yourself into - but make sure your family and spouse understand and are willing to make the sacrifice as well! They need to be prepared for you to work harder than you've ever worked before--AND without a steady paycheck. Without the support of those who love you, you will never succeed.7. Having a business that doesn't require a "bricks and mortar" store or office is a huge advantage. Overhead is cut to a minimum. Maybe it's an Internet business where you sell "moon cookies" on line and a fulfillment center warehouses the product.8. Not having inventory is a huge advantage! Not having precious capital tied up in inventory gives you a huge safety net. Starting with a service vs. a product can be a much easier start-up financially - IF you have experience and a "following" of clientele in the service you're providing. 9. Multi-Level Marketing businesses are a great way for a beginning entrepreneur to get started with a very low entrance barrier. "Rich Dad" Robert Kiyosaki has outlined the benefits of this type of business in his book The Business School For People Who Like Helping People.10. Brad Sugars, who markets a program called "Billionaire in Training" recommends buying an existing business vs. starting a new one. Acquiring new customers is most expensive when you have none. Buying an existing business gives you a built-in client base.
Buying a Business - Steps
If you've ever wanted to buy a business with "no money down", and have heard someone say it goes on all the time and that it's possible, then I have some good news and some bad news.The bad news first: No matter what anyone says, you can't buy a decent business with nothing down.In the 50 plus years I've been in business, buying businesses and teaching other people how to buy businesses, I've never seen it happen. I've never once run into a seller that will let you in with nothing down. It just doesn't exist. But here's the good news: Just because you can't buy a business with nothing down, if you find one that makes sense and it's large enough, you can finance it 100%, without using even a penny of your own money or borrowing a dime from your friends, family and relatives.How can I say this?Because there are, in fact, lots of ways to finance a business -- including banks, government loans, joint ventures, suppliers, owner financing and, my personal favorite, investors. You can use one of these methods or combine them however you like. Most of these tactics are relatively fast, simple and clean...and a lot easier than you may think.When I was still teaching about buying businesses in seminars many years ago, people would often confuse 100% financing with nothing down. But they aren't the same thing at all. The next time someone says you can buy a decent business -- one that's not a dog, a turn around or some kind of Mickey Mouse operation that's sinking fast -- with nothing down, run away from them as fast as you can. Because chances are they're trying to sell you on an idea that simply doesn't exist.
Buying a Business - Steps