Tuesday, 11 December 2012

How sellers can protect from getting their business back, after they sell it

Two questions sellers ask… “How much is my business worth,” and “How can I protect myself so I don’t get the business back later?

In many ways, the latter question is more sensitive issue than the first.  An improperly structured transaction can create problems for the seller years after he has sold the business. 

Although there are no guarantees, a combination of the following recommendations will significantly reduce the likelihood that the seller will be stepping back into the business after stepping out.  Many of these suggestions, such as having an adequate training period for the new owner, having a good client base, having strong relationships with suppliers, etc. are obvious.  However, many are not. 

One of the most common mistakes sellers make is not getting enough of a down payment.  One of the best ways to ensure the successful transition of their business is to have the buyer invest a significant amount of their own capital in the transaction.  Few incentives inspire the new owner to achieve success greater than the risk of the loss of a significant amount of their own money.  In simple terms, it is a lot harder to walk away from a $150,000 down payment than $15,000.

Another way to minimize a seller’s risk is to know their buyer.  This goes beyond having some of the same interests, common friends and an affinity for the same brand of Cabernet.  It means a thorough review of the buyer’s credit, analysis of their personal finances and a complete resume illustrating, not only their accomplishments but their life experiences.  For example, if the buyer has a poor history of paying off his credit card, he likely might have problems making his monthly principal and interests payments to the seller on a timely basis.  If the buyer doesn’t have a strong financial statement, he may not be able to weather any unexpected slow periods. 

As far as life experiences go, the passion and skill sets that are required to run a day care will be significantly different than what would be needed to operate a manufacturing business. 

Finally, securing the services of a good business broker to help the seller navigate through these issues can be good preventative medicine.  A qualified facilitator will structure the transaction to ensure that potential potholes are covered. 

By incorporating these obvious and not-so obvious suggestions, business sellers will be able to significantly increase the likelihood that they won’t have to come back into their business once they have left.

Do you have small business questions you would like answered about this article or others?  Please visit www.VRWindsor.com or call 519-903-7807. 
William Sivell is a Broker at VR Windsor Inc., Business Brokerage; his blog appears every Tuesday.


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