Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Hard Truth: What Your Business is REALLY Worth

The danger in thinking your business is worth more than it is—plus tips to increase its value

Equipment and inventory are tangible assets required to generate sales and earnings. They are certainly critical to many business operations. But when it comes to determining a business' value, the hard truth about hard assets is that they make no difference.

What really matters is the cash flow generated from these and other operating assets. Yet, so many business owners believe there is some mysterious process that will allow them to add the value of these assets to their grand total when it comes time to sell.

The danger with setting an inflated asking price is that your business may be passed over by good, qualified buyers. The longer it its on the shelf, the less appealing it becomes. You also open yourself up to experienced buyers leveraging an inflated price to get the upper hand during the negotiating process.

Why the "add on" philosophy doesn't make sense

Consider the following examples of two businesses.

The first is a trucking company with $500,000 in trucks and dispatch equipment, all of which it needed to run the business. The second is a roofing company with a small number of employees and only $45,000 in inventory and equipment.

The trucking company generates $200,000 in cash flow, whereas the roofing business earns $800,000. Even though the trucking company has more hard assets, most buyers would find the roofing business much more attractive because of its far stronger cash flow.

Proponents of the "add-on" philosophy would argue that if the above two businesses each had a cash flow of $300,000, the trucking company would justify a higher price. But this doesn't make good business sense. Ask yourself, would you pay more for the same level of earnings?

Knowledgeable buyers are interested in cash flow and cash flow alone. They will insist that the assets needed to generate that cash flow are included in the sale price.

The level of inventory will have virtually no impact on value. Business owners often try to rationalize this "add-on" logic because their inventory fluctuates throughout the year. Unfortunately, this method increases the risk for any given business. The inventory at closing may not be enough to support the cash flow, thus requiring the buyer to invest within to support the business.

At best, adding inventory to the price of a business increases the risk that the buyer won't get their expected rate of return on their investment. At worst, this method could lead to business failure because the firm will be undercapitalized and unable to acquire additional funds to buy the necessary inventory.

The reality for many businesses is that there aren't significant variations in the amount of inventory that they carry throughout the year. Those businesses that do tend to see those fluctuations only during a few months of the year, such as holiday seasons. It's not that difficult to determine the inventory that should be included in the price to support the annual gross sales and cash flow.

Exceptions to the rule

There are some situations in which assets are considered in valuing the business. Equipment, inventory and other assets are considered when a company is being sold under less-than-ideal conditions, such as when it has no profits or cash flow. In those cases, assets would be used to determine the value of the business. Problems then arise in establishing the worth of those items. Typically, buyers aren't interested in these businesses because the seller already has proven that the company hasn't made a profit.

But for the most part, cash flow is crucial to building value.

Three ways to increase cash flow

1. Stay active and focused: Countless owners have watched profitability slip away as they became more interested in the next stage of their life. Get active in the development of key employees, because they will be the catalyst for driving sales, operational efficiencies and customer satisfaction. Plus, stay focused on limiting your role in the day-to-day operations of your business. The less customers need you personally, the better the chance for growth.

2. Build a bigger mousetrap: Size matters. Find ways to add sales volume. By opening new geographic markets, you may be able to take advantage of organizational synergies and build a larger volume of customers and sales. Alternatively, look to introduce new products or services you may sell to existing customers and build some depth with folks with whom you already have a relationship. Finally, similar to many businesses, you may find building market share by adding new customers as the most logical step for sales growth.

3. Operate on the cheap: There is little glory in finding more cost-efficient ways of doing things, but these often deliver the quickest road to prosperity. You should regularly review and challenge your suppliers to ensure you're getting competitive pricing in areas such as rent, insurance, utilities, wholesale goods and office supplies. Remember: a dollar saved on operating expenses goes directly to cash flow.

Buyers are looking for businesses with positive cash flow. By focusing your efforts to build value through improved cash flow, you will improve the day-to-day operation of your business, enjoy a higher selling price and improve the likelihood of a successful transaction.

Do you have a small business question you would like answered about this article or othersBill Sivell is a Business Broker with VR Windsor Inc., which sells businesses to buyers across Canada and around the world. His 14-year career includes diverse senior management positions in marketing, advertising, sales management and operations management. He blogs about selling businesses at Maxbizvalue.blogspot.ca


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

3 Reasons Why Buyers Should Use a Business Broker

Many have felt the desire to do something entrepreneurial. There are 2 distinctly different paths to follow – start a business from scratch or buy an existing business.

Fortunately for business brokers many of these individuals are aware of the national statistics that are stacked against the likelihood of developing a successful start-up.

By purchasing an existing business, a buyer can dramatically minimize the risks associated with starting a brand new business. And, a professional business broker can be helpful in many ways including finding and executing on a successful transaction.

Serious Sellers:
Sellers who have listed their business with a broker are serious about selling. This eliminates wasted time dealing with owners who are not motivated to sell. Many business owners started their business to someday sell it, so they may be open to the inquiry. Flushing out the truly motived seller is a process a broker spends a great deal of time perfecting.

Variety of Inventory:

A professional broker will have many different types of businesses for sale, many of which you may not be aware of. Many prospective buyers don’t know what they want, but absolutely know what they don’t want. By working with a broker with an inventory of available business buyers are able to shop the market to determine what is the best fit for your skills and interests.

Valuable Information:
Brokers know the information you need to make an informed decision. Brokers maintain up-to-date information, signed and dated by the seller. They organize their files to be able to address just about every question imaginable, they store facts and data directly from the seller and they are quickly able to work through a business’s profile. Brokers and buyers equally value their time and will put information in play to make sure you hone in on the business that is ideal for you.

For many buyers, the process of purchasing a business is not a familiar process. A broker will be able to help guide you through all the steps and intricate procedures associated with buying a business. This will allow you to concentrate on getting ready to successfully operate your new business.

Plus, they will also have checkpoints along the way where you may bring in other advisors to help you analyze contracts and financial data.

An informed buyer is much more likely to successfully buy a business. Professional business brokers employ numerous procedures that eliminate many of the risks involved in buying a business.

Do you have a small business question you would like answered about this article or others?
Bill Sivell is a salesperson with VR Windsor Inc. [www.vrwindsor.com] 519-903-7807, which sells businesses to buyers across Canada and around the world. His 14-year career includes diverse senior management positions in marketing, advertising, sales management and operations management. His blog appears every Tuesday.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Buyers and Sellers Usually Have a Different View of Value

Most business owners think their business should be priced more than it’s worth – mainly because of all of their hard work over the years.

What they need to realize is there are certain economics and realities that dictate the price.

Besides the various methods of business valuation, the cash flow ultimately must provide the new owner a return on cash investment, ability to service debt and a reasonable salary for the owner and/or manager.

One of the most effective methods of getting to this number is the “cash flow” method, which takes the business’s net profit and combines it with the owner’s salary and personal perks. Plus interest and depreciation. Buyers are typically comfortable with this method because when they are buying a business, what they are really buying is its cash flow.

What can be a challenge is to agree on a multiplier that both the buyer and the seller are comfortable with. To illustrate, consider a recent business deal where the seller was marketing his advertising business that was cash flowing $300,000 for $750,000 which represents a 2.5 multiple of cash flow. The Buyer was prepared to pay a 2.2 multiple for cash flows which would result in a sale price of $660,000. You can see a small variation in multiple can have a dramatic effect on value.

What is common is neither side is necessarily incorrect in their analysis. The seller appropriately considered their diversified customer base, key personnel, market share and longevity in the market place. The buyer correctly reviewed the level of cash invested and rate of return on alternative investment choices, the cost associated with the transition and the type of industry.

In this case there are many ways to bridge the gap, however, too many business owners find major disappointment because the marketplace has not accepted their asking price. They must remember the value of their business is what a buyer is willing to pay and they are willing to accept.

Do you have a small business question you would like answered about this article or other
Bill Sivell is a Business Broker with VR Windsor Inc., which sells businesses to buyers across Canada and around the world. His 14-year career includes diverse senior management positions in marketing, advertising, sales management and operations management. He blogs about selling businesses at Maxbizvalue.blogspot.ca


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Good Profit Margins Are What It's All About

Too many business owners are scared to death to raise prices for fear of losing customers.

In many cases, competition does make it difficult.  But there are many situations if business owners would do some research, they would find out there isn’t as much resistance as they thought.  And when they finally raise prices, they find out they lose very few customers and make a lot more money (also increase the value of the business).

Don’t wait too long.

Start by…

·         Check out you competition, have they adjusted pricing in the past 6-12 months.
·         Connect with a similar business that operates out of town, what sort of adjustments have they made to their prices
·         Do the math, if you are a restaurant owner, have you measured the impact of increases in food costs to your cost of goods sold, if you have vehicles in your business, have you considered how gas prices have impacted your overall expenses.
·         Be creative, many businesses have found ways to creatively increase prices through surcharges, add-ons, and value added services. 
·         Warn your customers in advance.  A well formulated letter can help communicate your future increase, plus can provide a marketable point of contact.  Who says you can’t offer an incentive to your customers for buying now, versus waiting till prices are higher?
·         Do what you say.  Raise prices in an orderly fashion, as you have promised.  Be systematic; ask for feedback from your front-line staff and customers.  You will learn lots from what they say.
·         Be patient and track results.  In a short time you will realize you have made a good decision, and make amendments where you need to.

Bottom-line, healthy profits margins make business owners more money, and help increase a business’ value.  You will make your business more marketable to buyers and increase the likelihood of a successful transfer when the time is right for you to sell. 

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 sales representative of VR Windsor Inc., Business Brokerage; his blog appears every Tuesday.


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

I Lost My Exit Plan

Business Owners should be planning for their own future but they are so busy running their companies every day, they never seem to have time to plan for exiting the business

But they can’t avoid planning for this critical time in their lives. 

Presenting a business for sale is very different than managing it with the business owner’s personal management style and priorities. 

Why is planning so important?  It illustrates who you are and where you want to be, it will help you prioritize, it guides you along the way, and it keeps you focused.  Most importantly, it can help protect and perhaps build value in your business.

In the early stages of your plan you should document your goals.  More than just daydreaming about the day of retirement, actually write down what your income needs will be.  Start to quantify what you need from the sale of your business and establish your optimal age to execute your plan. 

Know Your Finish Line!

Your goals should include more than just numbers.  What are your personal goals?  Is the business’ legacy important to you?  What about your kids, how would they be impacted by your transition?  Decide what is optimal and work from there.

It can take years to properly prepare a business for sale to get the highest price.  Business Owners should start creating an exit strategy at the earliest possible opportunity!

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.