The Tremendous Importance of Simply Saying, “Hello!”

Far too many customers have grown to expect poor customer service. Whether its rude employees and customer support or impersonal robotic phone system responses, customers are often shocked when they receive pleasant customer service. In such a climate, it is clear that businesses that simply treat customers well are taking advantage of a huge opportunity.

If you’ve ever personally called a credit card or cable company looking for help, then you already know that it can be something of a depressing and even Kafkaesque experience, leaving you feeling drained. More than likely you don’t feel too positive about any automated experience that bounces you around from one hold menu to the next. Summed up another way, hold music is never a fun or rewarding experience.

Communication is Always Changing

In the “old days” a telephone call was often a customer’s first experience with a business. Now, the game has, of course, changed, with most customers first experience being via the business’s website. While we can’t predict with 100% accuracy how businesses with be communicating with their customers in the future, we do know one fact for certain. The human touch will likely be valued for a long time to come.

Your Website is a Valuable Tool

The initial point of communication with a client, whether it is via telephone or your website, is of critical importance. If a customer has trouble finding key information about your business, such as your location, hours of operation or an easy to understand menu of what goods or services are offered, then they will take their business elsewhere. Consumers don’t generally wait for businesses to get their “act together.” They simply move on.

Simply stated, you want your business’s website to be very user-friendly, streamlined and intuitive as possible. Keep in mind that you understand your business and what it offers, which means you may not be the best judge in spotting flaws in your website presentation. For this reason, it is best to test your website designs with many different potential users who have little or no information about your business and what goods and services you provide.

In the end, every single client is valuable. For every client you lose represents both a potential loss of revenue and revenue being placed in the pocket of your competitor. Don’t let customers slip away simply because there wasn’t a friendly voice answering the phone or your website lacked clarity.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Three Signs You May Be Experiencing Burnout

Burnout is a strange phenomenon in that often a business owner doesn’t know that he or she is experiencing it until it is too late. Owners who feel beleaguered and over stressed frequently want to sell their business and move on. However, buyers are not so eager to accept burnout as a believable reason for why an owner wants to sell.

It is the responsibility of every business owner to be on guard against potential burnout. After all, it is better to “cash in” than to burnout. In this article, we will examine a few of the key warning signs that you may be on the verge of burning out.

Sign 1: There is No Joy in Owning Your Business

Once upon a time, you were likely excited about your business. But if those days are long gone, then it might be time to move on. Owning a business is hard work and eventually it can take a toll. If you find each day to be boring, then it is probably time to sell, move on and start a new chapter in your life.

Sign 2: You Feel Exhausted

Just as feeling no joy is a potential sign of burnout, the same holds true for feeling exhausted. If you feel exhausted all the time, then it is unlikely that you can run your business effectively over the long haul. In short, it may be time to consider selling.

Keep in mind that if your business is doing well, growing and expanding, then there will be more demands on your time, not less. If you feel exhausted a large percentage of the time and your business is expanding and seems poised to expand even more rapidly in the future, then cashing in may be your best bet.

Sign 3: You Feel Overwhelmed Almost on a Daily Basis

Business owners who frequently feel overwhelmed are likely teetering on the edge of burnout; this can be particularly true for business owners who are operating a “one-man show.” Operating a small business, especially one where you are doing most of the work, can be both mentally and physically exhausting.

There is certainly something to be said for being proactive and tackling burn out before it tackles you. In this way, you’ll be able to sell your business on your own terms. The last thing you want is to try and sell your business after you no longer have the energy to keep sales going in the right direction.

Working with an experienced business broker is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get your business ready to sell. Don’t let burnout put the fate of your business in a vulnerable position.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Three Signs You May Be Experiencing Burnout

Burnout is a strange phenomenon in that often a business owner doesn’t know that he or she is experiencing it until it is too late. Owners who feel beleaguered and over stressed frequently want to sell their business and move on. However, buyers are not so eager to accept burnout as a believable reason for why an owner wants to sell.

It is the responsibility of every business owner to be on guard against potential burnout. After all, it is better to “cash in” than to burnout. In this article, we will examine a few of the key warning signs that you may be on the verge of burning out.

Sign 1: There is No Joy in Owning Your Business

Once upon a time, you were likely excited about your business. But if those days are long gone, then it might be time to move on. Owning a business is hard work and eventually it can take a toll. If you find each day to be boring, then it is probably time to sell, move on and start a new chapter in your life.

Sign 2: You Feel Exhausted

Just as feeling no joy is a potential sign of burnout, the same holds true for feeling exhausted. If you feel exhausted all the time, then it is unlikely that you can run your business effectively over the long haul. In short, it may be time to consider selling.

Keep in mind that if your business is doing well, growing and expanding, then there will be more demands on your time, not less. If you feel exhausted a large percentage of the time and your business is expanding and seems poised to expand even more rapidly in the future, then cashing in may be your best bet.

Sign 3: You Feel Overwhelmed Almost on a Daily Basis

Business owners who frequently feel overwhelmed are likely teetering on the edge of burnout; this can be particularly true for business owners who are operating a “one-man show.” Operating a small business, especially one where you are doing most of the work, can be both mentally and physically exhausting.

There is certainly something to be said for being proactive and tackling burn out before it tackles you. In this way, you’ll be able to sell your business on your own terms. The last thing you want is to try and sell your business after you no longer have the energy to keep sales going in the right direction.

Working with an experienced business broker is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get your business ready to sell. Don’t let burnout put the fate of your business in a vulnerable position.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Top 3 Unexpected Events CEO’s May Encounter During the Selling Process

When it comes time to sell a business, not everything goes as planned. You may be one of the lucky ones and find that selling your business is a streamlined process with only a few unexpected occurrences. But most CEO’s looking to sell a business find they can expect the unexpected. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top surprises CEO’s experience during the sale process.

Unexpected Occurrence #1 – Surprisingly Low Bids

CEO’s looking to sell their businesses need to be ready for almost anything. One of the larger surprises that CEO’s face are surprisingly low bids. Don’t let low bids shock you.

Unexpected Occurrence #2 – A Huge Time Commitment

CEO’s have to make sure that everything from an offering memorandum to management presentation and suggestions to potential acquirers are ready to go. The offering memorandum is considered the cornerstone of the selling process and is typically at least 30 pages in length.

Most business intermediaries expect the potential acquirers to submit their initial price based on the information contained in the memorandum. Management presentations are also time consuming, but it is common to have these presentations ready before the final bids are submitted. Ideally it is best for the CEO to show the benefits involved in combining the acquirer and the seller as well as the future upside for selling the company.

Unexpected Occurrence #3 –The Need for Agreement from Other Stakeholders

You, as the CEO, are able to negotiate the transaction, but the sale isn’t authorized until certain shareholders have agreed and done so in writing. Until the Board of Directors, shareholders and financial institutions who may hold liens on key assets, have agreed to the deal, the deal simply isn’t finalized. Often this legal necessity turns out to be an issue that gets in the way of a successful deal.

Sellers can take their “eye off the ball” during the time-consuming process of selling a company, however, this can be a serious mistake. CEO’s must understand that potential acquirers will be examining monthly sales reports with great interest. If potential acquirers notice downward trends they may want to negotiate a lower price. No matter how time consuming the sales process may be, CEO’s have to maintain or even accelerate sales.

Ultimately, there can be a wide array of surprises awaiting a CEO who is looking to sell a business. Avoiding these kinds of issues is often, but not always, a matter of excellent preparation. However, it is vital that they keep in mind that even with the very best preparation and diligence, there can still be surprises when selling a business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Do You Really Understand Your Customers?

The time you invest getting to know and understand your customers is time very well spent. The feedback you get is gold, pure gold. Yet, there are other reasons why this is a prudent move. Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons you should learn more about your customers and their specific needs.

Today’s world has become increasingly impersonal. Most of us spend a shocking amount of time looking at one type of digital screen or another. Personal interaction isn’t what it once was, and you can use that fact to help build your business.

The Ultimate Form of Customer Service

Good old fashioned human contact goes a long way when it comes to keeping customers happy, loyal and returning. The personal touch can go a long way towards building your business by improving customer service. Customer service has become, in general, a very impersonal experience for most people in the modern world.

In most businesses, the owner is more of an impersonal theoretic concept that an actual being; after all, how often do you meet the owners of the businesses that you frequent? As a business owner, when was the last time that you got on the phone or had lunch with a good customer? The truth is that customers and clients enjoy working directly with owners, and it makes them feel more connected with a business. An owner who is working directly with his or her customers or clients is engaged in a powerful form of customer service.

Building Relationships

Investing time to build your business’s key relationships is a prudent step. When was the last time that you took a moment to contact your accountant, banker, legal adviser or other key people that support your business, such as key suppliers? The time you invest communicating with these key people and institutions is time well-spent especially should a problem ever arise. Since most communication is now done online, a handwritten thank you note or a quick phone call can go a long way towards maintaining and building relationships.

It is important to rise above all the background noise of life. One of the best ways of doing so is to invest the time to add a personal touch.

Owning and operating a business shouldn’t be a stealthy activity. Instead, you the business owner should be out front meeting with customers, suppliers and other key people. Running a business isn’t a “backroom” operation, so go out there and meet your customers and other key people! This is how you build and protect your business.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Top 3 Key Factors to Consider about Earnings

Two businesses could report the same numeric value for earnings but that doesn’t always tell the whole story. As it turns out, there is far more to earnings than may initially meet the eye. While two businesses might have a similar sale price, that certainly doesn’t mean that they are of equal value.

In order to truly understand the value of a business, we must dig deeper and look at the three key factors of earnings. In this article, we’ll explore each of these three key earning factors and explore quality of earnings, sustainability of earnings after acquisition and what is involved in the verification of information.

Key Factor # 1 – Quality of Earnings

Determining the quality of earnings is essential. In determining the quality of earnings, you’ll want to figure out if earnings are, in fact, padded. Padded earnings come in the form of a large amount of “add backs” and one-time events. These factors can greatly change earnings. For example, a one-time event, such as a real estate sale, can completely alter figures, producing earnings that are simply not accurate and fail to represent the actual earning potential of the company.

Another important factor to consider is that it is not unusual for all kinds of companies to have some level of non-recurring expenses on an annual basis. These expenses can range from the expenditure for a new roof to the write-down of inventory to a lawsuit. It is your job to stay on guard against a business appraiser that restructures earnings without any allowances for extraordinary items.

Key Factor # 2 – Sustainability of Earnings After the Acquisition

Buyers are rightfully concerned about whether or not the business they are considering is at the apex of its business cycle or if the company will continue to grow at the previous rate. Just as professional sports teams must carefully weigh the signing of expensive free-agents, attempting to determine if an athlete is past his or her prime, the same holds true for those looking to buy a new business.

Key Factor # 3 – Verification of Information

Buyers can carefully weigh quality and earnings and the sustainability of earnings after acquisition and still run into serious problems. A failure to verify information can spell disaster. In short, buyers must verify that all information is accurate, timely and as unbiased as is reasonably possible. There are many questions that must be asked and answered in this regard, such as has the company allowed for possible product returns or noncollectable receivables and has the seller been honest. The last thing any buyer wants is to discover skeletons hiding in the closet only when it is too late.

By addressing these three key factors buyers can dramatically reduce their chances of being unpleasantly surprised. On paper, two businesses with very similar values may look essentially the same. However, by digging deeper and exercising caution, it is possible to reach very different conclusions as to the value of the businesses in question.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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The Deeper Significance of a Listing Agreement

Listing agreements are very common when it comes to selling a business. In order to sell a business using a business broker, a listing agreement is usually required. In this article, we will explore this essential agreement and why it is so critical.

Signing a listing agreement legally authorizes the sale of a business. The fact is that signing a listing agreement serves to represent the end of ownership, which for many business owners, means heading into new territory. Quite often owning a business is more than “owning a business,” as the business represented a dream and/or a way of life.

Walking away from the dream or lifestyle represents a significant change. For many owners this is the end of a dream. It is not uncommon for many business owners to have started a business from “scratch,” and it is also only human to feel at least somewhat attached to the creation. Phrased another way, walking away from a business that one has worked on and cared for is often easier said than done. Businesses become integrated into the lives of their owners in a myriad of ways. Walking away is usually easier in theory than in practice.

Now, on the flipside of the coin, a signed listing agreement is a totally different animal for buyers. It represents the beginning of a dream. The lure of owning a business may come from a desire to achieve greater personal and financial independence, a sense of pride in owning and building something, a desire to always be an owner or a combination of all three. Buyers see the business as the next phase of their lives whereas sellers see the business as the past.

The listing agreement may seem simple enough, but what it represents is an important bridge between the seller and buyer. It is the job of the business broker to understand and consider the situation of both the seller and the buyer respectively and, in the process, work closely with both parties.

The lives of both the buyer and the seller will change greatly once the sale is completed, but in radically different ways. No one understands this simple, but very important fact, better and with more clarity than a business broker.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Are You Sure Your Deal is Completed?

When it comes to your deal being completed, having a signed Letter of Intent is great. While everything may seem as though it is moving along just fine, it is vital to remember that the deal isn’t done until many boxes have been checked.

The due diligence process should never be overlooked. It is during due diligence that a buyer truly decides whether or not to move forward with a given deal. Depending on what is discovered, a buyer may want to renegotiate the price or even withdraw from the deal altogether.

In short, it is key that both sides in the transaction understand the importance of the due diligence process. Stanley Foster Reed in his book, The Art of M&A, wrote, “The basic function of due diligence is to assess the benefits and liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present, and predictable future of the business to be purchased.”

Before the due diligence process begins, there are several steps buyers must take. First of all, buyers need to assemble experts to help them. These experts include everyone from the more obvious experts such as appraisers, accountants and lawyers to often less obvious picks including environmental experts, marketing personnel and more. All too often, buyers fail to add an operational person, one familiar with the type of business they are considering buying.

Due diligence involves both the buyer and the seller. Listed below is an easy to use checklist of some of the main items that both buyers and sellers should consider during the due diligence process.

Industry Structure

Understanding industry structure is vital to the success of a deal. Take the time to determine the percentage of sales by product lines. Review pricing policies and consider discount structure and product warranties. Additionally, when possible, it is prudent to check against industry guidelines.

Balance Sheet

Accountants’ receivables should be checked closely. In particular, you’ll want to look for issues such as bad debt. Discover who’s paying and who isn’t. Also be sure to analyze inventory.

Marketing

There is no replacement for knowing your key customers, so you’ll want to get a list as soon as possible.

Operations

Just as there is no replacement for knowing who a business’s key customers are, the same can be stated for understanding the current financial situation of a business. You’ll want to review the current financial statements and compare it to the budget. Checking incoming sales and evaluating the prospects for future sales is a must.

Human Resources

The human resources aspect of due diligence should never be overlooked. You’ll want to review key management staff and their responsibilities.

Other Considerations

Other issues that should be taken into consideration range from environmental and manufacturing issues (such as determining how old machinery and equipment are) to issues relating to trademarks, patents and copyrights. For example, are these tangible assets transferable?

Ultimately, buying a business involves a range of key considerations including the following:

  • What is for sale
  • Barriers to entry
  • Your company’s competitive advantage
  • Assets that can be sold
  • Potential growth for the business
  • Whether or not a business is owner dependent

Proper due diligence takes effort and time, but in the end it is time and effort well-spent.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Do You Really Know the Value of Your Company?

It is common for executives at companies to undergo an annual physical. Likewise, these same executives will likely examine their own investments at least once a year, if not more often. However, rather perplexingly, these same capable and responsible executives never consider giving their company an annual physical unless required to do so by rule or regulations.

Most Business Owners Don’t Know

Recently, a leading CPA firm undertook a study that was quite revealing. In particular, this study concluded that a whopping 65% of business owners don’t know the value of their company and 75% of the surveyed business owners had their net worth tied up in their businesses. Phrased another way, 75% of business owners don’t know how much they are worth! Perhaps most striking of all was the fact that a full 85% of business owners have no exit strategy whatsoever.

Having Recurrent Valuations is a Must

Business owners should know what their businesses are worth at least on an annual basis. Situations, both personal as well as in the economy at large, can change very rapidly. A failure to have a valuation leaves one exposed if issues suddenly arise involving estate planning or divorce or even partnership issues. These are just two examples of potential problems.

It is also vital to understand how your business compares to last year and previous years; after all, valuations should be increasing not decreasing. A valuation can also help you understand how your business compares to other businesses. Perhaps most importantly, an annual valuation can help you spot and fix problems.

“Buy, Sell or Get Out of the Way”

If you don’t know your valuation, then you truly don’t know where you are headed. As former Chrysler CEO, Lee Iacocca once stated, “Buy, sell or get out of the way.”

Standing still isn’t an option. You need to know your valuation in order to take full advantage of opportunities. You may feel that an acquisition isn’t the right move at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready! Having a current valuation means you’re ready to go if opportunity does, in fact, knock!

You never know when a potential acquirer may enter the picture. Imagine missing out on a tremendous opportunity because you didn’t have a valuation in place. Often hot offers and hot opportunities depend on speed. The time it takes to get a valuation could mean that the opportunity is no longer available. An accurate annual valuation of your business provides a valuable option whether you choose to exercise it or not.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Understanding Issues Your Buyer May Face

Not every prospective buyer actually buys a business. In fact, out of 15 prospective buyers, only 1 actually makes a purchase. Sellers should remember that being a buyer can be stressful. The bottom line is that buying a business is usually one of the single largest financial decisions that a person can make. In this article, we are going to explore a few of the reasons why being a buyer can be both stressful and taxing. Keeping a buyer’s perspective in mind will help you on the road to successfully selling your business.

A prospective buyer has many decisions to make before he or she decides to buy a business. Many prospective buyers are employed, and that means they will have to leave their existing job in order to buy a business. Simply stated, a buyer will have to leave the safety and security of their job and “strike out on their own.”

There are also other substantial financial concerns for buyers as well. The majority of buyers will, in fact, have to take out loans in order to purchase a business. Additionally, the new owner will need to execute a lease or assume the existing list. At the end of the day there exist an array of weighty business decisions that a buyer must make.

Ultimately, a buyer has to decide whether or not he or she is ready to take a giant step and purchase a business. This is more than just a financial decision. The enormity of the decision to purchase a business is such that touches every aspect of a person’s life. Owning a business can be very time consuming and demand a great deal of one’s attention. The end result, is that buying a business has a direct impact on both one’s financial life and one’s personal life. Owning a business can be extremely time consuming and this is particularly true for new business owners.

Prospective buyers need to weigh all the factors involved in buying a business. Caution must be exercised. Buyers need to step back and fully assess whether or not owning a business is right for them both on a personal and financial level. When sellers put themselves in their buyer’s “shoes,” things begin to look a bit differently.

When it comes to buying or selling a business, the assistance of a business broker is invaluable. A business broker understands what is involved in owning a business and can help both buyers and sellers evaluate the pros and cons of any transaction.

Copyright: Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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