Know What You’re Looking For in a Business
When sifting through multiple businesses for sale, knowing what you want in a company is essential before you start searching. Having clear criteria will help you quickly identify businesses that are not a good fit and focus on ones that are. Here are some key things to consider:
Type of Business
What industry interests you? Retail, food and beverage, manufacturing, professional services, etc. Focus your search on business types that align with your interests, experience and goals.
Size of Business
The size of the business, both in terms of revenue and number of employees, should align with your resources and capabilities. A too-small company may need more growth potential, and a too-large business may need to be more manageable to manage.
Look at the past 3-5 years of profit and loss statements. Steady profits indicate the business has sound finances. Be wary of companies with unpredictable or declining profits.
Research the industry’s growth trends and outlook. A business in a fast-growing sector will likely have more opportunities down the road. Slow growth may indicate declining demand.
Consider aspects like customer demographics, competition, and regulations specific to the geographic location. A location can have a significant impact on a business’s success.
Scrutinise Listings Carefully
Dig into the details carefully once you find business sale listings that meet your criteria. Listings sometimes provide a partial or accurate picture. Here are some things to look out for:
Ensure the party selling the business is the legal owner—request documentation proving ownership before proceeding if it’s not apparent.
Reason for Sale
Understand why the business is for sale. Retirement or personal reasons are preferable. Urgent sales due to financial problems or pending litigation require deeper investigation.
Review tax returns, profit/loss statements, balance sheets and existing contracts. Ensure financial info is consistent across sources and the business is as profitable as advertised.
Don’t assume all assets, like equipment, inventory, intellectual property, etc., are included in the sale. Verify exactly what is included and negotiate if critical purchases are excluded.
Scrutinise liabilities like loans, leases, supplier agreements and employee contracts that will carry over after purchase—factor ongoing costs into valuation.
Do Your Due Diligence
After identifying promising listings, do thorough due diligence to validate the information and uncover potential issues that need to be evident in listings. This includes:
Tour facilities and locations in person to assess infrastructure, equipment condition, cleanliness and organisation. This can reveal a lot about how the business has been managed.
Talk to key managers and staff to get insights into day-to-day operations, culture and morale. Watch for inconsistencies that may point to problems.
Verify Key Customers
Reaching out to top customers can uncover issues like declining satisfaction or plans to switch vendors that pose revenue risks.
Review Permits, Licenses & Legal Paperwork
Ensure all required operating credentials, insurance, incorporation documents, trademarks, etc., are in order. Missing or non-compliant paperwork can be costly.
Assessment by Experts
Consider getting professional assessments on critical areas like facilities, equipment, branding, products and finances. Experts may identify issues or value impacts you miss.
Compare Multiple Opportunities
As you evaluate multiple businesses for sale, comparing and ranking them across criteria allows you to consider tradeoffs and make an informed decision. Some key aspects to compare include:
- Profitability and growth – Which has more robust financials today and more potential in the future?
- Risks and liabilities – Which has fewer lingering obligations or threats to sustainability?
- Opportunity cost – Which option is worth the investment based on your goals and acceptable risk?
- Owner involvement required – Which needs less hands-on management effort from you?
- Skill alignment – Which utilises your strengths and experience the best?
- Cost to acquire – Which delivers the most value relative to the asking price?
- Intangibles – Which is the best culture/team fit? Which is more personally rewarding?
Taking the time to compare options against your goals methodically ensures you choose the very best business for you.
Move Quickly When the Time is Right
Once you’ve found a business that stands out from other opportunities after thorough analysis, move quickly to make it yours. Have capital ready to act fast when you find the right fit. Be prepared to make an attractive offer to the seller, particularly in competitive situations. When all signs point to an opportunity being a great match, decisively pursuing it will pay off.
Finding and vetting businesses for sale takes time and diligence. Following these tips will help you filter through multiple options without getting overwhelmed or making a costly oversight. Stay focused on your goals and priorities, do homework on each opportunity, and move fast when you find the ideal match. Approaching your search strategically will help land you the business you’ve always dreamed of owning.