How Much? – when buying or selling a business

You buy products or services and one of the first thoughts you have is – How Much?  You sell products or services to customers and one of the first thing a customer wants to know is- How Much? Somebody looks at buying a business and again needs to know – How Much?  And a business owner is ready to sell his business and either move on to other business interest or retire and he needs to determine – How Much.

How does a business owner determine how much his business is worth? The reality of the matter is that the marketplace ,as with most business transactions, determine how much is the worth of the business.  But in order to attempt to sell your business and market you business a value, or a price range needs to be determined to allow potential buyers the opportunity to see if your price goals match with the price range they are willing to pay.

When discussing the concept of valuing a business or setting a range and or target sell price of business with business owners some times the wrong criteria is initially considered by the business owner.  Sometimes the “What I need to make when I sell my business” is different than “what the business is worth.  Consider the example of a business owner invested $50,000 as an initial investment into his business and owes another $100,000 on some equipment he bought and is still paying off.  I might ask the business owner if he has considered what he would want to sell his business for and he may say “I need to at least get $150,000 for the business because of the above reasons.”  Actually the business owner is telling you what he believes he needs to get out of the business, yet this does not necessarily represent potential value to the buyer.

When business owners or entrepreneurs set prices for products and services certainly cost is a significant contributor to determining price point of that product or service.  What like or similar products or services are selling for is also considered.  But the successful and ongoing sales of that product or service is dependent upon how the customer values your product or service.  Does your customer believe that they are getting fair value for the price of your product or service.  The fact that you now lease a new expensive company car- does that enter into the pricing of your product or service.  It may to you but very possibly/probably it does not to the customer.

This is a similar thought process that should go into the question of how much should I sell my business for.  If a person can buy a similar business to yours and buy it for 40% less than yours why would they buy your business.  The price/value needs to make sense.  And if all else is similar it is reasonable to expect the potential buyer of your business to expect your business to be priced similar to other like businesses.   And the fact that you invest more initially into your business or owe $x on  the business, or lease an expensive new car really does not speak to value or pricing (unless liabilities are following the new buyer and may decrease the value to the new buyer)

The best scenario for selling your business is always a scenario which allows for you the business owner to plan that exit strategy.  Part of that planning process is trying to determine what you believe you need to get out of the business for the sale to make sense to you (also allowing for tax consequences of such a sale.) But it is important that what you need to make when selling your business and what your business is worth when selling your business are 2 separate matters.  While these are 2 separate matters that often get convoluted in the thought process of a business owner – it is very pragmatic to target a potential time to sell your business as a time when “what I need to get out of business when I sell my business” is at least equal or less than “the sell price or value of my business.”  Ultimately the somewhat complex process of setting a price of a business for sale (or a product or service for sale) gets reduced to How Much are your selling your business for? and the answer being How Much are you willing to pay.

Need a Job? Buy a Job – Buy a Business

Consider the various routes successful entrepreneurs business owners take when building a successful operation.  It is important to consider that the path taken is varied, and success need not necessarily follow one specific path.  Bill Gates did not invent the MS-DOS program that became the Windows operating system we know today.  Entrepreneurs can start with an idea, and turn it into a successful business venture.  Entrepreneurs can buy a business, step in and continue that operation and grow it.  Entrepreneurs can “buy a job.”

“You Are Not Buying a Business You Are Buying a Job”

This statement has been attributed to certain business opportunities that potential business buyers or entrepreneurs are evaluating.  Is it wrong to buy a business, when what you are doing is” buying a job”?  Firstly what the statement is intended to denote is that, you will be an integral part of the daily operation, the business may not operate properly without your daily workload, you will not necessarily be in a fixed overhead or supervisory role but rather part of the variable cost of running an operation.  You will be buying a business that you be working at in the day to day operations.

Buy A JobFor example if your spouse and you buy an existing business that is a 2 man Sandwich shop- you may be “buying a job.”  At times the prospects of “buying a job” in lieu of buying a business is viewed as a negative.  Is it wrong to “buy a job.”  Personally I dont think so.  Consider the scenario of the employee that worked for the same company for 15 years, walks in his office one Monday morning to learn that he has been let go, downsized, fired, or  laid-off.  When YOU buy your own business or buy your own job,  WHO is going to walk in your office and fire you? Nobody.  You have control of your destiny not always offered when working for others.  When you own your own business you know how the company is doing.  You don’t spend a minute of your time concerning yourself on how your superiors view your performance.

Do you ever wonder where the largest source of buyers of business comes from.  Most future buyers of business are employees right now, or were employees and have been let go and are ready to sieze more control over their destiny.  Currently I am working with a few people of which are both the combination of currently employed and recently let go. Whether you buy a business or look to start your own business, your should be prepared for some hard work. You will probably work harder and stress more than when working for others but does the trade off of control and working for yourself make it worth it?  Today one is buying a business in a buyers market.  More sellers are offering seller financing when selling their business.  Maybe it is a good time to buy a job