Performing due diligence as a part of your company’s annual review is a smart move and one that can help your business in a range of ways. Through this means, if the day comes that you need or want to sell, then you’re ready to go. There are six key areas of due diligence that you’ll want to consider. These are aspects that most serious buyers will consider when buying a business.
You can expect any savvy buyer to focus on the following during due diligence if they are truly interested in acquiring your business. Problems in any of these areas could spell serious trouble in the sales process.
In terms of legal issues, you’ll want to carefully evaluate whether or not your contracts and agreements are all current. Issues such as copyrights, trademarks and patents should all be examined. Most importantly, if there is any pending litigation it would be best to resolve the matter if possible. Likewise, if there are any potential legal issues, such as lawsuits, looming on the horizon, those issues should be addressed as well. Try and think about what your own lawyer or legal team would want to see out of a business before recommending that you ink a deal. Obviously, these types of legal issues should not and will not simply be overlooked.
Marketing issues should be dealt with as well. Business owners should understand not just their business, but the industry as a whole.
Consider the following questions:
- Who are the industry leaders?
- What is the size of the market?
- Who are your current and future customers?
- What are the upsides and risks of your products or services?
You should demonstrate to a prospective buyer that you understand the “lay of the land.” You should be able to convey a strong grasp of how the business is currently positioned and how it may be positioned in the future.
One serious environmental issue can derail a deal or even destroy a business. Prospective buyers are very wary of potential environmental issues. Identifying and addressing environmental issues, if possible, should be a key part of your preparation for due diligence.
Another key area to evaluate is operational issues. Your company should have an easy to understand program for how products or services are handled at every point of the process. How your goods or services are delivered to the customer shouldn’t be a mystery, but should instead be clearly defined to a prospective buyer.
As there is clarity in how your goods or services reach consumers, the same holds true for financial issues. You do not want your finances to seem mysterious. Everything from your inventory and supply chain to your accounts receivable and accounts payable should be well laid out, accessible and easy to understand.
Employees and Management
Problems with employees or management can spell doom for any company. You’ll want to take steps to cover any potential issues in these areas well before selling.
Working to address these six key areas will help keep your business in a ready to sell posture. While you might not plan on selling today or tomorrow, there is no way to know what the future may bring. It’s best to be prepared.
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There is no denying the fact that for most people, the decision to buy or sell a business is one of the most important professional and financial decisions that they will ever make. Let’s turn our attention to some of the key questions you’ll need to ask.
1. What is really for sale?
You’ll need to determine what is, and is not, for sale. If you own machinery or real estate associated with the business, are those items to be included in the sale?
2. What assets bring in revenue?
One important factor to consider when preparing a business to be sold is what assets are earning money. If you have assets that are not earning money, then it may or may not be prudent to sell those assets.
3. What is proprietary?
Buyers and sellers alike will want to consider what is proprietary. Anything from software and patents to formulations can be extremely valuable. Sellers will want to give substantial thought to how to best frame any proprietary property that they have in the best light. Buyers will want to carefully evaluate proprietary property to try to ascertain an accurate value. Outside experts may be needed to make an accurate assessment.
4. What’s your competitive advantage?
A business’s competitive advantage should be of importance to buyers and sellers. A seller should focus on understanding their competitive advantage, whether it is a certain niche, a superior manufacturing process or product, better marketing or a range of other factors. Properly framing your competitive advantage can help buyers see the full, and even untapped, value of your business.
5. What is your growth potential?
Buyers will want to consider factors such as whether or not the business has the potential to grow. If the business can’t be grown, then buyers should include this fact in their final decision and/or offer.
6. What agreements do you have in place?
Other factors such as employee agreements, non-competes, and the depth of management are all areas of concern for a prospective buyer. Buyers will want to consider if the seller has secured agreements from key employees and how dependent the business is on an owner/manager.
7. What relevant financial information will a buyer want to know?
Understanding how much working capital is needed to run the business and how financial reporting is undertaken are other factors that should not be glossed over.
If you are preparing to sell your business it is worth the time to pause and think about what your business might look like to a buyer. In short, what would you think of your business if you were the buyer and what questions would you ask?
Buying or selling a business is complex. Every single business is different and that means there is no 100% standardized approach and route towards success. A seasoned, experienced and professional business broker or M&A advisor can help guide buyers and sellers alike towards optimal outcomes.
The closing is a pivotal moment in the history of a business as it marks the formal transfer of a business from one party to the next. Behind every successful closing is months of focus and hard work. Simply stated, a successful closing doesn’t just happen, but is instead the byproduct of extensive negotiations.
One key document to utilize in the closing process is the Purchase and Sales Agreement. There are four key aspects to this document.
- First are the terms of the agreement, which typically cover the price as well as detailed terms on how the business is to be paid. In the Purchase and Sales Agreement, you will find the status of any management that will be staying with the business.
- This document also should contain conditions and covenants which include non-competes as well as agreements on what to do and what not to do moving forward.
- Any good Purchase and Sales Agreement will, of course, include a description of the transaction. In other words, is the transaction a stock or asset sale?
- Finally, the agreement will cover representations and warranties. This is typically negotiated after the Letter of Intent is agreed upon. In short, the warranties will provide that everything is as it has been represented.
Now, let’s look at the four key steps that are a must before the sale of a business can close.
- Topping the list, is that the seller must provide satisfactory evidence that they have the full legal right to act on the behalf of the selling company. Additionally, the seller must show evidence that they have full legal authority to sell the business.
- Secondly, all representations and warranties must be in place. Importantly, this will also include clearly stated remedies that are available to the buyer in the case of a seller’s breach.
- Third, the buyer’s representative should have completed the due diligence process. A key part of the due diligence process is that any claims and representations made by the seller have been clearly substantiated and addressed.
- Last, but certainly not least, necessary financing should have been secured. A critical part of the process is that all of the proper paperwork, as well as the appropriate liens, should be in place, as no funds can be released until these conditions have been met.
It is also important to note that there are two significant elements of closing that will take place simultaneously.
- The first is the corporate closing which is the actual transfer of the corporate stock or assets. This step is based on the provisions set forth in the Purchase and Sales Agreement. All the paperwork that was carefully laid out in the Purchase and Sales Agreement has been completed.
- The second major element is the financial closing. In the financial closing all the paperwork, as well as the legal documents needed to provide funding have successfully been executed.
While there is no doubt that closing is a joyous time, it is also vital to remember that the period leading up to closing is the time to have a laser-like focus. This is the most important time to avoid mistakes. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor can dramatically reduce your chances of experiencing mistakes during the all-important closing process.
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