Selling Your Business? Guidance from a Commercial Lender

In our third installment of “tips from the experts,” we discuss a topic of great importance to both buyer and seller: how will this transaction be financed?

When a buyer or seller contacts me to inquire about the business brokerage process, it has been my experience that financing is not always at the top of everyone’s mind – but it should be! Many companies listed for sale never reach the closing table, and lack of financing is almost always the reason these businesses do not sell.

While it would be a much easier process if all buyers brought 100% of the contract price and associated costs in cash to the closing table, this rarely happens.

Typically, seller financing and/or SBA loans are used for financing a sale. SBA loans are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration and are provided to small companies.

Christopher J. Kneer is vice president of commercial lending for Community Bank and specializes in both conventional and SBA loans. He explains, “Banks view business acquisitions as risky transactions for two primary reasons: change of ownership and financing of goodwill. For that reason, we utilize the SBA.”

Kneer provides these tips for potential sellers:

The time to begin preparing for the sale of your business is three years out. To get the highest price for your business, you need to have multiple and consistent years of earnings. Banks and many buyers are suspicious of one great year and dramatically different results in previous years.

Accounting quality is very important. An arm’s length CPA should be working with your company. Accounting issues and statements that do not match up from year to year are a major red flag. If there are significant line items or particular issues on your financials, be upfront and point them out. Spend the money on good accounting and it will come back twofold.

Show earnings. The time to strategically limit profits for income tax purposes is not while you are preparing to sell your business. No bank wants to see a company that loses money every year and bases its sales price on “add-backs.”

Have buyers pre-qualified. Banks want to see buyers with industry experience, proper equity injections, and liquidity. It does no good to show your businesses to those that cannot qualify for financing unless they are cash buyers.

Plan to have a seller note involved in the transaction. Due to changes in SBA financing, it is often necessary, and it also shows good faith in that you are willing to stand behind the business for sale.

Plan to stay on for a period of time. This also shows good faith that you are willing to help the new owner be successful.

Solid and sound advice.

Help! How do I create a strategic business plan?

Twenty-something years ago, I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from a recognized state university. But how much practical or "real world" knowledge did I gain with this diploma?

Recently, The Wall Street Journal printed a reader's question concerning business plan strategy — something that was not covered in his academic studies.

The reader began by stating he had a college degree in business, but his formal education did not include learning the specific components that make a business plan successful. He asked if there was someone who could review his business plan and give the necessary feedback to ensure its success before the plan was formally submitted to lenders and other outside parties.

Barbara Haislip responded by suggesting a free and knowledgeable resource: the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The Office of Small Business Development Centers provides man agement assistance, information and guidance to new and established small business owners through a cooperative effort of the private sector, educational community and federal, state and local governments. The best news? This assistance is available in all 50 states and U.S. territories at no cost to the small business owner.

Haislip suggested that prior to approaching the SBDC, an entrepreneur should include the following items in his business plan:

  • discussion of customers
  • review of present and potential competition
  • presentation of marketing strategy
  • list of all resources necessary to the business

Haislip further explained most entrepreneurs will also need a financial plan (generally showing two or three years of projected income and cash-flow statements and balance sheets).

Check out for more information and to find the SBDC branch closest to your business.