In the spirit of the season, we offer a wish list for a typical buyer and seller of a small business. Entrepreneurs who are selling their companies, as well as those looking to purchase, generally agree on what would make the process more seamless overall.
Today’s blog focuses on what the seller wants:
- A qualified buyer – This not only means someone with the financial resources to meet a down payment and secure financing, it also describes someone with experience owning or managing a business — perhaps with some knowledge of the industry itself. A qualified buyer more than likely has established ties to the geographical area and if married or in a domestic relationship, has the support of his partner.
- An appropriate offer – A seller appreciates an offer that is solid, reasonable and timely. Sellers expect contingencies to be a part of the offer, but also anticipate these to be realistic. One of the most common contingencies is a lease transfer with equitable terms for the buyer.
- A practical due diligence phase – Sellers are pleased to answer questions and share pertinent data during the due diligence phase; however, buyers should take care not to pose queries or make statements that may be perceived as an insult to the seller. Common sense should dictate how the buyer should best introduce discussions on past decisions the seller made or how the business is run on a daily basis. Buyers should prepare their due diligence requests in writing and as soon as possible after the offer has been accepted.
- A smooth closing – The closing should be a time of celebration for both parties, not a time for second-guessing, bickering or hesitation. Hiring a closing attorney experienced in the business transfer process helps immensely. By the time everyone is seated at the closing table, all questions should have been answered, all pre-closing paperwork completed and the buyer and seller should be confident this is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
- An efficient transition – Most sellers, particularly those who created the business from the ground up, truly want to see the business continue to grow and prosper. Sellers want their buyers to be successful, and most will work hard to ensure the buyer is completely comfortable with all facets of the business during the training period that begins after the closing. This transition phase often involves introducing the new owner to suppliers and customers and showing the buyer everything related to running the business, from how to operate office equipment to the best way to manage employees’ schedules.
As a business broker, I have most enjoyed working with buyers and sellers who are forthright, reasonable and agreeable. Having realistic expectations on both sides and keeping a professional and positive attitude throughout the business transfer process goes a long way toward reaching a successful closing.