Step by Step Procedure to Buy a Business

Bill Henthorn asked:

There are two questions you should ask yourself before purchasing any business. Why do I want to buy a business and what kind of business would fit in with your personal experience. The “why” is in many cases more important than the “what” when answering these two questions? You need to know why you want to own a business and are you ready both financially and emotionally. After you answer this question you can look into what kind of business you think you should own.

Why do you want a business?

Why you want to take on the responsibility of a business is important. Owning and running a business is a challenge to do successfully. If you want to be your own boss that is OK as long as you realize that your future earnings will be in your hands and not those who run the business where you are working now. You must have sufficient money to get the business up and running and still pay your monthly bills that you currently have. You cannot count on taking any money out of the business for several months to a year. Your own business does mean some freedom, but it also means you are the owner seven days a week and with little time off. You also need to figure if the business you are thinking of getting into is one that you can run without many extra people or is it one where you will need help. This is important for several reasons. More people means the business has to generate more income. There are also rules that need to be complied with as far as employees are concerned. Let’s assume you are financially and emotionally ready to take this big step. What kind of a business are you going to buy?

Which type of business would be a match?

The type of business depends on your interest and knowledge. If you have an area of expertise, then this area should be looked into very seriously. Are you a people person, then a business with a retail or business-to-business element would make sense. People businesses need a front person to capture the clientele. If this is your forte, then this business area should be looked into with a serious intent. One of the ways to find out which types of businesses are available is to look into a business broker and see what they have listed. Another way to find a business that may not be listed is to ask bankers you know or other business owners. Accountants could be another source of businesses that are not listed for sale. Business brokers list most of the businesses for sale in the market online. Listings by private owners and Business Brokers online are available at the Buy a Business Section of you do not have the patience to browse each of them by state or category,Search the business you are looking for with a keyword or location

With these two questions answered or at least a tentative decision made, the buyer needs to look at each business that meets the criteria that has been set. Formal meetings that allow for full disclosure of the business’s situation both current and future are an important step in finding out more about the business. How the business has done in the past is useful for predicting the future. This meeting is also the time to find out if there are any problems coming up or like building code changes or possible lawsuits. Are there any obligations, which will be assumed that can be brought forward in time as to payment? Are key employees going to stay with the business and if not can they be easily replaced. Is there a way to quickly add to the business or change some of its functions to add to the sales? Are the prices being charged at a fair level? The real reason for these meetings is to exchange information. Win-win deals can only be made when both parties are equally informed.

Buying a business outside of your experience or knowledge

If the business is one where you will need training to learn the business, make sure you have a timely agreement with the old owner for their help for a period of time. You would also be well advised to have the owner introduce you to the important clients that have made the company successful. This introduction could be the difference in keeping the client and losing them to a competitor.

Learn as much as you can about the competition. These are the people who can move in on a new owner. Make sure they have not suddenly developed a product that is superior to what you will be selling. Also find out if you can who they sell to and why the old owner could not make any headway with the competitor’s clients.

Price negotiation

With the exchange of information out of the way, the hardest part of any purchase comes into play. The price that the business will sell for is usually a negotiated sum. There are many ways to come up with the selling price. The owner will have a price in mind and you will have an offering price you will start the bargaining with. Another price can be obtained from a third party who is certified to set prices for businesses that are put up for sell. The certified brokers have passed a series of tests that qualify them to come up with an unbiased value for the business being sold. This price is fair to both the buyer and the seller, because it is arrived at by standard business evaluation principles. This expert price is the result of hard work and careful analysis of the business both current and future prospects.

Terms of the deal

Once a price is set, the terms of the deal can be negotiated. There is always a cash price and a price, which involves terms. Most owners are willing to carry back some of the purchase price in order to expedite the sale. This is an area that usually can be dealt with by reasonable bargaining and private negotiating.

Banks can be a source of funds for some buyers if they have assets and very good credit. Sometimes a person can arrange for private financing among friends of relatives. The seller is always a potential lender for the buyer if they have a big enough deposit. Some times the seller’s asking price is too high, but the buyers counter offer can be “I will meet your price, but you will need to give me very good terms”. This is all part of the buy-sell negotiating. Simple rules should be in play during the negotiating. Remember the seller wants to sell and if you make reasonable counteroffers, there is a good chance that one of them will be accepted. Do not try to win by just being stubborn. Compromise is the way to make the sell happen for the buyer and the seller.


Keep the old owner on your side, as you never know when you may need them for something that comes up after you have made the purchase. The problem may have happened to them in the past and they may know the perfect solution.

The final advice for buying a business, is do your homework and do not believe that all will just go smoothly during the first year. There will be problems, and since you are the owner, you will have to resolve them in a timely manner. If you have to employ others, treat them with respect and if they know the business, ask them what they would do if they were in your shoes. Knowledge is power and respect will help you gain the employees willingness to share with you.

Firm and fair are the traits of a good employer.

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