It would be nice to live in a world where every business-for-sale was sold at top dollar. While there is no such thing as a perfect business free from all defects, there are a number of problems that can hinder a sale that could be remedied, if given enough time. This article lists ten of the reasons which are often cited as contributing factors in an unsuccessful sale or a completed deal for less than potential value.
Business intermediaries need to be up-front with their seller clients, educating them on the challenges faced, and the likely impact that one or more of these issues will have on completing a successful transaction.
1. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
a. Valuation/Listing Price:
Arguably, the price a business is listed at is one of the critical elements to a successful sale. An owner’s emotional attachment to their business, coupled with an inexperienced business intermediary’s desire to obtain the listing and please the seller, can be a recipe for disaster. Overpricing a business will deter knowledgeable buyers from establishing communications. Additionally, it will be extremely difficult to defend the valuation when a business has been priced unrealistically. The typical outcome is that the listing will languish in the marketplace and recovery becomes more difficult. Once on the market for months on end at the wrong price, the process in re-pricing and re-listing creates a whole new set of challenges, the least of which is maintaining credibility.
b. Unrealistic Terms and/or Structure
Deal structure, asset allocation and tax management must be addressed proactively and early in the process. Often the Buyer and Seller place all of the focus on the sale price at the expense of the ‘net after-tax results’ of a business transaction. In most cases, a seller could achieve a deal that provides a greater economic benefit when an experienced Tax Attorney/CPA assists with structuring the transaction. In addition to structure there are a number of other issues that could be problematic, including:
- Seller insists on all cash at closing and is inflexible in negotiating other terms.
- The buyer’s unwillingness to sign a personal guarantee
- The lack of consensus on the Asset Allocation
- Seller insisting on only selling stock (typically with a C-Corp)
- Inability to negotiate equitable seller financing, an earn-out, or terms for the non-compete