Buy A Business Worth Over A Million Dollars-Even If You Just Filed Bankruptcy Yesterday

If you’d like to know how you can buy a large, multi-million dollar business — one that pays you a fat, six-figure salary year in, and year out — and be able to do it even if you have rotten credit with a recent bankruptcy on your record, then this article will show you how.

Listen: People I talk to about buying businesses always hear me rail about how it’s actually faster, easier and cheaper for you to buy large businesses (worth a million dollars or more) than small businesses, and that the reason why is because of this thing called investor financing — as opposed to owner financing, bank financing, government loan financing, etc.

In other words, say you filed bankruptcy last year. If you go out and try to do something under your name, you’re never going to be able to do anything. The business brokers, bankers and other bureaucrats won’t touch you with a ten foot pole, especially if you have money problems on your record. But if you walk in with an investor…who is putting up cash…then they won’t give a hoot about you or care one iota if you just filed bankruptcy yesterday.

And that’s why investor financing is so powerful. However, there are certain criteria an investor bases his decision on before working with you. And if you don’t understand these criteria, you’re dead in the water as far as getting investor financing.

Luckily, the key thing an investor’s going to want is information on the company. And what you’re going to find is the average investor is spending 99.9% of his time on the business because that is his main thing. And one of the first things he will do is make sure the business you want to buy has a strong management team in place. That way, he isn’t all that worried as far as how much management experience or money you do or don’t have.

Of course, there are other things investors will need before financing a business for you. But the main thing (besides you having a good business plan) is that the business you want to buy already has a competent management team in place.

How Much Is My Business Worth – Is This The Right Question To Ask?

One of the most frequent questions that I get from business owners is: “How much is my business worth?” Before we can answer that question there are other things that we must answer and do before we can get a complete and accurate answer.

First things first: If you have a desire to attract the most compatible, ready, willing and financially able business buyer, you must first present your business in the best possible light.

A few questions that you should ask first are:

Do I have a business that has been profitable for at the least 3 years?

Do I have verifiable tax returns and financial statements to show proof?

Anyone can start a business but it takes a very smart and capable person to turn it into a profitable business. As the owner of a business, can you be honest with yourself and say with 100% certainty, that you’ve been a successful and efficient business owner?

Another consideration and question to ask is: Have a prepared for the sale of my business by putting a stellar exit plan in place to provide for a orderly sale and transition?

If you own a business and you’ve not put your exit plan in plan, you’re causing a considerable decrease in value. If you attract a buyer that is ready, willing and ready to do things on your terms and your transition plan is chaotic, expect the buyer to want a discount on the finally selling price as a result of having to smooth out the “rough edges”.

Have you discussed in complete detail with your family about your desire to sell the business? Not doing so can cause headaches during to sell process and many business owners end up caving into the demands of their families and often times hinders the sale of the business.

You may be thinking “how do any of the above effect how much my business is worth”. The answer to that is– preparation. Preparation is going to answer the question: How much is my business worth.

Ideally you should start the process of getting your business prepared for sale about 2 years prior to putting it on the market for sale. The preparation that is involved will greatly affect how much your business is worth.

Many business owners do not take these things into consideration when they decide to sell their business and are extremely disappointed when the official appraisal is provided and the numbers don’t live up to their high expectations.

Every business owner has the right to believe their business is worth a certain amount but the reality is, did you prepare? Be honest with yourself.

If you did not prepare you could be in for a disappointment in the event that you need to sell immediately.

Before asking “How much is my business worth?”, read the above, let it sink in and if you’re in need of any help get in touch and I am sure I can help you put a plan in action.

What is My Business Worth?

Syracuse, NY – March 17, 2006 – Small-business owners want and need to know what their business is worth.

The short answer is it depends. It depends on the purpose of the valuation, the standard of value, majority or minority interest, going concern or liquidation. There are many factors that affect value, and experts differ in their analysis. In addition, the IRS will often be looking at the valuation results, and these results can generate significantly different values for the same entity. The outcome often leads to business owners scratching their head in confusion.

The more common purposes for valuation are estate and gift taxes; buy-sell agreements; divorce; buying or selling a business; dissenting stockholder actions; and Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), according to “Valuing a Business” by Shannon Pratt, etal.. The standard of value used depends on the purpose of the valuation.

Standards of Value

Fair market value (FMV), the most commonly known standard of value, is the amount at which a property would change hands between a willing buyer and seller, where neither party has a compulsion to buy or sell, and both possess knowledge of the relevant facts. FMV will typically include discounts for minority interests and lack of marketability. It is the standard of value for estate and gift tax valuations and ESOPs, among others. ESOP valuations also have to comply with Department of Labor ERISA regulations.

In cases of divorce or dissenting stockholder actions, Fair Value typically applies. Fair Value differs from FMV in that it is defined by state laws and its definition varies from state to state.

Investment value or strategic value is the value determined in the eye of the beholder. In this instance, the buyer or seller has an individual preference or strategic reason for the transaction. Investment Value is most relevant for purchase and sale transactions, and is typically higher than FMV.

In buy-sell agreements, the parties usually negotiate the standard of value and can use any of the value standards stated above. However, the buy-sell price can be challenged in situations of divorce, dissenting stockholder or estate and gift transactions, etc., if it does not conform to the standard of value applicable to the circumstances.

Practical Application

Let’s consider the situation of setting a price to sell the business. The standard of value in this instance is typically investment value because the prospective buyer will have a specific purchase motivation, e.g. a job, elimination of a competitor or perhaps expansion in an industry. Sellers generally sell on past performance; buyers buy on the future performance.

What approach or method can be used to calculate value?

There are three – asset-based approach, income approach and market approach. The asset-based approach uses the fair market value of the NET assets of the business, and is relevant for companies that have significant capital investments and modest profit performance. The downside is that it can understate goodwill the owner has generated in his or her company.

The income approach derives company value using a multiple of company earnings/cash flows. It is relevant for service companies, among others, and reflects the company’s unique performance results.

The market approach is similar to determining the value of your house to sell or challenging a property assessment. The business is compared to other comparable privately-held businesses and/or public companies, and the value is extrapolated from those comparisons. The difficulty using this approach is finding truly comparable data for private companies (e.g. my insurance agency is worth the same as an agency in Peoria, which sold in 1999?) or using public company stock prices as a proxy for small business (e.g. if Google is worth 80 times earnings, so am I).
Finally, there are “rules of thumb” for many industries that may ignore the unique value items about your specific company, but can be a handy sanity check.

For this example, the income approach is useful because it takes into account the unique performance characteristics and operating results of the company, plus the actual reported data is available from financials and tax returns. The valuator typically analyzes the previous five years of profit/cash flows performance and adjusts for unusual, excessive or non-recurring revenues and expenses to determine the prospective future earnings/cash flows.

The future earnings/cash flows is then converted into an estimate of present value using a capitalization rate or multiple. Investment in small privately-held companies is risky and requires a greater return, which reduces the multiple (the higher the multiple, the higher the value). Using a broad generalization regarding multiples, we’ll say the small business owner can estimate his or her value using a multiple of between 3 to 8 times the earnings/cash flows, depending on the company’s management, performance and industry. The higher multiple is more appropriate for extremely well-run companies in growth industries.

In cases where an owner intends to gift, rather than sell the business, he or she can take the value above (investment value) and apply discounts for lack of marketability, minority interest, key man, etc., which results in the fair market value. If this was a case of divorce, statutory adjustments would be made to determine a fair value standard.

The previous information is a very simplified and generalized example of what would be done in a valuation. Calculating value is not a static, uniform process. It requires small business owners to remain active and informed when deciding with their financial advisor/valuator what approach or method best suits them, considering they know their business operations better than anyone. The best way to determine value weighs on the owners ability to understand and take part in the process. The results depend on it.