How Do I Find a Business I Can Buy?
by William Bruce, Sunbelt Business Brokers
Let's suppose you have done some soul searching about your future, considered the advantages of business ownership, and decided that you definitely want your own business. You're ready to proceed with all deliberate speed. What's next? Where do you to find a business for sale?
The First Place to Look
The first place I'm going to suggest may surprise you. You may never really have thought about it, but probably the first place you ought to look is within your own family. Do you have a family member, close or extended, who owns a business? Do you think they might, for one reason or another, consider selling it to you? Are they approaching retirement age? Do they appear "burned out"? Are health problems limiting the amount of time they can devote to the business? Do they want to travel? You never know until you ask.
Let's say your Uncle Ben has a convenience store that you might consider operating as your own if it was for sale. Call Uncle Ben and make an appointment. Tell him over the phone that you want to "come by and talk about something important when he has a few minutes." This puts Uncle Ben on notice that this is not just a causal visit.
When you visit your uncle, be completely "up front" by telling him you have decided to go into business for yourself and you were wondering if he h"had ever considered selling his business." The be quiet and listen. If he has been considering getting out, you may have hit pay dirt. If he is not interested, he may know of other businesses that are for sale. Or he may actually offer to help finance the purchase of a business when you find one! Stranger things have appended. You can't lose by talking with him.
However, some works of caution are in order when dealing with family members. don't take any short cuts just because you're dealing with family. go through all the remaining steps of the process including the due diligence investigation. Take a hard, critical look at the business just as you would if a complete stranger owned it. Make sure it is the right business for you.
The Sunday Newspaper
Another place to look for businesses is in the Sunday Newspaper. Sunday is traditionally the day that businesses for sale are advertised. Look under the classifications "Business Opportunities" or "Businesses for Sale". Some newspapers have both classifications. In my hometown newspaper, "Businesses for Sale" is in the real estate sections separated from the rest of the classifieds. The "Business Opportunities" is in the main classified section just after the employment ads. There are local businesses for sale listed in both sections.
If you haven'et looked at these ads before, you'll be amazed at the variety. Some are pretty "scammy." There will be many ads for vending routs (with grossly overpriced vending machines) and home based businesses including medical billing (with grossly overpriced computer software and no clients). But don't despair. With just normal smarts, you'll be able to tell the difference between the "scammy" and the legitimate local businesses that are for sale. One quick way to tell: Local businesses for sale use local telephone numbers, not toll-ree numbers that are answered half way across the country.
A third place to look for businesses for sale is on the Word Wide Web. With a computer, you sitting right in the middle of the word's largest information resource center. Just go to any search engine and enter "Businesses for Sale." You'll get hundreds, perhars thousands of sites. To narrow down the sites to ones that can use, you might want to enter "Businesses for Sale in Florida" (or whatever state you want). There are severl strong national Business for Sale websites. Even eBay has businesses for sale listed on their website. I have posted several listings to my eBay website at http://stores.ebay.com/Sunbelt-Business-Brokers. (Hey, you don't mind an occasional commercial, do you?)
A Business Broker
And speaking of commercials, the fourth way to find an array of businesses for sale - advertised and unadvertised - is my favorite. It is trough the use of a qualified, knowledgeable business broker. (It's my favorite because that's the way I make my living. I'm a business broker!)
An experienced business broker is familiar with the local market and he usually has a considerable number of businesses listed for sale at any one time. He can assist you with everything from focusing your search, preliminary screening of several offerings, visiting the businesses, buyer-seller meetings, cash flow calculations, pricing rationales and strategies, offers to purchase, negotiations, contingencies and closing.
If you choose to use a business broker, plan on spending some time with him. He needs to get to know you and your requirements. And you need to get to know and trucst him. To insure that you receive the maximum benefit from his experience, be honest with your broker about your needs. Let him know what kind of income you need and what you have to invest. Give him any limiting condietions that will influence your decisions.
The assistance of a knowledgeable, trustworthy business broker can be invaluable. He can save you time and money. He can steer you clear of the common pitfalls in the busness buying process. And he can make sure you get waht you paid for.
Bust as I said above, I'm prejudiced. I'm a business broker.
Written by William Bruce, Sunbelt Business Brokers