Top 3 Issues Involved When Buying or Selling a Business

Updated September 1, 2015

By William Bruce

America is a nation of small business owners.  In fact, there are over 22 million of us.

Why do people want to go into business for themselves?  In surveys done several years ago, the number one response was the potential for higher income.  But now in the most recent survey, the top reason was “control of one’s own destiny.”  The change is most likely a reaction to the recent economic times.

More and more individuals are now viewing small business ownership as a viable alternative to the vagaries of corporate America.  As a friend said recently, “There is no more job security.  The only job security you’ve got nowadays is the person looking at you in the mirror.”

As a business broker, I’m often asked about the issues involved in buying or selling an existing  business.  In my opinion, these are the top three issues:

1. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is critical to the successful transfer of a business.  If word gets out that a business is for sale, several things start happening and none of them are good for the seller or buyer of the business.  First, key employees start looking for other jobs, fearing that a new owner may not retain them.  In the uncertainty, customers may begin shopping elsewhere.  Suppliers get nervous.  Competitors can take advantage of the situation.

This is why a prospective business buyer will be asked to sign a non-disclosure confidentiality agreement early in the process of looking at a possible business acquisition. In this agreement, the potential buyer confirms that he/she will not disclose the fact that the business is for sale except to professional advisors.

If you show that you take the need for confidentiality seriously, you will be regarded as the professional that you are.

2. Valuation

Nothing causes the buyers and sellers of businesses more anxiety than the problem of valuation. The question of selling price haunts both parties. The seller doesn’t want to price his business too low and “leave money on the table.”  On the other hand, the buyer of the business is afraid he’ll pay too much and not get the best possible price.

Formal, fully documented business appraisals are now readily available.  In addition, there are rule of thumb guidelines that can be used to quickly estimate the value of a business.  As just one example, we know that a full service restaurant with liquor license is worth about 30% of its annual gross revenue as an ongoing business.  This assumes – big assumption – that the business is earning the average bottom line profit for its peer group.

There are rule of thumb guidelines for almost all categories of business from ice cream stands to manufacturing plants.  But again, these guidelines provide only quick estimates.  And written, fully documented business appraisals are now done by several respected national firms at a cost similar to real estate appraisals.

3. Financing

The toughest problem facing business buyers and sellers in recent years has been financing.  No question about it.

These are five possible sources for business acquisition loans:

BANKS – Although most people seeking a loan to buy a business will think first of a traditional bank loan, I can tell you from years of business brokerage experience that banks generally do not make business acquisition loans.  There are exceptions but this is more true than ever in today’s economy.

SBA – The SBA, through its approved lenders, provides business acquisition loans.  The SBA does not make direct loans, but rather guarantees a portion of the loan that is made by the approved lender.   It’s known as the SBA 7(a) program.  Wells Fargo Bank is currently the top volume SBA lender nationally.

The SBA route for a business acquisition loan is sometimes frustrating because of the time and detail that is involved.  However, keep in mind that the SBA will approve loans that others have turned down and will usually approve them with a smaller down payment.  In most cases, it’s worth the wait.

FAMILY – Many times the older generation in a family will loan the down payment or the entire amount needed to a promising member of the family’s younger generation.  If your family is willing to loan you the money, one word of advice is in order.  Have a very clear understanding as to how the debt is to be handled and put it in writing in the form of a legal note.

THE SELLER – In the majority of the business transfers that I handle as a business broker, the owner of the business finances a portion of the purchase price for the buyer.  Some sellers cannot offer owner financing for a variety of reasons, but when they can, it conveniently solves the problem of financing.

The fact that the business owner is willing to finance the sale of his company provides more than a convenient finance plan.  More importantly, it provides a strong validation of the owner’s belief that the business will support the owner and earn enough cash to pay back the loan.  You can’t get any better recommendation on the business than this.

The normal down payment for owner financing ranges generally from around 30% to 50% of the purchase price of the business.  Interest rates are generally market driven but there is more flexibility here than in other forms of financing.

401(K) FUNDS AND IRA ACCOUNTS – The use of these funds to buy a business, without tax penalty, is a fairly recent development.  Several national CPA and attorney groups have developed a plan, approved by the IRS, which allows you to use your funds for business acquisition.  There are legal and accounting fees involved, but they are a small fraction of the tax penalty that would be assessed for cashing in these accounts early.

The above ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­five sources of financing are not exclusive to each other.  I recently handled a transaction in which three of the five sources were used to buy the business.

It’s called creativity!

If you found this information helpful, please share using the social media buttons below.

For further reading, here are additional related articles:

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William Bruce is an Accredited Business Broker and Appraiser assisting buyers and sellers of privately held businesses in the transfer of ownership.  His practice includes consulting services nationally on issues of business valuation and transfer.  He currently serves as president of the American Business Brokers Association.  He may be reached at (251) 990-5934 or by email at  His business brokerage website may be viewed at
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The 3 Financial Benchmarks All Business Owners Should Monitor.

Financial ratiosMany small to medium size business owners, including this author, get wrapped up in day to day management of their businesses to the exclusion of some important aspects of oversight.

The ultimate business benchmark is, or course, bottom line net profit.  However, the three financial ratios discussed here don’t take long to calculate and will keep you on track for a healthy bottom line number.  These are the three that should be checked frequently to monitor the ongoing health and viability of your business:

Gross Profit Margin

Gross profit is simply your total sales (less sales tax) minus the cost of products sold.  Other expenses like rent, payroll, etc. are not considered in this calculation.  The gross profit margin is usually expressed as a percentage by dividing the gross profit by total sales.

For example, if your gross sales for last year (exclusive of sales tax) were $500,000 and the cost of the products you sold was $220,000, then your gross profit was $280,000.  Dividing your gross profit by total sales, we can calculate that your gross profit margin was 56 percent.  The rest of your expenses come out of this gross profit to compute your net profit.

Most industries have benchmarks for gross profit margin.  If yours is above your peer group, you’re doing a good job.  If lower, look for ways to improve.

Current Asset Ratio

This ratio is a measure of your company’s ability to pay its bills as they become due.  It is calculated by dividing your company’s current assets by its current liabilities.

Current assets are cash in the bank, accounts receivables and any other assets you expect to be converted into cash within the next 12 months.  Current liabilities are those obligations that will become due and payable during the next 12 months.

A ratio of two or better is considered by most analysts to be a comfortable situation.  If it’s one or lower, you’ll be waking up in the middle of the night!

Inventory Turn

This calculation measures how fast you’re selling and replacing your inventory.  Inventory turn is particularly important in retail and wholesale operations, but has application in all business categories.  It’s calculated by dividing the average inventory for the time frame being analyzed by the cost of goods sold.

Again, consult your industry benchmark for what is average in your niche.  The higher the turn, the better job you’re doing in managing your inventory level.  A low number most likely means you’re carrying too much inventory for your level of sales.


In summary, don’t be intimidated by the idea of periodically calculating these benchmarks.  It’s pretty easy.  And if you need help, ask your accountant.

If you found this information helpful, please share using the social media buttons below.

Here are related articles you might find interesting.

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William Bruce is a business broker, an Accredited Business Intermediary and a business appraiser.  His practice includes consultations nationally on matters involving business valuations and transfers.  He currently serves as president of the American Business Brokers Association.  He may be reached at (251) 990-5934 or by email at

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Banks Ranked Strongest to Weakest in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, Alabama

ServisFirst Bank is among four local banks with the top ranking for financial strength.

ServisFirst Bank is among four banks operating in Mobile and Baldwin Counties with a top ranking for financial strength.

It’s been well over a year since we reviewed the local banking scene, so we offer this update.

The available public information suggests that banks operating in Mobile and Baldwin Counties are improving in financial strength.  Of the 28 banks ranked here, seven improved their rating since our last report.  Only one bank in the two counties, Community Bank headquartered in Mississippi, lost ground.  (An Alabama-based bank by a similar name, First Community Bank, actually improved its rating.)

Banks are often placed on a pedestal in the public mind, but they are like any other category of business; some are stronger and better managed than others.

One publicly available bank rating service is  This system employs more than 20 tests to measure the capital adequacy, asset quality, profitability and liquidity of each rated financial institution. Individual performance levels are determined from publicly available regulatory filings and are compared to asset-size peer norms, industry standards and key benchmarks. Combined results form the basis for the star ratings. assigns a 1-to-5 star ranking with five stars representing the highest rating. Institutions with satisfactory performance will generally receive a rating of three or better stars with the majority of banks falling into the three to four-star range.  Ratings are believed to be reliable but the information is not guaranteed.

In addition, events since the information was collected may have altered an institution’s financial condition.  The current ratings are based on the banks’ financial statement as of March 31, 2015.

As mentioned above, seven banks have improved their ratings since our last report with each moving up one notch on the scale.  Moving up from a 3 star ranking to 4 stars were First Community Bank, Southpoint Bank, Synovus Bank (operating locally as Coastal Bank & Trust), TrustMark and United Bank.

Moving up from their previous 4 star ranking to the top 5 star category were ServisFirst Bank and Woodforest Bank (found only in some Wal-Mart stores).  These two institutions join Bank of the Ozarks and Wells Fargo as the top rated banks in the area.

The following results for Mobile and Baldwin Counties, Alabama, are based the banks’ financial statements as of March 31, 2015 as ranked by

5 Stars (superior, top rated):

  • Bank of the Ozarks
  • ServisFirst Bank
  • Wells Fargo Bank
  • Woodforest National Bank

4 Stars (sound, indicative of a sound financial condition):

  • Bancorp South
  • BB&T
  • BBVA Compass
  • Bryant Bank
  • Centennial Bank
  • Century Bank
  • Citizens Bank
  • Coastal Bank & Trust  (the trade name used by Synovus Bank in Alabama)
  • First Community Bank
  • First Federal Bank of Florida
  • Hancock Bank  (the trade name used by Whitney Bank in Alabama)
  • Iberia Bank
  • National Bank of Commerce
  • PNC Bank
  • RBC Bank
  • Regions Bank
  • Southpoint Bank
  • State Bank & Trust
  • TrustMark
  • United Bank

3 Stars (performing, indicative of a generally satisfactory financial condition):

  • Community Bank
  • Merchants Bank
  • The First, A National Banking Association (Mississippi-based, acquired locally First National Bank of Baldwin County and Bay Bank of Theodore.)

2 Stars (below peer group, indicative of a below average financial condition):

  • No banks in the local market were rated 2 stars

1 Star (lowest rated)

  • Commonwealth National Bank

Commonwealth National Bank is headquartered at 2214 St. Stephens Road in Mobile.  In the composite summary of the bank, the rating service said, “Bankrate believes that, as of March 31, 2015, this bank exhibited a significantly below average condition, characterized by substantially lower than normal overall, sustainable profitability, very questionable asset quality, well below standard capitalization and lower than normal liquidity.”

In summary, please keep in mind that these ratings are based on information furnished by the banks as of March 31, 3015.  Things could have changed since then.  And there are other bank rating services whose rankings may differ.

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William Bruce has served as a bank director.  He is a business broker, an Accredited Business Intermediary and business appraiser.  He consults nationally on issues involved in business transfers and valuation.  He may be reached at  or (251) 990-5934.  He currently serves as president of the American Business Brokers Association.


Posted in Alabama's Economy, Gulf Coast Regional & National Economy, Mobile, Fairhope & Gulf Shores, Alabama | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strong Business-for-Sale Activity Reported

Business for sale, the Internet’s largest business-for-sale marketplace, issues quarterly reports on trends observed in the valuation and transfer of small to medium size privately held businesses.  The results aggregate statistics from business-for-sale transactions reported by participating business brokers nationwide, including this author.

The firm issued their 2015 second quarter report in the last few days.  The report noted that the number of small businesses listed for-sale grew more than 12 percent from the same time last year and has reached levels not seen since 2009.

The increasing number of owners ready to sell comes as revenue and cash flow are rising, allowing sellers to both ask for and receive more for their businesses. The median small business sale price increased 12 percent over 2014 numbers.

The increase in small business listings this quarter correlates with a number of factors, most notably growing small business financial performance and resulting sales prices, as well as the volume of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age. The second quarter total marks the highest number of businesses listed for sale on since the second quarter of 2009, after which both listings and sales dropped significantly in response to the economic downturn.

Manufacturing businesses led the recent growth spurt with a 29 percent uptick from the same period last year. Restaurants listings increased 12 percent, service 11 percent and retail 9 percent.

Of businesses listed, 1,913 closed transactions were reported in the second quarter, a slight increase from the 1,830 transactions closed in the first quarter. Owners are finding 2015 to be a good year to sell as median sales prices remain at high levels. The median sale price of a business in second quarter remained at $200,000, the same as in the first quarter and still the highest mark since mid-2008. Higher sale prices can be attributed to improving financials as well. The median revenue of sold businesses increased to $450,000 this quarter (the highest on record since report inception in 2007), and the median cash flow rose slightly to 102,995 from $100,000 at the same time last year.

“We’ve been riding a wave of increasing financial performance and transaction totals for a couple of years now, but it’s great to see the supply of listings increase as well because it shows that small business owners are buying into the trend,” Bob House, Group GM of and, said. “As business financials continue to improve, and Baby Boomers reach retirement age, we expect the supply of quality small businesses on the market to remain strong.”

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William Bruce is an Accredited Business Broker and Appraiser assisting buyers and sellers of privately held businesses in the transfer of ownership.  His practice includes consulting services nationally on issues of business valuation and transfer.  He may be reached at (251) 990-5934 or by email at  His business brokerage website may be viewed at
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The Best and Worst Franchises to Buy

Brightway Insrance is Forbes Magazine top pick for franchises costing less than $150,000.

Brightway Insrance is Forbes Magazine top pick for franchises costing less than $150,000.

As a business broker and appraiser, I’m often asked about franchises, which is why I noticed the following article.

Forbes Magazine writer Emily Inverso has just penned an interesting list of the best and worst franchises to buy.  Her rankings are based on data gathered over a five year time frame from 2009 through 2013.  Inverso’s article can be reviewed here.

The franchise offerings are ranked on several metrics including entry cost, 5-year growth rate and 5-year franchise continuity.  Franchise continuity as shown in the rankings is the percentage of franchises opened that are still in business at the end of the five year period.

The franchises are divided into three categories according to entry cost: up to $150,000, $150,000 to $500,000 and over $500,000.

The top ten in Forbes’ ranking for the under $150,000 entry cost were:

  • Brightway Insurance – sells personal and business insurance policies.
  • Maid Pro – provides residential cleaning service.
  • Right at Home – home care to seniors and disabled.
  • Discovery Map – curates quirky maps and travel guides.
  • Just Between Friends – provides consignment events for children’s and maternity clothes.
  • Seniors Helping Seniors – non-medical home care by seniors
  • BrightStar Care – homecare
  • Pop-A-Lock – locksmith services
  • Mathnasium – math tutoring
  • Weed Man – lawn care

As ranked by Forbes, the worst 10 franchises in the under $150,000 investment category were:

  • American Express Travel Services – 57% continuity for 5-year period
  • Gardsman Furniture Professionals – 47 % continuity
  • ERA Real Estate – 48% continuity
  • All Tune and Lube – 31% continuity
  • United Country – 52% continuity
  • WSI – 43% continuity
  • Handyman Connection – 31% continuity
  • Curves – 37% continuity
  • Computer Trouble Shooters – 42% continuity
  • Realty World – 29% continuity

In the mid sized investment range of $150,000 to $500,000, these were Forbes’ top 10 ranking franchises:

  • Jimmy Johns – fast food
  • Jet’s Pizza – deep dish pizza in a square pan
  • Marco’s Pizza – “authentic Italian” pizza
  • Plato’s Closet – young adult clothing
  • Dutch Bros. – drive-thru coffee shops
  • Wingstop – wings restaurants
  • Sports Clips – sports themed barber shops
  • Batteries Plus Bulbs – replacement batteries
  • Anytime Fitness – 24 hour gyms
  • Auntie Ann’s – pretzels in mall food courts

In the same size category ($150,000 to $500,00) these were Forbes worst 10 franchises to buy:

  • It’s a Grind Coffeehouse – 36 locations
  • Econo Lube N’ Brakes – 33 locations
  • Mr. Payroll – 88 locations
  • Cottman Transmissions – 67 locations
  • Chock Full o’ Nuts – 31 locations
  • Quiznos – 1,439 locations
  • Great Steak & Potato Company – 90 locations
  • Epcon Communities – 86 locations
  • Fitness Together – 207 locations
  • The Athlete’s Foot – 54 locations

For details on the above franchises and to review the ranking of franchises requiring an investment of greater than $500,000, please visit the Forbes article here.

For additional article by William Bruce on franchise risks and opportunities, please see:

Best & Worst Franchises Listed by SBA Loan Default Rates

List of Franchises Not Qualified for SBA Loans

What is a Franchise Really Worth. How to Value any Franchise.

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William Bruce is an Accredited Business Broker and Appraiser assisting buyers and sellers of privately held businesses in the transfer of ownership.  His practice includes consulting services nationally on issues of business valuation and transfer.  He may be reached at (251) 990-5934 or by email at  His business brokerage website may be viewed at
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Business-for-sale Marketplace Continues Strong into 2015

Pepperdine logoAccording to a recent survey by Pepperdine University, the business sales and acquisition marketplace continues to be very active.  The reasons most frequently cited were consumer and business confidence and low interest rates for business buyers.

Pepperdine conducts quarterly surveys of business owners, business brokers, bank lenders, investment bankers, private equity groups, venture capitalists and advisors in the mergers and acquisitions marketplace.  The latest results of the first quarter of 2015 survey were recently released.  Optimism for continued strength was reported across all categories and market segments.

Among the interesting results from the business brokers segment of the survey (which is how I make a living) were the following:

  • The majority of transactions took less than a year to close with the most frequently mentioned time frame being nine to ten months.
  • Approximately 57% of all transactions involved some form of seller financing.
  • Approximately 33% of business listings failed to sell, with the two most frequently mentioned reasons being unreasonable seller or buyer demands (non-price) and valuation differences with too large a gap in pricing.
  • Regarding valuation of privately held businesses, the multiple of discretionary earnings for appraisal purposes ranged from 1.8 to 3.8 for businesses with gross annual revenue from $500,000 to $5 million. Generally, the higher the revenue, the higher the multiple for valuation purposes.

From the 681 business owners participating in the survey representing all regions of the U.S., the following information stands out:

  • Approximately 57% of owners expect to hire additional workers this year.
  • Listed as the top three areas to focus on in their businesses, owners mentioned (1) increasing revenues from current products and services in 47% of the responses, (2) expanding product / service lines at 21% and (3) reducing expenses at 10%.  Among other responses were finding talented people and raising financing.
  • Nearly 64% of business owners anticipate an ownership transfer within the next 10 years.
  • When asked about the number one issue facing privately held businesses today, domestic economic uncertainty was listed by 22% of the business owners, government regulation and taxes by 21%, access to capital by 18% and healthcare costs by 14%.

The entire Pepperdine report can be accessed here.

For additional articles discussing many of these same topics, please visit:

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William Bruce is an Accredited Business Broker and Appraiser assisting buyers and sellers of privately held businesses in the transfer of ownership.  His practice includes consulting services nationally on issues of business valuation and transfer.  He may be reached at (251) 990-5934 or by email at  His business brokerage website may be viewed at

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Types of businesses most and least likely to be approved for SBA loan

SBA loans by type of business

SBA loans by type of business

By William Bruce

It’s well known that some types of small to medium size businesses are more likely to receive SBA loans than others.

We are indebted to George Heaslip, “The Loan Professor” for the following ranking.  George is an independent SBA loan originator of many years experience.  George is based in South Florida and can be reached at (561) 329-1315 or by email at

Based on his experience and opinion, George periodically issues a ranking of business categories most and least likely to receive SBA loan application approval.  It’s a star rating method with five stars being the most likely to receive loan approval.

The list is updated quarterly and is the only one of its kind in the U.S.  This ranking is as of April 2015.

*** A/C & Heating

** Advertising and Promotion

Zero Adult Merchandise

*** Agricultural Products and Plantings

** Aircraft Maintenance

**** Aircraft Flight Schools, with real estate

* Air Duct Cleaning

** Alarm Systems, Residential and Industrial

** Amusement/Theme Parks established with real estate

**** Animal Care & Grooming, with real estate

**1/2 Animal Grooming, no real estate

** Antiques Dealer

Zero Apartment Houses, Strip Malls, all investor properties

*** Appliance Sales and Repairs

** Art Gallery/Dealer

** Arts and Crafts

** Art Framing

****1/2 Assisted Living Facilities with real estate

**** Auto Body & Repair Shop with real estate

**1/2 Auto Body & Repair, leased facility

*** Auto Car Wash, with real estate

** Auto Broker

Zero Auto Car Wash, no real estate

**** Auto Car Wash with real estate

** Auto Salvage

Zero Auto Used Car Lots

* Awards/Prizes/Engraving

***1/2 Beauty/Spa One Stop Centers, with real estate

** Beauty/Spa One Stop, leased

*1/2 Bed & Breakfast, with real estate

**1/2 Bagel Restaurant, leased

*** Bagel Restaurant, with real estate

** Barber/Styling Shop, franchise

Zero Barber/Styling Shop, leased

***1/2 Bakery, Neighborhood, with real estate

** Barges, Sea Transport

* Billiard Parlor

**** Biohazard Cleanup Services, Per Event

****1/2 Biohazard Cleanup Services with government accounts

***1/2 Boat/Marine Manufacturer with real estate

*** Boat Storage Facilities with real estate

Zero Boat Tours

* Book Store

*1/2 Bookkeeping Services

*1/2 Boutique and Bridal Shops

***1/2 Bowling with bar & restaurant and real estate

** Bridal/Baby Shops

**** Building Component Suppliers and Installers

**1/2 Building Supplies

**1/2 Building Renovators

*1/2 Business Brokerage Companies

* Greeting Card/Gift Shop

** Carpet Cleaning Franchise

**** Car Wash, with real estate

Zero Car Wash, no real estate

Zero Printer Cartridge Refil

Zero Casino, Gambling

***1/2 Catering with real estate

** Catering, Business & Residential, no real estate

*** Cement Product Manufacturers with real estate

***1/2 Cemeteries

Zero Charter Schools

**** Child Care Centers with real estate

** Child Care Centers, no real estate

**** Children Party Center, franchise, with real estate

* Children Party Services

*1/2 Chiropractic Services

***1/2 Chropractic Services seeking a building, as opposed to current lease

Zero Churches

Zero Cigar Store

** Cleaning, Clothing

*** Cleaning Janitorial

*** Closet Interior Manufacturers

** Clothing Stores, Leased, Franchised

** Club Houses

***1/2 Cold Storage Facilities

** Coin Laundry

Zero Collection Agency

***** Commercial Building/Condo For Business Expansion

* Computer Supplies

** Construction/General Contractor

**** Consulting Companies with fine tax returns (Legal, Accounting,

*** Consignment Shops with real estate

*1/2 Consignment Shops, leased facility

*** Contractors, established with government accounts

* Contractors, other

Zero Convenience Store

* Costume Shop

*** Crane Services

***1/2 CPA Practice

** Damage Restoration

** Dance Studios, children and/or adults

Zero Data Management

*** Delis with real estate

** Delivery Services

***** Dentists/Dental Practices

**** Dental Lab

***** Distribution Centers with real estate

*** Distribution Centers, leased facility

***** Doctors

**** Doctors With Patented Product

** Document Shredding

****1/2 Dog and Cat Kennels with real estate

*** Dry Cleaners, franchised

** Dry Cleaners, not franchised

** Dry Cleaners with real estate

** Educational Schools

** Embroidery Services with commercial accounts

*** Electrical Contractors, with fine business records

Insurance, Immigration, other professional)

** Employment Placement Companies

***1/2 Environmental Cleanup

* Electronics/Computers

** Equipment Sales, Services, leased facility

*** Equipment Sales, Services, with real estate

**** Equipment Suppliers/Installers, established

* Event Planning

***** Export Products Manufacturers

**** Exterminating Companies, franchise

****1/2 Farm/Ranch Facilities and Equipment

***** Fabrication Companies with real estate

***** Factories/Manufacturing

*** Farm Equipment Sales/Servicing

**** Fast Food Franchises, with real estate, and on the Franchise Directory

* Fencing Companies

1⁄2 Film Production Companies, Independent

* Financial Services

** Firearms

*** Fireplace and Furniture Manufacturers

** Fish Farm

Zero Fishing Vessels

*** Fitness Health Club, expansion to new facility, not leased

**** Fitness Centers, franchised with trainer(s) and real estate

*** Flooring Contractor

***1/2 Floral Centers with real estate

** Flowers

**1/2 Food Business, Retail

***** Franchises with 100 or more locations, on the Franchise

***1/2 Franchises, like above, no real estate

** Franchises other with real estate

Zero Franchise, New

Zero Franchises not on the Franchise Directory

*** Freight, with real estate

Zero Fund Raising

***** Funeral Homes with real estate

*** Furniture, Retail with real estate

Zero Game Room

***1/2 Garden Centers, growing sales, with real estate

***1/2 Gas Stations/Truck Stops, with real estate

**1/2 Gas Station/Convenience Store, with real estate

Directory, and with real estate

Zero Gift Shop

*** Glass Company, Auto, Home, Industrial

**1/2 Golf Courses, established, historic sales growth

* Golf Store

** Gourmet Catering

***1/2 Gravel Pits and Dredge

*** Grocery Store with real estate

*1/2 Grocery Store, leased

* Group Transportation

** Guard Company, Security

* Guided Tour

* Gyms, not franchised

Zero Hair Salon

***** Hardware Stores, with real estate, established, no big

** Hazmat Cleanup Services

**1/2 Health Products, franchise and on the Directory

* Hobby Shops

**** Home Health Care Services

***1/2 Home Health Care Staffing Services

** Home/Condo Owners Association Management Companies

*** Home Heating Fuel distributor

***1/2 Hostels with growing rent rolls

**** Hotels, Flagship

**1/2 Hotels/Motels, other

**** Hydraulic Systems and Services, with real estate

* Ice Cream/Yogurt

Zero Import Companies

Zero Investment Properties, like strip malls, apartments

**** Industrial Buildings/Condos, 51% owner occupied

*** Injection Mold, with real estate

** Insurance Agencies, franchise

**** Interior Design Units Manufacturers

* Internet Related

** Irrigation

*** Janitorial Services, commercial accounts

Zero Jet Ski Rent

** Jewelry, Retail

**1/2 Kitchen and Bath Retail

***1/2 Kitchen and Bath Products Manufacturer

** Land for business expansion and construction to start immediately.

***1/2 Landscaping with commercial accounts

*1/2 Landscaping, residential

box competition

**** Law Firm, business expansion/new facility

Zero Limo Business

*** Liquor Store with real estate

** Liquor Store, no real estate

** Locksmith

*** Lounge/Liquor, growing business with real estate

**** Machine shop, historical growth, with real estate

** Mail Packaging/Mail Order Services

***** Manufacturing Facilities with real estate

***** Manufacturing Facilities that export

*** Marinas with real estate

***1/2 Marinas/Restaurant, with real estate

** Marine Related Sales

* Marketing Company

*1/2 Massage, body, back and feet

***** Medical Related, except chiropractic

Zero Medical Billing Software and Services

***** Medical Product Distributers, with warehouse real

***1/2 Medical Product Distributers, leased facility

***1/2 Metal Fabricator, with real estate, good track record

Zero Micro Breweries

***1/2 Millwrights, with real estate

**1/2 Mines

*1/2 Miniature Golf

Zero Mobile Homes

**** Motel for conversion to an ALF, re-hab center, or nursing complex

***** Motel, Flagship, with real estate, otherwise ***

** Moving Companies

* Movie Theaters

** Mulch Products

** Museums, for profit

** Music

***** New Building or Upgrade/Expansion

Zero Not For Profit Organizations

Zero Nail Salons

**1/2 Nursery/Plants

****1/2 Nursing Home, with real estate

*** Nursing Home, no real estate

** Nutritional Stores, if on the registry and a franchise

Zero Office Building, not 51% business owner occupied


***** Office Building/Office Condo, 51% business occupied

* Oil Wells

** Painters

Zero Parasailing

*** Parking Lot Cleaning and Maintenance

* Party Goods

**** Pawn Shop with real estate, otherwise **

*1/2 Personal Services

Zero Personnel Staffing, non-medical

**** Personnel Staffing – medical

**** Pest Control, established and franchised, otherwise *1/2

**** Pet Centers, with real estate, franchise, fine reviews

**** Pharmacies, no compounding

***** Pharmacies, compounding

** Photography services

* Pizza Shop

Zero Pressure Cleaning

Zero Phone Sales

** Pool Supplies, leased site

***1/2 Pool Supplies, establishes, with real estate

**** Pre-School with real estate, otherwise **

* Printer Cartridge Refil

* Printing and Typesetting

**** Professional Service Companies (Accounting, Legal, etc.) seeking a

***1/2 Plumbing Supply

***1/2 Pool and Supplies, no real estate

***** ` Pool and Supplies, with real estate, franchise

Zero Pool Cleaning/Maintenance

** Publishing

* Residential Realtors

****1/2 Pet Kennels and Supplies

***1/2 Recreational Facilities and Clubs, with real estate, fine records

**** Recycling Facilities

*** Restoration Services, franchise

***** Recycling Facilities with real estate

* Rental Businesses

** Repair Services, Licensed

****1/2 Restaurants, solid historical records, with real estate

*** Restaurants, franchised

** Restaurants, other

*** Retail, with real estate, solid historical records

larger facility

** Retail, no real estate

*** Roofing Contractor

**** Roofing Maintenance

* Roof Cleaners, independent, pressure washing

* Routes

* Sanitary Landfills

Zero Satellite Dishes (TV)

** Security Systems

***** Self-Storage Facilities

Zero Seven-Eleven Franchises

**** Sign Companies with real estate

*** Sign Companies without real estate

** Sight Preparation, for construction

Zero Skin & Massage

* Security Related

** Shoes/Repairs

*** Skating Rinks with real estate, food services

** Sod Distribution

*** Software Services, with three years of documented growth

***1/2 Sports Arenas

* Startups, unless customers are lined up

*** Sports Bar, established, clean records

***1/2 Sports Bar, established, clean records, with real estate

****1/2 Sports Sales Related, long business history, with real estate

*** Sports Sales Related, franchise and on the Franchise Directory

* Start Up Businesses, difficult, requires solid business plan high cash

Zero Strip Malls (considered as investment property)

** Sub (Sandwich) shops, franchise

*** Supermarkets, flag

* Surf and Active Wear

* Tailoring

Zero Tanning Salons

Zero Taxi Business

* Tax Preparation

* Teeth Whitening, non-dentist

Zero Telemarketing

* Telephone Sales

*** Tennis Clubs with real estate

***** Therapy Centers and Therapy In-Home Services

* Tobacco Related

*** Towing Services, Autos

**** Towing/Repair Services/Trucks

injection and collateral backup

*** Trade Contractors

**** Training Schools, for profit, established, with real estate

** Training Schools, other

** Transportation Services

Zero Travel Agencies

**1/2 Tree Farm, with real estate

**** Truck Repairs and towing

**** Truck and Car Washes, with real estate

***** Truck Stop, Full Service/Repair, with fuel, food, on site

* Tutoring

Zero Vacant Commercial Land

*** Vacant Commercial Land for business relocation/construction within a

Zero Valet Parking

** Variety Store, non-franchise

***1/2 Variety Store, franchise, with real estate

Zero Vending Machine Routes

***** Veterinarian

Zero Video Related

**** Uniforms Manufacturing, United States, with real estate

Zero Used Car Dealerships

***** Warehouses, for an expanding business that will occupy

** Water/Smoke Damage Restoration

** Water Purification

* Web Development and Hosting

* Wedding Planning/Gowns

** Well Drilling

*1/2 Wineries

***1/2 Wholesale Distributors, with real estate

** Wholesale Distributors, no real estate

** Yogurt Store

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William Bruce is an Accredited Business Broker and Appraiser assisting buyers and sellers of privately held businesses in the transfer of ownership.  His practice includes consulting services nationally on issues of business valuation and transfer.  He may be reached at (251) 990-5934 or by email at  His business brokerage website may be viewed at



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Selling a Business: The Issue of Buyer Acquisition Financing

Business acquisition loanPrevious articles have discussed the importance of having a good reason for selling your business, getting the business ready for salesetting the right asking price, and taking your business to market.  In this article we will talk about the question of acquisition financing for your business buyer.

Whether you want to our not, you’re going to get involved to one degree or another in the financial arrangements of your buyer.

Acquisition financing is always an issue in selling a business.  Almost all business buyers will need some amount of financing to complete the transaction.  Of all the business sales that I’ve seen, over 90% involved financing of some description.

Very few business buyers are sitting on enough cash to buy a business without financing.  People with that much money are usually “clipping coupons” and not interested in jumping into the challenges of daily business management.

So where do business buyers get the necessary financing?  There are three sources, aside from family member of the buyer who sometimes enter the situation.  Let’s discuss each:


Although most people seeking a loan to buy a business will think first of banks, I can tell you from years of business brokerage experience that banks generally do not make business acquisition loans.

That statement will surprise most people.  Once you’re in business, banks will compete for your patronage, but most will not stick their necks out in the beginning to make you a business acquisition loan.  Bank advertising would lead you to believe they would do so, but in more than 90% of the cases, they will find some reason to decline the business acquisition loan application.

The exception might be if you have a strong, years-long relationship with a bank and you can offer some other collateral such as Certificates of Deposits.  Or if the bank participates in the SBA loan program, they might be able to approve a SBA guaranteed loan (see below).

So don’t be surprised if a bank turns down your buyer.  And don’t take it as a reflection on your business or the buyer.  It’s just the way things are.

Now this is the humorous part of the situation.  It’s ironic but it has happened more than just a few times.  After your business buyer been in business for a number of months or a year or so, the same bank that turned him down for a loan to buy the business may come calling on him soliciting his banking business.  One of my buyers in this situation responded to the banker by assuming a serious air and in a somber tone, said, “Well now Mr. Banker, we’ll be happy to consider your application for our business.  Let’s see, we’ll need your financial statement and a list of references and your business plan for five years into the future.  Once we have your completed application, I’ll be glad to take it before my committee and let you know of our decision.”

The banker was taken aback.


The Small Business Administration (SBA), an agency of the federal government, provides for business acquisition loans through its approved lenders.  The SBA generally does not make direct loans, but rather the agency partially guarantees the loan that is made by the approved lender.   It’s known as the SBA 7(a) program.

The SBA list of approved lenders includes many banks with the largest lender currently being Wells Fargo.  But some community banks also make a significant volume of SBA guaranteed loans.  Some of these lenders will include in the loan total an amount for working capital in addition to the price of the business, after down payment.  Down payment requirements range from 20% to 35% plus there are usually up-front fees paid by the buyer for various requirements.  Interest rates are competitive with the marketplace.

Your business must be growing and profitable to be approved by the SBA.  A downward trend in gross revenue or profits will usually disqualify a business.  And another disqualifier of the SBA, is the requirement that the business buyer have experience in your industry.  This requirement pretty severely limits the pool of prospective buyers for your business who can use SBA financing.

The SBA route for a business acquisition loan is sometimes frustrating because of the time, detail and documentation that are involved.  If your buyer goes this route, be patient.  And stay on top of the SBA requests for information.  The quicker you can get the information and documentation to the SBA underwriter, the quicker your loan will close.

The Seller

In the majority of the business transfers that I handle, the owner of the business finances a portion of the purchase price for the buyer.  Some sellers are initially reluctant to offer financing.  However, with a strong down payment from a buyer who has a good credit bureau report and personal financial statement, the advantages to a business seller can be significant.

Not only is the tax bite usually lower for a seller who finances, but national surveys consistently show that businesses with seller financing (1) sell for more money and (2) sell in a shorter time frame.

In one recent survey of 3,965 business sales as reported by Toby Tatum in Transaction Patterns, the median selling price of businesses with seller financing was 15 percent higher that those without it.  The average down payment on seller-financed businesses was 37 percent.

And of course, there is the obvious benefit to the seller of additional income from the interest charged on the note.  The going rate as this is being written is around 5 to 6 percent.  This is significantly more than you could earn if you invested the money in a Certificate of Deposit.

And keep in mind, we’re not talking about you financing just anybody.  We’re talking about a buyer whom you have approved after checking his credit report and references, and who has made a down payment of usually between 25% and 50% of the selling price of the business.  Plus, you have a mortgage on the business and all it’s assets for the term of the note and the personal guarantee of the buyer.

Most owner financing – though not all — is in the form of a balloon note.  The balloon note solves two opposing desires.  The buyer of the business wants to keep his payments low; however, the seller usually wants his money as soon as possible.  By amortizing the note – calculating the payments – on, say, a 12-year payback schedule, the payments are kept low.  But the inclusion of a 5-year balloon requires that the remaining balance be paid off at the end of five years.

After the new owner has been in business for five years and has built a track record for himself at the bank, he should have no trouble going to his bank and refinancing the balloon.  In the low interest rate environment of recent years, I’ve seen new owners refinancing the balloon even before it came due to save money.  The balloon note has been a win-win vehicle for both buyers and sellers.

To recap, if you are willing to consider financing the sale of your business to a credit worthy buyer after an appropriate down payment, the advantages you can usually expect are:

  •  A lower tax on the proceeds of the sale.
  • A higher selling price.
  • A shorter timeframe to close the transaction.
  • Additional income from the interest on the note.

In conclusion, please keep in mind that selling a business is not an overnight process.  In my experience of over two decades as a business broker, about six to eight months is average.

He’re another article that might be of interest: Top 3 Issues Involved When Buying or Selling a Business.

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William Bruce currently serves as president of the American Business Brokers Association.  He is a business broker, an Accredited Business Intermediary (ABI) and a business appraiser assisting buyers and sellers of privately held businesses in the transfer of ownership.  His practice includes consulting services nationally for business buyers and sellers.  He may be reached at (251) 990-5934 or

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