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There is a Buyer for Every Business

“I am in a niche market space.” “Who would want to buy my business?” These are just a couple of the concerns that owners have when putting their business on the market for sale, which often leads them to limit the types of prospective buyers. However, business owners should not limit themselves to one particular type of buyer. The various buyer types often have different acquisition strategies and end goals. Receiving offers from each type enables sellers to explore the best of all options. Investment banks commonly group buyers into three main categories: Strategic, Financial, and Individual.

Strategic Buyer

Strategic buyers are typically the first group that owners will think of when deciding who will have an interest in acquiring their business. These are businesses that are similar to the seller’s and can include competitors. Within this category, horizontally-integrating strategic buyers seek to increase their market share through segment expansion, such as adding new regions, new markets, or a new customer base. This could be a buyer that is located on the opposite side of the country seeking expansion through acquisition to reach a new customer base. On the other hand, Vertically-integrating strategic buyers desire to expand their internal capabilities, such as bringing a portion of the supply chain in-house. For instance, a distributor may be seeking expansion by bringing manufacturing in-house. This allows the company to reduce costs and become less reliant on critical or high-risk suppliers. This works for all levels of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the service provider. A strategic buyer can come in many forms, each with their unique set of goals for a transaction, which will drive deal value.

 

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Financial Buyer

Financial buyers are the next main type of prospects buying businesses. The most common buyers in this category are private equity groups. Private equity buyers seek a return on the invested capital for their investors. A private equity group can bring resources that a strategic buyer may not have access to, such as growth capital, strategic management resources, and new growth opportunities. While some of these groups aim to grow the business for a period and then resell the expanded operations for a gain, others seek to buy and hold, with no plans to resell. Typically, these buyers will invest in industries where they have experience and can bring new ideas and opportunities to a business. Sellers often think that private equity groups only look at very large businesses to acquire but that is not the case. Private equity buyers often seek add-on acquisition of all sizes. The add-on can be any business that has synergies with their larger platform companies, which can expand operations, geographic coverage, or fill small gaps in the portfolio. For example, a private equity firm that has a large HVAC platform business may add on several smaller HVAC companies throughout the supply chain. The private equity buyer that is adding on to an existing platform has similar operations in place and can therefore be thought of as both a financial and strategic buyer.

Individual Buyer

The third category of buyers that play a role in the M&A community is an Individual Buyer. These buyers seek businesses to own and sometimes also to operate. Individual buyers span all industries and have various goals for the acquisition. There are many ways an individual can finance a transaction, including high net worth, commercial bank loans, SBA loans, and investment sponsors. When the individual buyer is an entrepreneur that uses funds from investors in order to search for, acquire, and personally operate one company, this is referred to as a “Search Fund” model.  Search Fund investment vehicles often have several operators, sometimes referred to an entrepreneur in residence, simultaneously seeking businesses in which they can take a day-to-day leadership role. The goals, value propositions, synergies and valuations of this buyer group varies significantly, and can often produce the best cultural fit for a departing seller.

There are companies, investors, firms, and individuals, both domestically and internationally, seeking to acquire businesses in all industries and of all sizes. Likewise, sellers have varied goals for a transaction and no single buyer type is guaranteed to align with those goals. There are countless prospective buyers and, by considering all types, a seller and his or her broker will uncover the right buyer.

 

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Contact Benchmark International today if you are ready to sell your company, grow your company, or explore your M&A strategies. Our team of M&A experts will guide you every step of the way and will make you feel at ease that you are going to get the best deal possible.

 

Author
Nick Woodyard
Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: woodyard@benchmarkcorporate.com

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How A Sovereign Credit Downgrade Might Impact M&A Activity

While still managing to avoid a downgrade in April, South Africa has found itself at a crossroads of uncertainty since Moody’s Investors Service’s bleak budget reaction that sparked junk status fears for the country.

The speculation about the credit downgrade has been amplified by the fact that South Africa is in the middle of an election year – a factor that has also been blamed for a decrease in foreign investors’ confidence in the South African market.

An analysis of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity pre-and-post downgrades in Brazil and Greece suggest that although foreign investment will not end, investors do adapt their investment portfolios to align to the parameters of their investment mandates. 

Government bonds and treasury securities become largely un-investable instruments post a sovereign downgrade. However, statistics suggest that while capital outflows are a reality, some funds do remain behind in these countries, and new funds do flow in. These investments will naturally seek viable and alternative high-return investment opportunities – options often presented by M&A. One theory that emerges from this analysis is that mature economies have more stable but lower growth rates. While developed economies also represent a seemingly lower risk, they do not offer sufficiently high returns.

In order to achieve the required overall return on investment in a risk-on environment following a credit downgrade, fund managers will inevitably still require some form of investment in emerging markets.

 

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In order to understand the impact a credit downgrade has on M&A activity in a country, we compared M&A activity as reported by Zephyr, a Bureau van Dyk company that offers a database of deal information.  

We compared M&A activity before and after a credit downgrade in Brazil, which has a similar economy to South Africa due to slow growth and political instability in both countries, as well as in Greece. The raw data suggests that a catastrophic capital flight is unlikely because the sums invested may be lower and the investment profiles between the countries are different. But opportunity abounds and returns remain strong as there exists a direct correlation between risk and reward.

According to Trading Economics, Moody’s was the first to downgrade Brazil in September of 2014 for political and economic reasons. Fitch Ratings followed suit with a downgrade in April 2015. In July 2015, S&P downgraded the country too.

The Bureau van Dyk / Zephyr data looked only at transactions where the targets were Brazilian companies and considered deals that were both completed and announced each year. The transactions analysed include mergers, acquisitions, institutional buy-outs as well as venture capital and private equity.

It is evident from the data that the volume of transactions was relatively flat after the first downgrade by Moody’s in 2014. The volume of transactions decreased by approximately one-third after the remaining agencies downgraded the country in 2015.

While the total value of transactions reported also decreased, it is evident that the average transaction value in 2017 was similar to 2015.  For example, the average value per transaction in 2015 was R973 million and R929 million in 2017. On a cursory view, transaction values held up well after the Moody’s downgrade.

Analysing the data for Greece, which was downgraded in 2010, the following graph illustrates the effect on both volume and values reported by Bureau van Dyk over a similar period to Brazil.

The data illustrates a clear downward trend in M&A deal values over the period of the financial crisis in 2008, 2009 and well into 2010. While there was an initial slump in volumes and a slight decrease in value immediately after the downgrade in 2010, it is only 2017 that has subsequently underperformed the deal values as they were similar to levels seen in 2010. Again, the average deal size in the period following a downgrade is shown to have increased.

In conclusion

The data analysed makes no currency or inflation-related adjustments. And the data, being Euro-denominated, indicates that the M&A sector remained resilient even after credit downgrade events.

Although Moody’s did not downgrade South Africa to junk, the data from Greece and Brazil does indicate that deal flow will not evaporate should this happen. Volumes may initially drop but average deal values can be expected to increase.

While we continue to work to avoid it and acknowledge the punitive impact thereof, the statistical reality is that a downgrade is not likely to be as detrimental for the M&A sector as otherwise perceived.

 

Author
Andre Bresler
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +27 (0) 21 300 2055
E: bresler@benchmarkintl.com

 

 

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The Ultimate Glossary of Terms for a Mergers & Acquisitions Transaction

If you are a seller or buyer that doesn’t have a lot of experience in the world of M&A, it can be frustrating and confusing trying to understand the terminology that is used. As much as we try not to confuse our clients, it is many times more efficient to use the specialized terms of the profession. To help, we have put together a list of common M&A terminology that we hope will assist you and make the process smoother if you are buying or selling a business.

Acquisition: One company takes over the controlling interest or controlling ownership in another company.

Add-On Acquisition: A strategic acquisition fit for an existing platform/portfolio company.

Asset Deal: The acquirer purchases only the assets (not its shares) of the target company.

Confidential Information Memorandum: Sometimes called “the book,” pitchbook or a deck, the Confidential Information Memorandum is a description of the business including products, history, management, facilities, markets, financial statements and growth potential. This is used to market the business to potential buyers.

 

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Data Room: Secure online website that contains information including contracts, documents, and financial statements of the business being sold. These online data rooms can track who views the information.

Deal Structure: May include seller debt, earn outs, stock, or other valuables besides cash.

Due Diligence: Part of the acquisition process when the acquirer reviews all areas of the target business to satisfy their interests. This includes viewing the internal books, operations, and internal procedures.

Earn-Out: A type of deal structure where the seller can earn future payments based on certain achievements or the performance of the business being sold after the closing. These are often based on revenue targets or earnings.

EBITDA: Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

Goodwill: An intangible asset that comes as a result of name, customer loyalty, location, products, reputation, and other factors.

Indication of Interest (IOI): A letter from the buyer to the seller that indicates the general value and terms a buyer is willing to pay for a company. The letter is non-binding to both parties.

Letter of Intent (LOI): A document that lays out the key terms of the deal. LOI’s are typically non-binding for both parties except for certain provisions such as confidentiality and exclusivity.

Multiple: Common measure of value to compare pricing trends on deals.

NDA: A confidentiality agreement that prohibits the buyer from sharing the confidential information of the seller. This is usually signed before the seller provides detailed, sensitive information to a buyer.

 

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Purchase Agreement: The contract that contains all the specifics of the transaction and the obligations and rights of the seller and buyer.

Representations and Warranties (reps & warranties): Past or present statements of fact to inform the buyer or seller about the status and condition of their business and its assets, employees, and operations.

Search Fund: This is an individual or a group that is seeking to identify a business that the individual or group can acquire and manage. Usually, search funds do not have dedicated capital but instead, have informal pledges from potential investors.

Teaser: An anonymous document shared with potential buyers for a specific business that is for sale.

Working Capital: A financial term used as a measurement of a business’s ability to meet its financial obligations over the coming business cycle (which is 12 months for most businesses). It is not defined under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). However, it is commonly calculated using this formula: Working Capital = Current Assets – Current Liabilities.

If you are thinking about buying or selling a business, Benchmark International has a team of specialists that can help answer your questions. A simple phone call or email to us can start the process today.

 

Author
Amy Alonso 
Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 615 924 8522
E: alonso@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Understanding The Inverted Yield Curve

The inverted yield curve is a situation that occurs when the interest rates on short-term bonds are higher than the interest rates paid by long-term bonds. It basically means that there is enough concern about the near-future markets that people move their money into less risky long-term investments. Any time this scenario arises, investors get nervous because it typically warns of a recession.

Short-term vs. Long-term Bonds

In thriving economies, bondholders demand a higher yield (profit) for longer-term bonds versus short-term bonds.

  • Short-term bonds mature in less than five years and carry a lower interest rate risk. These funds do not yield large returns. They give investors a safe way to earn higher yields than they would with extremely low-risk investments and do not require money to be tied up for a long period of time.
  • With long-term bonds, there is a much longer maturity period and people are required to invest their money for greater lengths of time. While these types of bonds yield higher returns, there is also an increased risk that higher inflation could reduce the value of payments, and that higher interest rates could cause the bond's price to drop. A longer-term bond also carries a higher risk of default.Basically, the longer it takes to be repaid, the greater the risk that inflation will swallow your investment.
  • Most investors choose to have a mix of both short- and long-term bonds.

 

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Treasury Bonds

Government debt securities are known as Treasury bonds or T-bonds. These types of bonds are considered to be virtually risk-free. They earn fixed interest until they mature (a period of 10-30 years). Once they mature, the owner is also paid the face value of the bond. Treasury bonds make interest payments semiannually and the income earned is only taxed federally.

The Inverted Yield Curve

Treasury bonds help to form the yield curve, which includes the full range of investments offered by the United States government and diagrams yields by maturity. It usually curves upward, with longer-term bonds having a higher yield. The yield curve becomes inverted when long-term bonds are in high demand and the rates are shown to be lower than those of shorter-term bonds.Essentially, in this scenario, investors expect that they will make more money by holding onto a longer-term bond than a short-term one.

The yield curve inversion can also point toward expectations by investors that the Federal Reserve will cut short-term interest rates in an effort to boost the economy.

A Predictor of Recessions

Although it can happen months or years before a recession begins (usually an average of 18-22 months), the inversion of the yield curve has been a consistent predictor of every recession since the 1960s. For that reason, any time it happens, there is heightened anxiety and anticipation of slowed economic growth.

The last time the yield curve inverted was in 2007, prior to the financial crisis and recession of 2008, which was the worst recession since the Great Depression. The yield curve also inverted prior to the recessions of 2001, 1991, and 1981.

In this latest case, the yield curve first inverted in December of 2018, and inverted even further in March of 2019. Then, the 10-year yield hit a three-year low of 1.65% on August 12, 2019.On August 15, the yield on the 30-year bond closed below 2% for the very first time in history. Fears of the ongoing economic effects of the trade war between the United States and China are fueling the market concerns around the world. 

The science of forecasting financial futures is never a 100% certainty, and while the inverted yield curve has proven to be a reliable indicator of things to come, it does not necessarily guarantee that a recession will happen. As of August 2019, the Federal Reserve has said that there is only around a 35% chance of a recession.

 

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What It Means for M&A

An inverted yield curve can have implications for mergers and acquisitions, especially if you are aiming to grow your company.

For example, let’s say that part of your growth strategy requires funding for building expansion or new equipment. Under an inverted yield curve, short-term interest rates become higher than long-term interest rates. Some businesses may find this to be good news because they can lock in a good rate for the long term.

It may be impossible to predict financial futures, but enlisting the help of experience M&A advisors can help you formulate growth and risk management strategies for your company that make the most of available capital for expansion and lower your risk in all yield-curve situations.

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10 Facebook Pages About M&A To Follow

Benchmark International

@BenchmarkCorporate

Benchmark International is a leading worldwide M&A advisory firm that specializes in the lower to middle markets. On the company's Facebook page, you will find regularly updated news and information regarding the organization and its involvement in the world, as well as relevant topics and insightful articles regarding different industries, topics in M&A, and additional useful information for entrepreneurs, business owners, business buyers, and anyone eager to learn more about M&A.

 

M&A Leadership Council

@MALeadershipcouncil

The M&A Leadership Council is a global alliance of companies and experts in everything related to mergers & acquisitions, including best practices, training and certification, resources, and information about M&A companies. Their Facebook page offers a nice compilation of content that is relevant to people working in M&A, as well as CEOs and business owners, and it keeps followers updated on interesting events.  

 

The Middle Market

@themiddlemarket

This M&A-focused page offers breaking news, in-depth commentary, and helpful analysis about deal making in the burgeoning middle market. It is frequently updated with information regarding current deals that are being made or have been made, and articles that focus on other happenings in certain industries, as well as M&A events.

 

Entrepreneur

@EntMagazine

This popular publication caters specifically to entrepreneurs and topics relevant to them, offering tips, tools, and insider news to help businesses grow. Here you will find occasional articles regarding M&A news and insights mixed in with a wealth of other quality information that is relevant to business leaders.

 

Institute for Mergers, Acquisitions & Alliances

@imaa.institute

IMAA is a global, non-profit M&A think tank and educational provider. They offer M&A trainings and workshops for executives worldwide, and offer the only globally oriented M&A Certificate Program. Their Facebook page is frequently updated with information and coverage regarding their events, as well as news and opinions on M&A from around the world.

 

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Harvard Business Review

@HBR

Founded in 1922, Harvard Business Review promotes smart management thinking for business professionals worldwide through reliable insights and best practices, with the ultimate goal of making leadership more effective. Their Facebook content spans a myriad of business-related topics and news, including happenings in the world of M&A.

 

Morningstar, Inc. 

@MorningstarInc

With a mission to power investor success, Morningstar is a top provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. It provides data and research insights on a range of investment offerings, including managed investment products, publicly listed companies, private capital markets, and real-time global market data, and their Facebook page reflects these related topics.

 

Investopedia

@Investopedia

For 20 years, Investopedia has provided educational information on complex financial concepts, investing, and money management. While not exclusive to M&A, on their Facebook page you will find a variety of topics covered that are relevant to businesses of all types, stocks and the economy, including articles that delve into mergers, acquisitions, trends, and historical transactions.

 

CNBC International

@cnbcinternational

The self-proclaimed "home of all things money" network is a leading business and financial news organization that reports stories from around the world. Here you can access real-time market coverage and news related to careers, entrepreneurship, leadership, personal finance, and mergers and acquisitions.

 

Seeking Alpha

@Seekingalpha

Seeking Alpha is a substantial worldwide investing online community, and their Facebook page is a great extension of their online presence. The platform connects millions of investors and money managers every day regarding news and investment ideas. They handpick articles and podcasts from the world's top market blogs, money managers, financial experts, and investment newsletters, publishing approximately 250 articles daily. 

 

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How & When To Explain To Your Employees That You Are Selling Your Business

You’ve decided to sell your company, but when is the right time to tell your employees? And what is the right way to tell them? The conversation may not be easy, but if you follow a few simple guidelines, you can ensure that you handle it to the best of your ability.

Have a Plan

You should already have an exit strategy in place when you are selling your business, but that is your own personal exit plan. You should also think about how the process will affect employees. Develop a clear timeline of how you expect the deal to progress and when you will meet with your staff about it. You do not want to come across as confused and unsure about the process. The more confident you are in explaining it, the more confident they will be about it being a good plan for them as well. You may also want to consider when to introduce the new owner. By having the staff meet the new boss, you can dispel a great deal of anxiety. The best time to do this is AFTER the deal is done, in the event that the deal falls through. Otherwise, you are introducing them to someone irrelevant, adding confusion and instability. 

Wait Until the Deal is Done

It can be tempting to share your plans with employees early in the process. But if you disclose your plans too soon, you are opening yourself up to risks that can tank a deal. Employees can get scared into finding another job. Vendors and clients can get nervous and jump ship. These are all scenarios that are not in your best interest, as the health of your business is an essential aspect of a sale. By waiting until a deal is in place, you can avoid telling your employees false information when things are still subject to change.

 

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Tell Management First

Depending on the size of your business, you will likely want to inform key management before telling anyone else in the organization. They are going to need to fully understand the transition because you are going to need their support. They can help you maintain clarity when employees go to them with questions. If management is clear on what is going to happen, they can keep employees calm and properly informed.

Be Accessible

Once you’ve made the announcement, you must remain proactive in answering employees’ questions. It can also be important that they hear any news directly from you versus rumors around the water cooler.

Provide Written Communication

By creating a document that outlines pertinent points about the deal and the transition, employees can reference it following the announcement if they do not recall something. It also provides them with something concrete so that you are not leaving details up to their imagination.

Do Not Overpromise

Once you sell the company, you will no longer have control over what happens in the day-to-day business operations. It is important to express to your employees that you care about their futures and that you took the proper steps of protecting them when brokering the deal with the new owner. However, you want to avoid making promises that you will not be around to honor.

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15 Smart Tips On Exit Planning

15. Decide the Company's Future

Before planning your exit strategy, you must decide the future course for your business. Do you plan to sell outright? Would you prefer that the company stay within family ownership? Do you want to retain a percentage stake in the company? Is there an employee that you would want to take over? Could a merger or an acquisition be the best move? This is a key decision to consider before embarking on your exit plan.

14. Set a Date

It's never too early to think about when you plan to retire. This need not be an exact date on the calendar, but you should establish a ballpark timeframe that you would like to put the wheels in motion for your exit. Having an idea of the timing will help you get the process started at the right time, whether it's two years from now or 20 years down the road, especially because most transactions take time.

13. Plan for Continuity

If your business will be changing hands when you retire, you should have a solid plan in place for maintaining the continuity of the company's operation. Both employees and customers alike will need to feel that the future is secure, and you should be able to reassure them through a clear strategy for the transition.

12. Use Diversity to Minimize Risk

The more diversity you have in your client and supplier bases, the more attractive and less precarious your business will be to potential buyers. They are going to need to have confidence that the business can grow, rather than falling apart if the sale results in the loss of one or two key clients.

11. Think Big Picture

It is not uncommon for a business owner to get wrapped up in the day-to-day details of running the company to the point where they lose sight of the bigger picture. It is a good idea to take a step back and consider where you want your business to be in the future, how you plan to get it there, and when your exit fits into that plan.

 

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10. Create Your Dream Team

Having a strong management team in place is crucial to any successful exit strategy. Whoever is taking the reins is going to be a significant factor whether you are selling the business to an outside party or bequeathing it to family or an employee. It will also help you rest easier about leaving the company in someone else's hands.

9. Get Your Financials in Order

Before you can broker a sale or transfer ownership or control, you will need to organize financial statements, valuation data, and other important documents about the business. If you are planning to sell, buyers will expect to see thorough documentation about the business operations, profits, losses, projections, liabilities, contracts, real estate agreements (pretty much anything and everything regarding the company).

8. Know Your Target

If you plan to sell your company, you are obviously going to want a buyer who has the financial capacity to take on your business. But money is not the only thing that you should be seeking. You want a buyer who shares your values and your vision for the company. They also should possess the right skill set to maintain the company's success and even grow that success. You should not waste your time with a prospective buyer that doesn't have the chops to take the business in the right direction.

7. Always Listen

Even if you feel it is too soon to sell and someone is reaching out to you, it is always wise to hear him or her out. It could result in a meaningful relationship that can be beneficial in the future. They could also reveal some things about your company that you have not yet considered, sparking new ideas and opportunities in the realm of business acquisitions.

6. Devise Practical Earn-outs

If you plan on getting additional payment as part of the sale of your business based on the achievement of certain performance metrics, be realistic about setting these goals. Falling short of these targets can result in less money for you and enhanced leverage for the buyer.

5. Get Your Tech in Order

Today nearly everything is powered by technology. You use it to help you get organized, but you also run the risk of letting things fall through the cracks. Think about all the logins and passwords that give you access to things that run the business. Establish a plan to streamline your tech while keeping it secure for a transition in management. There are enterprise cyber-security management solutions that can assist with these matters.

4. Know Your Number

Have you asked yourself, "What is my business worth?" When you understand the precise valuation of your business, you will be able to ascertain the difference between a fair sale and a bad deal, and get the money you deserve. This includes a company analysis married with a market analysis. You should enlist the help of an M&A expert to determine the valuation of your business accurately. It is worth it to ensure that you get your maximum value.

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3. Put it on Paper

Having the proper paperwork drawn up for legal purposes is important in the event that something were to happen to you so that you can convey your plans and wishes for the business. The task of creating this safety net will also help you plan more clearly for the future. Sometimes there are details you may overlook until you go to put it all on paper. You should outline your plan and make sure any necessary signatures are on file.

2. Assess the Market

Markets fluctuate and can change at any given time. But if you carefully evaluate your industry's outlook and growth projections, you can time your exit strategy for when you can get the most value for your company. If the outlook is not trending toward optimism, you can take the time to consider how you can bolster the value of your business and make it more desirable in the future.

1. Partner With an Advisor

Valuating and selling a company is not easy. Neither is planning an exit strategy. Seeking the help of experts such as an M&A advisory firm can take an enormous weight off of your shoulders. It can also ensure that the exit process goes smoothly, stays on track, and achieves your specific objectives for both you and the company.

Benchmark International can help you establish your exit strategy and broker the sale of your company so that you get every last penny that you are worth. Call us to get the process started. Even if you are not 100% sure that you are ready to plan your exit, we can help you devise strategies to grow your business in the meantime.

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Selling Your Business: Expectations vs. Reality

When business owners begin the process of selling their business, they may have expectations about the sale process. These expectations can be based on what they have read, what their friends have told them, and what their own needs are. However, the reality of selling a business can be very different from the expectations.

Timing

Sellers tend to think that a buyer will appear at their doorstep ready to transact a deal when, in reality, that is not the case. The sale of a business is a very time-consuming process. M&A transactions can take anywhere from 6 months to a few years to complete, pulling a seller away from the company, which can affect the financial performance and valuation of the business. Hiring an M&A advisor can help take some of the time burdens off of the seller.

Buyers

In our experience, it never surprises us who the buyer is at the end of the day. However, many sellers believe that their perfect buyer is international or a larger company. Again, this is not the reality of it. The ideal buyer may be right down the street or even a member of the seller's management team. When considering selling a business, a business owner needs to seek an advisor or sale process which will provide them with options when it comes to buyers. Not only does this drive up valuations, but it also allows the seller to choose the buyer that is the best fit for their company.

 

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Business Condition

Sellers often assume that their business needs to be in the perfect shape to sell it. Sellers will typically share that they want their business to show year over year growth or a more diversified customer base. While these changes might make the business more attractive to the market, buyers buy companies for different reasons. For example, if a buyer is seeking to acquire a company to gain a relationship with a particular company, then that buyer will see a concentrated customer base as a good thing. Also, sellers will work hard to groom their business and miss out on opportunities within the open market. They work for years to grow their business, only to have the market shift and have their business not gain any additional value. The best tie to sell a business is now. We understand what's going on in the market, both from a micro and macro level, and we are not trying to predict the future.


Answer to Questions

The sale process can be very nerve-racking for sellers because of the unknowns. Sellers often expect their advisors and or buyer will be able to answer all of their questions. However, this is not the case. The sale process is just that, a process. Business owners need to go through the process to discover all the answers to their questions. Buyers are eager to get sellers comfortable with deals, integrations, and any other areas of concern for sellers. An M&A Advisor will be able to guide sellers on when they should have answers to their questions. If the answers are unknown, the M&A advisor can help guide the seller to provide comfort based on the advisor's experience.


Deal Structure

A lot of sellers assume that the majority of deals are structured as all cash transactions. All cash transactions mean when the sale closes, the seller will receive his or her money, and the buyer gets the key to the operations, allowing the seller to leave immediately. However, this scenario is a rare occurrence. Typically, a seller is required to remain with the company for 3-5 years to help with transitioning the business. Sellers in lower middle market deals tend to be critical to their company because processes are rarely formalized, and the relationships that sellers hold are key. Given the time frame for a transaction, the buyer will want to incentivize the seller to remain motivated post-closing. To achieve this goal, the buyer will want to structure the deal so that the seller has an interest in the smooth transfer and future success of the business.

 

Author
Kendall Stafford  
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +1 512 347 2000
E: Stafford@benchmarkcorporate.com

 

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6 Books About Growing A Business That You Should Read

Growing a Business

By Paul Hawken

In this book, Paul Hawken explains how a successful business is an expression of the individual behind it, along with practical advice, common sense, and down-to-earth ideas. Even though it was written 30 years ago, it remains an excellent and very relevant read, backed by the fact that the author’s own companies are still successful after all these years.

 

Organizational Physics - The Science of Growing a Business 

By Lex Sisney

The author of this book spent more than a decade leading and coaching high-growth technology companies. In his work, he discovered that companies that thrive do so in accordance with six universal principles. The book covers a blend of important business and entrepreneurial topics in a manner that stands out from other business books.

 

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine

By Mike Michalowicz

In this book, the author offers principles to simplify accounting and easily manage a business through analysis of bank account balances. The theory is that a small, profitable business can be more valuable than a large business surviving on its top line, and those that achieve early and sustained profitability have a better chance of maintaining long-term growth.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Explosive Growth: A Few Things I Learned While Growing To 100 Million Users - And Losing $78 Million

By Cliff Lerner

This best seller provides step-by-step instructions, case studies and proven tactics on how to explode business growth. It reveals the detailed growth frameworks that propelled the author’s small online dating startup to grow to 100 million users while coupling humorous storytelling with concrete examples.

 

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth

By Gabriel Weinberg

Traction is based on interviews with more than 40 successful business founders about their real-life successes. It covers 19 channels that can be used to gain traction for a business, and how to select the best ones for your company. The book discusses topics such as targeted media coverage, effective email marketing strategy, and online search optimization.  

 

Growing Influence: A Story of How to Lead with Character, Expertise, and Impact

By Ron Price and Stacy Ennis

Growing Influence is packed with relatable human experiences and practical advice on developing the right leadership skills. It chronicles two main characters’ growth as they applied the principles in the book, mixing solid business advice with a novel that is fresh, timely and inspiring.

 

Ready to Grow Your Business?

Contact us for help with unique growth strategies for your company and how we can partner for your successful future.

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How Should your MBO be Funded?

If you’ve decided to embark on an MBO, you might have asked yourself, how is this funded? Generally, members of the buyout team are required to invest a sum of personal money into Newco but it would be unusual for them to fund the whole transaction. The equity provided by the management is necessary to demonstrate their commitment to the transaction, therefore it needs to be meaningful, yet it does not have to be too vast – typically representing 6-12 months salary. So, how is the remainder of the MBO funded?

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

Seller Financing

A common option to fund an MBO, seller financing is where the management team asks the seller to help fund the MBO. This is also known as deferred consideration, as the seller is deferring a proportion of their payment of the purchase price until after completion. While the seller would more than likely prefer the consideration paid in full on completion, often lenders may request that a portion of the sale is financed by the seller, as it demonstrates that the seller has confidence in the management team and the company going forward.

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Why Buy-and-build Strategies Work

What Is Buy and Build?

When private equity acquires a well-positioned platform company to acquire additional smaller companies, using the developed expertise in a specialized area to grow and increase returns, it is considered a buy-and-build strategy. This strategy is common with private equity firms with shorter holding periods of about three to five years.

Why It Is An Effective Growth Strategy

If a buy-and-build strategy is executed correctly, a great deal of value can be created when smaller companies are combined under the control of a new company.

  • This type of acquisition saves time regarding the development of specialized skills or knowledge, allowing for growth and expansion to other markets more quickly and successfully with lower production costs.
  • Creating a larger, more attractive company offers a path to exploit the market’s inclination to assign larger companies higher valuations than smaller ones.
  • It provides a clear plan when deal multiples are at record levels and there is a need for less traditional strategies.
  • Buy-and-build deals generate an average internal rate of return of 31.6% from entry to exit, versus 23.1% for standalone deals.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Getting It Right

The buy-and-build acquisition is not simple to execute. The process demands meticulous planning and due diligence for the strategy to work. The best deals usually employ multiple paths to create value.

  • Synergy between the acquirer and the acquired is important to the outcome of the deal. Companies should target existing firms that will be a good fit as a team both tactically and culturally. The human element should always be considered.
  • The management team must be an appropriate fit and have experience with these types of transitions.
  • There should be a vision in place for where the company will be five years down the road.
  • The platform company must be stable enough to endure the process regarding operations, cash flow, and infrastructure (IT integration in particular).
  • Sector dynamics should also be considered. Avoid sectors that are dominated by low-cost rivals or mature, stable players. Focus on sectors with many active smaller suppliers and service providers. Consolidation should result in cost savings and improved service.
  • While no two deals are the same, there are patterns for getting it right. Those experienced with buy-and-build strategies are more likely to lead to a successful deal.
  • It can be difficult to identify private equity firms because of the nature of the way they do business. It helps to have an experienced M&A firm with extensive connections and a proven track record of negotiating successfully with buy-and-build-focused private equity firms.

These reasons are among several as to why it is a sensible decision to enlist the help of an experienced M&A firm such as Benchmark International for your vision for growth. Count on us to help you get your buy-and-build strategy done right.

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9 Ted Talks Every Business Owner Should Watch

1. Globalization Isn't Declining—It's Transforming
Arindam Bhattacharya

https://www.ted.com/talks/arindam_bhattacharya_globalization_isn_t_declining_it_s_transforming

Mr. Bhattacharya is a Boston Consulting Group Fellow, Senior Partner in their New Delhi office, and worldwide co-leader of the BCG Henderson Institute in Asia. Hear his interesting argument as to why globalization is not going extinct but instead is evolving due to cross-border data flow.

2. How to Build a Company Where the Best Ideas Win
Ray Dalio

https://www.ted.com/talks/ray_dalio_how_to_build_a_company_where_the_best_ideas_win

Mr. Dalio is the founder, chair, and chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world. Learn how his strategies helped him create such a successful hedge fund and how you can use data-driven group decision making to your advantage.

3. Why the Secret to Success is Setting the Right Goals
John Doerr

https://www.ted.com/talks/john_doerr_why_the_secret_to_success_is_setting_the_right_goals

In this talk, engineer and venture capitalist Mr. John Doerr discusses the established goal-setting system "Objectives and Key Results," or "OKR," which is currently being used by companies such as Google and Intel.

4. The Global Business Next Door
Scott Szwast

https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_szwast_the_global_business_next_door

Mr. Szwast is the marketing director for UPS, and he has spent 25 years supporting the international transportation industry. In this talk, he explains how the image of global business is misunderstood and why businesses should stop hesitating to consider crossing borders.

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?


5. How to Break Bad Management Habits Before They Reach the Next Generation of Leaders
Elizabeth Lyle

https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_lyle_how_to_break_bad_management_habits_before_they_reach_the_next_generation_of_leaders

Tune in as esteemed leadership development expert Elizabeth Lyle offers a new approach to cultivating middle management in fresh, creative ways.

6. Business Model Innovation: Beating Yourself at Your Own Game
Stefan Gross-Selbeck

https://www.ted.com/talks/stefan_gross_selbeck_business_model_innovation_beating_yourself_at_your_own_game

Mr. Gross-Selbeck is Partner at BCG Digital Ventures, and he has 20 years of experience as an operator and a consultant in the digital industry. In this talk, he discusses the unique aspects of today's most successful start-ups. Also, he shares strategies for duplicating their philosophies of disruption and innovation that can be applied for any business.

7. How the Blockchain is Changing Money and Business
Don Tapscott

https://www.ted.com/talks/don_tapscott_how_the_blockchain_is_changing_money_and_business

Mr. Tapscott is the executive chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute. In this talk, he explains Blockchain technology and why it is crucial that we understand its potential to redefine business and society completely.

8. What it Takes to Be a Great Leader
Rosalinde Torres

https://www.ted.com/talks/roselinde_torres_what_it_takes_to_be_a_great_leader?referrer=playlist-talks_for_when_you_want_to_sta

In this talk, leadership expert Rosalinde Torres describes simple strategies to becoming a great leader, based on her 25 years of experience closely studying the behavior and habits of proven leaders.

9. How Conscious Investors Can Turn Up the Heat and Make Companies Change
Vinay Shandal

https://www.ted.com/talks/vinay_shandal_how_conscious_investors_can_turn_up_the_heat_and_make_companies_change

Mr. Shandal is a partner in the Boston Consulting Group's Toronto office, leading their principal investors and private equity practice. Hear his chronicles of top activist investors and how you can persuade companies to drive positive change.

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On How To Sell Your Business

Once you have decided that the time has come to sell your company, you will want to be as prepared as possible for the endeavor. Being adequately prepared will pave the way for a smoother process, avoid unnecessary delays in the sale, and increase the value of your business. Use this cheat sheet as a guide to get your business ready for what lies ahead.

Know Why You’re Selling

An important part of selling your company is having a clear understanding of why you are doing it.

  • Do you want to exit the business completely and retire?
  • Do you wish for it to be under control by family or an existing employee?
  • Do you hope to retain a stake in the business as part of the sale terms?
  • Do you plan to sell the business to facilitate its growth?
  • Do you aspire to sell the business to fund other ventures?

These questions should all be considered so that you have a clear answer before initiating the sale process. By knowing why you are selling, you can look for the right kind of buyer to suit those needs and establish a clear plan of action.

Compile the Proper Documentation

Any buyer is going to expect to see the facts and figures on your business. The more prepared you are to provide detailed documentation, the more likely they will be to trust you. Items you should compile and have ready for review include:

  • Current and recent profit & loss statements
  • Balance sheets, income statements, and tax returns for at least 5 years
  • Leases and real estate paperwork
  • A business plan
  • A marketing plan
  • Accounts payable and client lists
  • Inventory and pricing lists
  • Insurance policies
  • Non-disclosure/confidentiality agreements
  • An executive summary and detailed profile of the business
  • Employee, customer, vendor, and distributor contracts
  • Outstanding loan agreements and liens
  • Organization chart
  • Letter of intent and purchase agreement

Feel like it's a good time to sell?

Inventory Your Assets

Your assets are a key factor in determining the value of your company, so it is important to have a clear picture of what they are and what they are worth. Create a record of these assets, including:

Physical assets:

  • Business furnishings, fixtures, and equipment, inventory, real estate, automobiles

Intellectual property assets:

  • Trademarks, patents, licensing agreements, trade secrets, and proprietary technology

Intangible assets:

  • Brand equity, business name, and brand identity
  • Processes and strategies
  • Trained employees
  • Loyal clientele
  • Supplier and distribution networks

Enlist the Help of an Expert

Selling a business is a complicated process, and it is not as simple as just gathering the items listed above. This is why most business owners opt to partner with a mergers and acquisitions firm to organize a deal. They do all the work and tend to all the details so that you can focus on running your business and keeping it thriving in the wake of a sale. This includes finding the right buyers, creating a competitive bidding environment, and making sure you get the most value for your company.

Advisors such as our experts at Benchmark International have specialized tools at our disposal that are proven to maximize value for our clients and get desired results. Give us a call and let us put our connections to work for you.

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Which is the Best Way to Structure the Sale of my Business?

When selling your business, receiving offers is a big hurdle to overcome so, when this happens, it might seem like plain sailing from here. Unfortunately, there is still quite a way to go with the transaction, the first being to analyse the offers on the table, to make sure they suit your exit or growth strategy.

This might not seem difficult, but there are many ways to structure a transaction. Therefore, depending on what you want to get out of the sale of your business, this will influence the type of deal you take. For example, are you planning to retire and need to live off the proceeds of the sale? Or do you want to remain involved in the business?

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Consider the below list of ways to structure a deal to find out which is right for you:

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How to Strike a Work-Life Balance to Improve Your Health

What were the reasons you started your own business? Most likely you wanted to pursue a passion but there are a multitude of other benefits that would tempt anyone to start their own business – from flexible working times to calling the shots. But, have these benefits actually become a reality?

If not, then it might be time to look at your work-life balance. Do you find yourself having no time to spend with your family and doing the things you love? Even worse, do you find that it’s having a detrimental effect on your health? For example, if you are stressed, being overworked can lead to a number of health problems such as stress induced insomnia and heart disease – something that needs to be remedied straight away.

Feel like it's time to slow down?

Here is what you should do to make sure you are balancing work and life without being detrimental to your health:

 

Visit the Doctor

If you are feeling stressed and this is making you feel unwell then it is time to visit the doctor. Nobody likes visiting the doctor and it might be difficult to fit an appointment in around your schedule, but it is best done sooner rather than later – a doctor can tell you if you need to slow down and what will happen if you don’t.

 

Factor in Time for a Healthy Lifestyle

Make sure you schedule time for eating well, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep. Admittedly, it’s easier said than done, but fitting these activities into your day can help you work better and, often, working longer hours doesn’t actually lead to increased productivity, in fact – studies have shown that work performance can improve with a shorter work week.

 

Schedule Some Non-Business Time

Aside from scheduling in time for a healthy lifestyle, you should have some time for leisure activities you enjoy. You can’t work 24 hours a day so try and find time in the evening or weekend to switch off and enjoy other passions in your life to help reduce stress.

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Five Things I Wish Business Owners Knew Before Engaging Us

1. No one can control the market.

You can know it. You can be smart about what it will do, how it will react. But you cannot control it. The nearer into the future you look, the more of a feeling of control you can have. But the longer a business owner wants us to look into the future, the less valuable the insights. Things change. Interest rates move. Sectors fall in and out of favor. If you want me to try to control the market, please act quickly so that we are dealing with the current market, not some future version of the market.

2. There is no perfect buyer (or seller).

Everything in life involves tradeoffs. Your business, like the ones we will bring to you, has imperfections. I’m here to convince buyers to take a favorable view on your business – to trade off its defects against its outstanding features in a way favorable to you – AND to help you uncover and evaluate the buyer’s defects and favorable features. So … please don’t expect your business to be perfect and don’t expect us to bring you perfect buyers. One of the main reasons our business exists is because buyers – and sellers – are imperfect. If that were the case, you’d not need us.

3. Your priorities will change over the course of the company sale process.

This is not a bad thing. It’s a marvelous occurrence that is very satisfying to observe. It is an unintended consequence that will be of great benefit to you. What makes it problematic is when you don’t realize its happening AND when you don’t tell us its happening. As your broker, we are out there trying to achieve your objectives – as you’ve explained them to us. If we don’t know what you’re after, we’ll be after the wrong thing.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

4. We’ll give you plenty of feedback but we need feedback also.

We will start by proving you some feedback from our internal knowledge base and experience. We will then give you feedback from specific buyers and the market in general. In order to get the best result for you, we need that feedback loop to be a two-way street. We want to know what you think of each buyer, of our service, of your own business, of the market in general, and of the process. Both our process and the market are highly flexible and changes can be made to meet your needs and expectations, but only if we know they need to be made.

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Too many clients come out of the blocks at full speed. Many also tend to think the signing of a letter of intent is the beginning of the end but it is just the end of the beginning. Running out of gas is a big problem when it comes to getting deals closed. Some parts of the process require significant time and energy from you and others do not. In order to hit your goals, we’ll need you well-prepared for those stages where your input is crucial. The deficiency we most often see emerging during the process is not one related to energy or time but rather emotions. This is understandably a stressful process. It should be and we build our service model around that fact. And that emotional aspect of the process is the hardest one to deal with over the course of the lengthy process.  

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I’ve Had an Offer for my Business – What do I do?

If you’ve received an offer for your business, you have three options – the first being take the offer and sell your business. This is possibly something you have been considering, or it seems too good an offer to refuse; however, you should be cautious in such an event and, if you do want to pursue the offer, make sure you do the following:

Keep the Business Sale Confidential

Confidentiality is very important when it comes to the sale of your business. If it gets out that you are selling your business then this could potentially lose you staff, customers, and suppliers as they could get nervous about an impending sale and the changes that could be in store for them. Therefore, do not discuss anything until a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) has been signed, including whether you are prepared to sell the business.

Make Sure you Stay Focused on Your Business

One of the dangers of the sales process is that it is very time-consuming at the point where you really need to focus on maintaining a good business performance – if business performance dips, then this can give a buyer an excuse to lower their offer.

Need help with a business offer?

In fact, this is not the only situation where a buyer might decide to lower their initial offer. The buyer is under no obligation to actually pay this price for your company until you both sign the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) and there are several reasons a buyer might try and chip away at the offer to try and get your business for a bargain price.

For example, when you have accepted the offer and signed the subsequent Letter of Intent (LOI), the buyer can commence the due diligence process, providing them with access to confidential information such as financial documents and contracts for a specified period of time, typically 30-60 days. There are two related problems with this. Number one is the fact that the due diligence process is time-consuming and a resource drain, which could lead you to take your eye off the business. Number two is the buyer can now look at re-negotiating now they have had a thorough look at the ins and outs of your business.

Therefore, after this huge resource drain, you now have an offer on the table that does not meet your expectations as the buyer has chipped away at the price. Either you still take this less than favourable offer, or you turn away from the deal. While it is your prerogative to do so, you have lost time and valuable resources, you have given information about your company to another party, and you have not had your full focus on the business.

So – what are the alternatives to accepting an unsolicited offer?

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How Do I Know If I’m Ready To Retire?

Retirement is a significant decision that you have waited your entire life to make. Most people retire between the ages of 60 and 70, but everybody faces a different set of circumstances that dictate when they can retire. So how do you know if you are ready?

The most important factor in retirement is whether your financial situation will allow you to do so with security and peace of mind.

Do you have enough money saved? You want to live comfortably and maintain the standard of living to which you are accustomed. The last thing you want to do is retire and then realize you don’t have the means to live the way you are used to and end up having to downsize your dreams.

Are the markets in the right place so that you maximize your investment returns? Maybe your portfolio took a little bit of hit recently. Giving it a little time to recover can be a wise strategy. Consider where the markets are and where they are forecasted to be in the upcoming months. If you time it right, you can make the most of your decision.

Are you debt free? It may not be the smartest move to retire if you still carry debt you must pay, especially if it is significant. Retiring when you are debt free means retiring when you are worry free.

Do you need a plan to cut down on potential expenses? If you have a strong desire to retire but feel that you are not as financially confident as you would like to be, you can devise a plan to reduce your monthly expenses and ease some of the burdens.

Of course, there is more to the decision than just financial factors. You must consider whether you are mentally and emotionally prepared for retirement.

Are you no longer interested in pursuing career opportunities? If you are still hungry to attain work-related goals or you feel that you haven’t achieved everything you set out to achieve, then maybe retirement is not for you just yet. You do not want to retire and then feel that you are missing out or that you didn’t reach your full potential.

Do you find yourself thinking about recreational and social activities more than you are thinking about work? If you find yourself standing on the golf course, wishing you could spend more time there, then it may be a good time to consider retirement. Sometimes getting out before you are completely checked out is in the best interest of you and your business.

Do you have a plan for how you want to spend your time? It is not unheard of for people to retire only to become overwhelmed with boredom and a lack of purpose. Having a plan in place can help you stay busy and feel that you are achieving a new set of goals in life.

If you are retiring with your spouse, are you equally ready and on the same page when it comes to how you will spend your time? If you are in this together, make sure your plan is truly in sync. If one of you wants to travel the globe and the other one just wants to spend time with the grandchildren, there could be a conflict that you didn’t even realize you would have to address. Plan your vision for retirement together.

These are all critical questions to ask yourself when deciding if you are ready for retirement. But there is one more crucial question that you must address.

Do you have an exit strategy for retiring from your business? An exit plan is essential because it ensures that your business will make a successful transition into its next phase of ownership. Also, an exit plan will help you boost the value of your business so that you are prepared to sell at the ideal time.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?
A proven strategy for success regarding exit planning is to partner with a trusted advisor, such as Benchmark International. We can help you find the right buyer, maximize value, and craft a dream exit that leads to a happy and satisfying retirement.

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External Market Impact On M&A

When deciding to sell their business, sellers generally focus mostly, if not entirely, on internal factors. Revenue is growing and predictable. Earnings are improving as a result of increasing revenue and internal controls. Backlog is up. Customer concentration is low. This fictitious company paints a very compelling picture and is no doubt an attractive candidate for acquisition. However, while those are all important aspects and contributors to value, there are other factors that are beyond the seller’s control that not only impact the value of the business but also impact how sellable it is. In this piece, we will discuss some of the external market factors that impact M&A transactions. These factors are in no way comprehensive. The research wasn’t exhaustive. The intent here isn’t to create a definitive list of external influences. Instead, it is to demonstrate how important factors that are well beyond our control impact M&A deals. As a result, sellers should consider moving quickly if the factors within their control are positive.

Interest Rates

Interest rates, while still hovering around historical lows, will rise over the coming 18 months. Why is this important? Buyers, both financial buyers like Private Equity Funds, Independent Sponsors and Family Offices, and strategic acquires alike, use leverage to fund their deals. Many buyers will fund 40-60% of the cash at closing by way of debt in some combination of senior and junior debt instruments. When the cost of debt increases, buyers are faced with two options: 1. Use more equity, either out of their fund or from the corporate balance sheet to fund the transaction; or, 2. Lower the multiple they use to value the company. Given that the cost of debt is far cheaper for most buyers than their cost of equity, they generally favor using as much debt as is practicable. Most Private Equity funds are averse to using more equity and will instead, lower the valuation multiple. Compression of transaction multiples is coming, after a historic run. It is simply a matter of when.

Regulatory Environment

While we are in a much-publicized period of regulatory retrenchment, some industries are facing increased regulation. Many more are facing a changing regulatory environment. Whether there is more regulation or simply shifting regulation, the changes create both risk and uncertainty for buyers. Risk and uncertainty can impact the desirability of a company/industry and certainly can affect valuation.

Global Economic Concerns and Geopolitical Issues

Global economic issues can impact the M&A environment both generally and for specific industries. At the moment, we face a great deal of uncertainty related to trade with our largest trade partner, China. Tariffs are impacting companies across sectors by increasing manufacturing input costs, reducing the speed to market, and decreasing the demand for their products. Unrest in the Middle East, uncertainty in North Korea, Brexit, Russia, and all the alike contribute the geopolitical risks that impact M&A.

Industry Consolidation or Convergence of Industries

Industry consolidation can have a considerable impact on valuations. If you are in a fragmented industry that is in the early days of consolidation, this can have a very positive impact on the value of your business. However, if that consolidation began years ago, you may have missed the window. That doesn’t mean you can’t sell your business, but it will be more difficult to identify the buyer and may have an impact on valuation. The same can be said when industries converge. For example, the manufacturing and technology sectors have converged. Convergence of industries, depending upon where we are in that cycle, can create either risk or opportunity.

Changes in the Workforce Dynamics/Millennials/Gig Economy

The ready availability of a talented workforce can significantly impact industries and businesses. Due to workers having very little switching costs to move from one company or industry to another, construction and landscaping businesses have found it increasingly difficult to attract and retain talent. Specific industries that require talent to be aggregated in the same room for the entire workday face different challenges. The Great Recession, coupled with a generation of workers that place a premium on their time, has led to an enormous gig economy. It is not out of the question that the gig workforce overtakes the traditional workforce in the next decade. This shift will impact every business in ways we couldn’t possibly understand yet.

Political Trends and Risk/Elections

The constantly changing domestic political landscape impacts the M&A environment in numerous ways. We have uncertainty around healthcare. Any provider of healthcare or any business dependent upon reimbursement faces at least a measure of uncertainty. Immigration has become a hot button issue in the US. Wherever you fall on the issue, there is little doubt that American businesses rely on non-citizens to supplement the citizen workforce. Buying decisions are often postponed with looming elections. Tax planning is difficult when an administration change could entirely change the tax code…again. Political unrest creates uncertainty. Uncertainty is interpreted by buyers as being the equivalent of risk and manifests itself in the form of lower multiples.

Dry Powder in PE Funds/Excess Cash on Corporate Balance Sheets

An economy on an unprecedented run of success has created enormous cash reserves in the corporate coffers. Strong performance by private equity funds has made raising subsequent funds easier. Also, outsized multiples have reduced the number of investments many PE funds have made, so they too have tremendous stores of dry powder to deploy. Abundance of capital to deploy into transactions certainly should help with valuations. PE funds, in particular, have only one mandate: buy businesses, grow them, and sell them 3-5 years later for a meaningful return. As such, there is no risk of them using their capital for other projects. The same can’t be said, however, for strategic acquirers. Corporations have many competing uses of their cash. If the environment for M&A turns unfavorably, businesses may pursue growth through organic initiatives. For example, they may opt to forego M&A deals in favor of greenfielding new territories, launching new products, building out new technologies, or exploring alternative revenue models. Alternatively, some may view the best use of their cash is to distribute it out to owners in the form of a dividend.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

In summary, there are many outside influencers on the M&A market that simply cannot be controlled. While companies can put mitigation strategies in place, they cannot exert control over external market forces. When the key factors within a potential seller’s control are favorable, it behooves them to seek out a talented M&A advisor, like one from Benchmark International, to assist them. We can help them to ride the tailwinds, overcome the headwinds, and navigate the obstacles.

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10 Undeniable Reasons To Sell Your Company In 2019

Timing is everything, and 2019 is the prime time to sell a business for maximum value. The conditions are extremely favorable right now for several reasons, and waiting could mean that you miss out an ideal opportunity. 

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New Tax Break Clarification Spurs Additional Immediate Interest from M&A Acquirers

If your business is in or serves one or more of the 8,762 neighborhoods identified by your state’s governor as a “Qualified Opportunity Zone” under the 2017 federal tax legislation, new buyers will be entering the market for your company in the coming months and they will be looking to make some quick deals.

When the tax cut law passed, investors in these zones were granted numerous attractive tax benefits including:

  • Deferment until 2026 of tax on capital gains from the sale of projects outside the zones if those profits were now invested in any zone
  • A 15% reduction certain capital gains taxes
  • No capital gains taxes on any investment held for at least 10 years

But acquirers of businesses never took advantage of the new opportunity. Reports came back to the Administration that the statute called for the Treasury Department to implement regulations laying out the details as to which investments would qualify and absent those regulations there was too much concern that the “investments” would only cover real estate acquisitions and improvements.

Seeing that the real estate industry had wholeheartedly undertaken the desired action - investing in the zones – and wanting other investors such as acquirers of businesses to do the same, the President publicly released draft regulations last Wednesday.

The M&A investment community is quite pleased with the breadth and clarity of the regulations and appear to be jumping into action to exploit the new guidelines.  And their action will likely be immediate. The incentives are set to cover only those investments made by the end of 2019.

To view all Qualified Opportunity Zones to see if your business may qualify, visit the IRS’s map here. https://www.cims.cdfifund.gov/preparation/?config=config_nmtc.xmland follow these instructions. https://www.cdfifund.gov/Pages/Opportunity-Zones.aspxAs this map of Tennessee demonstrates, you might be surprised which areas are covered. The official method of designation is by “census track” and you can also search this website by your track – if you know it.

The regulations remain complex as there are a number of independent ways for an operating business to qualify based on where income is generated, where labor is provided, where services are provided, where working capital is invested, and where tangible property is maintained – among others. But business acquirers are getting ahold of the new details, have the firepower to get command of them, and will very quickly be refocusing their searches in light of these significant benefits. 

There is still time to get your business on the market to take advantage of this increased interest and the potential boost to your sale price that it should also carry with it. Eight months from engagement to closing is not difficult with a properly motivated seller and buyer – and nothing motivates people like tax breaks!

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Author
Clinton Johnston 
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: Johnston@benchmarkcorporate.com 

 

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Questions You Should Ask a Potential Buyer

Once you have decided it is the right time to sell your company, it’s time to find the right buyer. You are going to want to sell to someone that shares your vision for the business that you worked so hard to build. At the same time, you do not want to waste your time on prospects that are not serious or financially fit. An important step in the vetting process is knowing what information you should request from potential buyers. Start by reviewing this list of questions to generate additional ideas and help you manage expectations. 

“Do you have prior experience with acquiring a business?”

A buyer’s track record is paramount when considering whether or not they have the necessary resources and competencies to handle an acquisition. What is their experience? Do they have any success stories? What about failures? Nobody wants to sell to someone who has acquired businesses only to see them fail.  

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

“Why are you interested in buying my business?”

Understanding a buyer’s motives is crucial when seeking someone who is going to operate in the best interests of your company. If they share a passion for what you created and have a solid plan to build upon that success, they are far more likely to take your business in the right direction. Asking this question can also help you ascertain how serious they are about working towards a deal.

“How do you plan to finance the sale?”

Securing capital is often complicated and you can learn a great deal about a buyer from their answer to this question. It will demonstrate how experienced and how serious they truly are, helping you to weed out the dreamers. How do they plan to structure the deal? Can they prove that they have the funds available? How much cash is on the table? A serious buyer is going to be adequately prepared to answer this question and may even provide documentation.  

“How long have you been looking to acquire a business?”

This is a serious question when it comes to avoiding giant wastes of your time. There are people who will claim to be eager and ready to invest in a business, but they really are more interested in talking about the idea of it, as opposed to actually sealing any deal. How many deals have they passed on, and why? Ask for explanations. Sometimes deals simply do not work out. But if someone has a routine of waiting around for the perfect deal for years, you probably want to move on.

“How do you plan to carry on the legacy of my family business?”

If you have a family-owned business, it is likely that it matters to you that the company’s legacy remains in tact. This means you need to find a buyer that cares about maintaining its heritage and has a plan to do so. If you have family that will continue to be employed with the company, you will want assurance that the new owner is including them in their plans.

Don’t go it alone.

There are many considerations when seeking the right buyer for your business. To help you navigate the entire process, it is vastly beneficial to partner with a mergers and acquisitions firm that has the connections and resources to match you with the right investor. A firm that cares about the future of your business. The experts at Benchmark International will do all the homework for you and protect your interests to ensure that you get the very best deal possible.  

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How To Reduce Owner Dependence Before A Sale

Build your dream team.

An important step in reducing your company’s dependence on you is to create your management dream team. Assembling the right people to take over the reigns can shift the burden off of you far before the time comes to sell. Make sure your team members know that they have your confidence by giving them more responsibility. This also means that there can be less reliance on you moving forward. Another significant benefit of having a stable and experienced management team in place is that it makes your company more appealing to buyers and ensures a smoother transition period.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options? 

Create documentation.

Before selling a business, it is imperative that your processes and procedures are fully documented. When you outline howthings work and whythey work, it can be key to your organization’s appearance of professionalism. Not having a proper roadmap to your operations could be a deal-breaker for prospective buyers, as they will want to follow guidelines that they see are proven effective or adapt those guidelines accordingly.

Having proper documentation in place also means that your management team can make informed decisions in your absence should you just want to vacation for a couple of weeks. It will also be needed to keep everything running smoothly when it is time to transition the company in the event of a sale.

Creating this documentation may seem like a tedious task that you may feel too busy to do, but remember that it is critical to reducing your company’s dependence on you and will ultimately pay off in the long run.         

 

Plan your exit strategy.

As a business owner, it is critical that you have a plan for your exit from the company. A sound exit strategy will allow your business to transition smoothly into the right hands. This forward planning will ensure that your business stays on track and is achieving your goals. After all, if you have not set any goals, how can you expect to achieve them? These goals will be crucial in increasing the value of your company prior to a sale. Your management team should clearly understand these objectives so they can work with you on the path to shared success, and eventually, without you.

Establishing an exit strategy can be complicated and somewhat intimidating, which is why most savvy business owners partner with an experienced broker such as Benchmark International. Our specialists will work closely with you to establish an exit plan that is tailored to your specific needs and helps take the guesswork out of the process. We can even help you find the right buyer because we have powerful connections around the world.

Exit planning can reduce your company’s dependence on you and arm you with confidence for when it is time to sell. Instead of worrying about where to start, just start by
giving us a call.
Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

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6 Indicators that it Might be Time to Sell Your Business

You may not have considered selling your business and moving onto the next project, as perhaps it is growing at an acceptable pace and you have no pressing reasons to sell. Nevertheless, it may be worth considering an exit if you can identify with any of the following:

 

 Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

 

Your Business is Making you Exhausted

There are a number of reasons why your business could be making you exhausted. Perhaps you only started it for the money and you don’t love what you do, or the lifestyle of an entrepreneur hasn’t met your expectations. Whichever way, you feel apathetic towards the business and dealing with it is tiring.

While you have no need to sell, if you feel burnt out by your business it is worth considering doing so – you are doing the business no favours by sticking it out as the business could suffer as a result of not having someone at the helm who wants to drive the business forward.

 

Business Growth

If your business is steadily growing, then it may be a good time to consider an exit. A buyer is likely to pay over the odds for your company if it is on a growth curve as they can reap the rewards later down the line.

Equally as attractive to a buyer is a business operating within a growth industry. Even if your business is not seeing the growth, if the industry you operate in is thriving, a buyer could be interested due to the opportunities available.

 

You’ve Received an Offer You Can’t Refuse

A buyer has approached you and offered to buy your business for a handsome sum of money. You weren’t thinking of selling but, as you might not receive an offer like this again, this is perhaps a good indicator that you should sell.

Nevertheless, it’s always beneficial to take your business to market even in the event of such an offer, because if one party is willing to offer this for your company, then there’s no reason why others wouldn’t value your business the same, or maybe even higher.

 

You Want to Take Advantage of Low Capital Gain Tax

Capital gains tax is at historically low levels; therefore, it is a good time to sell. While this is not the only reason you should sell, if you feel yourself identifying with other reasons on this list, then now may be a good time to take advantage of this.

 

You’ve Been Offered a Better Job Opportunity

This might seem strange – you are your own boss and now you are going to be an employee. However, there are many merits to being an employee – for example, a regular, and probably better, income and being free from the demands and liabilities involved in running your own business.

 

You Don’t Have the Correct Skills to Grow the Business

As a business grows, more and different skills are required to keep the business growing than when you initially started. For example, you might be a great salesperson, which was extremely beneficial when setting up the company but, now, leadership is required in different areas. You could possibly learn these skills, or employ more people to take on these new leadership roles, but if you feel like you don’t have the energy to carry on with the business, this may be another indicator that it’s time to move on.

 

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

While the above points may be a good indication that it’s time to move on, it’s unlikely that one of these alone will compel you to sell. Instead, you might decide to sell because of a mix of these reasons, coupled with other factors such as economic conditions. When this time does come, Benchmark International can help by discussing your exit strategy and assisting you in finding the best buyer for your needs.

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3 Benefits of International Mergers and Acquisitions

If you are thinking of growing your business on an international level, it might be worth considering partnering with another company through a merger or acquisition, due to these three benefits: 

New Markets

International expansion allows access to new markets and a greater reach to more of these consumers, thus increasing sales. While this can be achieved by establishing a branch or subsidiary, a merger or acquisition could save time and money spent on starting a business from scratch.

Partnering with a company in a smaller country can be particularly fruitful, as the smaller the country, the larger the access to its market.

 

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

Diversification

An advantage of an international merger or acquisition is a wider range of services or products can be explored. This helps a business in diversifying their assets, protecting the bottom line against unforeseen circumstances. For instance, companies with international operations can offset negative growth in one market by operating successfully in another. Companies can also utilise international markets to introduce unique products and services, which can help maintain a positive revenue stream.

For example, Coca-Cola diversifies through global operations and recently reported increased sales in China, India and South Korea, which benefited Coca-Cola worldwide.

Obtaining Access to a Talented Workforce

One of the conditions for merging with, or acquiring, another company is to retain the staff and integrate them in the new company, which are legal requirements imposed by national and international regulations. The benefit is that international labour can offer companies unique advantages in terms of increased productivity, advanced language skills, diverse educational backgrounds and more.

If the above appeals to you it might be time to contact an experienced mergers and acquisitions specialist to talk through the next steps. 

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

WE ARE READY WHEN YOU ARE

Call Benchmark International today if you are interested in an exit or growth strategy or if you are interested in acquiring.

 

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Dustin Graham was interviewed by Business Day TV on “How to Value Your Business”

Benchmark International's Dustin Graham, Managing Director of the Cape Town and Johannesburg offices in South Africa, was interviewed by Business Day TV. The "How to Value Your Business" discussion can be viewed here: 

 

 

Is transformation important to your business?

Business Day TV is broadcast on Channel 412 on DStv and is available to over 10-million viewers in 9 countries across Southern Africa. It is one of three TV stations owned by The African Business Channel.

ABC is owned by SA’s leading financial publisher BDFM, publisher of Business Day and Financial Mail. BDFM in turn is owned by the Times Media Group, one of SA’s largest media houses. One of Business Day TV’s strengths is its access to content from this extensive network.

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What to Do When You’ve Lost the Entrepreneurial Spirit

When you first started your own business, you were probably brimming with entrepreneurial spirit, otherwise the company would never have got off the ground in the first place. Now, however, you are feeling lacklustre towards your business, as the mundane tasks to keep the business going are taking over and hampering your entrepreneurial spirit. Here are four steps to take action and get your business moving forward again:

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

Delegate Tasks

As your business grows you might find yourself doing increasingly more menial tasks to keep the business going. To ensure you have time to focus on the business, these tasks need to be delegated. Granted, this is easier said than done as you might want to stay in control rather than train somebody else to do them; however, if you continue to do this you are working in the business rather than on it. To ensure that you are the visionary and troubleshooter that you need to be, delegate work – you’ll be able to work on the bigger picture and your employees will appreciate the trust and responsibility you give to them.

 

Work on Goals for the Year Ahead

If you have got to a point where you have grown from a start-up then it might seem like the largest hurdle has been overcome. Nevertheless, you need to keep this momentum going to watch the company flourish. To do this, it’s a good idea to have plans and goals for the upcoming year, setting aside time to break down your goals into smaller steps with these to be actioned monthly, or even weekly. If these tasks are scheduled, and you ensure they are actioned, then this helps to make sure these goals are accomplished.

 

Encourage Innovation

If the day-to-day has become monotonous and the business is plateauing then you might want to encourage innovation to take the business in a new direction. To innovate it is useful to listen to both your customers and employees, as well as encourage your employees to take risks and think outside the box. This way, new ideas can be created and prevent the business from stagnating.

 

Take Some Time Out of the Business

Taking some time out of the business can help you to recharge. Whether this be scheduling time for yourself each evening, making sure you take time off at the weekend, or going on holiday, taking time out can help you to take a step away from the business and refresh, helping to stimulate fresh ideas.

 

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What if you’re a business owner in the process of transitioning your business or considering a transition? How do you handle it?

Picture this for a moment: you’re up to bat with two outs, two runners on base and the Florida Championship on the line.  Base hit up the middle scores one, possibly two, but if you pop up, ground out or strike out, it’s game over.

Is transformation important to your business?

If you could visualize yourself in that situation, chances are you’re feeling a little nervous.  Especially if you’ve never been there before.  What if you’re a business owner in the process of transitioning your business or considering a transition?  You’re up to bat with two outs and two runners on base – how do you handle it?  Ideally, we’d all like to confidently drill the first pitch deep into the outfield to win the game, but what happens when the thoughts and concerns about the transition and life after the transition get in the way?  Things might not work out as planned. 

In the decades of serving high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals and families, our team has worked with many who have made their wealth through the sale of the family business. Many of them were faced with a number of overwhelming thoughts and feelings: stress, anxiety, frustration, confusion and worry.  Here are some of the questions we’ve often heard:

  • Will this wealth be enough to sustain me and my family? How do I know?
  • What about taxes? What’s the impact to me?
  • How in the world am I going to invest this money to serve me and my family?
  • What about my legacy and charity – how does all this fit in?

Finding the answers to these questions requires preparation.  Unfortunately, many business owners are unprepared to address the complex financial decisions that need to be made for both themselves and their families both before and after the sale.  Many would rather wait and leave the planning to another day.  But a lack of planning and preparation has killed deals that should have closed, broken up families, and, in rare occasions, landed business owners in the hospital due to stress.

At BNY Mellon Wealth Management, we follow a collaborative, holistic, team-based approach to each business owner and family that we serve.  Leveraging the strength and expertise of our global firm, we help provide clarity by working with business owners to implement:
Wealth transfer and tax mitigation strategies

  • Pre- and post-sale cash flow optimization
  • Pro forma net worth statements and estate flow projections
  • Custom post-transaction investment strategies
  • Family governance and next generation education plans
  • Strategic philanthropy

Proper planning takes time, and having the right team of experienced professionals is critical to success.  Armed with an experienced team who can assist with planning and preparation, you too can confidentially step up to the plate and win the game. 

Author:
Christopher Swink
Senior Wealth Director
BNY Mellon Wealth Management
T: +1 (813) 405 1223
E: christopher.swink@bnymellon.com
Visit the BNY Mellon Website

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How to Deal with State Income Tax when Calculating EBITDA

As we all know, EBITDA is not defined under either accounting’s Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).  What’s worse is that there is no other evenly mildly authoritative source that delves into the specifics of the definition beyond much more than a one-word description of each letter’s meaning.

Despite its murky definition, EBITDA remains the lengua franca between buyers and sellers when discussing valuation of privately held companies. Regardless of the true manner in which the seller sets the minimum price for which she will part with her business and whichever of the likely more academic methods the buyer has used to determine its maximum purchase price, the parties tend to lob multiples of EBITDA back and forth across the negotiating table.

While the exact meaning of each letter in the acronym is worthy of its own discussion, there is perhaps no more frustrating issue than how to deal with state income tax in the “T” portion of the term. The frustration arises because some parties refuse to acknowledge that what is so eminently clear - that state income taxes should be treated in an identical manner to the treatment of federal income taxes.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

The very purpose of using EBITDA in these discussions is to place the concerned enterprise in neutral position with regard to capital structure, accounting decisions, and tax environments.  This is why, and all parties do agree on this point, federal income taxes would always be added back to earnings when making this calculation. The proponents of not adding back state income tax are never able to explain why differing treatments would result in better serving the objective of using EBITDA.

State income taxes, like federal income taxes, are only due when a business is profitable.  A business’s profitability is effected by, among other things, its capital structure (because more debt means more interest and interest reduces income and is therefore a tax shield whereas dividends do not and are not) and its depreciation (because, again, depreciation reduces earnings and serves as a tax shield). These factors have the same effect on state income taxes as they do federal income taxes.  Thus, the amount of federal and state income tax a business pays in a given year will vary depending on the quantity and rate of loans outstanding that year and the method and amount of depreciation employed (i.e., the entity’s capital structure and accounting decisions).  The amount of state income tax paid in a given measurement period is no more or less a function of the business’s operations than is its federal tax paid over that same period.

Further, while also not defined under GAAP, “profit before tax” (PBT) is a term more commonly used by accountants than EBITDA, appearing on a fair number, if not the majority, of companies’ routine income statements.  As accountants will always take this measurement before including the expense of both federal and state income taxes, why should the same logic not apply to EBITDA?  EBITDA is, of course, simply PBT minus interest, depreciation and amortization charges.

Proponents of disparate treatment suggest that the state income tax is an unavoidable cost of doing business. But this argument fails for two reasons.  First of all, it is not unavoidable. As discussed above, high debt levels and aggressive depreciation can allow the minimization or avoidance of state income tax (just as they can for federal income tax).  But more significantly, it is not the job of EBITDA to take out only the “avoidable cost of doing business.” Eliminating 401k matching, reducing salaries, renegotiating a better lease, or relocating to smaller premises may also be ways to reduce the cost of doing business. Yet no one proposes adding benefits, salaries, and rent to EBITDA because they are wholly or partially “avoidable”.

Continuing with this logic, state income taxes are avoidable by changing domicile just as federal income taxes are avoidable by changing domicile.  Ask Tyco, Fruit of the Loom, Sara Lee, Seagate or any of the other 43 formerly US companies that the Congressional Research Service identified as redomiciled for this purpose in the decade leading up to the 2014 election.  Would the EBITDA of any of these companies not have included an addback for federal income tax because it was an “avoidable cost of doing business”?

Ah, state income tax, the poor runt of the litter in the world of finance. Too small to be taken seriously, too complicated to be understood, and too varied to warrant the time.  Five states have no such tax on corporate entities. Most of the other 45 do not impose it on entities making federal S-elections.  Those who do impose it do so in many different ways.  And the names are so confusing, often being called by another name that allows the state’s development board to claim they do not have a state corporate income tax. Capped at 6% or less in most states, it pales in comparison to the 35% federal rate. (Though Iowa hits double digits at 12%, it is the only state to do so and there exists no documented record of anyone ever buying a business in Iowa.) How unfortunate that this scrawny beast seems to raise its head so uncannily when a deal is on the line, in those final days when the parties are so close yet so far away on valuation and the closing hinges on the fate of this oft-misunderstood adjustment to earnings.

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Retirement Tips for Business Owners

Planning for retirement can be a daunting task, but if you follow some basic principles and seek the proper help, the process can be reassuring and even empowering. 

Start with the numbers.

The first step you will want to take in planning your retirement is to figure out how big of a nest egg you will need in order to live comfortably. Once you set your goal, you can assess your current position and determine how much time you will need in order to meet that goal, and any additional steps you’ll need to take to make it happen. Consider the amount of income you expect to earn over your remaining working years and how much you want to contribute to retirement plans. A quick Google search for online retirement calculators can give you an easy starting point. 

Determine your company’s valuation.

Before you can thing about selling, you need to know what your business is worth. Your company’s cash flow, market value comparable to other companies, and precedent transactions are all factors in business valuation. You’ve worked hard to build your business and you shouldn’t have to make compromises when you want to retire. Consulting a company broker such as Benchmark International will help you get an accurate picture of your company’s worth and take the next steps in selling your business in the smartest way possible and with the smoothest transition. After all, you want your freedom to retire, but you also want your employees to be taken care of and your core business values to remain in tact.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Invest early.

It’s crucial to start investing in your retirement as early as possible. Whether it’s a 401k or an individual retirement account (IRA) or both, investing sooner means earning more interest. 401k plans have higher maximum contribution levels and a preselected list of limited investment choices. IRAs allow you to invest in a wide variety of mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and individual stocks and bonds. 

Another option to consider is a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan. It gives the business owner a vehicle to contribute to their employees’ retirement savings as well as their own, with easy setup and flexible options for funding. Annual earnings are not taxed and it grows tax-deferred, and there are no maximum contributions. 

Most importantly, all of these options allow your money to grow tax-free. If you have already begun to invest, take a step back to look at your investment plan and see if you need to make it more aggressive to achieve your goal within the expected timeframe. Consulting a financial expert can help you choose what type of retirement plan is right for you and create a blueprint to make the most of it. 

Strike a balance.

Saving and investing are not one and the same—and you’ll need to do both. Place money into a savings account that has slow but guaranteed growth. As a counterbalance, invest money in an investment account that carries some risk. While there’s always a risk you can lose your principal, the return may be quite high if invested wisely.

Diversification of your financial portfolio is also an important component of your retirement plan. Factor in goals, risks, and think about how to reduce vulnerabilities. The younger you are, the more aggressively you can invest. Consulting a financial planner can help you easily determine what is right for you.

Get exit planning advice.

You’ve put everything into building your business. When the exciting time comes to move on from that business, you’ll want to start planning your exit strategy sooner rather than later. Think about how you would like to see the business make a successful transition. Think about increasing the value of your business and selling at the right time. The smartest way to do this is to partner with a trusted M&A firm such as Benchmark International to help you make your dreams a reality. They will help with your company valuation and offer a winning strategy tailored to your specific needs, and even help you find the perfect buyer. Even if you only wish to partially retire, creating an exit plan opens up your options and gives you peace of mind for when the time comes for a transition.  

Take the next step.

If you are ready to plan for your retirement and create a successful company exit strategy, call Benchmark International today.

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M&A Mistakes to Avoid

The merger and acquisition (M&A) process requires careful planning, professional support, and an understanding of the deal dynamics involved in the negotiations. Completing a transaction is not easy. Many sellers only do a transaction only once in a life time. Companies that have not been engaged in many M&A transactions frequently make mistakes that can result in a less favorable price or terms. They can even potentially destroy the deal.

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2019 is the Year to Put Your Exit Strategy in Motion; Here’s why:

M&A Activity has remained steady over the last year, but can the same be expected of the years to come? A closer review of the annual activity for 2018 indicates that the peak of the M&A cycle is slowly coming to a plateau. It’s time for business owners to reflect and decide whether riding out the next few years is truly worth it.  

Here’s what we know about M&A activity and what we can predict based on current trends. Year over year, the total number of completed deals has been on a slow and steady decline from 2015 to 2018. In 2015, there was a total of 16,566 deals completed. Whereas, in 2018, there have been 10,734 deals completed so far. Although there has been an impressive total deal value of more than $800 billion completed in deals so far in the US for the 2018 cycle, that value is a decrease from previous years.  

What business owners have to look forward to in the coming years is a bit of uncertainty, especially following the anticipated 2020 presidential elections. 2019 is expected to be another great year for M&A transactions, but it may very well be one of the last for this incredibly hot activity we have experienced recently 

Following the 2016 elections, there was a short pause in activity followed by a quick uptick and a wave of transactions. The 2018 midterm elections were an indication of the coming “blue tsunami” predicted in 2020, with the Democratic Party taking hold of the House of Representatives. A change in political leadership can unsettle the ship that so many have been sailing upon for the last four years. President Trump’s 2016 campaign was centered on economic surety, and that surety brought a wealth of support for M&A transactions to follow. Should a new leader be at the helm of the nation following elections, volatility in the market is certain 

In addition to an anticipated election, there is no denying that the successful economic swing that has taken place thus far has also had an effect on the current market standing. A fourth interest rate increase is anticipated before the end of 2018, and three additional hikes are estimated to take place in 2019. Buyers will be wearier of transaction decisions as interest rates increase. They will not want to pay high valuations as those seen in previous years because the purchase risk will increase as a result.  

Now is the time for business owners to act before the market shifts from a sellers’ market to a buyers’ market. Steadily increasing interest rates will give more power to buyers in transaction negotiations. Business owners should keep this in mind before they decide to wait a few more years to put their exit plans in place.  

Moreover, the market is predicted to become somewhat saturated over the next decade as more adults are coming to retirement age. Baby Boomers make up approximately 60% of privately-held businesses in the in the US, and this means the number of businesses on the market are going to increase a great deal.  

As a result, valuations for businesses will likely decrease. Buyers will have many options at their disposal for their ventures, so they will have a higher competitive advantage against sellers. Sellers can take advantage of the current market and get ahead of the game now.  

A transaction can take anywhere from one year to eighteen months to complete on average. Getting a business on the market sooner rather than later will give sellers the power to take advantage of lower interest rates and getting a deal locked in before the market is filled with a myriad of new businesses.  

A sell-side mergers and acquisitions firm helps business owners derive the most value for their businesses in a sale. Benchmark International is a firm with decades of experience and a wealth of dedicated professionals who are looking out for our clients’ best interests in a transaction from start to finish. If you want to learn more about where the market is headed and what your options are, we can help you formulate an effective exit strategy now. 

 

WE ARE READY WHEN YOU ARE. 

Call Benchmark International today if you are interested in an exit or growth strategy or if you are interested in acquiring.

 

Schedule A Call

 

Americas: Sam Smoot at +1 (813) 898 2350 / Smoot@BenchmarkCorporate.com

Europe: Carl Settle at +44 (0)161 359 4400 / Settle@BenchmarkCorporate.com

Africa: Anthony McCardle at +2721 300 2055 / McCardle@BenchmarkCorporate.com

 

ABOUT BENCHMARK INTERNATIONAL

Benchmark International’s global offices provide business owners in the middle market and lower middle market with creative, value-maximizing solutions for growing and exiting their businesses. To date, Benchmark International has handled engagements in excess of $5B across 30 industries worldwide. With decades of global M&A experience, Benchmark International’s deal teams, working from 13 offices across the world, have assisted hundreds of owners with achieving their personal objectives and ensuring the continued growth of their businesses.

Website: http://www.benchmarkcorporate.com
Blog: http://blog.benchmarkcorporate.com/

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Top Mistakes to Avoid When Selling

So you’ve made the big decision – you’re going to sell your business. This is likely a stressful time for you as have probably spent a lot of time and resource building up the company and may be nervous about seeing it pass over to new hands. So, from here on in, you would like to minimise the amount of stress involved by avoiding any mistakes which can easily be averted. The following are common mistakes to avoid and how Benchmark International can help:

Only Pursuing the Largest Acquirer

Surely pursuing the largest acquirer is in your best interests as they will be able to afford a premium for the company?

While they may be able to pay a premium for the company, they may not necessarily do so. An acquirer is likely to pay a premium for your company because there are synergies in place such as similar markets, products or customers that could be combined, but a large acquirer typically does not need to make the acquisition to enter these markets. An acquisitive party could also benefit from economies of scale and, therefore, will pay more for the target, but a large acquirer is unlikely to benefit from this. Even if a large acquirer is willing to pay a premium, they may absorb operations into their own company, which can cause complications for the handover, particularly if you are loyal to existing staff.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Look at all aspects of the deal and how it can benefit your company. Benchmark International can assist with sourcing the best fit for your company.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Not Looking at the Bigger Picture

You’ve just received an offer from a potential acquirer – on the surface of it, it looks good, surpassing your expectations. However, the structure of the deal as a whole needs to be considered, not just the total value. For example, the consideration could be deferred, or contingent on future earnings, meaning you are not receiving all cash upon completion. It is also important that if you do decide on a structured deal, that these elements are protected, ensuring you receive the consideration.  

How Benchmark International Can Help: Benchmark International will thoroughly analyse all offers received, negotiate earn-out protections and can assess any contingent targets to ensure that the seller is able to maximise the consideration received. 

Not Creating Competitive Tension

It can certainly be a benefit to enter into the M&A process with potential acquirers in mind, perhaps one of these has even approached you at some point. However, even though it may be tempting to dive straight into a deal with an acquirer that wants you and complements your company perfectly, it is still vital to create competitive tension by generating interest from other potential acquirers. If the acquirer in mind can sense that they are the only one with an offer on the table and that you are anxious to sell to them, they could take advantage of this with a low offer.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Benchmark International will employ an approach where all potential acquirers are approached and exhausted before accepting any offers.

Using an M&A Sector Specialist

This may seem like an odd ‘mistake’ to make – why wouldn’t you want to use an M&A specialist operating specifically in your sector, surely you don’t want a generalist?

The reasoning behind this is that a general M&A firm will be able to think outside the box and target a large pool of acquirers, not limiting itself to those just in your sector.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Benchmark International has a vast and growing number of contacts giving you the best chances of receiving multiple offers, as well as significant experience across a broad number of sectors, leveraging this to identify the areas where the greatest synergies can be exploited.

Leaving it Too Long

To obtain the best price and right fit for your company, it is crucial to enter the market at the right time. It is important to strike a balance between seeking to sell when the company is on a growth curve, but also not missing the window of opportunity in the market cycle. Equally, it is important not to sell when you become desperate (e.g. you are looking at retiring soon) as acquirers could become aware of this and lower their offer accordingly.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Look at selling earlier than anticipated, not when you want an imminent exit. Benchmark International can best advise on when the right time is
to sell.

Neglecting the Day-to-Day Running of the Business

M&A transactions can be time consuming, but it is important not to let it get in the way of running the business. If an acquirer is interested in the business because profits are increasing, or a new product is due to be released to the market, for example, and this does not come into fruition because  you have taken your eye off the ball, then this could lead a buyer to renegotiate, or call the whole deal off.

How Benchmark International Can Help: The pressure of selling your business can be alleviated by Benchmark International as it will handle negotiations, leaving you to focus on running your company.

Not Negotiating Effectively at Critical Stages

Offers may go back and forth between yourself and the potential acquirer and at this point you are in a good position to negotiate. It is not until the Letter of Intent (LoI) is signed that the advantage swings to the buyer. Although the LoI is not typically legally binding it does usually stipulate a period where the seller cannot pursue further leads in the market (an exclusivity period), so competitive tension is lost. It is important, therefore, that you are completely happy with the terms (which can include such things as price, length of the exclusivity period etc.) before the LoI is signed to avoid either having to back out of a deal that could have been lucrative or being tied to a lengthy exclusivity period.

How Benchmark International Can Help: In all stages of negotiating, Benchmark International will do this on your behalf with your best interests in mind.

Author:
Lee Ritchie
Senior Director
Benchmark International

T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Ritchie@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Five Ways to Increase the Value of Your Business

You have a business with a strong bottom line and you are considering selling to realise its value. As a general rule of thumb, you used a five times multiple of earnings to work out a valuation for your company and are happy with the price you could command for your business. You put the company on the market but the prices offered are nowhere near what you expected – so what went wrong?

Companies that find themselves in this position are likely to be lacking in transferable business value. Transferable business value is a company with internal characteristics that will continue once the owner departs. Without this, no matter how strong the bottom line is, acquirers are likely to be unwilling to invest, or drive down the price paid for the company.

So, does your company have transferable business value? The below details five features that acquirers look for in a business which could increase its value.

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What Type of Company Should I Sell To? Five Types of Mergers and Acquisitions

If you are considering selling your business, then you are more than likely contemplating what type of company you want to buy your business.

As mergers and acquisitions are, broadly speaking, categorised into five different types of merger/acquisition, varying on whether the two companies are operating in the same markets or have the same products etc., this means that you have a choice of acquirer – you do not, necessarily, have to choose a buyer in the same industry doing the same thing.

Below details these five types of merger, along with benefits and disadvantages, and real examples from the industry.

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If Business Valuation Was A Science…

Determining the value of your business is not as simple as looking at the numbers, applying tried and tested formulas, and concluding. Were it that straightforward all business valuations would be virtually identical. The fact that they are not is sure proof that valuation is not a science, it can only be an art.

If Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) was as straightforward as calculating the theoretical value of a business, based on historical performance and using that to determine market value I would need something more constructive to do with my time.

Valuation is not as primitive as we have been led to believe. Whilst transaction values are commonly represented as a multiple of earnings this is merely the accepted vernacular used to report on a concluded transaction and almost never the methodology used to arrive at the value being reported.

The worth of a business is often determined by the category of buyer engaged. Financial buyers can add significant value to a business in the right stage of its life cycle but may not assume complete ownership, thereby delivering value for the seller simultaneously with their own. The right strategic acquirer for any business would be one that can unlock a better future for the business, and is willing to recognize, and compensate, a seller for the true value the entity represents to them.

Comparing the experience of so many clients, over so many years, and avidly following the outcomes of all the transactions published in South Africa there is little dispute that businesses are an asset class, like any other, and that the best value of all asset classes are only ever realized through competitive processes irrespective of whether the acquirer has financial or strategic motives.  

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

1.  The itch of business valuation

Simplistically, for the right acquirer - one seeking an outcome that extends past a short-term return on their initial investment - valuation is more a function of the buyer's next best alternative, than it is a businesses’ historic performance.

It would be naïve to think that the myriad of accepted valuation methodologies have no place in the process but identifying, engaging and recognising the benefits of the acquisition for a variety of strategically motivated buyers is essential in determining value in this context.

Considering a variety of appropriate valuation metrics, the parameters applied and then being able to balance these against the alternative investment required to achieve a similar outcome is where the key determinant of value lies. This is a complex process that unlocks the correct value for buyer and seller alike and it is a result that is rarely achieved without engaging with a wide variety of different acquirers and being prepared to "kiss a few frogs"

The most valuable assets on the planet are only ever sold through competitive processes where buyers have the benefit of understanding and determining value in the context of their own motives, having considered their available alternatives. It is for this reason that when marketing a business, it should never be done with a price attached. 

2.  An aggressive multiple

Whilst conventional wisdom is firm on industry average multiples, case studies abound, and the business community is regularly astounded by stated multiples achieved when companies change hands.

Beneath the glamour, the reality is that multiples are rarely used as a determinant of value, but almost without exclusion applied to understand it. Multiples represent little more than a simplistic metric that reflects an understanding of how many years a business would need to reliably deliver historic earnings in order for the acquirer to recoup their investment.

In the same way as a net asset value (NAV) valuation would unfairly discriminate against service businesses, multiples discriminate against asset rich companies. For strategic acquirers, with motives beyond an internal rate of return - measured against historic earnings - valuation is sophisticated.  It relies on an assessment of whether the business represents the correct vehicle to achieve the strategic objectives, modelling the future returns and assessing risk. Valuation in these circumstances will naturally consider it, but places little reliance on the past performance of a business constrained by capital or the conservatism of a private owner to formulate the future value of such investment. 

Whilst there are Instances where the product of such an exercise matches commonly accepted multiples, there are equally as many valuations that, on the face of it, represent unfathomable results. 

3.  A better tomorrow for the buyer

It would be irresponsible to advocate that that return on investment is not a consideration when determining value - corporate companies and private equity firms typically all have investment committees, boards and shareholders that assess the financial impact of any transaction. It is rare that such decisions are ever vested with a single individual, or that the valuation is derived from their personal desire to own a company or brand.

The art of valuation requires a reliable determination of the synergies between buyer and seller and an accurate assessment of the risks and benefits of the investment. Risk and reward are inherently related and skilled negotiation is required to find solutions that mitigate, or de-risk a transaction for buyer and seller alike, in order to underpin the value
of a transaction.

Financial buyers can be very good acquirers, especially in circumstances where they are co-investing alongside existing owners, staff or management to provide growth funding. When seeking a strategic partner for a business the acquirer should always be unable to unlock value beyond the equivalent of a few years of historical earnings. It is for this reason that the disparity between valuations by trade and financial buyers exists, and why determining the appropriate form of acquirer for any business is a function of the objectives of the seller.

4.  Passing-on the baton, or living the legacy

The motives for a sale can be varied and extend from retirement to funding and growth, from ill-health to a desire to focus on the technical (as opposed to management and administration) aspects, of the business.

Value for buyers and sellers comes in many different forms. For sellers it is their ultimate objective that determines whether they have achieved value in a transaction. For sellers it may be as simple as the price achieved or it could extend to value beyond the balance sheet as diverse as leveraging the acquirer’s BEE credentials, unconstrained access to growth capital or even to secure a future for loyal staff.

For both local and international buyers alike, the intangibles may be as straightforward as speed to market in a new geography who would otherwise not readily secure vendor numbers with the existing customers of the target business. An acquisition may be motivated by access to complimentary technology, skills or distribution agencies to diversify their own offering. Whatever the motives, an assessment of the future of the staff will always be an important aspect to both parties.

There are few, if any businesses, that are anything without the loyal, skilled and hardworking people that deliver for the clients of a business. The quality of resources, succession and staff retention are all factors that weigh on a decision to transact. Navigating the impact of a transaction on staff is a factor that cannot be ignored and the timing of such announcements can be meaningful.

Author:
Andre Bresler
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Bresler@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Five Ways to Value Your Business

The first question you will probably want to ask when thinking about selling your business is – what is it actually worth? This is understandable, as you do not want to make such a big decision as to sell your business without knowing how much it could command in the market.

Below are five different ways a business can be valued, along with which type of companies suit which type of valuation.

Multiple of Profits

A common way for a business to be valued is multiple of profits, although this typically suits businesses that have an established track record of profits.

To determine the value, you will need to look at the business’ EBITDA, which is the company’s net income plus interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. This then needs to be adjusted to ‘add-back’ any expenses that may have been incurred by the current owner which are unlikely to be incurred by a new owner. These could be either linked to a certain event (e.g. legal fees for a one-off legal dispute), a one-off company cost (e.g. bad debts, currency exchange losses), are at the discretion of the current owner (e.g. employee perks such as bonuses), or wages/costs to the owner or a family member that would be more than the typical going rate.

Once the adjusted EBITDA has been calculated this figure needs to be multiplied; this is typically between three and five times; however, this can vary – for example, a larger company with a strong reputation can attract towards an eight times multiple.

This provides an Enterprise Value, with the final ‘Transaction Value’ adjusted for any surplus items, such as free cash, properties and personal assets.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Asset Valuation

Asset valuation is suitable way to value a business that is stable and established with a lot of tangible assets – e.g. property, stock, machinery and equipment.

To work out the value of a business based on an asset valuation the net book value (NBV) of the company needs to be worked out. The NBV then needs to be refined to take into account economic factors, for example, property or fixed assets which fluctuate in value; debts that are unlikely to be paid off; or old stock that needs to be sold at a discount.

Asset valuations are usually supplemented by an amount for goodwill, which is a negotiable amount to reflect any benefits the acquirer is gaining that are not on the balance sheet (for example, customer relationships).

Entry Valuation

This way of evaluating the value of a company simply involves taking into account how much it would take to establish a similar business.

All costs have to be taken into account from what it has taken to start-up the company, to recruitment and training, developing products and services, and establishing a client base. The cost of tangible assets will also have to be taken into account.

This method for valuing a business is more useful for an acquirer, rather than a seller, as through an entry valuation they can choose whether it is worth purchasing the business, or whether it is more lucrative to invest in establishing their own operations.

Discounted Cash Flow

Types of companies that benefit from the discounted cash flow method of valuing a business include larger companies with accountant prepared forecasts. This is because the method uses estimates of future cash flow for the business.

A valuation is reached by looking at the company’s cash flow in the future, and then discounts this back into today’s money (to take into account inflation) to give you the NPV (net present value) of the business.

Valuing a business based on discounted cash flow is a complex method, and is not always the most accurate, as it is only as good as its input, i.e. a small change in input can vastly change the estimated value of a company.

Rule of Thumb

Some industries have different rules of thumb for valuing a business. Depending on the type of business, a rule of thumb can, for example, be based on multiples of revenue, multiples of assets or of earnings and cash flow.

While this method may have its merits in that it is quick, inexpensive and easy to use, it can generally not be used in place of a professional valuation and is instead useful for developing a preliminary indication of value.

To summarise, the methods of valuation can very much vary in terms of complexity and thoroughness, and different industries will find different methods more useful than others. A good M&A adviser can best suggest which way to value your business, as well as help to counter offers in the latter stages of the process with an accurate valuation in mind.

 

Author:
Tony Yerbury
Director
Benchmark International
T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Yerbury@benchmarkcorporate.com


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The Benefits of Vertical Integration As Evidenced by Apple's Intent to Purchase Assets from Dialog

Apple has agreed a deal to acquire the assets of its long-time supplier, Dialog Semiconductor, which include 300 employees and patents in a $600 million deal.

Dialog supplies power management circuits to Apple, which help to extend the battery life of its iPhones and iPads. The move comes after Apple announced in November 2018 that it was planning to phase out the use of Dialog’s products as Apple stated it would be using chips from another supplier.

This was believed to be Apple itself and, with the acquisition of Dialog’s assets, this allows Apple to bring the development of chips in-house.

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To PE or Not to PE – Is a Private Equity Firm the Right Type of Buyer for My Company?

If you are considering the sale of your company, then you may have also thought about what type of acquirer you would like to approach. You may have considered a private equity firm (PE firm) as an attractive prospect, as there are a range of benefits from partnering with PE firms such as the amount of funding available, their active involvement in the company and their expertise in creating value.

There are, however, certain criteria that PE firms look for when sourcing acquisition targets and the following tend to be what they will look for in a portfolio company:

 

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Is Your Business Killing You? Signs it Might Be Time to Exit …

The dream of running your own business was once a thrill that filled you with excitement. Perhaps, it was the idea of being your own boss fueled the passion behind your drive, or the prospect of providing a new product to a targeted market. Whatever the case may be, you’ve made it to this point in time right now because something is different (hence, why you are reading this article).

Maybe business is great, you’ve reached a plateau or your company is in decline.  Irrelevant of the situation you aren’t fired up about your company like you used to be and you no longer have the same passion for your company that used to be there or, in the worst case, you feel like it is killing you!  Your dedication to your business seems to be affecting your personal life and your health, whether it be mental or physical, in a negative way. Going to work each day is getting tougher and tougher, a dreaded obligation, and you feel like your tank is running on empty.

When your personal life and your health are in decline, it’s probably time to explore your exit strategy options. The first step you need to take when you reach this point is to open up conversations with a sell-side mergers and acquisitions team who can help you determine what those options are.  Starting the discussion now will allow you to have a better “diagnosis”, but here are some flags to look for if you aren’t sure if now is the time to contemplate an exit:

1)    You’re spending too much time on back-office and administrative tasks– Most business owners who find themselves in this situation have driven their company to success and have a very nice company, having it from nothing at all.  The reality is that owners do this as the primary visionary who pushes business development and sales.  Truthfully, there is seldom an employee who can deliver the passion and expertise for your company than you can.  Over time as a company grows, many owners fall prey to becoming employees themselves who are constantly focused on obligations such as managing people, processing payroll, dealing with HR issues, keeping up with regulations, etc. which confines them to an internal office desk job.  If you are finding yourself in a this situation or similar, you aren’t the only one and there are many ways to revive your daily routine that a mergers and acquisitions team can share with you.

2)     You feel like you’re “married” to your business and are contemplating a divorce – Starting a business that you expect to last for the long run is a commitment. You have to be prepared for ups and downs all along the way. As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change.  As your business will change, so will your personal life, your priorities and your focus.It can be hard to take a step back from the business because it  requires so much of your time and attention. You don’t want your business to fail, but you also don’t want your personal life to suffer at its expense. Having a family, or missing out on life’s small moments repeatedly, can make you reevaluate your priorities. If you find yourself being at the business more than at your home, it’s probably time to start the exit conversation and learn more about your options. 

3)    Your Business has Grown Substantially and You Can’t Keep Up with the Demand – This appears to be a good problem to have, but in reality, if you can’t keep up with your business, then the business is walking a thin line between failure and success. Likewise, you are probably coming to your maximum height of stress too. So, what do you do? Being able to understand that you don’t know what you don’t know is key to catapulting your business further into success. Any one person can only do so much. At some point, you need to assess how you can be of more value to your business. If your value lies in innovation and new ideas related to the service you provide or expanding your footprint, but you can’t produce your products or deliver your services fast enough, or if you aren’t spending enough time on innovation because you’re busy on making sure your current client pool is satisfied … you are losing money, and your business will decline. The business you have grown from the ground up deserves to reach its full potential and there are many paths there.

4)    You Daydream About the Day When You Won’t Have to Work Anymore – Running your business has become a chore. You are constantly one foot in the door, even when you’re home. You’ve reached that point where it just feels like your life is your business, and retirement on white sandy beaches sounds more and more intriguing. Being a business owner isn’t a walk in the park, and you need a plan in place, so when those retirement dreams start flooding your mind, you can put your plan into motion.

If you have come to a point in your business where you feel like it is constant stress and you have no relief, then it’s probably time to sit down with a sell-side mergers and acquisitions specialist like Benchmark International and discuss your exit strategy options. There are a vastly more avenues you can explore that will relieve you from the status quo that will allow you to continue pursuing your personal and financial goals while ensuring the legacy of your company remains intact and that your employees will continue to be taken care of.

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