Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Owner Wants Out. Now what?

This is a challenge that almost every business district manager will eventually have to face, particularly as baby boomers age and many who started their successful businesses are reaching retirement. Perhaps it is no coincidence that I have now been approached at least twice in the past few months by district managers concerned about a local business owner who has expressed a desire to sell their business. In both cases, the businesses in question were important contributors to the overall retail mix, and the loss of those businesses would have significantly hurt the district.

So what do you tell the business owner looking to move on? If you face this problem, it may come as a surprise to that there is a business brokerage community out there focused on helping businesses get bought and sold.  Engaging a reputable business broker is important, and you should find one that is certified by the International Business Brokers Association - and who comes well recommended. The IBBA website is a good resource for articles and information for those interesting in finding more about business sales as well. There are also websites like BizBuySell.com and BizQuest.com that specialize in business sales and purchases where an owner can list their business. Earlier this week, I also noticed a short piece called "How to Sell Your Business" recently published in The New York Times on-line edition by Barbara Taylor, a business broker. It is a good primer with a  list of additional resources as well.

Selling a business is not like selling a home. The level of due diligence that prospective owners require is significantly greater - and the value of a business, particularly a small business, is often inextricably linked to its owner. Case in point - NBC Nightly News recently covered the challenges that Ann of Ann's Snack Bar, a Atlanta burger joint known for it's "Ghetto burgers", is having trouble selling her successful business. This destination business has lines outside the door.  But with no buyers, Ann's might not be around for much longer.  This would be a huge loss to surrounding business - and we hope for the sake of the district that she gets the help she needs to find a suitable buyer. Helping your owners find the resources they need to prepare their business for sale is an important way in which you can help - and one that could very well help the business remain in your district.

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