A Short Story All Family-Owned Businesses Should Read

When it comes to selling a family-owned business there are no shortage of complicating factors, but one in particular pops up quite often. This article contains a true story about a popular family business that was built up from the ground up only to later meet a very sad ending. While this is just one story, there are countless similar situations all across the country.

Once upon a time, there was a family-owned pizza dough company that had millions in sales. They sold their pizza dough to a range of businesses including restaurants and supermarkets. The founder had five children and split the business equally amongst them. Complicating matters was the fact that the children didn’t feel compelled to work in the family business. As a result, they turned the operation of the business over to two members of the third generation.

Once the founder’s children reached retirement age, they decided that they wanted to sell. So, they hired a business broker. The business broker began the search for an appropriate buyer, however, there was little interest. After considerable effort, the business broker found a successful businessman who offered to buy the pizza dough business for 50% of the sales, which was a good price. The business broker took the offer to the five owners and that is when the problems began.

A huge family argument was unleashed and the business broker was cut out of the loop. Later the offer was turned down flat and worst of all there was no counter-proposal, no attempt to negotiate price, terms, conditions or anything else. In short, the offer was finished and done. In the end, the business broker had lost several months of hard work.

Wondering what had happened, the business broker learned that two of the third-generation members who had been operating the business didn’t want to sell out of fear of losing their jobs. Over two decades later, the business has experienced almost no growth and is essentially breaking even. The owners, now in their 70s will likely never receive anything for their equity.

What you have just read is a true story, although the specific business type has been changed. This story serves to outline the problems that can arise when it comes time to sell a family business, especially if there is no agreement in place. Passing on this deal meant that the five children lost a considerable amount of money; this would have of course been money that could have made their retirement much more pleasant.

The story is both tragic and cautionary, in that this great business built from scratch by its founder was, in the end, left to flounder.

There is a moral to this story. Family-owned businesses need to have strict guidelines in place concerning issues such as salaries, benefits, what happens when one member wants to cash out and more. Such issues should be worked out with professionals, such as business brokers, years in advance.

Around the Web: A Month in Summary

A recent article from Divestopedia entitled “To Sell Your Business, Start with the End in Mind” explains the importance of planning your exit strategy in the early stages of your business. The article points out that emotion plays a big part in humans’ decision making process, and when a potential buyer perceives that the owner has not prepared a company for sale, they associate this with uncertainty, effort and stress that will accompany rebuilding the business.

Focusing on building your company’s culture is also very important for exit planning because a well-established company culture will continue to endure after you’re gone. Creating a self-sustaining culture that involves talented employees, succession plans for key people, talent acquisition and talent retention can help your business be seen as more valuable in the future.

Click here to read the full article.

A recent article posted on BizJournals.com entitled “How to know when the ride is over and it’s time to get off” gives an overview of how to know when to exit your business and how to be prepared when the time is right. Here are 4 signs that it might be time to sell your business:

  1. Your health is declining or your business is negatively affecting your health
  2. You’ve lost your passion for the business
  3. Your priorities have changed and the business is no longer your top priority
  4. You are hesitant or unable to invest money in the growth of your business

Business owners should periodically review these factors and ask themselves if they are still the right person for the job. It’s also good to consult with a trusted advisor to start planning an exit strategy now so you’re prepared when the time comes to sell all or part of your business.

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A recent article posted on Forbes.com entitled “Business Value And Lottery Tickets” explains how you have to be realistic about your goals for your business especially in how they relate to your exit plan in the future. Take a look at how your business is doing and then quantify your goals for your business by asking yourself questions such as “How much money do I need to have when I leave my business?”

Next, you need to figure out a plan for your business to grow enough to reach those goals. The article states three common problems that owners have in this situation:

  1. Relying on assumptions instead of consulting with an exit-planning advisor
  2. Trying to do everything instead of delegating
  3. Remaining stagnant instead of taking on new roles to ignite change in the business

It is also important to have a good management team in place to help you achieve your goals. It’s not luck, and you have to look at the numbers and facts to get your business where you need it to be for a successful exit.

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A recent article from the Axial Forum entitled “How to Handle Risky Customer Concentration in an M&A Target” explains the best practices to follow if a potential acquisition has a lot of customer concentration. In many companies, it’s common for 20% of customers to account for 80% of the company’s revenue. In this case, it is vital to talk to multiple people within these important accounts and ask a variety of questions to make sure you find out how their relationship with the company is really structured.

Most importantly, you want to ask the contact how likely they would be to recommend the target company to another colleague, which in turn will help you determine the Net Promoter Score (NPS) rating of the company. The NPS is very useful because it has statistically shown that higher rated companies are more profitable, outpace their competitors, and have stronger cross-selling opportunities.

It’s a good practice to look deeper into a company’s relationships with its customers when acquiring a business that you’ll want to eventually grow.

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A recent article posted on The Standard entitled “Do you have a business you are eyeing? Consider these tips before taking the leap” explores a variety of factors to take into consideration before buying a business. Here are some things to think about when making the decision to buy:

  1. Evaluate yourself and make sure you have the skills to take on the specific type of business
  2. Find out why the business is being sold
  3. Carry out due diligence in screening the business so there’s no surprises along the way
  4. Obtain a professional valuation of the business
  5. Close the deal and consider using a legal officer for the final process

Always be sure to find out the good and the bad before you decide to purchase a business.