Prospective business buyers often make the terrible mistake of being overzealous when talking with a seller for the first time. I get it; you’re excited. Perhaps you have spent a ton of time looking at listings and do not want to waste any time on potential businesses that fail to meet your criteria. However, what you say and how you come across when you first engage a seller is critically important and sets the tone for continued discussions.
Can’t We Just Get Along
Your initial goal is to introduce yourself to the seller/business and get a general idea of how it operates. Your first conversation should be to outline what you are looking for in a business, as well as to convey that you are a serious buyer. It is also the time to get a first impression of the other party. Before a seller will divulge any material information, you will be required to execute a non-disclosure agreement and moreover, it is something you should immediately offer to do for the seller. It will put them at ease that you are: a) familiar with the process, and; b) sincere about your intentions.
Don’t be A Bully
There is no bigger turn off than a buyer who comes across as overbearing or a know-it-all, or who acts rudely and immediately requests detailed financial or other confidential information. The process to buy a business is just that a process with specific steps along the way, including the dissemination of information pertinent to making a decision. It all comes in due time and each seller may have a different agenda for giving you that information. Be patient and sensitive to the fact that this may be new to them as well.
Key Questions To Ask The Seller
There are numerous key questions to ask every seller, including:
- What is the history of the business?
- What are their day-to-day responsibilities?
- What challenges do they face?
- What have they done to grow the business?
- Why are they selling the business?
- Are there any key customers, suppliers, or employees?
- Can the lease be easily transferred to another party?
- What special licenses (if any) are needed to run the business?
- How did they arrive at their asking price?
- Are they willing to finance part of the deal?
- What training will they provide?
- Who are their main competitors?
Do Your Research
Parallel to the seller questions is learning about the industry. The Internet is the greatest tool to come along for buyers. There is a wealth of detailed information on every industry but keep in mind that you are probably looking at a local business so do not go overboard with global trends or using billion dollar companies as a comparison that will have zero impact on the business you are evaluating.
The Goal Early On
In the early stages of evaluating the business, there are three key questions you should ask yourself:
- Do I like the business?
- Can I see myself running it?
- Do I trust the seller?
Buying a business is a huge responsibility and it will change your life. Its important to do your due diligence, get to know the seller, as well as gain a very clear understanding as to what you’re getting yourself into. Buying a business is also an exciting opportunity. This is your chance to be your own boss, grow a company and make it your own.
About The Author
Richard Parker is the author of How To Buy A Good Business At A Great Price, the most widely used reference resource and strategy guide for buying a business. He has purchased ten businesses in his career and has helped thousands of prospective buyers worldwide learn how to buy the right business for sale. He is also founder and President of Diomo Corporation – The Business Buyer Resource Center.