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Mergers And Acquisitions Aren't Just for the Big Players – So Be Ready

Written by: Corey Harris & Julie Traxler, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

We often have conversations with small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs about mergers and acquisitions and the strategy, planning, and thought process that should surround it. Regardless if you’re buying or selling, it’s easy to let emotions drive decisions that should be based on the facts. We push all of our conversations with small business owners towards analyzing the numbers and creating well-thought-out plans, but we realize that not everyone has the luxury or foresight for analysis and project management when it comes to business deals. That said, here are the top considerations for anyone thinking of buying a business or exiting their own.


For Those Being Acquired:


We’ve said it many times, and we’ll say it many more: When you start a business, you need to start with the end in sight. No one starts a business thinking they’ll close the doors, but inevitably, you will no longer own whatever business you start. It could be because you are ready to retire, you get a deal you can’t refuse, it simply doesn’t make financial sense to keep your doors open, or some other unpredictable reason.


Keep it Organized


From the beginning, you should treat your business like it’s about to be turned over to a new owner. Think about what it would take for someone to walk into your business and take over without any direction from you. That means having everything organized and stored in an efficient manner. It’s easy to say to yourself that you’ll document something later or get around to organizing those files when you have a moment. That work you put off can pile up quickly and can be a mess to untangle and organize later, especially if you need to do it with a short deadline.


Think about how and where you store data, what data you store, and what potential buyers may be interested in. This could be job descriptions, employee handbooks, customer/client policies, and anything else written that you’d share with employees or anyone outside your business. You should also aim to keep training documents and processes up to date, which includes any and all technology that you use, who uses it, and how it integrates into the business.


Keep Your Financials Clean


In addition to keeping your books organized and up to date, keeping them clean can save you significant time and money when you exit and is just good business in general. It’s easy to blur the line between business and personal expenses, and we’re not going to tell you how to spend your hard-earned cash, but how you manage and record your financials should be clean and consistent.


Business can be unpredictable, and a snapshot of your books at any given moment may not be an accurate representation of your financial situation, and that’s why keeping accurate and timely documents is critical for anyone who may want to analyze your financials. Don’t be afraid to take out debt to grow your business or take a risk on a new business venture, but make sure you can explain any sudden or erratic numbers that show up. You want to answer any question a potential buyer has before they ask the question. If your books aren’t organized, or you don’t have any supporting documents for your financials, you could scare away someone who may think your business is too risky to invest in.


Keeping yourself organized makes running your business smooth and exciting that much easier.


For the Acquirer


As with exiting your business, there are many scenarios and situations that need to be considered when acquiring someone else. There is almost no cookie-cutter sale as everything can be negotiated from the sale price to the staff that may transfer with the sale, and it’s possible that a sale happens simply for some property, real or intellectual, with no consideration for the business itself.


Understand the Why


It seems obvious, but the first thing that anyone should consider before they even start looking for an acquisition is knowing why they want to acquire a business. We’ve spoken with many aspiring entrepreneurs whose goal is to “own a business” or “be their own boss.” They have a passion for being a business owner, but that’s about all. While that may be enough, it’s often not a great decision because all they’re doing is buying themselves a job.


And for existing business owners, the idea of growing through acquisition is extremely appealing. They want to purchase the competition or expand into a new market, and buying something that has an infrastructure and hopefully revenue is a great way to grow. But growing for the sake of growing often isn’t a successful way to build a business because there’s quite a bit to consider in order to make the transition work. There needs to be a plan and an end goal. Any acquisition needs to be able to confidently and accurately answer “why” before moving forward.


Keep it Organized


Existing businesses who want to sell should have everything neat and orderly, and so should any business looking to acquire another one. If your business is a mess, the complexity of merging another into yours will only make things worse. You’ll want to consider the same things that we mentioned above, but understanding, documenting, and fine-tuning your processes is significantly more important. Since it’s likely that you’ll be folding a business into yours, you need to know exactly what it is that you do and how you do it so that anything new you bring on board integrates easily.


Acquisitions need an end goal just like starting a business does, which means you need a plan for when the deal closes. Keeping your business and financials organized - job descriptions, training, technology maps, etc. - will help you see where you have opportunities to improve your business and gain efficiencies. You want to avoid duplication as much as possible and being organized, regardless of the state of your acquisition, will make that transition much cleaner.


Mergers and acquisitions can be very tricky transactions to navigate successfully, and being prepared before it happens will alleviate many headaches in advance. You never know when an opportunity may knock, and sometimes you’re the one who’s doing the knocking.


Connect with Julie Traxler and Corey Harris on their LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter or visit their website.


 

Julie Traxler and Corey Harris, Executive Contributors Brainz Magazine

Julie and Corey started their company, SB PACE, due to the 2020 pandemic to assist small businesses. Since then, they have expanded into helping start-ups, companies looking to improve, and small business mergers and acquisitions. They wrote the book on small business disaster preparedness and continued to help small businesses by leveraging their knowledge and experience working for Fortune 500 companies and Big Four consulting firms. Julie and Corey are the experts small business owners turn to when looking for sustainable, long-term success.

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