Tips For Buying A Business For Those Seeking To Shake Up Their Work Life

08/01/2016 7:23 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Hispanic small business owner hanging open sign on door

If you’ve spent the summer break examining your working life and have decided you need a radical change, you’re not alone.

Many are taking the leap away from working for the man to being their own boss -- and buying a small business.

Ben Johnston, Head of SEEK Commercial, said the company’s data reveals there are 260,000 small business buyers visiting the SEEK Commercial site each month. And visits have grown 22 percent in the last financial year.

But January is the peak time for people looking to shake things up and change their working life.

“We find that in January -- certainly in the first quarter of any calendar year -- is typically our largest from an audience perspective,” he told The Huffington Post Australia.

“People have had the chance to reflect on the year over Christmas and what they want to do next -- and they start to make business enquiries at this time.”

But buying a business -- and selling one down the track -- isn’t as simple as getting a job interview, landing the role, buying a new shirt and turning up on Monday morning.

Here, Johnston provides some expert advice to becoming a small business owner by purchasing an existing operation or becoming a franchisee.

Buying a business

1. Know thyself

Now is the time to be truly honest about your skills, your abilities and your shortcomings. You also need to consider the lifestyle you want -- the type of business you choose may affect your dream.

Importantly, Johnston says your interests and passion don’t necessarily correlate to good business-buying decisions.

“People need to understand why they are getting into small business,” he said. “An example is that most people in Australia like coffee and food. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that spending all day on your feet in hospitality is the right option for you -- running a cafe in particular is really bloody hard work.

“The driver of owning your own business is often lifestyle -- so just really considering whether the business you’re thinking of will allow you the lifestyle that you want.”

Interestingly, businesses in hospitality and service, especially coffee, have always been the most popular to buy through SEEK Commercial.

2. Do your research

If you’re confident in your skills and the industry, the next step is to consider whether an independent business or a franchise is better for you.

“At the end of the day the onus is on you as a small business owner, so you need to know what will suit you,” he said. “You may be better suited to a franchise which has systems in place versus a business which doesn’t have that structure or guidance.”

Understanding the skills you lack but will need to be a small business owner -- bookkeeping, marketing or staff management -- can allow you to start retraining and be prepared for change.

small business cafe

Coffee may be a popular business search but cafe ownership isn't for everyone.

3. Due diligence is the key

Get a good accountant, lawyer or mentor who has solid business experience to help you to review a company’s financial statements, business and marketing plans as well as potential tax implications for you before you sign on the dotted line.

Johnston says you need to make an accurate assessment to determine the value of the business as well as shore up what your responsibilities are for staffing and property leases.

Tips for selling a business

1. Figure out what it’s really worth

People sell businesses for all sorts of reasons, but you’re usually guaranteed a certain amount of sentimental value. Separating the personal from the market value is the trickiest part of the process, says Johnston.

“Trying to evaluate what the business that you have built is worth from a time and energy and investment versus what your current financial forecast is saying with respect to the industry and future cashflows is a big challenge, and often there is a big gap between your own assessment and what the reality is,” he said.

Find the middle ground by paying someone else to do it -- find a qualified business broker who will know what the market is prepared to pay.

2. Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle

Johnston says you need to make your business more alluring than the others -- and to understand what the audience wants to see. And with social media so prolific, buyers want a bit of pizzazz.

Many ads on SEEK Commercial now include a video showcasing the business and multiple photos -- all of which are easily accessible on a mobile phone.

“About 30-35 percent of our traffic is via mobile so you need to shape an ad that will capture people who are browsing on the train on the way to work or at home on a tablet,” he said.

Johnston also recommends sharing more information than you may think to, including the amount of foot traffic and turnover.

Small business sellers also need to keep their books tidy -- be prepared for potential buyers to want to inspect your financials, your marketing material and even your business plan.

3. Have a lot of patience

It can take an average of six months to sell a business -- it takes time for buyers to scope out the opportunity, to do the due diligence and perhaps resign from their jobs and secure funding to buy it.

Johnston says those looking to own a franchise will find that doesn’t happen overnight either.

“From a franchise perspective, a franchiser’s process is that they use our site to recruit franchisees so making sure the person is a right fit for their brand,” he said.

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