30% of all business buyers have been through the process before and therefore have learned, through experience, what they should do and not do. They graduated from the very expensive but enlightening "School Of Hard Knocks." I myself learned how to become a business broker, hard money loan broker, real estate speculator, builder, and land developer by going to this school. I must tell you, that the tuition is more expensive than Harvard Medical School or any other top notch University in the world. Being sixty-one years old it is sometimes very enlightening to reflect on ones life, in retrospect, and see what was done right and wrong.
This exercise is often called the "What if?" It is sometimes productive and sometimes demoralizing. We all have made mistakes and the only person who hasn’t is the person who never takes a chance. While doing this introspection, one big repetitive action repeated multiple times is my reason for repeatedly going back to the "School of Hard Knocks."
One of the reasons I joined professional associations was to have contact with people who knew things about my industry that I didn’t. They became my associates, from whom I could call and ask questions. Occasionally I met an old timer who really knew the ropes. When it was possible, I went out of my way to build a relationship. I wanted him to be a "mentor" to me.
Not everyone who is an “old timer” and has experience can mentor others. When I was a member of the Building Industry Association I met one of the top ten industrial general contractors in the USA. His advice to me was to just jump in and do it. I kept asking him, How? He could not understand my questions, so he stopped spending time talking with me. A real mentor would have helped me outline the plan step-by-step. He would have helped me overcome the obstacles that inevitably occur, because an experienced person usually has the solution.
At the beginning of this article I stated that 30% of all business buyers have been through the process before. That would naturally lead to the conclusion that 70% of all business buyers have never bought a business before. The 70% knowing that they do not know anything about buying a business usually look for some family member, or family friend, who has experience, to help them. Some of these inexperienced buyers understand that they need a team to help. They look for an attorney to help them develop or write the contract and form the legal entity. They find an accountant who will review and audit the seller’s records. They may even look for a business appraiser to tell them what the business is actually worth, in order to make sure that they do not over pay for the purchase. The one thing that many buyers realize but cannot find is a business-buying mentor. This is someone to educate them through the process and tell them about the pitfalls of locating and purchasing a business.
The attorneys and accountants have specific functions that come into play only after you are 100% sure you are intending to buy a business because you must be ready to pay for these services. But what about before you reach that point? What about when you are asked to make an offer even before the financial information has turned over to you to have an advisor study? What do you do then? These are hard questions for even a seasoned buyer to answer, and impossible for a novice. What is needed is a mentor to help guide the way. The word mentor is defined--in a business setting: as the act or process of helping someone younger or less experienced to learn the ropes.
When buying a business today, one needs to be educated in the whole process. Each prospect that examined and evaluated can and should increase the knowledge and understanding of the buyer. Only in this way, can a buyer truly know a good business deal when he finds it.
By mentoring buyers instead of just offering only due diligence, I have found that when you lose a client, after you educate them, you may still had a lifelong friend.
About The Author: Serving all of California, Willard Michlin, CPA offers business buyers Due Diligence Services (Second Opinion, Offer Assistance, Final Due Diligence) when they are thinking of making an offer on a business or in the process of investigating a business purchase. Mr. Michlin has written numerous articles on the due diligence process and can be reached direct at 805-428-2063 for more information and an appointment.