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Buying A California Business: A Checklist For Business Buyers


A Checklist For Business Buyers

After consulting (BizBen.com ProBuy Program) with California business buyers for over 25 years I highly encourage them to have a "buying a business checklist", an important tool if they are serious about purchasing a company and not wasting a lot of time looking.

Only 20% of all potential business buyers within California actually end up purchasing a small business.

I have found that the failure to buy a California business can be chalked up to not following the proven suggestions listed below.

The main items that should go into that checklist are:

1. Getting personally prepared: This includes putting together a buyer profile, including financial statement, description of what you want, and a resume summarizing your work experience. These documents demonstrate you are a "real" buyer, deserving of cooperation from sellers, business brokers, and agents. The information is personal, of course, and should only be shown to sellers who have a business you might want, or brokers whom you believe are honest and professional. Willingness to be upfront about your interests and capabilities will immediately separate you from the majority of people searching for business opportunities but, for one reason or another, will never complete a purchase. Another preparation strategy is to apply for an SBA-backed loan pre-qualification. Buyers who do this find out how much money they will have to work with, and can gain a competitive advantage over buyers who look for a business first, and look for money second.

2. Organizing a team: The purchaser who has a lawyer and accountant listed on his or her buying a business checklist will be in a position to move quickly once an interesting business is found. This means of course that the professionals are ready to be of service--the lawyer helping with language in the contracts and protecting you from problems, the accountant to help value a business and conduct due diligence. While other buyers interested in a particular business are trying to find the professional help they'll need to proceed, the entrepreneur who has taken care of that step will be able to move more quickly than competing purchasers.

3. Cast a wide net. The more businesses you're aware of, the better the chances of encountering just the right offering in a short period of time. That means working with more than one broker, answering for sale by owner ads, even posting a business wanted to buy request on a site such as BizBen.com.

4. Respect the sellers' requests for confidentiality. And be ready to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Showing that you are honest and "above board" will earn the cooperation of sellers. And without that, it's nearly impossible to buy a business.

5.  Try for a win-win in negotiations with someone whose business you'd like to buy. The purchaser who wants to beat a seller in the price and terms aspects of a deal, might find he's taken "round one" but then when extra help is needed--a bit longer to pay off the note or advice about some confusing aspect of running the company--the seller will be unwilling to accommodate.

6. Pay attention to the details when a transaction is in the escrow/bulk sale process. After all the work and excitement as you come to the end of the buying a business checklist, it's a shame to lose a deal over some issue that might have been avoided had you noticed a developing problem and taken action right away. Make certain the escrow holder is competent and is doing everything that was promised.

Buying a small business is not rocket science, but it can be rather complicated and detailed. Make sure to be fully prepared, and that includes making up a buying a business checklist before you answer the first business for sale ad!

Peter Siegel, MBAAbout This Contributor: Peter Siegel, MBA is the Founder & Senior Advisor (ProBuy Program for business buyers) at BizBen.com (established 1994, 8000+ CA businesses for sale, 500 new & refreshed postings/posts daily) he consults daily with business buyers in their search and purchase of a business. Reach him direct at 866-270-6278 to discuss strategies regarding buying / financing a puchase of a California small to mid-sized business.


Categories: BizBen Blog Contributor, Business Purchase Financing, Buying A Business, Due Diligence Issues, How To Buy A Business, Small Business Financing


Comments Regarding This Blog Post


One major mistake that I have seen over and over is when a buyer will negotiate directly with the seller instead of going through the broker. A buyer may ask for concessions to close the deal, and ask the seller, which may lead to the seller being offended and wanting to cancel the deal. The broker should communicate with the seller during negotiations, because they are an impartial member to the transaction, and are able to remove emotion from the deal. Sellers and buyers negotiating with each other is a major reason why For Sale By Owner transactions can be so problematic and not close.


  Helpful Resources To Assist In Selling And Buying California Businesses
Willard Michlin, CPA, Certified Fraud Examiner, Due Diligence Services

Willard Michlin, CPA #106752, offers buyers step by step training & assistance in doing Due Diligence Services when they are thinking of making an offer, or are in process of investigating a business purchase. He helps to determine the actual net profit even when there is cash. Call 805-428-2063.

Brad Steinberg, Broker - Laundromat Specialists

PWS is the leading laundromat broker in California. Since 1968 PWS has brokered over 2,500 laundromat sales. With over 90 employees dedicated to the coin laundry industry, PWS has 18 licensed agents, a 3 person in-house finance department, 10 service technicians and a 20 person parts department.

Elizabeth McGovern: Escrow Services - SF Bay Area

McGovern Escrow Services, Inc., is a leading independent escrow company. We are a trusted partner with our clients, assisting them through the tangled bulk sale & liquor license transfer process. We provide attentive, quality & innovative customer service. Phone Elizabeth McGovern at 415-735-3645.

Helen Yoo: Escrow & Bulk Sale Services - Southern California

New Century Escrow, Inc. is a fully licensed & bonded independent escrow company. Over 20 years combined experience in handling bulk escrow transactions. Multi-lingual staff that speaks your language, including Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese. Call Helen Yoo direct at 626-890-1151.

Mark Chatow, Esq.: Legal Services For Buying, Selling Businesses

Mark has a broad range of small business purchase & sale experience from analyzing potential acquisition targets to successfully guiding buyers and sellers through the purchase & sale of small businesses. Mark can assist with contracts, negotiations, legal matters, etc. Reach Mark at 949-478-8393.

Ranvir S. Sandhu, Esq. - Legal Services For Buyers And Sellers

I've worked at top Bay Area law firms and have extensive experience with business entity formation, mergers, dissolutions, conversions, employment matters, including experience in reviewing and negotiating transactional documents such as leases and purchase agreements.

Janet Carrera - Escrow & Bulk Sale Services - SF Bay Area

Redwood Escrow Services, Inc. is a full service, licensed independent escrow company. We are EAFC Fidelity bonded, fully insured & licensed with the Department of Corporations. Committed to offering our clients the most comprehensive variety of escrow services available. Phone Janet at 510-247-0741.

Joe Sandbank, Esq. - Legal Services

I have provided legal counsel to business buyers, sellers and brokers for over 17 years. With prior experience as a business broker and SBA loan officer, Joe brings both a practical and legal approach to all aspects of the business acquisition process.


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