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Acquiring another business can be a complicated task, but one that could very well be worth the effort to ensure the survival of your small or micro business.
The time may also be right for considering an acquisition, as interest rates are low, making borrowing for an acquisition relatively cheap. Additionally, according to the most recent NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, the net percent of owners raising average selling prices increased 10 points to 36%, the highest reading since April 1981.
While deal volume is not back at a pre-pandemic level, according to the NFIB, sectors such as liquor stores, home improvement businesses, e-commerce sites, medical businesses, manufacturers, and distributors are seeing high activity.
Reasons to Consider an Acquisition
One reason you may consider acquiring another business is that, now that we are (hopefully) in the waning days of the COVID-19 pandemic, your business may very well have taken a financial hit, and you may need to scale up by purchasing a similar business if you wish to survive going forward.
Purchasing a similar business would give you an entirely new stream of revenue and a new pool of clients, as well as increase branding in your market – even if you’re a microbusiness such as an independent restaurant or retail store owner. If you’re an accounting or law firm or other type of business services firm or medical practice, it may even increase your client base to other regions of the country, depending on the location of the business you are seeking to purchase.
Another potential reason to make an acquisition is that you may want to complement your business by offering additional services. For example, if you own and operate a construction firm that specializes in building houses, you may want to purchase a company that specializes in masonry and paving work so that you don’t have to subcontract that work whenever you build a new home.
Due Your Due Diligence
If you’re interested in making a strategic acquisition, your first task will be to work with an M&A advisor or even an accounting firm. While most banks are not interested in M&A advisory work for small businesses, there are several advisors that do specialize in handling acquisitions for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Talk to your advisor about:
- Why you want to make an acquisition;
- What type of company you are seeking to purchase;
- The location of the company in which you wish to purchase;
- The feasibility of merging your company’s balance sheet with the acquired company;
- The value of similar businesses in your industry and in your geographic location;
- A realistic amount you wish to spend on an acquisition;
- The logistics of merging your company with another, and
- How to fund the acquisition through debt.
A reputable M&A advisor should be able to do the due diligence for you and find you a list of companies in your area that may be a compatible target for an acquisition based on their business models, revenue, management structure and other factors. The advisor should also come up with a fair value of the acquisition target based on the financials of the target business.
Create a Combined Business Plan
Once you and your M&A advisor has found an acquisition target that meets your criteria and agrees to be acquired, you will have to produce new short- and long-term business plans for your new, combined entity in order to get financing to fund the acquisition. The basic ingredients of a business plan for a newly combined business typically include:
#1 Creating a New Management Team, Staff
Discuss with the head of the company that you are looking to acquire the logistics of combining your staff. Start with who will oversee the new company, and what functions each of you will have. If you are a microbusiness and the new company will only have 6 or 7 employees, then combining your respective workforces should not be too challenging. If your newly formed company will have 20 or more employees, you may wish to create new departments with new department heads, with each serving a different function.
Staffing redundancies, such as two people from each respective company essentially serving the same purpose, may be a red flag in the eyes of a prospective lender, so make sure your new staff structure is as efficient as possible. These factors will be crucial in the contingency –or 12-month plan– that you will need to present to a prospective lender to finance your acquisition.
#2 Creating a New Mission Statement in Line with Your New Capabilities
Your new company’s mission statement should detail the new array of products that you offer, how employees approach their work to reach goals and why your new company is improved in the way it provides products and services as a result of the acquisition.
Next, ascertain the capabilities that your new entity has to offer in terms of sales. For example, the company that you are acquiring may offer eCommerce capabilities, while you have more retail locations. Post acquisition, your new company will offer both and your mission statement needs to reflect this. Your new company may now offer business-to-business, business-to-consumers capabilities or combinations thereof as a result of the acquisition. In addition to being a key component of your mission, these factors should be the benchmarks for your five-year business plan.
#3 Showing That You Can Absorb Debt
Typically, the company that you acquire will have some debt that you have to absorb. In order to get financing for your acquisition, you have to convince the lender that you can handle that debt, especially since you are using debt to finance the acquisition.
“The [lending] bank is going to say, ‘does this asset (the acquired company) cover the new debt service on that business?’” said Joshua Jones, chief revenue officer at Kapitus. “Because now, you’ve just applied a whole new payment (through the financing of the acquisition) and the best way to show in your business plan that you can absorb that debt and increase your gross profit is either through efficiency gain or scale.”
#4 Projecting Gross Income of the Newly Formed Company
Work closely with your accountant or M&A advisor to project a 12-month income. There are various ways to project income, and it is typically far more complicated than simply adding the gross income of your company to that of the company you are acquiring, so talk to a financial expert on this.
“An effective planning tool is through the use of projections,” said Michael Kuru, a CPA specializing in family-owned businesses. “When a business is acquired, there is a strong indication of the gross income that should be generated. The experienced business owner should have an idea as to the underlying cost to generate that income.’
Obtaining Financing for an Acquisition
Generally, the best type of financing for a small business acquisition would be an SBA loan, with the most common being the 7(a) loan. You may also want to consider a business loan, since the requirements for a SBA loan are typically stringent, require a high credit score, and are generally not easy to obtain.
According to Jones, however, “An SBA loan will always be the most seamless with the acquisition strategy because it is going to provide the length of payback that’s more applicable to an owner buying a business and having the available profits to pay down the loan as a percentage of profits over time.”
SBA loans are typically offered by two different entities – a brick-and-mortar bank, or an accredited non-bank SBA lender (of which there are only 14). Many alternative lenders such as Kapitus do not directly provide the SBA loan, but have built a wide array of accredited lending partners and uses modern technology to underwrite, approve and manage the loan disbursement and repayment process, often in a timeframe that is much quicker than that of a traditional lender and often has fewer requirements.
Executing an acquisition could be an expensive and extremely complicated task. At the very least, however, buying another small business could help your business survive in the post-pandemic world. At most, an acquisition could help you thrive as it would allow your company to expand, scale up products and offerings, and ultimately pull in new business.