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Finding The Right Buyer For Your Business

You’ve decided you’d like to sell your business, but have no idea where to start, or how to find a buyer. Here are ten places to get you started.

Chris Staines

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One of the most asked questions when considering the sale of a business is how to find a suitable buyer. Naturally you want to consider all of your options to make sure that you maximise the sale price.

You’ll also most likely be concerned about going to the more obvious candidates straight away, as this can often provide market information to competitors that can be damaging.

You’ll also be wary of alerting customers, suppliers and employees of an impending sale, and hence confidentiality whilst sounding out the market is paramount.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask Before Selling Your Business

Included below are some of the options that you can consider, usually through an M&A advisor to add another layer of confidentiality, and some comments on the merits or otherwise of each.

1. Competitors looking to expand product/market/team/profits

Often the most obvious candidate to buy your business is the one that can cause you the most problems in the market.

Competitors will understand your business and the market you operate in, and also appreciate the value of your company – especially where such an acquisition delivers synergies that can boost combined profits.

Approaching competitors can also have its downside – especially when a sale transaction does not proceed.

Armed with the knowledge that your company is for sale, the competitor could use the information to their advantage, and without necessarily breaching a confidentiality agreement. This must be considered before going down this route.

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2. Companies looking to vertically integrate – up or down

Companies looking to vertically integrate might include your suppliers looking to enhance the value of their product offering, or your customers looking to include the profit margin from their own suppliers. Although not as common as a competitive buyer, if such a buyer can be found they are generally favoured over a pure competitor. Confidentiality is less likely to be an issue as such buyers would not want to damage an existing relationship.

Related: 3 Ways Emerging Entrepreneurs Run Financially Sound Businesses

3. Companies looking to enter a foreign market or get a national presence

Finding a buyer that is looking to enter your market can be extremely attractive, but you may need the services of an M&A advisor with a good international network to unearth such a company.

Confidentiality is likely to be less of an issue, and a much higher multiple may be applied to profits from, say, either a European or US buyer.

On average, listed PEs are some 40% higher than South African PEs in these markets, and this disparity remains even when PEs are discounted down to private company multiples.

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4. High net worth individuals or teams

Another interesting group of buyers are high net worth individuals or teams that have either their own money, or significant backing, and a desire to enter an industry such as yours. This often includes individuals with considerable business experience that is relevant to your industry.

On the upside, confidentiality is much less likely to be an issue. On the downside, you may not be able to negotiate the same exit value for your business as you might from a competitor desperate to get a strategic advantage or an international company applying a higher multiple.

Related: ‘Business As Usual’ Could Ruin You

5. Management buy-in (MBI) teams

MBI teams are similar to the above, although they will generally have specific experience in your industry and the support of either a VC or private equity (or occasionally private backer) rather than their own cash. Their valuations are likely to be similar to the high net worth buyer.

6. Management buy-out (MBO) teams

Another favoured candidate in any sale are the company’s management. Although unlikely to offer the best price for your business, the owner is often very keen to give management the option to buy the business they have been working in for a number of years.

If this route is considered, the owner will probably need to provide some assistance to management to get an MBO done, either by guiding them to a private equity firm that can provide some finance (and package the remainder from debt or other mezzanine or equity providers), or by providing vendor finance to make up any shortfall (that is, leaving some of the consideration in the business to be paid out when cash flows allow).

7. Companies looking to do a roll-up (with PE backing)

Individuals or companies looking to do a roll-up are not common, and probably will only be introduced to you through an M&A advisor.

A roll-up is where an individual or company attempts to buy a number of similar or complementary businesses in an industry, and then combine them to extract operating synergies, usually ahead of a listing at a higher multiple.

Prices here can be quite favourable, especially where the industry exhibits a good listed multiple, but these transactions can come with the added complications of the vendor being part of a larger group prior to ultimate exit.

Related: 7 Flaws In Your Business Plan You Need to Fix

conglomerate-chain

8. Companies forming related conglomerates

Similar to a roll-up are companies looking to buy more loosely related businesses — often with vertical integration as one of the aims. Such buyers are generally listed companies looking to achieve arbitrage between the private multiple they can offer, and the listed multiple that will then apply to the target’s profits.

Synergies between operations can also extract additional profits to which the listed multiple can be applied. Valuation can be as good as in a roll-up, and there is the advantage of some of the consideration being available in listed shares with growth potential.

9. Private equity firms (not always 100%)

Private equity firms are always in the market to buy profitable, established private companies — often with the promise of bringing capital and their network to the table to greatly enhance value if an earn-out is part of the transaction.

Whilst up-front consideration may not be as high as from other buyers, if the PE firm is as good as their word, the ultimate consideration that the owner receives can easily meet or exceed his expectations.

10. Other options

Apart from the potential buyers that can be found above, there are other options available, such as:

  1. Take in investment capital, grow the business and then exit at a later date (trade sale or listing)
  2. Sell part of the business that buyers want, and retain the rest.
  3. Go for a listing yourself.

As an owner considering the sale of your business, there are often many more options than you might initially consider — and each with a different set of outcomes as regards value, confidentiality, and structure. It’s important to match the right set of buyers with your aspirations to ensure the best result.

Far too often, buyers approach M&A advisers when they have been approached by a single buyer (often a competitor), and become committed to a deal before considering all other options.

It’s far better to plan for an exit months or years before a sale transaction, and define the non-negotiables required from any deal. This way, you can make sure that you only speak to buyers likely to deliver these non-negotiables, and pro-actively approach them when the time is right.

Needless to say, multiple suitors for your business will undoubtedly lead to a better price than one candidate, but to manage such a process takes considerable skill.

Chris Staines has more than 25 years’ experience in company divestments, partial divestments, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions. He has sold more than 60 private companies in the $1 million to $100 million range, and has worked across three continents. Chris is currently Head of Corporate Finance at Grant Thornton in Cape Town.

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SAB Transforms Supply Chains

Supplier Development Programmes grow black-owned suppliers and create jobs.

South African Breweries (SAB)

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The South African Breweries (SAB) has invested more than R200 million into creating an inclusive supply chain that incorporates black-owned and black women-owned SMEs through its supplier development programmes, SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive. In addition, more than 100 jobs have been created through these efforts.

SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive aim to create a diversified and inclusive supply chain by supporting the growth of black-owned suppliers through business development support and funding. The programmes are two of four entrepreneurship development programmes run by SAB to help create 10 000 jobs in South Africa by 2022 — SAB KickStart, SAB Foundation, SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive.

SAB’s agriculture programmes also contribute towards the aim to create jobs by growing emerging farmers.     

Related: SAB-Commissioned Research Shows SA Poised To Reap Entrepreneurship Rewards

“From rural entrepreneurs to big business, SAB has laid the foundation to support entrepreneurs and to contribute towards government’s efforts to grow the economy and reduce unemployment in the country,” says Ricardo Tadeu, Zone President, SAB and AB InBev Africa.

“We recognise that one of the major hurdles for SMEs in South Africa is the ability to gain entry into big business and form part of their supply chains. This requires a symbiotic relationship with big business working alongside smaller suppliers.”

SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive cohesively solve the challenges of creating a healthy pipeline of suppliers that represent the demographics of the country. SAB Accelerator has piloted ten businesses that have created 29 permanent and 79 part-time jobs in a period of just six months, and is currently incubating 24 businesses as part of the official post-pilot intake. SAB Thrive has invested R100 million in seven businesses, which have created 46 new jobs. In addition, the programme has contributed R140 million in new B-BBEE preferential spend.

The SAB Accelerator is an in-house programme dedicated to developing black-owned and black women-owned suppliers. Geared towards fast-tracking participants’ growth, the programme employs ten highly experienced business coaches and ten engineers, offering both tailored business and deep technical coaching to the participants.

It has a three-phased approach consisting of:

  1. Diagnostic: Screening the business’s current situation and systematically identifying gaps and opportunities for growth.
  2. Catalyst: Proposing an intensive three-month coaching intervention addressing key business functional and technical areas of improvement or growth.
  3. Amplify: Providing additional business development to support graduates of the Catalyst Programme.

The SAB Accelerator strongly focuses on enhancing market visibility and access of its participants.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Existing black-owned or black woman-owned suppliers currently servicing SAB’s supply chain at the time of application.
  • Existing black-owned or black women-owned businesses that have potential to join the SAB supply chain based on their product or service.

The SAB Thrive fund is an enterprise and supplier development (E&SD) fund set up to transform the company’s supplier base. The fund was established in partnership with the Awethu Project, a black private equity fund manager and SME investment company. The aim is to invest in and transform SAB suppliers to represent our country’s demographics. SAB Thrive investees benefit from 100% black equity capital and business support.

Related: 6 SAB Entreprenurship Programmes That Provide Business Management And Support

The fund invests growth equity capital into SAB’s existing high-growth black-owned suppliers, furthering their profitable expansion into the SAB supply chain without diluting the black-ownership of these businesses.

Existing white-owned suppliers are provided equity capital to support the enhancement of their black ownership, while facilitating the introduction of black entrepreneurs to their business. The intention is to apprentice the individual to take over the business in the near future.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Black-owned suppliers in the SAB supply chain that want to grow their business through access to black-owned growth equity capital.
  • Existing white-owned suppliers in the SAB supply chain that want to transform their B-BBEE ownership.

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Alternative Finance – Filling The Gap

Alternative Finance is finance beyond the traditional – it is defined by the financiers’ area of specialisation – by what they specialise in, whom they serve, and how they provide their funding.

Spartan

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Alternative Finance is finance beyond the traditional – it is defined by the financiers’ area of specialisation – by what they specialise in, whom they serve, and how they provide their funding. It does not replace traditional finance but rather functions as a complementary and additional form of funding.

Alternative financers are specialists – they focus on a particular need and on a specific audience. As a result their ‘how’ is customised to deal with their chosen target market and for this targets unique needs. This applies to the funder’s processes and to their level of flexibility around things such as collateral. An example of this is that a SME may have an existing R1 million overdraft (their traditional finance) secured by R 1.5 million collateral but suddenly they need R5 million for some kind of contract or bridging finance – they need it fast and don’t have that extent of collateral.

The traditional funder cannot provide what they need, their process is too long and their flexibility is too low. An alternative financier providing bridging finance and specialising in SMEs is ideally positioned to fill this gap.

Related: 5 Key Questions To Answer For Raising Funding

One of the most significant differences between a traditional funder and an alternative financier is in their process. In the case of the alternative financier, they have often chosen to deal exclusively with a particular customer base, for example SMEs. As a result, this funder has both an affinity and contextually relevant empathy in working with SMEs.

Not only do they speak the same language the funder also has an appreciation for the time and material constraints of the SME and has developed their processes to cater to this market. This applies most notably to the turnaround time of the funding need and to the assessment aspect – where flexibility around things such as collateral is vital in making the finance happen for the SME.

A traditional funder is unable to meet the deadline of a bridging finance need, submitted on an urgent basis, where the finance is needed as soon as 2-3 days from time of application. A specialised or alternative funder is able to do exactly this. A traditional funder is also unable to find creative methods in solving the SMEs lack of high-value collateral in applying for finance.

This SME has generally already used their high-value collateral for traditional credit facilities but now needs funding for growth or resolution of a temporary cash flow challenge. An alternative financier is able to look at such an application in a different way, and has most likely already established alternative ways to make this happen for the SME.

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6 Money Management Tips For First-Time Entrepreneurs

That R25 coffee every morning isn’t taking you to the next level any faster than brewing a pot at the office.

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How many times have you been told that saving money is a good thing? Financial specialists recommend that you save a bit of money every month, but that’s easier said than done. After all, it’s not uncommon for people to live paycheck to pay cheque.

However, if you want to start a company, you’ll need to break away from this cycle and start budgeting and saving. At times, this will be a trying task, but it must be done if you want to invest in your future as an entrepreneur.

If you want to start managing your money more effectively and set yourself up to become an entrepreneur, follow the six tips below. With these techniques in your arsenal, you’ll start so see immediate changes, and you’ll set good behaviours in motion that’ll serve you throughout your career as an entrepreneur.

1. Prioritise organisation

When you are organised, you can track every facet of your finances. Record all of your financial information in one place so you can refer to it and keep track of your progress.

When you chronicle all of your financial information, you may want to try and organise it by category. For example, when you are recording your current costs, you can categorise them as “urgent” and “future.”

Not only will this system help you stay on top of your personal finances, but it’ll prepare you for entrepreneurial success because it’s a directly transferable skill.

Related: Smart Money For Small Businesses

2. Check your credit

According to a recent MoneyTips survey, nearly 30 percent of people don’t know their credit score. If you are among this group, it’s time to request a free credit report. Once you know your number, assuming money’s tight, feel free to use a few do-it-yourself credit repair techniques to quickly improve your score.

Understanding your credit score and improving it to the best of your ability is paramount when it comes to money management. A little-known fact among aspiring entrepreneurs is that the funding a new business receives is often dependent on the founder’s credit score.

3. Save where you can

People often cringe when they think about cutting back. Fortunately, there are several painless ways to save. Look at your daily habits and see if you have any spending trends. For example, if you spend $5 every day on lattes, you might consider cutting back and only having the expensive latte every other day. Slowly, you’ll get used to this new habit, and your bank account will reap the rewards.

Related: Time Is Money: Tips To Help You Use Yours Well

4. Search for additional information

The Penny Hoarder

Have you heard of The Penny Hoarder or Dough Roller? These are just two personal finance blogs that can help you better manage your money, but there’s a whole lot more out there.

Subscribe to websites and follow podcasts that offer advice on money management. Also, keep your eyes peeled for informative outlets that speak directly about entrepreneurial finances and follow them, too.

5. Set long- and short-term goals

Have you ever noticed that people want to reach their goals in as little time as possible? If you pick up almost any given health magazine, it’ll claim that it can help you achieve extreme results in little to no time.

Unfortunately, crash diets are often ineffective, and “get rich quick” money management techniques often lack substance.

It’s hard to accept that your goals will take time to accomplish, which is why you create short- and long-term goals. In either case, aim to make goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Ideally, accomplishing your short-term goals will give you the positive feedback that you need to continue striving for your long-term goals.

Related: If You’re Trying To Raise Money, Doing Any Of These 9 Things May Scare Off Investors

6. Find a mentor

If you manage your personal finances and entrepreneurial finances, one thing is certain – at times, it will feel like you can’t keep up with everything. Financial planning can be difficult, and it’s not uncommon for it to feel overwhelming.

As an individual, you can seek out mentors that can help you with personal finances. As an entrepreneur, you can continue to work with these people or seek out more established financial consultants that provide you with guidance you need to run your business.

Managing your finances is a trying and rewarding experience. It will feel messy at times, but the more you practice, the more you’ll improve your personal finances and set yourself up for entrepreneurial money management success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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