Top 10 Effective Ways To Sell Your Business Fast

There are numerous ways to sell a business. Many are tried and tested whilst others could be a complete waste of your time. Selling a business effectively is not simply about the advertising; it is also about the preparation and the presentation of your business to prospective sellers. If you are looking to sell a business and need some solid and practical advice to ensure your get enquires coming in thick and fast. Here are my Top 10 techniques, tools and tips to help you get a sale faster, easier and with less hassle:

1) Pre-Sale Preparation

Many sellers forget to ensure their business is in a ready state to go onto the marketplace before any advertising takes place. In most instances, this is the sole cause for a long and drawn out selling process, simply because the seller hasn’t taken any time or effort into doing essential preparatory work. Make sure your accounts and books are in order and have useful facts, figures and stats all drawn up ready for inspection by any prospective buyers. Also ensure your business premises (if you have one) looks presentable, professional and desirable. Any business that appears to have been neglected will put buyers off straight away.

2) Business Valuation

It’s a common mistake that many sellers believe their business is worth a great deal more than it actually is. If you get too greedy, you will find interest will be minimal. Sell too low and you could be out of pocket on your hard work and investment. It pays to have a professional valuation carried out by a specialist such as a business transfer agent or an accountant. So before you place your business on the market, get it valued accurately to avoid disappointment.

3) Focusing On Strengths

Before you can put your business on the market, it is essential that you know your strengths and your niches. By having a clear image of where your business stands in the marketplace, it will help you to focus on how to market your business and where to focus your attentions when speaking to buyers. This may be that your business is totally unique in the local area, may sell a very niche product or simply that you are very profitable or have a large customer base. Either way, ensure you hone your strengths and push these as much as you can.

4) Use a Broker

A broker can help you in may ways. From professionally valuing your business to marketing and negotiating a sale. Many business transfer agents have a sizeable database of buyers on their books and you could find that your business is ideally suited to one of their clients. So for a few extra bucks, you could find that you sell your business faster by using a professional business broker.

5) Advertise On The Internet Directories

There are numerous internet directories out there to help you advertise your business for sale. Some are free whilst most of the professional websites are paid for. It pays to advertise your business for sale online as this is the single most effective way to get your business seen by a huge audience. Many websites offer comprehensive advertising packages for very little investment.

There are also a number of reputable free directories that will help you to get greater exposure. These are very cost effective and in some instances free of charge and very much worth considering. By using services such as these, you will find that enquiries will start to come in thick and fast.

6) Advertise In Printed Publications

Good old-fashioned newspapers, magazines and specialist publications still have a place in modern advertising and it would be foolish to overlook these options. Many of the internet directories also advertise in the papers so you may find your business for sale in some of the well known magazines without having to lift a finger. Still, if you have a local newspaper or publication that offers a ‘for sale’ section, placing an advert here for a few pennies will still go a long way to helping you to sell your business faster.

7) Use Word of Mouth

It can do you no harm to tell the right people of your intensions. If it causes little or no detrimental effect on your business to tell those in the local community that you are selling up, then do so. You’ll be surprised how fast news travels! It never ceases to amaze who many people will learn of your news and how much interest this simple act can create. There’s always a friend of a friend who may be very interest din taking your business off your hands. Even old customers in many circumstances take over businesses that they once were very much a part of.

8) Meet All Prospective Buyers

If you reach the point where you have some solid interest and negotiations taking place, ensure you meet every serious prospective buyer. A meeting can help seal the deal or rid you of time wasters. By offering to meet any interested parties, it will give you a much clearer indication of their seriousness or if they are simply window shopping and wasting your valuable time. A meeting of both parties will help to strike up a relationship and give rise for the opportunity for you both to ask each other questions about your respective positions. A meeting of this nature can do wonders to help speed up a sale.

9) Protect Your Interests

If you do meet any buyers or supply them with any information of a confidential nature, ensure that you protect your interest and the integrity and value of your business by drawing up a ‘Non-Disclosure’ (Confidentially) Agreement and have all parties sign it. Documents such as these can be downloaded from the internet for a few pennies and will protect you from any buyers having loose lips or passing your confidential paperwork into the hand of those who should not have sight of it. Be extremely diligent.

10) Use a Lawyer

If you reach an agreement to sell, always seek the assistance of a lawyer to represent you. An experienced attorney will know about the pitfalls, clauses and standard terms to look out for or include in any sale. They will ensure you are protected as best as possible and that no repercussions can occurs after the sale has completed. If you follow these Top 10 tips, you should hopefully be on the right track to a successful sale of your business.

Which Business Idea Is Right For You

Many entrepreneurs decide to go into business and then cast about for the ideal business concept. There is nothing wrong in this approach, but it does beg the question as to how you determine which business opportunity is right for you and whether the business idea is worth pursuing. The formal business planning process provides for this type of analysis. It is a process that helps the small business owner remove their ‘rose coloured glasses’ and to investigate the business idea based on hard facts and realistic analysis. The planning tool used to determine the viability of a business opportunity is called a feasibility study.

The goal of the feasibility study is to minimise the degree of risk that a business owner is about to undertake. At the completion of a feasibility study you should be able to conclude if the opportunity has potential for profit and is therefore worth the investment of your time, effort and finance. If the study proves that the business idea is financially viable, much of the information collated can be used in the formal business planning documents.

A word of warning, curb your enthusiasm for a business idea until after the feasibility study has been concluded. Don’t spend a cent, don’t sign anything, don’t get anything underway. Heeding this single warning could save you much money, time and grief.

A detailed feasibility study should include:

The Business Opportunity

Start with a description of the business opportunity in as much detail as possible.

Legal Constraints

You need to investigate whether there are any legal constraints to conducting this type of business. This could include regulatory requirements for specific qualifications or licenses. Home based businesses usually require permission from the local council to operate from the home. There is no point launching into a business which requires qualifications or licenses you do not have.

Market and Customers

You need to undertake market research to determine the size of the market for your products and services and to profile the characteristics of both the market, your competitors and potential customers. You should also assess whether you can offer something unique, better or different to the offers being made by your competitors and determine likely purchase quantities and price points of your products. Your market research should also include identify any issues which are likely to impact the market or the industry in the near future.

Operational Issues

Operational issues such as business location and the type of facilities required need to be investigated and addressed. It examines the space required immediately and assesses whether that will be adequate given your projected business growth at various timeframes. It asks how you will identify the most suitable location and type of space.

It should also examine how you will finance the required space. Will your purchase, rent or take out a long-term lease?

It examines the logistical aspects of operating the business such as how will you handle, transport and store goods into and out of your business? What distribution channels will you use? Do you need transport such as a car, van, truck or forklift? What other plant and equipment are needed to commence operations and what is needed over the life of the business?

Management Skills

This examines the management aspects of the business. It asks what types and level of skills are required to run this particular business? Who will manage the business? What roles are required and who will fulfill those roles? This includes marketing, finances, sales, managing information technology etc.

Critically, you need to examine the skills required by this business opportunity and compare them to your own skills. Do you have the skills required to undertake this business? If not, can they be acquired readily? Are you even interested in acquiring these skills?

Organisational Skills

This examines the skills required by the business. It asks how many additional staff will be required to operate this business idea. Will you need to recruit new workers? If so, what skills and competency levels will be required. Do you know how to recruit these staff members and are you able to effectively induct and train these new recruits?

Do you have sufficient knowledge as to the legal aspects of employing staff? Are you aware of regulations relating to salaries and wages, taxation, workers compensation, workplace safety and equal opportunity? Do you know where to go to obtain this information?

Financial Issues

This takes a detailed look at the financial issues relating to the business idea. This includes the all important questions of what capital is required to start the business and how will you raise the required capital. What is your estimate of profitability after all costs, including tax, have been deducted? How much do you require to live on per annum? How long will it take to breakeven.

You also need to examine your own skills in relation to managing the finances. Are you able to do your own bookkeeping? Can you manage cashflows? Do you know where to go for expert financial advice?

Sales and Marketing

This looks at what you expect your sales and marketing strategy to be. It takes a look at how much time and money will be allocated to the sales and marketing function and determines what the most cost-effective promotional methods should be. It also asks who will be responsible for this function.

Conclusions

The above is not an exhaustive list of questions that should be asked when conducting a feasibility study but it gives you the flavour of what it should be. When you have done your research and found answers to the key questions you will be in a position to undertake a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It allows you to take all the information you have gathered and to make an overall assessment of the viability of the business.

Undertaking a feasibility study sounds like a lot of work, especially when you are eager to get started, but if you want to save yourself a lot of time, money, energy and grief, take the time to assess whether the business idea really is worth your investment. A feasibility study can help you sift through a raft of business ideas and allow you to discard those that are not worth pursuing and help you to identify the one that is most likely to be successful.

Karen L. Paiyo is an Australian Small Business Counsellor, supporting and nurturing the spirit of entrepreneurship in the Asia Pacific Region. Karen empowers small business owners by transferring to them the skills and expertise needed to help them take their business ideas from creative concept to profitable reality, faster and with less risk.

Pittsburgh Accounting – How To Find The Best Accounting Firm In Pittsburgh For Your Small Business

If you are looking for the best accounting firm in Pittsburgh for your small business, here are five definitive facts about the city and five sure-fire ways to find the accounting firm there that best meets your small business needs.

Pittsburgh — The Most Livable City In The U.S. Pittsburgh is Pennsylvania’s second largest city, population 311,647. The seven county area surrounding the city boasts a population of 2,354,957. Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, is by far the biggest and most prosperous. In these seven counties, there are over 1,000 accounting firms, 40% of which are in Pittsburgh. Over half of them cater to small businesses.

In 2005 and again in 2009, The Economist ranked Pittsburgh the top most livable city in the United States. In 2007, Pittsburgh claimed the number one spot in Places Rated Almanac. In 2010, both Forbes Magazine and Yahoo! had Pittsburgh at the top of their lists. Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Pittsburgh as one of the best for entrepreneurs.

Pittsburgh –The City Of Bridges. Pittsburgh is the world record holder for bridges with 446 of them contained entirely within the city limits. These bridges cross the Allegheny River from the northeast and the Monongahela River from the southeast to form the Ohio River and the Downtown area of the city known as the Golden Triangle. They link the city to the four areas surrounding it, namely the North Side/North Hills, the South Side/South Hills, the East End and the West End. Four interstates (I-376, I-79, I-279 and I-579), known to Pittsburghers as the Parkway East, the Parkway West, the Parkway North and Crosstown and two major expressways (Route 28 and Route 22) connect 237 boroughs and 202 townships with each other and with Downtown Pittsburgh.

Most of the larger accounting firms serving Pittsburgh’s major corporations are in Downtown Pittsburgh. However, virtually all of the accounting firms serving the city’s ever-growing small business population are located in the areas north, south, east and west of the city. These firms serve small businesses in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and also offer their services to the other six counties that make up the Greater Pittsburgh Area. The small business accounting firms in these areas have deep-seated ties to the community, the people and the businesses residing there.

Pittsburgh — A City Transformed. Thirty years ago, Pittsburgh was a dirty, smoky steel town, known as the Steel City, because of its predominance as a mighty steel-making hub. When that industry collapsed and Pittsburgh lost its manufacturing base, its blue-collar workers and corporate giants like Westinghouse, Gulf Oil, Koppers and Rockwell International, the city faced its first economic crisis in more than a century. To its credit, though, the city transformed like none other in the country and emerged twenty years later as a thriving white-collar metropolis.

Today, Pittsburgh is still a steel city. US Steel, the 10th largest steel company in the world, is headquartered there. Allegheny Technologies, a world-class steel maker, has eight manufacturing plants in the region. The city still employs 7,000 steel workers and another 12,000 in the primary metals sector. Though the area lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 30 years, that sector is still one of the biggest contributors to the region’s economy. What changed is how diversified that sector is now. Cutting-edge companies in life sciences, robotics, information technology and research have joined ranks with eight Fortune 500 companies. Health care, education, research, financial services and entertainment/tourism are the newly emerging industries that are driving revenue and employment for the region.

One of the fastest-growing fields supporting the city’s transformation to a white-collar economy is accounting. This is especially true as the city continues to move away from industry to service and technology. Many of the newly emerging companies across all sectors of the local economy are small businesses. Though there are already over 400 accounting firms in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County alone servicing those businesses, that number increases dramatically as you move into the other seven counties surrounding the city.

Pittsburgh — A City Of Growth. The local economy mirrors the nation’s economy as it continues to battle the recession. However, the region has fared better than most places in the country and is poised for substantive growth in 2011. Economists from the city’s largest financial institutions predict that the Greater Pittsburgh Area will add 13,000 new jobs this year. Unemployment is expected to drop below eight percent as larger corporations begin to hire and newly established businesses begin to grow. Additional hiring will also be evident as new companies locate there.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the city’s largest employer, is currently in a hiring mode. Retail giants like Dick’s Sporting Goods and General Nutrition Center (GNC) are growing. Google now operates a 40,000 square foot office in Pittsburgh and recently announced plans for expansion. Marcellus Shale natural gas will be a major contributor to the local economy. The Cultural Arts, including film production, continues to blossom and dozens of new information technology firms are emerging to support the growing research activity at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

Most of the new companies being created in the area are small businesses supporting these major industries. As the area grows, these businesses will grow as well and their need for more specialized accounting services will become increasingly evident. Presently, accountant firms in the Pittsburgh area offer 18 different types of accounting to small businesses, income tax accounting and project accounting to name a few.

Pittsburgh — The City Of Champions. Pittsburgh is home to three major league franchises — the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Two of those teams have graced the city with championships, the Steelers winning six Super Bowl titles and the Penguins winning three Stanley Cups. Thanks to the ingenious idea of a beloved Pittsburgh sportscaster and his Terrible Towel, the Steelers have given Pittsburgh fans reason to proclaim their hometown pride by simply waving their Terrible Towel. This marketing icon singlehandedly created Steeler Nation, a brotherhood of loyal fans across the country that has quietly and selflessly raised millions of dollars for a local charity in Pittsburgh.

This hometown pride, this brotherhood, this spirit of generosity is championed in almost every neighborhood and community in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Pittsburghers are proud, industrious, friendly and generous people. Many of them have lived in their hometown for years and have established hundreds of small businesses to support their families, their communities and the city they call home. Accounting firms throughout the area have their roots in these same neighborhoods and have managed to successfully guide and support these businesses and the local communities and organizations they serve. Because of their efforts, these small businesses continue to prosper.

With a good working knowledge of the city, its economy and its people, you can easily find the accounting firm in Pittsburgh that best meets your small business needs. Here are five sure-fire ways to help you do that.

Pay close attention to your location and the location of the accounting firm with whom you choose to work. Pittsburgh is a large metropolitan city with over 400 neighborhoods and communities as diverse as the people living there. These neighborhoods and communities are what make Pittsburgh unique and it is important that you find an accounting firm who knows these places and the businesses that reside there. Pittsburgh is also a city, like many other big cities in the country, plagued with traffic jams, construction delays and bad weather. These conditions cause havoc on the roads in and out of the city at any time in the course of a regular business day. Don’t waste time driving all the way across town to meet with your accountant. Besides, if your accounting firm is close to you, they should be willing to come to your place of business.

Focus your attention on only those firms in Pittsburgh specializing in small business accounting. Small business accounting firms keep track of salaries and wages, deductions for federal, state and local taxes and Social Security, utility costs, maintenance, depreciation, amortization, interest and rent. They also prepare your tax returns and administer payroll, health insurance and 401K retirement programs. These are the responsibilities you will want your accounting firm to handle for you. If they can also provide sales, marketing and financial services to meet the ever-growing needs of your small business, so much the better.

Think about the things you know you want to receive from your accounting firm on a regular basis. Do you want them to reconcile your business checking account each month so that you know how your business is doing and you can manage your cash more effectively? Do you want an income statement itemizing your revenue and expenses every month or every quarter so that you can determine how effectively your business is performing? Do you want to receive a balance sheet giving you a snapshot of the financial condition of your business at any specific point in time so that you have the proper financial reporting to give to banks, investors and vendors who are considering how much credit to give you? Any accounting firm in Pittsburgh that professes to be a small business accounting firm should be able to provide you with all of these things as a matter of course, including as many consultations as you might need to run your business effectively and efficiently.

Get answers to all of your questions before you commit to any one accounting firm. Here are questions you might consider asking:

• Where exactly is your accounting firm located in Pittsburgh?
• What accounting services do you provide for small business owners? Can you take care of me and my accounting needs?
• What ties do you have to the community? Have you ever been recognized by your Chamber of Commerce or the Small Business Administration for outstanding service to a small business owner?
• What kind of monthly/quarterly/yearly reports can I expect to receive from you? How will these reports help me to better manage my business? Will I be able to understand them without your help?
• How and in what format will you want to receive information from me? How often will you want that information?
• When I have a question or concern, how best can I communicate with you? How quickly will you respond?
• How can you help me to grow my business?

Begin your search with Google, not the Yellow Pages. Start by searching for “Pittsburgh Accountants” or “Pittsburgh Accounting Firms.” Narrow your search, if necessary, by location and type of accounting services provided; for example, search for “Accounting Firms In Kennedy Township” or “Small Business Accounting In Pittsburgh.”