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Buying An Existing Business: Everything You Need to Know!

Team Acquira
-  April 23, 2021
What You’ll Learn
  • How to evaluate the advantages of buying an existing business over starting from scratch.

  • What due diligence entails when considering the purchase of a pre-existing business.
  • How Acquira’s Accelerator+ program can get you into business ownership quickly.

  • How to assess the potential benefits and drawbacks of buying an established company.
  • What factors to consider before taking the plunge into business ownership.

The entrepreneurial urge is a powerful one. Entire tomes have been written about people who have started their own businesses and risen to the heights of success.

But the simple fact is that not everyone has the time, dedication, or wherewithal to build a business from the ground up. Fortunately, there’s another way.

One of the more common ways to scratch the entrepreneurial itch is to acquire a company that already exists. There are actually a number of advantages to buying an existing business. 

Of course, running your own business is no easy feat, regardless of whether the company existed before you became the owner or not. Entrepreneurs must deal with various challenges, work late into the night, and use many different skills.

Depending on your personality and experience, it may make more sense to build a company from scratch. For others, buying something already existing and working to improve and grow that business may be the better option.

Whichever path you choose, it should not be a decision made lightly. We’ll review some of the biggest pros and cons of acquiring an existing business to help you make that decision.

is buying an existing business a good idea

Do Your Due Diligence

pros and cons of buying a business

When you buy an existing business, you know that the product or service has already been market tested. For example, if you buy a company that provides aluminum siding that is already popular in the region, you’ll know that the level of service is good and people are happy with the work. So you can be relatively confident that people will continue calling the business.

Establishing whether a business is doing well before you buy it is part of the crucial due diligence process. If you’re looking for businesses for sale, you must take into account whether it’s already successful, and that means doing a lot of research.

Acquira’s Accelerator+ Program will do this and more for any entrepreneur looking to get into business acquisitions. Our industry experts will define your investment thesis, find a company that fits that criteria while handling the initial due diligence and ultimately issuing an LOI on your behalf.

Before you acquire any company, it’s important to know how successful the business is or whether it has any hidden problems that may not be obvious at first. The only way you can know all of this is through careful examination.

Advantages of Buying An Existing Business

Building a business from the ground up takes a certain type of temperament. It’s not for everybody. But if you’ve got the gumption and the means, it can be a great way to get a running start at business ownership. 

When you buy a business that’s already established, there can be many advantages. Of course, every venture comes with pros and cons, so let’s dive in.

Reduced Start-Up Time

In the event that you choose to acquire an existing company, you’ll be able to get up and running more quickly. 

If you were to start your own roofing company, you would need to buy a truck, buy all your tools and equipment, hire employees, and ensure they’re trained and properly certified. All of that before you can start marketing your business and attracting new customers.

If you buy an existing roofing company, your employees are already trained and certified, they’ve got all the necessary tools and supplies, and they have vehicles to get to the job sites. 

Here is a simple rundown of tasks you don’t need to worry about when you buy an existing business:

  • Employees are already trained.
  • All of the licenses have been sorted out. 
  • There is already a relationship with existing suppliers.
  • Certain procedures and systems have already been put in place.

Moreover, if a management team exists, they will be a great resource to draw upon while learning the ropes.

If the business isn’t management-run, our ACE Framework can help you build out a leadership team who can take over day-to-day operations, freeing up time so you can work on larger strategic goals and achieve a better work-life balance. 

This will also dramatically increase the value of the business when you decide to sell because a management-run company will demand a much higher multiple than one that is centered around a single owner-operator. 

That’s because when you buy a business, the previous owner already did most of this work for you. As you’ll want to grow the business, you’ll likely start to implement your own systems and improve existing processes, but when acquiring an existing business, much of that work has already been done for you.

Because so many of these initial tasks have already been taken care of, you, as the new owner, can concentrate on your growth plans and making the business your own.

Better Financing Options

buying a profitable business

One of the nice things about acquiring an existing business is that you actually receive better terms on your debt, especially traditional financing, that you use to purchase the company.

In fact, if you need a loan to buy a business, it may actually be easier to get than a loan for a startup venture. On top of that, the application process tends to be more streamlined and less stressful because the bank or lender can review the existing company’s finances.

Banks can look at the company’s past revenues and profits, as well as other financial information, to decide whether the company is a good investment. This helps reduce risks for any lenders and increases the chances that they’ll give you a loan in the event that the business is already healthy.

Existing Customers

Acquiring new customers is a major expense when starting a new business. Much time and funds go into marketing and advertising at new companies. 

However, if you buy an existing company, it already has a company base built in. Ideally, these customers will continue to use your services or buy your products even under new ownership.

Startup owners often struggle to get the word out about their new business. Existing companies largely don’t have that new problem. Hang an “Under New Management” sign, and you’ve already done most of the work toward informing your current clients.

Disadvantages Of Buying An Existing Business

While there are a number of positives to buying a business, it’s not all sunshine and SBA loans. Like most things in life, there are some potential downsides that you need to consider before making the leap and acquiring an existing business.

While you may save money in one area, it may cost you more in other areas. Therefore, it’s important to have a complete understanding of the process and any disadvantages you may face from buying a business.

Research is key here, and you can’t rely on only the information that the current owner gives you. Make sure to talk with existing customers and vendors to see what they think of the business and their experience with the people that work there. 

Ensure you find a qualified financial advisor to review all the information you receive from the current owner. These advisors will also be able to guide you on prices and other best practices. 

As we mentioned earlier, Acquira’s Accelerator+ Program is an all-in-one tool for helping you recognize bad deals. We can help you break down key aspects of the business and determine whether there are any red flags(problems that should immediately disqualify the business) or lesser worrisome yellow flags(problems that can likely be ameliorated). 

Here are some potential drawbacks that may come from buying an existing company.

buying a company

High Initial Costs

Even with good debt terms and more access to loans, it’s likely that you’ll stay to pay a lot of money up-front to buy a company. Even companies in relatively inexpensive sectors like e-stores and dropshipping companies come with a cost. When you look at bigger home services businesses, those costs rise exponentially.

In fact, buying an established business can cost more than if you were to start the company yourself and build it up from scratch. It is important to remember that investing in established and profitable businesses typically requires a greater investment than uncertain or in-need-of-repair options.

While companies that require some attention and improvement can offer a great opportunity for growth, buying a room full of new computers for everyone is a high cost to eat right out of the gate. When starting your own business, you can start small and work your way up, spending more as you grow to improve operations.

Changes Will Be Necessary

While some companies may be turnkey operations that you simply purchase and watch the money roll in, many won’t be. Most of the businesses that are on the market will need significant changes if you want to boost productivity. 

The main drawback here is that this can be difficult to analyze until you’re actually running the business yourself. You can look at financial reports and interview the current owners all you want, but until you can actually peak under the hood to look for inefficiencies, you can’t know what needs to be fixed.

Some specific areas that often need changes:

Dated Processes and Technology

When a company is successful, it often doesn’t look too closely at the processes and technology that it uses. It’s the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

But the truth is, these processes, systems, and technology can become outdated. Of course, the good news there is that you can create efficiencies and find new profits. The bad news is that it will cost you.

Try to ask the seller about their current systems and organization chart before buying. If the technology or tools they use appear outdated, you’ll need to work this into your costs for acquiring the company. 

Sometimes, these outdated systems can be so ingrained within the business that it may just be easier to start a company from the ground up.

Adjusting Existing Company Culture

Just as systems and processes can become entrenched, so too can bad work habits and negative work cultures.

If a company has a culture of long breaks and liberal sick days, it can be hard to break the workers of those habits. And those habits can be costly. 

Read more: Complete Guide on Workplace Culture in Business Acquisition 

Likewise, if a company has a bad reputation, it can be difficult to shake. If you acquire a company that is known for shoddy or slow work, whatever deal you receive may not be worth it. The cost of turning that reputation around may require too much of an investment.

Before you drop your life savings on an established company, you should consider how much work it will take to reshape any negative parts of its culture or reputation.

What You Should Consider Before Buying An Existing Business

Before you acquire a business, there are many things you should consider. This should happen before you begin due diligence.

Decide what type of company you want to run and make sure it’s something you can see yourself doing every day. If you’ve never bought a business before, Acquira offers many resources to help prepare you.

But before you buy, try and determine why the owner is selling the company. There are many legitimate reasons for someone to sell their company (retirement, illness, other business opportunities, etc). Still, if they’re trying to sell a failing company, you definitely want to steer clear.

Conclusion: Buying An Existing Business Advantages and Disadvantages

There are many pros and cons of owning a business, whether it’s one that existed previously or one you’ve built up from scratch.

But if you’re looking for a relatively quick way to enter the entrepreneurial world, acquiring a business with an established presence, a built-in customer base, and trained workers is a good way to go.

Any route you take will require much work, time, and dedication. But if you can find an already successful business that can be improved upon, you’re beginning with a head-start. 

For anyone who’s thinking about starting the entrepreneurial journey through an acquisition, Aquira’s Accelerator+ Program will make it easy for you. Our team of acquisition experts will help you define your own unique investment thesis, source a company that fits those criteria, handle the initial due diligence, and issue an LOI on your behalf.

After that, we will help you with the Quality of Earnings, legal, and in-depth diligence necessary to fully assess the business and, if it’s a good fit, we’ll help you through the closing process. Space in the program is limited. 

Fill out the form below to see if you’re eligible.

Key Takeaways

  • Buying an existing business can bypass startup hassles and offer immediate operation.
  • Due diligence is crucial to uncover a business’s market-tested success or hidden issues.
  • Acquira provides tools and training to help buyers evaluate and improve business acquisitions.
  • Established businesses come with inherent advantages like customer base and better financing options.
  • Thorough research and professional advice are vital before purchasing an existing business.
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