Competitors – Rotten SOB’s or Valuable Strategic Alliance?

Competitors – Friend or Foe ?

Competitors can simply be defined as
“one selling or buying goods or services in the same market as another”
… per Merriam Dictionary

or “those rotten SOB’s that undercut my pricing, run their business without any regards for proper business ethics, and generally derate our entire industry”
… per an upset business owner

Small Business And Competitors

How do you view your competitors? As small business owners we all have competitors. Sometimes they are just down the street or across the globe. I am in the business of helping small business owners buy and sell businesses. Very often when a small business owner desires to sell their business, their competitor may be the first logical party to approach. The relationship that a small business owner has with those competitors is potential buyers of their business will dictate the viability of effective dialogue. When running your business a competitor can be a valuable alliance.

With my previous business, we had fairly open relationships with many of our competitors, and found that at times working together could prove to be mutually beneficial. We had a production company and many of our supplies came from far away. Very often we would coordinate with nearby competitors on shipping arrangements to “share truckloads” to reduce both of our cost. We also would fall short of certain supplies that would potentially shut down our production lines. Maybe we would get a sudden large customer, or just mis-allocate. We would put a call into our local competitors, arrange to buy some supplies from them, and they would do the same with us.

We were competitors, but were business men first and recognized the value of mutually beneficial arrangements. Furthermore, In my previous business we incurred a significant disaster to our production facility which caused our business to shut down to rebuild. The relationships we had built throughout the years with competitors, had the owners of those competitors business on the phone with us offering assistance. And this assistance was invaluable in allowing us to transition through this difficult event. Some of their assistance resulted in additional short term business for them. Other assistance resulted in significant long term relationship building between our 2 companies. I would like to think I would have done the same for them.

Business Competitors

Photo (c) prosper-consulting.com

Very often industry matters, panels, trade groups require the interaction of competitors to benefit the group and or industry. “A rising tide raises all ships”. Is true when you have competitors that can work together, you can benefit the entire industry.

But it would be naive to think that issues will not occur between competitors. You seek the same customers as competitors, and very often it is you or your competitor that gains that new customer, and you want it to be you-your competitor wants it to be him.

Building a relationship with competitors can be beneficial. It doesn’t mean that you need to go out for a beer once a week. But it does mean that you can pick up a phone and make a business request and know that your competitor can do the same with you. It is not always possible to have a mutually beneficial relationship with a competitor. But it should at least be considered and or explored.

How Much? – when buying or selling a business

You buy products or services and one of the first thoughts you have is – How Much?  You sell products or services to customers and one of the first thing a customer wants to know is- How Much? Somebody looks at buying a business and again needs to know – How Much?  And a business owner is ready to sell his business and either move on to other business interest or retire and he needs to determine – How Much.

How does a business owner determine how much his business is worth? The reality of the matter is that the marketplace ,as with most business transactions, determine how much is the worth of the business.  But in order to attempt to sell your business and market you business a value, or a price range needs to be determined to allow potential buyers the opportunity to see if your price goals match with the price range they are willing to pay.

When discussing the concept of valuing a business or setting a range and or target sell price of business with business owners some times the wrong criteria is initially considered by the business owner.  Sometimes the “What I need to make when I sell my business” is different than “what the business is worth.  Consider the example of a business owner invested $50,000 as an initial investment into his business and owes another $100,000 on some equipment he bought and is still paying off.  I might ask the business owner if he has considered what he would want to sell his business for and he may say “I need to at least get $150,000 for the business because of the above reasons.”  Actually the business owner is telling you what he believes he needs to get out of the business, yet this does not necessarily represent potential value to the buyer.

When business owners or entrepreneurs set prices for products and services certainly cost is a significant contributor to determining price point of that product or service.  What like or similar products or services are selling for is also considered.  But the successful and ongoing sales of that product or service is dependent upon how the customer values your product or service.  Does your customer believe that they are getting fair value for the price of your product or service.  The fact that you now lease a new expensive company car- does that enter into the pricing of your product or service.  It may to you but very possibly/probably it does not to the customer.

This is a similar thought process that should go into the question of how much should I sell my business for.  If a person can buy a similar business to yours and buy it for 40% less than yours why would they buy your business.  The price/value needs to make sense.  And if all else is similar it is reasonable to expect the potential buyer of your business to expect your business to be priced similar to other like businesses.   And the fact that you invest more initially into your business or owe $x on  the business, or lease an expensive new car really does not speak to value or pricing (unless liabilities are following the new buyer and may decrease the value to the new buyer)

The best scenario for selling your business is always a scenario which allows for you the business owner to plan that exit strategy.  Part of that planning process is trying to determine what you believe you need to get out of the business for the sale to make sense to you (also allowing for tax consequences of such a sale.) But it is important that what you need to make when selling your business and what your business is worth when selling your business are 2 separate matters.  While these are 2 separate matters that often get convoluted in the thought process of a business owner – it is very pragmatic to target a potential time to sell your business as a time when “what I need to get out of business when I sell my business” is at least equal or less than “the sell price or value of my business.”  Ultimately the somewhat complex process of setting a price of a business for sale (or a product or service for sale) gets reduced to How Much are your selling your business for? and the answer being How Much are you willing to pay.

Small Business Owner, Entrepreneur, Dreamer? What is your Status?

The start of a new year has passed.   In our professional and personal world we use this time of year to think/plan ahead on where or what we may want to accomplish in the upcoming year.  The first part of trying to figure out where we are going is determining where we are.  What is your status?  In Facebook and Twitter we want to tell others of our status in our personal life, but do we tell others or even really tell ourselves what our professional, business or financial status really is.  Working as a Business Broker in Florida, understanding our prospective clients current status and goals are one of the first steps in the somewhat  long process of buying or selling a business.

Your Business Status

Are you happy with your status?  Are you better off this year than last year?  Did you start that business you wanted to start, get a new job, buy a business, sell a business, retire… ?

It is said when planning  “How do you know if you got there if you dont know where you were going.”   But preceding this above-mentioned planning tenet is the need to know where you are starting from.

A person wanting to start a business or buy a business and has $1,000,000 in the bank will plan to start or buy that business different than a student that just graduated from college and owes $40,000 in college loans and $0 in the bank.  It’s always a good time to plan ahead – it’s almost 2011.  What is your status?

1. Working for a wonderful boss and company and love my job.

2. Own my own business and business is good and look forward to continuing my success.

3. Own a struggling business and barely hanging on. Want to sell my business and do something else.

4. Retired, happy, plenty of financial resources.

5. Retired, very little money, thinking I need to get a part-time job.

6. Just getting out of college worried that I cant find a job.

7.  Working in a dead end job, want to quit and start my own business.

8. Want to start my own business but have no money to do so, nor know how to get such money.

9.  Working in a job I hate want to find another job.

10.  Have a great idea for a new business but too afraid to take the next step.Business Status

11.  Own a successful business thinking about selling it to pursue other business challenges.

12. Work from home a few hours a week and make more than enough money to live and do what I want.  Is this anyone’s status?

13. Hate my job, hate my boss, hate my commute, underpaid, just want to scream!

14. Sold my business made lots of money but starting a new business.

15. In business with family or friend, and now hate my family or friend.

16. Have a friend that is making a lot of money on the internet, I want to try same,  but don’t think I have the time.

17. Just got laid off my job.

18. Been out of work for 6-12 months and no good prospects.

19. Want to sell my business but don’t think now is a good time to do that.

20. Nothing is going well for me but today – will make changes to improve my status.

21.  My status????   ITS COMPLICATED.

Need a Job? Buy a Job – Buy a Business

Consider the various routes successful entrepreneurs business owners take when building a successful operation.  It is important to consider that the path taken is varied, and success need not necessarily follow one specific path.  Bill Gates did not invent the MS-DOS program that became the Windows operating system we know today.  Entrepreneurs can start with an idea, and turn it into a successful business venture.  Entrepreneurs can buy a business, step in and continue that operation and grow it.  Entrepreneurs can “buy a job.”

“You Are Not Buying a Business You Are Buying a Job”

This statement has been attributed to certain business opportunities that potential business buyers or entrepreneurs are evaluating.  Is it wrong to buy a business, when what you are doing is” buying a job”?  Firstly what the statement is intended to denote is that, you will be an integral part of the daily operation, the business may not operate properly without your daily workload, you will not necessarily be in a fixed overhead or supervisory role but rather part of the variable cost of running an operation.  You will be buying a business that you be working at in the day to day operations.

Buy A JobFor example if your spouse and you buy an existing business that is a 2 man Sandwich shop- you may be “buying a job.”  At times the prospects of “buying a job” in lieu of buying a business is viewed as a negative.  Is it wrong to “buy a job.”  Personally I dont think so.  Consider the scenario of the employee that worked for the same company for 15 years, walks in his office one Monday morning to learn that he has been let go, downsized, fired, or  laid-off.  When YOU buy your own business or buy your own job,  WHO is going to walk in your office and fire you? Nobody.  You have control of your destiny not always offered when working for others.  When you own your own business you know how the company is doing.  You don’t spend a minute of your time concerning yourself on how your superiors view your performance.

Do you ever wonder where the largest source of buyers of business comes from.  Most future buyers of business are employees right now, or were employees and have been let go and are ready to sieze more control over their destiny.  Currently I am working with a few people of which are both the combination of currently employed and recently let go. Whether you buy a business or look to start your own business, your should be prepared for some hard work. You will probably work harder and stress more than when working for others but does the trade off of control and working for yourself make it worth it?  Today one is buying a business in a buyers market.  More sellers are offering seller financing when selling their business.  Maybe it is a good time to buy a job