Buying a Business

Getting Good Deals is the Key!
I’m sure, at some point, some of us have that itching desire to “be your own boss”. We imagine all the wonderful benefits of calling the shots, deciding the direction of the business, and having heaps of money because of successful businesses.

Some of us then decided to take the natural step and “just do it”. We would then proceed to dip into our savings, borrow money from friends and financial institutions, or perhaps sell some equities we are holding on to. And we merrily register a company and start working! The scenario sounds really familiar!

That was me! I sold off my home to raise capital for my ventures into fund management, music production and education. I registered the company and began working to build something I can call my own.

The thought never occurred to me that one can buy a business, instead of starting from the ground up. But coming to think of it, even if the thought did occur to me, my pride (and cash position?) would not allow me to do so. I want something to call my own!

And that is precisely why many of us will never consider buying a business. A matter of pride. Of course, there are other reasons.

  • Staff Problems: We are inheriting staff that has never worked with us, that has been answering to someone else. Of course, those of us who are newly employed by a company or are posted to a new division also have the same problems. And how do we know we won’t get the same problem with staff we newly recruited?
  • Hidden creditors and debts: This one is a potential trap to watch out for. Experienced business buyers know how to get over this one, like getting the seller to make a Statutory Declaration (which means you can be punished by law for declaring falsely), or co-signing or any number of tricks that a good business broker should be able to help you with.
  • Business Ill-will: Again, another problem. What if many suppliers refuse to work with the company, or many customers would never want to even hear of the name of the company again? Or some influential “terrorist” has been starting a hate campaign because of a faux pas in customer service by a staff in the past? But there again, a good business broker should be able to help you with that, to make sure you don’t walk blindly into a deal!

Why then do people buy businesses instead of starting on a fresh slate? For the same reason how real estate investors can find gems where others cannot. Those who buy businesses are into businesses to earn money. Pride, for them, goes into a corner and is beaten into submission. What matters is the ROI (Returns on Investment).

Look at the real estate investor. When he buys a house for investment purposes, he looks at the possible land uses (to see if the lot use can be changed), the amenities, the general rental of the area, the possible tenant mix and so on.

The business buyer looks at the accounts to check cashflow situations. He wants to see if there are inefficiencies that he can work on to increase the value of the business. He looks at the possible staff interactions to see if he can work on this and increase the value of the business. He examines the goodwill and opportunities to see if it’s possible to do IPO or takeovers/mergers in the future.

In other words, the person who buys businesses tends to be a person who looks for good deals. They are not interested in starting a business to “be a boss”. They can be considered a true professional business investor. They may in fact buy a business which has the same 3 problems mentioned above. Only that they have their ways of overcoming these problems. Their highlighting of the problems to the sellers only makes it easy for them to buy the business at bargain prices.

The reason for this article, of course, is not to influence a person to buy a business. I don’t have the expertise and experience to do that. If you are interested to find out more (and you happen to be in Singapore or Malaysia) you might want to contact Freddy Ngiam. He’s a professional – not only in buying businesses for his own “consumption” but in broking for those interested in buying and selling businesses.

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