Laws of the Business Buying and Selling Jungle

There certainly is an important role for a competent commercial law attorney to advise and prepare the legal structure of a business purchase and sale transaction. The problems arise when lawyers see themselves as business negotiators whose mission is to get the “best deal” for their clients. They frequently forget that the “best deal” has to involve both parties, the buyer and the seller, and that compromise is usually the best solution. Lawyers generally have a very difficult time with compromise in this type of situation because they often see their role as advising their clients on how to get the better deal. Usually, an attempt at a lopsided deal for either party will result in “no deal” at all.

Jungle Law #2: Caveat Businessus Emptor; (Let The Business Buyer Beware!)

As a matter of basic principle (and law in most States), all business brokers dealing with the public are
bound to be honest and forthright in their conduct concerning the businesses that they represent for sale. But they also have a fiduciary relationship (position of trust) to uphold between themselves and their clients (the business seller, in most cases). They must present a business for sale in its “best light” without misrepresenting any significant facts but at the same time not pointing out all of the potential business pitfalls. This usually establishes an adversarial relationship between the buyer and the broker as well as between the buyer and the seller. The best course of action for a buyer is to trust only what they can verify during a rigorous due diligence process and the best approach on the part of the seller/broker is full disclosure of all pertinent information.

Jungle Law #3: A Business Is Worth Only Whatever Someone Is Willing To Pay For It At A Particular Point In Time!

Buyers and sellers are natural adversaries; the sellers want as much as they can get and the buyer wants to pay as little as possible. The broker is intensely interested too, because the commission amount is usually based on a percentage of the total selling price. So, what process should you use to value a business? Forget about putting a value on the assets based on resale value. Forget about comparing the business to the one in the next town that sold for a particular amount. Forget about all the “rules of thumb” like X times earnings or Y times gross income or some dollar amount per account or any other shortcut formula. A business value, and therefore its selling price, only makes sense when it’s based on the capitalized earnings stream. Capitalization is simply the process used to determine today’s value of a stream of future earnings. In the case of valuing a business, “today’s value” is the value of the business, and the “stream of future earnings” is the expected future years’ profit of the business based on current earnings. Most small businesses sell for a price in the range of 2-5 times earnings before interest and ta