Deciding to buy a business is exciting, but trying to find a business to buy can seem like a daunting task if you don’t know how to go about it. Before you get started with your search, you might want to check out our guide for buying a business here.
If you're ready to start the actual search process, here are some tips to get you going.
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Call around to find a business to buy
The first thing you should do if you want to find a business to buy is to make some phone calls. It may seem like this is too easy, but sometimes it's all you need to do to find the right business for you. You probably won't find any "for sale" signs in the front of any businesses because owners don't want to scare customers away or make employees uneasy while working for them.
Thus, you will need to speak to business owners one on one to find out if they are willing to sell. If you're looking for a business specifically in the area where you live because you don't want to move, then making some phone calls is the perfect way to start your search. In some cases, you may even uncover an owner who is willing to sell but hasn't actually listed their business for sale.
When you're deciding which businesses to call and ask if they are for sale, it's important to zero in on the businesses you already understand. You should focus on an area in which you have expertise, so that buying the business makes sense for you.
However, you may also want to call businesses that are related in some way to the type of business you want to buy. These business owners may have some connections to businesses that suit your needs and are for sale.
Here's what to ask
When you call, make sure you ask to speak to the owner rather than a manager because the manager may not even be aware that the business is for sale and probably won't have any input into whether it gets sold.
If you're having trouble getting through to the owner, you might have to do some extra homework. Businesses must be registered with their state's secretary of state, and you can look them up on the secretary of state's website to find out the owner's name and their registered agent. You may even find a phone number for the owner in the state records.
Here are some questions to have on hand when you start making phone calls to try to find a business to buy.
- Explain that you're trying to find a business to buy and ask if their business is for sale.
- If the answer is yes, ask why they are selling and if you can schedule a time to discuss what they're looking for and what you're looking for to see if it's a match. Be flexible because they will probably want to meet outside of business hours to keep the sale under wraps until the actual transaction is underway.
- If the answer is no, ask if they would be willing to think about it and let you call them back at a later time to see if they might want to sell after all.
- Also if the answer is no, ask them if they of any similar businesses for sale. Many small business owners in an area keep in touch with other owners and will hear if someone in their area is selling their business.
Use a broker to find a business to buy
Making phone calls is only the first step when you're trying to find a business to buy. Brokers and online registries are also important sources to tap when you're looking to buy a business. If you're not comfortable making phone calls, you may even want to go straight to using a broker, but keep in mind that you will pay more to use their services.
Many sellers hire brokers to help them find a buyer, so you can also contact a broker and ask to see a list of the businesses they have for sale. It's a great place to get in touch with multiple sellers in one place.
Business brokers can also help you determine which business would be a good fit for you based on your skills and interests. They can introduce you to sellers whose business matches your needs and wants. Brokers can also advise you on which businesses to avoid and help you negotiate a purchase price.
When looking for a broker, make sure you choose one that's looking out for your interests and not just the seller's.
Shop online registries to find a business to buy
If you're still trying to decide whether you want to buy a business, or you just want to see what's out there, an online business registry is a good middle ground between making phone calls and going to a broker. Some examples of online registries are BizBuySell.com and Bizquest.com.
Online registries let you search for businesses for sale by filtering your search for industry, price and location. Many such sites also allow you to set up alerts so that you can be notified when a business that meets your needs gets listed.
BizBuySell.com in particular has more than 100,000 businesses for sale in a variety of price ranges. The online registry also offers a list of business brokers and other tools that can help you find brokers who are in your area.
For a more localized search, you can even check Craigslist. You might want to put your own ad on Craigslist saying that you're trying to find a business to buy and explaining what you're looking for. Then you can let the offers come to you.
When you're looking for a business to buy, the search will probably take some time, especially when it comes to evaluating the businesses you do find. However, if you take the time to do the search properly, you will uncover the right business for you. It's only a matter of time.