May 13, 2024
10 min read

What Are Business Buyers Biggest Mistakes? We Examine The Most Common

In business acquisitions, a prospective buyer navigating the landscape of small to mid-sized businesses can easily fall prey to various missteps that might jeopardize the success of their venture. Drawing on the insights of seasoned professionals and advisors, we compile a comprehensive guide to help potential business buyers steer clear of common mistakes. Let's delve into each key aspect:

1. Clear Identification of Business Criteria

One of the initial and critical mistakes many prospective business buyers make is the lack of clarity regarding the types, categories, and locations of businesses they intend to purchase. Without a precise target in mind, the search process can become overwhelming and unfocused. To address this, potential buyers should take the time to clearly identify the specific types of businesses they are interested in, along with the preferred categories and geographical locations.

2. Thorough Business Buyer Profile & Financial Statements

Completing a detailed business buyer profile and providing personal financial statements is a fundamental step that should not be underestimated. These documents, often required for Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) and confidentiality agreements, serve as a buyer's introduction to sellers and brokers. The importance of presenting a professional and well-documented profile cannot be overstated, as it instills confidence in the seller regarding the buyer's seriousness and financial capacity.

3. Professional Pre-Qualification for Financing Options

Navigating the labyrinth of financing options is a crucial aspect of the business buying process. Seeking professional pre-qualification for various financing options such as Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, non-SBA loans, bridge financing, and others is essential. Understanding the nuances of each financing avenue empowers buyers to make informed decisions, aligning their financial strategy with the most suitable option available.

4. Strategic Business Wanted Posting and Alerts

Many buyers neglect the latent potential of the hidden market, which comprises businesses not actively advertised but open to potential buyers. Utilizing platforms like to post a business wanted listing can help buyers tap into this hidden market, expanding their pool of potential opportunities. Additionally, setting up email and text alerts for new and refreshed postings aligned with specific search criteria ensures that buyers stay in the loop regarding relevant opportunities.

5. Proactive Daily Searches and Immediate Action

The adage "time is of the essence" holds particularly true in the realm of business acquisitions. Delaying decisions or procrastinating on solid business opportunities can result in missed chances. Therefore, buyers should proactively engage in daily searches and leverage features like "Saved Searches" on platforms like Moreover, the importance of swift action cannot be overstated – expressing interest promptly and producing a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) can be instrumental in securing a desirable business before other potential buyers enter the scene.

6. Advisory Dream Team Ready for Action

A prospective business buyer should assemble a competent and ready-to-go team of advisors. This dream team typically includes a transactional attorney, an escrow or bulk sale service provider, a financing advisor, and other professionals depending on the nature of the business. Having this team in place ensures that the buyer is well-supported and equipped to navigate the complexities of the acquisition process.

7. Continuous Outreach to Brokers, Agents, and Advisors

Consistent and proactive outreach is a cornerstone of successful business acquisition. Buyers should regularly disseminate their business buyer profile and financial statement to a wide array of brokers, agents, and advisors. This not only broadens the scope of opportunities but also keeps the buyer top of mind for professionals who might come across relevant listings.

8. Timely Back-Up Offers and Risk Mitigation

In a landscape where deals can be unpredictable, having a proactive approach to risk mitigation is indispensable. One common mistake is not making back-up offers on businesses that are already in escrow or under contract. Statistics show that a significant percentage of deals fall through, and being prepared to step in with a back-up offer places the buyer in a favorable position.

9. Trusted Advisor for Due Diligence

Due diligence is a critical phase where many buyers make the mistake of not having a trusted advisor to review potential deals. Engaging in Phase 1 Due Diligence with a knowledgeable professional ensures that the buyer doesn't waste time or money on pursuits that might not align with their goals or expectations.

10. Caution in Small Business Valuation

Valuing a small business accurately is a nuanced task that demands precision. A common error is relying on a non-trained Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for this task. Buyers should exercise caution and seek the expertise of a professional business appraiser to ensure a thorough and accurate valuation that forms the basis for informed decision-making.

Insights from Industry Experts:

To augment these insights, let's turn to the feedback, opinions, and tips shared by experienced Openfair Experts:

1. Adaptation to Economic Climate Changes

The business buying landscape is not static; it evolves with economic climates. One expert highlights the shift in buyer mistakes over the years. While waiting too long to purchase a promising business was a significant blunder two years ago, the current economic climate sees buyers being overly cautious. Fear of economic uncertainty leads them to overlook the potential for lucrative deals available at bargain prices.

2. Lease Consideration in Specific Industries

Industry-specific nuances play a pivotal role in the business acquisition process. In sectors like the coin laundry industry, the lease emerges as a critical factor often overlooked by buyers. The permanence of leasehold assets demands meticulous scrutiny of lease terms, conditions, options, and potential increases. Seeking insights from commercial real estate specialists is recommended to gain a comprehensive understanding of the lease's impact on the business.

3. Pro-Forma Preparation for Informed Decision-Making

Buyers often underestimate the value of pro-forma preparation—a structured financial projection that outlines expected sales and expenses. This budgeting tool aids buyers in avoiding pitfalls such as overpaying, overinvesting, or committing to exorbitant rents. A realistic and well-thought-out pro-forma enhances the buyer's ability to make data-driven decisions and align financial expectations with the actual performance of the chosen business.

4. Long-Term Focus Beyond Immediate Profit

A myopic focus on immediate profit can lead buyers astray. Some enter the business realm solely driven by the prospect of financial gain, neglecting the broader impact of their product or service on the community. Long-term success hinges on creating value, meeting customer needs, and contributing positively to the community served. Buyers are cautioned against being solely profit-driven and encouraged to prioritize customer satisfaction for sustained success.

5. Negotiation Tactics and Financial Transparency

Negotiation skills are paramount in business acquisitions. The most significant mistake identified is the failure of buyers to negotiate effectively with sellers. An experienced intermediary emphasizes the unpredictable nature of seller reactions to lower offers. Negotiating in a sincere and friendly manner often yields favorable outcomes, with sellers sometimes reducing prices substantially for buyers they like and trust. Transparency in financial discussions, including demands to see three years of financial statements and tax returns, is crucial for building trust in the negotiation process.

6. Comprehensive Financing Package Preparation

Inadequate preparation of a financing package is a common pitfall. Buyers, with the assistance of their business broker, should compile a comprehensive package for potential lenders. This package includes a detailed business plan, a resume highlighting relevant industry knowledge, a comprehensive financial statement demonstrating liquid funds, recent credit reports, and letters of recommendation. Presenting a complete and well-documented financing package is crucial for securing loans and demonstrating the buyer's commitment to the acquisition.

7. Documentation Package Completeness and Lease Finalization

Completing the documentation package and finalizing the lease are pivotal steps that should not be overlooked. A thorough documentation package includes the purchase agreement, counteroffers, buyer/seller disclosures, non-compete and training agreements, and a broker-prepared Comprehensive Business Review (CBR). The lease, a critical aspect in many industries, demands meticulous attention to details such as terms, conditions, and potential impacts on the business's operational costs.

8. Avoiding Common Partnership Pitfalls

Entering into partnerships without due consideration is identified as a significant mistake. Partnerships are known for their fragility, and buyers often underestimate the challenges associated with sustaining a successful partnership. The transient nature of many partnerships underscores the importance of careful consideration and clear communication to mitigate potential conflicts.

9. Neglect of Legal and Contractual Aspects Pre-Closing

Legal and contractual aspects are not to be deferred until after closing. Leaving significant terms unresolved or failing to address critical legal issues pre-closing can lead to disputes and even litigation. Clear agreements regarding post-closing arrangements, such as seller-provided consulting services, should be negotiated and documented before the finalization of the sale.

In conclusion, the journey of buying a business is rife with potential pitfalls. However, armed with the collective wisdom of industry experts and advisors, prospective buyers can navigate the terrain with confidence and strategic acumen. By avoiding these common mistakes and adopting a diligent, informed, and proactive approach, buyers increase their chances of a successful acquisition and the subsequent growth and prosperity of their new venture.

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