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For Sale By Owner
 

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It's not uncommon to hear about the adverse impact the current down economy is having on business exit strategies. Don't believe everything you hear. Data we recently collected at BizBuySell.com, based on business-for-sale listings and transactions in the second quarter of 2008, tells a different story.

According to our data, small-business valuations are actually on the rise nationally. The median asking price for small businesses in the U.S. has jumped to $255,000, a $5,000 increase from the same time last year. Revenue and cash flow multiples for sold businesses are also up from last year, suggesting that it is indeed a seller's market.

So what does this mean for a small-business owner setting out to sell independently?

Many people who have recently been laid-off are looking to become entrepreneurs, and are the very people who are helping keep businesses-for-sale in high demand. This means for-sale-by-owner, or FSBO, sellers have more leverage than you might think. Although many sellers are initially intimidated by the apparent complexity of listing a business without the professional guidance of a business broker, FSBO listings certainly have a niche in the market that is not going away any time soon.

It's not that there's widespread dissatisfaction with traditional brokerage. Business brokers play an invaluable role in assisting would-be sellers, and that's never going to change. However, we are seeing that more and more sellers want to handle their business sales themselves. The trend is similar to what has happened in the real estate market where many intrepid sellers have opted to go it alone.

Sure, there are often added unanticipated hurdles with a FSBO listing, but those who choose to go the independent route have more resources than ever before.

Selling a business through a professional broker is still a valued and effective method, but for businesses that want to take a DIY approach, here are a few tips for achieving the greatest results:

Go Online

With today's technology, individuals are now able to market their companies like never before. Online business-for-sale Web sites allow business owners a chance to get that "hands-on" connection to their business sale. It serves as a preexisting conduit that links sellers with potential buyers, thus helping to eliminate the need for some of the services provided by a broker. Of course, a broker comes equipped with additional marketing and negotiation expertise, but DIY-friendly Internet resources offer multiple listing options, valuation resources and advanced search features that enable a FSBO seller to obtain many necessary real-time tools.

Recognize Your Limitations

FSBO sales are perfect for sellers who feel they best know the strengths and limitations of their company and can effectively facilitate its sale. Plus, these sellers avoid having to pay a broker's commission. Still, it's important not to feel too sure of your expertise, as a business sale is a specialized transaction that demands a certain level of know-how. It may be helpful to consult with a lawyer and an accountant to enhance your strategies and ultimately arrive at the best deal for your business.

Keep Your Emotions in Check

FSBO selling can also come with emotional risk. Some business owners are apt to become so emotionally involved in the deal in that they cannot offer an objective perspective when negotiations escalate. If managing your emotions isn't possible, it might be time to bring in a qualified broker to act as a buffer between you and the buyer.

What does the future hold for independent sellers? It's difficult to say, but one thing is for sure: Greater numbers of buyers and sellers alike will turn to the Internet as a valuable resource in facilitating business sales. FSBO sellers must realize the potential of new technology and utilize the Internet to its full potential in order to succeed on their own.

It's also a safe bet that business brokers will maintain an active role in small business sales, as not all business owners are ready, or willing, to handle the process on their own.

Last updated: Sep 17, 2008

MIKE HANDELSMAN is group general manager for BizBuySell.com and BizQuest.com, the Internet's largest and most heavily trafficked business-for-sale marketplaces.
@BizBuySell




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