Buying a business? How to stand out from the crowd

Even in such a difficult M&A environment, it can be hard to stand out from other potential buyers when looking to acquire a business, particularly if you are a first-time buyer. The temptation might be to jump straight in with the highest offer you can muster, but this isn’t necessarily the best way to proceed.

Acquiring a business is no small endeavor; it requires careful planning, meticulous research, and strategic execution. If you've set your sights on a specific business, before even thinking about approaching the current owner, it will be valuable to undertake a thorough investigation of both the business itself and the industry it operates in.

This level of dedication will not only demonstrate your seriousness to a seller, but also provide invaluable insights into whether it truly aligns with your aspirations and capabilities. Pay close attention to critical aspects such as the business' reputation, its current workforce, and the clientele it serves. With this knowledge, you'll be better equipped to evaluate the potential risks and rewards, and ultimately ensure that this is the right deal for you.

When the time comes to make your move, remember that you are not only acquiring a business but also selling yourself as the ideal candidate to take it to the next phase of growth. The business owner must see you as a serious and capable contender, especially if they’re a founder or long-term owner, with a strong emotional attachment to the business and its staff.

Therefore, it's essential to prepare thoroughly for negotiations. Anticipate the questions and concerns the owner may have and gather the information required to address them. Be transparent about your financial position, showcasing your financial stability and ability to handle the acquisition. Highlight your relevant industry experience, emphasising how your skills can drive growth and success, as well as your passion for the business and strong desire to see it flourish under your ownership. If you have a track record of running successful businesses, share those accomplishments to boost your credibility even more.

Assembling the right team is crucial when embarking on such a significant business venture. Surrounding yourself with competent and experienced professionals further demonstrates your commitment and seriousness. Consider partnering with a reliable broker, accountant, a respected solicitor, or any other relevant business expert. Each member of your team should bring unique expertise to the table, complementing your strengths and collectively ensuring that, if your bid is successful, you are prepared for a smooth acquisition process.

Networking is a powerful tool in any business endeavor, and acquiring a business is no exception. If you happen to have connections with the business or the owner, leverage these to your advantage. Personal connections can provide valuable insights into the owner's preferences and expectations. If the relationship is strong enough that they are willing to vouch for you, this will provide an invaluable vote of confidence. However, while personal connections are helpful, they shouldn't overshadow your professional qualifications and financial standing. Strive to strike the right balance between the personal touch and the facts.

While credentials and expertise are essential, remember that this acquisition is not solely about numbers and qualifications; it's also about connecting with the outgoing owner. Acknowledge the significant efforts they’ve made in building the business up and show respect for their vision and achievements. By establishing a strong personal connection, you'll stand out from other potential buyers who might have more experience but lack the emotional investment that you bring to the table. If an owner is emotionally connected to their business, then giving the impression that you will immediately rip up everything they’ve built will be highly off-putting.

Acquiring a business is a multi-faceted process that demands a blend of thorough research, effective communication, and emotional intelligence. By combining your passion for the business with a well-prepared approach, a capable team, and meaningful personal connections, you can position yourself as the ideal candidate to take over the reins and lead the business forwards.