Selling a business in a small town

For sale sign

Photo (CC) Diana Parkhouse, on Flickr

If you have ever sold a home, you can sell your business in a small town

A guest article by John Warrillow, author of Built To Sell

Owning a business in a small town has many benefits, but one of the drawbacks is the difficulty of finding a buyer for your business when you decide it is time to move on. The pool of potential acquirers is smaller and capital for buyers is harder to find. But if you understand the process of selling a business, then you can take steps to minimize the barriers to selling your company.

Selling a home and selling a business are remarkably similar tasks. If you’ve ever felt intimidated or confused about the process of selling your company, just think of the transaction in the same way you would if you were selling your home.

Step 1: Staging

When you decide to sell a home, the first thing you do is make sure it shows well. You de-clutter cupboards, replace light bulbs, paint and perhaps rearrange some furniture to project the look or feel you think buyers want.

Staging your business is much the same:

Organize: Arrange your customer records so a prospective buyer has a sense of who your customers are, how often they buy and how much they like what you sell. If you have contracts, standardize and organize them into a neat binder or easy-to-search electronic file.

Fix what’s broken: Take an “outside in” look at your business and fix whatever is obviously broken. If your receptionist uses a phone with duct tape holding the cord into the receiver, buy a new phone. If a key piece of machinery needs maintenance, have it refurbished.

De-clutter: If you rarely offer certain products or services, get them out of sight. Remove them from customer-facing communications and eliminate any signs of stuff you no longer sell. The extra clutter will dilute buyers’ attention and distract them from the core of what makes you successful.

Put on a fresh coat of paint: Take a look at your external communications—your signage, website, logo and brochure—and make sure it is all consistently branded. A buyer will likely want to tour your office/shop/plant, so make sure your physical location is smart and tidy. Give employees a half-day away from their regular tasks to de-clutter their work area.

As you’re “staging” your business, remember the old saying: people buy with emotion and justify with logic. Staging your business is about seducing as many prospective buyers as possible to fall enough in love with your business to engage in a negotiation.

Step 2: Find an agent

Once you have readied your house for sale, the next step is to find an agent to sell it. Sure, you could sell it yourself, but selling a home is a big financial transaction, and typically an agent earns his or her commission by working to market and sell your home to a broad range of potential buyers.

Selling your business can be an even larger transaction so having a broker represent you professionally is important. A brokers job is to run the selling process so you can keep focused on your business.

So how do you find a broker if your business is in a small town?

Most business brokers work from cities with a population of at least 100,000 so you will need to target your search to the closest city. Brokers work on a commission so before they will be willing to drive to your town to meet with you, they will need to know your business is large enough (and therefore their potential commission big enough) to warrant driving out to you.

What’s big enough? I spoke to Brad Bottoset the owner of Reno-based business brokerage The Liberty Group of Nevada. Brad’s firm often represents sellers from small towns and one of his latest listing is in Fallon Nevada (population: 7536).

“If you have a business with at least $50,000 in profit (after you have pulled out a fair market salary and benefits), it will be worth it for a broker to drive to your town.”

Step 3: Create the marketing material

Once you have selected a real estate agent to represent you in the sale of your home, the next step is to create the marketing materials he or she will use to promote your property.

The offer sheet typically includes a picture(s) of your home along with key statistics like the number of bedrooms, lot size, and so on. Your agent may also take an ad out in the local paper. These materials are designed to persuade consumers to invest more time in your house by booking a showing or attending an open house.

When selling your business, your representative will create a “teaser” document designed to entice prospective buyers to invest some time to get to know your business. The teaser is usually a one- or two-page document that includes a few key stats on your company, such as your current revenue and profit and your projections for the future. Your company name is usually disguised to minimize the chances of key customers and employees hearing about it being on the market.

The importance of disguising the teaser is paramount when it comes to selling a business in a small town.

“In a small town, there is often only one or two businesses in a certain industry,” Bottoset said. “If I was representing a Ford dealership in Los Angeles, I’d describe it as a car dealership in the teaser. If I was selling a Ford dealership in a small town, I’d describe it as ‘a retailer.’ You need to be vague in a describing a small town business in a teaser to avoid the entire town finding out a business is for sale.”

Just as a real estate agent would, your broker will then work his or her Rolodex and send this teaser to a list of people who might buy your business. Some brokers may list your business on one of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)-like listing services for businesses (e.g., to draw interest from outside of your area

Make sure your broker includes some of the benefits of living in your town in the teaser. There are a lot of people who work in corporate jobs in the city that dream about buying a small business in a small town and enjoying life at a slower pace. Paint a picture of the lifestyle benefits of living in your area.

If a potential buyer wants to know more about your business, then your representative will ask that person to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), after which he or she will get a comprehensive summary of your business performance and your business plan.

You want to ensure your teaser has just enough information to lure a buyer to get as far as signing an NDA.

Step 4: The showing

Once your agent puts the sign on the lawn, he or she starts scheduling showings. Potential buyers and their agents walk through your home and have a chance to see first-hand what you’re selling.

When selling your business, potential acquirers will want to schedule a showing—called a “management presentation” in Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) parlance. The management presentation is your chance to paint a picture of what you have built and the future you see for your business and industry. It’s also a chance for the potential buyer to meet you.

Just as a stranger walking through your home will generally be gracious and avoid making negative comments about your choice of decor, the potential buyer of your business typically asks only polite questions at the management presentation, steering clear of saying anything you might take personal offense to (those comments and questions are usually saved for due diligence).

You’ll get one trick question during the management presentations:

“Why do you want to sell your business?”

It may be tempting to explain how tired you are and how much you need a vacation, but don’t. The prospective buyer wants to know you plan to stay on for a while to help them run your business. Stick with an answer like “I’m at a stage of my life where I’d like to create some liquidity for the value I’ve created so far and find a way to participate in our next stage of growth.”

Step 5: The offer

Once your real estate agent has shown your home to a number of potential buyers, you start entertaining offers. Your agent does what he or she can to drum up more than one offer to create some competitive tension in your deal and, possibly, a bidding war. You review each offer and negotiate the finer points.

When selling your business, your management presentations will (you hope) be followed by an offer(s) in the form of a non-binding letter of intent (LOI). The LOI will include the price the buyer is willing to pay for your business (both the cash portion and any earn-out calculation) along with a request for a period of exclusivity to perform “due diligence” so the buyer’s team of professionals can verify the various claims you made in the management presentations and in your marketing materials.

Due diligence is the equivalent of a home inspection in a real estate transaction. Most offers to buy a home or business have conditions, and when you accept the offer with conditions, you’re essentially taking your house off the market while the buyer inspects your claims. Just like when selling a house, you have to take a calculated gamble that the offer was made in good faith and that the buyer will follow through on his or her stated intention to buy. However, taking your property off the market is a risk, and if upon closer inspection, the buyer sees something of concern, then you might find the offered price reduced (very common) or the buyer walking away entirely.

Due diligence is a two-way street. Bottoset said, “as a seller, make sure the offer gives you an opportunity to complete some due diligence on the buyer. You’ll want to thoroughly review the buyer’s credit history, their personal financial situation, and their business experience to make sure you’re comfortable selling them your business.”

Step 6: The inspection

When you agree to an offer to buy your home, it is often contingent on a home inspection. A home inspector will come to your home and examine every inch of it—the shingles on your roof, the wiring in your electrical panel, your furnace, your plumbing…. You can expect that a home inspector will find that mold you tried to hide behind a shelving unit in the basement and the leak in the skylight on the third floor. His or her job is to find any and all of the problems in your house so that the buyers can either be assured that they are not purchasing a lemon of a house or at least have fair warning about issues that may arise.

When you agree to an offer to buy your business, the buyer will need to complete his or her due diligence before the offer is finalized. The buyer will send in a team of people whose job it is to validate the claims you made in the management presentations and your marketing materials and to uncover any inconsistencies between them and reality.

Home inspectors are usually engineers. Due diligence folks are MBA-types who have a passion for detail and an insatiable appetite for data. You probably won’t like them—after all, their job is to expose your business and its faults. They will ask for all of your customer records and history, your financials, your budgets and business plan. They’ll want to pore over your employee records and review your marketing collateral. Every nook of your business will be dusted and inspected for cracks while the MBAs look for details that don’t add up.

Just like a home inspector will find things, the MBAs will discover information or facts that may not show your business in the best light. Relax. Every business has warts, and assuming you did not lie in any of your offer materials or presentations, it’s natural for the buyer’s diligence team to find them.

The buyer may ask for a discount based on what the MBAs discover during due diligence—just like the home buyer asks you to fix a leaky roof or pay for it to be fixed if the home inspector finds one. It will be up to you either to accept the discounted price or to start the process over again.

Bottoset agreed on the importance of being honest during the diligence process. “If something has been misrepresented by the seller, even if the error is not intentional, it can kill the deal,” he said.

If you get through diligence without incident, the buyer will schedule a closing meeting at which you will need to sign a number of documents (typically at the buyer’s lawyer’s office). Once all the documents are signed, the deal is done!

If selling your business seems daunting, don’t be intimidated. The process is very similar to selling a house and can be much more rewarding.

John Warrillow is the author of Built To Sell: Turn Your Business Into One You Can Sell. Find out if you have a sellable business – and what you could get for it – by taking the 10 question Sellability Index Quiz at



Top 10 Freelance Gigs Available in the US Right Now

10 Top Freelance Fields in the US Right Now

FlexJobs has reported the top freelance career fields and the top 30 companies hiring this workforce so far in 2018.

While freelancers aren’t eligible for benefits, they have more flexibility and freedom than traditional employees. This may explain why a FlexJobs survey showed freelancers working remotely or from home are generally happier than more traditional employees. In the US, the total number of workers freelancing has risen to 35 percent.

Small businesses are the fastest growing segment of organizations using remote workers and freelancers. As freelancers are also technically identified as small businesses, these two groups are changing the labor market and how talent is acquired.

Sara Sutton Fell, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs, explained how this work model has changed the workforce in the past decade. In a press release, she explains, “The demographics of freelancers are just as varied, spanning generations, educational backgrounds and career levels, but they share an important commonality, which is that they freelance because they value work-life balance and flexible work arrangements can help them achieve it.”

Top Careers and Jobs

The top five careers were in computer and IT, accounting and finance, HR and recruiting, editing, and administrative. Freelance jobs such as data analyst, receptionist, project manager, bookkeeper, content designer, QA specialist, chemist, proposal writer, and HR specialist were posted on FlexJobs matching those careers.

The 10 Top Freelance Fields

The top 10 freelance jobs in the U.S. at present include:

  1. Computer & IT
  2. Accounting & Finance
  3. HR & Recruiting
  4. Editing, Proofreading, and Writing
  5. Administrative
  6. Project Management
  7. Data Entry
  8. Research Analysis
  9. Software Development
  10. Technical Support

The Companies

The list of companies hiring freelancers shows there is no one specific industry. Companies across all segments are using the pool of workers who identify themselves as freelancers.

The Top 30 Companies Hiring for Freelance Jobs in 2018 So Far

Freelancers seeing work may want to pursue it with one of these 30 companies already known for offering these opportunities:

  1. Kelly Services
  2. Real Staffing
  3. Kforce
  4. Accounting Principals
  5. Randstad
  6. Ajilon
  7. Dahl Consulting
  8. Computer Futures
  9. Onward Search
  10. Robert Half International
  11. Creative Group
  12. Aerotek
  13. TEKsystems
  14. Adecco
  15. VocoVision
  16. WinterWyman
  17. AFIRM
  18. EXL
  19. 24 Seven
  20. Apex Systems
  21. Judge Group
  22. excelHR
  23. ics – Infinity Consulting Solutions
  24. Facebook
  25. Paladin
  26. Horizontal Integration
  27. Procom Services
  28. i. Systems
  29. K12
  30. MATRIX Resources

Looking for a Job?

If you are a freelancer, FlexJobs makes the following five recommendations to land your next job.

  1. Figure out your freelance niche.
  2. Set up a solid freelance foundation.
  3. Consider your network.
  4. Reach out to old employers.
  5. Drum up new business, because as a freelancer, you are your own business.

FlexJobs has a good vantage point of the trends taking place with remote jobs. The company offers an online platform for job seekers and companies featuring freelance work opportunities in more than 50 categories. The 2018 top 100 list, as well as this roundup, was whittled down from the more than 49,000 organizations who posted the highest number of freelance job openings on FlexJobs for the year.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Top 10 Freelance Gigs Available in the US Right Now” was first published on Small Business Trends


Tillerson Departure Could Impact What Your Business Pays for Oil

The Impact of Rex Tillerson on Oil Prices Now That He's Gone

President Donald Trump’s decision to fire outgoing State Secretary Rex Tillerson could pitch oil prices upward as the White House is expected to become more aggressive toward foreign oil companies.

Impact of Rex Tillerson on Oil Prices

Tillerson’s ousting could tilt the balance of power away from oil producers in Iran and Venezuela, analysts told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. Replacing the former ExxonMobil CEO with CIA Director Mike Pompeo will likely prompt oil prices to pitch upward, they added.

“The Rexit scenario is bullish for oil because Pompeo is a known hawk against Iran and I think he will embolden Donald Trump to exit the nuclear agreement when he has to make the decision in May,” Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy for RBC Capital Markets, told reporters Wednesday.

She was referring to Pompeo’s well-known animus to the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which, if eliminated, could reimpose economic sanctions on Iran that would limit its oil exports and reduce global supply. Pompeo has also expressed interest in slapping energy sanctions against OPEC member Venezuela.

Oil prices edged slightly higher Wednesday ahead of U.S. inventory data that are expected to show a rise in crude stocks. Other analysts suggest that the oil markets don’t appear spooked by Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas.

Surging non-OPEC oil supply is likely smothering any geopolitical angst from Tillerson’s ouster, according to Bloomberg’s Liam Denning. Another possible reason for the oil market’s relative nonplussed position on Pompeo, he added, is fatigue with the chaotic nature of the Trump administration.

Trump’s ever-changing governing ethos makes “it tough to draw any conclusions about the direction of policy, much less wager money on it,” Denning said, adding that it is not clear if eliminating the Iran agreement would effectively cut off Iranian barrels.

“Europe has been a big buyer of these since the deal went into effect, and China’s imports of Iranian oil have jumped too,” he added.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Tillerson Departure Could Impact What Your Business Pays for Oil” was first published on Small Business Trends


The unexpected is welcome in the Brag Basket

I’m happy to share your good news in the Brag Basket, even when it’s not quite what I expected. Photo by Lizzie on Unsplash


The Brag Basket is open! This one is for March 16-18, 2018. Bring your good news, big or small, to share with everyone.

What can you share in the Brag Basket?

  • introduce yourself
  • share some great news from this week
  • celebrate progress, even baby steps
  • congratulate a friend
  • applaud for each other
  • confess your undying love for rural places

Want to see some past Brag Baskets and read some past contributions? Here’s the archive.

How do you join in?

Below this post is the comment section. Add your good news there.

Reading this in your email? Hit reply.

Don’t like to brag? Just share some good news for someone you’re happy for. It’s a conversation with friends. So jump in. And remember to cheer for each other.


Small Businesses Add 68,000 Jobs in February

February 2018 ADP Small Business Report Shows That Small Businesses Added 68,000 Jobs

With 10,000 more jobs than January, the ADP Small Business Report shows private sector small business employment increased by 68,000 jobs in February.

February 2018 ADP Small Business Report

The ADP (NASDAQ:ADP) report is stressing the importance of small businesses in contributing to the overall economy of the country. The data for companies with 49 employees or less is a great indicator of the economic health in the US — which is one of the reasons ADP says it makes the data available to the public for free.

The information in the report gives business owners insight into hiring trends across industries. The data can be used to make informed decisions about growth, funding and hiring.

So how is the Labor Market?

Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute, said a press release, “It continues to experience uninterrupted growth.” Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, added, “The job market is red hot and threatens to overheat.  With government spending increases and tax cuts, growth is set to accelerate.”

Small Businesses

Businesses with 1 to 19 employees generated 27,000 of the 68,000 new jobs created in February 2018 while the remaining 41,000 jobs came from companies  with between 20 and 49 employees. Just as in previous months, the biggest job creator was the service industry with 56,000 jobs followed by goods-producing industries creating an estimated 12,000 jobs.

February 2018 ADP Small Business Report Shows That Small Businesses Added 68,000 Jobs

Overall Employment

A total of 235,000 non-farm jobs were created in February. In addition to the 68,000 from small businesses, medium-size businesses with 50 to 499 employees created 97,000 jobs and large businesses with 500 to 1,000 plus employees created another 58,000 jobs.

Once again, the service industry was the clear leader delivering a total of 198,000 across all sectors.

February 2018 ADP Small Business Report Shows That Small Businesses Added 68,000 Jobs

February 2018 ADP National Franchise Report

Franchises also saw higher numbers creating 24,700 new jobs. Franchise restaurants created most of these jobs, about 19,600 in all. Meanwhile, franchises in the auto parts, food retail, business services, accommodations and real estate sectors created the remaining 5,100 jobs.

February 2018 ADP National Franchise Report

The ADP National Employment Report is produced by the ADP Research Institute in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics.

Images: ADP

This article, “Small Businesses Add 68,000 Jobs in February” was first published on Small Business Trends


It’s Time


Photo (CC) by Victor Bjorklund, on Flickr

It’s time to start that business you have always wanted. 

Why are you hesitating? Are you nervous that you don’t have the skills necessary?

Some of the skills the small-business owner needs are:

  • Passion, perseverance and persistence: Call it what you want, but you need to keep going when things look bleak. Some might say you are just being stubborn, but that is often what small-business owners are about.
  • Empathy: You need to understand what people want and then provide that service or product. When you discuss your business with others, you need to do so in terms of the benefits to them and not just the features of what you have to sell.
  • Fairness: Successful small-business owners are known for how they treat customers, vendors and employees. They also are noted for what they give to their communities.
  • Willingness to work hard: Starting and operating a business is work. The statement “build it and they will come” is not reality. Success in business is the same as success in anything one does; it requires lots of work.
  • Vision: Not only must the small-business owner focus on the present, but he or she must see what tomorrow might be.

And what if you don’t have these skills. That’s okay, you can develop them.

But you may ask, what about business skills and accounting skills and marketing skills?

Well, you can learn those skills.

Maybe your final argument is that you are not like other business owners.

They come in all shapes and sizes, from a variety of backgrounds and have held a variety of jobs before getting to this point.

So, no excuses. It may take little time to get ready so start today.


These small town neighbors bought vacant buildings, brought them up to code. Here’s what happened next

What can small towns do about crumbling buildings in their downtown? They can join together to fix them up and get businesses in them. Our own Jeanne Cole helped to bring this building back in downtown Waynoka. Photo by Becky McCray.


Waynoka, Oklahoma, had a lot of vacant run-down buildings in their downtown. In a town of 900 people, the prospects didn’t look great. At an all-class reunion, a group of alumni got together and decided to change that.

They called themselves Project Waynoka, our friend and early contributor Jeanne Cole said. They started raising money. They bought one building. They raised more money with community events. They scrounged for materials. They rallied volunteer labor. They brought this one building up to code, then sold it.

With that money, they bought another building. More work, more fundraising, even more work, and there’s another building brought back into productive use.

The public library in Waynoka is housed in a building that Project Waynoka rehabilitated. Next door is a vacant lot that the library uses for event space and that features a veterans memorial. Photo by Becky McCray.


They just kept saving buildings. Buildings that now house locally-owned businesses. The public library. The popular German restaurant.

A few buildings turned out to be in such bad shape that demolition was the best choice. So they took them down and then cleaned up the empty lots.

Their current project (as of 2018) is the old American Legion building. It’s a big project and will take a long time. But waiting for some outside savior to come do it hasn’t worked yet, and neighbors working together has worked. I’d bet on the neighbors.

A downtown brick building with boarded up windows.

Here’s the next Project Waynoka restoration: the old American Legion building. Photo by Becky McCray.


It’s a model that any town can borrow: a small group of people rallying the community to save downtown buildings.

A group of Minneapolis neighbors who did a similar thing, with the added bonus of building cooperatives and nurturing local businesses as part of their project. Read more about it here: These Neighbors Got Together to Buy Vacant Buildings. Now They’re Renting to Bakers and Brewers


New to SmallBizSurvival? Take the Guided Tour. Like what you see? Get our updates.