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It can be daunting to know where to start your journey to grow your business through an acquisition. As the founder of the second-largest printing, promotional products and packaging distributor in the country, I’ve spent the past 40 years growing Proforma to a $500 million business. A lot of that has to do with strategically acquiring the right businesses — B2B businesses under $5 million — at the right time.

Identify acquisition prospects

While you can work with a business broker to source an acquisition, the best route to take to ensure you are qualifying the right prospects is to reach out to business owners, introduce yourself and your business, communicate your intentions and ask to meet. Although you may come in contact with business owners who do not want to meet, those who accept a meeting are more likely to be interested in learning more about selling their business, even if they stated otherwise.

Schedule introductory appointments

First impressions matter, and it’s imperative to conduct a great first appointment with prospects who are interested in meeting with you. Keep in mind that most business owners who are looking to sell their company want to be assured of the continued success of what they’ve built. An in-person meeting is your time to present your value proposition, share your intentions of acquiring the business and present your plan for continued success.

Build a relationship, then follow up

During your introductory appointments, try and get to know your prospect both professionally and personally. Learn about how they started their business, their goals for their future and what they are looking for in an exit strategy. Focus on creating a lasting relationship while building trust. If at your first appointment you don’t feel as if the prospect is ready to sell, it’s still important to maintain a dialogue in case things change in the future.

Identify the right acquisition

Once you find a prospect who is interested in selling, I recommend obtaining the seller’s financial statements for the past two or three years, including a summary of sales by customers and a list of key employees by job function and compensation. This information will allow you to determine what sales you think you can retain, whether you can help increase the gross profit and what expenses you can eliminate after the acquisition.

Make the acquisition

Once you have agreed in principle with a seller, you will need to put your agreement in the form of a letter of intent outlining the key details of your deal. In due diligence, you will have the opportunity to conduct a deep dive into the seller’s business and assure that the basic assumptions on which you based your offer are in fact, valid. From here, the next step would be to finalize the contract. 

Always remember: The key to a successful acquisition is a well-planned, successful transition, achieved by working with the key customers, employees and suppliers to ensure that sales and operations continue smoothly. 

 

Greg Muzzillo is the founder of Proforma. He founded the company in 1978, one year after graduating from college, and started franchising operations in 1986. Today, Proforma has more than 650 franchise offices worldwide with $500 million in sales. Greg is also founded ProTalent, the first franchise company in the staffing industry exclusively for staffing professionals. He can be reached at (800) 825-1525 or www.proforma.com.

Related post: Greg Muzzillo: Time makes sellers realistic.