Here's Why You Should Consider Phantom Equity When Selling Your Agency

The Very Real Promise of Phantom Equity

The terminology may frighten some away. But phantom equity, especially when it comes to selling your agency, has the potential to breathe new life into your agency. The upsides are well worth taking the time to ensure that phantom equity is anything but elusive to you. Make phantom equity work to your advantage by using it as the adhesive that binds essential human capital to your agency long-term, especially post-sale, promising profit shares in return.   

What Is Phantom Equity and Why Does It Matter When Selling Your Agency?

Phantom equity is both equity and not equity. It offers the benefits of company stock without actually issuing any. Known also as “phantom stock” or “virtual shares”, they offer deferred compensation in line with company performance much like actual stock would. And much like actual stock, this equity will vest over time and according to an agreed schedule. However, unlike actual stock, phantom equity never offers the opportunity to exercise a voting right; they are financial-only. This means holders of phantom equity don’t sit on the cap table, carry no liability and, as such, pose practically no added legal requirements or costs to get set up as phantom stockholders.

Should I Take Advantage of Phantom Equity When Selling My Agency? 

If you are considering selling your agency and you’re an owner who is looking to stay on long-term, phantom equity makes perfect sense. Phantom equity ensures that a founder – or any other essential team member for that matter – stays on, stays committed and stays a part of the continued growth story even after a sale and post-sale transition period have been completed. Offering phantom stock in the business post-transaction offers an objective guarantee, aligning buyer and seller incentives for continued success. 

After all, human capital is the key component to the business that was just acquired. Keeping the engine room of an agency firing on all cylinders means binding that human capital to the agency’s continuing journey down the growth path. Especially when the agency is a smaller business – approximately 15 people or fewer – the value of each team member tends to be magnified. Binding essential team members to the long-run success can be a sure-fire win-win.  

When Does it Make Sense to Avoid Phantom Equity? 

If you are looking at selling your agency but do not plan to stick around for the long haul once your agency has been sold, then phantom equity may not be for you. Even a full year of commitment post-sale is not in alignment with the purpose and likely vesting schedule of phantom equity. Generally speaking, it takes a minimum of a three-year commitment for phantom equity to really begin to pay off.

In addition, if a buyer only wants to incentivize team members that stick around for an agreed minimum period that extends beyond the start of the vesting schedule, they may want to consider a cash bonus plan instead. The reason here is that these are generally forfeited altogether when an employee leaves whereas the vested phantom equity could mean having to pay out somebody who left sooner than a buyer might have liked. 

The Bottom Line

The initial post-sale transition period of, on average, 90 days is tied into every deal. What happens beyond that is down to the interests and alignment of seller and buyer. If the interest is there for a seller to stay on board long-term and keep reaping the benefits of an agency’s ongoing growth story, the direct path to participating in the profits to come, is phantom equity. 

 


Flexibilty Is Key When Selling Your Digital Agency

Selling Your Digital Agency?  Why an Owner’s Flexibility is Key to Sealing a Deal

When you are selling your digital agency, negotiating the sale will take time. That time will require more than just patiently waiting on the sidelines. It will require a back and forth that will see most owners giving way at some point, be it with regards to the selling price, payout terms, or the time it takes to complete a deal. Staying focused on the goal of completing the deal – rather than staying focused on a timeline or a price tag – will help ensure a successful transaction.  

Your Transaction Doesn’t Live in a Silo

As promising as the performance metrics on the books may look, the growth trajectory of your agency is taking place in a complex environment comprised of many players. There will always be a market reality outside of your agency. And a buyer scanning the market will be well aware of this reality. It’s important to show you understand this in practical terms by adjusting deal terms and pricing in line with what the market suggests is feasible.

Your Agency Has More Than One Type of Buyer

While you may have your mindset on a specific type of buyer, market shifts mean that not only are price and deal terms a dynamic part of the equation, but the buyer type continues to evolve as well. Larger agencies looking to acquire your client portfolio may have been a classic buyer type in the past, but they are far from the only one nowadays. 

Solopreneurs, in particular, have reshuffled the deck. These high-net-worth experts are sitting at a corporate job or a large agency and are looking to apply their know-how and their network to scaling something they don’t have to build from the ground up. Keep an open mind as to who will be steering the ship following your departure and you will be sure to up your shot at getting the deal done. 

One Step at a Time When Selling Your Digital Agency

Flexibility won’t go far if you can’t apply a healthy dose of patience to the selling your digital agency process. Keep a leveled head as negotiations inch forward and continue to be calm post-transaction as well. Staying flexible with respect to how long you will be needed after the date of a transaction will help ensure smooth sailings beyond the moment of signing. Putting in the bare minimum of just 30 days to cash out fast is never recommended. A 90-day minimum that is ideally extended into the range of 6-12 months is optimal to make sure all parties’ best interests have been served. 

One Step at a Time

An agency sale is not complete on the occasion of signing the deal. It’s important to understand what happens in the run-up and the post-sale and what sort of attitude can help all involved feel like they’ve hit a home run. Just like a solid workout demands a warm-up and a cool-down, no transaction is complete without buyer scoping, due diligence and transition period in the stages before and after a sale. And just like that workout, your sale will fall into place one step at a time. Staying flexible along the way means that you will be prepared for what the process will inevitably throw at you – and ensure sure that you’ll be there to answer the door when opportunity knocks.   


Does Your Agency Offer What A Buyer Wants?

Did someone say, “seller’s market”? Yes, indeed, we did. Now, does that mean your agency is automatically at the top of every potential buyer’s list? Unfortunately, not. Or, “thankfully not”, is what we ought to be saying since making the right kind of match happen is where long-term success rests. In other words, long-term success is about making sure that you don’t even begin the buyer-seller dance with buyers who aren’t suited for your offering. So, how can you make sure that there is an alignment of offer and potential buyer, how can you improve your digital agency value, and finally, does your agency offer what a buyer wants? 

The Buyer’s Wishlist

We’ve put together a list of key items that will entice just about any agency buyer, and that an agency owner can consider as transactional glue on their way to seal the deal. 

Retainers over projects: Retainers spell income visibility. Projects, while potentially lucrative in the short term, also spell potential volatility. To keep them coming in, the required sales effort and associated costs add to the challenge of making a dependency on projects look like an attractive prospect. Of course, a mix of both is not in and of itself unattractive, but keep the balance solidly tilted on the retainer side. Pay special attention, all you SEO and PPC agencies, as this speaks directly to your business model.   

Year-on-year growth: This isn’t Silicon Valley, and your agency is not a SaaS startup. Agency buyers are not the VC types looking for triple-digit percentages growth. Steady does it – because steady growth means managed growth. It means your growth was not part of a fad or a fluke. And it means that your growth is not only sustainable but responsible. Growth is not an isolated metric; it’s tied to everything from hiring and overheads to your value proposition and your sales cycle. When all these things are in line, your year-on-year growth will be a sign of stability, skill and success.

Sustainable margins: In line with this kind of well-managed growth, come sustainable and reasonable margins. Reasonable because repeatable. No buyer wants one-off success. Buyers are looking for structured businesses, not side gigs. That means functioning operations and an engine room that keeps churning out an EBITDA of 20-35% – with some margin for crisis-based deviation.  

Processes over relationships: Processes mean success is business-owned and won’t leave the business as an owner takes their final bow. Success that is tied up in specific relationships, is not transferable – and not repeatable. Think of it this way: can a new owner, with the same skills as the current one, continue to scale your agency? That’s your litmus test right there. 

Challenge Yourself to a Pre-Mortem and Improve Your Digital Agency Value

There are plenty of buyers available on the market right now, so that won’t be where the failure to sell your agency lies, so challenge yourself to this pre-mortem scenario: it’s 6 months from today and you weren’t successful in finding a buyer in spite of actively trying to sell your agency. What did you do wrong? Turn our buyer’s wish list into your seller’s checklist to improve your digital agency value and make sure your agency’s offering is aligned with what buyers are after. 


Six Ways A Business Broker Can Help You Sell Your Agency

Are you preparing to sell your marketing agency or PR firm and considering hiring a business broker or M&A advisor? If you have never put a business on the market before, your head will likely be ringing with questions like the following:

  • How does the sales process work?
  • How do I value my agency?
  • How do I identify my ideal buyer?
  • How do I get the word out about the sale?
  • What will it cost me to sell my business?

Once these questions start falling in your mind like rain, you’ll hear a great crack of thunder as a final question strikes you like a bolt of lightning:

“Do I even need a business broker? Why not just take this to market myself?”

Before you decide to put your business up “For Sale by Owner,” you should be clear on the expertise – and dare we say value – a broker brings to the table. After all the work you’ve done to build a business that’s worth selling, you owe it to yourself to make an informed decision.

That’s what this article will do: provide the information you need to decide for yourself. So let’s go for broke (pun gleefully intended) and dive into just what it is that business brokers do.

Valuation

If there’s one thing you should know about valuation, it’s never to take it at face value. There are many paths to determine the market value of your business before you put it up for sale. But not all of them are worth their salt.

Let’s say you’re a service-based business, such as an agency. In that case, a valuation based on the value of your physical assets makes zero sense. Other methods that rely on fuzzy factors such as goodwill can also steer you down the garden path.

The truth is, a business’s value may differ depending on context and the needs and preferences of buyer and seller.

So how do you climb out of the subjectivity hole and get a meaningful valuation? For starters, you can have a chat with an expert on business valuation – your friendly neighborhood business broker.

He or she will likely combine a variety of valuation methods, each of which is weighted and prioritized according to your market, industry, business model, and financials. At Barney, for example, we consider 14 different factors, starting with your year-over-year earnings.

Sound like higher mathematics? It’s really more a cocktail of experience and good sense. However your broker shakes the tumbler, the result will be far more accurate than a valuation based on a single method only.

Do not underestimate the power of accuracy. A listing price that reflects the true value of your business drastically increases your chance of getting a desirable offer from a buyer.

Confidentiality

Do you know the saying “discretion is the better part of valor?”

Actually, the saying is “valor is the better part of discretion.” But let’s leave our Shakespeare at the door and just point out what every business broker knows: discretion is the key to a sweet deal.

If you are selling your business independently, maintaining confidentiality can be challenging. You will face many temptations, from spilling the beans to an employee whose career prospects are dear to you, to being loose-lipped with a vendor, who may leak word of the sale to a competitor.

Pitfalls and pratfalls like this can destroy a deal before it’s sealed.

A business broker knows the value of discretion and the meaning of the word “mum.” He or she will keep your sale strictly confidential and ensure that information is released on a schedule rather than a lark.

Marketing

Selling your business on your own has its attraction. You can take all the credit if the sale goes well, and you get to keep all the money.

However, you might not have factored in the marketing costs and resources that a successful business sale requires.

From email campaigns to direct mailing, online advertising, social media marketing and word of mouth, the marketing muscle you will need to flex to receive your desired asking price can be massive. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself feeling the burn.

This is where a broker can be a lifesaver. A seasoned business broker has access to networks of buyers and databases beyond your wildest dreams.

Tapping into a broker’s marketing capabilities can save you time, energy, and money. It can also help you reach your ideal buyer. That means a better deal and a better night’s sleep.

Negotiation

Is negotiating with lawyers your idea of fun? Then by all means, go it alone when selling your business.

However, if you prefer to outsource legal wrangling to those who know the rules and regulations and can handle smooth-talking attorneys, a business broker is the way to go.

That’s right – we said attorneys. Often you’ll be dealing with more than one. A business broker knows the ropes and won’t get rattled when the buyer’s and seller’s attorneys go head to head.

Another legal area in which a business broker can make your life easier is lease negotiation. If a buyer needs a new lease for your business location and you botch the discussion with the landlord, the deal could fall apart.

In such cases, having a broker handle the negotiation can give you a new lease on life (yes, we own that pun, too).

Financing

Speaking of puns, you can bank on a business broker to have solid banking contacts. If your buyer needs financing to purchase your business, using the wrong lender can cost you months and imperil the sale.

Brokers are well versed in which lending sources to tap for which transaction and spend their careers building reliable contacts in the world of finance.

You may be great at financing a business. But this knowledge won’t always apply to your buyer’s situation. A broker will know exactly who to call – and how to make, not break, the deal at hand.

Emotional Support

Last but not least, taking a business to market is an emotional roller coaster ride. There’s more at stake here than when you’re selling your tamagotchi collection (and that’s saying something).

When emotions get high – be it during legal haggling or at the closing table, a business broker can provide perspective, empathy, and support. Whatever issue you encounter, your broker has been there before and can guide you through the haze.

That can’t just get you to a sale. It can keep you out of the looney bin.

That’s a Wrap!

Now that you know what a business broker does, you should have a good grasp of the advantages of working with one. We’re happy to offer more reasons – or to help you sell your business. So don’t be a stranger, hear? Connect with us 🙂


Buying An Agency: Which Type Is Right for You?

So you’re buying an agency … congratulations! Marketing agencies (especially digital agencies) have never been in greater demand, and your chances of success are high – especially if you acquire an agency with a strong reputation and healthy customer base.

If you have never owned a business before or are new to the agency world, you might be wondering which type of agency to target. The sector is dynamic and constantly changing (perhaps this what attracted you to it in the first place).

This article will provide you with an overview of the types of digital agencies you have to choose from. Just as importantly, it will recommend some actionable steps for figuring out which of these categories is the ideal fit for you – whether you’re purchasing a business for the first time, or already own a successful business and want to add another to your portfolio.

Zooming In: Types of Digital Agencies by Service

There are many types of agencies, from service- oriented and vertically integrated to pure marketing SaaS and many more.

Before we walk you through some practical tips for deciding which business to buy, let’s examine three categories of digital agency and the potential upsides of purchasing them.

The industry is exploding with ideas and growing exponentially, so we won’t attempt a comprehensive categorization. But the following are well established, distinct subtypes with high product-market fit and thriving demand.

Sounds like a good place to start, right?

SEO Agency

The SEO (search engine optimization) agency is one of the largest digital marketing agency subset. This type of agency has defied the odds to thrive in a changing marketplace.

The fact that we probably don’t need to tell you what an SEO agency does is solid proof of how firmly the concept of SEO has taken root in the public consciousness.

Buying an SEO agency has its advantages: the process of constantly making and testing changes to the design of clients’ websites means recurring business in addition to high average monthly income.

Another plus for those with existing companies: owning a business whose business is helping other businesses’ visibility has the opposite effect of making your company invisible.

Social Media Marketing Agency

Can you say “viral?” Social media marketing firms are a bit like the SEO agencies attractive younger siblings – though they now have target audiences in every age demographic.

As you can guess, these agencies market their clients – and often themselves – on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram. TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Reddit. Most of them also use blogging and offer some degree of influencer marketing.

Growth is baked into the business model of this type of agency. If you buy one that is good at upselling new platforms to its clients (see TikTok above), you might even be able to scale your services.

As with SEO agencies, social media marketing agencies are useful investments for buyers who already own a business and want to get more visibility for it.

Lastly, as the name indicates, these agencies are social animals. Establishing and nurturing strong relationships with their clients and their clients’ clients is what they do best. This makes for excellent client retention, which in turn means healthy recurring monthly revenue.

PPC/Inbound Agency

This last type of digital marketing agency we’ll cover is a different kind of beast, but a very friendly one. The name of the game for PPC/inbound agencies is inbound marketing focused on generating ROI (return on investment). Once considered avant garde, in 2020 these agencies are growing like bananas from Chiquita.

The companies they serve demand results and these agencies specialize in it. The most successful and desirable ones to purchase have built incredible efficiencies through API’s of great software or even built their own SaaS to close the gap on demand and results.

Knowledge of current clients, client retention rate, and retainer revenue vs. project revenue are uber important when comparing agencies for sale of this type. Do they churn and burn or nail it nearly every time?

Inbound agencies are terrific investments for both beginning and experienced buyers. These businesses tend to be scalable, and as such can provide revenue and growth for years to come.

Buying an Agency for First-Time Buyers

Are you a first-time buyer? Every buyer is different and brings his or her own passions, skills, experience, location, and financial standing to the negotiating table.

Your first step in answering this question should therefore be to consider all of these unique factors and make sure that a digital agency is a good match for them. Hint: the more flexible and creative you are, the better!

Step two is to drill down to find the right type of digital agency. Try browsing agency sales listings and filtering for agency type, price, revenue, net income, and age. This will give you a feel for the market and provide a springboard for a conversation with a broker or M&A Advisor.

Agency Purchase for Seasoned Business Owners

If you already own a business, you probably already know what kinds of businesses are compatible with you. But what about the various types of agencies? This is where it gets more complicated.

To start with, you should determine what type of agency would combine well with your existing business. Think in terms of synergies. Which agencies will enable you to up-sell services from your current company, and vice versa?

If you have already narrowed down your search to specific companies, compare each ones’ employees and ask yourself: which complements or augments the capabilities and personalities of those who are already on my payroll?

Browse our businesses for sale to get ideas for how to grow your business through buying another company. It could be a geographical expansion or an expansion of products or services offered. Weighing all of these factors will guide you towards the perfect business purchase.

If your budget allows, consider our buy-side acquisition services. Our clients hire us to uncover direct-to-founder opportunities for acquisition and manage deals from start to finish. If you’re looking to buy a marketing agency, we can help you.

That’s a Wrap!

To sum up: digital marketing agencies come in numerous shapes and sizes. The tips in this article will help you identify which one is the perfect purchase for your needs as a business buyer.

Once you’ve done so, it’s time to talk to us. We’re here to help you succeed! It’s why We Are Barney.


Sell Your Agency By Shifting Your Mindset


If you're trying to sell your agency, you’ve met them by now: those potential buyers who have dollar signs for eyes, calculators for hearts, and bank vaults for souls.

You’re not the judgmental type. You’re out to get the most value for your company and you’ll give the highest bidder the benefit of the doubt. But this type of prospect rubs you the wrong way.

Read more


Selling Your Business: It Pays To Know The Buyer You Want

Entrepreneurs often spend years building their businesses and, when it comes time to sell, they naturally want to sell for the best price, whether to retire or simply to cash out and move onto something new. However, sellers often focus solely on the financial components of an offer and overlook some of the most important factors in determining if a buyer is the right fit. When selling your business it pays to know the buyer you want!

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When Selling Your Business, It Pays To Know The Buyer You Want

 

Selling Your Business: Know Your Buyers

Buyers fall into four categories — strategic, financial, internal and solo entrepreneurs — and each type of buyer approaches buying a business like yours with a totally different goal in mind.

1 – Strategic Buyers

Strategic buyers often want a company that fits with their own, perhaps because of complementary products or to advance their geographic or vertical expansion. Often times these buyers are competing companies who place a premium on things like market share and brand recognition. Strategic buyers generally don’t value your current management team or employee base as much, since their team will most likely assume day-to-day operations. When evaluating businesses to purchase, strategic buyers like to see growing profits and the potential for even more in the future.

2 – Financial Buyers

Financial buyers are often times private-equity investors who want to grow earnings or merge companies to capture savings. These buyers almost always have the goal of selling the business for a higher price in three to five years and aggressively pursue their agendas to maximize their investment return as quickly as possible. Financial buyers want free cash flow and growing revenue and are often times less concerned about profits since they view themselves as experts in squeezing the maximum from operations. Unlike strategic buyers who don’t place any value on your current management team, financial buyers favor a strong team that can execute on their vision. If the seller wants to cash out but would like to remain at the company for a few more years, a financial buyer would make the most sense.

3 – Internal Buyers

An internal buyer, often management teams or second-generation family members, are people who work at the company and often times share the owner’s vision and want to build upon it. These buyers are unlikely to pay the highest price, but they will almost always commit to preserving the culture or core ethos of the company. Internal buyers generally want to see strong financials and a solid balance sheet, as well as a good corporate culture and a diverse offering of products and services.

4 – Solo Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur buyer is generally a single person who is purchasing their first business or is looking to add a business to their modest investment portfolio. In most cases, solo entrepreneurs plan on being involved heavily in the day-to-day operations of the business and will most likely not plan on “flipping” the business in a few years. Entrepreneurs vary greatly in what they look for in a business and often require the most hand-holding during the business transition. For some sellers, the heavy involvement during the transition period can be a deal-breaker, but on the other hand, solo-entrepreneurs often pay top dollar for businesses because they are more emotional and personal purchasers than the other buyer types.

Identifying Your Goals As The Seller

Each seller has different goals in exiting, ranging from their transition commitment after the sale to maximizing price or maintaining the company legacy – and this is where the matchmaking is critical. Remember, when selling your business it pays to know the buyer you want, and this starts with identifying your own goals.

A seller who has a primary goal of finding someone who will operate the company in the same manner and protect the current employees may favor a deal with an internal buyer or the right solo entrepreneur. A seller that’s retiring and wants the highest sale price should position the business to be most appealing to strategic, financial or certain solo entrepreneur buyers. When it comes time to sell a business, knowing the right buyer type ahead of time can make the sales process quicker and more streamlined.

Once a seller has defined his or her needs, it becomes easier to make an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the business through the lens of what that buyer-type values. After all is said and done, it’s important that no matter the buyer type, the seller feels confident that the buyer will be able to maintain or grow the company once they are no longer involved. Using a business broker who understands the type of buyers that suit your business and personal needs best will ensure you get what you’re looking for in an exit and can also save a significant amount of time in weeding out buyers that won’t fit.


Buying A Business: Where To Find Financing For A Business

If you’re considering buying a business in the near future, it’s a good idea to understand the different financing options that exist. Buying a business is most likely one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make, it is imperative to have qualified professionals guide you through the process. A knowledgeable business broker can guide you through the options and help you choose the method of financing that is right for your particular situation.

1 – SBA:

Put simply, an SBA loan is a small business loan that is partially guaranteed by the government (the Small Business Administration), which eliminates some of the risk for the financial institution who is issuing the loan.

You read that right – it’s not the SBA who is doing the lending. The SBA works with a network of approved financial institutions (typically, traditional banks) that lend money to small businesses. SBA loans can be valued from $500 to $5 million, opening SBA financing options to a wide range of businesses. Because the SBA partially guarantees the loans that these lenders extend to small businesses, lenders extend funding more frequently and with better terms than without the SBA backing.

When going through the qualification process, SBA backed lenders will take a close look at the business in question, as they will want to make sure you can repay the loan and still continue to operate the business.

Financing A Business In Today's Market

SBA lenders will also look for a buyer with strong experience, 10-20% down as a cash downpayment and a solid credit score (over 680). Buyers are required to personally guarantee the loan and they may have to provide additional security in the form of assets they own.

SBA loans to buy a business have a guarantee fee, typically starting at 3% of the loan amount, and lenders may charge packaging fees of up to $2,500. There may also be other fees associated with an SBA loan to buy an existing business, such as application fees, third-party closing costs, or prepayment fees.

The upside on utilizing a SBA loan is that it is cheap money for the buyer (as compared to other options for financing a business). It also allows a buyer to purchase a business that may have seemed out-of-reach without significant financing. On the other-hand, in order to secure a SBA loan, a buyer may have to pledge a significant portion of their personal assets in addition to providing a personal guarantee.

Sellers also benefit from a SBA loan, as they will usually get of the purchase price upfront in cash (at least 80%).

When financing a business, it’s always a good idea to talk to multiple SBA lenders, as some banks prefer certain types of businesses over others.

 

2 – 401K/Retirement Plan Rollover:

A Rollover For Business Startups, commonly referred to as a ROBS, helps you access your retirement savings for financing a business purchase without paying taxes or early withdrawal fees – making it a great way to fund all or a portion of the purchase price.

A major upside – the speed. In a Rollover For Business Startups, the funds are generally available in two to three weeks, which is 4 times as fast as traditional bank financing. Another major positive, you’re tapping into your own money, not taking our a loan, so there is no debt and there are no future payments required by a lender.

how to finance a business

In simple terms, you transfer your retirement account to a service company (very much like a 1031 exchange intermediary). They will act as your trustee and purchase shares of your new company.

By doing this, you can access your retirement account without having to take a taxable distribution. You can also mix this capital with other sources of funds.

The upside in this case is the buyer is completely in control of his or her funds and enters the business with little to no debt. The downside of this type of financing is that in the event the business fails, the buyer may loose her or her retirement funds.

It’s also important to note that there are a lot of rules associated with this type of funding, so it is imperative to involve a professional business broker during this type of funding.

 

3 – Traditional Bank Financing:

Securing funding for buying a business from a bank is very similar to SBA financing, but without the backing of the Small Business Administration. Banks like to see buyers with a strong background and an adequate down payment – usually 10-20% of the purchase price.

 

4 – AR Funding:

Existing businesses use AR funding to help alleviate cash-flow concerns or to help keep up with rapid growth. When funding a business, AR funding can be helpful in bridging the gap between the sellers expectations and the buyers available cash as well as provide the buyer with operating capital they may need to operate the business when they take over.

A 3rd party company will purchase some of the receivables (usually 60% or less) and charge a daily fee until they are paid. The cost of this type of financing is high; however, these are usually very short terms loans so depending on the cash needs of the parties, A/R funding is a good way to receive funds in as little as four to five days.

 

5 – Seller Financing:

Seller financing happens when the owner you’re buying your business from agrees to finance part or all of the purchase price. Sellers open to seller financing will typically finance 15% to 60% of the purchase price of the business they’re selling. This can help borrowers with less than prime credit profiles gain access to affordable financing they may be unable to get otherwise.

how to finance a business

Over the past few years, seller financing has become a key element in financing a business, especially in businesses that have some level of riskiness (rapid growth, short time in business, etc). Seller financing also sends a strong message to the buyer that the seller is confident in the continued success of the business.

There is a lot of upside to this type of financing for both parties. Businesses that utilize seller financing typically close faster than those that use a more traditional bank or SBA backed loan. The seller essentially acts as the bank, so they get to make the decision with regards on who they will finance, how much they will accept, the interest rate, and the term. The seller is in the first position, so if the buyer defaults, they can take the business back quickly, without delay from another lender and get it back on track if necessary. In addition, seller financing may offer a tax benefit to the seller since they can defer some of the tax due on the business until full payment is received.

 

6 – Earn Outs:

Earn-out financing involves a certain dollar amount or percentage agreed on by the buyer and seller to be paid to the seller based on the performance of the company after a set amount of time has past after the ownership transition is complete. Earn-outs can be structured in a variety of ways and can be based on different financial benchmarks such as company’s revenues, gross profits or net income.

Earn-out financing is often used by companies that are in a turnaround situation, when buyers are purchasing on potential, rather than historical cash flow or when purchasing a business that is considered risky. Earn-outs are tricky and can carry risk for both parties. It is essential to have earn-outs written properly and that both parties throughly understand the terms of the earn-out.

Buying a business is most likely one of the most expensive and important purchase you will ever make, it is imperative to have qualified professionals guide you through the process. A knowledgeable business broker can guide you through the options and help you choose the method of financing that is right for your particular situation.


17 Tips For Selling a PR Agency For Top Dollars

Tips For Selling A PR Agency For Top Dollars

Selling a PR Agency For The Best Price

You founded your PR firm, took the time to grow it, and now are reaping its benefits, but the time will eventually come for you to sell it. Maybe you’re at the top and are ready to strike while the iron is hot, or maybe you’re ready to join forces with a larger agency. Regardless, there are a few things you should do while you’re embarking upon the exit process. These tips for selling a PR agency will help you get top dollar for your firm.

1 – Streamline, Organize & Document Everything

Before selling a PR agency, take some time to streamline your systems to reduce waste, organize the company’s technology assets (like a CRM) and optimize your organizational and personnel structure. Think about your firm as if you were out of the picture…would it survive? If not, what can you do to make sure the walls don’t crumble if you’re gone? If you don’t already have thorough documentation of the ins and outs of your firm’s processes for key areas of the business, this is the right time to get those in place. Sophisticated buyers willing to pay top dollar for your PR firm will want to see a well-oiled machine that has proven systems and processes implemented company-wide.

2 – Make Your Biz Dev Process A Well-Oiled Machine

Business development is a really big deal to buyers! Given that most PR firms don’t have a lot (or any) collateral assets, a lot of the “secret sauce” lies in the way the firm gets new business. Do whatever you can to systemize this process, ideally in a way that doesn’t center around you. Even if you’re looking for a strategic buyer that will keep you on board for several years post transaction, buyer still want to see a clear business development process that operates without the founder leading the charge.

3 – Get Better Contracts

PR firms with long-standing, foil proof contracts sell for a significantly higher multiple than those that are project based. Often times, PR firms or agencies specializing in corporate communications have retainers in place with their clients (good!) but they have a simple 30-day out clause. Buyers like to see strong contracts that can be transferred over to the buying entity at close.

4 – Get Your Financials In Order

You need to have an accurate picture of your financials in order to sell your PR firm for the best price. Seems obvious right? In order to convince a buyer your firm is the right purchase for them, you need to know exactly what is coming in and out each month. Now is the time to take your mother-in-law off payroll and remove your business credit card from your Amazon account. For larger agencies, try to put non-revenue producing line-items (like labor for R&D) as a standalone line item on your P&L so buyers can easily add these back into their financial calculations.

5 – Find A Quality M&A Advisor To Sell Your PR Firm

Many buyers of PR firms are going to be large marketing agencies looking to acquire a strategic bolt-on that specializes in corporate communications. These buyers will understand the cross-sell opportunities available to them on day 1 and will appreciate the holistic approach to client services that PR firms generally undertake. Using an advisor who understands this dynamic is crucial. This could be the difference between selling your PR Firm for the best price and not. A quality advisor who understands your niche and industry (this is key) will be able to give you an accurate valuation, produce professionally designed marketing materials and most importantly, tap into their network of ready-to-go buyers. A great advisor will be worth their weight in gold at the end of this process and will absolutely help you sell your digital agency for the best price. If you need to connect with us, you can do that here.

6 – Figure Out What Your PR Firm Is Worth

Now that you have a clear understanding of where your company stands financially, it’s time to give it a valuation. A PR firm is only worth what the market is willing to pay for it, but there are some tried and true factors that go into a successful valuation. The firm’s revenue & profits, operational structure, years in business, supporting technology, growth opportunities and the current buyer pool are just a few of the factors that go into determining a valuation of a business. This is where it gets a bit tricky, and a good advisor is going to have unparalleled knowledge to price your PR firm just right to sell. (We can help, schedule an intro call here).

7 – Build Relationships With Seasoned Buyers (Or Hire Someone Who Already Has Them)

Unsurprising news flash – existing relationships with a pool of seasoned buyers is still the absolute best way to sell your PR firm for the best price.

If you’re using a business broker or M&A advisor, make sure to ask about their existing relationships with buyers in the marketing and agency space. They should have solid, and long-standing relationships with seasoned entrepreneurs and strategic buyers who are always on the lookout for their next opportunity. At Barney, over 80% of the Public Relations firms we sell get sold to an existing buyer in our database. We can’t stress this enough – these relationships are crucial!

In Conclusion…

If you decide to start and eventually sell an agency, there are things you can (and should) do to help prepare your agency for an exit. We can act as a resource along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions! Connect with us when you’re ready!