Recently, I have seen several companies wanting to sell who have not invested in any new equipment for several years. Most blamed the downturn in sales due to the recession and also questioned why should they incur any new debt if they wanted to retire or sell?
While, I do not generally recommend that a retiring owner borrow money, I do believe that you have the run the business as though you will never sell it. Keep in mind that in a sale you normally keep the difference between what you sell it for plus what you get when you liquidate your balance sheet.
By upgrading certain equipment, your company could increase their sales and profits. A business that shows well and has up to date equipment is much more desirable and should command a higher sales price and being sold on better terms.
Even in a tuck-in, buyers will be attracted to buy the newer equipment. Keep in mind that many times part of the deal will include the buyer assuming the debt or payments on the new equipment. Even if they don’t want the equipment, new equipment is easier to sell. There is a glut of old equipment either on the market or stored in the back rooms of printers today. Buyers do not want a 15 or 20 year old press – it’s not worth even moving.
What equipment is desirable to a buyer? Answer – anything that makes the deal more strategic. For example, mailing, wide format, packaging or signage equipment is very desirable for a buyer who is not heavily in providing those products and services.
Recently, I have seen many commercial printers looking to acquire a company who has good digital printing, mailing or wide format capabilities. It’s quicker and less costly to buy someone already proficient in those services versus starting from scratch plus less risky as you will have revenue from day one.
You just might find that by investing $25,000 in new equipment, you may be able to sell your business for $50,000 more.
A difficult economy means that your customers are taking longer to decide if they want to spend money with your printing company. This “wait and see” game may go on for months, perhaps years. In the meantime, your business has its own objectives to meet, and bills to pay. Reducing expenses can only take an organization so far to profitability.
Realize that you are engaged in the race of business development. Take the time now to consider these thoughts for taking your printing company to a higher level of success in every aspect of your sales and marketing efforts.
First ask and answer the question “what business am I really in?” Am I a quick printer? Digital printer? Commercial printer? Graphics company? Communications company? It sounds so simple, but is it really? Over the course of the last few years, entire markets have appeared and grown, others disappeared. Your customer base has likely changed, if not in size, perhaps in scope. Take time to think about the past, your present and the future. What needs do you address? What problems do you solve for your customers?
Secondly rethink your competitive advantage related to your core business. Do you have a competitive advantage? Are there breakthrough opportunities on the horizon? Do you have the resources to successfully communicate your unique selling position? What is it that you do better than anyone else?
Related to the second thought, determine exactly who your best customer is. Is this a customer of the past, present or future? Whom do you want to be doing business with? What is it about this type of customer that makes them desirable? Write down those characteristics because this exercise will define your ideal customer, the one that will move you towards your business goals.
Very few individuals in business have ever taken the time to write a business plan, a document that allows them to think through their entire business, the competitive external environment and in the end, requires them to develop a course of action that will move them forward. Develop a One Page Business Plan that can be used as a communication tool to everyone in the company.
Lastly analyze your source of past business and determine what tools were employed to gain those customers. In short, the rule states “determine what marketing works best for you then do it better each day.” Time is money, and money is tight, so stick with what works.
1. Determine a Realistic Price Range — If you price your business too high, you’ll scare away buyers. If you price it too low, you’ll risk selling at a bargain basement discount. Your goal is to figure out a range that’s realistic. Get a valuation done as that can be used to help market your company.
2. Understand the Tax Consequences — Taxes can take a huge bite out of the money you receive for your business. You’ll need help from a CPA or other tax expert.
3. Prepare for a Sale — The getting-ready process, of course, includes sprucing up your business premises — everything should be attractive and orderly. But more important is getting your numbers in good shape. Consider recasting your tax-return numbers for prospective buyers. This involves, for example, adding back to your profits discretionary expenses.
4. Seek Potential Buyers — Finding buyers may not be easy. Usually you’ll need to reach out to a big pool of potential buyers. The more interest you get, the better offer you will get. You may want to engage a consultant or broker to reach more buyers.
5. Negotiate The Deal — Once you attract an interested buyer, you need to work out the terms of the sale. The key issues are whether you want the whole business or some of the assets? How will you be paid? What are the terms of payment? Will you continue with the business as an employee or independent contractor? Will you have to sign a non-compete? If the deal is an installment sale or earn-out, how will the buyer guarantee or collateralize the payments? Of course, you need to have professionals help advise you through this process.
6. Sign a Sales Agreement — Once you’ve worked out the key terms with the buyer, you need to put the deal in writing. The deal should be written by a professional and reviewed by a business lawyer to make sure you’ve covered all the bases.
7. Plan for the Closing — The closing is the meeting at which you transfer the business to the buyer. To reduce the chance of last-minute hassles, make a checklist of all the papers you’ll be bringing and all that the buyer is expected to bring.
There is no question that our quick print or small commercial printing businesses are changing. The way we manufacture is changing as the shift from offset to digital continues possibly at an increasing rate. Client buying patterns, the products they buy and the services that they rely on us has also changed dramatically.
Everyone is looking to see where the new sales opportunities lie. When I owned my printing business, we grew substantially by adding new services and products – some of these services or products were ones we subcontracted out and then decided to bring in house. Examples were typesetting, mailing, signs and process color printing. Others were brand new services like faxing (keep in mind that I started in this business in 1978), color copying and wide format printing.
The best area to grow your print shop today is in signage. Many if not most printers have already added wide format printing in house. They use it for proofing, printing posters and banners. Wide format has added some revenue but the real opportunity is being able to produce and sell the full gamut of sign products and services.
The sign industry is experiencing double digit growth. Why is this happening? Primarily due to the low cost methods available today to produce a large variety of custom signage that has allowed businesses and organizations to display their brand on almost everything.
The sign industry today is reminiscent of what the quick printing industry was like in the 1980’s. Sign shops are now everywhere in visible locations. Some printers have added signage but still a very small percentage. Signage is one graphic related service that will continue to grow as most clients do not have the ability to produce their own signage and due to the size and weight of most signs they need to buy these products from a local source.