The In-Depth Guide To Selling Your eCommerce Business

After building a successful eCommerce business, you can look back and see the massive amount of time and money it has taken you to get to this point — the point where you are generating profits and enjoying more free time.

However, after building a successful business, many entrepreneurs feel like there’s always something more, encounter a situation in their personal lives that requires a quick cash influx, or have gotten burned out from the incredible amount of work they’ve gone through.

When that happens, it may be time to sell the business you’ve built.

Whether you’re looking to focus on a new, bigger project, you want to put out fires in your personal life, or you need the time (and money) to step back and figure out what your next move is, selling an established eCommerce business can be incredibly profitable for you.

To make a profitable exit, and get the most value from the sale, you’re going to need to step out of your entrepreneur shoes and step into an investor’s shoes, since they’re the people who are going to dictate how much money you’re going to get out of the deal.

Figuring out a baseline value for your store is the first step, and can be one of the hardest things you’ll do — outside of mentally preparing yourself for letting go of your business.

At the end of the day, no two businesses are exactly alike and there is a wide range of variables that go into figuring out how much your specific business is worth.

That means figuring out what investors may be willing to pay for your business can be difficult to do.

At Digital Exits, we’ve made it our sole mission to understand what investors are looking for when they’re ready to buy and how business owners can implement those factors into their business.

To help you wrap your head around the entire process, you need to understand one critical point. The reason investors are willing to buy your business is because that business will generate an income for them. Nothing more, nothing less.

Those investors want to turn a profit, and the first question they’re going to ask themselves when they’re thinking about buying the business is “how long is it going to take me to earn my investment back?”

In order to get the highest sale price possible, you’re going to need to look at the business like an investor will look at the business, and then address the areas of concern that investors are going to be digging into in order to knock your sale price down.

You can start by answering the following questions:

What do your annual sales numbers look like?

This is going to be the biggest factor that determines how much your store is worth. Some investors will look at your average yearly sales over the past 3 years, while others are going to look at the last 12 months.

The key here is to show stability and have sales numbers that are easy for your investor to verify. If the numbers can’t be easily verified, your investor will assume that you’re hiding something and then think that you’re hiding other things, causing the deal to fall flat.

How much profit is generated from those sales, annually?

Your annual net profits is the meat and potatoes of your store. While having a high sales volume is attractive for most investors, if your profit margins are slim or near non-existent, it’s going to be hard to get an investor to move forward with the deal.

Before you start listing the business for sale, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve increased your profit margins as much as possible, either by negotiating better terms with your suppliers or by cutting expenses. Then, give those new changes time to stabilize.

Is your store currently growing?

Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to sell their business when the traffic and sales have begun to decline. This usually happens because they are burned out and can no longer give the business the attention it deserves.

While some investors still may be interested in buying the business based on past performance, you’ll need to go into the process expecting to validate why the business is declining, and accept a lower valuation as a result.

Investors want to see growth, or problems that can easily be fixed that will result in growth down the line.

How are you driving new sales?

Are you currently running different promotions to drive new sales to your store? Have you tapped into influencers in the past that are still sending sales to your store? Or are you running paid advertising campaigns?

The methods you’re using to generate sales will affect what the store is worth to an investor. The more work they have to do to maintain the sales volume you’ve established, the less they’re going to be willing to offer to buy the business.

This is even more true if your sales have begun to decline and you don’t have plans in place for recovering the lost sales volume.

Can you sustain the new growth?

If you are driving new sales to the store, do you have the capacity to handle those sales? Do you have the inventory and shipping solutions needed to handle a new influx of customers? Do you have the support channels in place to handle problems as they come up?

With the new sales that you’re driving, can the increase be sustained on its own? Or will your investor need to put in more time and money to maintain the growth?

Answering this question and having plans in place to not only handle the new growth, but to sustain that growth into the future, your business is going to be more attractive, and worth more money to an investor.

How are you acquiring customers?

Which channels are you using to acquire new customers? Can your investor take over those sales channels after they buy the business from you? Do you have systems in place to maintain a relationship with those customers that your investor can take over?

Bringing in new customers is only a single part of the bigger equation. How you’re fulfilling those customer orders, providing service to those customers, and making sure you can bring them back to your store again and again are other areas investors will look at.

How much are you spending to acquire customers?

Paid advertising is a huge marketing channel for eCommerce stores, but one that cuts into your monthly net profits — which investors use to determine your store’s true value.

You’re going to want to have detailed statistics about the traffic you’re buying, how much you’re spending, where that traffic is coming from, where it is going, and, most importantly, how it converts into a new customer when it lands on your store.

Be prepared to turn this information over, and make it easy for your investor to verify.

How are you positioned in the market?

Your competition and how you’re able to stand up against them is another area that your investors are going to be looking into. That means you need to examine how you’re positioned in your market and be able to back up your claims during the negotiation process.

Identify who your competition is, what they’re doing well, and where they are weak. Then look at your own business and figure out your own strengths and weaknesses.

Play on your strengths during the negotiation process, but be honest about your weaknesses. Go a step further and develop strategies to overcome your weaknesses, if you want to ensure you’re prepared for the questions your investor will ask.

Is your business relatively automated?

It’s already been mentioned, but this question is important enough to mention again — how automated is your business, and how much work is your investor going to have to put in to sustain the business that you’ve built once they take it over?

Investors aren’t looking to create a new job for themselves, especially if that job is going to cost them high 6-figures or into the 7-figure range.

If there are certain parts of the business that you have to be actively involved in, you’re going to want to look into outsourcing those parts of the business. Likewise, if there’s something you’re doing that can be handled by an automated service, it’s worth investing in that service.

Your investors will appreciate a relatively hands-off business.

Do you have systems and processes in place?

This is similar to automating parts of the business that you’re able to automate. Rather than completely automating certain aspects, though, it may be worth your time to document the process and put systems in place that make it easy for your investor to outsource.

Remember, the ultimate goal for your investor is going to be to take over a business that they do not have to be actively involved in, or are able outsource the tasks that they don’t want to do to other people.

Part of being able to outsource certain tasks means understanding how to do, and how to train, the people coming in to handle those tasks. That’s where documentation and processes make their life easy, and make it easy to outsource what they need to.

Once you have unlocked the answers to each of those questions, you can begin placing a value on your business.

To get a general idea, you’re going to want to look at how much other businesses have sold for, and compare your own model to their model, finding strengths and weaknesses.

For the most part, an eCommerce store that doesn’t have significant issues with their model is going to sell for around 2.51 times the yearly net profits.

This means that if your eCommerce store is generating $89,000 in profits per year, you could apply the 2.51 multiple to the profits to find a final value of $223,390. This is a starting point in the negotiation process between you and your investor.

To help you navigate the negotiation process, there are a few things you’re going to need to do.

● Ensure that you have all the necessary paperwork. Your numbers need to be honest and accurate, because these are the numbers your investors will use to validate your asking price.

● Make sure you have systems and processes in place. Ensuring that the business is running efficiently after you leave is a huge selling point that you can use during negotiations.

● Make your products and services different. Setting yourself apart from the competition and ensuring that the business isn’t a commodity that can be easily replaced is critical if you’re asking for a higher valuation.

● Work with a professional broker. If you have never bought or sold a business before, you could easily get worked over during the negotiation process. Brokers help you keep your own interests protected and can get your offer in front of more investors than you can on your own.

● Clean up the business. If there are problems that you’re aware of, take the time to fix those problems and then let enough time pass for those problems to stabilize. If you notice problems, your investors will, too, and will use those issues to lower your asking price.

You can see from what I’ve laid out here that selling a profitable eCommerce business isn’t necessarily a black and white affair. There is a lot of intricacies that goes into finding the real-world value of a business.

However, if you answer the questions given here, and address any areas of concern in your business, getting the maximum asking price from selling your eCommerce store becomes a reality instead of a distant dream.

This Is How You Prepare Your Home For Winter

Some people live for the summer and the warm weather it brings. Others cannot wait until the weather starts to cool in fall. Regardless of how you feel about it, the weather will soon start to get cold. Winter really is coming.

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That means you need to do a little work now to prepare your home for the cooler months. Doing so can save you money on heating, but it can also make sure you don’t have expensive and annoying repairs come spring. You should start by looking at the outside of your home.

Preparing The Outside Of Your Home

In any season, leaky roofs or doors are a problem. You pay good money to control the temperature of your home, and these gaps make it more expensive. That’s why neamb.com recommends taking a look at your roof. Any shingles that are loose can easily come off with a big snowfall. Along the same lines, check your doors and windows for drafts. If there are any, use silicone caulk outside to seal them up.

Because the weather will get seriously cold in winter, you also need to prepare your outside faucets. Start by removing garden hoses and storing them for spring. Then check the faucets themselves. Look into the spout for a metal stem. If you see one, your faucets are likely frost-free and don’t need anything. If there is no stem, you should shut off the water completely to the outside or install a sillcock with an integral vacuum breaker.

Closing Down Your Pool

Speaking of water, you have some extra work to do if you own a pool. Whether it’s above ground or not, you will need to winterize the pool so you can protect it. A treated pool is much less likely to give you problems next summer when you just want to get in the water.

In The Swim has an excellent page of winterizing kits for your pool, including:
● Winter “pills” that have a mix of enzymes and clarifiers to keep the water clear through winter.
● Covers for the whole pool and pumps to remove excess water from the top of the cover as the snow melts.
● Solar blankets that also act as covers.
● Patch kits for covers that develop small holes due to the weather.

What To Do Inside Your Home

Now that you’ve taken care of the outside and the pool, you need to look inside your home. Popular Mechanics has a great list of interior winterizing tips, such as:
● Changing your furnace filters so your heated air is clean.
● Turn any ceiling fans to reverse. (This pushes rising hot air back down to your level.)
● Consider installing storm doors and storm windows, as these can increase your energy efficiency for more comfort and lower costs.
● Hire a certified HVAC maintenance crew to make sure your furnace is working correctly.

If you have two homes and are leaving your summer residence, you should read this checklist from Travelers about preparing your home. Not only should you make sure your home is free of drafts and has a maintained furnace, you also need to drain your water pipes so they don’t freeze while you’re away.

Winterize Now To Save Time & Energy

The thing about fall and winter is that they can be here before you realize it. That’s why it’s so important to start preparing your house for cooler weather while it’s still warm. Check the outside of your house for problems with your roof, windows, and water system. Winterize your pool if you have one, then do some maintenance on the inside. This can go a long way to making sure you’re warm this winter.

Tips to overcome financial problems and difficulties

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We have all been there. Financial woes and challenges happen to everyone at some point, and the stress and worry can be overwhelming. The most common financial problems and difficulties are:

Cash Flow
Economic Cycles
Funding
Unforeseen expenses
Poor financial management

Lets look at each in turn.

Cash Flow.

Keeping track of what money is coming in and going out of your business is essential. Remember, profit isn’t the same as cash flow. Your business may generate a large profit margin and you may experience strong growth, but if your money is all tied up in stock you may not be able to pay your suppliers.

Send out invoices promptly and be quick to chase overdue bills. Set out clear payment terms with suppliers. Get to know your customer payment dates and don’t ignore irregularities or delays — a poor paying customer might be about to go bust.

Efficient stock management. This is just as important as managing cash flow. Regularly reconcile your stock records. An efficiently managed stock control system will have a positive impact on your cash flow because you will never be holding too much stock, or have all your money tied up in it.

Stay on good terms with your lenders and keep them informed of any unforeseen outgoings or changes in forecasts. By developing a good relationship, based on trust, with banks and lenders, they’ll be more likely to treat you favourably should your business need future financial assistance.

Economic Cycles

Planning for cycles is largely a matter of recognizing that they exist. This may mean not assuming that the current good times will go on forever.

Plan for tougher times by limiting the costs you add to your business. In particular, be wary of paying higher recurring expenses such as rent.

Entrepreneurs tend to take on unnecessary expenses when times are
good, but this can sink you if a recession strikes. Look out for overly lavish expense accounts, over-reliance on high-priced professional advisors, products that don’t carry their weight, and even marginal customers you’d be better off without. Trimming these costs when times are good will help your profits now and may make the difference between success and failure when the cycle turns the other way.

Also think twice before adding expenses that may be hard to cut, or even cost more to cut than they do to keep. Chief among these costs is people. It can be emotionally as well as financially painful to lay off workers in the event of an economic downturn. And the costs for severance pay, unemployment insurance, outplacement and retraining may also be steep.

Remember: Even if your income statement and balance sheet are strong now, you have to practice cost containment to be ready for the next recession.

finance

Funding

Firstly I need to point out that “The best finance is no finance” however few of us have the luxury of no Finance.

Bank Loans
Normally this is the first place the young entrepreneur thinks of. Since the Financial Crisis in 2008, Banks lending standards have got a whole lot tougher. However some Banks have set aside funds for Small Business Lending. It is always worth contacting them, and compare their Terms and Conditions with other forms of finance.

Equity Funding
Is the process of raising capital through the sale of shares in an enterprise? It can be anything from a few thousand pounds from Mum and Dad to billions from giant “initial public offerings”. The concept is the same. You give up a part of your company in return for cash. Giving up part of your company may be a big ask but being too possessive can kill an idea before it has taken off.

Venture Capital
Is a type of private equity, provided by firms or funds to small, early-stage emerging firms that are deemed to have high growth potential in return for Equity or a stake in the ownership?

Friends and relatives
Can be a controversial method. Always consider that you are risking their financial future and jeopardizing important personal relationships. Offer up a strong business plan. This will show them that you are taking their money seriously, and always make them aware that they could lose everything!

Angel Funding
Or seed investor, is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start up, usually in exchange for convertible dept or ownership equity.

Crowd Funding
Is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. Debt-based crowd funding, also known as peer to peer “P2P” is where borrowers apply on line, generally for free, and their application is reviewed and verified by an automated system. Investors buy securities in a fund that makes the loans to individual borrowers. Investors make money from interest on the unsecured loan, the system operators make money from taking a percentage of the loan and a loan servicing fee.

In the years that I have grown my own business www.zzap.com I have learnt that in order to attract other peoples hard earned cash make sure you can tick each of these boxes:

1.Be an expert in your product and the market you are attempting to enter.
2.Don’t just follow the latest Fad. You need to show passion for the idea \ product, rather than just jumping on a bandwagon.
3.Keep the investors up to date. This is often overlooked.
4.Add experience. Surround yourself with people you trust who can fill in the gaps. No one knows it all.

There are many ways to raise capital but they all come at a price. Taking calculated risks is part of being a businessman. Be truthful with yourself, do your homework, know your market. Before anyone will invest in you they have to be convinced that you are a good bet. You will only convince them if you truly believe in yourself. You may be interested in my article “Learn your own way. The most underrated key to success.

Unforeseen expenses

Office Space
Before renting office space or purchasing property, think about how much space you need now and what you’ll need once your business starts to grow. Does your business require more than a home office can provide? Will temporary office space work?

Equipment & Maintenance
Don’t buy the latest model if you don’t need it. Remember to include basic office equipment in your budget, items like computers, copier, paper, scanner, desks and chairs. Use second-hand and discount sites such as eBay, Freecycle, Gumtree and surplus sales.

Employee benefits
Provide perks. It’s more cost-effective to retain good employees than recruit new ones. These perks don’t have to be pricey; benefits such as flexible schedules, telecommuting and casual dress codes can do a lot to boost retention.

Insurance
At a minimum, you need both employer liability and public liability coverage. It’s also a good idea to carry insurance for negligence, property, illnesses and injuries.
Negotiate with your insurance providers. Periodically review your coverage to see if it still meets your business needs. Talk to your provider and other insurers to get the best rates and best coverage.

Poor Financial management

Specialists can save you money and time. Legal professionals can untangle red tape and advise on legal challenges. Accounting specialists can translate tax codes, help maintain accurate payment and inventory records, and find grants to help fund your endeavours. Although expensive they can make that all important difference.

In conclusion

If you want to run a successful business then there are times when you will take calculated risks. This can lead to success or ruin. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You must realise that there is almost always a way out, and before you sink into deep depression you must explore every avenue. I hope I have shown you how to overcome some of financial problems and difficulties and hopefully ease your stress. One size does not fit all. But, by taking a positive approach there is every chance you will succeed.

How to Take the Stress Out of Tax Time

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As a business owner, the last thing you need are more tasks on your to do list. And yet, that’s exactly what tax time presents because as we all know “doing your taxes” isn’t just one task, it’s a bunch of little tasks that add up to a huge pain. If you’re a small business owner, a piece of you is probably already starting to dread that impending April 15th deadline. But here’s some good news: While eliminating all of your tax time stress probably isn’t possible, it is possible to mitigate some of it. Here are a few tips:

Start early. All the little tasks required for preparing your taxes aren’t going to get any easier or any fewer in number the longer you procrastinate. If you know you’re going to have to go on a search and find mission to gather all the paperwork you need, then start now. If your records are well kept via your own filing system or with the help of accounting software, go ahead and make sure you can easily find everything you’re going to need to turn over to your tax preparer. Starting early, when there’s no need to rush, will keep your stress to a minimum and reduce the chances of making a costly mistake.

Make the most of helpful tech.As an employer, there are a lot of tax forms you have to deal with for each of your employees. From W-2s to 1099s, filling out and managing all these forms can be a real headache. Thankfully, there is extremely helpful W-2 software available today to help you manage all these forms. In addition to making filing your employee information easier, much of the available software updates automatically in order to account for new tax requirements, such as the Affordable Care Act Tax Provision.

Hire a trusted tax professional.Filing your taxes is a tedious and unforgiving business. Even if you’re a math whiz interpreting the many forms you’ll need to fill out can be a challenge if you aren’t well-trained in tax prep. There is certainly no shame in hiring a professional to prepare your taxes for you. To find the right person for your business, ask some of your fellow business owners who they use, check out Yelp reviews, and always interview potential candidates. When you know you can trust and rely on your tax preparer, tax time becomes a little easier.

Set aside some time for relaxation.Tax time doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Sure, you might have a to spend a couple extra hours in your office here and there to make sure you’re all set for April 15th, but be sure to offset it with some “you” time. Get a massage. Go for a jog. Have a little dance party for one in your office. Regardless of the activity, do something you love to put tax time out of your mind for a bit.

Yes, tax time is stressful, but when you take the right steps early in the process, you can do a lot to reduce your stress load. April 15th may seem far away now, but it will be here before you know it. Start taking steps to get ready today so that you can be less stressed down the line.

Features of Online Invoicing Software that are Lifesavers for Your Business

Sending out invoices and monitoring which have been paid is such a hassle. Not to mention, if you make a mistake or lose track of an invoice, your business loses money. Online invoicing software is the solution to this old business problem. It allows you to automate invoices entirely online, so you can say “goodbye” to the paperwork that gives you a headache. Here is an overview of the typical features and benefits you will enjoy in online invoicing software:

#1 Cost Reduction and Speedy Payments

Online invoicing software reduces business costs and speeds up payments. You save time and money by handling your invoices with this software because you don’t have to go through the hassle of creating and mailing the paperwork every month. No paperwork means less clutter in your office and fewer documents to shred. You don’t have to wait for customers to receive the mail and send payment either. Customers can immediately pay you online.

#2 Easier Tax Filing

Another great feature of online invoicing software is easier tax filing. The software automatically applies tax codes to invoiced items, making your life easier. Your accountant will be able to access this information easily as well. If there are any errors, your accountant has the ability to correct it within the software.

#3 Professional Templates that Reflect Your Branding

Many online invoicing software provide a variety of custom templates, so you can reflect your branding in invoices. This allows you to remain consistent and professional. You can also adjust the template for specific clients when necessary. For example, you may need to set credit limits for a particular customer. Or you may need to adjust it based on the client’s currency, region, or language.

#4 Notes and Reminders for Clients

Sometimes you need to jot down notes about a client in regard to payment. Doing this by hand takes more time and can become lost. Online invoicing software allows you to set notes and reminders for clients, which is more convenient than keeping track of it by hand or in another document. You’ll have all the necessary information conveniently located in one safe place online in the cloud.

#5 Multiple Ways of Getting Paid

You can accept a plethora of payment methods with online invoicing software, such as PayPal, bank transfers, and credit cards. With online invoicing software, customer payments are automatically logged for you, so that you save time and improve accuracy. You can quickly view which payments you’re waiting on with the software as well, which saves you the time of manually searching for a missing payment.

#6 Integration with Other Business Functions

Some online invoicing software provides integration with other business functions to further streamline your work. Which business functions are integrated varies from software to software. Choose the one that best suits your needs. For example, our online invoicing software offers project management and time tracking tools. If it makes sense for your business, then it may be the better choice in invoicing software for you.

Conclusion

Not having an efficient system in place for sending and managing invoices is a major reason some small businesses experience cash flow problems. Online invoicing software makes your life easier in many ways, including eliminating a good chunk of paperwork, improving organization of your invoices, and increasing the speed at which you are paid. You will have more time and money to spend on more interesting aspects of your business than invoicing. Our online invoicing software, CloudBooks, offers all of the above benefits to help you stay on top of your business’s earning and spending.

Contact us for more information on how CloudBooks can help your business save time and money while automating your invoices.