Business financing options are important whether you’re ready to buy a business you’ve been part of for years or want to acquire a competitor to expand your market share. Buying an existing company is often a smart move. You’re able to build on the branding, products, and customer base that the company has established, while improving operations through your own ideas and efforts. Financing the purchase of an existing business may be more complex than starting a new company, but a number of options are available to you. Here are five steps to help you navigate the world of business financing options.

Work with a business broker

Start your process by establishing a relationship with a business broker. According to Inc. Magazine, the best brokers will be members of the International Business Brokers Association and hold the Certified Business Intermediary (CBI) designation, or be members of the M&A Source with the M&AMI designation. Experienced brokers can help you manage the buying process from identifying the right business to securing funding. Brokers have wide networks within the financial world, and the experience to help you find the option that’s right for you. If the broker you’re working with represents the business seller, it’s important to consider that and make sure you have adequate representation.

Know your valuation and do your due diligence

Your broker will help you manage the valuation process. Plan to get second opinions from your attorney and CPA. Ensure that you understand how the business is being valued. For example, the Cash Flow Method looks at future cash flow to see what kind of loan the business can support. The Tangible Assets Method values a business based on its assets on the balance sheet. Different methods are acceptable and appropriate for diverse business models, but should be supported by your own due diligence. Most businesses are valued as a multiple of earnings (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA). Review at least three years of financial records, tax returns, contracts and leases, customer data, marketing materials, HR information, and any other facts you can gather.

Consider owner-financed purchases

According to the International Business Brokers Association, seller financing is becoming more common than other methods. Seller financing is an alternative to commercial bank or small business loans. Typically, the seller holds a note on the sale of a business for a period of up to ten years. Smaller monthly payments are generally arranged and one or more balloon payments pay off the majority of the debt. Seller financing demonstrates that a seller is invested in helping the new owner succeed. This can be very persuasive to banks when a buyer needs multiple funding sources to complete a deal. A business broker can help negotiate and structure an owner financed deal.

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