Selling a Business or Buying a Business? Trust the #1 VR M&A Office

Buying a Business Exit Strategy - Selling a Business Selling a Business Successful Business Sales 

Lakes Business Group in Wisconsin, the Top Producing VR Office in 2019

Every year the annual VR Awards presentation is at their annual conference in Florida in early April.  Because of our national crisis and quarantine the event was cancelled, so today the awards were announced.  We are thrilled to report that, again, our office is the #1 Internationally Ranked VR Office for 2019!

Lakes Business Group has the best team in the field of sales, acquisitions, and valuations of middle market privately held businesses.  Our office is honored to receive this award for the sixth consecutive year.  It is with the leading of Tim Bullard and partner, Mark Smith, both former business owners who know first-hand the challenges that face a privately held business.  Since starting the business in 2008, this award winning team was built.

Joe Braier was recognized by winning the VR Mergers & Acquisitions Award.  This prestigious honor is based on the largest transaction in VR during the calendar year and combined mid-market leadership by an individual.  Joe has been a top advisor to companies locally, nationally, and internationally.  He has been recognized over 30 times through the VR Victory Awards program, making him one of the most decorated individuals in the VR organization.  His reputation for transparency, diligence, and negotiation skills are attributes that help lead the team at VR Lakes Business Group.

JoAnn Lombardi, President of VR Mergers & Acquisitions, stated,  “We could be no prouder than to present Joe Braier with the VR M&A Award. We have observed him grow to one of the leaders in the VR organization, always willing to help and assist others when asked. He is part of a team in Wisconsin that helps drive VR’s growth in the midmarket. Congratulations to Joe for all his hard work and dedication.”

The top ten producers were announced and as you can see why our office received the #1 ranked office as we have 5 of the top 10 VR Associates in 2019.  Congratulations to Joe Braier, Mark Smith, Michael Szmanda, Andrew Schmelzer and Larry Heck for this award!

VR Hall of Fame Inductee, Tim Bullard, Business Advisor, M&A

Tim Bullard - M&A AdivsorTim Bullard, CEO and President, is recognized for helping with the VR organization through his commitment, expertise and willing assistance by being inducted into the VR Hall of Fame.   In the VR organization, Tim is one of only two people to have been twice honored as the VR Most Valuable Intermediary of the year and is now in the Hall of Fame.  “Today we honor Tim and induct him in the VR Hall of Fame. His body of work inside the VR organization is without reproach. He has built a reputation for assisting clients, members of his local team, and those across the VR network. We look forward too many more years of working together, and enjoying a good laugh along the way”, stated Peter C. King, CEO of VR Business Brokers / Mergers & Acquisitions.

When you are looking to sell your business or acquire an add-on or become a business owner, look no further than Lakes Business Group, #1 Business Advisors.  Contact us through our website or call 262-347-2083

Three Reasons to Sell Your Business Right Now

Exit Strategy - Selling a Business Selling a Business 

Maybe you haven’t thought about selling your business anytime soon, but industry buzz—as it sometimes does—is sparking your curiosity. It’s true that both business and industry-related trends are creating a market that’s conducive to buying and selling right now and below we’re uncovering three big reasons you might want to consider listing right now.

It’s a hot seller’s market right now.

Nearly 80 percent of business owners are headed for retirement, which is likely the largest generational shift in history. Meanwhile, other business owners are using this market to merge with other companies to spur growth. More inventory is creating and driving demand.

Funding is accessible.

Capital is ready and available as lenders are more willing to provide funding given the current economic conditions. There’s a variety of loan types and lenders to choose from depending on scope and business need.

Buyer confidence is high.

With accessible capital, a pool of more businesses to buy, and more professionals shifting to the entrepreneur lifestyle, it’s the perfect storm in a booming seller’s market as buyers are actively shopping and simply waiting for the right time and opportunity.

Market conditions and several other dynamics play a role in determining the right time to sell a business. Ensuring your business, above anything else, is in a position of financial strength is of utmost importance.

Ultimately, whether or not now is the right time to put your business on the market will depend on the specific performance of your company. If you’re considering selling, we can help you with a business valuation and a no-strings attached conversation to learn about the selling process.

Key Partners involved in a Business Transaction

Buying a Business Due Diligence Selling a Business 

Unknown to many buyers and sellers—especially first-timers—is the number of parties involved in the overall buy / sell transaction. The key partners involved in a business transaction certainly differ depending on how complex or easy the deal—so we’ve started by outlining roles involved in “traditional” deals.


A typical buyer profile might include individuals like first-time buyers, companies interested in merging, and / or private equity groups actively seeking acquisition opportunities.


Retirement, boredom, new opportunities or relocation are just a few of the reasons former business owners decide to list their businesses for sale. Some sellers might be focused on urgency and selling quickly while others’ interests lie in finding the right ownership style or cultural fit.

Business Broker

A business broker acts as the liaison between the buyer and seller, as well as the other partners part of the overall business transaction. He or she facilitates and coordinates deliverables across the partners in order to reach the finish line (a sale).


Accountants play a critical role in helping sellers’ produce accurate and up-to-date financials as part of the due diligence process. Buyers also might rely on his or her accountant to cross-check profitability and other key data and numbers that might indicate a business’ value (or lack thereof).


Should a buyer decide to purchase a business with a loan, buyers will select a bank to partner with—whether conventional, SBA or another loan option.  The loan process should become part of the transaction timeline as there’s oftentimes several steps required in getting approved, which impacts the overall deal.


Buyers and sellers obtain their own, personal attorneys for protection—to ensure both parties understand all of the ins and outs of the agreement.

 Life Insurance Broker

When there’s high financial stakes, buyers will be required to ensure life insurance will cover the cost of the business in the event of unfortunate circumstances such as illness or death.

  Appraisers & Environmental Groups

When real estate is involved, especially in the instance a bank supports the loan, appraisers and environmental groups likely get involved to appraise (and therefore, approve) the value of a property, while also making sure there’s no faulty issues or concerns that might impact the price of the business (and therefore, loan approval). Gas stations are often subject to environmental groups’ arduous checklist, as one example.

Curious as to how the transaction process typically works? Our broker team is always available to answer your questions. Reach out to Tim Bullard and we’ll connect you with an experienced broker.

Managing Your Business While it’s for Sale

Selling a Business 

There are three types of sellers.

Seller one puts his business up for sale and ensures his company maintains the status quo in every way—from day-to-day operations to management to sales.

Seller two focuses on continuing to grow the business and increasing profits.

Seller three is so consumed with the sale of his business, he loses sight of running it. He’s losing business and employees, as a result.

Always be seller one.
Strive to be seller two.
Never be seller three.

Not losing sight of the end goal—a closed deal—should be the seller’s number one priority. As it can be an emotional process, we advise business owners to run and manage their business as if nothing has changed, including when an offer is on the table.

Let’s walk through a few key ways you can guide the process, in order to control the results you’re after:

Keep it confidential.

We can’t stress enough the importance of keeping the news of your sale under wraps until it’s officially sold. Sharing this information too soon—whether it’s employees, customers or vendor partners—will only spark fear, disruption and other negative reactions—that could harm your business.

Keep running the business.

You’re making a promise to the next potential buyer that your business is what you say it is. You’ll play a role in maintaining your business’ integrity by keeping operations running as smoothly as possibly. Don’t use this time to make drastic changes or decisions before a new owner takes over.

Keep growing the business.

Selling your business can be a waiting game. Instead of focusing on the process, why not invest your time and energy in increasing your profits until the right deal comes along? Showing additional growth after you’ve listed your business only further showcases your company’s potential.

It’s a better return for you in the long-run, after all.

Looking for more tips on the best ways to sell your business?  Call our experienced team at Lakes Business Group.

Beyond Price in a Business Deal

Exit Strategy - Selling a Business Selling a Business 

Axial had an article that rings true with our experiences working with business owners and those looking to own. Being on either side of a transaction can be an emotional roller coaster. When a buyer finds a good business opportunity, many times it is the connection with the owner that is the ‘closer’ for the deal and same with the seller.

A recent post on Axial quoted the sellers when finding the right buyers: “We looked at a lot of companies and we got into deep discussions with a few, but it was very clear early on that we were going to put a deal together with Rayser. They were just good people,” says Kelly. Price was a consideration, but not the most important one. “Jamie and I had friends who had sold businesses before, who told us, ‘Just take the best offer and walk away.’ But that’s not who we are. We live in a community of 1,100 people, and we wanted our business and employees to stay here.”

Most business owners have either started the business or have grown the business and want to it succeed, so the right buyer is key.  Our database has hundreds of vetted buyers looking for the right fit.  The Lakes Business Group team is ready to help you, the business owner, get the right price for the business and find the right buyer to build on the business you’ve grown.   

Past Clients’ Testimonials

Our team’s commitment to the successful sale of your business is shown in some of our former clients’ comments:   One owner stated:  ‘Just a note to tell you how much we appreciate your dedication to make a successful sale for our business. Your knowledge, experience and support were invaluable and helped to to make important decisions. How fortunate we were to have you as our partners in the transaction.‘    Another owner wrote: ‘VR Lakes did an outstanding job of developing and marketing the Business Profile. This piece was the core tool for securing buyer interest that lead to many showings. Mark listened to my concerns regarding prospective buyers and eventually found us a great buyer who was a good fit, at an acceptable price. For me this was the key factor in securing the deal. The overall process and closing went very smoothly’.    Check our testimonial page to view these and other comments from clients. 



#1 Business Sales for 2018

Selling a Business Successful Business Sales 

The annual International VR Conference was held the end of April. Three of our team members were able to attend and receive their individual awards and the #1 VR Office Award.

For the fifth year in a row, the Lakes Business Group VR Office was number 1 in sales. We have maintained our ranking with the leadership we have and the team that has been assembled over the years.

Showing how special the team of people we have in the Lakes Business Group office, six of our team members were in the top ten sales representatives for 2018. They are:

# 1 Andy Schmelzer
# 2 Joe Braier
# 3 Larry Heck
# 4 Michael Szmanda
# 8 Mark Smith
#10 Tim Bullard

Below are three of our sales reps receiving their awards. From left to right: Joe Braier, Andy Schmelzer and Mark Smith.

Transitioning after Selling your Business

Exit Strategy - Selling a Business lifestyle Selling a Business Successful Business Sales 
Our team at Lakes Business Group has helped hundreds of business owners through the process of selling their business.  It’s a big change for most of the business owners we work with, many have been contemplating it for a while and have future plans and others have just decided it’s time to move on.

Regardless of the reason, when a business owner decides to exit the business, the process can be an emotional time. Part of the transition is communicating with your employees and the emotions and stress that they may feel during the transition period.  Also, you and the new owner assessing how to tell the customers, suppliers and any other key people associated with the business.

From feelings of relief and excitement to disturbed, anger and concern about the future of the business as well as your future without the business as part of your life.   It is okay to take the time to mourn this loss.  You now have the time to slow down and consider the next step.

The article in tells of an owner who sold her company to pursue a dream of living abroad which gave her new perspectives. passport for travel overseas

“When I sold my company to Caliber Corporate Advisors, I spent two months pursuing my dream of raising my children overseas by living in Nicaragua and Costa Rica,” says Joy Schoffler, Founder of a FinTech focused PR firm, Leverage PR. “It was really amazing getting the time to read, paddle board, and just be.”

“Now that I am home and back in the swing of things, I am looking at everything in a new light. In addition to continuing to serve as a senior advisor at Leverage PR and on AARP’s and SXSW’s Accelerator advisory boards, I have gotten a chance to serve as an advisor to companies I’ve had a passion for over the years: Wealth Migrate and The Experience Firm. Having the time and energy to dedicate to companies I believe in is a really cool part of this phase,” adds Schoffler.


Need for an Exit Strategy

Of course there is always a percentage of business owners who regret their decision after it is sold.  If you are contemplating and exit strategy in the next 5 or so years, begin your plan now rather than waiting.  Planning now reduces the risk of regretting the sale.  If you need help in a future exit plan, reach out to our team of business advisors who can help with information that can help.

Selling your Business – Starting the Process

Exit Strategy - Selling a Business Selling a Business 
One of the hand-outs our sales reps may provide before meeting or at the first meeting with a business owner is a 20 step sales process outline.   Below are these steps condensed into 15 steps process to sell your business.

1- Initial Meeting:   In the first meeting you’ll be introduced to our company and how we can help with the value of your business.  During this meeting, the sales rep may ask to review your business tax returns, company financials, any sales or marketing materials and any other relevant information that may help explain your business in more detail.  After this initial meeting, a decision will be made whether to move forward at this time.

2- Recast Financial Statements & Market Value Analysis:  Our Lakes Business Group  (LBG)

sales rep recasts or normalizes your financial statement to reflect non-reoccurring expenses and prepares a market value analysis.  If the decision has been made to obtain a third-party business valuation,  the sales rep will prepare the business outline and coordinate with the Valuation Analyst.  Our goal is to get the most value for the business.

3-Proposal:  LBG sales rep will present and explain the recast financial statements and the market value analysis.  Once a comfort level has been established and both sides feel that LBG is a great fit to work in the seller’s best interest, the sale rep will provide a proposal regarding the cost of services.

4-Documentation:  You, the seller, will provide the LBG sales rep with the necessary documents and data required to sell you business.  LBG prepares a business profile based on the information you have provided. Details are not released to any prospective buyers without the execution of a non-disclosure agreement to protect  the confidentiality of your business.

5-Advertising and Marketing:  Lakes Business Group team takes control of the advertising and marketing for the sale of your business, which results in the highest possible response and the greatest number of prospects.  Your business will be advertised on our website, as well as numerous other websites featuring ‘businesses for sale’.  Our office is associated with VR, an international professional business broker organization, so the business is also featured on the VR website.   Besides online advertising, we send letters to other businesses who may be looking for an acquisition, as well as marketing to our database of over 20,000 vetted buyers looking for a business to purchase.

6-Buyer Qualification: As mentioned in #4, all prospective buyers must sign a non-disclosure agreement before reviewing your business profile.  We also vet the financial capability prior to introducing prospective buyer to you, the seller.  In our business, we’ve seen it may take 39 interested buyers to find one qualified buyer for your business.

7-Business Presentation: After the buyer is financially qualified and the LBG sales rep has talked with them and feel there is a good fit for your business, a conference call or meeting is scheduled with you, the seller, and prospective buyer.  A showing of the business may be scheduled at the same time.

8-Offer to Purchase and Presenting the Offer:  We encourage the buyer to write a fair and equitable offer with an amount of earnest money to be paid up front.  Presenting the offer to purchase includes an explanation of the terms and conditions, any contingencies and background information on the buyer.

9-Offer Acceptance or Counter Offer: You may accept the offer as it is written, or with the help of your LBG sales rep create a counter offer or reject the offer entirely.

10-Mutual Acceptance: When all parties agree to the terms and conditions of the sale, and sign all counter offers and amendments, the offer becomes a  Purchase Agreement.

11- Assist with Financing: LBG has numerous financial resources including lenders who specialize in business loans. With our assistance you and the buyer can determine which financing will work best for both parties which will end in a successful transaction.

12- Due Diligence:  Almost all offers are contingent upon the buyer’s inspections and approval of all facets of the business operation including financial records.  The coordination due diligence process is a crucial step in a  successful sale.  LBG will keep a spreadsheet of the items needed and completion dates to keep both the seller and buyer on task.

13-Note and Lien, Search, Clearance or Assumption:  If there are existing loans, liens or equipment leases that the buyer is to assume, LBG can help with transferring those obligations.  All liens must either be cleared or transferred to the new buyer, if part of the contract.

14-Inventory: Arrangements are made for the seller and buyer to count and price the inventory if it applies to the business that is being sold. If the inventory is large or complex, it may be necessary to outsource to an inventory service.

successful business closing15-Closing:  After signing the final closing documents the business is transferred and the funds are distributed.  Congratulations!  you have sold your business!

Eight Reasons to Hire a Business Broker when Selling Your Business

Exit Strategy - Selling a Business Selling a Business 
Below are some of the benefits of using a business broker.

  1.  Maintain Confidentiality:  At Lakes Business Group, we protect the identity of our clients.  All our prospective buyers sign a confidentiality agreement before seeing a business profile.   Some of our clients ask us to run the buyer’s names by them so they can approve before disclosing the business profile.
  2. Determine the best selling price: Every business is different, with many variables that have an impact on the value.  Our team has access to databases that can be used as reference points as well as the experience of ten years plus in business valuation and selling businesses.  Being a ‘third party’, we can see the business from a buyers’ perspective.
  3. Marketing: Because all we do is business acquisitions, we know where and how to market for your company’s business.   A business broker will know what to highlight in your business to find the right buyer.  Our team will create the business profile for your business.  Usually a full business profile is only for those who have signed a confidentiality agreement.  We also prepare a ‘teaser’ sheet that is more generic for marketing your business without giving confidential information.
  4. The business owner can continue to run the business.  An owner’s lack of attention to running the business can cause business performance to suffer.
  5. Qualify and Screen Buyers: Lakes Business Group has been doing this for over 10 years and have a database of over 20,000 vetted buyers.  We’ll introduce the buyer candidates to the sellers after they have been vetted.
  6. Mediate and negotiate with buyers and help the buyer to obtain financing.
  7. Receive purchase offers to present and help evaluate them to the sellers.
  8. Manage the Due Diligence Process:  When the business is under agreement, the business brokerbuyer will want a thorough due diligence of the financial and legal aspects of the business.

2018 – Right Time to Sell your Business?

Exit Strategy - Selling a Business Selling a Business 
Optimism for small & medium business owners is strong. According to a National Federation of Independent Business survey released last week, business optimism is reaching an all time high. sell your business This is the highest since 1983; small business optimism has not been this high since the Reagan economy.

Because of the strong business climate,  2018 may be the right time to sell your business. When you do plan to sell, here are some ways you can help in the process:

  • Be Friendly and cooperative: When the buyer asks for information, provide it to them in a timely manner. This helps with building trust and gives the impression that you have nothing to hide.
  • Communicate openly and honestly: Most transactions are closed in a timely manner when trust and good chemistry exist between the Buyer and Seller. This is built through honest, open communication.
  • Avoid being defensive: Buyers may ask personal questions, but rarely are they intended to serve any purpose other than gathering needed information for a Buyer to make a decision.
  • Help the Buyer see himself/herself as the new Owner: Let the Buyer know they are capable of successfully managing this business.
  • Make your Business a Showplace: First impressions count! A Buyer may draw conclusions about product quality and the organization of the business based on the appearance of the facility.
  • Be candid and optimistic about growth opportunity: A Buyer will look at the business from the perspective of managing and improving it. Help the buyer understand the opportunities and allow them to see the upside potential.
  • Make Yourself available: Once a buyer has been identified and qualified, plan meetings when you will be available and not have a threat of having to cancel or being interrupted. This is critical as the due diligence process begins.
  • Keep Financial Records Current: When a Buyer has to wait weeks for the Seller’s accountant to prepare financial statements, the enthusiasm to move forward is usually lost. When you decide to sell is the time you should notify your advisers of your intentions and explain that you will require their services in a timely manner.
  • Understand the Emotional Roller Coaster: There is no way to avoid the emotions you will experience as you go through the due diligence and sale process. You have poured yourself into this business the past number of years and you need to keep reminding yourself the reason for selling. The Buyer will also experience emotions as he/she goes through the process.
  • Create a team of professional advisers: Have a team of qualified transaction-oriented professionals who understand that your goal is to sell the business in a timely manner. Bring them into confidence early in the process so there are no surprises.
  • Continue to focus on your business:    It is easy to let the enthusiasm about the sale distract you from running your business.   It’s important that you continue to focus on “business as usual” so that the business remains healthy and vibrant during this critical time. A Buyer wants a business that has been well managed right up to the sale. Do not postpone or ignore critical decisions.

These points are taken from an article written by Adam Petricoff from the VR Office in Charlotte, NC.