Helping potential sellers realize reality

I have a buyer’s agency contract with a local business man.  He’s interested in purchasing a large commercial building adjacent to his property so that he can open an “add on” to his business.

The building is about 3,000 square feet with a very large parking lot surrounding it.  It’s owned by an organization that, at one time, used most of that space and parking lot on a regular basis.   But times have changed.  The membership now has no need to come to that location anymore; technology keeps them in touch.  So, only the board members, who meet once a month, and the three regular staff people use the facility.  My client knows that at least two of the board members feel they should find a different, more “right-sized” location.  The property is not listed for sale.

I drafted an offer to purchase for my client – with a fair market price – and presented it to the group’s treasurer, who then presented it to the board of directors.  They turned it down for no other reason than “We’re happy where we are.”  Tradition and habit seem to be keeping them there, even though the cost of utilities and maintenance of an under-used building and parking lot would be enough for most people to look for something that makes more sense.

The treasurer is one of those who thinks they should sell, so I asked him if I could look for and suggest available office spaces that better fit their needs:  1. Close to major highways so their reps could reach the office more easily, 2. “Make sense”  square footage that matches office staff and storage needs, 3.  Equipped with updated lighting/utilities, more natural light, and a smaller parking lot, 4. Located in a retail area, so staff and visitors would have restaurants and stores to visit during lunch or after work (they currently are near nothing).

I found six “nearly perfect” office properties that will be included in a presentation at the organization’s next board meeting…along with some nice incentives offered by the potential buyer.   We’re hoping that the ideas we put in front of them will help them look at their current situation more realistically, and that they’ll see the benefits to downsizing for their organization.

Wish us luck!  We’ll be making the presentation in a couple weeks and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, if you want some “stand back” creative thinking done for your business, give me a call at 920-621-3990.  There’s no charge for a consultation.

Gary Van Sistine, Business Intermediary

The Marketing “Reach” of Social Media

A while back, I added a business page to my Facebook account.

I titled it:  Gary Van Sistine/Business Broker

It’s been fascinating for me, a former 25-year owner of an advertising agency, to watch how easy it is to send a message out in today’s tech world compared to how it was done in the past.  Here’s an example…

Recently, I created a post on the page with information about a restaurant/bar/banquet hall we have for sale and then “boosted” the post.  Boosting allows me to direct the post to targeted audiences who might have an interest in this type of business.  By listing words like “wedding planner,” “foodies,” “caterers,” “chefs,” “ballroom,” “restaurant,” “bar,” and “banquet,” I know that people getting the post have matched at least one of these key words.

I also chose regions where I felt our restaurant buyers might be found and included all areas within 50 miles of the property and also bigger cities like Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis.

During the one week boosted post, over 4,000 Facebook users saw it and over a dozen actually responded with likes, comments, and questions. These are called “post engagements.”  Many people shared it, showing that they were interested enough in the post to let others know about it.

While we didn’t get a sale…yet, social media attracted a whole new audience and good activity.  We all know that repetition in marketing is important to get a message heard, and I’ll be doing lots more boosted postings to get this listing in front of targeted audiences.

If you have a business you would like to sell, call me.  I’ll boost it for you! Gary Van Sistine, 920-621-3990

Reaching Out For Leads To Make A Sale

In Wisconsin, all licensed residential, commercial, and business sales people begin by completing the same course work to receive a Wisconsin real estate salesperson’s license.  By the end of every even-numbered year, each one of us must have completed required continuing education courses in order to keep our license current.

But beyond that, we often go our separate ways, focusing on the specialty we choose and the scope of our knowledge.  Those of us who become business intermediaries (assisting with the buying, selling, or merging of businesses) have to understand business valuations, balance sheets, inventory and machinery appraisals, private equity groups, and more.  With companies from $250,000 to five million and beyond, the process of selling a business generally takes a lot longer than a residential home sale, and our territory can be anywhere throughout the state.

Sometimes real estate is involved, but often, a business rents its facilities, so real estate is not a factor.  However, I believe that local residential real estate agents can be a big help in finding buyers for business listings.  They know their community very well and the people in it.  They are aware of who works in various industries or professions. They always have an eye out for leads and for buying/selling connections.  I like to get to know local residential sales people in the areas where I have business listings.

Currently, our firm has a restaurant/bar listed for sale in Sheboygan…a really charming city on Lake Michigan.  With information and sales sheets in hand, I visited each of the residential real estate firms there, meeting with brokers and agents to tell them about the restaurant (which they all had frequented).  Every person was welcoming and interested.  As real estate licensees, we are able to offer a referral fee to another agent who leads us to a buyer.  Referral fees are a great incentive that I can use to get more “feet on the ground” in the buyer search.

For me, relationship building is an important part of my business.   If you would like more information about the buying, selling, or merging of a business, please give me a call.   I would enjoy getting to know you and to answer your questions. Gary Van Sistine, 920-621-3990

Finding a New Niche’

Much of my client/customer experience has been in the manufacturing and service industries.  This spring, I decided to attend the annual Wisconsin Public Service Farm Show in Oshkosh, WI to see if there was a need for business brokerage in that category.

What an adventure!  Held on the EAA grounds, March 27 – 29, the show filled up five huge buildings and featured everything from equipment sales people to seed and fertilizer distributors to farm construction contractors and more.  Five hundred exhibits required me to attend two full days, and I probably only visited with a third of them!  This was such a positive experience, that I’m planning to attend an agricultural technology show in July.

I discovered there were many owners who needed information on how to prepare their business for sale or how to find businesses to add on to expand their current base.  Most had no idea of what a business broker, like me, is or does.   Since the show, I’ve been able to follow up with four strong prospective clients and have a long list of names that I still have to contact.

This is an exciting new niche’ for me.  I liked talking farming with these very personable and knowledgeable business owners.  Just as most of them knew little about my profession, I also needed to learn about the many facets of agri-business from them.  Strong handshakes and easy, down-to-earth conversations convinced me that these are people I will really enjoy working with.

If you are involved in the agri-business industry and want to know more about how I can help, please call or text me anytime!

A case to be made for advertising your business on-site

One fear that many owners say they have is marketing their business for sale “on site,” whether with a large or small sign or with information placed inside.  They feel that when customers know they’re selling, they will stop coming to the business.

I wanted to get some feedback about that concern from restaurant owners at the recent Midwest Foodservice Expo in Milwaukee.   Our company currently has a number of restaurants for sale and has created two pieces that address marketing on site: 1) A one-sheet that makes a case for why an owner might want to advertise at his or her location, and  2) A small counter “tent” to be placed on a counter or bar that lets customers know that you are selling.  I shared the pieces with about a dozen owners and, once they understood the “why,” they began to see the benefits.

Piece #1 – Making-a-Case.  This piece is for the owner.  Whether yours is a restaurant or any other business where regular customers come through the door, this piece provides a make-sense rationale for why one of your best customers might be your best buyer – or why they may know of someone else who could be your buyer.  Call me if you want the full document.

Piece #2 – Counter Tent.   This piece is for the customers who come to your business.  It’s a        4 ¼” x 11” simple, graphically pleasing sign that says:

This restaurant (or whatever business) is for sale.
Owner retiring (or owner moving).
For purchase details, contact Creative Business Services (contact info).

After sharing these two related pieces with many at the Expo in Milwaukee, I was pleased to hear the majority of them say that advertising on site now made more sense to them.  If you’re wanting to sell your business, this will be one of the things that should be discussed – on-site marketing.

Give me a call to get that #1 document or that #2 counter tent… or just to start talking about how to sell your business.

Keeping Up with the Times

Recently, I was having lunch with two business owners and our conversation turned to keeping up with the latest trends and innovations across the business spectrum.  I told them about an all-day summit I’d attended a while back hosted by The New North, a non-profit marketing and economic development organization made up of business leaders from throughout Northeast Wisconsin.  I said I had really enjoyed what the presenter and owner of Imperial Consulting Corporation, Ed Gordon, had to say.   Gordon is considered a “human capital expert” who helps companies solve workforce needs. Here is my take on the presentation, which I wrote about in an earlier blog.  The information is still relevant today.

As a business broker, I often have conversations with buyers and sellers about the workforce at a company:  “Is it a strong workforce?” “Are their skills current?”  “Should they stay?”  “Would I want them to stay?” “Would a better trained workforce make this company more profitable?”

According to Gordon, today’s business owners have so many more options available to them in terms of training a workforce, and narrowing the “skills gap” is a strategic move that could add tremendous value to their companies.  Businesses are now partnering with educational institutions and community organizations to creatively build better workforces, Gordon said.

In the case of engineering, for example, two University of Wisconsin campuses – Oshkosh and Green Bay – are adding an engineering degree to their programs.  Northeast Technical College is already partnering with many industries to give workers the skills they need.  Often times, owners will send their workers for specific and current training, knowing it will benefit the company in the long run.

If you’re a business owner who will be selling, think about how continued training of your employees now will make your business more saleable in the future.  If you’re a buyer looking for a business, you will want to have a sense of the workforce skills at that company, deciding if added training might improve the bottom line.

It’s a whole new world out there…and the business climate is looking up with the help of high quality training resources now available to everyone.  Contact me if you would like to talk about this part of your total business package.  920-621-3110 or

The Importance of Networking

As a business broker, I know it’s important to be at many places where you can network, and it’s especially important to attend events that are designated as networking events.  This is where everyone in the room is eager to find out what YOU do and also tell you everything about what THEY do.  It’s an orchestrated get-together for the sole purpose of connecting people so they can help each other succeed.

Chambers of Commerce professionals are experts at holding networking events, and I often meet business owners who may have a connection with one of our “for sale” listings.  An example is when I met the owner of a professional school that trained people in the same category as one of my current business listings.  As we talked, I asked if I could forward information to him to pass on to his students.  I thought someone just getting into the field might be interested in owning his or her own company.

“Better yet,” he said, “I have a long list of alumni from this school who might be in a better position to buy something.  I’ll just get your information out on our website.  Hundreds of people in that field will see it.”

Bingo.  I gained a new professional resource for my contact files, and he has my information to keep as well.  And beyond that, I found a great way to promote my seller’s business to a very targeted audience.  Networking helps everybody win.

To learn more about how we might network to help sell your business, contact me, Gary Van Sistine, 920-621-3990 or

Family Members as Business Buyer

It’s many a business owner’s dream, “Someday my son (or daughter) will own all this.”  Wanting a child or other family member to take over your company is a lovely idea, but it should come with much fore-thought and sincere preparation.  Without many conversations between the owner and the “heir apparent,” without an understanding on both sides of how the transition will take place, and without a objective analysis of what the business is worth, conflict and hard feelings often occur.

There are many examples of family members purchasing a family business that have worked and many examples of those that have failed.  Here are five questions an owner should ask before moving in that direction:

  1. Does the perspective buyer (family member) have the right skills and knowledge to run my company? Is it the right fit?
  2. Does the perspective buyer (family member) actually WANT to buy the business, or is that just “my” idea?
  3. Does the perspective buyer (family member) have the financial resources to buy the business or will they be financially strapped for too long? Can I, the owner, provide some creative financing?
  4. Do I, the seller, want to stay involved in the business? For how long?  When it’s time for me to exit…will I be able to?
  5. Are other family members O.K. with the arrangement? How should I break the news to them?  Could there be conflicts?

Bringing in a business broker early in the process can help you think through issues, and they will also provide a professional evaluation of your company.  The decision should be made whether to go ahead with the sale to a family member or begin marketing to outside buyers. The broker can facilitate the transaction in both cases.

Call me, Gary Van Sistine, 920-621-2990, if you are thinking about this sort of transaction.  We can talk through it together.

They’ve Accepted Another Offer

When a perspective buyer invests weeks or months of time and often money in his attempt to purchase a company, the last thing he wants to hear from the broker is, “They’ve accepted another offer.”

The road toward potential ownership is not for the faint of heart.  After researching a variety of companies, finding the right broker to work with, setting aside time to visit the selected business – sometimes more than once, the real work begins.  The buyer will submit a letter of intent.  With the help of the broker, the buyer will then be given financials to review, probably with an accountant.  If the business is large, there will be pages of documents to consider.  A savvy buyer will ask questions about the workforce, study blueprints, consider specific inspections that need to be done, maybe even meet with officials from the municipality and “check out the neighborhood.”

This period of due diligence is crucial in the understanding of what the business is all about and will help determine what price and terms the buyer will negotiate with the seller.  This is also the time when the buyer will talk with his lender about how the sale would be financed.  Because this may not be a fast process, there is always the chance that other buyers are looking at the same company and are ready to submit an offer.

If the seller accepts another offer, our buyer might want to wait and see what happens next.  After all, he obviously thought this was a great business to buy, and he has already invested time and probably money into the process.

While it’s not the norm, it can happen that transactions fall apart before closing.  Sometimes inspection results cause buyers to pull out, or they can’t get their financing.  If that happens, the broker will call his or her buyer to say, “The offer has gone south,” (or whatever clever words they use) “are you ready to jump back in?”  If our buyer was willing and able to take a “wait and see” position, he will now be poised and ready to proceed with even a bit more leverage for his offer.

To talk more about the buying and selling process, contact me, Gary Van Sistine, 920-621-3990.

Knowledgeable Resource People Are Like Breaths of Fresh Air!

Sometimes business brokers come across unusual “bumps in the road” when working with sellers and buyers and need to look for answers in places they never have before.

A listing I am working on now – former Multi Tech location in Prentice, WI – includes 45,000 sf of currently vacant, ready-to-move-into buildings with 10 acres of land.  It would be a perfect purchase for a company that wants to start or expand manufacturing operations.

One of the potential buyers, to whom we have shown the property, has a snow equipment manufacturing company in Canada.  They are looking for a place where they can begin repairing and warehouse their products in the U.S.   However, they have had a difficult time finding the right paths to get the necessary permits to do business in this country.

On October 17th, I attended the 2017 Manufacturing Excellence Awards event in Wausau, Wisconsin, and “bingo!” The keynote speaker was just the resource person I needed.   Her program bio was this:

Roxanne Baumann is the Director of Global Engagement with the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension  Partnership and an accomplished global business strategist with more than 25 years of experience in manufacturing.  Bauman leads the state’s ExporTech program, which fast-tracks export expansion.

Perfect!  After talking with Roxanne for a few minutes and explaining the Canadian company’s situation, she was able to put me in touch with Jeff Carr at the Manufacturing Outreach Center, UW-Stout.  Right now, Jeff and I are in “email conversation” and will try to get the correct contact information to the Canadian company, so they might move forward with their manufacturing goals in the U.S.

Looking to buy or sell?  Contact me, Gary Van Sistine, at 920-621-3990.  And I hope you can take enough time off to enjoy your holidays!